The following is my fictionalized story based on a stranger-than-fiction, real life op-ed by Julian Assange, wherein he accuses Google of conspiring with the State Department to dominate the world. Assange’s quotes are real.
“General Schmidt, Julian is on to us,” said President Obama, as he sauntered through the steel doors of the Google Bunker, Secret Service in tow. The President wore his mandatory “I’m A Googler” t-shirt over his dress shirt. As always, he had stopped first at one of Google’s rainbow-colored snack stations to grab a bottle of fresh celery juice and some kale chips.
“Let me stop you right there, Agent Obama,” said Schmidt. “I’m aware of Assange’s Op-Ed, but he couldn’t stop Google+ even if he wanted to. No one can.”
However, Schmidt was still visibly shaken. The Wikileaks author and merchandise enthusiast had broken open the search giant’s meticulously calculated plot to realize the perfect technocratic vision of 1984. Their goal – to destroy humanity’s will to resist by making it easier to look up pizza recipes – was nearly complete.
“They have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy,” Assange had written in a New York Times column — words that echoed over and over in Schmidt’s mind.
Assange couldn’t understand Google’s role in history, Schmidt thought. Caesar, Napoleon, Mao–giving free access to information had always been the secret of the world’s great authoritarians. Why else spend billions uniting all of humanity’s data into one cohesive mess of Reddit posts and Pokemon strategy videos? They couldn’t let the white-haired rabble-rouser ruin their plan.
In strode Agent Justin Bieber. He was out of breath from dancing.
“The journalists, Sir, they’re refusing an off-the-record meeting with Attorney General Holder. We thought spying would frighten them into submission, but the unthinkable happened: Arianna Huffington called for Holder’s resignation. It’s out of control,” said the shaken boy.
“I know we were saving this option for an emergency but I think it may be time,” said Agent Mayer, who had been sitting near a workstation trying out different permutations of the words “Free Terabyte.” She still had a hand in the Great Destruction Of Humanity, even though she had already rolled her 401K over to Yahoo!
Eric and Barack’s eyes widened simultaneously. “We can’t use the Biden offense,” said the President.
“Yes, according to the analytics team he needs to conduct another Google Hangout,” said Mayer.
Obama, calm as ever, relaxed into his executive beanbag; with a nod of his head, the order was given to dispatch the folksy pacifier of the masses.
“Democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as ‘participation,’” Assange had explained. How right he was.
People were participating all over the world. They were sending emails that were read by robots who placed advertising on the screen. Humans were chatting endlessly and downloading Angry Birds. Their enslavement was nearly complete.
Just before Bieber had finished moonwalking out of the office, Obama’s chin rose.
“Bieber, before you go,” he said. The boy stopped mid-pop-and-lock.
“I didn’t want to have to do this, Eric, but I think we must. Agent Bieber, release the Biden announcement with a Google Doodle. Also, if you could Tweet it…”
“Can’t do it,” said Bieber. “My Twitter feed is run by Monsanto.”
“That’s fine. I’ll put it on the front page of Flickr. Now, what can we do with Asia?” asked Double-Agent Mayer.
“Well, as Assange wrote, I ‘proselytize the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower…It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances,’” said Schmidt, reciting the OpEd from his New York Times Google Glass app. “My favorite tactic, in this case, is by entertaining the public into an anti-democratic, cat-video stupor. This is a perfect opportunity to forge our alliances in the East.”
Schmidt reached for his low-cost, low-resale-value Android phone from HTC.
“Lieutenant Psy, sorry to wake you,” Schmidt said. “I’ve updated your Google Spreadsheet with new orders for Bieber. All their mind will belong to us.”
A moment later, Schmidt pounded the hang-up button. Then he pounded it again. One more time and the phone turned off.
“Psy?” huffed a surprised Obama. “He’s one of ours?”
“There are no coincidences, Agent Obama.” Schmidt said, with his back turned. “After those meddling kids from Invisible Children created the most viral video of all time, we worried that it would inspire citizens to see our free media platform as a tool of civic engagement. Naturally, we couldn’t have that kind of unpredictability. So, we made the decision to expand our popstar assets abroad. One billion views later, I think we’ve quelled that little insurrection.”
“And what about Assange’s comments on Android?” asked Agent Mayer.
“Remember, Assange wrote: ‘Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire,’” said Schmidt.
“I would love to point him to the many impoverished citizens around the world that Google’s products have helped, which, of course, hides the nefarious conspiracy to connect them all on the same phone operating system, so we can track their every maneuver and send them Zagat recommendations. However, we can show no weakness in the eyes of the Android-buying public.”
“Fortunately, the code base of our low-cost open-source mobile operating system, Android, was completely transparent to the world’s developers – which meant that no one would ever - ever - uncover hidden features,” added Obama.
And then, just before his meeting concluded, Schmidt had a stroke of evil genius.
“Agent Obama,” commanded Schmidt. “One more thing: shut down Google Reader. We need to repair our relationship with journalists and we don’t want to know what news people are reading.”
[Thanks to our editor John Biggs for his invaluable help and Wired for inspiration]