The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.
I was late to TikTok.
I didn’t really understand it. It was explained to me as an app where you can post videos of yourself dancing or making jokes, and since I am neither coordinated nor a comedian, the point of having a profile was lost on me. Eventually, after unfounded persistence from my friends, I caved in and downloaded the app to see what all the fuss was about.
Now, just as I was beginning to understand how to navigate it, Donald Trump has ordered a ban on TikTok effective Sunday.
This ban has been speculated for months. It’s a running joke on the internet. The idea that the government would put so much effort into banning a phone app when the country is in literal shambles was laughable.
Across the country, the coronavirus is still infecting tens of thousands of people. Protests and riots in response to gut-wrenching displays of police brutality and white supremacy are happening every single day. Before the pandemic began, it seemed a new mass shooting was constantly being reported on and mourned while all we could do was beg our government to intervene.
On all of these issues, the administration has done next to nothing to help.
Some part of me had genuinely begun to believe there was nothing they could do, but the ban on TikTok has reminded me that this simply isn’t true. While there isn’t one end all, be all executive order to end gun violence, there could easily be a ban on automatic assault rifles. While an end to police brutality will require the dismantling of entire systems of oppression, there are thousands of laws and policies the administration could pass to help in this dismantling.
They have the power to affect the change this country so desperately needs, and they are choosing not to.
Instead, the government is putting all of its attention on an app. TikTok has been deemed a threat to national security at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, and this may be legit. China could very well be using this app to steal the information of American citizens, just like Facebook did (and does), and leak this information to outside companies.
My point is not to debate whether or not TikTok should be banned. It is to say that the American government is an extremely powerful entity that has chosen time and time again not to protect its most disenfranchised people. Our administration focuses on retaining America’s position as a global superpower, invincible and capable of inflicting harm without consequences.
On Sunday, our government will have officially decided that TikTok is more lethal than a machine gun.
Somehow, I’m not surprised.