The Dark Side of Google? Naw, just byzantine bureaucracy

Perrspectives.com joins the group of those sites banned by Google from placing ad terms, because they violate the Google principle of "language that advocates against an individual, group, or organization".  PERR writes:Google may not necessarily have a conservative bias in filtering advertisers, but it would seem to be blatantly sizeist. That is, large organizations, well-known brands, big-spending advertisers, both political parties and other high-profile groups get a pass on the "advocates against" standard. Left or right, secular or sacred, size does matter. I totally agree with the conclusion, that this is an unworkable standard applied by Google, however, I'll fill in some details with the political parties that "get a pass" because it wasn't always that way.

Last June, 2003, I began Google adwords for the Dean campaign (the first time to my knowledge that it was ever done in a political campaign), and it worked surprisingly well.  So well, that by August, we'd signed a contract for at least $10K monthly advertising through Google. However, in late September, our ads were shut off, caught in the bizarre Google policy; specifically, because one of the webpages on DeanForAmerica.com (explaining Dean's economic positions) personally criticized Bush for the administration's economic positions.

Short story, we refused to change the wording, I climbed the Google ladder of authority to finally find the "someone" who made the decision, and confronted them with the fact that the website content of John Kerry and Wesley Clark's were also similarly personally criticizing Bush, and, I asked, why were their Google adwords still on? One day later, still no changes. Then, the next day, our lawyer threatens them with taking the matter up with the FEC, our communications team is frothing to blowout the PR, the webteam dreams of the petition, and meanwhile Google's salespeople are freaking out that we are about to call them to the mat... presto, Google finally got the clue and DFA's Google adwords were back on line, personal criticism of Bush in tact (we even made it stronger).

So, yea, Google's policy does favor big orgs and companies, as they are the ones with the heft to gag this policy.

A New Godwin's Law

During your time on the Internet, there is a pretty good chance you have seen someone invoke "Godwin's Law" in order to end a discussion. I myself used it in a thread that is still on the front page of this site. However, in case you are unfamiliar with Godwin's Law, here is a quick definition:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin's Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful. These days, however, the longer a blog discussion goes, the odds of 9/11 being mentioned not only approach one, it actually might do so at a faster rate than a comparison involving Nazis. In fact, when a politician is talking, the longer the politician talks, the odds of 9/11 being discussed approach one even faster than that. However, the main difference between the latter and Godwin's law is that whenever a politician mentions 9/11, s/he appears to have automatically won whatever argument was taking place. As Ronald Brownstein of Common Dreams recently wrote, playing this trump card ends arguments and allows whoever said it first to win the argument:

During a Senate debate last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) reached for the most powerful weapon in any argument over national security for nearly the last three years.

The issue was a proposal from Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) to bar private contractors from interrogating military prisoners. Dodd played his high card by arguing that such a ban could reduce the odds of another black eye for America such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. But Sessions trumped him by suggesting the ban might increase the chances of another terrorist attack such as Sept. 11.

What if, Sessions asked, "the very best interrogator in the United States of America" was not a military officer but a retired detective who had "the ability to [obtain] information that can save thousands of lives" through skilled interrogation? Could America really deny itself an asset that might help prevent another terrorist attack?

Partly because of that argument, the Senate on Wednesday rejected Dodd's amendment. That was little surprise. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the best way to build support for any national security initiative has been to portray it as a new line of defense against a repeat of that tragic day.

That was the justification for the Senate passage of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded Washington's ability to monitor suspected terrorists. Those arguments drove the creation of the Department of Homeland Security a year later.

The same logic turns up more explicitly in memos from Justice and Defense department attorneys before the Abu Ghraib scandal loosening the limits on acceptable coercion during interrogation.

Writing to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on March 6, 2003, top Pentagon lawyers acknowledged that "even in war, limits to the use and extent of force apply." But citing Justice Department memos, they concluded "the nation's right to self-defense has been triggered" by the Sept. 11 attacks. And that meant harm to those under interrogation could be justified "to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network."

This argument, of course, made its most dramatic appearance in President Bush's drive to win support for war with Iraq. The report last week from the staff of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks rekindled the debate over whether Bush misled the nation before the war about the extent of the links between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

We often hear from conservatives that 9/11 changed everything. Well, apparently 9/11 did change everything because now it can be used to justify anything (Dude, go drinking with me tonight or the terrorists win). What really pisses me off when I hear that 9/11 changed everything and, as a result, can now be used to justify anything, is that 9/11 did change everything for me personally. However, I did not undergo the same bloodthirsty change conservatives imply all patriotic Americans underwent when the use the vague, Orwellian, semi-totalitarian phrase, "9/11 changed everything."

I know 9/11 was an important trigger that helped to bring the relationship I was in at the time to a gradual end. I know it significantly reduced my performance as a teacher in the fall of 2001. I know it led me to question whether or not I had chosen the right profession, and whether or not I should become a full-time activist instead. I know it changed me politically, helping to bring me out of the far left and into any coalition that was willing to stand up to the crap the GOP has tried to get away with by using the 9/11 justification. In short, for me 9/11 did change almost everything. It changed my job, my politics, a long-term relationship, and even the dreams and hopes I have for my life.

Unfortunately, I do not think that it is possible to reclaim the phrase in such a manner. Given this, I feel our only option in the Blogopshere is to thoroughly discredit it. Thus, I believe it is time for a New Godwin's law. When in an argument, using any variation of the following will cause the user to lose the argument and end that line of discussion:

  • 9/11 changed everything
  • 9/11 You don't want another 9/11 to happen, do you?
  • This could be prevent another 9/11
  • A comparison involving terrorists or 9/11
Whatever we end up calling it this new law, or if it ever catches on, something drastic needs to be done about the way we use 9/11 in our culture and our politics.

The Revolution will be Blogged

I only ran across yesterday, somehow missing a very uncirculated AP interview which came out last week, Howard Dean looks back at his presidential campaign.  In it, Dean reflects back on parts of the campaign that stand out, and gives a a few 1-2-3's of what happened and what not; and with this part-- memories of which still give me a bit of a tingle:He knew he had struck a chord by the reaction to a speech at the California state Democratic convention in March of 2003.

''I gave the stump speech and then I got into this cadence of what the right-wingers had done to this country. And that's when the stuff started flowing,'' he said.

''Finally I said I am tired of taking orders from the fundamentalist preachers any more, and when I said that, the entire room exploded.


It sure did, and it was just the beginning of the ride. There will probably be a few books come out about the campaign from among the many participants. Mathew Gross has talked about writing a campaign memoir, there are a few of the communications/pr staffers that will write something (hopefully taking the media to task), and Trippi himself is coming out with a book, The Revolution will not be Televised-- which, unfortunately, isn't going to be a tell-all but, fortunately, will be about the empowerment of the netroots for democracy in politics. It's release is timed for the upcoming convention, or that was the latest word. Well, I'm sure it will be a great book, but it not the behind the scenes look that I'd hoped might come out.

I'm heading out to Florida for about 10 days, some work but mostly just hanging out with the family. Am leaving the blog to Chris Bowers, who has become one prolific blogger-- which I should have known would happen given his language background. And Matt Stoller, the blogosphere's guest blogger, will likely drop in with some posts. Anyway, one thing I noticed in reading through Dean's look back, was that I felt differently about DFA than I had up to this point... acceptance, distance, perspective, name it what you will. It's something I'm less attached to now, and there might actually flow a series of entries that shares from my own DFA experience.  We'll see what I start blogging when I get back-- if I'm able to do some reminiscent diary blogging in the month leading up the the convention, or maybe it just all washes out in the waves. So there's no sure Part II and follows, but maybe.    

Questions About Popular Conservative Blogs

According to The Truth Laid Bear, the three most trafficked conservative blogs are Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan and The Command Post. In fact, these are the only "conservative" blogs in the top twenty of all blogs.

What I find particularly interesting about these three blogs is that only The Command Post allows readers to directly and publicly comment on its stories (although not on the front page). What is it about conservatives that cause them to gravitate toward sites where their personal voices are restricted?

Perusing these three sites, I noticed something else. Particularly on Andrew Sullivan and The Command Post, there are an extraordinary number of front-page articles that complain about media bias. I complain about media bias myself from time to time, as I believe the media to be extremely pro-corporate and pro-imperialist. However, check out how much these three obsess over the media:

On the front-page of the Command Post Op-Ed Section, there are currently twenty articles dating from 5/11 until 5/25. Eight of these articles complain about "the media." One compares American torture at Abu Ghraib to that under Saddam's regime. One complains about France, and another complains about Michael Moore.

On the front-page of Andrew Sullivan, who admittedly despises "social conservatives," there are currently thirty-three articles. Three attack Susan Sontag (one of those was also an "email of the day"), two discuss Juan Cole, and one discusses Chomsky. Six others complain about the media coverage of the war in Iraq. Three others argue that the civilians in "the wedding party" were terrorists.

On the front page of Instapundit there are currently 62 posts. Of the three blogs I am discussing, this is the only one where complaining about the media was not most common type of story. On Instapundit, there are only nine stories complaining about the media (a few more discuss blogging in general). Still, overall, complaining about the media (mostly the media coverage of Iraq) is the most common topic on these three blogs of late.

Why are the three most popular conservative blogs, all of whom severely restrict public feedback on their writing (Instapundit does not have any form of feedback, Andrew Sullivan has someone else edit and select what feedback to publish on a back page of his blog, and the Command Post does not have links to comments on its main page), all blaming the failure of their policies on the way someone else reports on the progress of those policies? None of the people behind these blogs seems to even care what other people think. They write in the most interactive medium ever created, but apparently find direct, public feedback beneath them. Considering this, why are they so up in arms about what other pundits say concerning their policies?

This brings me to another question. Why are these the three most popular conservative blogs? There are hundreds of conservative blogs that allow for direct, public feedback, and do not blame everything in Iraq on the media. Why are conservatives more attracted to blogs where their problems are blamed on others and where they are personally restricted from participating in discussions?

I do not know the answer to the third question. My best guess is connected to a comment made by poster emptywheel concerning an older article of mine, Theory of Blogosphere as Avant-Garde:

My only complaint is the wider meaning of the word avant-garde, the political one, that advocates a class of intellectuals who lead the proletariat to revolution. It is a distinctly hierarchical model of understanding human behavior. (This hierarchical notion is, of course, where the impression that avant-garde poetry is pretentious.) Obviously, the blogosphere doesn't abide by such a hierarchical model. There is no clear line between the leaders and the followers here. Just a connotation that I think it's worth considering.

Do conservatives enjoy dividing themselves into leaders and followers without prompting? The three most popular conservative blogs go out of their way to try and re-draw the lines between leader and follower that the medium inherently blurs. Are these three blogs the most popular conservative blogs precisely because they restrict feedback, and lead their people in revolution against their evil media oppressors? Is the left-wing blogosphere so much better read and more successful in mobilizing the netroots precisely because it does not clearly differentiate between leaders and followers?

This isn't the most heavily trafficked site in the world, but I'll leave the answer to these questions up to you.

Update: Here is Kos's only media complaint story in the last 50 front-page articles on his site. Here's a tip for all the whining hawk bloggers out there: when you complain about media bias, the charges have more force when you can actually prove (in this case, through confession) that the media is biased.

Theory of the Blogosphere as Avant-Garde

What I am about to tell you will probably surprise, but also possibly delight you:

You are a member of the world's most powerful avant-garde movement.

Click on Extended Entry to Read the Theory

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads