Stop Pretending The Trump GOP Genuinely Cares About Monopoly Power
from the gullible-and-adorable dept
Over the last year or two, a constant drumbeat has permeated tech news coverage. It goes something like this: the GOP is embracing a “populist” agenda by standing up to “big tech.” The modern Trump GOP (with heroic consumer champions like Josh Hawley and Marsha Blackburn in the lead) we’re told, have become stalwart opponents of monopolization, especially in tech. They’re just super concerned about what this power means for free speech, especially given that conservative voices are routinely “censored” on the internet.
One problem. It’s all bullshit. And there’s a long line of journalists and experts who still somehow haven’t quite figured that out yet. Or have figured it out but are too afraid of upsetting readers or advertisers to be honest about it.
Case in point: the New York Times, which this week explored how the GOP’s interest in “reining in big tech” has stalled because “solutions” to modern tech problems could hurt revenues or don’t include adequate hand-wringing over “conservative censorship”:
“The Republicans? chief objections to the report are that some of the legislative proposals against the tech giants could hamper other businesses and impede economic growth, said four people with knowledge of the situation. Several Republicans were also frustrated that the report didn?t address claims of anti-conservative bias from the tech platforms. Mr. Buck said in ?The Third Way? that some of the recommendations were ?a nonstarter for conservatives.”
The Times, like most big outlets, proceeds from the assumption that the Trump GOP genuinely cares about reining in “monopoly power” in technology. But that gives the GOP way more credit than it has earned or deserves, and helps prop up bad faith bullshit as legitimate grievance.
For one, the GOP’s breathless concerns about “monopolization” aren’t apparent anywhere else. As the GOP freaks out over “big tech,” for example, “big telecom” has been allowed to effectively guard the chicken house and eat the lion’s share of the chickens. The GOP-controlled FCC effectively neutered itself at AT&T’s and Comcast’s request. Terrible job and competition killing telecom mergers have been repeatedly, rubber stamped by the GOP. Similarly there’s zero evidence of any serious attempt to rein in other monopolized sectors from banking and airlines to pharmaceutical and energy.
There’s also still no evidence that “conservatives are being censored.” As in, none. Oddly, the New York Times can’t be bothered to mention this. The lion’s share of those being kicked offline are being kicked offline because they’re simply…behaving like assholes on the internet. And in fact, there’s far more evidence that platforms like Facebook are ignoring their own rules to protect right-wing speech because it’s more profitable to let inflammatory bullshit bumble around the information ecosystem (see: Breitbart being a trusted news ally and nobody giving a damn that Ben Shapiro games Facebook systems to inflate traffic).
Here’s the thing. This steady flood of shitty Section 230 bills aren’t about policing monopoly power. And folks like Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley, who’ve never had a single bad thing to say about telecom monopolies, couldn’t give any less of a shit about monopoly power. They do however care about political power. And the over-arching goal right now is to apply enough pressure on Silicon Valley giants that they don’t start adequately policing political disinformation. Because if they do, many of the cornerstones of the modern Trump GOP (race baiting, divisive bullshit, inflammatory garbage, rampant disinformation) fall apart.
Yes, Democrats have plenty of bad ideas and frequently can be found doing nothing or making things even worse. Congress needs a reboot and fresh blood on a tragic scale. But that doesn’t change the fact that the entire, multi-year GOP quest to tackle “big tech’s monopoly power” has never actually been about monopoly power. It’s about political power and money. It’s about trying to shovel more ad revenue to accountability-immune telecom monopolies or Rupert Murdoch. It’s also about preventing anybody from tackling the mountains of hateful internet bullshit that has become the cornerstone of Trumpism.
And despite countless gullible news reports and experts eager to portray GOP “big tech” pearl clutching as a good faith, earnest examination of the very real problems popping up in tech, it’s simply not. And those who continue to pretend otherwise are part of the problem.