FACEBOOK CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks suspiciously like he’s planning something. He’s hired a series of strategists from the Democrats campaign team, and announced a meet and greet tour of all 50 US states. Previously an unrepentant atheist, he also seems to have found God. Taken together, the spinners, the tour and the God thing fired an explosive rumour: Zuckerberg for president.

Fake news? Maybe. There’s one Facebook page calling for a Zuckerberg presidential run, and it has 21 likes. But the scary thing is, there doesn’t seem to be a strong ideological argument against it. Zuckerberg, if the rumours are true, would be a candidate for the Democrats. Despite failing badly with the gauche, elitist and “power-hungry” Hillary Clinton, there still seems little barrier to a misanthropic, libertarian tech mega-billionaire with the ambitions of a James Bond villain grabbing the Democrat hot seat. If he wanted it, it would be his to lose.

There would be a delicious irony if Zuckerberg did stand against Trump. After all, Facebook is arguably more responsible for the 2016 presidential result that any other factor. BuzzFeed has noted that “in the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others.”

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Fake news is just one side of the story (after all, the Daily Mail is supposedly “real” news). The deeper, more insidious trend is towards political polarisation without ideology, driven by the revenue-generating technologies of social media. Facebook’s official ideology is about “making the world more open and connected”. However, recently it has been dividing people into permanently furious camps who believe everything good about their own candidates and everything bad about the opponent. “The mission to ‘connect’ turns out to mean, in practice, connect with people who agree with you”, notes journalist John Lanchester.

The tragic result is nothing like old fashioned social conflict. Social conflict is often productive and historically progressive. But while Facebook has proved effective at polarising people, the underlying reality is that no side has world-changing plans. Donald Trump is a white billionaire who said things that normal politicians won’t say for fear of looking stupid. Hillary Clinton was backed and funded by the white billionaires who wanted to look smart. As Trump’s presidency is proving, for all the fury the election generated, neither side has any real will to make changes.

Adam Curtis notes that in the rare occasions where social media helps bring genuine social conflict – such as Tahrir Square – the blinkers of technology mean we’re unable to comprehend a program to transform power relations. Even when power is there for the taking, we don’t know what to do with it.

In that vacuum, Zuckerberg represents a group of multi-billionaires who believe they really are changing the world. And that’s the scary thing. Far above and beyond democracy, a select few are imagining the future: the robber baron tech overlords with monopoly power and sci-fi ambitions.

The Jeff Bezos of this world have set their sights on conquering space and privatising Mars. Larry Page has his eyes on monopolising artificial intelligence. Compared to all that, being US president ranks as small fry.

Because the liberal left is running scared of new Donald Trumps, and because it fears change, ordinary citizens really are vulnerable to a hostile takeover from these libertarian rich “entrepreneurs”.

In May, Zuckerberg called for a universal basic income (UBI). He wasn’t the first to do so: space pirate Elon Musk is also a fan. Crucially, this policy is the one big idea of the liberal left, so few questioned the motivation behind Zuckerberg’s intervention.

But UBI fits perfectly with Zuckerberg’s professed philosophy of “move fast and break things”. The underlying thinking behind the tech sector is contempt for most of humanity. Peter Thiel, the first major investor in Facebook, told the Wall Street Journal that only two percent of society – scientists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – really understand what’s going on. “The other 98 percent don’t know anything,” he said. The tech sector are determined to automate as much as possible, to throw the unthinking masses into permanent economic uncertainty. UBI plays a crucial role in this particular argument from Zuckerberg. It essentially depoliticises technological change. It accepts the right of technology to rationalise decisions with no criteria for social justice.

There are, arguably, better, more progressive reasons to support UBI. But its roots in libertarian thinking are far more obvious than its link to socialist thought. We can’t defend jobs, the ideology says, so let’s given people a cushion so they can “dream their own dreams” and maybe, one day, they’ll become tech lords themselves. Yeah, right.

You’d think, given their boasts, that these internet overlords were somehow engineering a new revolution in productivity. And yet they produce very little and generate few jobs. They are, essentially, rent seekers who enjoy monopoly privileges.

The technologies are undoubtedly useful, but very few are original. The companies who succeed are driven by a heroic colonising instinct in a winner takes all market. Others – remember Bebo and Myspace? – are pushed aside by a logic that has nothing to do with virtue and everything to do with power.

Let’s remember, Facebook’s product isn’t the website or the app. That means that we are not the consumers. Instead, it is us who are being consumed.

The content we upload allows its algorithms to divide us into ever more niche-segmented groups, and that data allows advertisers to target us with ever more ruthless efficiency. In turn, that encourages Facebook to direct more of what we “like” our way, allowing us to ignore messages we don’t like, all in the name of selling ad space.

America is increasingly the land of nightmares. A Zuckerberg Democrat Party is perhaps the greatest nightmare of all, far exceeding Trump.

If the only alternative to right-wing populism is a misanthropic but politically correct oligarch, then truly democracy is doomed.

At this stage, the Zuckerberg rumour is just that – a rumour. Hopefully, the prospect is scary enough to motivate the Bernie Sanders coalition to stay active and keep their eyes on power.