The hypocrisy of the largely Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the impact of the very popular social media site TikTok was on full display in today’s hearings in its antagonistic questioning of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
The feigned outrage against this company with its tenuous Chinese technology links, is centered on a few Republican red-hot political flashpoints: possible breaches of American users’ private data’ how the Chinese secret service is allegedly accessing the data of younger Americans online; the sexually-suggestive nature of the site; and its overall impact on degrading teenage behavior.
Underlying this whole show by the House Energy and Commerce Committee was hypocrisy. The committee gave rabid right-wing Republicans a big audience to vent their hatred of the Chinese government, the laughable spread of communism into American homes, and the damaging effects of sex-charged dancing and posing on TikTok.
The last time conservatives were this mad about sex in the public media was when Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on Sept. 9, 1956. At that time, the producers of the Ed Sullivan show did not show Elvis swinging his hips during his performance to help reduce the sexuality of the performance.
The outraged Republicans in 2023 are no different. Today, Republicans are as concerned about the spread of communism and sexual innuendo as they were during the Cold War in the 1950s. The hearings showed that Republicans want unchallenged control over any media that disagrees with their religious, America-first agenda.
But the Republican hypocrisy today reached atmospheric levels. Here are some examples:
Outraged About Sexual Innuendo on Tik Tok
If the socially conservative Republicans are so concerned about sex in the public eye, why do they repeatedly ignore Donald Trump’s public adultery with Stormy Daniels? Republicans on this committee are now lambasting the legal effort in Manhattan in the $100,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels by Trump as legal overreach. But they never mention that their leader Trump has repeatedly been accused as a serial womanizer, misogynist, and adulterer. The history of sexual innuendo on TikTok is nothing compared to the sexcapades of Trump in real life.
Outraged About the Spread of Communist Propaganda
If right-wing Republicans think Cuba poses a huge military threat to the US, you can imagine the lethality that a social media platform like TikTok presents. Imagine pre-teens and teens sharing short videos of young girls dancing, primping, posing, and doing silly things online, and how it is altering their American lives. American Bandstand, Soul Train, Hullabaloo, and the other TV dancing shows of the 1960s and 1970s were just as dangerous and today those Baby Boomers are still Americans.
This same social infiltration by the Communist Russians was one of the arguments used in the film “Bye Bye Birdie” when the Elvis-based character tried to seduce the All-American girl played by Ann Margaret. The seduction didn’t work and the film made millions. Similarly, the rise of the American invention of MTV was also greeted as a major social diversion that was going to make teenagers more sexual and waste more time in front of the TV.
It may not be a popular thing to discuss, but the American film and record industries have been criticized by Christian religious fundamentalists as an attack on public mores since the
age of Silent Films. America’s first sex symbol was Theda Bara who starting in 1915 was accused of luring men into sexual hysteria as an exotic film star.
So, what is a bigger threat to American mores today? Look in the mirror, Senators. The enemy is right here on US soil. So much for the spread of communist propaganda.
The FOX Propaganda Network is a Bigger Threat to US Democracy Than TikTok
The biggest lie underlying this entire anti-TikTok hearing is that it is being covered on FOX as an example of how a social media platform that has a relationship with China is undermining the U.S. The reality is that FOX’s decades of intentionally lying to the naive U.S. public is a greater danger to U.S. democracy than teenage girls and boys dancing or showing their arts and crafts skills on social media.
As many recent news reports have shown, FOX anchorpeople intentionally lied about Trump’s election claims and used every means available to discredit voting machine companies, election officials, Democrats, U.S. Capitol security, and any other legitimate journalist that said the January 6 riots at the U.S. capitol was a violent attempted insurrection.
Was this a threat to national security? Not according to Sen. March Rubio (Rep-Fla.) who tweeted that “After today’s hearing, there should be no doubt that TikTok represents a national security threat. The time for half-measures and mitigation are over.” Conveniently, Rubio, a darling of right-wing media, would never say that FOX was a national security threat.
Why Facebook, Google, and Twitter Get Treated with Kit Gloves
The other hypocrisy of this committee is that it was openly hostile to Shou Chew, the CEO of TikTok. There are a few reasons for this, but one main one is that U.S. social media companies are huge donors to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. They have an army of lobbyists working daily to lubricate and spread their own propaganda about how the U.S. social companies are working to correct their privacy problems or are working hard to promote the American Dream and advance American commerce.
This is why there have been 32 separate hearings on regulating big U.S. tech companies and nothing has ever happened. But since Congress can’t do anything to regulate or bring anti-trust actions against U.S. tech companies, the Committee focused on a company with ties to communist China, their current global villain.
U.S. tech companies fend off anti-trust legal actions and keep US regulators at bay by flooding Congress with money. At the same time, they deny that they have much to do with identity theft, online scams, online bullying, libelous attacks, financial fraud, ransomware attacks, and a host of other crimes done via the unregulated U.S. internet.
This is why the testimony of Shou Chew gives U.S. social media companies a reprieve from being investigated by more aggressive Democrats who want to hold the social media billionaires accountable.
Republican Racism on Full Display Against Mr. Chew
The other key reason for the hostile reception Shou Chew received from this committee is that it dislikes foreign wealthy people who are not Caucasians. You won’t hear this on FOX, MSNBC, or CNN, but the hostile reception Mr. Chew received is because he is Chinese and the Republicans made him a proxy for Chinese political leadership. The right-wing Republicans hate the reality that China is now the production capital of the world and that their economy could become larger than the U.S. in less than a decade. Their frustration found an outlet in today’s theater. That’s why Mr. Chew never had a chance of receiving an impartial reception from this Republican committee. He deserves credit for walking into this lion’s den where he was guilty before he even entered the room.
What Bothers Republicans Most: TikTok Does Not Promote “American Values”
Some of the most outrageous statements made by Republicans in today’s TikTok show was that the site does not promote “American values.” This bothered Cathy McMorris (R-Wash) who said “We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values–values for freedom, human rights, and innovation.” Apparently, McMorris never heard of Guantanamo prison which is also a shining example of upholding American values.
Then there was Darren Soto (R-Fla., where else?) who said “TikTok needs to be an American company with American values and end its ties to the Chinese Communist party,” even though it was never proven that the Chinese Communist Party has anything to do with the social media site. There are many Americans though who would say that FOX news should be an American company with American values, instead of a propaganda outlet for overthrowing the elected US government.
Soto, like other Republicans on the Committee, also conveniently forgot that the senior executives of the nation’s largest tobacco and oil companies lied before Congress and to the American people when they testified that their products (oil and tobacco) did not harm human beings or the environment. In the process, tobacco killed hundreds of thousands, while oil spills polluted millions of acres of land and sea.
Then, there was Perdue Pharmaceutical, which lied about the deadly impact of its oxycodone and fentanyl drugs. After years of misrepresentations, the company paid a fine of $4.5 billion and was forced into bankruptcy, but not after its greedy actions killed over 500,000 people nationwide.
All of these companies in the tobacco, oil, and pharmaceutical industries were all-American companies. The companies reflected the best values of American capitalism: maintaining profitability at all costs, even if it included killing people or degrading the environment. This is something Congressman Soto of Florida should be familiar with. His state ranks 13th in the nation with the highest number of drug overdoses with 7,231 deaths in 2020, according to the National Centers for Health Statistics.
It is not known how many of these people were TikTok users, but it’s clear drugs, and not TikTok, was the cause of these overdose death.
The lesson here is that the Republican questioners of Mr. Chew showed tremendous disdain for the intelligence of the American people through their prejudiced line of questioning. But the Republicans never overestimate the intelligence of the American people and that explains their entire approach to politics.
Get Used to Republican Lies and Fake Outrage
Today’s hearing is what today’s Republicans value most: a show trial against a non-Caucasian who works for a company with ties to a Communist nation. This is what it means to be America First at any cost. The US social media companies did nothing to prevent right-wing, Christian nationalists from using their platforms to attempt an insurrection, and Congress looked the other way because they are clients of the big US social media firms.
TikTok does not have that protection.
Instead, Republicans love to prey on the most defenseless groups in U.S. society, such as drag queens, the gay community, and now Chinese Communists.