Is TikTok brainwashing the kids? No, this is just an old moral panic in a new form | Nesrine Malik

  • December 11, 2023
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Young people trust social media above politicians when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war. Is it any wonder, given the kind of politics they have grown up with?

In a famous two-frame meme from The Simpsons, Principal Skinner asks himself: “Am I so out of touch?” “No,” he decides, with resolve. “It’s the children who are wrong.” It’s the easiest thing, dismissing the views of young people when they question our beliefs. It’s even easier when those views are mainly expressed on a social media platform that can also be dismissed as a lawless land of misinformation and clickbaiting. And so as Palestine- and Gaza-related content explodes on TikTok, predictable responses have arrived, and some have been pretty out there.

The Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley called for the banning of TikTok altogether when she said in a primary campaign debate last week that “for every 30 minutes that someone watches TikTok, every day they become 17% more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas based on doing that”. Last month, a Republican congressman said that TikTok was “digital fentanyl”, brainwashing young Americans against their country and its allies. Over at the Telegraph, we are told that the app’s “threat is real”.

Nesrine Malik is a Guardian columnist

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