This is more closely related to Goya Foods than national security.
Here’s how it’s going down so far:
- Microsoft wants to buy TikTok, which is owned by a company based in China. The two companies have been chummy for a while. For instance, in January, a Microsoft lawyer was named TikTok’s general counsel.
- But Trump doesn’t want a deal; he wants to kill TikTok in the U.S., because it enables people who hurt him politically.
- Microsoft says to Trump (in effect): “if you let us buy TikTok, we will let you take all the credit. And this is a deal that will make you look really good because even Left wing media will write you are right in trying to limit potential access to the user data of Americans by China’s government.”
- Trump green lights it.
- Microsoft puts out a statement basically saying Trump deserves all the credit should they complete a purchase. (They just want the deal; why would they care?)
- Trump says he wants “key money”, which is a totally shady practice to begin with in its usual context of greasing the palm of a landlord to get a prime apartment. So Trump’s basically saying he wants a bribe to continue to keep out of the way of this deal going through. (At which point as we’ve already said, and Microsoft has already agreed, Trump would take all the credit for making it happen.)
- Trump asserts this is only fair because he made TikTok more famous and thus added to its value by threatening to ban it.
- Virtually every single story that’s written about the potential deal and Trump’s involvement eventually focuses on China potentially having access to all this data from U.S. users, and in that context: “Trump is right. China is a real threat.”
That’s not wrong.
But that’s not what this is about. It’s about Trump silencing voices that he doesn’t like. Not voices from China, necessarily. Voices that use a specific platform that happens to be linked to China. Voices that lampoon him and embarrass him by screwing up his ill-advised midst-of-pandemic rallies, making his whole campaign team look like fools.
He’s naive if he thinks those voices aren’t nimble enough to move to other platforms, and continue to disrupt his campaign if they want to. And strongly, powerfully, as Trump might say.
And all those reporters—including some very good ones—are naive if they think Trump is pursuing this—at all—because of a broad, ongoing security risk posed by China. As real as that threat may be.
At best, he’s killing two birds with one stone. But we don’t even think he’s deserving of that much credit. We think he’s just trying to punish TikTok because of the content that’s on it that’s getting under his very thin skin. So he starts blasting away at it out of anger and spite. Period. Because they’re easy to bully. Because nobody likes China right now.
The fact that potential data collection of American citizens by China is a legit concern (and is definitely happening, not only through TikTok), is endowing Trump with a level of thoughtfulness and credit that he does not deserve. In fact, one of the main reasons Microsoft wants this deal to happen is they want access to this very same data. But since they’re American, it’s OK.
And Microsoft has worked hard for years for this type of acquisition. They went into China early; played by the rules when those rules were totally stacked against them. And tried to change things both from the inside and externally. As a result, Microsoft’s fared far better with China than many other U.S. tech companies.
So although there is a vast and alarming overlaying layer to this story that is about global economic strength, and security, that is not what this story is about right now today. And that is belied by the President’s very particular choice of target: TikTok. Which is weighing–no doubt–very heavily on his campaign, and re-election.
There are actually occasionally things for which Trump deserves credit, and we are not hesitant to point them out. Going full steam ahead on a Coronavirus vaccine for instance, with very little of his typical mixed messaging (mixed in with conspiracy theories) mixed in so far.
But this deal is not one of them. Don’t get bamboozled into thinking Trump is acting here from a noble place.
You know, it’s been a mantra of Conservatives for years that the government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Yet Trump loves picking winners and losers based on whether they express adulation for him (as we said, Goya), or poke fun at him (content creators on TikTok). Forget about the free market. This all has to do with fealty to Trump.
Because you can bet had the TikTok kids been kissing Trump’s behind instead of kicking it, he would’ve thrown a huge fast food party for them at the White House by now.