There’s an old saying that it’s often difficult to “see the forest for the trees” — meaning that the details can obscure our ability to understand the overall aspects of a situation. But this past week, we’ve had an unusual opportunity to get an “overhead” view of the racist, sexist, antisemitic alt-right in operation, and the patterns that have emerged are of significant interest.
In particular, fired Googler James Damore’s rapid embrace of the alt-right, and their reciprocal embrace of him as their “useful idiot” of the moment, are extremely telling, especially the latter’s public targeting of individual Google employees (please see: “Google Employees Are Being Targeted by Alt-Right Racists” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/10/google-employees-are-being-targeted-by-alt-right-racists).
If you mainly frequent “mainstream” media, I don’t blame you if you’re not aware of this twisted new romance and its direct ties to the pro-Trump media machine, all well documented in this excellent article.
After all, exploring the sordid swamps of alt-right websites is not everyone’s cup of tea.
But if you take the time to do so (I recommend not doing this after a meal, by the way) it quickly becomes obvious why wannabe Nazis (and the genuine Nazis, for that matter) have so quickly elevated Damore to alt-right hero status, already weaving his interviews — that he gleefully provided to alt-right superstars — into their propaganda writings and videos, with a full-bore attack against Google.
It’s all about the money.
For most of their existence, the major search and social media firms have generally treated the vast majority of content as being pretty much equivalent in terms of their appropriateness, a laissez–faire approach as it were, with the exception of clearly illegal materials.
But especially in the wake of Trump’s election, it has become clear that the essentially egalitarian nature of related ad network systems in particular have provided a massive funding stream to the worst of the alt-right hate sites and their affiliated fake news and propaganda operations, which — under the influence of their Russian masters — played a major role in electing the vile, lying sociopath now (occasionally, when he’s not playing golf) in the Oval Office.
Recently, the major firms like Google, Facebook, and others have taken steps that many of us have long recommended, and have begun more rigorously enforcing their existing Terms of Service (TOS) to reign in hate speech content that has been suckling on their ad money teats for far too long. These firms are free to determine what is or is not suitable for their platforms. The First Amendment — frequently touted by the hate groups — only applies to government actions related to speech.
Fact-checking systems are being deployed by Google and Facebook. Google has taken steps to eliminate monetization of various hate-related materials, especially in the case of YouTube videos. Google’s YouTube is also taking actions to prevent many hate and associated videos from appearing in “suggested video” listings, further limiting the reach of this vile content.
While it could be argued (and in fact I have argued) that much of this material should be removed from these platforms entirely under TOS rules, the paradigms of preventing the monetization of hate speech, and limiting its ability to surface for unsuspecting users who never asked to see it, appear to be useful approaches.
And if you visit the alt-right swamp sites, you’ll quickly see the panic ensuing over the realization that their income flows from the mainstream ad systems and ad networks are at serious risk.
Which brings us back to James Damore, who seems (likely unknowingly) to be playing a 2017 version of the unenviable role “Fool King for a Day” from the classic 1973 film “The Wicker Man.”
The alt-right doesn’t actually care about Damore of course. They see him as an easily disposable figurehead. He’s someone that they can use to amplify their ranting displeasure with Google’s finally taking reasonable actions to reign in the monetization of alt-right hate, lies, and other bile. He’s someone to carry high on a paper mache throne as they march on Google offices in a desperate attempt to regain their previous ability to leverage these platforms for their hate, lies, and other evils.
Some in the alt-right have already accurately concluded that their efforts in these regards will very likely fail, so they’re calling for their hate-brethren to create their own search and social media ecosystems — all hate all the time, as it were. Some such systems are already operational. To assist with their site branding, I’ll note that a serviceable Swastika is available as Unicode character U+534D (you might want to flip it over to match Third Reich standards, but that’s up to you).
I approve of such “all the rotten apples in a few barrels” approaches.
I do not call for government censorship of their evil rants. If they wish to use their own systems for their vile propaganda, and solicit funds from like-minded creatures of the night, I have no objection, so long as the flow of click income from unsuspecting, ethical folks visiting mainstream sites has been eliminated.
Once you get above the treetops, the shape of the forest can be fairly straightforward to discern, and so it is with the war between the alt-right and Google.
Keep up the good work Google. We’re proud of you.