August 26, 2003
Googling for George
by Maureen Farrell
A Wired magazine article bearing the increasingly apt title "Google vs. Evil" recently disclosed the qualities that have made Google "the world's biggest, best-loved search engine." With more than 28 million visitors logging in 15 million hours a month (and enough popularity to warrant its own verb), the search engine relies on technological superiority and a "customer first" attitude, evoking a "don't be evil" philosophy of ethical purity while staying true to its primary function, which is to "quickly divine what's useful on the Web." [LINK]
"Diving what's useful" has a mystical quality, of course, akin to the Magic 8 Ball we played with as kids. Ask Google, "Who will be president in 2004?" for example, and it will answer (as of this writing, anyway) "Howard Dean for America." A "Will George Bush steal the 2004 election?" query provides information on how taxpayers gave Bush $67 million to steal the election the last time around. Then, too, (in case you've been without e-mail for the last few months and haven't heard), there's the exercise of typing "weapons of mass destruction," into the Google search engine and hitting "I'm feeling lucky" only to discover that "The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors mandate."
In other words, not only does Google divine what's useful, it's fun for the whole family.
Al Franken even argues that "diving what's useful" stems from the divine. After God told him to write LIES and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right and expose serial fabricators like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, Franken scoffed at the amount of research he'd need to do. "And God said, "LET THERE BE GOOGLE AND LEXISNEXIS," before admonishing Franken for Googling "hot Asian teens."
Given the sorry state of the mainstream media, Google also provides a service for those looking for in-depth explanations regarding what the hell happened to our country. As the New York Observer recently noted, it's become an invaluable tool for the September 11 widows whose lives have become a modern version of Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington. "Kristen [Breitweiser] and the three other housewives who also lost their husbands in the attack on the World Trade Center started out knowing virtually nothing about how their government worked," the Observer explained. "For the last 20 months they have clipped and Googled, rallied and lobbied, charmed and intimidated top officials all the way to the White House." [LINK]
While this feisty foursome uncovered NORAD and FAA inconsistencies and unearthed a video of the president's odd Sept.11 reaction, [LINK] another woman, Bev Harris, discovered black box voting irregularities and potential election fraud. "Harris might have remained obscure if she had not stumbled across something on the Internet," the Seattle Times reported. "While seeking information last January about a voting-machine company for a book she was writing, she found a Web site on 'about the 15th page of Google'" -- exposing a "massive security breach" and threats to the democratic process itself. [LINK]
The 'Google vs. Evil' phenomenon can transform anyone into an investigative reporter, as the search engine provides the kind of information that's essential to citizenship and Mom's apple pie. Want to know why George Bush won't release those 28 pages in the 911 report? A "George Bush, James Bath" Google lands a variety of interesting sites, including "Bush family's dirty little secret," "George W. Bush's dubious friends" and "the G.W. Bush went AWOL home page." Hitting "I'm feeling lucky" presents an all-inclusive article on George Bush's "ties to billionaire bin Laden brood," and with the click of a button, you get enough information to get the gist, but not so much, it spoils your lunch.
Oddly enough, even silly searches can lead to uncomfortable truths. The average American might be unprepared for the grim information unearthed when pairing George Bush with the Mafia or George Bush with the Dulles brothers and a search for "George W. Bush," and "skeletons" understandably extracts some deep, dark Bushy secrets. But who would expect that linking George Bush with nonsensical entities would also reap disquieting results? A "George Bush, Frankenstein" search via Google's "I'm feeling lucky" button, for example, leads to a serious entry regarding George Bush's frightening court nominees (i.e. "Frankenstein judges"), while "George Bush, Boogie Man" summons a sad reminder of how this administration has used "a vast array of Boogie Men designed to frighten us into submission." A goofy "George Bush, gremlins" Google leads to a George Bush doll that says ""We're working hard to put food in your family" [LINK] -- even though the actual quote was "you're working hard to put food on your family." [LINK] Geeze, Louise. Have toy makers become lying liars, too? [LINK]
feeling lucky" is also invaluable when filling in the back
story on any given article.
Else you think these searches are anything but "fair and balanced," searching for George's good side garners similarly dark results. Enter "George Bush, Jesus," into Google, for example, hit "I'm feeling lucky" and up pops an Op-Ed explaining why "you won't find a guy who is more the inverse of Jesus than George W. Bush." A "George Bush, God" search reminds us of Bush's Messianic complex. "God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East," Haaretz quotes Bush as saying, but frankly, Al Franken's conversations with God are far funnier.
Researching Dubya's campaign promise via "George Bush, honor, integrity" offers an historic look at the laughable notion that Dubya would bring both to the White House, considering that, thanks mostly to the Reagan/Bush Iran Contra foray, neither honor nor integrity were there to begin with. Googling "George Bush, honesty" is a futile attempt to discover the roots of Dubya's finely-crafted persona, because the first thing Google chooses is information regarding George Soros' ad campaign "challenging the honesty of the Bush administration's case for waging war in Iraq." A search for George Bush's compassion directs you to a pre-election article praising presidential candidate George W's criticisms of those "who care more for protecting wealth than for tackling America's abiding social ills." Ha ha ha!
A search for "George Bush, human rights" reaps "Sorry! We couldn't find the page you requested" while "George Bush, poor people" brings up an article by Molly Ivins, who characterized the media, circa 1999, when she admitted that she was "one of the few people who [would] say anything negative" about G.W.Bush. Thanks for the heads up anyway, Molly.
Pairing "George Bush" with "love" doesn't unearth positive news about of the president, either, but conjures an Arianna Huffington piece about Bush Inc.'s ridiculous anti-drug ads. What about "George Bush, hope and redemption?" Just some news about the Bush administration's "false promises and seductions." A search for "George Bush, peace and prosperity" takes researchers to an Onion satire written on the eve of Bush's inauguration, predicting that "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity finally over." Even an innocuous "George Bush, puppies" search leads to a parody on how George Bush kills little doggies to prove he's tough on terrorism.
Of course, Googling "George Bush, America's future," zaps us right back into Magic 8 Ball mode, recalling The Georgy Bush Project, which, as the site explains, "was created on July 25, 1999 to raise public awareness about the plight of all Americans under a Georgy Bush administration and assist everyone whose future depends on electing a President who has a clue." The site also assures that, "The fight to defeat Georgy Bush isn't just about politics. It's about making sure that we elect intelligent, progressive leaders, rather than the usual bunch of wealthy, selfish dumbasses."
In other words, no matter where you look, Googling for George is a disquieting adventure. His destructive polices make little sense and attempts to find traces of Bush benevolence and empathy are quickly shot down. Isn't there a point where human decency kicks in and concern for others overtakes avarice? Can crony capitalism really be more important than the fate of the country? At this point, any explanation for Bush's shortsighted and duplicitous behavior would be welcome.
Even tongue-in-cheek questions about Bush's alleged humanity garner results. One query produced a May, 2001 article about how, even before Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush orchestrated a "series of catastrophic blunders" that "threaten [our] long-term survival" while another, written on Bush's inauguration warned, "don't be at all surprised if the United States finds itself in another manipulated war during this administration." Prophetic, no?
Truth be told, however, these insights came from Google answers to "Is George Bush a space alien?" and "Is George Bush a shapeshifter?" which, though stemming from patently absurd questions and totally-off the-wall theorists, reaped responses that are still more credible than Bush's war-bolstering lies and his laughably refutable "compassionate conservative" schtick. Sadly, we've reached a point where a wacky Weekly World News article and a bizarre conspiracy site contain more slivers of truth than propaganda from U.S. government officials. Because no matter how you slice it, assertions of cakewalks and flower-throwing have not been as accurate as have warnings about Bush's "catastrophic blunders" or predictions of yet another "manipulated war."
"I think this country's at a very dangerous juncture right now," Gen. Wesley Clark said on Crossfire recently. "Look, we went into Iraq under false pretenses. We've got the Army tied up there. We can't reinforce those forces very well because we don't have enough forces to really roll it over. We've got an emerging nuclear problem in North Korea that hasn't been dealt with. Al Qaeda is apparently seeping in and building its structures inside Iraq, the very thing we supposedly went to war to prevent. And we've never found the weapons of mass destruction." [LINK]
Even though the U.S. may "discover" Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in mid-September (even though few will trust they weren't planted), Clark is correct. The unnecessary waste of American blood and treasure are maddening -- as is the incompetence and mushroom cloud propaganda that got us into this mess. Amidst all this, and amidst the media's failure to act on behalf of "we the people," the ability to do one's own research and "quickly divine what's useful on the Web" is invaluable.
And given the blatant duplicity and calculating manipulation we've experienced since November 2000, Google's "don't be evil" philosophy is especially apt.
It's a shame that the President of the United States doesn't abide by the same standard.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2003, Maureen Farrell
otherwise noted, all original