Josh Hawley Once Again Doing Good Thing For Bad Reason
GOP Senator Josh Hawley is a weird one.
He's obviously the worst — hell, he just raised three million dollars off his attempt to block the results of the 2020 election — but also sometimes he is in favor of things that are not bad. Like the time he teamed up with Bernie Sanders to push for $2,000 COVID relief stimulus checks. And once again, he's doing a thing that is not actually bad, but he's doing it for a reason that is.
According to a report from Axios, Hawley is planning on introducing trust-busting legislation meant to strengthen antitrust laws and bar large corporations from acquisitions, which is usually the kind of thing one might expect from someone who is not an actual monster. Like Elizabeth Warren, David Cicilline and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Heck, even Klobuchar's got one.
Of course, his reason for pushing it isn't quite so pure, as he just wants to punish Big Tech for not letting conservatives be racist on social media.
Like many conservatives, Hawley has been all up on the "Oh no! Social media is censoring conservative thought!" nonsense for some time now. This is not because it's true so much as conservatives are more likely than liberals to violate rules against targeting hatred at groups of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. They're also more likely to spread disinformation about COVID that could put people in actual danger. The idea that conservatives are unfairly targeted is undermined by the fact that people on the left are also frequently booted off social media, and often for fighting back against the right-wing trolls harassing them or for having conversations about racism.
But that doesn't play into their narrative so well.
Because Hawley and many like him now care more about the freedom to use racial slurs on Twitter than they do about the freedom of big corporations to do whatever they want, he is proposing a "Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act" that would::
- Ban mergers and acquisitions by firms with a market cap over $100 billion
- Lower the threshold for prosecution under existing federal antitrust laws, replacing the prevalent "consumer -harm" standard with one that emphasizes "the protection of competition"
- Require companies that lose federal antitrust lawsuits to "forfeit all their profits resulting from monopolistic conduct"
- Give the Federal Trade Commission new power to designate and regulate "dominant digital firms" in different online markets
That last one is obviously meant to allow the government to prevent social media companies from kicking users off for being bigots or otherwise moderating content. But that would be functionally impossible to do. The only reason Twitter or Facebook are "dominant digital firms" is because people use them. Were there no moderation on Twitter, it would turn into a giant 4chan cesspool, and the large majority of people who don't want to hang out on a giant 4chan cesspool would find something else to do.
The rest, however, is pretty okay.
The bills being pushed by Democrats are obviously better, but it's still an interesting turn of events. It's almost as if some Republican support for rich people and big business required a sense of reciprocity — that lots of these people would vote against their own economic interests in exchange for rich people and big business doing their part to maintain a social hierarchy that let them feel like they were better than people of color, non-Christians, LGBTQ people, whoever. They see these companies striving to look "woke" as a betrayal of this social contract and now want to punish them for reneging on it.
It's enough to make one wonder what other good things we could trick conservatives into supporting, by manipulating their deep-seated fears of being rejected or feeling badly about themselves. I have long held that the way to get them to support Medicare for All, parental leave, etc., is to accuse them of thinking Americans are not as good as people in other countries and therefore undeserving of the healthcare and other benefits that people they receive. We could exploit their ridiculous fear of getting fired "simply for being a conservative" and obsession with cancel culture to push getting rid of at-will employment (which, duh, would not actually protect people who want to be bigots at work but they don't need to know that). We could probably even get them to support a law that would nullify Citizens United, now that they don't feel corporations have their backs anymore.
End of the day, if something helps people — which anti-trust laws obviously would — it's best to get it done and then worry about the bad reasons people might have for supporting it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse