The Big Story Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is staking his company’s future on leading the creation of the metaverse, a next-generation mobile internet that will replace static web pages with an immersive three-dimensional virtual environment. Like the current internet, the metaverse would be built and operated by multiple companies. “You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content—you are in it,” Zuckerberg told an interviewer last week. One motivation for the move is to make up for Facebook missing out on the smartphone boom that earned billions of dollars for the company’s main competitors, such as Google and Apple, by getting out ahead of the next-generation technology. But Facebook is also the company that President Biden recently accused of “killing people” (before softening the charge) for spreading misinformation, and Zuckerberg is clearly looking for new profit models that can help the company escape the intense scrutiny and regulatory pressure it’s currently facing. Talk of Facebook’s expansion into the metaverse—a term taken from the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson—has been going on since at least 2014 when the social media company purchased the virtual reality platform Oculus Rift. But Facebook’s attempt to pivot away from being a social media platform and content distributor and into virtual reality is accelerating. At the end of June Zuckerberg discussed the initiative in an internal address to Facebook employees, and Monday of this week the company announced that it was launching a new Metaverse product unit.\n\nRead it here: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/zuckerberg-is-turning-trillion-dollar-facebook-into-a-metaverse-company-he-tells-investors/\n\nToday’s Back Pages: The Nanny State Meets the Marquis de Sade\nThe Rest➥ A record number of people are moving to Israel in 2021. Roughly 5,000 from North America alone are expected to make aliyah over the course of the year. That’s a record high and a 42% increase over the average, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that coordinates the moves for people emigrating to Israel from North America.\nRead it here: https://www.jta.org/2021/07/29/israel/record-breaking-aliyah-from-north-america-projected-for-2021-with-5000-expected-to-make-the-israel-move\n\n➥ The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to obtain records from the agency related to a covert program run by the postal agency to spy on the social media posts of U.S. citizens looking for evidence of “domestic extremism.” The EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is both an effort to gather details on the Internet Covert Operations Program and to find out with what other government agencies the postal service shared the data it collected. The assumption among many observers is that USPS led the initiative because it receives less scrutiny than other government agencies whose primary missions are law enforcement and intelligence work.\n\n➥ Google and Facebook will now require their United States-based employees to be vaccinated. The announcement follows new COVID-19 restrictions for federal workers and employees in states including New York and California.\n\n➥ Chinese officials hosted Taliban representatives Wednesday at talks in the city of Tianjin, in the north of China. Beijing is pushing the Taliban to renounce all ties to terrorism as a precursor to the group being formally integrated into the Afghan political system. The Chinese government has significant economic interests in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and China continues to shore up its role as the new superpower mediator in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal from the country—a development that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made sure to address during the discussion Wednesday, referring to “the hasty withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO troops” as a U.S. “failure.” \n\n➥ The U.S. economy, measured by Gross Domestic Product, underperformed economists’ expectations this quarter, according to data released Thursday by the Commerce Department. The economy grew at a 6.5% annual rate in the second quarter of 2021, up from the 6.3% growth in the first quarter, but slower than expected. Economists attribute the slowdown to new COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.\n\n➥ Capitol police are on order to arrest anyone who refuses to wear a mask in the House of Representatives, per a new directive from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A number of House Republicans have already said they would not follow the policy, leading Pelosi to call House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a “moron” after a reporter asked her about his criticism of the mask mandate.➥ Former presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is preparing to launch an investment firm called Affinity Partners that will “pursue regional investments to connect Israel’s economy and India, North Africa, and the Gulf.” The firm will be based out of Miami and plans to open an office in Israel later this year.\n\n➥ A bipartisan vote in the Senate Wednesday night pushes forward the trillion-dollar infrastructure package after months of wrangling by the two parties. The 67-32 vote backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allows talks to move forward on the bill, The infrastructure proposal is the first step of a far larger White House plan that includes an additional $3.5 trillion for child care, education, health care, and climate-change plans.\nRead it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-budget-plan-what-11626301275\n\n➥ A tale of a wine-loving, celebrity firebug: The New York Times reports on former Food & Wine magazine sommelier of the year Caleb Ganzer, who now stands accused of arson. Surveillance video implicates him in the lighting of three fires in Manhattan, including two of the makeshift wooden enclosures used for outdoor dining during the coronavirus pandemic. Was this pyromania or a ruthless attempt to burn out the competition? We’ll wait for the trial.\n\n➥ The Belgian film star Jean Claude Van Damme, hero of 1980s martial arts movie classics such as Bloodsport, had a cameo in a real-life multimillion dollar Paris jewel heist. French police arrested two suspects accused of stealing more than $5 million in jewelry between them, but couldn’t gather any potential witnesses from a café near the crime scene because they said they were distracted by the sight of the “Muscles from Brussels” at an optician’s office across the street.\nRead it here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/28/jewel-thief-scoots-away-after-mind-boggling-heist-in-paris\nThe Back PagesThe Nanny State Meets the Marquis de Sade\n\nIf you want a picture of the present, imagine Anthony Fauci in studded leather and assless chaps bull-whipping hordes of the unvaccinated and unmasked until they learn to experience their punishment as pleasure. Or you could just read this Rolling Stone article from a few days ago that presents the spirit of the moral revolution reshaping U.S. society more pointedly than any intellectual analysis: “Meet the Dommes Who Are Demanding Their Submissives Get Vaxxed.”\n\nIn 10 words, the headline conveys the supreme value of health, safety, and bureaucratic regulation to the American professional classes, as well as of the new status hierarchy constructed by the stakeholders in that regime. We pledge allegiance to our sainted dommes and to coercive power wielded through symbolic proxies in the name of public wellness. If only social media were somehow more directly involved, you’d have a full hymnal for the new American religion.\n\nA day before the publication of the Rolling Stone article, the writer Sean Illing observed on Twitter, “The collapse of trust in authority is maybe the single biggest civilizational problem we face and absolutely no one has any idea what to do about it.” He’s likely right, but power abhors a vacuum. In the absence of popular trust in shared authorities, counterfeits are generated to legitimize the power of the ruling class. Enforced obedience to technocratic experts takes the place of respect for learning and technical competence. In a more direct idolatry, ceremonial deference is lavished on categories of people who, apart from any qualities they possess as individuals, are invested with authoritative identities.\n\nAre “trans women of color” and “dommes” genuine authorities in the United States? No, but they are made into public idols that real power can hide behind. In theory, these totems of the marginalized are “centered” by new social justice movements that overturn historical power structures. In practice, the dominatrix, stripped of all authentic erotic power and allure, becomes a new kind of patriotic hero defending the civic virtues of the American middle class. You can see this in the anecdote from the article about “Bob” and his dominatrix …\n\n\nThe full version of this article, “The Nanny State Meets the Marquis de Sade,” will be published this Friday at Tablet.