Posts Tagged Google
Richard Milhous Nixon may have been born too early. While our bejoweled and disgraced 37th president might seem like the prototypical curmudgeon, he could have dominated one of today’s hottest industries. Here are five reasons why Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur.
Consumers have grown a love-hate relationship with tech companies like Facebook and Google because of the way they collect and mine users’ data. This would have seen second nature for a man who organized a break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters. Imagine what he could have done with the Internet.
Nixon was a horrible person, but was also a master statesman. One of his most impressive achievement was playing China and the Soviet Union against each other.
Today, just as during the Cold War, we have a few giants slugging it out for world domination. If Nixon was in charge of one of them, you can bet that he would use his rivals’ competitiveness against them.
Being creepy and unable to relate to other people isn’t a requirement, but Nixon would definitely find kindred spirits in the same industry that spawned Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
Companies need to keep their trade secrets, well secret. Whether it’s Google Glass or the next iPhone, keeping information out of the public eye can create a competitive advantage. Nixon would have loved that.
Just as corporations feel they don’t have to tell anything to anyone but their shareholders, Nixon felt he had not obligation to tell Congress, the media, or voters what he was actually doing. Who else would send Henry Kissinger on a secret trip to China, or retain a team of “Plumbers” to take care of information leaks?
Did people stop using Facebook when they found out what the company was doing with their information? Did people stop buying Apple products when Jobs’ abusive nature was revealed? No, which is perfect for Nixon.
Tricky Dick thrived on a similarly understanding public. Never a likable guy, he wormed his way out of a campaign financing scandal with the famous “Checkers Speech,” and despite being a commie-hating conservative, he was able to take advantage of public outrage over the Vietnam War to win the presidency in 1968.
While president, Nixon was able to silence critics by co-opting liberal policies (he created the EPA and Amtrak and supported universal healthcare). Nothing could stop him. Well, almost nothing.
Like today’s tech barons, Nixon didn’t car about being liked, and found ways to make it so that the public didn’t have to like him either.
According to Noam Chomsky, Richard Nixon only made one major mistake. In a 1976 dialogue with Mitsou Ronat, Chomsky analyzed Watergate in the context of other American political upheavals, and concluded that it had nothing to do with democracy. “Nixon was condemned,” Chomsky said “not because he employed reprehensible methods in his political struggles, but because he made a mistake in the choice of adversaries against whom he turned these methods. He attacked people with power.”
The idea that, even in America, the powerful are only held accountable when they attack others with power is pretty cynical, but it seems to be playing out in the debate over SOPA and PIPA.
This debate is pretty unusual, because it is a battle of corporate interests as much as it is one of politics. On the pro-SOPA side are media and entertainment concerns like the Motion Picture Association of America and News Corp., who believe this legislation is needed to protect their intellectual property.
Fighting against SOPA are Internet companies like Google and Facebook, whose sites would be responsible for policing content under SOPA, or risk being shut down. This time, the suits are waving the free speech flag.
That is why SOPA will not become law. The Internet companies have as many resources (possibly more) than their opponents; the sponsors of SOPA severely underestimated them. Last week’s protests show how powerful Google and company really are.
Although both bills had bipartisan support, the backlash was equally bipartisan. Conservatives and liberals alike called SOPA a threat to free speech. President Obama said he would veto SOPA, while conservatives blamed him for it.
When was the last time such a mass demonstration of political will occurred? It’s not like Americans haven’t had big issues to support or challenge in recent years: last fall, during the peak of the Occupy Wall Street protests, the majority of people in a Time poll said they wanted tax increases for the wealthy, but how many of them wrote to their Congressman?
The United States seems to be mired with problems, but no one seems to be doing anything about them. Neither Congress or the American people can muster enough effort to solve problems like joblessness and tax reform, yet the reaction to SOPA was quick and decisive.
Would it have been as quick and decisive without Google directing people to contact their Congressman? SOPA threatens the rights of both corporations and people; luckily for people, the corporations are on their side this time.