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Tell Congress: To save America, your digital rights matter more than TikTok’s


Tell Congress: To save America, your digital rights matter more than TikTok’s

Our right to access and use foundational digital tools is already implicit in the First and Second Amendments.

For many tech critics, especially more patriotic ones, the passage of a House bill to ban TikTok is cause for celebration. However, the most critical legislation to keep America American in the digital age differs significantly. It hasn’t even been drafted yet — and if Congress keeps our eyes on the TikTok soap opera, it never will be.

To be sure, there are ample grounds for debate over the Chinese social media giant. All the big criticisms have their root in a kernel of truth or more. China really is our worst digital adversary, hoovering up far more American data than the rest of the world combined and shamelessly using information on our intimate lives and worst proclivities to map in doubtlessly rich detail the fabric of psychological, social, financial, and political vulnerabilities of ordinary citizens and public officials alike.

The truth is that many millions of Americans feel soul-sick inside the oppressive new virtual tyranny imposed by those whose response to our risk of enslavement to technology is forcing tech to enslave us to a woke religion.

TikTok isn’t just a key part of that omnivorous digital arsenal. It’s also a corrosive cultural mainline in terms of content and medium. As is well known, much of TikTok’s most recognizable content — across sex, gender, and entertainment — is the kind of stuff the average American wouldn’t want his kids touching with a 10-foot pole, much less consuming a few inches away from their faces on an infinite scroll. And thanks to the app’s algorithms, users can be shepherded with incredible speed from generic social media filler content to the hard stuff.

But the issue goes well beyond content. Those in the know understand that users can readily route around the standard bilge and enjoy some of the most edgy, hilarious, and authentic memes and s**tposts of the right-wing variety — or just relax with a host of highly aesthetic and vibey content blissfully free of any ideological coding or psychosexual manipulation.

Nevertheless, the nature of the hybrid cyber televisual medium within which TikTok works affects users, regardless of the flavor of content they consume. Zoning out on the app, seeking answers to elementary life questions on the app, starting your morning with the app, and ending your past-your-bedtime night with the app — all these things instill serious issues in users.

What’s more, it’s clear the cyber televisual medium, whether via TikTok or other social media apps, is “rewiring” users to abandon “generic” or “basic” or “normie” self-identities in favor of increasingly bespoke, obscure, and insular identities, where users’ collective lingo, behavior, imagination, and memory — to name just a few — becomes impenetrable to outsiders and erodes the broadly shared and lived-out identity that, since World War II, has been seen as absolutely essential to America’s functioning as a world-leading nation-state.

Whether or not that’s actually (or still) true, the social psychology involved in its sudden unraveling has already had dramatic consequences, exacerbating various divides among Americans that are proving easy to politicize and ideologize. That’s damaging in and of itself, but when the damage accrues to a rival like China — busy hardening its cultural unity and traditionalist discipline — in the form of increased power, the costs become dizzying. And when that damage causes Americans to forget that the ultimate harm comes in the form of obsessively interpreting identity in terms of politics instead of in terms of our relationship with God, well, it’s not hard to see why so many of us feel the digital age has been, for America, one of across-the-board free fall.

Dancing toward oblivion

Add it all up, and it’s clear that even burning TikTok down or forcing a fire sale to an American Big Tech firm won’t cure what ails us. Unfortunately, that’s why so many citizens and officials nurse a secret despair about the magnitude of the problem. It’s too late, they believe — especially since COVID, we’ve been pushed to a point of no return. Not much more of our hard-won American way of life can be preserved beyond a few pro sports leagues, a handful of church congregations, and Buc-ee's.

Enough! This is no time for despair, especially if we’re going to accept the reality of how bad things have gotten and how far they still have to go. The truth is that many millions of Americans from all walks of life feel soul-sick inside the oppressive new virtual tyranny imposed by those whose response to our risk of enslavement to technology is forcing tech to enslave us to a woke religion.

But feeling bad is not enough to make things right. That’s why some radicalized dissenters and traditionalists look to ancient and medieval models that fuse spiritual and temporal power into a single theocratic authority. After all, that’s what today’s “left” is doing – it must be good for the gander, right? Wrong. History amply shows that whenever the state seizes the prerogatives of the church, things go from bad to worse even if church and state should ideally function in harmony (and they should, assuming neither worships and compels the worship of false gods and idols). Here in America, we must adhere to our Constitution and preserve our constitutionally guaranteed form of government, even if by further amendment.

And that’s where the most critical legislation to keep America American, both online and off, comes in. No matter how horrible TikTok is, Big Tech is in some ways even worse because it’s an integral part of the current regime’s breakneck race to become both our digital church and state. This hi-tech, uber-woke cyber theocracy is flagrantly unconstitutional by design. And the only constitutional way to stop it is with a Digital Rights Amendment — or a Digital Rights Act that works similarly — to provide explicit blanket safeguards to ensure American citizens’ ability to access and use fundamental digital tech is not infringed.

The Bill of Rights covers our digital rights

The idea is simple. In our First and Second Amendments, our federal government is expressly prevented from violating or punishing our fundamental rights to access and use foundational tools to freely speak, associate, and defend ourselves and our loved ones. The key tools the First Amendment covers are basic, general communications technologies. In the Second Amendment, they’re essential, general weapons technologies. And as we all know today, in the digital age, all technology is increasingly “dual use” — pretty much every communications technology today is also a kind of weapons technology.

Our right to access and use foundational digital tools is already implicit in the First and Second Amendments. However, due to the flagrantly unconstitutional “whole of government, whole of society” digital revolution imposed on us without a vote and consent, it is time to explicitly enshrine our implicit digital rights.

Some may fear this approach uses too broad a brush. But we know even the Bill of Rights is not immune to judicial review — far from it, in fact. And our digital rights would, of course, be restricted to human American citizens, not extended to Chinese shell companies, machine entities, or cyborgs of the future.

It’s easy to get whipsawed by the pace of unasked-for technological and political change today. But we don’t have to roll over and take it. And if Congress won’t get the message, we’ve got plenty of states to work with. As long as we hasten to work!

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