Their real goal seems to be gaslighting the American public into wondering whether that next protest march they join, or the next independent news site they click on is "legitimate" -- or as even the Democratic inquisitors put it, "real American." And to make sure that the US public is getting the stern message, the committees are demanding that the tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter willingly hand over information about their posters and users to Congress and, by implied extension, to the CIA and the FBI. And that is so weird. Because their demand simply reveals that the NSA, which was outed by Edward Snowden as the collector of every bit of Internet info on every man, woman and child in the world, is apparently not too adept at actually filtering out the mounds and mounds of cyber-information they continue to vacuum up, willy-nilly, for storage in a massive facility out in the Utah desert.
Watching Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) machine-gun out his accusatory questions at the bemused-looking tech lawyers and executives unpleasantly reminded me of the opening scene of the surreal British TV series called The Prisoner.
The co-equal partners of Congress and the "intelligence community" desperately want the private information on social media users which the tech giants have scooped up for their own purposes of advertising and endless profits. Reactionary politicians are using the contrived RussiaGate scare and "national security" concerns as the pretext to get what they want out of the sub-nation of Silicon Valley. "You have transformed the way we do everything from shopping for groceries to growing our small businesses," Warner, who made his own millions in tech and private equity, railed in righteous fury. "But Russia’s actions are further exposing the dark underbelly of the ecosystem you have created!"
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"And if you won't do it, we will," vowed Dianne Feinstein (D-CIA), with the requisite scare-mongering about "us" being at war with Russia, and accusing the Kremlin of being the major sower of social divisions in the United States, simply by pasting up a bunch of truly cheesy-looking ads on the Internet.
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The aim of the congress-critters could not be any more transparent. By accusing a foreign power of creating social unrest in the most unequal advanced country on earth, they save themselves the trouble of exploring the true, historical roots of these social problems, not to mention doing anything about them. It all boils down to government of, by, and for an oligarchy which has replaced representative democracy.
It's easier for them to crazily claim that 10 million American citizens, or roughly one-thirtieth of the entire population, have been hypnotized into eyeballing an estimated 3,000 ads emanating from Petersburg. Even crazier is the claim by Facebook that more than 100 million - meaning one out of three Americans - viewed the ads. This exposure allegedly has caused people to start hating individuals and groups they would not otherwise have hated, and voting for a reality show huckster they would not otherwise have even noticed outside the $5 billion worth wall-to-wall free coverage of his hate-speech granted him by the domestic mainstream media. These claims simply beggar belief.
Despite carefully labeling their witch-hunt a patriotic effort to weed out Putinesque propaganda, committee members did slip up a few times during their series of hearings, admitting that they're also trying to suppress or weed out left-leaning domestic news sites and blogs and social justice organizations. During the House's own separate fishing expedition, Intelligence Committee Co-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) groused that search engine algorithms don't do enough to cull any kind of content that is "fear-based, or anger-based." In other words, this is any content not sponsored by corporations, such as on the fear-mongering terror channel, CNN, or the anger-spreading, lie-spreading Fox News.
Why doesn't Schiff just cut to the chase and add some more oomph to the Congress-enabled opioid epidemic by giving every American a lifetime prescription for Xanax or Valium? We simply can't have the poor, the overworked, the underpaid, the jobless and the uninsured getting so damned mad all the time about their all-American allotted stations in life.
On the one hand, elected officials bitch and moan that people are too dumb to figure out that a primitive cartoon ad which casts Hillary Clinton as the devil attacking Jesus isn't really Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, they bitch and moan that people are too smart for their own good, and know only too well how badly their leaders are screwing them over.
Congress wants to have it both ways. They want a populace smart enough to track down approved sources of information, and then limit their consumption to six major media conglomerates. They also want a populace dumb enough to actually believe what these six major conglomerates spoon out to them.
Meanwhile, they act out their drama of disingenuous confusion over this whole contrived chicken and egg dilemma. Which came first: the social unrest fueling the inflammatory content, or the inflammatory content fueling the social unrest? They might as well ask which came first: the pamphlets of the Sans-Culottes inflaming hatred for the French monarchy, or the French monarchy inflaming the hatred of the revolutionary masses? Congress is suddenly pretending that this question is not as old as humankind itself. Maybe they've been spending too much time watching and appearing on corporate propaganda-cum-news shows.
This latest inquisition might look like a mere fishing expedition for a relative handful of Russian trolls. What it is in reality is a shot across the bow against the First Amendment itself.
"We're just getting started," huffs Adam Schiff. He's gung-ho for a brand new piece of legislation, oxymoronically called the "Honest Ads Act," or HAA.
The Don Drapers of Madison Avenue must be laughing their asses off on that one, as they market the painkillers along with the drugs to counter opioid constipation. Be very afraid of cartoon Trumps and Clintons and pay proper attention to the diet scams, the local dark money political attacks, the banks, the airlines, the luxury cars, and the military recruitment come-ons produced for your viewing and reading pleasure by the six major media conglomerates. Join the defense of capitalism on steroids. It may not be truthful or just, but it's definitely the all-American way.