Welcome to 1984: Big Brother Google now watching your every political move
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
Let's face it, deep down in our heart of hearts we knew the honeymoon wouldn't last forever. Our willingness to place eternal faith in an earth-straddling company that oversees the largest collection of information ever assembled was doomed to end in a bitter divorce from the start. After all, each corporation, just like humans, has their own political proclivities, and Google is certainly no exception. But we aren't talking about your average car company here.
The first sign Google would eventually become more of a political liability than a public utility was revealed in 2005 when CEO Eric Schmidt (who is now executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc, Google's parent company) sat down with interviewer Charlie Rose, who asked Schmidt to explain "where the future of search is going."
Schmidt's response should have triggered alarm bells across the free world.
"Well, when you use Google, do you get more than one answer," Schmidt asked rhetorically, before answering deceptively. "Of course you do. Well, that's a bug. We have more bugs per second in the world. We should be able to give you the right answer just once... and we should never be wrong."
Think about that for a moment. Schmidt believes, counter-intuitively, that getting multiple possible choices for any one Google query is not the desirable prospect it should be (aren't consumers always in search of more variety?), but rather a "bug" that should be duly squashed underfoot. Silly mortal, you should not expect more than one answer for every question because the almighty Google, our modern-day Oz, "should never be wrong!" This is the epitome of corporate hubris. And it doesn't require much imagination to see that such a master plan will only lead to a colossal whitewashing of the historic record.
For example, if a Google user performs a search request for - oh, I don't know - 'what caused the Iraq War 2003,' he or she would be given, according to Schmidt's algorithmic wet dream, exactly one canned answer. Any guesses on what that answer would be? I think it's safe to say the only acceptable answer would be the state-sanctioned conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction, an oft-repeated claim we now know to be patently false. The list of other such complicated events that also demand more than one answer - from the Kennedy assassination to the Gulf of Tonkin incident - could be continued for many pages.
Schmidt's grandiose vision, where there is just "one answer to every question," sounds like a chapter borrowed from Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, where omnipresent Big Brother had an ironclad grip on history, news, information, everything. In such a intensely controlled, nightmarish world, individuals - as well as entire historical events - can be 'disappeared' down the memory hole without a trace. Though we've not quite reached that bad land yet, we're plodding along in that direction.
That much became disturbingly clear ever since Donald Trump routed Hillary Clinton for the presidency. This surprise event became the bugle call for Google to wage war on 'fake news' outlets, predominantly on the political right.
'Like being gay in the 1950s'
Just before Americans headed to the polls in last year's presidential election, WikiLeaks delivered a well-timed steaming dump, revealing that Eric Schmidt had been working with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as early as April 2014. This news came courtesy of a leaked email from John Podesta, former chairman of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, who wrote: "I met with Eric Schmidt tonight. As David reported, he's ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc. He was more deferential on structure than I expected. Wasn't pushing to run through one of his existing firms. Clearly wants to be head outside advisor, but didn't seem like he wanted to push others out. Clearly wants to get going..."
The implications of the CEO of the world's most powerful company playing favorites in a presidential race are obvious, and make the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s resemble a rigged game of bingo at the local senior citizens center by comparison. Yet the dumbed-down world of American politics, which only seems to get excited when Republicans goof up, continued to turn on its wobbly axis as if nothing untold had occurred.
Before continuing our trip down memory lane, let's fast forward a moment for a reality check. Google's romance with the US political left is not a matter of conjecture. In fact, it has just become the subject of a released internal memo penned by one James Damore, a former Google engineer. In the 10-point memo, Damore discussed at length the extreme liberal atmosphere that pervades Google, saying that being a conservative in the Silicon Valley sweat shop was like "being gay in the 1950s."
"We have... this monolithic culture where anyone with a dissenting view can’t even express themselves. Really, it’s like being gay in the 1950s. These conservatives have to stay in the closet and have to mask who they really are. And that’s a huge problem because there’s open discrimination against anyone who comes out of the closet as a conservative."
Beyond the quirky, laid back image of a Google campus, where 'Googlers' enjoy free food and foot massages, lies a "monolithic culture where anyone with a dissenting view can’t even express themselves,"says Damore, who was very cynically fired from Google for daring to express a personal opinion. That is strange.
Although Google loudly trumpets its multicultural diversity in terms of its hiring policy, it clearly has a problem dealing with a diversity of opinion. That attitude does not seem to bode well for a search engine company that must remain impartial on all matters - political or otherwise.
Back to the 2016 campaign. Even CNN at the time was admitting that Google was Donald Trump's "biggest enemy."
Indeed, not only was Schmidt apparently moonlighting for the DNC, his leftist company was actively shutting down information on the Republican front runner. At one point when Google users typed in a query for 'presidential candidates,' they got thousands of results for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Missing in action from the search results, however, was, yes, Donald Trump.
When NBC4 reached out to Google about the issue, a spokesperson said a "technical bug" was what caused Trump to disappear into the internet ether. Now, where have we heard the word "bug" before? It is worth wondering if this is what Eric Schmidt had in mind when he expressed his vision of a "one answer" Google search future?
In any case, this brings to the surface another disturbing question that is directly linked to the 'fake news' accusations, which in turn is fueling Google's crackdown on the free flow of news from the political right today.
In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, poll after poll predicted a Clinton landslide victory. Of course, nothing of the sort materialized, as even traditional Democratic strongholds, like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan pulled the lever for Trump. As the Economist reported: "On the eve of America’s presidential election, national surveys gave Hillary Clinton a lead of around four percentage points, which betting markets and statistical models translated into a probability of victory ranging from 70 percent to 99 percent."
The fact that Trump - in direct contradiction to what the polls had been long predicting - ended up winning by such a huge margin, there is a temptation to say the polls themselves were 'fake news,' designed to convince the US voter that a Clinton landslide victory was forthcoming. This could have been a ploy by the pollsters, many of whom are affiliated with left-leaning news corporations, by the way, for keeping opposition voters at home in the belief their vote wouldn't matter. In fact, statisticians were warning of a "systemic mainstream misinformation" in poll data favoring Clinton in the days and weeks before Election day. Yet the Leftist brigade, in cahoots with the Googlers, were busy nurturing their own fervent conspiracy theory that 'fake news' - with some help from the Russians, of course - was the reason for Hillary Clinton's devastating defeat.
Who will guard us against the Google guardians?
Just one month after Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, purportedly on the back of 'fake news,' Google quietly launched Project Owl, the goal of which was to devise a method to "demote misleading, false and offensive articles online," according to a Bloomberg report. The majority of the crackdown will be carried out by machines. Now here is where we enter the rat's nest. After all, what one news organization, or alternative news site, might consider legitimate news and information, another news group, possibly from the mainstream media, would dismiss as a conspiracy theory. And vice versa.
In other words, what we have here is a battle for the misty mountain top of information, and Google appears to be paving the way for its preferred candidate, which is naturally the mainstream media. In other words, Google has a dog in this fight, but it shouldn't. Here is how they have succeeded in pushing for their crackdown on news and information.
It's sad to see language like this from Hillary @Recode "I take responsibility for every decision I made but that's not why we lost."— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) May 31, 2017
The mainstream media almost immediately began peddling the fake news story as to why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. In fact, it even started before Clinton lost the election after Trump jokingly told a rally: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing... I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” The Democrats, of course, found no humor in the remark. Indeed, they began pushing the fake news story, with help from the likes of Amazon-owned Washington Post, that it was Russians who hacked the DNC email system and passed along the information to WikiLeaks, who then dumped it at the most inopportune time for the Democrats.
With this masterly sleight of hand, did you notice what happened? We are no longer talking about the whereabouts of Clinton's estimated 33,000 deleted emails, nor are we discussing how the DNC worked behind the scenes to derail Bernie Sanders' chances at being a presidential candidate. Far worse, we are not considering the tragic fate of a young man named Seth Rich, the now-deceased DNC staffer who was gunned down in Washington, DC on July 10, 2016. Some news sites say Rich was preparing to testify against the DNC for "voter fraud," while others say that was contrived nonsense.
According to the mainstream media, in this case, Newsweek, only batshit crazy far-right conspiracy sites could ever believe Seth Rich leaked the Clinton emails.
"In the months since his murder, Rich has become an obsession of the far right, an unwilling martyr to a discredited cause," Newsweek commented. "On social media sites like Reddit and news outlets like World Net Daily, it is all but an article of faith that Rich, who worked for the Democratic National Committee, was the source who gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks, for which he was slain, presumably, by Clinton operatives. If that were to be true—and it very clearly isn’t—the faithful believe it would invalidate any accusations that Donald J. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in tilting the election toward him."
The reality is, we'll probably never know what happened to Mr. Rich, but what we do know is that Russia has become the convenient fall guy for Clinton's emails getting hacked and dumped in the public arena. We also know Google is taking advantage of this conspiracy theory (to this day not a thread of proof has been offered to prove Russia had anything to do with the release of the emails) to severely hinder the work of news sites - most of which sit on the right of the political spectrum.
Last November, just two weeks after Trump's victory, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, addressed the question of 'fake news' in a BBC interview, and whether it could have swayed the vote in Trump's favor.
"You know, I think fake news as a whole could be an issue [in elections]. From our perspective, there should just be no situation where fake news gets distributed, so we are all for doing better here. So, I don't think we should debate it as much as work hard to make sure we drive news to its more trusted sources, have more fact checking and make our algorithms work better, absolutely," he said.
Did you catch that? Following the tiresome rigmarole, the Google CEO said he doesn't think "we should debate it as much as we work hard to make sure we drive news to its more trusted sources..."
That is a truly incredible comment, buried at the sea floor of the BBC article. How can the head of the largest search engine believe a democracy needn't debate how Google determines what information, and by whom, is allowed into the public realm, thus literally shaping our entire worldview? To ask the question is to answer it...
"Just in the last two days we announced we will remove advertising from anything we identify as fake news," Pichai said.
And how will Google decide who the Internet baddies are? It will rely on "more than 15 additional expert NGOs and institutions through our Trusted Flagger program, including the Anti-Defamation League, the No Hate Speech Movement, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue," to determine what should be flagged and what should not.
Feeling better yet? This brings to mind the quaint Latin phrase, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? especially since these groups also have their own heavy political axes to grind.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Pichai and his increasingly Orwellian company already stand accused of censorship, following the outrageous decision to bar former Congressman Ron Paul and his online news program, Liberty Report, from receiving advertising revenue for a number of videos which Paul recently posted.
Wikileaks offers $20k reward over dead DNC staffer, but won’t confirm he leaked emails https://t.co/ABXNEEVpfb— RT America (@RT_America) August 10, 2016
Dr. Ron Paul would never be confused as a dangerous, far-right loony. Paul is a 12-term ex-congressman and three-time presidential candidate. However, he is popular among his supporters for views that often contradict those of Washington’s political establishment, especially on issues of war and peace. Now if squeaky clean Ron Paul can't get a fair hearing before the Google/YouTube tribunal, what are chances for average commentators?
“We have no violence, no foul language, no political extremism, no hate or intolerance,” Daniel McAdams, co-producer of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, told RT America. “Our program is simply a news analysis discussion from a libertarian and antiwar perspective.”
McAdams added that the YouTube demonetization “creates enormous financial burdens for the program.”
Many other commentators have also been affected by the advert ban, including left-wing online blogger Tim Black and right-wing commentator Paul Joseph Watson. Their videos have registered millions of views.
“Demonetization is a deliberate effort to stamp out independent political commentary – from the left or the right,” Black told the Boston Globe’s Hiawatha Bray. “It’s not about specific videos... It’s about pushing out the diversity of thought and uplifting major news networks such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.”
In light of this inquisition against free speech and free thought, it is no surprise that more voices are calling for Google, and other massive online media, like Facebook and Amazon, to become nationalized for the public good.
"If we don’t take over today’s platform monopolies, we risk letting them own and control the basic infrastructure of 21st-century society," wrote Nick Srnicek, a lecturer in the digital economy at King’s College London.
It's time for Google to take a stroll beyond its isolated Silicon Valley campus and realize there is a whole world of varying political opinion out there that demands a voice. Otherwise, it may find itself on the wrong side of history and time, a notoriously uninviting place known as 1984.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.