I don't understand this whole TikTok thing

Someone help me!

I can’t make heads or tails of the Trump administration’s focus on TikTok. 

(Image via Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

I don’t understand how a sitting president can stick his nose into the operations of business. 

I don’t understand how the president could use his position to influence a business transaction, where the company is still majority controlled by a foreign entity, even though the whole point of this exercise is under the ‘national security’ flag. 

I don’t understand how the president can order a ban, which will go into effect Sunday into Monday, by saying it’s a security threat, but then never quite explaining what that threat is. 

I don’t understand why the administration would set a ban date for after the election. (There’s a cynical point that it’s because they know the election won’t be called for quite some time, so might as well stifle it? A stretch, I know.)

I don’t understand how the president is supposedly not OK with the data collected by TikTok but is fine with what U.S. companies, from Facebook to Google to data brokers and DSPs and ad tech etc, collect. 

I don’t understand how a political party that has proclaimed a philosophy of ‘small government’ can sit quiet as its leader expands executive power. 

(Image via Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

I don’t understand how a government can “ban” a communications company when we have the First Amendment, if not to mention the many Americans use WeChat to communicate with friends, family and workers (and, of course, all the payments that occur on the platform). 

I don’t understand how a company, after getting ordered by the president to sell its assets, winds up partnering with one of the biggest tech allies the president has.

I don’t understand how potential suitors can end up on the board of directors

I don’t understand how a governmental agency can ban the downloads of an app; do they make Apple and Google turn off a switch?

I don’t understand the full political, social and economic implications of ~all this~.

I don’t know how a government can put so much focus and attention to banning a private company when half the nation is on fire or threatened by hurricanes, while there’s also a pandemic claiming about 200,000 American lives.

If you’ve been a reader of this newsletter, you know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.

But I do understand: the president hasn’t been able to use TikTok as successfully as he’s been able to use Facebook and Twitter to rally his base, or spread memes and misinformation, or conduct foreign policy, or create chaos and confusion.

I also understand that the president, an ego among egos, was not pleased when TikTok teens trolled his Tulsa rally. 

The president believes that when you’re a star...you can do anything. And it’s not too much of a cynical leap to think that because the president can’t manipulate TikTok in the way he has Facebook and Twitter, that he just wants to shut it down. 

Or maybe it’s just a distraction from slight treason. I don’t know:

Lawyers representing the United States at Julian Assange’s extradition trial in Britain have accepted the claim that the WikiLeaks founder was offered a presidential pardon by a Congressman on the condition that he would help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

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Finally. This evening is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. We flip the calendar to 5781, and we start the Ten Days of Repentance, culminating on Yom Kippur. (Vox, of course, has a great explainer if you’re Jew-curious). So I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, sweet New Year. Shana Tovah!

DJ Jazzy Jeff + The Fresh Prince, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”

Some interesting links:

For retailers:

  • How Retailers Should Prep for a Weird Black Friday (Bloomberg)

For media criticism:

  • Review: Woodward’s Trump expose ‘Rage’ reflects the lazy thinking that got us into this mess (LA Times)

  • The media’s 3 unforgivable sins of the Trump era (Press Run)

  • For COVID-19, as with everything else, Americans on the right and left live in different universes when it comes to trusting the media (Nieman Lab)

For publishers:

For the weird-but-true:

  • Gene Weingarten: A neighbor asked for a tomato. This is where the story gets weird. (WaPo)

For buyers:

  • Ad Demand Continues To Improve Since Recession Began: Direct-Response Outperforming Branding (MediaPost)

For media fights:

  • NBCU Threatens to Pull TV Apps From Roku Amid Fight Over Peacock Deal Terms (Variety)