New Book: How Roger McNamee Woke Up To Facebook's Existential Threat To Our Society And Set Out To Try To Stop It

Roger McNamee's new book Zucked: The Education Of An Unlikely Activist is the story of how he, a noted tech venture capitalist and an early mentor to Mark Zuckerberg and investor in his company, woke up to the serious damage Facebook was doing to our society and set out to try to stop it.

Roger McNamee photographed recently at the Haight Street Art Center

Roger McNamee's new book, Zucked: The Education Of An Unlikely Activist is now available on the Penguin Random House website for pre-order. It will be published in hardcover and Kindle on 5 February, 2019, and from the synopsis below, looks to be a 352 page-turner!

The backstory to the book

If you had told Roger McNamee even three years ago that he would soon be devoting himself to stopping Facebook from destroying our democracy, he would have howled with laughter. He had mentored many tech leaders in his illustrious career as an investor, but few things had made him prouder, or been better for his fund’s bottom line, than his early service to Mark Zuckerberg. Still a large shareholder in Facebook, he had every good reason to stay on the bright side. Until he simply couldn’t.

This book is Roger's’s intimate reckoning with the catastrophic failure of the head of one of the world’s most powerful companies to face up to the damage he is doing. It’s a story that begins with a series of rude awakenings. First there is the author’s dawning realization that the platform is being manipulated by some very bad actors. Then there is the even more unsettling realization that Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are unable or unwilling to share his concerns, polite as they may be to his face. 

And then comes the election of Donald Trump, and the emergence of one horrific piece of news after another about the malign ends to which the Facebook platform has been put. To Roger’s shock, even still Facebook’s leaders duck and dissemble, viewing the matter as a public relations problem. Now thoroughly alienated, Roger digs into the issue, and fortuitously meets up with some fellow travelers who share his concern, and help him sharpen its focus. Soon he and a dream team of Silicon Valley technologists are charging into the fray, to raise consciousness about the existential threat of Facebook, and the persuasion architecture of the attention economy more broadly — to our public health and to our political order.

This book is both an enthralling personal narrative and a masterful explication of the forces that have conspired to place us all on the horns of this dilemma. This is the story of a company and its leadership, but it’s also a larger tale of a business sector unmoored from normal constraints, just at a moment of political and cultural crisis, the worst possible time to be given new tools for summoning the darker angels of our nature and whipping them into a frenzy. Like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Roger McNamee happened to be in the right place to witness a crime, and it took him some time to make sense of what he was seeing and what we ought to do about it. The result of that effort is a wise, hard-hitting, and urgently necessary account that crystallizes the issue definitively for the rest of us.

About the author

Roger McNamee began his career in 1982 at T. Rowe Price Associates, where he managed the top performing Science & Technology Fund and co-managed their New Horizons Fund. In 1991, he launched Integral Capital Partners, the first crossover fund (combining later stage venture capital with public market investments), in partnership with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Morgan Stanley & Co. In 1999, Roger co-founded Silver Lake Partners, the first private equity fund focused on technology businesses. In 2004, Roger and his partners launched Elevation Partners, an investment partnership focused on the intersection of media/entertainment content and consumer technology.

Also known as the "Wizard of Sand Road," Roger performs up to 100 concerts a year in the bands Moonalice and Doobie Decibel System, in which he plays bass and guitar. Moonalice pioneered the use of social media in music, inventing such applications as Twittercast concerts, Moonalice Radio on Twitter and Facebook, live Moontunes video streams of concerts, and the Moonalice Couch Tour. The band’s website enables fans to listen to any song or show and to watch every concert on a computer or smartphone without an app. Moonalice is renowned for the quality of poster art associated with the band. The Moonalice series exceeds 1,000 posters after ten years. Moonalice’s single “It’s 420 Somewhere” has been downloaded more than 4.6 million times.

A voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction, Roger is the author of The New Normal, published in 2004 by the Portfolio imprint of Penguin Books, and The Moonalice Legend: Posters andWords, Volumes 1-7. He has served as a technical adviser for seasons two, three and four of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” series.

In philanthropy, Roger is a co-founder of the Haight StreetArt Center that is changing the name of the game for poster artists, and the Center for Counterculture Studies. He also serves on the board of directors for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. Roger is a past member of boards of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, Bryn Mawr College, The GRAMMY Foundation, and the operating business of the National Geographic Society. He was also responsible for raising the money that created the Wikimedia Foundation.

Roger holds a B. A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. for the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Roger holds a U.S. patent related to MoonTunes and the live broadcast of video to mobile devices.