Nothing irks me more than having my access to information restricted and controlled. After having lived in China for three and a half years, and in the Middle East for a year, I relished the free access to information available on the internet in America. But that seems to have changed, and not so subtly either.
Like most people, I became addicted to Google. With the world’s largest search database, I had whatever I wanted at my fingertips. True, I’ve heard the voices of other Google users that the megalith search engine company favored one candidate over the other, but I am no novice Google user. I can usually find what I want—until today.
While running my 12th grade English students through the paces in my debate unit, the topic of school massacres came, as one might expect considering the recent events in Florida. My students had the impression that this is only a big problem in the United States. As a world traveler and somebody that keeps an eye on all things international, I thought I would do some impromptu fact checking for these otherwise naive students. So I went right to Google and typed “world’s worst school shootings.” To my surprise, the entire first page of search results are all articles on school shootings in the U.S., only the U.S. But I’m not as naive of my students, so I cleverly clicked the “next page” button. The results were the same. Okay, then, the third page. The same. Only in the last two search results at the bottom of page 4 did I see anything that was not a strictly American event.
So I switched to Bing, something I rarely use because I’m not keen on Bill Gates making more money off of me than absolutely necessary. At least Bing knew the difference between my search term “world” and Google’s presumption that I must have meant to say “U.S.” or “America.” With Bing, the first three search results were lists of the worst school catastrophes and not just those in America. I was able to show my students that the worse school shooting happened in Beslan, Russia, in 2004 (when my students were four years old), where 385 people were killed, 783 injured, and 1,100 people were held hostage, of which 777 were children under the age of 18. Considering the fact that Russia does not allow the private ownership of firearms helped fuel our discussion on gun control as a prophylactic for gun violence in schools.
That was intervention enough to have thoroughly ended my addiction to Google.
When I’m not teaching, I spend a lot of my time writing about some of the sh**hole countries in which I’ve lived and worked, or visited, and comparing them to what happens in America. The most disturbing comparisons I discover are when we emulate the government of a communist country, such as China, or a theocracy, such as Kuwait. We should endeavor to be other than that, and controlling our access to information is one of the worse things countries like China and Kuwait do.
China is worse. It is so bad now in China that Google is blocked and on one date a couple of years ago, all Gmail email accounts were instantly rendered useless. Try doing an internet search on Tiananmen Square while you’re in China. Here, even with Google, your first hit will be an article on the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989 and a photo of “Tank Man,” a lone Chinese man wearing a white shirt standing in front of a column of tanks. When Google was available in China, succumbing to the demands of the Chinese censors, your first hit was a poetic image of the sun rising in the east on world’s largest plaza, nothing at all about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. China’s “Google” is a search engine called Baidu, an entirely state-controlled entity. Here, a search for Tiananmen Square will result of glorious descriptions in patriotic imagery of the center of Chinese government and society as well as two sites proclaiming that the Tiananmen Square Massacre is nothing more than a myth. Anybody who was there knows better. Likewise, anybody should know better, that America is not the only country where crazy people try to kill our children at school. It even happens in China where now all schools have guards controlling the gates to school grounds.
There is a difference, however. The internet is controlled by the state in China (and too many places elsewhere), and Google is a private entity not subject to government control. But that, too, is a myth. According to one source I found using Google, Google controls about 63.4% of the search engine market in America, compared to 11.6% for Yahoo and 22.6% for Microsoft (Bing). The top result for my search on Bing showed a slight difference, with Google garnering a 66.44% share and Bing netting only 18.7%. This shows something other than the fact that Bing is not trying to blow its own horn. It shows that Google enjoys monopoly control of all internet searches in America.
That market share brings it squarely in the realm of America’s anti-trust laws, which is where the government gets to step in and exercise its control over the industry. Our first anti-trust law, the Sherman Act, came about in 1890 as a way of controlling America’s largest companies, many of which controlled the market, and to prevent those companies from raping the American public. Likewise, because Google enjoys such a large share of the market, and too many are addicted to Google, Google has the opportunity to control what we believe. That is a dangerous thing, and in that regard Google is no different than the internet censors of Communist China. The fact that our government allows Google to operate its monopoly with impunity makes the American government complacent and an enabler of this information manipulation.
One might think that our Justice Department, which prosecutes anti-trust crimes, as well as the White House, would do something about it. But the unfortunate thing is that the bureaucracy is just too thick and there are too many people who think that they know better than us. Those rulers of the deep state do not trust us to think for ourselves by allowing us to have the information we need to do our thinking. Actually, it’s more than that. Those who allow us to be controlled by the likes of Google are simply using Google as their tool to control us, just as the Chinese Communist Party controls the people of China.