For about 50 years now, as the federal government has increased in size and scope beyond comprehension, businesses have employed lobbyists and consultants to advance their interests in the nation’s capital. Because we live in a period of divided government, when control of the White House and Congress switches frequently, the flow of money into Washington ends up in the pockets of both Democrats and Republicans. These agents of industry schedule meetings, keep tabs on the press, and promote stories favorable to clients and disadvantageous to their clients’ enemies. One can hold differing opinions on the seemliness of this influence peddling—a lot depends on the character of the peddler—while recognizing that it is utterly commonplace. Banal even.

Unless, it seems, the company is Facebook and the consultants are Republicans. If that’s the case, well, we are dealing with a national emergency. Why? Because Facebook’s scale and power have made it an object of justifiable and often hostile interest among government and media elites, many of whom blame the company at least in part for Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016. As for the Republicans—well, no explanation is necessary for faithful readers of the New York Times. They already know Republicans are the worst.

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