What is it about social media that turns otherwise normal people into raving lunatics? It can happen to anyone, I suppose, but the phenomenon seems to afflict most profoundly those in the public eye: athletes, journalists, and politicians.
If some keyboard warrior in East Podunk tweets out anti-Semitic or homophobic attacks from the safety of his basement, it is hardly noticed. But when a public figure writes something hateful or idiotic, all hell can break loose.
To wit, an obscure Republican state lawmaker from Killingly has embarrassed herself by comparing Gov. Ned Lamont’s COVID vaccine mandate for state employees to Hitler’s Nazi Germany. State Rep. Anne Dauphinais made the remark on the CTNewsJunkie Facebook page in reaction to an Oct. 7 story by Hugh McQuaid:
“King Lamont aka Hitler dictating what we must inject into our bodies to feed our family!”
First of all, let it be said right here and right now that comparing almost anyone or anything to the Nazis is a complete loser because, with the possible exception of the Turkish effort at Armenian genocide, nothing was as nakedly evil as the Nazis. Mistake No. 1.
Furthermore, rather than deleting the offending comment and apologizing, Dauphinais all but doubled down, noting an irrelevant historical fact about the Fuhrer and “clarifying” that she was merely trying to say that Lamont was “acting like Hitler.” Mistake No. 2.
It’s not surprising that a politician from Windham County would be opposed to Lamont’s COVID-related mandates. Windham County went for Donald Trump by more than eight percentage points in 2016 and by almost as much four years later. Drive through places like Danielson and North Grosvenordale and you will see enough MAGA flags and lawn signs to remind you of a very different place. As is the case with portions of upstate New York, Windham County looks like Alabama with snow.
To be fair to Dauphinais, plenty of Democrats have compared Republicans to Hitler. No less than Congressman James Clyburn, D-S.C., now the U.S. House Majority Whip, compared Trump’s ascendancy to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. But as others have pointed out, that’s not really being fair to Hitler. For all his depravity, the Fuhrer was highly competent and actually believed his own demagoguery. Trump, not so much.
Lamont is a Democrat whose legislature has granted him emergency powers to deal with a public health emergency, so this is the worst of all possible worlds for conservatives: a liberal governor with even more power than his predecessors. Nothing could be more maddening for a Trump Republican.
Dauphinais’ husband is chairman of the Quiet Corner Tea Party. I don’t know a whole lot about Duffy Dauphinais’ organization, but the National Tea Party is something of a fraud. The Tea Party’s animating issues during the Obama administration were controlling deficit spending, reducing the national debt and preserving free markets — all goals I share. Then when Trump proposed tariffs, and with the debt and deficit numbers of the Republican president and a GOP Congress racing past Obama’s, the Tea Party fell silent.
But I digress. Dauphinais isn’t the first politician of either party to post something dopey on social media and she won’t be the last. But her indiscretions got me to wondering how long these platforms will be around.
Facebook is the largest platform and by far the worst offender. Perhaps not shockingly, Facebook’s own research on its sister platform, Instagram, leaked recently by whistleblower Frances Haugen, stated flatly that, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”
“Why has nothing changed?” my colleague Barth Keck asked last week. “Perhaps because Facebook is more concerned with its own image than with the self-image of teenage girls.”
If you really want to know if Facebook will survive its myriad troubles, I refer you to Carole Cadwalladr, the British investigative journalist who in 2018 exposed the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, for which Facebook was hit with a record $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Cadwalladr wrote an analysis published over the weekend in The Guardian. Headlined “The latest revelations mark the beginning of the end for the House of Zuckerberg,” the piece provides plenty of evidence in painting a grim picture of the company’s long-term viability.
The FTC is suing to break up the company, Facebook evidently allowed operational planning on its site for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, and if the Securities and Exchange Commission can prove that Facebook lied to its own investors, as Haugen has suggested, Cadwalladr is convinced that a high-profile company executive will be led away in shackles.
And it doesn’t end there. If Congress decides to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which holds companies harmless for actionable content posted on their sites by third parties, Facebook could be forced to hire armies of content moderators – an expensive move that would surely drive eyeballs away and pose a grave threat to its business model and those of its rivals such as Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.
Lastly, unlike most issues confronting the federal government these days, smacking down Facebook has bipartisan support. Republicans, even those such as Dauphinais who use it, love to hate Facebook because they think the company unfairly “censors” conservative views. Democrats who love to bash big corporations are united in punishing a company that puts profits over people.
I might miss Facebook if it disappears, though the world would surely be a better place. There is a downside – or an upside, depending on your point of view. There will be fewer impulsive politicians like Rep. Dauphinais for us to kick around on social media.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at PolitiConn and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.