“Corporate communism” began trending on Twitter Tuesday afternoon due to a video of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene coining the term.
The freshman Republican was talking about the Biden administration’s ambitions to buddy up with so-called private companies in creating a way to identify who has been vaccinated against the Wuhan virus. These “vaccine passports” would allow some combination of companies and the government to prohibit unvaccinated people from traveling, going to events or gatherings, or otherwise participating in a free and normal society.
Perhaps more troubling than the ruling class telling Americans they must receive a vaccine in order to participate in normal life is the prospect of the government colluding with monopolistic corporations to accrue private health data from American citizens and restrict their lives accordingly.
Marjorie Taylor Greene says that a vaccine passport is "Biden's Mark of the Beast" and that any company the requires one is engaging in "corporate communism." pic.twitter.com/XtTvqw83tU
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 30, 2021
Vaccine passports “would mandate your ability to be able to travel, your ability to be able to go to events, your ability to be able to buy and sell,” Greene said in the video, likening the “disturbing” endeavor to “Biden’s mark of the beast.” All of this is being done, she said, under the guise of trying to keep everyone safe.
“Well, let’s analyze that,” the congresswoman continued. “It’s still the same thing. It’s still fascism or communism — whatever you want to call it — but it’s coming from private companies. So I have a term for that. I call it ‘corporate communism.’”
Detractors immediately attacked the idea online, calling Greene’s phrase an oxymoron:
I thought UPC codes were the mark of the Beast, but we're gonna have to have a chat about "corporate communism", which is not a thing https://t.co/7iITEfgk6t
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) March 30, 2021
Corporate Communism is my favorite oxymoron since "Trump Christians." https://t.co/yNg5A96GJc
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) March 30, 2021
Marjorie Taylor Greene is ranting about “corporate communism” and I really don’t even know where to start with that.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 30, 2021
Words have meaning, of course, and communism historically means government fully controls the means of production, while among corporations there is a broad range of government influence that typically does not include full government ownership. But criticizing Greene’s wording or bickering over semantics is a huge distraction from the root of the issue.
While perhaps technically inaccurate, Greene is absolutely right on principle and implications: Corrupt monopolies, with vaccine passports as with other regulations and invasions of privacy, are a gaping constitutional loophole for fascism.
Vaccine Passports Rely on Private-Public Fusionism
First, consider the fact that the government is working with corporations to create these vaccine passports. As first reported by the Washington Post, the Biden administration is working with private companies to create the passports, which “are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass.”
This implies two things: first, that the government is using private companies to accomplish its goals, meaning the resulting vaccine passport won’t be a private good unadulterated by government input. This move by the Biden administration will result in a sort of public-private fusionism that enables it to issue a centralized and authoritarian program while sidestepping constitutional landmines.
The hands of federal and even state governments are tied in ways that those of monopolies parading as innocuous private companies are not. Therefore, this could comprise government outsourcing to technically private industry that which it is constitutionally and legally barred from doing.
Second, the fact that these passports will be coordinated through smartphone apps implies the government and corporations will use existing tech infrastructure to create them. We’ve already seen this with creepy smartphone contact tracing, through which Apple and Google worked together to use Bluetooth on your smartphone to collect and transmit information about when one person crosses paths with another who tests positive for COVID-19.
Worse still is the troubling word “free.” Nothing is free with technology. Users of tech services always pay at least with their data, a reality that becomes particularly concerning when the currency is private health information and when the option is to comply or else be banned from returning to normal life.
In that way, vaccine passport apps won’t be like TikTok. Deciding your data and privacy are more important than possessing the app won’t just mean you forgo watching dance videos. It could mean you can’t travel, can’t go to certain stores or venues, and thus can’t be truly free.
This Effort Is Backdoor Fascism
We’ve seen this trend before, whereby so-called private companies control the means of production and thus operate as authoritarian gatekeepers of information and goods and services. It’s about as close to “corporate communism” as you can get.
Big Tech, the unaccountable monopolies that we’ve entangled in nearly every aspect of our lives and the veritable gatekeepers of our information, are the nastiest culprits. Throughout the 2020 election cycle and immediately following, these companies, including Facebook, Apple, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and Amazon, went on a censorship spree.
That included suppressing information that didn’t service their preferred political candidate, de-platforming conservative voices that cut against their prevailing narrative, digitally burning books they found offensive, nuking videos and channels that offered a dissenting perspective, robbed alternative platforms of the digital infrastructure of the internet, and even silencing the sitting president of the United States.
Much like their response to Greene’s “corporate communism” rant, the left piled onto conservatives over their fears of Big Tech throughout that purge. Private companies have a right to kick users offline, they said. It isn’t “censorship,” if it isn’t the state doing the silencing. “At least it’s not the government,” short-sighted libertarians, weak-kneed conservatives, and complicit Democrats responded.
Meanwhile, corrupt monopolies violated users’ privacy, muzzled their voices, and interfered in an election, only to walk away with their man in the White House and absolutely zero consequences for their corporate despotism. Now that same monopolistic power threatens to further gut the remaining blessings of American life by creating a passport system that will determine the limits of your personal liberty.
“I cannot say this forcefully enough: This is literally the end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned. ‘Vaccine passport’ sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what these platforms can do,” said Naomi Wolf, author of “The End Of America,” on Fox News this week Monday. “I’m the CEO of a tech company. I understand what this platform does. It is not about the vaccine or the virus; it is about your data. What people need to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.”
Stop pretending authoritarian rule by mammoth actors, government or not, is not a threat to liberty. While Twitter trolls ridicule Republicans over “corporate communism,” state actors are giving private companies the reigns to decide the limits of your freedom.