Trump flirts with banning Chinese-owned data-mining app, causes meltdown in Gen Z
Did President Trump doom the fortunes of the Republican Party among young voters?
Political dabs with their fingers on the adolescent pulse claim he's come screeching close. The Trump administration's proposed legal proscription of the popular video platform TikTok evoked the petulant rage of the normally apathetic Generation Z. For a few short days — which tracks with the average teenager's attention span — Trump politically galvanized so-called Zoomers more than a Post Malone and Billie Eilish joint presidential ticket.
The teeny-bop furore has died down somewhat since Trump reversed field, ditching blockage in favor of allowing an American company — e.g., Microsoft — an opportunity at acquisition. But the damage may already be done. Daddy president threatened to take away the ice cream before dinner. Renegotiating a proper postprandial dessert with a French fries–string beans swap won't soothe the initial trauma.
For the unfamiliar, or those born in the dusty 20th century, TikTok is a smartphone app best known for featuring teenagers gamboling on screen under strobe-light filters, often overlaid with ironic text. Owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, it also acts as a data funnel to Beijing, capturing the most intimate details about users. According to foreign policy analyst John Noonan, TikTok doubles as spyware that "grants the Chinese Communist Party and intelligence apparatuses access to millions of Americans' IP addresses, geodata, unique device identifiers, browsing histories, and [c]ookies." Chinese-branded fascism has come to American shores not wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, but imported effortlessly on a free, minor-appealing smartphone program.
And the kids are not all right with nearly losing their favorite social network-cum-infotrap. To judge by their response over the weekend, the app's target demographic have pinned the ban high up on the atrocity scale, somewhere above the Volstead Act and only slightly below the Shoah — or they would, if their history didn't start somewhere around the advent of that moss-covered website, Facebook. Really, TikTok's possible prohibition might have been the biggest tragedy in Zoomers' heretofore halcyon lives.
The reactive effrontery was as indignant it was inarticulate. "i hate donald trump [sic]," declared 19-year-old songstress Baby Ariel, TikTok's most popular user. "UGH," gobbed Addison Rae, another app starlet, along with other pauciloquent laments like "bitter" and "send flowers [please]." (Some Dr. Johnson may be a better sympathy gift.)
Taylor Lorenz, this generation's Walter Duranty and social media reporter at the New York Times, went full dudgeon on Twitter, lambasting the suggested embargo. "Don't ban TikTok, make an example of it...ensure that TikTok acts responsibly," she urged, seemingly under the impression that the U.S. government can effectively nationalize an international company without difficulty. Lorenz isn't above using her journalist perch to lobby on behalf of the bored teen constituency. "For many young people, TikTok has been an outlet for creative expression and human connection, especially throughout months of distance learning and social isolation," she wrote in the Times. The surfeit of other internet forums providing the exact same communicative functions went unmentioned.
Lorenz isn't just a useful shill for the CCP; she's het up over the potential loss of her beat: exploiting attention-desperate youngsters for curious "clicks" from Upper East Side residents. But then, she's like most Americans, indifferent to the depredations of Chinese totalitarianism.
There's the rub, or friction, with youthful civic engagement, especially calls to lower the voting age. Not long ago, the idea of Americans willingly serving up detailed personal histories to adversarial regimes was traitorous. Imagine Ma Bell air-mailing log sheets of phone records and addresses to the Politburo at the height of the Cold War.
Xi Jingping doesn't just run a repressive regime with an Argus-eyed mass-surveillance system; his government doesn't just commit unspeakable horrors against a defenseless religious minority; his economy hasn't just bought off major U.S. institutions like the NBA and the Walt Disney Company, monetarily enforcing Sino-acquiescence; no, the Lingxiu means to wrest global dominance away from Uncle Sam.
Trump would do well to heed his own campaign slogan and put country first by following through on the TikTok ban. American corporations have shown little contumacy to China's forked-tongue assurances of fair play. If Zoomers whine about it, then hard cheese. Their votes aren't worth selling out to Middle Kingdom supremacy.
Plus, giving the tech-addled youth one less reason to stare at their phones is unquestionably a good thing.