Next up, we turn to the third worst of the major 2020 presidential candidates on protecting the population from the anti-democratic power of Big Tech, Joe Biden. To read the introduction to the Big Tech 2020 series, please point your browser to this link.
#3 – Joe Biden – A 20th century approach to a 21st century problem
It’s not that Joe Biden doesn’t like the Big Tech companies; it’s more that they don’t like him. They don’t dislike him; he’s just not seen as “cool” in the way that President Obama was. It’s more difficult for him to fundraise with them because he’s older and his social/political contacts in Northern California are out of date. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be happy to do Big Tech’s bidding, quietly and in the background, which is why we have him in the position of third worst of the major candidates after Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.
Mimicking Kamala Harris, Biden told the Associated Press in May that breaking up Facebook is “something we should take a really hard look at.” Even if the former Vice President thinks there is “a very strong case to be made” for breaking up Big Tech generally, he isn’t making it. To the contrary, he called any final judgement on this matter “premature.” All of this reactivity indicates a forced position on a subject that would have never come up had the interviewer not asked about it.
It is clear that Joe Biden’s default mode is to focus on old-time issues, such as union labor primarily in the Rust Belt states, a setting that, as we approach 2020, remains relevant only to a tiny sliver of the American populace. His outdated approach, even on behalf of labor, cannot do anything for the contingent laborers at tech companies like the major smartphone-directed rideshare companies, which exert total dominance over a workforce they simultaneously disclaim simply by classifying their drivers as independent contractors.
What Biden does say about Big Tech, it turns out, isn’t really about Big Tech at all. His statements on the topic apply to large global conglomerates in general, a category to which Big Tech only incidentally belongs. In that light, he frames his arguments in accordance with 20th century categories such as economic monopoly, worker pay, and the tax code, rather than in terms of the need to protect the citizenry, not only economically but also politically, from the unchecked powers of an increasingly invasive and predatory 21st century technology sector. It isn’t that the economic aspects of his chosen topics of focus aren’t important, it’s just that as angles of approach to Big Tech, they’re coming from a distinctly 20th century mindset that fails to grasp what is fully at stake in our century.
The continuing growth of Big Tech’s unchecked power is a distinctively 21st century problem that has to be dealt with in distinctively 21st century terms. It can be addressed by anyone with the potential to acquire enough power to serve the balancing function: American presidential candidates are among the few persons or entities that fit the criteria. Candidate stances on this topic for an election taking place in 2020, if they are to be taken at all seriously, can’t be cast in the language of the 1970s.
It’s possible that Joe Biden is just too old to really care about the Silicate Leviathan’s quiet coup against the democracy he grew up in. After all, by the time the long-term effects of its totalitarian methods on what was once our society become obvious to all, and people awaken to their true, newfound digital serfdom, it is most unlikely that he will have either the understanding or the power to be able to do anything about it.