Don’t let Silicon Valley tell you how to think
If we don’t have the courage to stand up to powerful people, we’re going to get steamrolled.
You have two choices, America: Grow a fucking spine, or be ruled by Trumps and Zucks for the rest of your life.
Here’s the latest case of cowardice. The New America Foundation, a prominent left-wing Washington think tank, has fired a researcher who was critical of Google. Why? Because this think tank “has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999.”
Why else? Because Alphabet (Google) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt “communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter.” A few days later, Slaughter called the researcher, Barry Lynn, into her office and fired him. “Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings,” Lynn told The New York Times. “People are so afraid of Google now.”
Lynn’s big crime was to write a statement praising the European Union for standing up to Google and enforcing its anti-trust laws. The E.U. fined the company €2.42 billion in June for abusing the power of its search engine to corner markets.
“Google’s market power is one of the most critical challenges for competition policymakers in the world today,” Lynn wrote. “By requiring that Google give equal treatment to rival services instead of privileging its own, Vestager is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.”
Slaughter, when confronted by the possible loss of a donor, should have stood by her team and dealt with the consequences. Courage means taking a financial hit on the jaw while preserving your individual and institutional integrity. After the Times story dropped, it released a pathetic statement calling the reporting “false” (sound familiar?) but without explaining how exactly.
This isn’t just about Google and the New America Foundation. It’s about a U.S. Congress that allows itself to be bullied by a madman. It’s about the American regulators who have consistently given the green light to mergers that undermine competition at the expense of consumers. And it’s about a generation of consumers — all of us — who allow companies like Facebook, Google and Apple to sap our time, our energy and our most private information.
When one person stands up to tyranny, they get their ass kicked. Slaughter wasn’t willing to do it. She appears to have decided it was better to keep operating at strength, despite corporate overlords, than to risk having to shut down the organization. That’s why this moment requires a vigorous national project to understand how those in power use their power, and to take back control of our country and our lives.