I’m thinking about the dictionary. It’s just after midnight and I’m thinking about how Webster’s recategorized the definition of “preference” to be “offensive” when used in the context of sexuality. The change came immediately after Democratic senators scolded Amy Coney Barrett for using the term during her confirmation hearing.
I’m thinking about this because the madness refuses to peak. When it seemed like nothing could top the whirlwind Trump presidency, a pandemic hit. When it seemed like nothing could top the pandemic, race riots broke out. When it seemed like nothing could top the combination of a pandemic, race riots, and a wild presidential election, Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.
Now, as we handle the pandemic, the racial unrest, the Supreme Court hearing, and the presidential election, two of the world’s most powerful corporations are nakedly using their massive influence to interfere in the election on behalf of the Democratic Party. And they’re getting away with it.
Whatever you think of the New York Post’s report on the emails it obtained showing Hunter Biden selling access to his father during the Obama administration, Facebook and Twitter’s justification for blocking the article’s circulation is laughable. Facebook said it needed to pass a third-party factcheck. Twitter said it may have violated its hacked materials policy. Neither company has applied those obstacles evenly to major stories on Democrats and Republicans.
At the heart of the Post’s report on Biden is clearly a legitimate allegation that the influence of the vice president, now in a position to take control of the Oval Office, was being peddled by his son. It’s about money in politics. It’s something that should deeply upset class warriors on the left. Those class warriors should be even more deeply upset that billionaire tech CEOs are using their power to keep people from reading the story. They are not.
That both companies took this step and were cheered on by much of the left, is not a harbinger. It means our reality is one in which two of the most powerful conduits for information and speech are dishonestly wielding power to partisan ends. And the media isn’t a bulwark.
This brings me back to Webster’s. I’m less worried about tech’s partisan allegiances than I am about their ideological ones. Many conservative voices insist a win for Biden would nudge America past the point of no return.
As Trump’s first term draws to a tumultuous close, it’s clear his presidency has drawn out and calcified some terrifyingly illiberal impulses on the cultural left. But they were already there. They were at Webster’s and in newsrooms and boardrooms. Trump is merely their excuse to throw out the rulebook. This is not a political problem, although it’s causing many.
This is much bigger. This is about the rapid acceleration of our technological capacity, not just over 100 years or 50 years but 10 years. We are reeling. Progress moved so quickly that we hardly felt it hurtling us forward. Here we are. The promises of Silicon Valley’s early years, of a more connected and understanding and harmonious world, have faded.
The concentration of power in the hands of elites in tech and media and business is mainstreaming the illiberal impulses of cultural leftism because baked into their central equation is a binary that insists people are either progressives or bigots—and that’s not good for anyone’s bottom line.
This is a problem that transcends the political sphere. Our institutions are buckling under all this pressure when we can’t even trust the neutrality of dictionary definitions.
Maybe life feels more normal outside the Beltway and other coastal enclaves. Maybe people who work outside politics are annoyed by the turmoil but not consumed by it. I just don’t think that’s the case anymore. Isolated at home surrounded by televisions, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, the American people are plagued by worsening addiction and mental health struggles. The pandemic has claimed many lives. It’s claimed many jobs and businesses. Nothing should feel normal because it isn’t.
One of the great flaws of the media business model is that daily horserace tracking dominates the news cycle. The big picture is hard to discern from the swirl of ephemera. This moment demands a retreat from that dizzying swirl. We can be more responsible consumers and voters and parents and tweeters if we pause to reflect on the wreckage.
What’s happening right now is that elites are bulldozing our culture and our politics and our health, profiting off consequential dishonesty and feigned neutrality and addiction, all of which is even easier during a divisive and isolating event like a pandemic. It’s the cultural version of paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
They’re making us worse and it’s making them rich. So why side with Goliath?