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Kara Swisher talks truth, power in tech at Chicago Humanities event
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 10688 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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Lesbian author, award-winning journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher spoke about truth and power in the tech industry through the lens of her most recent book, Burn Book: A Tech Love Story, March 21 at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple Sanctuary in the Loop.

Swisher's talk was presented as a part of Chicago Humanities Spring 2024 Festival speaker's series. She was joined in conversation by author and podcast host Brené Brown, who is also a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

Among Swisher's other accomplishments are as host of the New York magazine distributed On podcast and co-host of the Pivot podcast with Scott Galloway. Her journalism has been featured in both the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, and she has been a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, where she also hosted that publication's Sway podcast.

Following an introduction by Chicago Humanities President and Executive Director Philip Bahar, Brown and Swisher praised each other's work.

Brown asked Swisher to share her thoughts about some famous men in the tech sphere, beginning with the late Steve Jobs. Swisher said that Jobs lived the most creative parts of his life when he knew he was going to die, and said, "death informs everything I do in life."

When Brown asked about Elon Musk, Swisher said he has been a "total disappointment," and that her texts with him over the years have changed because he has gotten darker over time. She said Musk was a Barack Obama supporter and very anti-Donald Trump, and now he is the opposite politically. She added that Musk's right-wing political turn started during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to this day.

Swisher noted that during an interview with Musk a few years ago, she was challenging him on some of his comments about various topics, and he threatened to leave that interview but did not do so, which was interesting to her. She also said that Musk has moved beyond being a "prick" and is now a "malevolent villain" and "retro-engine troll."

As for Mark Zuckerberg, Swisher said he is someone who is "a very nice person [on the surface] and [can] still be dangerous." Swisher added that she confronted him about allowing Alex Jones to keep spewing his lies about Sandy Hook on Facebook, and Zuckerberg refused to de-platform him until Apple took Jones off their platform.

She also spoke about the time when she questioned Zuckerberg about his posting a photo on Facebook of himself blithely jogging in Tiananmen Square in 2016, at a time when Beijing was under a hazardous air-quality warning. Swisher, also noting that Tiananmen Square was the site of the famous 1989 revolt, said that Zuckerberg brushed off her concerns about those optics. She added that, in all of her interactions with him, she has felt like he does not know much about the world around him, other than what is happening in tech.

In speaking about Disney CEO Bob Iger, Swisher said she likes him and noted that he was one of the first people in Hollywood to "recognize the power of the internet" when others in positions of power were saying it would eventually disappear.

This prompted a segue into Generative AI and how it can be both a good and bad thing, depending on how it is used. Both Swisher and Brown spoke about the fake books on Amazon that have them as authors, and how troubling that is. Swisher said that, because of her access to people at Amazon, she was able to get those fake books removed, and that should apply to everyone, not just connected people like her.

Brown asked if all social media companies are too big to be safe, and Swisher said yes, because all they are looking for is "speed, virality and engagement." She added that the people who run these social media sites do not want to fix the problem. Swisher spoke about how the government is having a hard time reining them in, because Section 230 (the rule providing legal immunity for online platforms for third-party content published there) protects them.

At different times during the talk, Swisher called Rupert Murdoch "Satan" and praised investor and producer Mark Cuban's evolution over the years, as he is using his platform to do good in the world.

When Brown queried Swisher about the back of her most recent book containing mostly quotes from men insulting her, she said, "If they are going to insult me, I am going to use it for marketing."

A Q&A session followed. Swisher also signed copies of her latest book after the event.

See .

This article shared 10688 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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