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Left, right turn against tech giants

| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
This photo combo of images shows, clockwise from upper left, a Google sign at a store in Hialeah, Fla.; the Twitter app displayed on a smartphone; PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif.; and the Facebook app displayed on an iPad. (AP Photo)
This photo combo of images shows, clockwise from upper left, a Google sign at a store in Hialeah, Fla.; the Twitter app displayed on a smartphone; PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif.; and the Facebook app displayed on an iPad. (AP Photo)

When left and right finally agree on something, watch out: The unthinkable becomes normal.

So it is with changing attitudes toward Silicon Valley.

For the last two decades, Apple, Google, Amazon and other West Coast tech corporations have been untouchable icons. They piled up astronomical profits while hypnotizing both left-wing and right-wing politicians.

Conservative administrations praised them as modern versions of 19th-century risk-takers such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs and other tech giants were seen as supposedly creating national wealth in an unregulated, laissez-faire landscape that they had invented from nothing.

At a time when American companies were increasingly unable to compete in the rough-and-tumble world arena, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook bulldozed their international competition. Indeed, they turned high-tech and social media into American brands.

The left was even more enthralled.

It dropped its customary regulatory zeal, despite Silicon Valley's monopolizing, outsourcing, offshoring, censoring, and destroying of startup competition. After all, Big Tech was left-wing and generous.

High-tech interests gave hundreds of millions of dollars to left-wing candidates, think tanks and causes.

Unlike the steel, oil and coal monopolies of the 19th century that created the sinews of a growing America out of grime and smoke, Silicon Valley gave us shiny, clean, green and fun pods, pads and phones.

But attitudes about hip high-tech corporations have now changed on both the left and right.

Liberals are under pressure from their progressive base to make Silicon Valley hire more minorities and women.

Progressives wonder why West Coast techies cannot unionize and sit down for tough bargaining with their progressive billionaire bosses.

Behind the veneer of a cool Apple logo or multicolored Google trademark are scores of multimillionaires who live “1-percenter” lifestyles quite at odds with the soft socialism espoused by their corporate megaphones.

Conservatives got sick of Silicon Valley, too.

Instead of acting like laissez-faire capitalists, the entrenched captains of high-tech industry seem more like government colluders and manipulators.

Regarding the high-tech leaders' efforts to rig their industries and strangle dissent, think of conniving Jay Gould or Jim Fisk rather than the wizardly Thomas Edison.

The public so far has welcomed the unregulated freedom of Silicon Valley — as long as it was truly free.

But now computer users are discovering that social media and web searches seem highly controlled and manipulated — by the whims of billionaires rather than federal regulators.

Both liberals and conservatives are just beginning to ask why internet communications cannot be subject to the same rules applied to radio and television.

Why can't Silicon Valley monopolies be busted up in the same manner as the former Bell Telephone octopus or the old Standard Oil trust?

Just because Silicon Valley is cool does not mean it could never become just another monopoly that got too greedy and turned off the left wing, the right wing and everybody in between.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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