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{Co-published in the Colorado Springs Gazette}

Once again, Hollywood’s best have turned their eyes toward computing, programmers, and technology. Once again, they have got it spectacularly wrong.

“The Social Network” is a highly fictionalized account of the emergence of Facebook and its creator, Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t mind that the screenplay takes liberties with the facts. The film is obviously not a documentary, and the purpose of filmmaking is to tell a compelling story.

But the story itself misses so much. There is a much better story to be told, if only people who were so good at writing and filming stories weren’t so overcome by resentment, jealousy and paranoia.

The author of the screenplay is Aaron Sorkin, who also brought us “The West Wing” (working title: “Political Porn for Liberals”). “West Wing” is all about better, smarter, wiser people running the country, something that obviously has a great deal of appeal to Sorkin. Things like the Internet, in which individual liberty and freedom of choice are given their most vivid expression, are simply not part of Sorkin’s vision.

Nor is the friction-free capitalism and rapid wealth creation that the Internet makes possible. Sorkin portrays Zuckerberg as a psychotic, privilege-obsessed misanthrope. He has one friend, whom he betrays. By the end of the film he is the world’s youngest billionaire, but we’re supposed to believe he has sold his soul in the process.

Throughout the film, we’re told that Facebook is a cold and barren place, that it can’t substitute for “real” relationships, and that online presence is addictive. Computer programming is a compulsive activity performed by machinelike personalities (always young men), one that is ultimately dehumanizing and demeaning. As someone who teaches some of America’s finest young men and women how to code, I find such portrayals infuriating.

The task of expressing ideas to a computer, once mastered, is a supremely creative act. Programmers of Zuckerberg’s caliber are artists, in the sense that they are driven to create in a way that most people cannot understand. Zuckerberg was no slouch in the financial department, but what drove him was the desire to create something that would change the world, something fundamental and transformative. And ultimately, beautiful.

But because writers of code and writers of screenplays are worlds apart, each may never understand the other. Sorkin is clearly suspicious of programmers, and technology in general. Ultimately, I think it’s because he’s suspicious of choice.

For all the “pro-choice” rhetoric that comes from the left, their track record is uninspiring at best. Pro-choice is fine for abortion, but not for education. Think Hollywood will make a film that even mentions school vouchers favorably? Fat chance.

Nor is choice Hollywood-friendly when it comes to the choice of how you spend your money, because that means some people get rich. When was the last time you saw a billionaire portrayed heroically in film? Anthony Hopkins in “The Edge” is the only example I could think of, and he was only heroic because the writers dropped him in the Alaskan wilderness.

Facebook and the Internet are ultimately all about choice. Far from being hostile to community and social experience, they are promoting it worldwide. The genius of Facebook is the promise of the Internet writ large: To make distance less important in human affairs.

No longer must the notion of community be shackled by the tyranny of physical place. Online, what neighborhood you live in, what city, what country, those don’t matter. Facebook and the Internet replace communities of place with communities of choice.

But technology-based, capitalist-friendly choice is not the kind of choice the tastemakers of Hollywood understand. And that’s why we get movies like “The Social Network.”

Writers like Sorkin should read more poetry. Walt Whitman saw Facebook coming more than a century ago. In “Leaves of Grass,” he penned these lines with pulse-pounding purpose:

“The earth to be spann’d, connected by network … the oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near, the lands to be welded together.”

Now there’s a guy who would’ve made a great coder.