Billy Corgan Says Facebook Is Creating A Generation Of Narcissists & Twitter ‘Didn’t Do Sh*t For Me’


Late last year we reported Chicago television personality and spiritual author Jennifer Weigel would have a conversation with Billy Corgan as a part of her series on conversation with significant cultural figures and spirituality. The interview took place December 15th and as Weigel personally responded to me with, the interview would be up this week and finally has surfaced. A two hour event, the first hour mainly consisting of Corgan and Weigel covering a number of different but inter-related topics, including but not limited to Donald Trump, social media, Corgan’s creative process, American and international politics, Corgan’s spiritual influences and much more. The second hour consisted of a dialogue with audience members. Below, we include selected portions of the conversation divided into multiple parts by topic, transcribed exclusively here at Alternative Nation. (All citations are my own)

Social Media and Twitter

JW: “Why did you quit Twitter?”

BC: “Can I put this in Chicago language? Twitter wasn’t doing shit for me. Actually, somebody from Twitter called me and they wanted to know what happened, and I told them basically that in more kind language. It’s pretty obvious to me, and if anyone is interested there’s plenty of information coming out with what the social media oligarchs are now doing. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it won’t matter. The names will change, the faces will change, but the same construct. Look no further than what Facebook is doing to magazines and newspapers. Their click rates are down 60 to 80 percent. I think I read TIME’s sales went down 60% in the last year…”

JW: “You’ve talked about how we’re creating a generation of narcissists because of Facebook…”

BC: “We’ve already created a generation of narcissists, that ship has sailed. Look no further than trying to have a conversation with a millenial to know what I’m talking about…”

JW: “Between the selfie stick and the texting, I was at dinner with four of them [Millenials] and nobody was looking at me. I was like, ‘So when we go to Mars later, can I park in front?’ Nobody cared. Nobody noticed. It’s the world, so how do you adapt to it? You quit Twitter and then what?”

BC: “Let me go back to what I was saying, because I think if we understand these things from a bigger meta point of view, it’s easier to relate to our own experience rather than ‘That’s what I did.’ Very fascinating, and I’ll use an example because I think it’s an easier way to illustrate it all, it’s a slightly different model. MTV starts right? They have nothing. So they have to go to all the labels and say, ‘Look, we wanna play all your videos. We can’t afford to pay for the content, we can’t afford to pay you per minute what we would for real content, like a show. So give us this free content and we’ll promote your things.’ Eventually, as everyone knows, MTV got so out of hand, they crushed the labels. [MTV] ran their business model into the ground and basically turned MTV into a normal network, off the backs of the musical artists, Janet Jackson or whoever. They made gazillions off of all these people and still pretend to be a music network of which of course, they’re nothing like it. They’re more like a social…socialist [sic] construct. ‘Fourteen and Pregnant’, you know?

But the point is, they cried ‘poor!’ in the beginning, they clung onto somebody else’s heat, in a wrestling term and eventually shot the people in the head who made them. It’s what Facebook and Twitter are all going to do now. Facebook is a little bit different because of the way it is set up, they have a better thing in the marketplace. I think people like me are waking up to where Twitter is weak against what, let’s call ‘celebrities,’ bring to Twitter, I think we’re going to start seeing a mass exodus. What a Kim Kardashian brings to a Twitter is worth more than four hundred people with the same amount of followers. So they take what a Kim Kardashian brings to a Twitter. Now in Kim Kardashian’s case, she can turn that and sell cosmetics or a clothing branding or whatever. But for people in the middle, I would put people like us [Weigel and Corgan] in the middle, we don’t get that same exchange. We can’t turn around and get a shoe deal because we are tweeting something. So in essence, Twitter and other social media platfroms take and take from something that I build. My name, my music, my whatever and they say, ‘Thanks a lot!’ Jimmy Chamberlin and I when we brought the Pumpkins back in 2007, we sat down one day and did the calculus and we realized for every hundred people we had on Facebook, we sold one record. So we were catering to 99 people to sell one thing. That is a weakly poor business exchange.”

JW: “Don’t you think the business model has changed since 2007 though?”

BC: “No, no and this is the last thing I’ll say about it because it can get real boring real fast…”

Audience member: “No we like it! This is wonderful.”

BC: [Corgan smiles] “Alright, I’ll carry on. Smashing Pumpkins currently have four million likes on Facebook. So, if you’re checking my site everyday and I post something like, ‘Hey, I took my dog for a walk’ and a little picture, you’ll see it but the other 3.99 million people [sic] won’t because they’re not visiting it everyday. So what Facebook wants you to do is ‘boost your posts’ or, this is where we get into Dumbland, do really dumb stuff. So that you click on it and you click on it and you click on it, so then it goes viral. So you create a culture where idiocy reigns and rules, not quality. [audience applauds] I’m not saying anything radical! So you’re creating a social ecosystem that rewards being inane.”

JW: “So, the counter of that is knowing a lot of comedians that use Twitter and Facebook to their advantage, if they are funny, which is their world, it goes viral and that’s their business, so maybe for them it’s not so bad.”

BC: “I would jump on you right there and argue that because of the social knob construct on Facebook, how many comedians on Facebook are saying what they would really say, in the world Richard Pryor grew up in? I learned as a white kid growing up in suburbs, I had a lot of exposure because of my father being a musician to other cultures and other points of view, but I learned from Richard Pryor that made me look at my world and say, ‘Huh, he’s got a point.’ These people I am growing up with are either outward racists or closet racists. His comedy, his social thinking, his brilliance made me look at my own race, white people, differently. But if people can’t have open conversations…if you have people like Jerry Seinfeld come out and saying, ‘It’s not worth playing at colleges anymore because social justice warriors will be all over you the moment you step out of line. So you’re right about a comedian using Facebook or a musician using Facebook, but I guarantee you the minute they put something up that doesn’t align with the social justice mob mentality, the risk is too high. So you have a watering down of diversity and homogenizing of general messaging. That, as an artist, is death.”

Government and Social Media

BC: “They [Facebook] are too tied into big government. The government is literally in league with these big social media companies becasuse they are mining the data! Why do you think Mark Zuckerberg learned Chinese? Whatever happened to this talk about ‘the government this’ and ‘the press that,’ that’s all gone out the window. Again, money rules, power rules. It’s not going to change, which is why I go back to my earlier point. When Tribe One meets Tribe Two meets Tribe Three, is everyone gonna go, ‘Hey, high five! I saw your documentary’, you know? I doubt it. I’m cynical in that regard. Don’t be fooled by things that are cuddly and fuzzy. The social media construct is cuddly and fuzzy for a reason. You want the most amount of people for the most amount of time. If you’re engaged in a debate [sic], inflaming rheotric about the candidate they don’t like, that only serves a bigger master. It has nothing to do with democracy. True democracy is uncomfortable. This is not uncomfortable. Look no further than some post from the New York Times and read the comments. Go on Breitbart and read the comments. It’s all right there, it’s all you need.”

Media and the Truth

JW: “So speaking of the New York Times, we talked about creating our own news website because the news that you get, having been in the news business for a long time, it’s filtered, it’s watered down, it’s the opinion of the writer, the editor, you’re not getting real news…”

BC: “May I ask you a question? [Weigel responds yes] If you look at the mainstream news, a very general question, you like I do open the paper or watch a major network, how much of that do you view as propaganda?”

JW: “Ninety percent.”

BC: “Same number for me: ninety percent. We come in media from diametrically opposed points of view. You grew up in a media family with your father? You have two people here who have been in public life for a very long time. Ninety percent [of news] is propaganda. Now the great thing is, and I assume most people here, already know that. So they are reading the news with a different level of discernment. But isn’t it interesting that those who are already propagandized, not only are not stopping the propaganda but are actually turning up the volume. Hence, so and so blasts so and so. So and so rips so and so. Because you have to double down on that rheotric.”

JW: “So now my question to you is since we didn’t start our own news network, though we’re still willing to do it if anyone out there is willing to fund it, we’re totally game for a conversation…a real network that gives real information and not ninety percent propaganda. What is your daily routine in the morning when you get up? What are the websites you go to, what do you do?”

BC: “I find that I read the mainstream websites because I want to see, basically what are the marching orders. It is pretty interesting to see the White House press a button and how the mainstream media verbatim with very little questioning factor that propaganda out. Maybe less in the past year but still pretty hot [sic], in the way the White House can dictate the conversation. Drudge is good but obviously he is right leaning and/or libertarian. I tried for awhile to read more leftist stuff…but I don’t know… I’m at a point now, I don’t know if if it’s the Salons of the world, I just can’t read it. Because I feel my intelligence is being insulted. Maybe that’s just where I am politically in my life, I just can’t have my intelligence insulted.”

Avengers of Truth or Brainwashed Robots

BC: “Being an ‘avenger for the truth’ is kind of a waste of time.”

JW: “Because they’re gonna put their head in the sand anyway?”

BC: “Yes, and you have to try to respect they want to be that way.”

JW: “No! If that was the case, people would still be segregated in cafeterias. If Rosa Parks hadn’t sat on the bus…I can’t live with that way, no way Jose. If you put your head in the sand, that pisses me off. It really pisses me off.”

BC: “I’m just playing contrarian.I don’t necessarily disagree with you. Going back into the social justice thing…I mean Melissa Harris Perry, you know, who is the gift that keeps on giving on MSNBC, literally got into a discussion yesterday about Darth Vader being black, but how he’s a good guy, when the mask is off, he’s white. Now I’m just paraphrasing, I just watched the clip. I try not to just read, not read what’s written. I tried to watch the clip – when you’re down into ‘Why is Darth Vader black?’…you know what I mean? I just can’t roll with that. I can’t roll with that…”

JW: “If we keeping playing the lowest common denominator, we’re gonna raise morons and no one is gonna get anywhere.”

BC: “But we seem to do a plenty good job about raising morons [audience laughs] social justice warriors or not. My point is, if something is ineffective, if the world doesn’t reflect the world that you think it should, in the way you think it should, you’re probably doing something wrong. It’s very easy to attack the human condition, but life is very hard, life is very difficult. I have a lot more empathy than when I did as a young man from what my family went through.”

JW: “Now is that from maturity or age or…?”

BC: “No, it’s realizing their lives were fucking hard. Whether it was disease or insanity or cataracts or whatever, their lives were fucking hard and I’m willing to guess many people here know what I’m talking about. Families struggle, people struggle, it’s like one of those John Steinbeck novels where the mountain seems too high for most people…they have the courage but they don’t have the strength or stamina…and now more than ever you have incredible detours to take you off the march up the hill. There’s no end to things you can click on. And now come the sex robots, that’s the new thing that’s starting to trend…there’s a growing discussion about robotics, one is the sexual application because there’s obviously a lot of money there and and morality of all that…and the other side is the militarization of robots. The third discussion is how robots are gonna replace, you know the people standing in front of McDonalds saying they want higher wages, McDonalds is just gonna put in robot hamburger makers, they already have them. That’s the end of that discussion. So, back to the sex robots… [audience laughs] Sorry that sounded like such a good line to say, I didn’t know where I was going with that…No what I’m saying is you’re quickly giving into this dystopic type of Charlton Heston in [The] Omega Man, where it’s you and all you got is this little cubicle, it’s green and shitty, so why not have a sex robot when a real human is only gonna disappoint you and all that stuff. These are…tectonic shifts in not only the way we live but the way we face our fear because anyone who has watched Lord of The Rings or any spiritual books or any of Jen’s [Weigel] books, that at some point of the crisis of the hero’s journey, the hero, he or she must face the thing they don’t want to face.”