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Our takeaway from the Big Tech CEO hearing
Jan 31, 2024
Episode 1088

Our takeaway from the Big Tech CEO hearing

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Plus, a newsy and overcaffeinated rant.

Today, U.S. senators grilled the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X and other social media companies on online child safety. And while there’s lots of blame to go around, aren’t lawmakers responsible for making laws to protect kids? Get ready for a Kai rant. Plus, how the system we use to pick presidential candidates has fallen apart. And a new discovery on the power of music!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love to hear from you. Send your questions and comments to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart January 31, 2024 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right let’s go.

Kimberly Adams 

Hey everybody, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m Kai Ryssdal. Late to the studio, of course. Anyway, Wednesday 31st of January. It’s a podcast.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes, it’s a podcast. Today, we’re going to do some news and then some smiles. So, let’s get into it. Kai, you go first because you’re quite newsy with it.

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m newsy, and I’m irritated. And I’m also a little overcaffeinated. So just, you know, let that be the fair warning.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, I had coffee today.

Kai Ryssdal 

Did you? Oh, wow.

Kimberly Adams 

And you know, that’s unusual. So, I probably beat you on being over caffeinated.

Kai Ryssdal 

You may well, except I’ve just had my fifth cup of the morning. Of course, I’ve been up now for like eight and a half hours. Anyway, whatever it’s not about me. So social media companies, including Mark Zuckerberg of Meta and Linda Yaccarino at Twitter, and the CEO of TikTok, whose name I can’t remember right now, sorry, were up on Capitol Hill today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, for a hearing, on sexually explicit and sexually inappropriate material that is getting fed to our children on social media, which is a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. Let me stipulate that, full stop. Also, the mental damage that can be done to impressionable children and young teenagers on social media is a very bad thing. Also, full stop. However, comma, I am absolutely out of gas with members of the legislative body of this country. And I know they’ve been doing it for years. This is not new. This is just me being really irritated right now. Grandstanding and beating up on CEOs of companies, who in many ways deserved to get beat up on, right? Social media companies, tobacco companies, big oil, take your pick, right? They all deserved to get beat up on. But then these legislators, senators specifically today, say why do you let this happen? And yes, there’s corporate responsibility. But let me just point out, that the Congress of the United States has the power to make laws, and they so rarely, rarely, rarely do. And they use these opportunities to score political points. Senator Tom Cotton, I’m looking at you. Google it in today’s hearing if you want to know what I mean. Hint, hint, it’s about the Chinese Communist Party. And they just they don’t do anything, and it’s making me crazy. It’s making me crazy. That’s it. It’s a rant. It’s an incoherent rant. But again, I’m overcaffeinated.

Kimberly Adams 

I think, yes, politicians have always used these hearings as an opportunity for grandstanding. I’m thinking, you know, the Red Scare hearings and all that. But I think that there were at least some boundaries to the topics, you know, when members of Congress would use the platform to score purely political points, right? I don’t think a decade ago, we would have expected a hearing on sexual exploitation of children to have been an opportunity for political grandstanding as much as say, you know, companies having corporate profits that are too high or something like that. So, I think that there is something different about the moment that we’re in, in terms, and especially when you pair it with, as you said, the extraordinarily low productivity of Congress.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, it’s unbelievable. Look, I don’t even think you have to go back through a decade. We aren’t, and maybe I’m dating myself here, but we all remember when Orrin Hatch a number of years ago. And I’m going to say five or six-ish, as Mark Zuckerberg, how Facebook makes money, ight? And he was like, “Senator, we sell ads.” That was a genuine hearing in which Congress people, senators in this case again, we’re trying to figure out what was going on. And that’s not happening here. You know?

Kimberly Adams 

No, it’s not.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, and I’m so done with that. Whatever. Go ahead. What do you got?

Kimberly Adams 

I wonder, at some point, I’d love to in one of our Deep Dives, look at what the actual solutions are. Because, you know, we talked about some of the problems with the, we talked about rank choice voting. We talked about some other solutions to some of the political issues that we have in this country in the way that we pick our leaders, and I wonder if there are more solutions we can discuss when it comes to just limiting this kind of behavior. Are there rules changes that could happen in committees that keep them on task? Is there any political will for that kind of thing?

Kai Ryssdal 

Ah, Kimberly. Kimberly. Kimberly. Kimberly, political will? political will?

Kimberly Adams 

I know. Alright, alright, alright, alright, alright. Let’s move onto my news, which is, you know, I know you love history. So here we go. There is a very interesting story, well really pair of stories in Politico. The one I spotted today was in Politico Magazine, “The Real Reason We’re Stuck with Trump v. Biden” is the headline, “there’s more than one thing wrong with the U.S. primary system.” And it’s talking about how the thing that we all know; the vast majority of Americans do not want a Trump Biden rematch. And it is written by Geoffrey Cowan, who acknowledges that he played a role in creating the primary caucus system we have today. And that links back to another article that Political had earlier this month, “Did a Young Democratic Activist in 1968 Pave the Way for Donald Trump.” These articles together talk about the fact that way back in the day, like not way back in the day, just in the 60s. Sorry.

Kai Ryssdal 

Thank you for that on behalf of those of us of a certain age. I appreciate that.

Kimberly Adams 

You’re welcome. You’re welcome. Back prior to this point, presidential candidates were pretty much chosen by the parties, and you know, the air quotes, smoke filled rooms. And so there was a big push to create a more democratic process for choosing presidential candidates that actually involved voters participating via primaries and caucuses. But that was supposed to allow for a variety of candidates to get into the mix, for many states to participate over the course of the year leading up to the election. And that system has fallen apart. And so, Cowan is sort of wrestling with his role in all of this. Because what’s happened is not only has the primary and caucus system played to the extremes of both parties, because those are the people who show up to vote that early. And, it’s front loaded now in a way. So, his piece that ran today in Politico Magazine is about the front-loading part. The fact that because states are voting so earlier, caucusing so early, and eliminating candidates so early in the process, that if something were to happen to Trump and or Biden, six months from now, what are we going to do, right? Haley would kind of be the presumptive nominee on the GOP side if she’s still around. But what are we going to do on the democratic side? If God forbid, you know, something happens to Biden, I mean, I’m guessing they would default to Harris. But what happened to that democratic process? And so Cowan, you know, makes a point, saying at the end of the piece, which I think folks should go and read, “At the very least, the party should take this year as a warning. This would be a good time for both parties to develop new guidelines for the selection of presidential candidates that allow the public to play a role in the nominating process — but keep it open well into the calendar year of the election.” The two pieces are very interesting in terms of the history, and also just in recognizing, actually how risky where we are, is in terms of the way that we choose our presidential candidates.

Kai Ryssdal 

So yes. Yes and, look, I totally agree with all that. I think. I think. I think a couple of things. Number one, I wonder how much of our present circumstance is because of the absolute domination of the two actual incumbent and or pretending to be incumbent candidates, right? I mean, Biden dominates the democratic side because he is, of course, the actual incumbent president. Trump dominates for a lot of reasons, one of which is he’s basically running as the incumbent. And it was, I mean, let’s be honest, right? It was over before it started. So that’s number one. Number two. The catch, of course, is that you have to get the states to agree with this somehow. And look, South Carolina, and not really South Carolina, so much, but New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina a little bit, I guess. They can’t agree what day is, much less who gets to go first. You know because it’s bragging rights and pissing contest and all this jazz. And we’re just ignoring Nevada. Oh, yeah. And oh, by the way, Nevada, which, you know, they kind of ruled themselves out today or this year, because they did as Trump bided them do, bade them do, and change the rules so that he would get all the delegates. You know, it’s a really complicated problem. And I’m glad these folks are bringing it up, but it’s a super complicated problem.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, it is. But to be solved, hopefully another day, maybe possibly. Let’s get to those smiles.

Kai Ryssdal 

Alright, let’s get to the smiles. I will say as this thing goes here, and I know I’m talking over you, Juan Carlos. I’m really sorry. I don’t have a smile because as you can tell I’m a little bit cranky today. Also, I ran out of time. There’s that too.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, it happens. I was trying to watch the Fed Press Conference to see if I could see Nancy but missed her. Nancy Marshall-Genzer, by the way, our reporter in Washington, who always goes to the Fed Press Conferences faithfully, and I like to see her in the room. Okay, mine is very sciencey. There is a new study out of the Turku PET Center in Finland. And I’m reading here from Phys.org, “that shows that music evokes similar emotions and bodily sensations all over the world.” So basically, they studied “1,500 people Western and Asian participants, who rated the emotions and bodily sensations evoked by both Western songs and Asian songs.” Right, now I don’t know how they’re defining Western and Asian but anyway. So I’m just going to read this a little bit, “When we hear our favorite catchy song, we are overcome with the urge to move to the music. Music can activate our auto gnomic, autonomic, autonomic,” I’ve never seen that word before, “autonomic nervous system and even caused shivers down the spine. This new study “shows how emotional music evokes similar bodily sensations across cultures.” Quote: “‘Music that evoked different emotions such as happiness, sadness or fear, caused different bodily sensations in our study. For example, happy and danceable music was felt in the arms and legs, while tender and sad music was felt in the chest area,’ explains Academy Research Fellow Vesa Putkinen.” Anyway, they’re saying, since these sensations are similar across different cultures, music induced emotions are likely independent of culture and learning and based on inherited biological mechanisms. That’s wild. Isn’t it? And I love that the graphic they have here. They have this like, heat map of different parts of with like a bunch of different human shaped bodies. And yeah, it’s hard to describe this thing. A heat map and they have a body representing sad, scary, tender, aggressive happy, danceable. And they show like where the music activated the sensation, depending on what kind of music it was. Anyway, go look at it. It’s kind of cool looking.

Kai Ryssdal 

Check it out. It’s really cool. And it makes total sense, right? That this sort of resonates differently, in literally in different parts of the body.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, but it doesn’t. It’s not different across cultures, which is kind of cool. Which I guess is why we you know, when we hear music from different cultures, you still kind of get the vibe.

Kai Ryssdal 

Look, musicians will tell you music is universal. Alright, we’re done for today, which is, what is today? Wednesday. Back tomorrow, Thursday. Until then, you know how to get hold of us. Thoughts, questions, comments, praise, criticism. Take your pick, makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail 508-U-B-Smart.

Kimberly Adams 

Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Today’s program was engineered by Juan Carlos Torrado. Thalia Menchaca is our intern.

Kai Ryssdal 

Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. Composed in the past tense cause they don’t work here anymore. Our senior producer. Well, I guess it would have been past tense anyway, because they’re not still composing, are they? I gotta hurry. Marissa Cabrera is the senior producer. Bridget Bodnar, the director of podcasts. Francesca Levy is in charge. Okay, I got it.

Kimberly Adams

Yeah, you made it.

Kai Ryssdal

That’s all that matters. Gotta hit the post, man.

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