Google and China—Made for Each Other
Google co-founder Sergey Brin -- the tenth richest man in the world, with a Donald Trump-dwarfing net worth of 52.9 billion dollars -- was extremely depressed by the election of Mr. Trump, as seen in a video just surfaced by Breitbart. He compared the president's supporters to "fascists" and claimed they voted for him out of "boredom," of all things.
I'll come back to the emotional disconnect involved in that but let's fast forward to the last couple of weeks. Larry Page -- Brin's partner in otherworldly entrepreneurial success, making him even richer than Sergey -- refused to show up for a congressional hearing that principles of Facebook and Twitter did attend and answer questions. Meanwhile....
....word of Google’s plans to substantially expand its currently minimal role in the Chinese market—through the potential launch of a censored search engine code-named Dragonfly—has provoked such uproar. [bold mine]
The plans were revealed through documents leaked to the Intercept, which reported that prototypes and negotiations with the Chinese government were far along, laying the groundwork for the potential service to launch as soon as early 2019.
Bye-bye, "Don't be evil." Actually the company's controversial watchword (now Alphabet's) had already been expunged from its corporate code of conduct last May to be replaced by the more ambiguous "Do the right thing." Doing the right thing seems now to encompass playing ball with Chairman Xi -- China's "paramount leader" for life -- who recently has been following in Mao's footsteps by publishing his own version of the "Little Red Book."
China -- the furthest thing at this point from Marx's dreamed of "withering away of the state" -- is no longer really communist but something closer to corporate fascist, exploiting the market while using state control in the most ironclad crony capitalism, anti-democratic in every way imaginable. But, in the true communist tradition, they remain the global leaders in political prisoners.
In its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era. Modern Chinese sentences are longer, the prospects for early release are far worse, and the Chinese authorities are generally unmoved by pleas for leniency from foreign diplomats
None of this seems to bother Google or Brin. But at least one Google research scientist has called basta to his company's nauseating hypocrisy:
Jack Poulson worked for Google’s research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company’s search systems.
In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices.
After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.
Yet, Sergey Brin and (presumably) Larry Page are worried about Donald Trump and his followers. They are the fascists. Say what?
What's interesting is how someone as brilliant as Brin can come to this conclusion, other than that it is obviously self-serving. (As H. L. Mencken famously said, "When somebody says it's not about the money, it's about the money.") But there's a psychological component. In a certain way it is Brin's precociousness and attendant wild success at a very young age that may have cut him off from the real lives of common people before he had a chance, as an adult, to learn what they were really like. His "boredom" statement masks -- and not very well -- a contempt for people who work for a living (plumbers, electricians, construction workers , etc.), whose lives may appear tedious to Brin, but who had been overlooked by American elites for decades.
If you watch the video of Google that day, you can see that elitism manifest as a near cult. Everyone, it is assumed, must be despondent at the victory of the great unwashed. It was like an audience of trained seals. This is the same reactionary tribe that ostracized James Damore for expressing the most minor divergences from their groupthink. Conformity among these Silicon Valley people has become rampant. They are literally all the same, clones.
That is root of the danger of their search engines and algorithms. Deep down they are being built by the same person with the same ideas and the same worldview. What comes out cannot help but express that ultimately.
Google in its close relationship with China is becoming China, if it's not already there. It's our own oh-so-American version of the Cultural Revolution with free sushi at lunch replacing dunce caps, but the mockery remains the same.
Simultaneously, Donald Trump -- the supposed fascist -- is the one who is actually challenging China, using the threat of tariffs to get them to change their behavior about such things as intellectual property, which they have ignored for decades. You would think Silicon Valley would be thrilled about this. But no. They go their merry, greedy way, making deals with Chairman Xi, this time -- how nauseating -- for a censored search engine. (Well, they may have more experience with that than we think.)
Sergey Brin, who was born in the Soviet Union and only escaped because his father had the guts to get his family out, should know better.
But enough jawing about these companies and how they are dominating our lives. The time has come to disband them. Otherwise they soon will have more power than any government with no one to make sure they "do the right thing." Perhaps they already do.
Roger L. Simon - co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is an author and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.