There’s a popular notion that National Security exists to protect our rights. A government is in the business of protection, and National Security initiatives are necessary to secure their ability to provide such protection. That’s why the NSA backdoors encryption algorithms, performs warrantless wiretaps, and gives surveillance data to the FBI to share with private companies. Because sometimes we have to trample your rights to protect them.
The Trump administration wants to ban WeChat and TikTok over “National Security” concerns, and my initial reading was that government agencies want to maintain exclusive access over mass surveillance. Our benevolent leaders need this data to protect our Freedom and Democracy, whereas the Chinese government might use the data to do evil Commie things. TikTok is far better off in the hands of Microsoft — incidentally, the first major tech company to participate in the NSA’s PRISM program.
Then there’s censorship. Not in the sense that TikTok might censor Winnie the Pooh memes or whatever, but that TikTok won’t censor enough. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and other upstanding corporations have teamed up with the FBI and National Intelligence agencies to remove anything that might interfere with upcoming elections. In this case, “interference” includes information obtained in a hack, because we all remember that time Russia hacked Hillary’s emails and assaulted innocent Americans with evidence of DNC corruption. Putin propagandists used this appropriated information to brainwash the country into electing Trump in what was basically an act of terrorism. That’s why National Security requires coordinated social media censorship. Because you can’t handle the truth!
But maybe National Security isn’t about protecting you, it’s about protecting them.
What makes a company "American"?
TikTok: investors in 🇺🇸, employees in 🇨🇳, profits go to 🇨🇳
MSFT: investors in 🇺🇸, employees in 🇺🇸🇮🇳, profits go to Bermuda
Apple: investors in 🇺🇸, employees in 🇨🇳🇺🇸, profits go to 🇮🇪
IBM: investors in 🇺🇸, most employees in 🇮🇳, profits go to 🇳🇱
— Elaine 🐤🇮🇨 (@eiaine) August 11, 2020
Last week, I asked why certain tech companies were deemed “American” when they all have multinational operations with profits shifted to tax-friendly jurisdictions. For example, Microsoft assigns its IP to a small factory in Puerto Rico, where it enjoys a 0% tax rate before passing the proceeds to a holding company in Bermuda. Microsoft also has R&D centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, and operates censored Chinese versions of Bing and LinkedIn. Why does the US government consider Microsoft more righteous than TikTok?
I was genuinely puzzled, until I realized we have no government. America isn’t really a country, it’s a free-trade zone. The government isn’t a government, it’s a team of mercenaries hired by lobbyists and paid for by taxpayers. Those wholesome all-American tech companies just so happen to be major defense contractors. That’s the dividing line — Whether they’re part of the military-industrial complex, or not.
Trump, for all his flaws, is ruthlessly honest. I mean, he lies about dumb stuff like his wealth and crowd sizes, but can’t seem to hide the truth when it comes to foreign policy. We’ll leave our troops in Syria so that Exxon Mobil can take the oil, he says. Not to stop terrorism, not for nation-building, we just want American companies to have cheap oil. As for China, we’ll seize and sell their apps for a finder’s fee. The media still pretends this is all about national security, just like they pretended the Iraq War was about WMDs and not the $40 billion in federal contracts going to Halliburton.
Looks like TikTok needs to step up its cronyism game. The company is picking up lobbyists and has a Trump donor as a major investor, but it may be too little too late. Trump will build a Big, Beautiful Firewall, and make China pay for it.