This week’s installment of essays worth reading…
If you read one thing today, this should be it: How Carlos Ghosn escaped from Japan, according to the ex-Green Beret who snuck him out. This is an unbelievable thriller, I can’t even begin to summarize it.
I have written before about the myriad factual errors in Hulu’s Mrs. America, a show mostly developed to smear Phyllis Schlafly and re-write the history of feminism for younger audiences who don’t read books and are receiving increasingly shitty educations. But here’s another critique, if that interests you. Turns out, one of the writers for Mrs. America is a veteran of Mad Men. I had not previously contemplated the similarities in revisionist history between those two shows. Fun times.
Google is apparently keeping a list of conservative sites, and it made them universally invisible in their search results for a spell. I imagine this election cycle is going to get very interesting.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but Google’s search algorithm has become pretty bad since the 2016 election. I discovered that when I was writing blog posts back in the day about Hillary Clinton’s history of corruption. If I did not have a photographic memory, I would not have been able to find any old articles about her. They had been removed from search results in favor of more recent glowing stories about the candidate in the press. I was only able to find them by searching for specific language from the article that I happened to remember. Now, Google has competitors that make that easy, and the media has responded by 404’ing unflattering articles. The hoops they will jump through to put lipstick on their establishment pigs.
However, what did surprise me were some of the sites that appeared on the list. One was Prufrock, a conservative-leaning aggregator that focuses on art and literature. We aren’t just talking about the Daily Wire or Breitbart here. They are going after cultural sites. Pardon me, but that is some absolutely fucking insane Marxist behavior, and it’s from a publicly-traded company. Google is quite on a path to becoming a digital Enron.
I have noticed this stuff starting to creep into Amazon search results too, which frankly worries me more than Google (which is becoming easier and easier to replace as a practical matter). For example, I was searching for spelling workbooks for 4th graders the other day to give our daughter a little extra practice. I was searching for these books by name, like “Spectrum Spelling 4th Grade.” I would get exactly the books I was looking for as the first result, but the results that immediately followed were identity politics-driven. Like here’s your elementary school spelling book, and here’s a lesbian sex memoir. Then I would type in another title, and get some book on white privilege as the second result. I should have taken screenshots, as it happened several times and was unbelievably absurd.
As someone who writes algorithms for a living, I have no doubt that it was not an accident. To have algorithms return results like that, you have to program them to behave that way.
Cancel culture is wildly unpopular among Americans. So why does it pervade everything our media companies publish? (1) Corporate media in the US is concentrated in a handful of truly batshit, politically-connected and politics-obsessed people. (2) The peons those people hire live in an intellectual bubble that stops and ends on Twitter. The people writing the news don’t chase the news in the real world. They simply regurgitate what they see online, and what they see online is getting nastier and weirder every day, because people who live on Twitter need to invent ever crazier stuff to amuse themselves.
All, the same, some groups of Americans are becoming powerfully intolerant. These are the respondents who say they think people in the corporate world should be retaliated against according to their political donations. (This is illegal, by the way.)