Congressional Republicans With No Strategy On Pandemic, Healthcare, Societal Problems… Have Decided That The Internet Is The Real Problem
from the culture-wars dept
We’ve pointed out just how ridiculous it is that Congress seems wholly focused on destroying the open internet by gutting the Section 230 protections that enable the open internet to exist in its present form. We’re in the midst of a variety of pretty major issues, and yet Congress is introducing new anti-internet and anti-tech bills like it’s last call before the bar shuts down.
The reason for this is not that hard to grasp, really. As Politico reports, the Trump administration has decided that a culture war against the internet is the best election strategy right now:
The Trump administration is pressuring Senate Republicans to ratchet up scrutiny of social media companies it sees as biased against conservatives in the run-up to the November election, people familiar with the conversations say. And the effort appears to be paying off.
In recent weeks, the White House has pressed Senate Republican leaders on key committees to hold public hearings on the law that protects Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies from lawsuits over how they treat user posts, three Senate staffers told POLITICO. They requested anonymity to discuss private communications.
As the article notes, most of these new anti-internet bills are coming from Republican Senators who are engaged in big political fights and want to retain the backing of the President. The focus on “big bad tech” serves to accomplish multiple goals:
- Culture war: These are always popular during election seasons. Politicians need to get people riled up while pretending that they’re “doing something.” So starting culture wars is a common past time during election seasons.
- Distraction: We’re still in the middle of a pandemic in which thousands of people are dying. We’re still in the middle of an economic crisis with record unemployment, and massive impacts to people all around the country. We’re still in the middle of a social upheaval as more and more people are speaking out against police brutality. We’re still in the middle of huge climate issues, including devastating wild fires up and down the west coast and devastating hurricanes in the south. Fighting with internet dweebs is a distraction.
- Fundraising: It’s common knowledge in DC for politicians that if you need to bump up your coffers, you introduce important legislation about an industry that is doing well, because it leads them to suddenly start throwing money into the campaign funds of folks on all sides of the issue. Tech is an industry that has been doing well, so why the fuck not?
- Working the refs: A key strategy of Republicans lately has been to try to use this “oh, poor us, we’re the victims” snowflake mentality to pressure social media companies to treat them with kid gloves when it comes to handling the propaganda and misinformation they’re posting on social media. Continually attacking tech companies has worked so far, in at least getting Facebook to give Trump and friends more leeway to post nonsense, so why not keep pushing that button over and over again.
Note, of course, that none of this actually helps the public even slightly. Apparently, that’s not what’s important to the White House or folks in Congress.
Indeed, at a time when technology and the internet has become that much more important due to the pandemic that the President seems to want to ignore, it seems that much more damaging to focus on destroying and hammering the open internet. It’s positively backwards. Sure, let’s attack the one sector that is helping to keep a bunch of stuff afloat, and helping to keep people at home, rather sending them out to risk their lives in the midst of a pandemic.
And, of course, all of this seems to be coming directly at the request of the President himself who is desperately looking for any issue to draw focus to other than all of the things that make him look bad:
?There?s hardly a conversation I have with the president where this doesn?t come up, where Section 230 does not come up, usually raised by him,? Hawley said in an interview. ?It is much on his mind and I think his strong stance on this issue has had a big effect in opening the eyes of some of my Republican colleagues to realize this is a major issue.?
Spoiler alert: it’s not “a major issue.” It’s a half-baked, made up, hyped up issue for all of the reasons above, having nothing to do with actual problems in the world.
I get that culture wars are the way politics is done. I get that demonizing successful industries is something that lots of politicians do for political reasons. But it seems kind of batshit crazy that in a time when literally hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, we’re still seeing Congress and the White House play political games rather than focusing on actual issues.