Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ben Howe demonstrates the amazing power of imagination

What happens when you imagine that Google is a different thing than it actually is?  How about when you imagine that Google is secretly working with Democrats to manipulate elections?  Hypothetically, you might get a headline like this:

As it happens, it's not hypothetical--that's the title of Ben Howe's latest work over at Red State.  Ben has some thoughts about Google and the Obama campaign, and they're certainly...let's say interesting.  Here's what he had to say:

Remember that enormous, sophisticated data operation the Obama campaign had? The one that gave them massive daily data on public opinion trends in almost every segment of potential voters.

You mean the Internet? 

It’s almost as if Democrats had access to some sort of huge database of real time information about what the public was reading or writing online. The kind of breathtakingly large, real-time data that could be used for real-time trend analysis, predictive modeling and even behavioral manipulation.

This still sounds like you're just accusing them of using the Internet.  At least, it did until that behavioral manipulation bit--I've occasionally tried to change people's minds about things online and it's goddamn impossibleThe level of discourse is not especially high. 

On a completely unrelated note, former RNC eCampaign Director Michael Turk wrote Monday that “the frightening advantage the left has is in a less touted entity known as the Analyst Institute (AI) and a consortium of behavioral scientists” who are “concerned not only with your characteristics and voting behavior, but how they can manipulate that behavior.”

Hey, that isn't completely unrelated!  Liar.  I won't say it's not weird that presidential campaigns do extensive research into how to campaign successfully online, but it's not like Obama invented the idea (obviously, Al Gore did.  It is known).  Everyone campaigns online now, and there are tricks to that just like there are for all other sorts of media.  The main thing you seem to be upset about is that the Democrats are better at it, which: tough shit, dude. Also, the Republicans might be a little behind in the "manipulating people with the Internet" field, but by most measures they're way better at good old-fashioned alterations of the electoral process and voting districts.

Now, combine Obama’s political campaign with Google’s near-comprehensive real-time data and the left’s behavioral analysis.  What do you get? Beat.

Wow, that definitely is a winning combination!  If it were a real thing that actually happened, that is.  I think if Obama actually had information from Google about how to best appeal to the online population, his campaign literature would have looked something like this:

This goes beyond just campaigns.  Google likes to brag that they can detect flu outbreaks two weeks before the CDC based on search volume. Eric Schmidt once bragged that the company could predict stock market movements.

Imagine how much more could be learned if Google’s computer algorithms combined not only search data but also all of the data they get by reading everything written in or sent to Gmail and whatever you store on Google docs and Google Drive.

Imagination time!  Incidentally, citing accusations made by Microsoft as evidence of Google's wrongdoing is pretty weak, dude.

Then imagine what Democratic voter data groups like Catalist (which launched as a for-profit operation, allowing it much more latitude in working with outside groups…or companies)

The ominous ellipsis makes an appearance!  Sorry Ben, I'll let you finish your sentence now.

could do with that data.

Yes, imagine what the Democratic groups could do if Google shared their data.  That'd be highly illegal and one of the dumbest things Google could do with said data, but imagine!

With a  few tweaks to their algorithms 

Just imagine, if they tweaked their algorithms

Google could easily have near perfect insights into the voting behaviors and patterns of the U.S. population at large down to specific precincts, neighborhoods or even households.

Wait, are you suggesting they'd be able to figure out that I vote based on which candidate will keep beer prices lowest?  That's pretty advanced.

 The threat isn’t just that Google openly supports left wing politicians and policies.  That’s obvious, and that relationship goes both ways.  Google+ hosted Joe Biden for a “fireside chat” about gun control and Obama is doing a Google+ “hangout” immediately following his State of the Union speech tonight.

You can tell how biased Google is because they didn't ban Obama and Biden from using their freely available social media service and giving Google huge amounts of free publicity.

The real threat is that Google, or perhaps just a few people within the leadership of Google, may be quietly operating as a private intelligence agency for the left.

"I imagined it, and therefore it may be happening.  THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT!"

And every time you use Google or Gmail you could be contributing just a little bit more of your behavioral data to the left.

Hey, did you know that Chrome has this awesome Incognito mode!  It lets you hide what kind of porn you like from Obama.  There certainly are problems with living in America today, but it's nothing compared to living in the terrifying autocracy that Ben Howe and other overwrought writers imagine they live in.  Personally, when I use my imagination, I prefer to imagine a world where all people have stuffed animal heads, because why not?

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