If nothing else, President Trump’s latest hysterical rants against tech have demonstrated once again how badly he continues to outfox his opponents. Google is the latest to fall into this well-laid trap.
And with a conservative backlash against technology mounting — using without irony the very platforms and services these companies built — the rest of us can only watch with bemusement as Silicon Valley tries in vain to fight off the monsters it has created.
Trump is the master of distraction. He owns his critics in ways they never seem to fully grasp. He fails to lower the flag on the White House, and critics fume for hours on social media and cable news about the insult to the memory of Senator John McCain. It is all wasted breath.
The only point of such a move was to infuriate opponents and get them to waste invaluable time and psychic energy. Meanwhile, Trump supporters don’t care about the possible insult, but they do take great delight in the media and liberals becoming apoplectic over Trump’s latest nonsense.
The evil of media has been one of the rallying cries of the Right for years now. Despite controlling most of the wealth and government, the Right has somehow convinced itself that it has been endlessly victimized by a Liberal media run by Liberal elitists. These grievances helped propel the conservative revolutions in 1994 under President Clinton, and became fuel for the Tea Party under President Obama.
And now, despite the fact that the internet and platforms such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have become completely dominated by the Right, these same Conservatives are whining about being shut out and censored, doing so without the least bit of self-consciousness on the very platforms they claim to be mistreated by.
Trump, as he so often does, has recognized and tapped into a vein of resentment — this time against Big Tech. Whether he’s ranting against Amazon or claiming shadow bans on Twitter or that Conservatives have been silenced on Facebook.
The point is not to highlight something that is actually happening. The point is to whip up his supporters. Truth is an artifact, a useless weapon wielded by the weak who are grasping at anything that they imagine might rebalance the scales. It won’t.
The Google nonsense is just the latest, greatest example. The rants about the president‘s own searches for Trump news only bringing up Liberal sources was followed by the claim that Google has censored his State of the Union speech:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
This was demonstrably false, as were pretty much all his claims. But that doesn’t really matter. Because reporters spent their week asking questions about the claim, and writing stories about the claim, and going on cable news and talking about the claim. Endlessly. And Trump’s critics took to social media to triumphantly disprove him.
Google even took time to formulate a statement in response.
“When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds,” Google, whose parent company is Alphabet, said in a statement. “Search is not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search, and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
This statement is totally LOL. And Google has only itself to blame for that. Throughout its history, it has steadfastly refused to actually disclose how its algorithms work, which is certainly its right. But for all of its disclaimers, Google’s business is completely opaque.
Its response to Trump‘s accusations, then, is essentially: Take our word for it. Trust us. We would never do that.
This is what makes Google, and its Silicon Valley brethren, such perfect whipping boys. They are rich and powerful and have committed enough sins to warrant the suspicions of anyone, of any political stripe. But their insistence on secrecy leaves a void that gets filled by conspiracies. Though, to be honest, Google could probably publish the entirety of its algorithms on GitHub and it wouldn’t matter to the Right-wing jackals.
Still, tech leaders, like so many others, seem to think there are some rules in this fight. Somewhat quaintly, Google believes it could respond with “facts.” That it could change minds. Or correct the record. And that it would matter. It doesn’t.
Virtually every word that slips out of Trump’s mouth is demonstrably false. And so, for the past several years, journalists and “fact checkers” and legions of social media fighters have been demonstrating the wall of lies uttered by the president with every breath he takes.
And none of it matters. Not. One. Bit.
Breitbart is picking up Trump’s baton and whacking Silicon Valley with it. Over on Twitter, Conservatives are pushing the #StopTheBias hashtag with more lies and propaganda, and a good dose of what are obviously bots pushing it all even further. For goodness sakes, someone has started a petition on Whitehouse.gov to demand that something be done about these evil internet companies:
The President should request that Congress pass legislation prohibiting social media platforms from banning users for First Amendment-protected speech. The power to block lawful content should be in the hands of individual users — not Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey.
It’s barely worth noting that somehow the Right has turned their fury against some of the greatest capitalist success stories of the past century. The villains are people who have generated enormous wealth, for themselves and others. Once upon a time, they would have been heroes of the free-market loving Right. But now we are through the Looking Glass.
Now it is just emotion, mostly fury, that matters.
And while one might be tempted to feel sorry for these beleaguered tech giants, please save your tears. These platforms are no longer beacons of truth and facts. Instead, they have become the perfect machines for obscuring truth.
A GOP candidate for Florida governor makes a racist statement against his African-American opponent by saying “monkey up”? No problem. We can just find a time when President Obama once used the word monkey. See? It‘s complicated — and all a bit blurry.
And again, the Right can retreat to a talking point it clings to with unshakeable faith: It’s all the fault of the media. Those elitists. And now those tech giants. It is a battle that Silicon Valley, still holding onto things like facts and reality, is ill-equipped to fight.
When it comes to getting played by Trump, all those big brains in Silicon Valley can’t avoid being duped. Just like the rest of us.