from the with-friends-like-these... dept
While the press and some policy circles have made a large stink the last few years about massive new “bipartisan support for antitrust reform,” we’ve noted that the push isn’t quite what’s being advertised. While some of the bills being proposed might help correct some competitive imbalances online, the push in general is bizarrely narrow and only targets some tech companies under some circumstances.
As a party that’s coddled monopolies (see: telecom, banking, airlines, insurance) for literally 40 years, the GOP support for “antitrust reform” has always been performative. The GOP largely sees “antitrust reform” as a way to gain leverage over social media giants so they can mandate the carriage of race-baiting propaganda, a cornerstone of GOP power in the face of shifting demographics and an aging electorate.
Democratic activists and lawmakers, hoping to push some of these antitrust bills across the finish line, have been debating whether crushing ethics underfoot is worth it. Case in point: some Democrats have chosen to partner with The American Principles Project on antitrust reform, despite the fact the group is jam-packed with no shortage of obvious bigotry:
APP President Terry Schilling has called pediatricians who provide gender-affirming care “groomers,” meaning pedophiles, and referred to transgender women as “biological males who believe they are women.” The group has also delved into racial issues, describing the Black Lives Matter movement as a “rhetorical Trojan horse” pursuing “an identiarian race-based caste system” for the U.S.
Matt Stoller, the guy who thought Josh Hawley was the future of modern politics and antitrust reform until everybody realized Hawley was a confused, opportunistic, authoritarian knob, argues that the bills being proposed are worth throwing all other ethical considerations in the toilet for:
“Consolidated corporate power is the biggest problem that we’re facing right now in our politics,” said Matt Stoller, research director at the anti-monopoly group American Economic Liberties Project, who regularly works with populist figures on the right, including APP. He said divisions within both parties about antitrust changes mean that supporters “have to cobble together a majority.”
There’s productively working with people you disagree with across the aisle, and then there’s… this. Authoritarians aren’t your friends. It doesn’t usually end well. And, as some other activists note in the piece, allying with bigots who literally want to destroy your constituents and everything they stand for just to pass some very limited reform laws (several of which have very concrete problems) isn’t worth it:
“It doesn’t make sense to work with someone that doesn’t share our values and doesn’t share our goal,” said Jeremie Greer, co-founder and executive director of economic rights group Liberation in a Generation. “I don’t think we’re fighting for the same thing.” Greer argued that the push for antitrust reform is essentially about increasing equality and strengthening democracy — and a group fighting against LGBTQ and minority rights is fundamentally opposed to that work.
Again, having some slightly more fair app stores or more competitive Amazon product listings isn’t going to mean a whole hell of a lot should authoritarians gain power and begin dismantling the law and numerous societal systems in a bid for complete and total domination of their political enemies. And make no mistake, while groups like this dress up far right authoritarianism and bigotry as a rosy-cheeked concern for family values, authoritarianism is very much what we’re talking about.
At the same time, if you’re a large U.S. company in any of a dozen heavily monopolized U.S. industries terrified of antitrust reform of any kind, highlighting these kind of issues in a bid to fracture delicate alliances is something you’d most certainly have your K Street policy and PR shops engaged in right now.
That said, if we’re going to tackle antitrust reform, let’s tackle antitrust reform. Instead, what we’ve wound up with is a bunch of extremely narrow bills that only meaningfully target a handful of companies that the GOP is mad at for belatedly policing political propaganda. And even then, this being the rabidly obstructionist GOP, there’s no guarantee they’ll show up to vote for a bill that actually does anything.
The entire recent “antitrust reform” effort literally pretends that sectors packed with natural monopolies (see: telecom) don’t exist. And while, yeah, I get the argument that some fairly minor progress in one industry is better than no progress at all, that’s not actually true if making that progress involves throwing your entire belief apparatus in the toilet and putting democracy and civility at risk.