Billionaire Bunkers Are The New Techno-Feudalism


(MENAFN- Asia Times) In December 2023, WIRED reported that Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire CEO of Meta and one of the foremost architects of today's social-media-dominated world, has been buying up large swathes of the Hawaiian island Kauai.

Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are constructing a gigantic compound – known as Ko'olau Ranch – on this land, which will most likely cost over A$400 million (US$260 million) to complete.

This estate stretches over 5,500,000 square meters, is surrounded by a two-meter wall and is patrolled by numerous security guards driving quad bikes on nearby beaches. Hundreds of local Hawaiians work on Zuckerberg's property. But precisely how many, and what they actually do, is concealed by a binding nondisclosure agreement.

WIRED's subheading hones in on the fact that Zuckerberg's Ko'olau Ranch includes plans for a“massive underground bunker.” This seems to be the detail that piques the interest of reporters and conspiracy theorists alike.

People are asking not only“Why is Mark Zuckerberg building a private apocalypse bunker in Hawaii?”, but also“What do the [billionaires] know?” and“What is going to happen in 2024 that they are not telling us?”.

Beyond the bunker fixation

Doomsday bunkers are becoming a common sight in contemporary apocalypse-themed US pop culture, from The Last of Us and Tales from the Walking Dead to the recent Netflix film, Leave the World Behind .

At the same time, public interest in the (increasingly lucrative ) bunker industry is fanned by lurid headlines such as“Billionaires' Survivalist Bunkers Go Absolutely Bonkers With Fiery Moats and Water Cannons .”

But other pieces of infrastructure on Kauai are arguably more deserving of our attention: several oversized mansions, with the combined footprint of a football field ; at least 11 treehouses connected by rope bridges; machinery dedicated to water purification, desalination and storage.

Meanwhile, the Facebook billionaire posts“relatable” content on Instagram from his humble ranch, such as a pic of“Zuck” about to tuck into a massive side of grilled beef .

Zuck informs his followers he's now ranching his own cattle, feeding them with macadamia nuts grown on the ranch and beer brewed there as well.“Each cow eats 5,000-10,000 pounds of food each year, so that's a lot of acres of macadamia trees,” he (or one of his assistants) writes.




Mark Zuckerberg is ranching his own cattle. Photo: Mark Zuckerberg / Instagram , CC BY-SA

As two of us argue in our forthcoming book, The Influencer Factory , this kind of ersatz“down to earth” social media presence is actually an example of“a new transformation in capitalism, in which the logic of the self is indistinguishable from the logic of the corporation.”

Accompanying a picture of his child digging a hole in the ground, one of the most powerful (and least accountable) men in the world comments:

Other plans from Zuckerberg and Chan include wildlife preservation, native plant restoration, organic turmeric and ginger farms, and partnerships with conservation experts in Kauai to preserve and protect the native flora and fauna. These activities will have far more material impact on Kauai than the bunker, no matter how many rooms it might have.

An ecosystem of one's own

The founder of Facebook isn't the only billionaire building gigantic compounds in Hawaii. Oprah Winfrey purchased a 163-acre estate in Maui back in 2002, and has bought further plots of land since then, totaling over 650,000 square meters.

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