The recent Congressional hearing with Sundar Pichai provided some useful insight into how many Republican congressional members’ brains work – or don’t work as the case may be.
Take Rep. Steve Chabot’s (R-Ohio) response to Pichai:
[Google is] picking winners and losers in political discourse. There’s a lot of people that think what I’m saying here is happening, and I think it’s happening.
Pichai was trying to explain that Google doesn’t do that and Chabot replied that he believed it was. On the surface, you could view this as a simple differing of viewpoints or perhaps as Chabot thinking that Pichai was wrong. But Pichai wasn’t talking about something subjective – he was presenting facts. Google’s algorithm for search results are based on the Internet’s content itself, not based on an ideology. So for Chabot to say that he thinks the opposite is for Chabot to reject facts and instead choose to believe what he believes because he believes it.
Furthering my point is this gem from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) responding to Pichai’s explanation that the algorithm is too complex for any tipping of the scales toward or against a particular ideology:
Let me just say, I disagree. I think humans can manipulate the process. It is a human process at its base.
There it is again. Here’s the science and fact about how it works. And the Republican response is to effectively put hands over the ears and say “nah nah I don’t want to hear that because it contradicts my firmly held beliefs”.
If you have read other posts on this blog, you may recall me bringing this up before. Republicans operate on faith-based decision making rather than fact-based – faith in the free market, faith in guns, faith in low taxes, faith in pollution (anti-climate change). And here is one more to add to the list: software behavior. Republicans are having a hard time understanding that software does what the code tells it to and if the code tells it to look at the Internet, and the Internet says Republicans are idiots, well, don’t blame Google for bringing it to you; blame the source – either the piece on the Internet or the subject of the piece, i.e. the Republican. Or as Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) stated:
If you want positive search results, do positive things. If you don’t want negative search results, don’t do negative things. And to some of my colleagues across the aisle, if you’re getting bad press articles and bad search results, don’t blame Google or Facebook or Twitter, consider blaming yourself.