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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

With the US divided, corporate America spies an opportunity

National Guard members patrol the Capitol building in Washington. Reuters
National Guard members patrol the Capitol building in Washington. Reuters

The end of the Trump presidency will not be the rebirth of the US as some like to predict or wish. America has never been more divided. After the world watched in horror as armed mobs invaded the US Capitol, no one should be in doubt about the extent of political polarisation in American society, and the huge task President-elect Joe Biden confronts in bringing people together. Politics in the US is going to turbulent for some time.

Washington will also not be helped by Big Tech and corporate America's increasing influence and interference in politics. Never before has this been truer. Increased private sector influence, in areas of government that used to only be reserved for politicians, will have consequences we cannot ignore.

The era when decision making rested solely in the hands of the leaders of the two main parties – who, behind closed doors, could make deals and decide the extent to which corporations could engage with politics – is over.

This is not to say that corporate America never had much of a role in American policy making. Private companies have frequently played a part in US wars overseas, if they stood to gain from conflict. The most recent example is the military-industrial complex’s role in the America's invasion of Iraq. Tech giants are also responsible for destabilising the Middle East. During the Obama era, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter played a key role, alongside the administration itself, in enabling the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the back of the Arab Spring. Instability in Tunisia and Egypt, to the carnage in Libya and Syria, followed. Obama's government and tech companies then looked on as massacres unfolded.

So when these industries, corporations and financial institutions feign outrage over human rights abuses and keenness for reform, no one should be convinced. While posturing, they interfere in American politics to further their own interests. If this continues, the threat will soon spread beyond America. Recently, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken of her concern about this. People should heed her words, especially those who revel in the defeat of Donald Trump, while remaining ignorant of the agendas of those in Silicon Valley and Wall Street. This is especially true for younger generations, who think they are able to stop the tech giants from imposing their vision for America, which is frequently at odds with the country's constitutional checks and balances.

US authorities are tracking down members of the mob that besieged the US Capitol, with many set to face criminal charges. AP
US authorities are tracking down members of the mob that besieged the US Capitol, with many set to face criminal charges. AP

America’s mega-corporations did not take long to enter the fray after Mr Biden's election

Another development in the US political landscape, is how for both the Democratic and Republican parties, protestors now have the power to shape policy, albeit often in a manner that entrenches dangerous polarisation. As a result, Republicans frequently accuse the Democrats of trying to move America to the far left. They cite the popularity of the party's socialist senator, Bernie Sanders, as evidence of this. In turn, the Democrats accuse Trump-supporters and Republicans of taking America dangerously to the right.

America’s mega-corporations did not take long to enter the fray after Mr Biden's election. Corporate America’s determination to directly fill the gaps in the incoming administration is a serious threat to the US's independence and interests.

CEOs are not elected, and Mr Biden does not seem to be willing to challenge the establishment. Therefore, there is a serious risk that social media giants could influence his programme. Big Tech has an agenda across all parts of the globe. It should not be allowed to impose it. The unelected leaders of these entities, many of whom see themselves as above the law, undermine America, its identity, its interests and its core values. The interference of Big Tech is no less serious than that of the far right, especially if it continues to fuel division and crackdown on speech which doesn't align with its views.

FILE PHOTO: Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, of Arizona, stands with other supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump as they demonstrate on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate after breaching security defenses, in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, of Arizona, stands with other supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump as they demonstrate on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate after breaching security defenses, in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo

The claims made by some of these companies that they are champions of human rights can be quickly discredited. They do nothing to curb the presence of Iranian government accounts on their sites, even as Tehran violated the sovereignty of nations like Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

All of this will cause serious problems for US policy and interests. America today is undergoing a delicate transition, after which the new administration will have to focus on major domestic challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. It risks, therefore, being distracted from these threats.

America will not heal soon. The celebrations by many at the departure of President Trump is being welcomed and celebrated for various reasons. However, the very identity of the US is at stake. It is crucial, therefore, that Americans find a way to return to the principles that made their country a standout super power.

Published: January 16, 2021 08:00 PM

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