Josh Hawley hits a new low for hypocrisy
If they decide to make flip-flopping an Olympic sport, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley needs to hop on the next plane to Tokyo.
Hawley just attacked President Joe Biden for attacking Facebook. Yes, this excruciatingly annoying preppy man who has staked his repulsive young political career upon crusading against social media -- through the use of social media -- has decided it's not cool for Biden to get in Facebook's face. Really.
In the past week -- publicly and without apology -- the Biden administration has pressed Facebook (among other social media) to stop facilitating the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. On Friday, Biden claimed Facebook was "killing people." The company fired back with a dismissive response telling Biden "to move past the finger-pointing."
There is neither a carrot nor a stick involved in Biden's effort. His administration is trying to shame Facebook into doing its fair share to keep dangerous lies from exacerbating a pandemic that continues to rage on--especially among the unvaccinated. And the government effort has not been well-received by the social-media giant.
But even before Biden's spat with Facebook, Hawley had already advanced the bizarre conspiracy theory that since Facebook is a monopoly and the government was in communication with it, this can only mean one thing: "(social media) collusion with the Biden administration to suppress free speech." Somewhere Q is blushing.
A few truths cry out for attention. One, criticizing and colluding are different things. Two, urging and censoring are different things. And three, joining forces and fighting are different things.
Hawley is just beside himself that the administration "is in regular touch with the social media platforms" about misinformation and disinformation about related to COVID-19 and that it is "flagging problematic posts for Facebook." He finds it "shocking" that such "casual collusion" could exist.
Only in Hawley's twisted world could communication with Facebook have morphed into a plot to "censor" those who spread falsehoods for the purpose of scaring people away from getting vaccinated. Or that fighting the spread of a deadly virus is a bad thing.
It's revealing that Hawley equates conservative speech and false information on vaccines. Perhaps he has a point there. But this is the same politician who has demanded that the federal government use every tool at his disposal to punish social-media companies that he and fellow Republicans deem offensive.
Think that's exaggerated? Consider one of the first bills Hawley introduced as a freshman senator in 2018, one that Vox succinctly described at the time as a "joke." Here's how writer Peter Kafka explained Hawley's bill:
"The idea is that the federal government will strip away protections that shield those companies from being held accountable for the content their users upload and they distribute — and will only restore those protections once the companies can prove they aren't favoring one end of the political spectrum…
"On to the bill itself: Its main idea is to remove Section 230 from the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says that big internet publishers that distribute content supplied by their users — think Twitter, YouTube, Facebook — aren't held liable for the content those users supply.
"Hawley, though, describes that protection from lawsuits as a "subsidy" given to big internet companies. And he says they should have to prove themselves worthy of that protection by convincing at least four of the five members of the Federal Trade Commission that they're not politically biased — a process they would have to repeat every two years.
"How would Twitter or Facebook successfully prove that to the satisfaction of the FTC members? Hawley's bill doesn't tell us. It just says the companies need to provide "clear and convincing evidence that the provider does not … moderate information provided by other information content providers in a politically biased manner."
Now that's what you call Big Brother government.
Kafka didn't have the benefit in 2018 of knowing that Hawley would flip to the view in 2021 that even for an administration to complain to Facebook would constitute "collusion" to impose censorship in the event Republicans were not the complaining party. But now that the uniforms have changed, everything is reversed. Forget about those tribunals calling social-media executives on the carpet to disprove the negative that they're not "politically biased."
Now that the Democrats are in power, Hawley is trying to claim it's a tyrannical act of censorship even for Biden and his administration to urge Facebook to combat the spread of misinformation about public health during a pandemic. And even as a private company, Facebook must be compelled not to "police speech…in the public square" -- even if it means saving lives.
How much more hypocritically can this political Plastic Man contort his positions with respect to social media? To be fair, it was a bit of an Olympian feat that Hawley could deliver his most recent deceits with a straight face, even in this era of unbridled shamelessness by insurrectionists such as himself.
Hawley was, after all, the guy with the iconic clenched fist on January 6 outside the Capitol. And he's never been prouder of anything. The man has no shame.
What's next, using an iPhone for a Twitter post to promote an anti-tech book on Amazon? Oh wait, Hawley just did that.
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