Thoughts on the Leaked Google Video and Why Populism Is Just Getting Started

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by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

The deal those bankers cooked up was to save the banks from capitalism.

– From Matt Taibbi’s recent piece: Ten Years After the Crash, We’ve Learned Nothing

While Google executives still attempt to portray themselves as scrappy, enlightened, countercultural tech luminaries, their reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in a recently leaked internal video leaves you wondering whether they understand anything at all about what’s happening around them.

There are two key takeaways I got from the video. First, Google executives are either totally clueless or in willful denial about the state of the country they call home. Second, they’re shameless hypocrites when it comes to the so-called values they claim drive corporate behavior. In other words, they collectively sound just like all the phony, status quo D.C. politician everyone’s sick of.

Indeed, the denial’s so strong co-founder Sergey Brin on more than one occasion claimed many Trump voters were motivated by “boredom.” As if that’s not insulting enough, he goes on to suggest that the rise of authoritarianism and totalitarianism in the 20th century was also likely driven by boredom.

While I can’t speak from personal experience when it comes to the rise of fascism and communism a century ago, I’ve seen enough of the 21st century to tell you 63 million people didn’t attempt to throw a metaphorical grenade into the political system because they were “bored.” People were angry and disillusioned, and justifiably so. Let’s not forget that 2016 didn’t just see the rise of Trump, but Bernie Sanders almost defeated Hillary Clinton despite a rigged primary. Was that also driven by boredom?

While Brin was bad enough, Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, takes the cake. The guy was genuinely painful to watch as he endlessly regurgitated vacuous soundbites about Google’s values and how the company’s committed to making the world a better place. He launches into a big lecture about how there are two worlds, one of the “wall” and one of the “square.” Google, according to Mr. Walker, is deeply committed to the open world of the square, which consists of, in his own words, a commitment “to a free and open internet.”

I find this fascinating since Google’s currently working on a search engine tailored specifically for Chinese government censorship. The Intercept has been leading coverage on this secretive project codenamed Dragonfly. Here’s some of what we learned in a recent piece.

Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries, The Intercept can reveal.

The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

Previously undisclosed details about the plan, obtained by The Intercept on Friday, show that Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin.

Leading human rights groups have criticized Dragonfly, saying that it could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” A central concern expressed by the groups is that, beyond the censorship, user data stored by Google on the Chinese mainland could be accessible to Chinese authorities, who routinely target political activists and journalists.

Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user’s Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people’s searches could be easily tracked – and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.

I must just be a bored pleb because this sort of thing looks a lot like the exact opposite of a “free and open internet.” Which brings me to a key point of this post: Google executives are full of shit. Dangerously full of shit. Like politicians in D.C. level full of shit. In fact, the two words that come to mind when reflecting on the video are denial and hypocrisy. When denial and hypocrisy become a way of life for the wealthiest and most powerful members of a society, you’ll get a reaction from those who see right through their lies and empty talking points.

Brin claims Trump voters are bored and Hillary calls them deplorable, but the point’s essentially the same. According to them, the problem lies with the voters, not the system. Whether disconnected elitism manifests in a t-shirt and jeans in Silicon Valley or an expensive pantsuit in D.C., it’s clear these stewards of society don’t see anything wrong with a country increasingly defined by rampant structural corruption and imperial warmongering. They simply refuse to honestly assess a system that’s been so generous and lucrative to them, irrespective of how completely off the rails it’s gone.

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