May 24, 2022 | Techdirt

from big stupid performance department

For more than forty years, the GOP (and to a more sporadic degree the DNC) has thoughtlessly supported giant corporations, consolidation, and monopolization. The proof is everywhere (banking, insurance, health, air transport, energy), but particularly flagrant in telecoms. The GOP has endlessly, endlessly applauded telecom monopolization, and all that it usually entails (high prices, poor service, privacy concerns).

Yet over the past five years, the GOP has tried to redefine itself as an “antitrust reform” party, dedicated to cracking down on “big business” — despite the lack of any evidence that this is actually true. It’s a big stupid performance designed to mask something else: namely the party’s anger at a handful of tech companies that have belatedly and carelessly harnessed a few kinds of extreme misinformation that have resulted in real-world damage.

The GOP, faced with unfavorable shifting demographics and an aging electorate, has come to rely heavily on Culture War bullshit as its primary means of party recruitment and grassroots support, especially among young white males. . Often there are no underlying policies; it’s just grievance, outrage and propaganda down to the bone marrow level.

Now the GOP can’t just come out and say its whole assault on ‘big tech’ and Section 230 is just because it wants to make sure it can keep spitting nonsensical political propaganda online at impressionable white dudes, so they dressed it up as something much more lofty and intellectual: “antitrust reform,” “protecting free speech,” and “attacking unchecked corporate power.”

And the great American press seems comically desperate to help them although absolutely none of this is true.

Case in point: The Washington Post wrote a bizarre article last week documenting the GOP’s inconsistent policy shift from the net neutrality era (the government is still bad and has absolutely no authority or reason to meddling in the affairs of telecommunications monopolies) to “big tech”. ” (the government should absolutely meddle in the affairs of social media giants even in cases where it does not have the power to do so).

We’ve already talked about how FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is the poster child for this dishonest new GOP movement. Carr was the cornerstone of Ajit Pai and Trump’s efforts to effectively lobotomize all US telecommunications consumer protection. Any effort to rein in Comcast or AT&T was seen as an absolute outrage and a clear sign that the government was on a rampage, if not a “government takeover of the internet.”

But Twitter is taking a few white supremacists offline for being hateful assholes, and Carr, like so many other modern Trump cronies, fired a total of 180 to demand even more extreme government interventions in the giants’ business practices. Silicon Valley technology. He then engaged in contortions and physical exercises to pretend that this change made any legal or political sense.

Note that guys like Carr are not Actually interested in the real problems posed by big technologies or the many solutions proposed to solve them. They don’t care about large-scale privacy invasions, or death-catcher acquisitions that stifle competition. And the solutions presented are not real solutions to big tech problems, such as forcing tech giants to pay a new tax on telecom giants for no reason.

This is again because it is a performance – with a side of helping to “own the libraries”, – not a real policy.

The Washington Post could clearly point out the glaring inconsistencies here. Instead, they cite Carr’s bad faith arguments without actually challenging them. Like here, where Carr argues that rules preventing telecom monopolies from abusing their market power (net neutrality) are irrelevant and unnecessary, but non-discrimination rules for big tech are needed because of censorship ” :

Carr argued that the dynamic between the two industries is distinct because the “abusive practices we see with Big Tech” in banning certain speech require non-discrimination rules, unlike ISPs.

This has basically been the GOP mantra from the start. That monopolies or bad actors literally do not exist in markets like telecommunications, banking or energy. The only the industry that is problematic enough to trigger government intervention is big tech. And not because of the real abuses the sector engages in, but because they are supposedly mean to the right.

The functional media should clearly point out that the GOP “censorship” claims are bullshit. It is not an opinion. Data consistently shows that while content moderation on sites like Twitter is biased, it’s biased toward misinformation. The Trump GOP is moderated more often because it has embraced culture war bullshit and hateful, trolling propaganda as its primary output.

Getting the GOP to agree to this creates painful cognitive dissonance, so they… don’t.

The pretense that the increasingly authoritarian GOP is somehow “censored” is itself propaganda designed to stop anyone from doing anything about the propaganda. It’s too heady a concept for the mainstream media to grasp, so they tap dance around it.

This has allowed the GOP to run a fairly successful campaign that portrays any attempt at all curbing political propaganda and bigotry online as an attack on “free speech” and an act of absolute tyranny. The goal: Completely unlimited ability for the authoritarian GOP to bullshit the public through its traditional media and online propaganda empire built over the past 40 years.

It is the responsibility of a functioning news organization to make clear the emptiness of these arguments. Not only the Post not Doing that, at all, allows Carr to push again the claim that the GOP is now a party that really cares about harnessing corporate power:

[Carr] said the move to common carrier-style regulation for Silicon Valley companies reflects a larger shift within the GOP on attitudes toward big business.

Carr said there was a “wider realignment that we’re seeing within the conservative movement, where there’s a move away from the idea that if a big corporation wants to do it, who am I as a conservative to get in the way? That has changed.

But the GOP has not changed. The GOP talks a LOT about a sudden surge of interest in “antitrust reform” and “corporate power,” but they haven’t done much to address the real issues. The interest in “antitrust reform” is a big stupid performance masking the fact that the real interest of the GOP is in gaining leverage on big tech to force the mandatory transport of anti-racist party propaganda.

The GOP has engaged in a lot of pseudo-intellectual and legally incoherent showmanship to try to make this all look like real adult politics. But it’s all about as hollow as a cheap chocolate Easter bunny from a dollar store.

The Post could clearly point this out, but instead it’s adopting the old “he said, she said” framework adored by mainstream media. A format where the unfettered bullshit of the GOP is presented largely unchallenged. A few dissenting opinions from leftists are presented to counterbalance, both having equal weight. It is then up to the reader to vaguely infer where the truth actually lies.

As authoritarianism continues to take root in the United States, this kind of irresponsible 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

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