GOP mega-donors are appalled that Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited kindergarten teachers from sharing anal sex cartoons with their students. Must be some kind of fundamentalist nut.
But a candidate who wants to entirely ban a social media app as bad for children? That’s our gal!
Nikki Haley has vowed to shut down TikTok, right after she declares war on the entire world.
In case you are not one of the 150 million Americans on TikTok, it is a China-based video-sharing app, primarily used by teenagers to post short reels of themselves lip-synching, pranking, dancing and creating optical illusions. Also cute animal videos. Also book reviews. #BookTok has multiple billions of views every year.
Haley’s freakout over an app is only the latest in a long line of hysterias that seems to greet every new technology, particularly those popular with teenagers. (“Hysteria” is from the Greek word “hystera,” meaning uterus.)
In the 1930s, Scarsdale mothers charged that radio was “overstimulating, frightening and emotionally overwhelming” for kids. Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg, famed parenting expert, warned in The Washington Post that, unlike other diversions, radio “cannot be locked out.”
Twenty years later, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, whose work was cited by the Supreme Court in overturning school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, said, “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.” His 1954 book, “Seduction of the Innocent,” argued that comic books led to juvenile delinquency.
In the 1980s, PTA moms nationwide were panicked over video games. One mom quoted in The New York Times said video games “are addictive, you can get hooked on Atari.” Another claimed video arcades “encourage gambling and antisocial, aggressive behavior.” (Endless studies have found no link between violent video games and violent behavior.)
Ditto with writing, railroads, the telegraph and the telephone — all were once deemed grave threats to humanity.
Haley says “we” want to ban TikTok “because it’s an app that actually goes and has access to your contacts, to your financial information, to your camera, to your recorder, to everything.”
Yeah, so do Google, Meta, Instagram, LinkedIn and on and on.
The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t need the surreptitious route of an app owned by a parent Chinese company collecting information on users to acquire Americans’ private information. The idea is absurd.
Along with everybody else, China can get the same intelligence from data collection services that scrape social media sites (with or without their cooperation). And if the Nigerians can hack into our financial information, I assume the Chinese can.
(In fact, by bombarding the Chi-Coms with endless videos of teenage girls making duck faces, TikTokers may be one of our greatest national security assets.)
But at least Haley has good models for shuttering TikTok. She points out that India and Nepal have already banned the platform. “They’re banning it because they see what’s happening in their country. India did it. Why are we the last ones to do it?”
Um, because we have a First Amendment?
In India, the government has complete control over print and TV news, imposes frequent internet shutdowns — more than any other country in the world — and has jailed journalists for tweets and Facebook posts. In March, the government suspended the social media accounts of more than a dozen journalists and media outlets, including the BBC.
So, it’s great that Haley cites India as the country we should emulate. (GOP megadonors: At least she’s not trying to stop kindergarteners from transitioning. LEAVE DISNEY ALONE, RON!)
This is why I always say immigrants should wait at least three generations before telling us how to run our country. Take some time, observe, and learn how the most successful country on Earth operates.
One thing Haley might have learned with a few more generations under her belt is that in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977), the Supreme Court upheld the right of self-proclaimed “Nazis” to march in Skokie, Illinois. (Those who object to the decision, like me, complain that a parade is more “conduct” than “speech” — not that Nazis don’t have free speech rights.)
Given that history, it’s astounding that Haley argues that TikTok should be shut down specifically because Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” recently trended on the platform. (Forget that the precise reason it was trending was that politicians and the media kept talking about it. Forget also that TikTok promptly removed it.)
Haley’s stated justification for banning TikTok is the content of speech that appeared on it. Citing the bin Laden letter in an Iowa speech, she said, “That’s why you have to ban TikTok.”
Wow! You don’t get more unconstitutional than that. (Although Haley does have a good point that they don’t do it that way in India.)
Using all the cliches of leftist censors, Haley warns that TikTok will be able to spread “propaganda” and “misinformation” — and even influence our elections! (Who can forget how Russia swung the 2016 election by spending $200,000 on Facebook ads?)
Yes, TikTok might even convince Americans to support CCP-style authoritarian policies — like banning a social media app.
As is apparently required of any woman running for president — e.g., Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina — Haley is trying to prove she’s macho enough to become commander-in-chief by being a jingoistic warmonger.
She has called for war on three continents at once and denounces China for everything. At this point, she’s about a week away from claiming President Xi Jinping met with Mohamed Atta right before 9/11.
There’s a lot not to like about China — intellectual property theft, COVID, selling us dog food that killed dogs — but complaining about TikTok makes Haley sound less like Gen. Patton and more like an uptight PTA mom afraid of comic books.