When Josh Hawley was Attorney General of Missouri, he was an (extremely selective) firebreathing trustbuster who used his office to chase Google up and down the state, investigating the company's anticompetitive action and the pontential for public harm represented by its market dominance and size.
Hawley is part of a wave of GOP enthusiasm for antitrust enforcement — when it comes to Big Tech, at least. Despite having sainted Ronald Reagan (who kicked off 40 years of antitrust malpractice, and despite being rotten from within by corporate thinktankies paid to espouse the "public harm" standard of antitrust (which holds that monopolies are "efficient" and thus desirable), a bunch of "free market" Republicans have started sounding off like Roosevelt trustbusters about Silicon Valley companies, galled by their Democrat-leading leadership and by a wave of no-platforming directed at the likes of Alex Jones.
And now Hawley is the latest senator from Missouri, and he's doubled down on his trustbusting rhetoric, for Big Tech, at least (Hawley doesn't say much about breaking up big banks, oil companies, or Koch Industries and Walmart). He's joined by noted asshole Tucker Carlson, who uses his Daily Caller to rail against Big Tech's monopoly power, and the trustbusting chorus includes periodic, confused tweets from noted asshole Donald Trump and highbrow intellectual cover in the National Review.
I think this is a mixed bag. The far-right echo-chamber is built on the idea of deference to authority, which means that right-wingers who gain dominance in their little Lord of the Flies LARP rarely get checked from within (publicly, at least — privately, they're all about the long knives in the back). So when Carlson and Trump talk about antitrust and assure their underlings that the proles will understand that antitrust is fine for Big Tech but not for Big Health Care and Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Auto, the bootlickers they surround themselves with will wet themselves with servile reassurances.
But I can easily see how a right-wing anti-establishment trustbusting movement could break free of the careful boundaries set by a leadership that views the base as easily stampeded and easily corralled useful idiots, and end up driving a bipartisan antitrust enthusiasm that uses laws and regs and precedents set in the process of attacking Big Tech to attack capitalism itself.
Fox News personality Tucker Carlson now regularly blasts Google on his show.
"Since it has the power to censor the Internet, Google should be regulated like the public utility it is, to make sure it doesn't further distort the free flow of information to the rest of us," Carlson said last year.
Writing for the conservative National Review in May, John Hawkins referred to Google and its largest rivals as "unaccountable monopolies with detailed information about hundreds of millions of Americans."
President Trump has sounded similar notes, both on the campaign trail and in the White House. He has repeatedly railed against Amazon, describing it as a monopoly. And in an interview with Axios earlier this month, Trump said he was "looking at" stronger antitrust enforcement against Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
Newly elected Republican senator could be Google's fiercest critic [Timothy B Lee/Ars Technica]
(Image: Natureofthought, CC-BY-SA)