Forget 'Breaking Up' Internet Companies, Senator Josh Hawley Says They Should All Die Because They're Too Popular
from the say-what-now? dept
We’ve had our issues with politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren whose plans to “break up” big internet companies don’t seem to make much sense, but it appears that Senator Josh Hawley has decided to take things to another level of insanity altogether. In an op-ed for USA Today, Hawley makes the argument that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should all die. And while there are plenty of people who appear to support a dead Facebook in response to that company’s long history of sketchy practices, that’s not really the reason Hawley wants them dead.
He wants them dead because they’re too popular. Hawley cherry picks some evidence to suggest that using social media is bad for our health.
And in order to guarantee an audience big enough to make their ads profitable, big tech has developed a business model designed to do one thing above all: addict.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ? they devote massive amounts of money and the best years of some of the nation?s brightest minds to developing new schemes to hijack their users? neural circuitry. That?s because social media only works ? to make money, anyway ? if it consumes users? time and attention, day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we enjoyed and did perfectly well before social media existed.
This hearkens back to nearly every other overblown, ridiculous moral panic of yesteryear. Television, radio, video games, novels, comic books, dungeons and dragons, pinball, rock and roll. They’ve all received this nutty treatment. Even chess.
“A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises–not this sort of mental gladiatorship.”
Or, remember the report from 1909 by the “NY Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children”
This new form of entertainment has gone far to blast maidenhood … Depraved adults with candies and pennies beguile children with the inevitable result. The Society has prosecuted many for leading girls astray through these picture shows, but GOD alone knows how many are leading dissolute lives begun at the ‘moving pictures.’
Hawley’s piece is one and the same with those previous moral panics. It’s kind of amusing for a guy who claims to be a “free market, less government intervention” conservative to now stand up and argue for literally shutting down private enterprises because they’re popular, but politics and hypocrisy go hand in hand.
Of course, to make his point, Hawley wants to tie popular social media to another moral panic: “drugs!”
Let?s be clear. This is a digital drug. And the addiction is the point. Addiction is what Mark Zuckerberg is selling.
Like other drugs, this one hurts its users. Attention spans dull. Tempers quicken. Relationships fray.
And those are the benign effects. The Journal of Pediatrics recently noted a surge in attempted suicide: more than double the attempts over the last decade for those under 19, with a tripling among girls and young women 10 to 24. The study?s authors can?t prove social media is to blame, but they strongly suspect it plays a critical role. Congress has a duty to investigate that potential link further.
Meanwhile, as we noted just earlier this week, another comprehensive study did not find any evidence to support the idea that social media is driving depression. But who needs facts when you have a moral panic to sell.