Ever since the financial crisis, populist leftists, conservatives, and libertarians alike have been far more skeptical of big business, big banks, and other big corporations. Their power to warp the market and taxpayer dollars in a way that eliminates competition and spreads costs to voters became well apparent, and the bailout culture begun by George W. Bush and continued to this day became an item of severe frustration among multiple factions.
But the anti-competitive dangers of the Bigs didn’t stop with bailouts. Corporations found it in their interest for myriad reasons to become more “ethically sourced”, more “responsibly crafted”, more “socially conscious”. For most of them, this was little more than posturing for the sake of an easy public relations hit.
But not for all.
Some big corporations, particularly those in Silicon Valley, became increasingly anti-competitive not just in the realm of business, but in the marketplace of ideas. Staffed from top to bottom with individuals ideologically sympathetic to the woke agenda and empowered with tools that can silence anyone with the push of a button or bar them from a marketplace regardless of their products’ quality, Big Tech exploited these realities to tighten their grip on discourse.
Sometimes, like Google, they did it at the behest of political regimes. Sometimes, like Facebook and Twitter, they did it at the behest of political and media organizations. Sometimes, like Reddit, they did it just because someone in the chain wanted it. They just quarantined r/The_Donald, the Trump fan portion of Reddit, for purported violent threats against cops. Within their ecosystems, these entities increasingly silenced ideas and beliefs in competition with their elitist globalist vision of the future.
This is all legal in America, or mostly legal at worst. But whether something is legal or not doesn’t connote cultural sustainability or mitigate the potential harm to our political discourse.
There’s an interesting finding advanced by professor Eric Kaufmann, author of the new book Whiteshift, that the more populist views have a standing politically, the less likely they are to turn violent, and the fewer acts of violence we see. The takeaway: if mainstream politics can wrestle with the arguments of populists of the right and left as part of the legitimate political debate, the less likely supporters are to consider revolutionary or reactionary steps. If the Yellow Jackets think their views are getting a hearing, they are less likely to set anything on fire.
It remains possible that I am too pessimistic about what this combination of big tech, elite left-globalist, constant surveillance, and partisan-eliminationist stuff really means for the United States. But what if I and those who agree with me are right, and what’s more, everything these Masters of the Universe have planned is legal and constitutional? That there is no legal recourse except to say: build your own marketplace?
What we’re watching is the weaponization of market power and civil society against people conservatives see as apolitical and innocent. But if you believe pre-woke capitalism is inherently corrupt, where LGBT people and racial minorities were disrespected and isolated and worse, that vision of pre-woke capitalism is just a vindictive reflection of prejudice, racism, and bigotry.
As one technologist described it yesterday:
“Big tech is filled with people who 1) wish to have absolute control over your interactions, to monitor every movement of your eyeball, every twitch of your finger 2) do not see you as a human with dignity, but as nothing more than the click of a mouse or tap on a screen…
“[W]ith Big Tech, people have weaponized the ability to dehumanize people *at scale* and *without consequence*. Social expectations don’t limit them. It’s a new world, one which a libertarian “hands-off” model is falling violently short of comprehending.”
The perspective from the right is that the people pulling the strings in Big Tech are morally and intellectually and culturally and politically arrayed against them. However organized or premeditated, the Big Tech left elites intuit now that they have sufficient power to treat white cis traditionalists the way they think those same people used to treat gays and blacks and women, etc., and they can do it perfectly legally.
Surprisingly enough, they’re not targeting Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook or Steven Spielberg or the heads of the Big Banks or the Chamber of Commerce or whoever. No, the richest, most powerful straight white people in America are all for this movement, and those who work beneath them are targeting it at common citizens – small business owners and congregants and Boy Scout leaders – who are just trying to get through the day and serve their customers and their god, not realizing that they have been categorized by the powers that be as irrevocably anti-immigrant, anti-environment, and anti-LGBT.
So from the perspective of the American right, Trumpism, nationalism, and especially orthodox-ish Christianity are being driven out of the public square by new definers of morality and acceptability. It’s not against the First Amendment for Pinterest to ban Bible verses. But it does send a message, and the right hears it.
We already see the Trumpian response – which is to stand up and defy these people and trade body blows with them in the middle of the ring. Another response, potentially from the Josh Hawleys of the world, goes beyond applying rhetorical pressure to the policy realm. Another response, not yet visible, is to redraw the partisan lines along these divisions, creating a social-right/economic-middle-left party that seeks to rally a pan-ethnic coalition against the new woke white elites. And still another response, also so far not yet in evidence, is just resorting to civil violence… an exercise more familiar to Europe than America. Let us hope it stays that way.
My concern remains that markets alone will not solve this problem, and that in the absence of changed behavior on the part of market participants, one or both of the major parties will seek to resolve the issue via force of law. The organic partisan pincer movement on this subject is clear: of all the Democrats The New York Times asked about breaking up Big Tech, only irrelevant Californian Eric Swalwell gave a definitive “No”. And when Republicans feel Big Tech is not just inconveniencing media figures but is their enemy, why would their representatives stand in its defense?
Who should we thank for this circumstance? Thank the failure of movement conservatism? Thank the degradation of the church? Thank the algorithms that lured media and customers and sellers only to turn on them in a sick joke? Thank all of this, yes, but in particular, thank the Bigs, the increasingly woke elites who run them – and the line that runs through every human heart that stirs toward vengeance.