Let me come out right and say two things: 1.) This is probably going to be less funny than my usual articles. 2.) I can’t stand Glenn Beck. At all. In the slightest. I don’t typically get involved too much in televised news. I find it much easier to read my news online from a variety of sources. Then when I hear something that doesn’t quite add up, I just press Ctrl-T, start typing, and before long Google will have led me to a resource of information that helps me make sense of the inane, childish, vague, fear/anger-mongering bullshit I’ve just heard. Except, this time, according to Glenn Beck, that will lead me to ruin.
Let’s be honest. Glenn Beck is a conspiracy nut. He never learned to grasp the difference between correlation and causation. As a “self-educated” man, he has hoarded information, but never had any proper training on how to use it. Reducto ad absurdum. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Straw man. These words are gibberish to Glenn Beck. Which is why “Google sometimes talks to the government” is tantamount to “Google is in bed with the government“.
The video begins with Egypt, as most news shows do lately. He begins by stating that the outcome of these protests is going to be determined by the people who are the best organized. And who organized these Egyptian protests? Why, it’s none other than Wael Ghonim, a Google executive. “Google executive” here meaning “Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa“. Not someone in Mountain View. Just a marketing guy stationed in Dubai. And, it’s important to note, this guy left Dubai and went to Egypt to organize these protests without Google’s knowledge or permission. According to Ghonim, he actually “tricked” Google into letting him return to Egypt by citing a “personal problem”.
Around one minute and twenty-two seconds into this video, Glenn makes the jump from “someone who works for Google was involved in the Egyptian protests” to “Google is involved in government overthrows”. The first person involved took action that was done without Google’s recommendation, approval, or even knowledge, as stated before, and the second executive that’s involved? We never even hear his name. Clearly Glenn doesn’t think that this person is as worthy of the attention. Given that, in this context, even Ghonim is unworthy of any noteworthy connection, I’d wager that the connection between Google proper and the Egyptian government overthrow is tenuous, if it even exists at all. Except that Schmidt is proud of one of his employees for performing brave, life-risking acts in a region that is highly unstable, in an effort to stand up for his principles. How dare Google extol praise on such a man. Evil.
I’m going to skip over the rather amusing part where Beck continually refers to Google as a mere “search engine”.
“I’m not afraid that Google is reading my email, or tapping your phone lines, or stealing grandma’s recipes.”
That’s amusing. Because that’s what everyone else is afraid of.
“That kind of paranoia is reserved for the left during the Bush administration for Microsoft.”
Wait. What? You know what, nevermind.
By the two-minute fifteen mark, Beck has stated that “I’m not so sure as I look into Google, that I want to use their products any more than I have to, and some of their products, I think I have to.” For starters: there’s not a single Google product, not search, not Gmail, not Google Maps, not Android, not anything that is of such ubiquitous power in the technology world that there are no competent alternatives. Even search, where Google is more or less the undisputed king, has its rival Bing. Bing, while not my favorite search engine, is more than capable of getting you around the internet, and Microsoft will be more than happy to counter nearly all of Google’s online services with their own digital offerings, as with Maps and Hotmail.
Though, I’m curious why you’re suggesting we stop using Google products. You say you hate boycotts, but if you’re to be trusted (and people do trust you, Mr. Beck), Google is not a service you should be using. Confusingly, we’re given the conclusion before we’re given the evidence. It’s almost as if the point is not the truth, but the fear.
“I’m not feeling very comfortable about the current direction of Google, the more I find out.”
I assume you’ll have something more than “Google sometimes says nice things about employees who do brave things without the company’s knowledge or approval.”
It turns out, Mr. Beck does have quite a bit to say about why he doesn’t trust Google. He lists several reasons. The first of which is that they work with the NSA. This cooperation began when, early last year, a Chinese group (allegedly approved of by the Chinese government) hacked into Google’s servers, among many, many others. Google began working with the NSA to prevent future attacks of this kind from occurring. Let me repeat: Google’s involvement with the National Security Agency began when Google decided to protect its own as well as other U.S. networks from outright attacks from the evil communist China. It’s also worth noting that Google spoke with the Chinese government during that ordeal. Google is now said to have ties to Chinese militants who seek to overthrow America. Or something.
Glenn also lists Google’s work with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency on his list of reasons to fear Google, openly admitting “I don’t even know what that is!” Well, Glenn, I’ll gladly tell you. The NGA is an organization that deals with the collection, analysis, and distribution of geospatial intelligence or, in the most laymans terms, map data. That’s right. The NGA (formerly known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, if that tells you anything) basically deals with high-tech maps. Google’s involvement with the NGA could be as simple as building tools and systems to manage map/surveillance data to aid the military. You know, since they’re kind of good at that. Of course, it could also be as sinister as helping the government spy through your computer’s webcam, but I’ll leave the burden of proof on that one to you.
Then, of course, he stops in on Net Neutrality. The evil, evil principle that he’s gotten so unbelievably wrong before. I could spend pages and pages going over how wrong he’s gotten the concept of net neutrality in previous videos, but suffice to say a.) the first video I saw of him discussing the principle, he implied it was a government attempt at controlling content and giving free internet to everyone, rather than simply regulating traffic such that all websites, applications, and ideas have an equal shot at getting their traffic from point A to point B (an admittedly conplex and controversial topic), and 2.) it was this video that made me unable to stomach the man at all.
He then goes on to say that Eric Schmidt is on the White House Council for Science and Technology. He leaves it at that. It seems the fact that Google advises the government on anything means they’re “in bed” with the government. Of course, Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Mark Zuckerberg are all meeting with President Obama today. So I guess it’s less of “being in bed with” and more of “having an orgy with” the White House in this case.
Frankly, as long as technology-inept senators like Orrin Hatch, Ted Stevens, and John McCain are the norm, I think the government can use all the advice they can get on how to deal with technology. Though, I suppose, since we don’t know exactly what is being said, it clearly must be evil.
We’re then treated to a lengthy diatribe about how Google is connected or giving money to a variety of name drops that, I’m sure if I followed the show, I’d be aware of why they’re detrimental to my health, my self-esteem, and how they will stab my tires and murder my unconceived children. Out of context, though, I have no idea why these people and organizations are evil. Frankly, getting into any inaccuracies or foggy information about Van Jones, MoveOn.org, George Soros, or any of the other horrifying name drops is outside the scope of Autistic Disdain’s interest or attention span. Let’s stick with the gadgets, shall we?
Thankfully, after a commercial break, Glenn brings it back to the world of technology as he comes to the third (?) reason why you should be wary of Google.
“They’re not working hard enough on your privacy.”
Glenn cites “the WiSpy incident” wherein Google’s Google Maps cars were discovered to have accidentally (though that word was never used) collected data from surrounding unsecured WiFi networks. Of note: it was Google that came forth with the announcement that they’d accidentally collected this data. It was widely reported that this included passwords, credit card numbers, and various other pieces of important-sounding data, however the data was incidental, studied to determine how it was gathered, then legally and properly destroyed. Glenn informs us that the FCC was working with Google to remedy the problem, though, according to Glenn Beck, they’re probably not working too hard, since Google has ties to the White House. A claim that’s not really substantiated given that the FCC’s probe only began last November after the FCC decided it was not satisfied with the FTC’s probe into the issue, which has already concluded. Furthermore, according to a statement from the FTC, Google has already committed to destroying the data. I suppose the government doing double duty on a case is basically the same thing as it slacking off because of evil ties to the government. If Eric Schmidt weren’t so cozy with Van Jones, there’d be three or four government agencies investigating Google instead of just two. And even if none of that were true, the data was mined from unsecured WiFi networks. There is no such thing as private broadcast, and if you have not secured your WiFi network, you are broadcasting a signal to everyone within range of your router. Though, I suppose Beck’s principle of Personal Responsibility ends somewhere just short of learning how to secure your wireless network.
Then there’s Google Buzz incident. Amusingly, Beck cites Google Buzz as one of the primary reasons why Google is evil. If anything, the Google Buzz incident should be used as evidence of Google’s stupidity. When Buzz was first launched, it built a “suggested” social network for Buzz based on your contact information and how frequently you contact certain people. Sounds like a clever idea, except the list of people in your new “Friends” list was made public. A problem that was remedied very quickly after an unbelievably loud outcry. A problem which is also indicative of a very stupid decision, not a very evil one.
Finally, Beck gets to the finality of his argument, once again quoting Eric Schmidt, in one of his standard “we know roughly where you are and what you want” statements, turning the possible future Schmidt has always talked about—your phone reminding you to get milk when you’re on your way home—into something odd and scary. And finally, he comes clean:
“Sometimes, the way Schmidt and Google as a whole think….is creepy.”
So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. A technology organization that’s run almost entirely by engineers, a group that is identifiable as intelligent, not typically fluent in societal norms, and often comes up with brilliant ideas that are a little too odd for normal people’s liking…that group sometimes comes across as creepy.
Stop the fucking presses.
In all honesty, this is the biggest reason why people are bothered by Google (and also why nerds and technophiles are the first to get excited or defend Google’s products). Google is run by engineers. Engineers frequently rush in to an exciting project without giving much consideration into how weird it will seem. It’s actually kinda cool! It’s part of what makes this wonderful technology we love so much happen. We’re just seeing it in an extremely large scale from a corporation. Is it weird? Yes! Is it something that needs to be kept in check? Of course! Does it make Google evil? …Not really?
Beck goes on to quote the “young people will be able to change their name” statement from Schmidt, which Schmidt appearing on the Colbert Report insists was a joke. Though, Glenn Beck thinks he’s totally serious. And you know, if he is, it’s horrifying. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if people were allowed to distance themselves from mistakes made as a child? Why it would be as awful as when youth imprisonment records are expunged upon turning 18! Which is what happens! Ahhhhh!
Perhaps my favorite point of all is when Glenn begins talking about how the “liberals” stood up against Microsoft during the Bush administration (ah, I see where you were going with tha-…no, wait. I still don’t get it), decrying them as a huge evil organization, and saying they were too powerful. But:
“If you begin to have questions on Google, will the press treat you as [someone standing up against a big evil company] or a conspiracy theorist?”
Um, Glenn? They’ll treat you as someone standing up against a big evil corporation.
All of us internet citizens come from various corners of the net. Our tendrils in most sites, but with only a few we call home. And yes, we have tendrils. If I have any corner of the internet I’ve called home, it’s been Gawker Media for the past couple years. I’m part of a vibrant commenting community, and I frequent many of the blogs owned by Gawker Media. Blogs that, I’ll note, can’t shut up about how awful Google is. No, seriously! You think Glenn is compiling all of this crap on his own? With the exception of the Van “MoveOn” Soros crap, most of the complaints about Google can be found on so called “liberal” media sites like the Huffington Post, Gawker, and the New York Times. Curiously, that last link’s URL reads “google-admits-to-snooping-on-personal-data”, while the headline was apparently at some point changed to “Google Says It Inadvertently Collected Personal Data”. A headline that is changed to make a not-terribly-sensational story sound not-terribly-sensational? More like liberal bias, am I right?!
To be perfectly honest, this entire piece is absurd, start to finish. The only parts I can’t outright refute are the connections to the various evil-sounding people Google is allegedly “connected to”, though that’s only because those aren’t areas I’m terribly knowledgeable in. The areas that I am informed on, it’s obvious that Glenn, when he’s not wildly misleading people, or issuing veiled denouncing cries of evil, is outright lying to his audience. How am I expected to take any connection to Van Jones seriously, when Glenn has a history of wildly misunderstanding net neutrality, and can’t even get the opening point, that Google “inserted itself into the Egypt story” right?
Here’s the thing. Everyone’s biased. That’s just a fact of life. But watching televised news feels more like getting my education from an inbred family of Alabaman hicks who’ve been parroting the same ideas to each other for years without any new perspectives or genetic material inserted into the ecosystem for a long time. Fun fact: we humans love companionship so much that we will cling to a sense of community, which is generated and nurtured by common ideas and beliefs, far easier than we will cling to truth. In short, when an organization reaches a homogeneous mixture of ideas, more people will choose to adopt the popularly-held beliefs to attain a sense of belonging than those that will challenge the established ideas for the sake of truth.
Which is why Fox News is the home of Glenn Beck.
That being said, Glenn? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Glenn Beck, Fox News? You guys stay the hell out of the tech world, and I’ll stay out of yours. Cool?