Obviously, the President is in trouble on the legal front.
In the short space of a week, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and implicated his former boss in open court, Paul Manafort was convicted and now faces a second trial and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors.
Don McGahn, who sat for more than 30 hours worth of interviews with Robert Mueller, is set to depart within months and Deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, who oversaw compliance and ethics, is leaving today.
All of that as the special counsel ponders whether to indict a sitting president and, more likely, the President’s family members, on a laundry list of charges.
Desperate, Trump lashed out at Google this week, accusing the company of conspiring against him and other conservatives because the company’s algos surface news that pertains to his legal troubles. He didn’t quite put it that way, but that’s the gist of it. He needed a windmill to tilt at and it just so happens that tilting at this particular windmill will temporarily serve as Band-Aid because for the next week, one of the stories that will land at the top of Google’s search results for “Trump news” will be a story about Trump criticizing Google.
The timing of Trump’s campaign against Google isn’t a coincidence. In addition to representing an effort to undermine public trust in the news at a time when the walls are closing in on his administration and his family, the President’s anti-Google rants are an attempt to piggyback on the recent crackdown against right-leaning conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.
As detailed extensively here, the tactics the President employed this week mirror the tactics used by Jones and his ilk when it comes to promoting misinformation. They assert a conspiracy that, by virtue of being insane, isn’t disprovable, then they demand that doubters prove it isn’t true. When no such proof is produced, they use that to support the contention that everyone else is “in on it”. Rinse, repeat and harvest the click money (or in Trump’s case, harvest the political capital from the renewed fervor in the Roseanne base).
Of course Trump’s allegations against Google have no merit and Trump offered no substantive proof to back up his claims which were based on a haphazard, non-scientific “study” by Paula Bolyard who has since “clarified” her position in an Op-Ed published in the Washington Post.
I want to excerpt that Op-Ed here because while I strongly disagree with most of it and while I think the defensive (and sometimes blatantly indignant) tone speaks for itself, I will give Bolyard credit for a couple of things, including the recognition that no good conservative would advocate for government regulation of private companies. Consider this, from the Op-Ed:
In my article, I reported that 96 of 100 results returned were from left-leaning news outlets. In fact, nearly one-fourth of the results (21) were from CNN. (To determine which sites were right- or left-leaning , I used a chart from former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.) I stressed in my report that my research was not scientific and that it included only a small sample size (100 results). I did, however, link to a report from a reputable online-traffic software company that studied 2,000 search results and found that left-leaning sites received far more hits on hot-button political issues than right-leaning sites.
The president, who likely saw a story on Lou Dobbs’s Fox Business Network show about my piece, took that 96 percent figure and ran with it, calling for an investigation into the “rigged” search results and suggesting that the government might need to regulate big tech companies.
As a conservative who tends to be rather libertarian on tech issues, I beg to disagree. The government has no business regulating private companies for their political views, and it would set a dangerous precedent to do so in this case. Government regulation would only make things worse. The Internet would be less free, and fewer voices would be allowed to have a say.
There you go. That is the author of the source “material” (if you want to call it that) for Trump’s anti-Google crusade explicitly stating that he is wrong to consider taking action against the company in the interest of promoting conservative views.
Bolyard then launches into a series of absurd allegations about how tech companies are “cocooned in their Silicon Valley bubble” and are thus unable to understand flyover America. To that I would ask: Ok, so how about Donald Trump who poses with actual money in magazines? And Steve Mnuchin, whose wife poor-shames working moms on Instagram? And Paul Manafort, who wears ostrich shirts? And Wilbur Ross? And on, and on, and on.
Is it realistic to think that a real estate mogul who was handed life on a silver platter is the man for the job when it comes to helping flyover America? Of course not. That’s patently ridiculous.
But after briefly veering onto the shoulder and hitting the rumble strips, Bolyard mercifully steers the Op-Ed back onto the road. To wit:
I’m notoptimistic that these companies are motivated to fix this problem on their own or change their hiring practices to include a balance of liberal and conservative voices.
And they shouldn’t have to.
Rather, users should be proactive in seeking sites and sources they trust.
That, right there, is key. Where Bolyard is wrong is in perpetuating the myth that thoughtful, serious conservative commentary is hard to find. It’s not. I read it all the time and guess where I often start to find it? That’s right: Google.
Just because the only thing you can think to type into the Google search box is “Trump news”, doesn’t mean Google is suppressing conservative commentary. That’s akin to walking into a grocery store and claiming that Kroger is deliberately hiding the peanut butter because the only aisle you could think to go down was the “snacks” aisle.
If you’re a Trump fan and you think Google is suppressing conservative commentary because you don’t like the results you get when you type in “Trump news”, one thing you might want to consider is the fact that Trump isn’t really a conservative, just like peanut butter isn’t really a “snack”. To extend the grocery store analogy, it’s not Kroger’s fault that you’re in the wrong aisle.
And see that gets back to the points I made earlier this week. Trump is trying to equate “conservative” with the likes of Alex Jones, True Pundit and other sycophantic outlets that in no way, shape or form represent serious conservative commentary.
I have no idea whether Bolyard or PJ Media represent the kind of conservative commentary that I would consider “credible” – somehow I doubt it, especially considering my bar for “credible” conservative commentary is pretty high.
Bolyard is right, however, to point out the glaring irony inherent in a conservative advocating for heavy-handed government intervention to “fix” a problem – real or imagined.
Perhaps more importantly, the Op-Ed is precisely correct (and I mean precisely) to say that it is not Google’s job to actively hire conservatives. Rather, it is readers’ job to go out and find the most credible sources that align with their views.
No one is pretending that folks don’t get up every morning in search of confirmation bias on the internet. That’s human nature. But what you can do is ensure that the sources for that confirmation bias are some semblance of credible. If you can’t be bothered to expend enough effort to separate the serious from the Infowars, well then don’t be surprised that Infowars doesn’t pop up at the top of the Google news feed.
Oh, and by the way, you can’t take Trump seriously on this in the first place. After all, it was less than six weeks ago when he called Google “one of [America’s] great companies”.
I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018