When the history of the 21st century is written, odds are that it will be the story of the slow but willing enslavement of the masses by the tech overlords.
Sure we love our smartphones, but is that any reason to surrender our freedom to think for ourselves? The more dependent we become on Google, Twitter and Facebook for information, the less certain we can be that we are looking at the real world and not the manufactured Matrix deemed suitable for adult consumption by Silicon Valley.
What price are you willing to pay for the convenience of unlimited access to limited truth?
These questions arise this week, as they have almost every week for the past decade, as the evidence mounts that search engines and social media are not just a conduit of reality, but a filter of it. There is the whole truth, and then there is the Google Truth. More and more, we are getting the Google Truth, and the devil take the hindmost.
Of course, the whole truth is there to see for anyone who takes the time to look for it, but in an age where critical thinking is a lost art, and where the day is easily filled with comforting distractions, it is even harder for those “with eyes to see” to remember to use them discerningly than it was back when Jesus warned us to do so.
Breitbart.com released a leaked video last week that showed Google executives meeting with staff members on the Friday after Trump’s election on Nov. 8, 2016, and lamenting their failure to elect Hillary Clinton.
Among the many shocking comments, Google cofounder Sergey Brin consoled his crew:
“Most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad. I find this election deeply offensive, and I know many of you do too. It’s a stressful time, and it conflicts with many of our values. I think it’s a good time to reflect on that. … So many people apparently don’t share the values that we have.”
Google insists that nothing at the meeting suggests that the company would let its employees’ obvious bias affect “the way we build or operate our products.” That would be reassuring if it were not so laughable. Just repeat the experiment made by PJmedia.com, when they found that 96 percent of the Google results about Trump were negative. Do your own search on Google for the phrase “Trump news” and study the results. When I did it, every result on the first page was anti-Trump, including headlines such as “House GOP ‘screwed’ as bad political numbers pile on Trump,” “Fox News hosts blast Trump for ‘distasteful’ remarks on Puerto Rico,” and “What if Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987?”
The first positive story about Trump came on the fourth page of Google results (39th on the list) when a CNBC story reported on Trump’s claim that “Facebook, Twitter, Google ‘have to be careful’” not to rig the news. Kudos to reporter Ryan Browne for telling the story straight when so many other outlets used the occasion as one more opportunity to bash Trump.
Of course, it’s not just Google that is deciding what you should and shouldn’t read. Twitter, which also denies that it has a political agenda, is one of the worst offenders.
Last week, Twitter rejected four ads proposed by the Center for Immigration Studies because they supposedly contained “hateful content” in the form of either “hate speech” or “advocacy against a protected group.” The so-called hate speech was advocating in favor of enforcing current U.S. immigration laws that target “criminal aliens” or “illegal aliens.” So are we to assume that “illegal aliens” are now a “protected class”? Not by federal law, but only by Twitter law, which sums up the problem nicely. Are we comfortable letting Big Tech dictate to us what we can and cannot say (or see) in the modern town square?
I’m not, and yet I suspect that most Americans, especially conservatives, will demur against trying to regulate access to information on the internet. Why? Because we also support the free market and want to limit government regulation of private enterprise. Therein lies the rub.
Even though the behavior of Twitter and Google is inexecrable, the argument will be made that no one has to use Google or Twitter, so they do not deserve regulation. Moreover, you could make the case that Google’s filtering of information is a form of protected “free speech” in that no one is obligated to tell the “whole truth” except when sworn to do so. Just as I pick and choose what information to include in a column, so too Google could argue that it is free to pick and choose what information to provide to the public — and civil libertarians are likely to accept such an argument.
This is a perfect example of the most insidious of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” — “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
Alinsky’s “Rules” are a Machiavellian roadmap for anyone who is willing to do anything to gain power. For the most part, those who have embraced the “Rules” are — like Alinsky himself — radical leftists who are intent on restructuring American society into a socialist utopia like Venezuela (sarcasm intended).
It is rather obvious, as you go down the list of the rules that they are constantly in play as the progressive movement inside both the Democratic and Republican parties works to undermine the conservative movement embodied somewhat paradoxically by President Trump. This is true in attacks on Trump himself, as well as attacks on targets that are associated with Trump such as Judge Brett Kavanaugh or Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
• “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
• “Keep the pressure on.”
• “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
But “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules” is the most dangerous of the “Rules” because, as in jiu jitsu, it turns the enemy’s strength into a weapon against him.
In this case, those who wish to control the flow of information (and thus control the culture) have asked conservatives to surrender their voices as the price for keeping a free market. Should they accede to this Hobson’s choice, conservatives will soon find they have neither a voice nor a free market.
Google is no different than any other public utility. It is not an accident that we originally referred to the Internet as a superhighway, and just as the public has a vested interest in protecting the neutrality of highways, phone service, and power transmission, so too do we have a right to demand neutrality in how the storage and transmission of information to the public takes place.
If we surrender that right, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the dystopian nightmare that will follow.
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake for 1 1/2 more weeks. There will be an open house at the Inter Lake on Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. for readers and friends to wish him well. To stay in touch with him after that, you will need to use his personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org.