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Samizdata quote of the day – it’s all in the punctuation

I have long been of the opinion that Google’s old motto was merely lacking in the proper punctuation. Whenever a Google employee thought, “Should I do the right thing?”, they looked to the company motto for their answer: “Don’t. Be Evil.”


20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – it’s all in the punctuation

  • Kirk

    It’s long been my experience that whenever someone makes a point of saying something like “Don’t be evil” in their documentation, that’s almost always a signal that they intend to do just that.

    Bible has it, something to the effect of “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion“, which I believe is Proverbs 28:1. The meaning there is that if someone makes a point of telling you “I’m an honest man…”, well… He probably ain’t.

    Every time I’ve run into someone emblazoning their business cards and signage for their enterprises with that little Christian fish symbol, what I’ve encountered has been truly egregious crookedness and outright theft. I’ve never had someone that did that not at least try to cheat me, and if I have to do business with them, I always take extreme care in dealing with them. Never, ever pay in advance with one of those characters.

    And, it ain’t that they’re “Christian”, either… It’s that they’re doing the cuckoo thing, and wrapping themselves in the mantle in order to get you to let your guard down. Just like Google did with that “Don’t be evil…” thing.

    Someone does you the favor of telling you that crap, up front? Get out. Do not do business with them. They are out to rip you off, cheat you, and generally do you dirty. A man tells you “I’m an honest man…”, he almost certainly is not.

    Likewise, if someone makes a point of telling you something upon first meeting them? Expect to see that happen, in your experience of them. Girl I knew made a point of telling me how much she hated cheaters and infidelity; I found her immensely unattractive, having the personality of a vicious stoat. One of my circle of friends and acquaintances didn’t find her unattractive, however, and he got to find out what she really thought about fidelity when other friends presented him with a hefty dry-cleaning bill after he returned from a deployment. His then-fiance had gone to a party at their place, appropriated a bedroom, and proceeded to solicit having a train pulled on her by all and sundry. It was a situation that had run out of control, I suspect. Quite the mess, but like I told him afterwards, there were signs… She’d told him how much she hated cheaters, too.

    Only the truly proficient con artists are smart enough to avoid this signalling; the really good ones know that they have to demonstrate good character long enough to lull you, and that mere words are not enough. The inept? They’ll telegraph it all, just like Google did.

  • Soon after Google search launched, I emailed their general support address to point out that their company name could be parsed as “go ogle”. The response I received hinted that perhaps this was not accidental.

  • Bruce

    In English, and many =other languages, punctuation and “timing / prasing” are important.

    For example:

    “What is this thing called, “love”?

    “What is this thing called, love?”

    What? Is this thing called, “love”?

    And so on.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    Google was officially formed in 1998 so it still has some time to go before it reaches my 70 year rule of thumb… when organisations subordinate their original purpose(s) to the interests of their careerist executives and the comfortable working practices of the workers.

    You can make an argument that Google has already been captured by the Woke. “Don’t be evil” has been overtaken by “Do the right thing”.

  • Paul Marks

    No – this post misses the point.

    There was a time when Google really did want to operate fairly (that is how it became so successful – there was a time when its search engine was not the biased political tool it is today) – that is what “Don’t Be Evil” was about, it was the move to the “Be Good” doctrine that was the transformation.

    “Don’t Be Evil” is a libertarian sentiment – it meant do not cheat, do not mess people about. “Be Good” has come to mean impose “Critical Theory” Marxist DEI on people, whether they want it or not.

    Dr Robert Epstein was (as far as I know) the first academic researcher to expose the systematic leftist bias of Google – but he was also clear that it was not always this way, it had once been straight. Once “Don’t Be Evil”, operate fairly, had been a real thing.

  • AndrewZ

    I agree with Paul Marks that “Don’t Be Evil” originally had a much more specific meaning, about giving honest results from the search engine.

    However, I suspect that there was also an element of naivete involved. It was the slogan of optimistic entrepreneurs with a new company, who probably never thought very much about what they would do if they faced serious political pressure to bias their results or censor some topics completely, possibly with billions of dollars of revenue at stake.

    They may not have realised that any company capable of influencing public opinion will be dragged into partisan politics because every interest group will want to co-opt it for their own ends. Even insisting on unbiassed search results becomes a political act if the domestic political establishment and foreign governments don’t want that.

    So, we shouldn’t be surprised if the founders’ original vision got compromised, or if they never really understood how difficult it would actually be to uphold it as the company became something huge and powerful.

  • Martin

    Conquest’s second law seems to have played out at Google, and almost all multinational corporations.

  • Paul Marks

    AndrewZ – yes.

    Martin – yes.

    People without strong and clear principles always fall victim to the left – the left hand path is indeed “the broad easy road that leads to Hell” – the righteous path is a very steep and difficult climb, meaning terrible effort every day.

    And a Corporate structure, a bureaucracy, also leads that way – say that a particular Corporate manager is a true hero, ready to stand against the forces of evil to the end, he (or she) does not actually own the company – and so will be forced out and replaced by more “flexible” and “pragmatic” person. Remember most shares are, due to Credit Money concentrating the economy (the Cantillon Effect), controlled by a few entities – BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard and the Credit Bubble banks (Anti Trust laws miss the point – as the “competing” companies are controlled by people with the same world-view, indeed the shares in the “competing” companies are often controlled by the same people – hence, for example, the Hollywood companies all pushing the same, vile, doctrines).

    End result – a boot stamping down on the faces of dissenting human beings.

  • SteveD

    No – this post misses the point.

    The post is entirely facetious so it is impossible for it to miss the point.

  • bobby b

    For a committed leftist, “don’t be evil” means “don’t be conservative.” Remember, they think we’re evil. So it was a good choice of motto in the beginning.

    Later, as Google’s power grew, avoidance of actual evil became too limiting.

  • anon

    Paul: Did I miss the point? I don’t think I missed it, as much as I was making a different, though related, one.

    I came up with the punctuation quip long before Google was so obviously skewing its output for political reasons. Google may indeed have started out well-intentioned, but their descent has been going a long time.

    Some of the sins were minor; charging for API usage which had hitherto been a free feature–unless you’d built an application which relied on that tech, or you relied on such an app, you’d probably not even notice; and after all, it is their right to charge for it if they choose.

    Elevating search results which aren’t marked as sponsored? That’s pretty shady practice, but they’ve been doing that a long time now.

    Creating and normalising a ubiquitous tracking and monitoring paradigm? That is a horrendous, dystopian nightmare for anyone who values their privacy. Go seek out the articles detailing the times people have tried to block every bit of Google interaction from their computers–and watched the entire web break for them. Site after site simply won’t work if you block all the pieces of what amounts to Google’s total surveillance of your activity. And they don’t do this so they can hoard that data for themselves–the entire point of their business has long since been to sell that data. To everyone.

    Add to the list assisting governments with surveilling their own populace, and you don’t even have to include political bias to make a case that Google has been doing ethically questionable things for ages. Time and again, where a moral consideration came up, they could have taken a stance, but chose instead the route of Don’t. Be Evil.

    Consider: did Google become woke because they were evil, or become evil because they were woke?

    SteveD: I hope you find this less than entirely facetious, if not necessarily as pithy as my original post.

  • Paul Marks

    Anon, whether you missed the point or not, you make other good points.

    As for why they embraced “Critical Theory” (“Woke”) Marxism – most of the executives do not even know what it is, they go with the flow. And if a hero executive appears – they are crushed, and replaced by someone who is not a hero, someone who will go with the flow.

    As Martin points out – Robert Conquest (from John O’Sullivan – who is still very much alive) explains what happens to organisations where people do not have clear principles against the left, they end up controlled by the left.

    But Gramsci got there first (90 years ago) – once a doctrine, a way of looking at the world, establishes an “ideological hegemony” people serve it without-even-fully-knowing-they-are-serving-it – hence “capitalists” serving Collectivism.

    But YES Anon – deep down when they do things such as rig search results, or help rig elections, they DO know they are doing wrong.

    They may not understand the ideological war – but they do, deep down, know they are doing wrong.

    Oh yes they bury the knowledge deep within themselves, and produce all sorts of justifications, “I am fighting racism”, “I am preventing Trump becoming dictator”, and-so-on – but they know they are doing wrong.

    In the end they are damned because they damn themselves.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – it is not about money, not for Google and not for the other Corporations either.

    As Dr Johnson pointed out – a man is seldom so innocently engaged as when he is after money.

    It is a mixture of fear (fear of losing their own jobs) and power lust (wanting to serve the coming power – without even fully understanding what it is), that is the motivation.

    Indeed the Corporations often lose money by what they do.

  • Kirk

    anon said:

    Consider: did Google become woke because they were evil, or become evil because they were woke?

    Alternatively, consider that the “woke” and the “evil” thing are both extraneous details. Google became what it was because the power was laying around inside that entity to enable all sorts of “good works” by the “enlightened”. So, being as they’re the arrogant asses that they are, they went ahead and used those powers to do those things.

    The Church, back in “ye olde dayes” was no different; the power laying around inside the hierarchy attracted the wrong sort the way an open container of honey attracts flies. What they did with it? Mostly, bad things. Why? Because the sort of people that are attracted to power almost automatically tend to do bad things with it. The sort of people you ought to put in charge of everything are the sort who don’t want power, and who aren’t prey to the failings of the power-seekers.

    If the power is there, then the power-abusers will go there. Same way that bank robbers gravitate towards banks, and pedophiles enter professions where they have access to the kids.

    Google represented a whole lot of power, back in the day. Lots of people didn’t recognize that, but it was true. The power available attracted the wrong sort of people, and then that sort of people brought more of their own kind on board.

    It’s not a thing of “evil”, nor is it a thing of “woke”. It’s a thing of power, and the opportunity to wield it over others. If you don’t think a slick frisson of pleasure doesn’t run up and down the spines of these sick bastards when they do these things, then you’re awfully innocent. You can watch them at work, observe them if you’re careful. When they do these things, wielding these arbitrary powers they’ve given themselves? It’s almost orgasmic, when they have their victims before them.

    You can tell an awful lot about a person when they’re doing things in a hierarchy. If they take pleasure in “disciplining” others? There’s almost always something wrong with them. Do remember that Beria was a sexual deviant, and that Stalin was acting out a program of revenge on those who’d “wronged” him as a child. There’s nearly always something aberrant with these people, whether it’s the primary-grades teacher that loves picking out a child to “ruin” during the year, or righteously goes after another teacher for not toeing the line. From the lowest levels to the high, it’s all about the power and the ability to abuse it. They get high off their own supply, in unending endorphin cascades as they go about their days and nights.

  • Agammamon

    February 25, 2024 at 7:21 am
    In English, and many =other languages, punctuation and “timing / prasing” are important.

    For example:

    “What is this thing called, “love”?

    “What is this thing called, love?”

    What? Is this thing called, “love”?

    And so on.


  • Paul Marks

    It is not about money, Google, Disney (which owns ABC television, just as Comcast owns NBC) and the other Corporations do not push “Critical Theory” (“Woke” Franfurt School) Marxism to make money – what they do often costs the Corporations money.

    To appeal to their morality and urge them to make a moral stand is answered by the (false) claim that they are making a moral stand, when they make a stand for evil (even when it costs them money).

    That is because ethics has been inverted – evil is presented as good, racism is presented as “anti racism”, uniformity is presented as “diversity”, exclusion is presented as “inclusion”, oppression is presented as “liberation from oppression”, and so on. The left talk about “Power Structures” but leave out the “detail” that they themselves control the Power Structures – both public and private.

    Although the end result may be technocratic socialism on the Henri Saint-Simon model (Collectivism imposed and administered by the Corporations and Credit Money banks), the philosophy is Marxist “Critical Theory”.

  • James Hargrave

    In its revised punctuation this seems to be the motto of many public bodies. From the experience of two friends, a decade apart, it seems to be the driving philosophy of, for example, one of Australia’s leading universities, alias Parkville TAFE.

  • Paul Marks

    The United States Air Force man who set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington is an example of a victim of “Critical Theory” (Marxist) doctrine.

    I listened to a recording of what he said before he set himself on fire – he was quite calm, but what he said was full of “Critical Theory” lies, the lies he has been taught since childhood.

    To him the Jews are “colonizers” who are committing “genocide” – they are white men, like himself, and white men must-be-destroyed as white men are exploiters and oppressors – by definition. This is what he was taught all his life.

    The fact that many of the Frankfurt School Marxists were from Jewish families is grimily ironically as now Frankfurt School “Critical Theory” Marxism is the leading source of hatred for Jews among non Muslims (followers of Islam do not need “Critical Theory” to hate Jews).

    The head of Disney is a man from a Jewish family, the head of BlackRock is from a Jewish family, but they are spreading doctrines, Critical Theory Marxism, that promote the hatred of Jews.

  • Kirk

    Paul Marks said:

    The head of Disney is a man from a Jewish family, the head of BlackRock is from a Jewish family, but they are spreading doctrines, Critical Theory Marxism, that promote the hatred of Jews.

    This is another example of an individual who I think is demonstrating my hypothesis that what we’re measuring with IQ tests really isn’t “Intelligence” as the average person would define it. I don’t know what more-or-less immunized me from truly, heartfeltly believing all the touchy-feely bullshit I was indoctrinated with as a kid in school, but… Man. I never, ever was at a point where I didn’t do my own research and thinking, the way this guy obviously did. I mean, I bought the BS. Mostly. Right up until I realized, in my late twenties, that the BS wasn’t working in the real world.

    I have honestly come to doubt that “intelligence” is really a survival trait, as demonstrated in a lot of people we hold up to be “intelligent”. I mean, they do really, really well on abstract tests, but… Put them out in the real world? Nope; they’re lost at sea.

    Part of this, I suspect, stems from how we’ve selected and conditioned them in schooling. A percentage of these highly “intelligent” dysfunctionals would have done fine, were they not locked into the channels that their schooling put them in. Another percentage is just plain cloud-cuckoolander, and would likely never do well without a minder to keep them from getting up to really damaging activities.

    The root problem is that we’ve mistaken the flash for the bang; there’s something else, something additional, that makes up the “truly intelligent” quotient. One we sure as hell aren’t testing for or putting in charge of things.

    I’m thinking of two men I used to work with. One was a classic country-boy Cajun with exactly zero education, and a really low score on the tests. However, comma… That was one of the most demonstrably intelligent men I’ve ever encountered. You got him off, out in the woods? Holy hell, but did he demonstrate how much smarter and observant than anyone else he really was. Whenever I start to get all prideful and so forth, I remember him and how much better he was at functioning in the woods than I was. Tracking, stalking, learning and then knowing the environment? Just walking with him was an education. If I remember right, he had one of the lowest scores on the tests in our unit, borderline on not even being able to enlist… Yet, get him into the woods or out on a jobsite? Grace and wit personified; if he was put in charge, he knew exactly what to do and how to do it. Tested really badly, demonstrated more functional intelligence than people I knew who graduated from West Point with honors…

    The other guy I’m thinking of was actually one of those West Point honor grad types; I had the privilege of working for him there at the beginning of the Iraq “thing” in 2003. Before we went north, he gave us a lecture on what he thought was going to happen, and gave a timeline for it. The timeline was dead-on accurate for everything except when he thought the Iraqi militants would begin using EFP warheads in their IEDs, which he was expecting to be several months earlier than when they actually did start using them. He did a much better job of projecting and planning for contingencies than the higher-up types did, and that was a part of why he wasn’t around after the mid-point of the deployment; they’d blocked him from making preparations, and he said “Screw this; I don’t need to be here, I was supposed to be retired a year ago…” So, he did the best he could for us, and went home. If you’ve ever read that quip about the four kinds of officers, he exemplified the “clever but lazy” category to a “T”. I watched that guy solve problems in things ranging from engineering to people with utmost grace and wisdom that I can only aspire to, and it was very clear that he’d gotten the most out of West Point and his military career that he could. The problem was, he was one of those guys who wouldn’t play politics, and if you were someone he was working for, well… Yeah. Better not be doing stupid things, or you’d get called on it. Which, I suspect, was why he wasn’t ever promoted above Lieutenant Colonel. And, he was self-aware enough to know that; I often heard him say that he’d rather be right than promotable…

    Our guy setting himself on fire? I question the definition of “intelligent” that includes his sort. If you’re unable to separate the propaganda you’ve been fed from reality, well… Yeah. I can’t think of too many other subtractive tests for intelligence that better separate the truly intelligent from the merely abstract types. If you’re falling for scams like Charlotte Cowles did, welllllllll… I’m not sure you should be let out of doors without an adult. One with a tested IQ of less than about 110…


    Somehow, in my experience, the only people you find falling for these things aren’t in the middle of the bell curve. They’re either testably stupid, or they did “really, really well on the tests…”

    That Harvard professor who lost his house to a couple of romance scammers comes to mind, as well…

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk – you make some interesting points here.

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