Amazon’s calls for the FTC’s chairwoman to step aside are laughable

·4-min read
Amazon claims the new head of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, cannot fairly regulate (POOL)
Amazon claims the new head of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, cannot fairly regulate (POOL)

Imagine the response if, after getting caught doing 60 in a 30 MPH zone, you told a judge that the whole thing was really, really unfair because the traffic cop that collared you had previously featured you speeding in a road safety video.

What do you think the result would be if you stomped your feet, accused her of bias and demanded she recuse herself from the case in favour of someone willing to “properly consider” your defence that you were in a hurry because you had a really really important meeting to get to?

If a judge was presented with such a ridiculous song and dance they might very well be inclined to use their discretion to double your ban.

Corporations seem, however, to be held to a different (lower) standard than individuals. So Amazon has decided to give this sort of tactic a whirl in an attempt to remove the trade cop who’s taking a close look at big tech’s business practices.

The company has filed a petition filed with America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claiming Lina Khan, the chair of that august body, should recuse herself from any case involving it.

“Given her long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon, and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company's antitrust defences with an open mind," it said in a petition.

“Indeed, doing so would require her to repudiate the years of writings and statements that are at the foundation of her professional career.”

Translate that into Trumpian language and you get “She’s always been very, very nasty to us. She’s a nasty far left woman who’s biased against us.”

OK, OK, before I get letters for m’learned friends lambasting me for being inaccurate as well as just plain mean, I should point out that Amazon has made no comment about Khan’s personality in the way America’s Foghorn Leghorn of a loser former president does whenever women seek to call him to task. So let’s strike the “nasty far left woman” bit of my translation from the record.

But is the rest so very far off? The implication that any critic is clearly “biased”, incapable of interpreting the law or of considering a case and a company’s defence on their merits?

Look at some of Trump’s comments with the respect to the investigations into him, his business and his associates (the Trump Organization has just been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on tax charges, with his money man Alan Weisselberg expected to follow).

The language of Amazon’s petition may be a lot more decorous but it’s tuned to the same tactical wavelength. Wah. She’s just mean!

The suggestion that Khan should recuse herself is otherwise laughable. You typically only do that when you have a familial connection to a case and/or a financial interest that might cause a conflict of interest. In today’s miserable post-shame politics, people don’t always bother even in those circumstances, which don’t apply to Khan.

What she has done, with her award-winning academic research into antitrust law and Amazon, is throw an uncomfortable spotlight on the problems the company has been creating. President Joe Biden’s justifiable concerns about them are among the reasons he appointed her to the role.

Small wonder, then, that a company that looks more and more like one of those sinister entities created in the drug-induced fever dreams of Philip Kindred Dick, and mined by Hollywood for any number of successful adaptations, has resorted to such a transparent attempt to undermine and demean her. It knows what’s at stake. A dizzying amount of money for starters.

It wouldn’t be any surprise to see its peers taking similar shots in the weeks and months ahead.

The Blade Runner’s in town and the replicants are running scared.

True, the FTC recently suffered a painful reverse against Facebook. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy. But Khan still has the smarts to potentially bring the monopolistic behemoths of big tech to heel. And it turns out that she doesn't have the necessary powers, maybe Biden will find a way to buff them up. He should do.

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