At The American Spectator, John Jiang details the efforts of freshman Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO).
What do the apps on your phone have to do with the fate of American society and culture? Quite a lot, if Josh Hawley has anything to say about it. The 39-year-old freshman Republican senator from Missouri has quickly built a reputation for himself as David to Big Tech’s Goliath. Like an increasing number of conservative lawmakers, he sees Silicon Valley’s liberal tilt and proclivity to censorship as unacceptable threats to conservatism. Perhaps uniquely among his colleagues in the Senate, he has begun to weave a narrative through both legislation and rhetoric that seeks to cast social media as one of several atomizing forces threatening to tear American society apart at the seams.
In a May column for the Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti described Hawley as the standard-bearer of a young and rising faction of the Republican Party: “post-liberals.” In place of Reaganesque appeals to common values or purposes, post-liberals substitute the steadfast pillars of “familial, national, and religious authority.” Unlike the proponents of “liberal modernity” on both the mainstream left and right, post-liberals see the value in hierarchies and social arrangements built as much on tradition as on ambition and merit.
It is not difficult to understand where social media fits into this worldview. A spiritually exhausted and alienated population, “liberated” from tradition and God and community, turns to technology to grasp for fulfillment and meaning. Silicon Valley has become a dispenser of false idols in this struggle for America’s soul, helping to perpetuate the same ills it claims to remedy. It promises its users genuine bonding and a sense of community in a time of lengthening work days, disintegrating families, and disappearing parishes. It delivers only narcissism and commodified, ersatz socialization.
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