17A028 Google Denny's by Jim Davies, 8/22/2017    


If you do, you'll find a Wikipedia entry which reveals that during the 1990s, the Denny's restaurant chain discriminated against black customers. Now, the chain is franchised, so control by the corporate office is indirect; but if a franchise operator refused to seat black customers it would not be hard for the company to decline to renew his contract, should it so wish. So, it's not unfair to say that Denny's had a policy to favor one skin color over another; and under that régime an employee who made it known that he or she disagreed with that policy could expect to become the early recipient of a pink slip.

That is not unfair. Companies have policies; employees are expected (and paid) to support them. One of them publicly disputes it, or refuses to follow it, his "help" becomes worth less than his wage so it's reasonable to let him go and replace him with one who will.

That is true, regardless of whether you and I might think a policy is stupid, wrong or counterproductive. Property rights are, or should be, absolute; if in the 1990s you didn't like Denny's policy about blacks, you were free to quit your job there, to sell any shares you might hold in the company, and to take your appetite to HoJo's or some other restaurant across the street. At that time, some franchisees presumably found the policy paid off. They obviously lost the patronage of many black customers, but they avoided losses suffered when blacks took a meal and then left without paying, and they attracted extra business from White Supremacist customers who might go out of their way to bring them business. What you or I think about the policy is irrelevant; the owners alone are rightfully in control.

It's the same with bakers and same-sex marriages. Indiana Governor Mike Pence went a small way towards supporting the right of a local wedding-cake baker to decline such business, but only if he did so for religious reasons, and that's outrageous. No businessman should have to embrace a religion so as to recover the right to decide how to use his own property.

Now back to Google. Unfortunately Denny's does not operate a search engine, so it's not possible to make the eatery into a verb and "Denny's Google"; but this month Google's CEO Eric Schmidt fired an employee who had expressed disagreement with a company policy. His name is James Damore and he had circulated a well written memorandum to the effect that the Company's politically-correct insistence that females and males should be about equally represented in its work force regardless of their respective merits and abilities, was counterproductive. He held the view that women are in general better than men at some tasks, while men are in general better than women at some other tasks; and that a lot of the work in Google is better done by men. Accordingly, his view is that jobs should be filled on merit, regardless of gender. Since that conflicts with Google's policy, he was let go.

For exactly the same reason as Denny's franchisees should have remained free to run their eateries any way they thought most profitable, the Google company is or should be entirely free to employ James Damore or not, at will. I totally disagree with that policy as I do with the 1990's policy of Denny's - but my opinion is irrelevant in both cases. My interest is limited to boycotting both; I do not and will not own shares in Google and do my best to avoid using the Google search engine. If you agree, I hope you too will boycott Eric Schmidt's outfit.

It's not hard. There are half a dozen good engines, including DuckDuckGo and Ixquick; I use the latter, even though only the Firefox browser will enable Ixquick to become its default engine. Both of those promote their services with claims like "The search engine that doesn't track you. Learn More." That is quite a claim, for tracking visitors is key to the usual method of "monetarizing" a search engine; if the operator knows your interests, he can more easily sell space to advertisers based on those interests. It's a powerful idea, and Google makes tens of billions a year from it. How do Ixquick and DDG monetarize their services? - it would be nice if they provided them free from the goodness of their hearts, but eventually they'll have to eat (and not just at Denny's.) I'd like them to be profitable.

Google was begun by two brilliant young men, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and they figured out how to scour the whole Internet for information about any subject of interest to the visitor. That is an extraordinary achievement, one of the great inventions of all time. It has radically improved the access to information by scores of millions of people; what used to take a scholarly researcher hours or days in a library can now be done in minutes by anybody with a computer.

They made the service profitable as above by tracking interests and selling that data to advertisers, and that too is not a problem to me; I'd far sooner have a peripheral view of some product that might be of interest, than of one that certainly isn't. And in any case nobody compels me to respond to any such advertisement; all of them are offers I can refuse or ignore.

Then they sold out, by offering shares to the public in 2004, and became wealthy and good luck to them; Schmidt had been appointed CEO. He is, alas, an unregenerate Statist and he has steered the company towards government. Tracking data is sold not just to advertisers whose offers can be refused, but to burerau-rats whose offers can not be refused. Under his guidance, Google has become a perverse arm of the surveillance state; while it used to be a neat way to find information about anything including government, now it's also a way for government to find information about you and me.

Further, given Google's dominant position in the field, it's feasible for it to "color" its responses to searches, by placing links on the first page displayed the sites that best conform to some government-approved standard, while relegating others to Page 17 or even preventing their appearance altogether; that would be a subtle and highly sinister form of censorship. I don't have evidence that it is taking place; but once a large firm gets into bed with the State, it's only too easy for such a thing to occur. If it did, this innovative source of information would become a destructive source of disinformation, of propaganda. On top of all that, and quite possibly to attract even more business from government, Schmidt has implemented its PC policy about gender etc.; for all these reasons, I avoid its web site.

Once government has evaporated on E-Day, none of those worries will apply. Google and its rivals will each chase honest bucks, by trying to provide the best available information to customers with no reference to Big Brother or any other third party. Hasten the day!

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