“I don’t believe anything coming out of mainstream media anymore. I don’t believe anything they say. And the problem here is if they ever do say something true, nobody’s going to believe them – because their track record is so bad.”
– Trump supporter, August 2, 2018.
Not quite what the mainstream media had in mind when they introduced the term ‘fake news’ all those months, now years, ago, as a phrase weaponized against their opponents.
Or, maybe it was what they had in mind …
Last week, plans were announced for a new Google business venture in China – the creation of a new Google search engine for the country with the censorship desired by the Chinese government built into the system. It has been in the works for years and is expected to launch sometime in the next six to nine months.
I guess “announced” is probably not the right term for it. This was not, ironically when we talk about censorship, something revealed by mainstream media, or even from the offices of Google. Instead, information about the project was leaked and reported by The Intercept.
Google, the third largest company in the world by market value, already avoids paying taxes. They are a company besieged by discrimination lawsuits from former employees, workplace harassment controversies, and diversity issues.
Now, under the beautiful California sunshine, they develop an explicit tool of oppression, a tool designed specifically to restrict free speech and expression, designed specifically to empower the authoritarian regime of one of the most powerful countries on earth to further trample human rights.
As fate would have it, the United States – as in, Google’s home country – is also one of the most powerful nations on earth, perhaps the most. It also happens that censorship is becoming a major issue in this country, as in China.
Consider the Trump supporter who believes the mainstream media to be, in the words of the President, “fake, fake, disgusting news.”
Then consider that they are not necessarily wrong – mainstream journalistic standards falling to the point where they appear a pantomime of themselves – and they are certainly not alone. According to recent studies, more than 3-in-4 Americans believe “traditional major TV and newspaper media outlets report “fake news” and barely 40% of Americans have even a “fair amount” of trust in “mass media.”
Consider Facebook’s recent reveal of its “secret rules for censoring posts.”
Consider the controversy over Twitter allegedly “limit[ing] or delete[ing] posts or entire user accounts.”
Consider Youtube’s long and expanding history with censorship.
Consider certain websites, deplorable as they may be, getting “kicked off the internet.”
Consider reports that “free speech at American universities is under threat.”
What happens when mainstream media is “fake” and/or untrustworthy, and alternative hubs of information are increasingly censored?
Whether of your enemy or your friend, the parameters of censorship are being tested aggressively in the United States.
When McDonald’s introduced Chicken McNuggets in 1981, they didn’t do so in every one of their stores from the start. They tested the product first in Tennessee, and, after breaking all sales records, released McNuggets globally in 1983.
I wouldn’t necessarily look at Google’s new censorship-included search engine as just another thing ‘crazy ol’ China’ is doing. Think of it more as a product being introduced in a receptive test market before wider export to your neighborhood and mine.
I could really go for some Chicken McNuggets right now though.