from the big-dumb-performance dept
For more than forty years, the GOP (and to a more sporadic degree the DNC) mindlessly supported giant corporations, consolidation, and monopolization. The evidence is everywhere (banking, insurance, health, air travel, energy), but particularly obvious in telecom. The GOP has endlessly, ceaselessly, cheered on telecom monopolization, and all it usually entails (high prices, poor service, privacy issues).
Yet over the last five years, the GOP has attempted to reframe itself as a party of “antitrust reform,” dedicated to cracking down on “big corporations” — despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever that’s actually true. It’s a big dumb performance designed to mask something else: namely party anger at a handful of tech companies that have belatedly and sloppily been reining in a few types of extreme disinformation that has resulted in real world harms.
The GOP, facing unfavorable shifting demographics and an aging electorate, has come to heavily rely on culture war bullshit as its primary avenue for party recruitment and base support, especially among younger white men. Often there are no underlying policies; it’s just grievance, outrage, and propaganda all the way down to the bone marrow level.
Now the GOP can’t just come out and say that its whole assault on “big tech” and Section 230 is simply because it wants to ensure it can keep spewing nonsense political propaganda online at impressionable white dudebros, so they’ve dressed up the effort as something far more noble and intellectual: “antitrust reform,” “free speech protection,” and an “assault on unchecked corporate power.”
And the mainstream U.S. press seems comically desperate to help them despite absolutely none of it being true.
Case in point: the Washington Post last week penned a bizarre piece documenting the GOP’s incoherent policy shift from the net neutrality era (government is always bad and completely lacks the authority or cause to meddle in the affairs of telecom monopolies) to the “big tech” era (government should absolutely meddle in the affairs of social media giants even in cases where it has no authority to do so).
We’ve already talked about how FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is the poster child of this new disingenuous GOP movement. Carr was a cornerstone of Ajit Pai and Trump’s efforts to effectively lobotomize all U.S. telecom consumer protection. Any effort to rein in Comcast or AT&T was deemed an absolute outrage and a clear sign of government running amok, if not a “government takeover of the internet.”
But Twitter kicks a few white supremacists offline for being hateful assholes, and Carr, like so many other modern Trump acolytes, pulled a complete 180 to demand even more extreme government interventions in the business practices of Silicon Valley tech giants. He then engaged in contortions and calisthenics to pretend this shift made any legal or policy sense whatsoever.
Note that guys like Carr aren’t actually interested in the genuine problems presented by big tech or the many solutions being floated to address them. They don’t care about privacy abuses at scale, or the catch and kill acquisitions that stifle competition. And the solutions presented aren’t actual solutions for the problems in “big tech,” like, say, forcing tech giants to pay telecom giants a new tax for no reason.
That’s again because this is a performance — with a side helping of “owning the libs,” — not real policy.
The Washington Post could clearly point out the blistering inconsistencies here. Instead they quote Carr’s bad faith arguments without really challenging them at all. Like here, where Carr claims that rules preventing telecom monopolies from abusing their market power (net neutrality) are irrelevant and unnecessary, but nondiscrimination rules for big tech are needed due to “censorship”:
Carr argued the dynamics between the two industries are distinct because the “abusive practices that we’re seeing with Big Tech” in barring some speech necessitate nondiscrimination rules, unlike with ISPs.
This has basically been the GOP’s mantra all along. That monopolies or bad actors literally don’t exist in markets like telecom or banking or energy. The only industry that’s problematic enough to trigger government intervention is big tech. And not because of any of the real abuses the sector engages in, but because they’re allegedly mean to right wingers.
Functional news outlets should clearly point out that the GOP’s ongoing claims of “censorship” are bullshit. That’s not an opinion. Data routinely shows that if content moderation at sites like Twitter is biased, it’s biased toward misinformation. The Trump GOP is getting moderated more often because it has adopted culture war bullshit and hateful, trolling propaganda as its primary output.
Getting the GOP to accept this creates painful cognitive dissonance, so they… don’t.
The pretense that the increasingly authoritarian GOP is somehow being “censored” is itself propaganda designed to prevent anybody from doing anything about propaganda. That’s too heady a concept for mainstream press outlets to grasp, so they tap dance around it.
This has allowed the GOP to wage a fairly successful campaign that portrays any attempt at all to rein in political propaganda and bigotry online as an assault on “free speech” and an act of absolute tyranny. The goal: completely unfettered ability for the authoritarian GOP to bullshit the public across its traditional media and online propaganda empire built over the last 40 years.
It’s a functional news organization’s responsibility to highlight the hollowness of these arguments clearly. Not only does the Post not do that, at all, it allows Carr to again push the claim that the GOP is now a party that really cares about reining in corporate power:
[Carr] said the embrace of common carrier-style regulation for Silicon Valley companies reflects a bigger shift within the GOP on attitudes toward big businesses.
Carr said there’s a “broader realignment that we’re seeing within the conservative movement, where there is a moving away from the view that if a large corporation wants to do it, who am I as a conservative to get in the way? That has changed.”
But the GOP hasn’t changed. The GOP talks a LOT about a sudden renewed interest in “antitrust reform” and “corporate power,” but they’ve done little to address any real problems. The interest in “antitrust reform” is a big dumb performance masking the fact that the GOP’s real interest is in gaining leverage over big tech to force the mandated carriage of race-baiting party propaganda.
The GOP has engaged in a lot of pseudo-intellectual, legally incoherent theatrics to try and make this all sound like real, adult policy. But it’s all as hollow as a cheap dollar store chocolate Easter bunny.
The Post could clearly point this out, but instead they embrace the old “he said, she said” framing adored by major outlets. A format where unfettered bullshit by the GOP is presented largely unchallenged. A few dissenting opinions by folks on the left are presented for counterbalance, with both given equal weight. It’s then left up to the reader to vaguely infer where the truth actually resides.
As authoritarianism continues to take root in the U.S., that kind of feckless inability to call a duck a duck when necessary will ultimately prove fatal.
Filed Under: antitrust, antitrust reform, big tech, big telecom, brendan carr, conservative censorship, dnc, gop, journalism, monopolies, net neutrality, section 230