On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules in what was perhaps the greatest act of deregulation in modern history and certainly the most significant achievement in the career of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Too bad that good news was overshadowed by a Daily Caller video of Pai prancing alongside right-wing Pizzagate provocateur Martina Markota. Elsewhere in the clip, the 44-year-old father of two dressed up like Santa Clause and donned eclipse sunglasses then played with fidget spinners and brandished a toy lightsaber. It was cringe-worthy, to say the least.
A sort of viral public service announcement, the video was meant to highlight “things you can still do on the Internet after net neutrality.” Apparently, that includes acting like an overgrown idiot.
More than embarrassing, the whole thing discredits the chairman’s normally good argument for doing away with the Internet regulations. Throughout most of that debate, Pai has enjoyed the intellectual upper hand as pro-net neutrality neckbeards infantilize themselves with increasingly absurd proclamations about the impending end of the Internet.
Unfortunately, on Thursday, Pai stooped to their level.
The stunt was obviously a play at younger audiences, normally a smart move considering the fact that the young own the future of the Internet. But it didn’t work. Imgur, Reddit, and Tumblr didn’t stop to have reasoned arguments about the merits of deregulation because Pai suddenly went viral. They mocked him mercilessly. Frankly, the adolescent FCC chairman deserved it.
The regulator responsible for regulation of our information superhighways shouldn’t play dress-up on the Internet with conspiracy theorists. Full stop.
Don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean that Pai and company shouldn’t package their arguments in order to win over young people. After all, comedians like John Oliver made the boring regulation issue a high-profile controversy precisely because they made it appealing to new audiences.
But they did that by being clever. Pai can do the same with dank memes, with sloth jokes, with whatever — so long as he doesn’t undercut his position by making a fool of himself. In short, Pai should act like an adult.