Google Debate : Our weapons in the digital battle for freedom

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We ourselves laid out the bait now used to trap us. Bild: picture alliance / Bildagentur-online/Tips-Images

It was only possible to install the neofeudalist Google monopoly with assistance from traditional publishing houses. Recognizing this complicity is the key to toppling the tyrant. The means to liberation from digital servitude are at hand. We can free ourselves if only we take them up.

          8 Min.

          Mathias Döpfner’s confession attested to his fear. In the arts section of this newspaper the CEO of Axel Springer AG wrote: „We are frightened of Google. And I should say this clearly and honestly, as hardly any of my colleagues dare to.” While not making a paid statement, Döpfner was speaking on behalf of all those anonymous fearful people of whom there are many more than is customarily assumed. The search terms “Google & Angst” garners 20 million hits in the German language version, ten times more than the duo of “Putin & Angst”.

          (Deutsche Fassung: Unsere Waffen im digitalen Freiheitskampf)

          Immediate therapeutic steps are necessary to prevent the virus of fear spreading and becoming an epidemic. Which is why it bears relying on French humanist Étienne de La Boëtie, whose treatise “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” has historically proven to foster courage among its readers. Written almost 500 years ago, in the days of darkest feudalism, the work prompted the men of the Enlightenment to take up intellectual arms. Boëtie penned nothing less than a manifesto against losing heart in the face of strong powers:  “He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you.”

          We gave Google our brains and our hearts

          Every tyrant, so his argument reads, only rules because a fearful society obeys him – the despot as the sum total of all the faint-hearted: “Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you?” Boëtie concludes that “A people enslaves itself, cuts its own throat, when, having a choice between being vassals and being free men, it deserts its liberties and takes on the yoke.”

          Gabor Steingart

          Which brings us back to Google, Döpfner and the German publishing companies. Because Google’s power, and no one would dispute it, is a power that emanates in the traditional publishing houses even if it does not return to them. Of the many million German documents that the Google archive holds ready for us on its servers, no single text was written by a Google staffer; instead, all those articles that kindle enthusiasm, spark controversy, cause boredom or simply inform were written by authors of German publishing houses in German and – careful, as now the profile of the later victims as the original killers becomes clear, they were voluntarily handed over to the Google search engines.

          The content actually gets optimized for Google to make sure it fits smoothly into the array of algorithms. We have not only provided Google with our eyes and hands, but also with our brains as authors and our hearts as readers; meaning that the process of Google’s seizure of power initially involved no compulsion at all. Yes, Google has established a neofeudal monopoly of power in the digital kingdom; but no, it was not anonymous helpers who assisted in erecting it against us, but we ourselves. We are more stupid than the mice, because we ourselves placed the cheese in the trap that snares us. Any confessions of fear should therefore be read as self-incriminating evidence.

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