Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is continuing his jihad against all things digital, this time lashing out at Facebook.
The recent dispute involved an anti-abortion video claiming the procedure is “never medically necessary.” Fact-checkers working for Facebook called the statement inaccurate — some women obtain abortions to save their own lives — but Hawley and three other conservative senators were outraged anyway.
“Facebook’s pattern of censorship has reared its ugly head,” Hawley wrote the company.
Facebook, of course, censored nothing. Only governments can censor speech. In private media, it’s called “editing” and “reporting,” which happens every day in this country.
Whining about media bias is embedded in Republican DNA, though, so Hawley’s letter should not be a surprise. Under normal circumstances, we would dismiss it as partisan noise.
But that would be a mistake.
Hawley has been a U.S. senator for about nine months. In that time, he has placed himself at the center of something called “conservative nationalism,” a post-Donald Trump attempt to combine economic populism and perceived cultural supremacy into a coherent political agenda.
The Facebook attack is part of the strategy.
National conservatives are against big industry and big tech. They’re also against immigration, multiculturalism, social media, hedge funds and unnamed “elites” who allegedly control the nation’s politics.
But it’s more than that. “It’s almost like he’s attacking modernity itself,” Missouri Democrat Lauren Gepford told The New Republic, and she’s right: Hawley seeks to restore the nation to some fuzzy, ice-cream-commercial past that simply doesn’t exist, and shouldn’t.
Examples are everywhere, but the best came in July, when Hawley gave a speech at a conference on national conservatism. “The reigning political consensus … denigrates the common affections and common loves that make our way of life possible,” he said.
The speech was roundly criticized for his reference to “cosmopolitan elites,” which some saw as anti-Semitic. But it was much more than that.
What, exactly, is “our” way of life? I’m guessing it looks a lot like Josh Hawley’s way of life, not necessarily yours or mine.
This is pretty amazing coming from a guy who attended Stanford and Yale, and has drawn a public paycheck most of his life. If there’s an elite America, Hawley is on the album cover.
But it’s astonishing and deeply worrisome to argue, as Hawley does, that America would be a better place if only we returned to a mythical time when Americans worshipped like him, raised their families like him and looked like him.
“The left champions multiculturalism and degrades our common identity,” Hawley said, scarily embracing ethnic and cultural purity while ignoring the truth: Multiculturalism is our common identity.
“Our politics and culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom,” he said in May. “It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition; of escape from God and community; a philosophy of self-creation and unrestricted, unfettered free choice.”
Well, yes. To think for yourself — to make your own way in the world — is the essence of the American experiment. Josh Hawley doesn’t understand that.
He is not Donald Trump or Kris Kobach, who are cartoonish enough for all to see. Hawley’s stunning freshman crusade has gone largely unnoticed, scrutinized by the media but not the general public, which may not fully appreciate his radical nature.
That’s what makes it, and him, dangerous. Or, as the senator himself might put it, ugly.