I have been interacting on FaceBook with a conservative named Kevin. On one level he seems to be an okay guy but on another, he comes off as a bit of an idiot. Why? Because to prove arguments, he suggests that one Google something, then based on the number of hits generated, he deems as credible anything churned up via a key word search.
In Kevin’s world, the popularity of a topic (as measured by “hits”) gives it weight…e.g. “For those who think this is not an issue – Google ‘Voter Fraud 2010’ – over 3 million hits.”
I’ve tried to explain to Kevin that Google search results can indeed yield a universe of information, much of it not remotely verified. That just because someone writes about something on-line and it winds up being culled by a search engine doesn’t mean it’s valid. Witness this banal article. I don’t even know Kevin. He’s some guy that commented on a thread we both can access. Even so, Google “Kevin is an idiot” and for the time being, this post will appear near or at the top of your generated results list. If I embed a bunch of hot (ribald or profane) keywords, I could generate gazillions of hits with precious little content–none of it even remotely pertinent or factual. Welcome to the disinformation age.
At one point, Kevin instructs me to “Google Acorn Voter Fraud. According to an FBI report, Acorn workers said that the purpose of their Project Vote cards were to: To cause confusion on election day to keep polls open longer ◦To allow people who can’t vote to vote. ◦To allow to vote multiple times.”(sic) No citation for an unnamed report, featuring unidentified ACORN employees and anonymous FBI agents…but it’s the product of a Google search, so I’m expected to accept it unflinchingly.
I don’t mean to be uncharitable but that’s why I consider Kevin to be an utter flatliner. It’s not the only reason, mind you…his opinions are rife with right-wing logic and talking points that date back to Reagan. I’m used to that. Those of us who spend any time at all debating socio-economic issues with American conservatives are accustomed to sharpening these dull, old saws. In the end, though, it’s a waste of time, because theirs is the only valid explanation. (So there’s that.)
Kevin is really NOT an idiot–I just used that as a device–but he could play one on TV.