Oneonta, a town of 7,000 in Alabama, can lay claim to a TikTok account that has 117,000 followers. The driver of the town’s popularity on the wildly popular social media site is Mayor Richard Phillips and his staff. Chinese infiltration it would seem. Political intrigue and all that….
Except that the interest in Oneonta and the doings of its elected officials isn’t political as much as it’s comedic. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Stu Woo, Mayor Phillips and his quirky staffers are in a sense lifelike versions of the characters from fictional Pawnee, Indiana in the late NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation. Their doings (including videos of the Mayor himself dancing on the town’s main drag) have made Oneonta and the town’s political “elites” national, and seemingly international TikTok celebrities.
Some who very correctly view the U.S. political class’s nauseating harassment of TikTok as obnoxious and un-American will read about Oneonta’s TikTok presence only to say “I told you so. See, TikTok’s popularity is based on funny dance videos. Leave the company alone.” Wrong answer. TikTok should be left alone because Americans were born free to live their lives as they choose, and to entertain themselves as they choose to. Politicians should leave TikTok alone simply because it’s un-American to use government force to wreck a business, it’s un-American and protectionist to single out a business solely because of its origins, after which the rights of Americans to be entertained in the way they want shouldn’t be infringed upon, period.
Taking this further, what if TikTok were full of allegedly serious content about the wonders of communism and the brutality of capitalism? Would its horrid and thoroughly embarrassing treatment by America’s political class then be justified? No. Not a chance. Freedom is precious, and we can’t be situational about it. If we are, as in if we say TikTok is ok because its content is innocuous, we’re then saying that it’s sometimes alright for politicians to take our freedom and harass businesses. Except that it’s not.
After which, there are American organizations that promote communism, socialism, and realistically all sorts of –isms inimical to freedom and prosperity. Yet we don’t ban those, nor do we seek to ban them. The right to free speech is fundamental to being American, at which point it’s similarly fundamental that free Americans should have the right to choose who can inform their free speech. In other words, if all the laughable commentary about TikTok as an agent of the Chinese Communist Party were in fact true, and even more laughable, if TikTok were a vehicle for promoting communism stateside, it would still be horrifyingly wrong for U.S. politicians to ban it. Americans have the right to not have the online content they enjoy censored by U.S. politicians.
Having said all of what should be obvious, it’s useful to point out yet again that TikTok is wildly popular. Big time. It’s so popular that time spent on it by Americans well exceeds the time that Americans spend on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and other brand names of “Big Tech.” For that we should cheer TikTok. Its immense popularity should relieve those fearful of it of it as a front for the Chinese Communist Party. Figure that communism has long been defined by shelves bereft of anything consumers actually want, and more insulting, a very limited supply of what consumers don’t much want. Yet as evidenced once again by time spent on TikTok, its proverbial shelves are always full, and growing with more and more product all the time. In other words, the surest sign that TikTok is not an agent of the CCP is content that Americans can’t get enough of.
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Still, isn’t the problem with TikTok that it’s gathering information about us for the CCP? The question is hard on its own to take seriously in that it’s difficult to imagine a business that succeeded against all odds would risk the franchise for politicians. But even if it were true, what would the CCP do? Fiddle with the algorithms and content to make us “communist” If so, it’s safe to say TikTok’s dominant days are numbered. Really, what government-run business has ever succeeded?
Of course, the more useful response is to look at China the country. Even though the people have apparently had communist propaganda fed to them their whole lives, Chinese cities are a monument to Americans capitalism with signs for U.S. business everywhere one looks. Yet, we’re supposed to believe the CCP will manipulate deep-seated American disdain for the U.S. after failing so impressively to achieve the same with its own people? Hopefully the question answers itself.
Hopefully the harassment of TikTok will cease too. It’s un-American for the U.S. political class to ban TikTok, and worse, it’s contradictory. Supposedly we’ll be saved from Chinese authoritarianism if U.S. politicians act like Chinese authoritarians? How about U.S. politicians act American and just leave TikTok alone?