Do We Really Need Congressional Hearings?

July 30, 2020 Updated: July 30, 2020

Commentary

Excuse me if I sound a bit shellshocked—I’m not asking for combat pay—but I just spent the last two days watching not just one, but two congressional hearings. As much as I could stomach anyway.

If ever you were looking for a demonstration of Macbeth’s famous speech that life “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” these were it.

The first—the House Judiciary Committee’s putative interrogation of Attorney General William Barr—was a political version of Grand Guignol, what Wikipedia describes as “a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment.”

Two minutes in, it was clear the Dems had no interest whatsoever in questioning Barr or even letting him get in two words edgewise. In reality, they were terrified of him—as well they should be. He’s calm, cool, and collected and vastly more intelligent than they are, above all about the law.

Moreover, he holds the whip hand—the Durham investigation of Russiagate. Every single one of those Democrats—except perhaps the semi-coherent Eric Swalwell—knew in their buried hearts how bad that’s likely to make their party look, so they acted out like a room of hostile 8-year-olds throwing spitballs at a substitute.

But that substitute—Barr—kept dodging them, so they threw more and more until, well, voila, Grand Guignol and a group of supposed adults in desperate need of anger management training.

Needless to say, we learned less than zilch from the display. What little that Barr was able to get in, he had said many times previously in interviews and public statements.

Having switched sides about 20 years ago, I spent my time wondering how embarrassed I would have been were I still a Democrat. I hope a lot.

The next day, at the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust’s hearings with the lords of Big Tech, it was the Republicans’ turn to play the buffoon.

In high dudgeon, retiring Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner demanded that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explain why he had banned Donald Trump Jr. from his platform for linking to a doctor who supported hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.

But, unfortunately, it was Twitter, as literally millions knew at this point, and not Facebook that had performed that egregious act of censorship. (Actually, it was good to see Sensenbrenner making a deserved fool of himself, because he has been paid off by Big Tech, particularly Google, for years—like many Republicans.)

Nevertheless, I had higher hopes for these hearings because the role of Big Tech is one of the most serious questions facing our country, and indeed the world, now. And it would be interesting to see the likes of Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, and the more anonymous but equally potent CEO of Alphabet, and therefore Google, Sundar Pichai.

Unfortunately, other than glimpses of these Masters of the Universe, we got little more than we did during the risible Barr hearings.

The major reason: The Democrats want to posture over antitrust and then do nothing. The Republicans want to posture over bias and then do nothing.

It’s not Grand Guignol but it’s a dumb show nevertheless.

Proof? Throughout the hearing, the stock market was rocketing upwards with the Big Tech companies, as always of late, well in the lead. (It’s hard to calculate how much Bezos made while he was testifying, but it could probably buy a half-dozen Third World countries.) Investors knew the hearing was nothing more than a charade and Big Tech was untouched. After all, who pays for the political campaigns on both sides?

Houston, we have a problem.

The worst of it, I think, is Google, which has become the first uber-nation, far beyond anyone’s control and answerable only to “the cloud” (that, of course, it owns). It controls our lives, even when we don’t want it to, and even when we are aware that it is happening. (DuckDuckGo is an attempt, but only an attempt, to solve this.)

Google’s transnational power is way beyond what the authors of the original antitrust legislation could have possibly conceived. Not even Orwell or Huxley could have dreamed it up.

It was evident to me, and I assume others, that Pichai lied when confronted by Rep. Matt Gaetz about manual control of Google’s algorithms to effectuate bias against the right. But he lied because he knew he could easily get away with it. And no doubt he did.

Republicans and Democrats want the opposite things from Big Tech, and until they can get together—seemingly impossible these days—nothing will change. And, in any case, I suspect that’s what they both really want, status quo, most of them anyway. As the president would say, sad.

Meanwhile, two hearings, two duds. Do we need them? It seems to me they give politicians the opportunity to pontificate and therefore not act, i.e., legislate change as they are paid to do.

Next up—Sen. Lindsey Graham (supposedly). Can’t wait.

Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and co-founder of PJ Media. You can question his sanity on Twitter and Parler @rogerlsimon.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.