From The Stupid To The Bizarre: Trump Demands That His Government Should Take A 'Substantial' Cut Of TikTok's Purchase Fee
from the you-have-to-be-kidding-me dept
The whole TikTok story keeps getting dumber. While we still believe that the weird moral panic about TikTok is overblown and Trump’s threat to ban the company from the US over the weekend is crazy and unconstitutional, people are still taking things seriously. On Friday evening Trump said that he planned to issue an executive order banning the company (which is not quite how any of this works). He didn’t actually do this. He also said he was against an American company like Microsoft buying TikTok, which apparently put the ongoing acquisition talks on hold.
Instead, Microsoft had to call up the President and grovel before him, before he apparently told the company it had until September 15th to work out a deal, and if no deal was made by then, he’d again “ban” TikTok (again, an almost certainly unconstitutional move that would not work). Still, it would be a mess, and I’m sure TikTok and ByteDance (the company’s current owner) knows that it’s probably best to take what it can get from Microsoft while it can. Of course, Microsoft also knows that it’s in a good position because ByteDance has a ticking time bomb on its hands, and the value of TikTok could decrease drastically on September 15th if no deal is made. Even if a ban is unconstitutional, fighting it will take time and money.
Also, it’s not clear if there would be much competition for TikTok from anyone other than Microsoft. I mean, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg would love to buy it, but pretty much everyone knows that there’s no way in hell that would get approved by the Justice Department. Even if Facebook weren’t already facing a shit ton of antitrust scrutiny from Congress, the FTC, and state Attorneys General, the Bill Barr DOJ has made it clear that it will abuse antitrust to hurt companies Trump is mad at. And contrary to some conspiracy theories, Trump and friends still insist that Facebook is “biased” against them (it’s not). So that wipes out most of the large internet companies that would actually have the capital to buy TikTok. There could be a surprise buyer, but it remains a fairly limited market, at best.
Still, things went from just stupid to downright bizarre on Monday when President Trump announced that he thought most of the money from a TikTok acquisition should go to the US Treasury:
“The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible,” Mr Trump said.
“It would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that’s the way I think, and I think it’s very fair,” he added.
This is dumb on so many levels. First of all, people have been discussing the possibility of ByteDance having to sell TikTok to get away from questions about its Chinese ownership since long before Trump ever heard of TikTok. So the idea that it’s only because of him is just yet another one of his narcissistic fever dreams. Second, you’re not “making it possible” any more that the local organized crime fixer “makes it possible” for your restaurant to not burn down if you pay up your protection money. That’s called extortion and it’s not the kind of thing that the President should be advocating for. Third, it’s incredibly stupid because even just saying that gives the Chinese government a ton of ammunition, as they started deploying almost immediately:
The state-run China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday that Beijing would not accept the “theft” of a Chinese technology company.
It also warned in an editorial that China had “plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab”.
Considering how much US officials have been whining and screaming about supposed Chinese attempts to “steal American intellectual property,” giving the Chinese government a talking point to argue that the US government “does the same thing” is just a huge diplomatic stupidity.
Everything about this story is ridiculous, but it’s 2020, and you always know that President Trump can take a stupid story and make it stupider.