The following polemic arose from some heated discussion on Google Plus about what Sergey Brin appeared to say in a Guardian article on 15 April, and then sought to clarify on Google Plus itself . It is also more directly a reply to Dieter Mueller’s commentary (since deleted from Google Plus) on both those points of discussion.
Follow the money, follow the consequence
There’s an old adage in journalism which says, when in doubt, follow the money. Brin’s money, in this case. The adage might be extended in all sorts of ways, but in Brin’s case it is particularly appropriate to note that addressing the ‘follow the money and the consequences’ formula has an easy component, and a quite disconcertingly opaque one.
Brin acknowledges no individually human consequences at all of having gouged out of the capital market a vast speculative fortune, or of having created the big brother apparatus that is Google. He doesn’t even acknowledge what I suspect he knows: sooner or later state regulators will realise that controlling the internet at the level of ISPs is far less elegant and easy than just controlling everything at the level of Google, and maybe Bing and a couple of others.
There are two issues arising from my observations in the paragraph above. The first is that Brin, like so many other robber baron capitalists in the US, appears to accept unquestioningly that personal ethics and social responsibility are entirely optional once you cloak any activity in the words ‘private enterprise’. Thus it is not Brin or Google who have a duty to society, but the state that owes it to Google. To make that fly with the great unwashed, Brin necessarily has to re-frame it as a public crusade to protect ‘freedom’, even if the intent is just to protect Google’s freedoms while it respects no one else’s whatsoever. Not a terribly sophisticated ploy, but one that seems to appeal to millions of simple minds.
The moral, intellectual imbecility of nerds
The second issue is a personal; focus for me. It is the one about the intellectual imbecility of science-trained savants who know nothing about history, politics, philosophy, art, literature, social dynamics, or even some of the ‘softer’ sciences like psychology. And yet these very people, backed by incalculable wealth generated by America’s egregious casino economy, suddenly become experts about the meaning of freedom, democracy, and what’s ‘right’. It’s hard to be eloquent about this, but the appropriate response from anyone with a tad more education than programming 101 is: ‘fuck you!’
If that’s too esoteric an argument, let me put it in the sharp focus of one of the great ideological myths of our times. Ask the idiot savants whether the European Shoah of 1933-1945 was wrong and they will all agree that it was. Now ask them why. Some will give you textbook answers, some will just insist that is wrong because that’s all they know to say. Now ask why mass murder or genocide is wrong and the astoundingly small number who can answer without resort to meaningless platitudes, and in a way consistent with the ethics they practice in their personal lives, makes any thinking person wonder when, not if, this whole thing’s going to happen again. Unless, of course you’re Vietnamese, Cypriot, South American, Afghhani, Iraqi, Iranian … . Because then you already know that your life has no intrinsic value at all to any American, particularly those who talk about enterprise, but also all those retarded technocrats who can utter moral platitudes about the Shoah and not understand their meaning.
This brings me to a contentious juncture, which is again a personal preoccupation, but not entirely inappropriate to the topic.
Who the hell do you think you are?
Messrs Brin, Zuckerberg, Cook, Page, Ballmer, Ellison, Bezos, et al better start to understand that very capable and insightful men existed before they did, and some were even educated, talented, and heroic in defining intellectually what it was that needed to be defended so the Johnny-come-latelys mentioned could do what they are doing. Some of these educated and courageous men also fought and died for rights more honestly and rationally defined than anything that’s come out of ‘Silicone’ Valley … evah! Corporate propaganda machines and secondary mass media aside, no thinking human being confuses the ‘rights’ of billion dollar corporations with anything remotely resembling ethics or the interests of 99.99 per cent of the people on the planet. Unless, of course, you went to The Simpson’s University and gained your baccalaureate degree in Pizza Management.
The preceding paragraphs were necessary to spell out the assumptions I make every time I read the words of some Amerikaner wunderkind telling me how to feel good about making him more wealthy, as is the case with Brin.
Did I forget something, Dieter?
So, now, to your points, Dieter. Errr. It seems I have addressed most of them already.
I don’t want to spend too much more time ranting and railing against the likes of Brin or Zuckerberg except where I can perceive some room to create dissidence that makes it easier than not for their minions to give me what I want along the way to their inevitable and thus far unstoppable rape and pillage of the planet.
Of course I won’t accept their definitions of moral, social or political positions. Of course I won’t actually agree with market analysts or all the many social media and marketing pundits so visible on Google Plus. You didn’t really think I sat in for a do-it-yourself course on full frontal lobotomy, did you Dieter?
The arrogance of Amerikaner ‘entrepreneurs’ and all the fawning sycophants surrounding them is eclipsed by my own, which is the arrogance of an unashamedly educated man arrogating to himself the privilege of keeping his own counsel on matters most other people on the planet cannot even spell, let alone critically analyse. But I realise that you can’t really say that too often before you get crucified for the kind of arrogance your bank account can’t pay for, or the sycophants-in-waiting aren’t prepared to back as a new ‘hipster’ cause. (Now there’s a polemic just waiting to be written: the misappropriation of the term ‘hipster’, which actually describes politically oppressed and pursued, courageous Americans in the 1950s. I guess you’d need to know some history to know that.)
And thus. There is no openness in Google processes. Those guys are even too dumb and ill educated to know what effective PR could do for their cause. There is nothing about Google that could lead a reasonably bright person to think the company gives a shit about anything but executive bonuses and keeping it secret that it’s not such a great place to work at. There’s no intersection between Google’s corporate aims and my own personal ones except for in the infrastructure space, which is unfortunately designed and controlled by retarded savants who think their social, ethical, and political disabilities are actually cool because it looks that way on Big Bang Theory.
The Amerikaner ethical nihilism
I have no more pity for businesses sucked into a speculative advertising/marketing game of craps than I do for an African mercenary shooting his own relatives for a ‘cause’ or a bowl of rice. They are both wilful participants in a cannibalism of sorts. Neither appear to think it appropriate to pause and think about ethics and the effect of what they do on the society around them. Both have arguments that resonate ideologically about the exigencies of business or just following orders. None of that improves matters for either of them, or anyone around them, and they just don’t care to acknowledge that sad, harsh, murderous fact.
Who in America can lecture the rest of the world about the ethics of these circumstances?
So, in conclusion, I suspect that the lesson I learnt from debates in recent threads here is that too many people are in doubt about what the fuck we are doing in societies in the first place. Did we build and develop them for us, or for an ever dwindling number of the privileged few? And before I hear that limp-wristed Amerikaner argument about ‘what can we do’ one more time, let me just say that taking it all back from the one per cent, with relentless determination and lots of guns, would be the easy part. Knowing what to do when that’s done is the incalculably difficult intellectual task.