Josh Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley Is the Ultimate Karen

Karen wants to speak to your manager. The senator from Missouri wants to become your manager.


By now you've probably met Karen, sister to Becky, mother to Chad, and wife to a moderately successful businessman—probably a consultant—whose name is not important. She lives, she laughs, and she loves, and she has the wall art to match! Her "facts" don't care about your feelings, and neither do her passive aggressive Facebook posts. She wants to speak to the manager.

But what happens when Karen is the manager?

Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) may just be that Karen. Trade in those Facebook posts for a Twitter feed, and I think we have a match. 

The junior senator from Missouri landed in Congress in 2019 after running what some would call a conventional libertarian-conservative campaign. But his brief tenure on Capitol Hill has been much more in keeping with the current political moment, meaning that it has been almost exclusively defined by his tech-averse brand of populism. 

Hawley has used his perch in Senate hearings to speak to many a manager, employing a familiar take-no-prisoners approach that is more suited to political promo materials than to getting answers to questions. That's because the answers to those questions aren't as important as the performative, public interrogation. Does Karen usually care about what the manager has to say? Not really.

So it has gone with Hawley, who has continuously scuffled with managers from Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google. The senator has leveled a slew of accusations against the tech giants, ranging from charges of antitrust infractions to allegations of anti-conservative bias to claims that social media companies peddle dangerously addictive products.

But Hawley is in a unique position. It's not every day that Karen has the heavy hand of the federal government at her disposal. "Do you know who I am?" lands a bit differently when the sentiment comes not from the president of the PTA but from a sitting U.S. senator.

In that vein, Hawley has repeatedly threatened to use government force when select private companies operate in ways that he finds personally distasteful. Karen might call the cops when the house next door is a little too loud. Hawley calls the Department of Justice.

Consider his crusade against Amazon. The senator recently requested that Attorney General William Barr open up a criminal investigation into the online colossus for using third-party data to develop its own brand of products. Hawley deems that a violation of antitrust law. He'd be hard-pressed to find a retail magnet that doesn't engage in the practice, though, because it is a legal one.

Hawley has also zeroed in on some of social media's more minute facets. The SMART Act, which he proposed last summer, would have outlawed YouTube's autoplay feature and Snapchat's streak function, which he says too often encourage kids to stick to their phones. The appropriate venue to fix that, he maintains, is the federal government; his legislation further stipulated that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services should have powers to regulate additional aspects of those companies' products. 

Perhaps most recognizable is Hawley's ongoing fight with Facebook and Twitter, which have drawn a special ire from the senator—not only for their sheer largeness, but for their alleged anti-conservative bias. Though there might be legitimate reasons to be miffed with the companies' imperfect content moderation practices, Hawley's proposed solution is to take away their rights to moderate any content whatsoever. That might make Hawley feel good in the short-term, but it's a fix the socially conservative senator would certainly regret once such companies are no longer allowed to remove pornography.

There's a rich irony to that dispute. Hawley seemingly wants to regulate large online businesses as if they are public utilities—a notion currently shared by others in the GOP. But core to the conservative ideology is, or was, the idea that private companies are explicitly not held to the same rules as state actors. Hawley's brand of populism separates itself from that notion when it is politically inconvenient. 

Indeed, it's difficult to digest the senator's fury toward social media behemoths when you remember that he leverages them freely for his own political purposes. In a broad sense, big tech was instrumental in his successful senatorial campaign, and the successful campaigns of other Republicans, who masterfully use social media to their advantage. In a narrower sense, he often usurps Twitter to speak with the manager, calling out United Airlines last week for predictably cutting employee hours after receiving billions in government aid.

Of course, Hawley doesn't see it that way. "What is it now that in the last 15, 20 years that [big tech has] given this country?" he asked last summer. "What are their great innovations?"

OK, Karen.

NEXT: Cops Arrest Brooklyn Rabbi for Letting Kids—Ages 11, 8, and 2—Walk to the Store

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Isn’t “Karen” a sexist slur? #BanBinion

    1. I like how the Karen who wrote this article tried to make someone else the Karen.

      1. Karen’s all the wa…never mind.

        1. Sofia H. Loran Make money online from home extra cash more than $18k to $21k. Start getting paid every month Thousands Dollars online. I have received $26K in this month by just working online from home in my part time.every person easily do this job by just open this link and follow details on this page to get started… Read More About Articles

      2. What I came to say.

    2. And racist as well.

      It will be interesting to see how long white women continue to support intersectionality when they’re thrown into the Kulak camps with white men.

      1. Depends if they’re the right type of white women or not.

        Intersectionality is really just a tool of rich white liberals to protect their class interests against parvenus and working class whites.

        Its bonus is that it keeps uppity coloreds from focusing on the real problems they face, the resolutions of which would ally them with the working class whites.

        1. The ruling reptiles divide and conquer the peasants with identitarian politics, while they dine on raw chunks of peasant flesh.

  2. Missouri elected an anime character? This guy looks like his top priority would be fighting kaiju.

    1. We’re only 20 years removed from electing a dead man to the Senate. We’ll get it right sooner or later.

      1. We have already elected a reality show star, so why not?

  3. The SMART Act, which he proposed last summer, would have outlawed YouTube’s autoplay feature…


    1. You do know that there is a little button to turn that off, right?
      If YOU choose to do so. But you can’t turn it off on MY account.

    2. How about autoplay video on websites, like ads? They keep getting around the browser and ad-ons that I try to prevent autoplay. I live in a remote area with a microwave link as my internet. I don’t have the bandwidth for every damn ad that demands to play on my screen. I’d never go to the government to demand an end to this by law, but for the LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP AUTOPLAYING VIDEO AND AUDIO (this means you too ESPN, CNN, and all the other news sites). If it’s interesting enough, I’ll click it.

      1. Also, this means you Reason. Those damn AnyClip ads never stop.

        1. You know there’s plugins for that, right? And that they work perfectly?

  4. I love how Binion is treating this as though it’s a conservative pet project. Did he watch the Zuckerberg trials last year? Both parties are disingenuously selling the idea of regulating social media for reasons that appeal to their bases. This is a clear case where they are working together to enshrine a few companies as monopolies that are easy to manipulate and use to further the two party duopoly. They used to do this with “broadcast licences” that would limit the number of news stations so the narratives were easier to control. If you want to know which policies are bad, just look at whatever the R’s and the D’s agree there is no debate on.

    1. Yeah Billy should always remind the reader that Sen Richard Blumenthal (D) is a co-sponsor on many of Sen Hawley’s bills. If Blumenthal is on your side; you’re on the wrong side.

      1. The only more surefire sign that it will end up being a crime against humanity in practice is a ringing endorsement from Lindsey Graham. I’m expecting him and Feinstein to show up the news networks with chubs any minute to throw their weight behind it.

        1. The 4 horseman of the apocalypse.

    2. This is one of those areas that separates the conservatives from the libertarians.

  5. This is a stupid article.

    1. We call it a Binion.

      1. Then what’s a Dalmia?

        1. When it’s so stupid OBL can’t even parody it.

          1. So it’s a Tony?

            Broadway may take issue…

            1. A “Tony” is a Reason Roundtable with Dalmia, Suderman, Welch and ENB.

              1. Barf!

    2. True…. when you have to resort to shopping a hairstyle on someone’s head to make fun of them in order to make your point, it’s just a little too much like a junior high approach to The National Enquirer. Everything said after that is deemed irrelevant, even if there are legitimate points in there somewhere.

  6. Is this supposed to be funny? Is Zeb gonna cry if I say it’s not?

    1. No.

      1. Ok then. This isn’t article isn’t funny.

        1. Careful. Comment floor is wet now.

  7. Ok, it’s official, this room’s gettin’ too hip for me.

  8. Google, FaceBook et al. are controlled by authoritarian leftists and they are intentionally stifling political and social speech.

    1. If there’s going to be authoritarians stifling political and social speech, you prefer them to be right wing?

      1. Why do you assume that one is better than the other? BTW, he’s not wrong, so what’s your point?

        1. That he’s above all the partisan crap, when the reality is that he’s just irrelevant.

      2. I prefer authoritarians to not have extra legal protections.

      3. – Authoritarianism is wrong whether it’s public or private sector.

        – Even though it’s wrong the private sector shouldn’t be prevented from being authoritarian.

        – Censorship is wrong whether it’s public or private sector.

        – Even though it’s wrong the private sector shouldn’t be prevented from engaging in censorship in their platforms.

        – Spying on customers is wrong whether it’s public or private sector.

        – The private sector should be prohibited from spying on customers.

        – Google, Facebook, twitter, Amazon, etc. need to stop with the corporatist shenanigans if they want to be treated like private businesses.

        1. We used to call “private sector authoritarianism” by a different name: “property rights.”

        2. I have to disagree for one good reason.
          Google, Facebook, and Twitter combine to have a near-monopoly on advertising and social discourse. The Courts have even ruled that politicians banning people on Twitter is unconstitutional because its such.

          To compare, freedom of speech and protest doesn’t normally apply to private land. However, it does apply on a company mining town because the company owns the entire town and all land for miles around. This is why monopolies and oligopolies are so dangerous.

  9. Now that Reason is merging with Reddit I’m going to need a new source of retards to laugh at.

    1. I have never reditted… but tim pools video on /worldpolitics made it seem more a shit hole than I could imagine.

      1. It’s 4chan for bien pensants.

  10. Thats a Hawley I thought it was a girl and the picture confirmed it until I read the article what happened to manhood, he deserves to be called a Karen just for his looks alone.

    1. Is this comment supposed to be funny, and is Zeb gonna cry if I say it’s not?

      1. I think he thinks that’s what Hawley really looks like which is so so so fake news Binion perfect.

        1. Ok then, this comment is funny.

    2. Gold absolute gold lolololol

    3. Have you clicked on the Reason profiles for their writers? Some of them look like they’re 12 years old.

      1. And they reason like they’re 10.

  11. He needs to be primaried in 2024!

    1. No, he (Binion) need to change jobs and work for MSNBC or CNN.

  12. Is it weird that a magazine that is so careful to use the ‘correct’ pronouns for Bradley Manning is calling someone a woman that doesn’t identify as one?

    Maybe, but at the same time it’s funny to call political opponents women when they identify as men to a certain brand of person I suppose.

    Weird, right? That in one situation it’s a joke, and in the other it’s basically a civil rights infraction?

    1. Don’t you understand why we need protected classes with different rules? It’s the only way to achieve equality!

    2. I’m waiting for the class-action lawsuit filed by “karens” aginst this leftist magazine. It will look like #believeAllWimmens vs #AlzheimerJoeBiden but with more likable characters

  13. GoogFaceYouTwit is censoring right content at the behest of Congressional democrats over the fallout from Cambridge Analytica. So it’s second hand government censorship. It also extends the privilege for other governments especially China.

    1. But I’ve been told we can create our own sites and also get the billions in Grants and tax breaks they do.

    2. Look at the founders…not Americans in anyway..bolsheviks..internationalists…its pretty obvious they sure are not Jobs, Iacocca, Ford, and yes even Musk…

  14. that Vision Gator hair fits him so well i thought it was his

  15. Awww. Was Hawley too mean to the big tech giants?

    Cry some more.

    This is why Reason’s brand of libertarianism is a joke. Leaping to the defense of government-subsidized institutions that happen to call themselves “private” is just authoritarianism by another name.

    1. “Leaping to the defense of government-subsidized institutions that happen to call themselves “private”

      That’s a great description of every Binion article that isn’t about orangemanbad or Amash daisuki desu.

  16. Reason is trying too hard

  17. Reason RIP. Thanks Billy.

  18. Yeh, not a Karen. He may be other stuff but that ain’t a Karen. At least not as a I understand it.

  19. As you can see from my screen name here, I was involved in trying to challenge the false narratives of the Brock Turner case, which were created by a radical Stanford Law Professor as part of her long term campaign against due process for accused men.
    I found out these social media companies will not allow their views to be challenged – you will get banned, even though no specific, or for that matter, vague, violation of Terms of Service is alleged.
    I am strongly in favor of forbidding these companies from controlling free speech. What Hawley is doing sounds good, these companies are monopolies, and do act in very bad faith. Remember, they are headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the employees have the values dominant here – they are smarter than anyone, if you try to debate, the correct response is to de-platform you and so forth. They need to have their power taken away. Reason should understand that as well as anyone. I can go into dozens of examples of the false narratives put out by the radical Stanford Law Professor who created “The Stanford Rape Case” and how she did it – but if I put up a comment on any social media, or for that matter, any Comments section of an article about the case, she got it taken down, The false narrative was carefully protected by the pseudojournalists who are traditionally presumed to value truth.
    Libertarian and traditional views of protecting the free press from government interference are outdated, these are monopolies acting in very bad faith, and it is crucially important the laws be changed now, before the election and the Dems get in – they realize the censorship benefits them and favor it generally.

    1. You nailed it..bolsheviks run social media firms..and it has to do with how they got their funding and their founders..Steve Jobs they sure are not…..FB, Google, Twitter..all founded by the same type of people..questonable morals, bolshevik types…hate America types…1930 Vienna Austria socialist types…break them up and put American’s in charge not internationalists..

    2. They need to have their power taken away.

      Don’t play with them.

  20. ENB is the Queen Karen ’round here.
    “Let me speak to you educational institution and potential future employers”

  21. I thought this was about the WTO? Why any libertarian would defend the woke social media firms who advocate manipulation of searches, throwing or diminishing anyone not of the “woke” mindset, engage in blatant censorship in the name of “protected classes is beyond me. Hell YouTube actually admits manipulating their own search engine so only the “authoritative” news sites pop up. Are they private entities? Sure but…they have a very privileged position due to their connectedness to Hedge Funds/Wall Street and the money boys (the Fed). Could smart programmers in say Salt Lake or hell Cincinnati build FAceBook, Instagram and so on? Of course and they might be not woke bolsheviks but they can’t get access to capital because they are not well connected. Hell you know how Google and FB and even Twitter start ups they have to go to the hedge funds for money..the hedge funds run by Ivy League types who “suggest” their classmate usually from NYC and “liberal arts” majors who can’t provide much but run the community “standards” and you get Jack Dorsey’s woke Hitler who on Rogan indicated free speech is based on the class you belong to. True libertarians would support breaking these firms up and more importantly shutting done the Fed, stopping the fake credit….I’d love to see hedge funds try and get access to actual savings…given the lenders I doubt the “wokes” would be running FB or Google….Google should be broken up first..take YouTube away then the smart phone and device. Leave the search algorithm/advertising….

    1. I thought this was about the WTO? Why any libertarian would defend the woke social media firms who advocate manipulation of searches, throwing or diminishing anyone not of the “woke” mindset

      It’s perfectly reasonable for libertarians to defend private firms engaging in search manipulation.

      The real issue with Google, Facebook, Twitter, and those other “select companies” is that they are in bed with the state and select political parties to propagandize, censor, and spy. That is what libertarians should object to. But Binion seems perfectly OK with that.

      Next, he may start arguing that privatization+immunity is the right thing to do for police too; that would certainly eliminate those pesky civil rights and police abuse complaints.

  22. So, the alternative to Sen. Josh Hawley is what?
    You can have Karen or QUEEN Karen.

  23. So. Is Sen. Hawley the Republican’s AOC?

    1. Good one.

  24. “What are their great innovations?”

    What have the Romans ever done for us?

  25. Hawley has been calling for a Special Counsel investigation into the Obama Administration’s abusive FBI and CIA practices. Given Reason‘s bizarre lack of interest in that egregious abuse of power, the timing of this article is noted.

    1. It is odd that the revelations over the last two weeks have not seemed to be the cause celebre that the Russian collusion lie was. Because Reason covered the SHIT out of Russia…

  26. An article full of ad hominems, smears, and personal attacks, complete with a bad Photoshop job.

    In that vein, Hawley has repeatedly threatened to use government force when select private companies operate in ways that he finds personally distasteful.

    What a good libertarian publication should analyze is to what degree these “select private companies” actually are private. I mean, they get massive government contracts and tax breaks, are subject to political pressures, are engaged in regulatory capture (probably couldn’t exist without it), lend massive support to friendly political parties, and are used by governments around the world to outsource both censorship and domestic espionage.

    1. It’s hard to imagine any sizable company that doesn’t fit most of your criteria.

  27. “”What is it now that in the last 15, 20 years that [big tech has] given this country?” he asked last summer. “What are their great innovations?”

    Multicore architecture? 5G? Anything else? The list doesn’t seem that long.

  28. Hawley is a total fool and he deserves to be made fun of!

    But the point he makes is legitimate! This is not a black/white issue for libertarians in my opinion.

    Yes, those private companies have a right to do what they are doing. But, since their platform allows them to effectively control what ideas are allowed to be spread this essentially leads to third party censorship. The government isn’t doing the censoring but liberal democrat activists are doing it for them.

    Outside of creating their own conservative version of twitter, what could conservatives do to keep their accounts from being blocked. Once your account is blocked how can you speak out about it. THE PLATFORM TO SPEAK OUT ON HAS JUST BLOCKED YOU!

    ugh! jod confused!

  29. >tech-averse

    Your Silicon Valley overlords are pleased that they still own whatever little soul ‘reason’ has, but they are not pleased to have to point out that phrases like that give away the game. Go to your corner, you bad dog! No soup for you!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.