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From Russian Nihilists to Al-Qaeda: The dark spectre of political correctness

By promoting a culture of relativism and denying the importance of objective truth Political Correctness has sown the seeds of today’s catastrophes.

Vladimir Golstein

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A spectre is haunting Europe—and it is not the spectre of communism.  Marx’s dream had been replaced by a much more primitive, pernicious, and grotesque spectre, that of Political Correctness and by its twin brother: equally primitive, grotesque and virulent xenophobia and racism.

This spectre replacement is hardly coincidental. Like a good cop, bad cop routine, these twin brothers seem to succeed in their insidious attempt to suppress any serious discourse of domestic or foreign policies, any attempt to go beyond the previously approved and predetermined lines of reasoning so that the ruling order remains protected from Marx’s or any other truly dangerous spectres.

Besides its philosophical poverty, PC had recently demonstrated its utter bankruptcy in the face of wars, invasions, population displacement, and cheap labor policies. It failed to formulate and carry out a proper response to the so-called refugee crisis that overwhelmed Europe first by the sheer amount of people indiscriminately admitted into Europe, and then by the amount and intensity of violent crimes that some of those refugees have committed.

It is getting painfully obvious, that neither brushing the violence under the rug, nor permitting skinheads to demand the banning of all refugees provide an adequate response to the problems raised by the years of colonialism, exploitation, and military adventures.

The situation appears to be beyond the intellectual league of a well-meaning PC politicians, like President Hollande or Chancellor Angela Merkel, to solve. 

For many Americans, PC belongs to the esoteric domain of academia. In Europe, however, PC’s reach is much deeper and wider, its philosophy dominates various aspects of society, as been amply demonstrated by the recent wave of violence.   

PC penetration into the social fabric of European life is much more thorough.

One day we read about Dutch museums, which intend to rename various paintings and other objects of art whose titles use terminology no longer acceptable by today’s PC commissars; next day we read of German decision to ban pork products in school cafeterias so that its Muslim students won’t be offended, on the third, we learn about Danish politician convicted for his 2014 complaint that new, “religiously intolerant” Muslim refugees bring old prejudices, such as anti-Semitism, into European discourse.

Persecuting people who write or tweet on the subjects that go against the main PC narrative became a popular past-time for the European politicians.

All these cases are usually relegated to the domain of curiosity, similar to some bizarre incidents on US campuses, be it complaints about micro aggression, demands for safe space and gender-neutral pronouns, or accusation of cultural appropriation.

Yet, the role of PC is much more insidious: it prevents the society from adequately addressing a new wave of violence and brutality.

PC’s role as the leading political force was made painfully obvious during the recent scandals connected with brutal attacks on women, the violence and mayhem against innocent bystanders in Nice and Berlin, and the failure of the police, press, and politicians to confront it in the adequate manner that can re-assure the public of its safety.

The warnings about the pervasive and pernicious power of PC discourse have been sounded on many occasions, ranging from radical politicians and journalists, to the counter PC humour.   

The German press, for example, awards an annual prize to a ‘weasel word,” that is to “an awkward or controversial term that has shaped public discourse.”

In 2015, such award was given to a term “gutmensch,” the word that became too popular to the point of mockery and which refers to uber-politically correct person, a well-meaning but utterly helpless individual.

That’s hardly a coincidence. The refugee crisis, destined to shape the public discourse for years to come, had exposed the total bankruptcy of “gutmensch” and his PC approach to social, political, and cultural life.

It is a mark of a “gutmensch” not to offend anyone’s sensitivity. But when it came down to mass media’s failure to report violent crimes out of the fear of instilling in the heads of populace the wrong information about perpetrators, it became clear that PC has gone too far, and that “gutmensch” has become an accomplice of a vicious criminal.

It is this role of a gutmensch, of a well-meaning enforcer of orthodoxy serving as an accomplice that I want to explore in this essay.

While many relegate the PC debate to the so-called culture wars, it is clear that what lies at the bottom of it, is the plain old struggle for power.

Numerous journalists and politicians, who failed to report, or tried to spin the real nature of the sexual assaults that took place in Germany, Sweden or Finland, have used only one argument as an excuse: we don’t want to give ammo to our political rivals.  As Peter Ågren, police chief in central Stockholm, put it:

‘Sometimes we do not dare to say how things really are because we believe it will play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.’ [The Sweden Democrats are the anti-immigration party in Sweden—VG].”

In other words, while the impulse to hush the accusations directed at a group traditionally marginalised or suppressed might be understandable, especially when considered within the context of German and European genocidal and colonial wars, it is clear, that what drives politicians, is not the desire to correct the past abuses, or the fear of offending somebody’s sensitivity, but rather the fear of losing power.

Whatever it is, the impulse to control the flow of information is very human.  Consequently, the desire to prevent certain themes or doctrines from entering the public discourse turns censorship.

Those in power strive to impose a particular narrative, a particular way of looking at things that keeps rulers feeling useful and noble, and the ruled ones either hopeful and grateful, or hateful and paranoid, which in both cases distracts them from the comprehensive analysis of their exploitation and abuse.

Political correctness, however, does not present itself as an enforced censorship on behalf of the powerful. And herein lies its ingenuity. Since imposing the limits on conversation is clearly a manifestation of power, nobody should doubt that PC is the instrument that the ruling class uses to protect itself.

Yet, this imposition of the limits on the discourse is carried out in the name of the dispossessed, marginalised, and underprivileged. It is as if at a certain moment, crocodiles had agreed not to say anything bad about the rabbits that they devour, so that a crocodile that cracks up a joke about a particularly tender rabbit’s bone that he broke the other day, would get silenced and shunned.

Some agreed to do it for pragmatic reasons: why spook the rabbits, when it is more convenient to let them believe that one of these days they can turn into crocodiles themselves.

Others might have idealistic reasons: imagining that if nothing bad is said about rabbits, that might induce some of their fellow crocodiles to change their dietary habits.

And why not? The example of those converts can be used by rabbit propagandists, that is by rabbits, hired by the croc-collective for the sole purpose of convincing the rest of the rabbits that the crocodiles have suddenly become vegetarians, and therefore, there is no reason to be concerned, worried, or stay alert.

By imposing the rabbit-friendly discourse, crocodiles resort to a rather cynical or pragmatic game of masquerading their cruelty as sentimentality. They might even write stories about sweet little rabbits and their cruel treatment in the hands of some wolf or fox, or even some pre-historic crocodile, but not in the hands of the current croc-establishment. 

There is certain pragmatism to that: why say nasty things about rabbits, why be gratuitously rude or condescending: the less said about eating rabbits the better.

Of course, from the perspective of a devoured rabbit all this sounds like crocodile tears. Rabbits would prefer the real, moral improvement rather than the linguistic one.

It sometimes happens that rabbits wrestle the power from the crocodiles. At that moment, they immediately introduce new narratives, the ones stressing the unmitigated cruelty and malicious hypocrisy of crocodiles on the one hand, and the infinite nobility of the rabbits on the other. But by no means these new narratives would ever imply that the rabbits that gained power have become crocodiles themselves: the transformation so brilliantly exposed by Orwell’s Animal Farm.

When they came to power, Russian radicals — whose writings were diligently suppressed by the tsarist Empire–began to suppress the writings of the “exploiting classes” in their turn. Lenin’s wife, Krupskaia, drew a famous list of books that were supposed to be banned in the Soviet Union, the list that included everything from the Bible and Koran to Dante and Schopenhauer. She also proposed to ban ninety-seven children’s books, including famous folk tales, for their promotion of wrong ideology. “Children’s books are the weapons of social education,” she claimed, and therefore “the content of the books should be communist.”

What this cultural politics presupposes, as the case of Krupskaia reveals, is a particular moral stance, a particular sense of superiority, manifested by any victorious zealot, martyr, or revolutionary, This superiority results in accepting two highly dubious propositions as axioms:

(1) It presupposes certain moral and intellectual arrogance, implying that the regime that came to power, has an inherent knowledge of right and wrong; it can therefore proceed with instilling only “the politically correct” information into the heads of its population.

(2) That there is correlation between what one hears in schools or reads in books with what one becomes. This correlation is by no means straightforward, however. One can grow very delicate in a vulgar family, or visa versa.

Attempts to control the educational discourse also imply that there is a split between goodness and truth, the split, unknown to ancient Greeks, for example. Great Russian authors have constantly resisted this split as well.

This split presumes that goodness has by far greater value than truth, and therefore it is reasonable to sacrifice truth for the sake of some imaginary goodness.

This politically correct, or expedient approach to truth, has surely received an additional boost from recent theories claiming that since the category of truth is constructed in any case, it is our task to construct it in a particular, politically expedient way.

Granted that the truth of any complex event is elusive and depends on the eyewitnesses who always have their agenda, it does not mean that we should simply give up on our investigations and probing and concentrate on constructing stories any way we see fit.

Recent failures of western press to adequately cover major political events, be it the US presidential elections or the war in Syria, have revealed that the public is not ready to accept the fairy tales peddled to it by the mass media. As opposed to the irresponsible western journalists, the public still remembers the prophet Isaiah’s warning: 

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

The years of lies, perpetrated by all kinds of benevolent regimes, have taught us, that it is truth that is the best friend of anyone who is oppressed, no matter how elusive the search for truth is, or whatever facts it uncovers. In the long run, it is truth that sets us free, not lies, fantasies, or propaganda. Yet, it is this truth that is immediately sacrificed by any self-appointed PC regime that strives for some sort of imaginary goodness.

Dostoevsky had thoroughly explored this phenomenon of sacrificing truth for the sake of some imaginary goodness. His writings, Diary of a Writer in particular, provide a fascinating panorama of post-Reform Russia, the period that had abolished serfdom and introduced radically different economic and political situation with its new discourse.

Consequently, the old serf system began to be accused in all possible sins: it was this system that induced, if not forced the poor and underprivileged to commit crimes.

Among other things, Great Reforms introduced the trial by jury with concomitant adversarial legal procedures. It is these procedures that fell victim to new politically correct discourse. The commission of crimes began to be attributed to the evil effects of environment (the faults of the previous regime, in other words), while the lawyers manipulated the newly minted and inexperienced jury, into issuing endless acquittals.   

Reading the reports of such acquittals, Dostoevsky became shocked and bewildered. He mounted an attack upon it, which sounds as fresh today as it was 150 years ago; it clearly contains both analysis and warning. 

“I came away [from reading these reports –VG] with a troubled feeling, almost as if I had been personally insulted.  In these bitter moments I would sometimes imagine Russia as a kind of quagmire or swamp on which someone had contrived to build palace.” (Dostoevsky, Fyodor. “Environment.” In his Writer’s Diary. Vol. 1873-1876. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997: 132-136)

This failure to use common sense or common morality, made Dostoevsky to compare unfavourably Russian jurors’ propensity for mindless acquittals– which  were turning Russia into swamp–to that of their British counterparts:

Yet, over there the juror understands from the very moment he takes his place in the courtroom that he is not only a sensitive individual with a tender heart but is first of all a citizen. He even thinks … that fulfilling his civic duty stands even higher than any private victory of the heart…. the English juror grudgingly pronounces the guilty verdict, understanding first of all that his duty consists primarily in using that verdict to bear witness to all his fellow citizens that in old England (for which any one of them is prepared to shed his blood) vice is still called vice and villainy is still called villainy, and that the moral foundations of the country endure—firm, unchanged, standing as they stood before.

Dostoevsky, in other words, refuses to separate morality from truth. The ability to achieve and assert truth (when vice is called vice, and not virtue) is viewed by him as the very foundation of society. That’s why he despairs over the corruption of morality and understanding, as the result of which, crime becomes a duty or noble protest. 

These moral and intellectual principles are so important for Dostoevsky, that he is willing to attack – for the sake of them –- the generosity, compassion, and religiosity of his fellow Russians, who were acquitting the criminal due to sympathy or the sense of their own moral inadequacy.

Dostoevsky insists that truth and the pain of dealing with a guilty verdict is infinitely preferable to some simplistic and well-meaning acquittal. The writer offers a complex moral scheme instead of the PC fantasy: if the reality is ugly, it is our task to improve it without hiding behind the flights of rhetorical well-meaning fancy: “how is it that our people suddenly began to be afraid of a little suffering?’ ‘It’s a painful thing,’ they say, ‘to convict a man.’ And what of it? So take your pain away with you. The truth stands higher than your pain.” And then he adds these profound words:

If this pain is genuine and severe, then it will purge us and make us better. And when we have made ourselves better, we will also improve the environment and make it better. And this is the only way it can be made better. But to flee from our own pity and acquit everyone so as not to suffer ourselves -–why, that’s too easy. Doing that, we slowly and surely come to the conclusion that there is no crimes at all, and ‘the environment is to blame’ for everything. We inevitably reach the point where we consider crime eve a duty, a noble protest against the environment.

Dostoevsky’s rejection of legal newspeak, of the false compassion that under the guise of understanding of the downtrodden, has ignored their true predicament, fell –predictably –on dead ears. Dostoevsky’s complex scheme of condemning the criminal while simultaneously engaging in hard work at improving reality was ignored by the majority of his contemporaries who –in their propensity for “simplifications” –preferred much more linear schemes.

Similar dismissals of common sense and hard work, characterise all sorts of PD doctrinaires, ranging from Nadezhda Krupskaia to Angela Merkel, the political leader of today’s Germany who prefers the politically correct approach to reality, resorting to the Obama-like speeches instead of the hard work of addressing and stopping the causes of Middle Eastern emigration, while simultaneously organising the proper procedures for the integration of refugees into a different culture.

It is always easy to do nothing, while pontificating on the virtues of an open society.

Consequently, one indeed feels that Europe has been plunged into a swamp or quagmire of Dostoevsky imagination, a groundless entity incapable of dealing with concrete reality.

By insisting on discourse that obfuscates reality, the leaders of Europe turn it into a swamp, into a primeval mud and chaos. The language usually develop into a particular direction, it strives toward more nuanced and complex understanding of reality.

Politicians and media have to have courage to dismiss the charges of Islamophobia, while differentiating between the Islamic fanatics, criminals, and terrorists on the one hand, and the law abiding Muslims on the other.

The deliberate obfuscation, the obliteration of distinctions, the piling of everyone into generic “refugees” helps no one.

The Biblical God operated by turning chaos into a set of distinctions and differences, dividing dry from wet, light from darkness, heaven from earth, and man from woman.

PC acts in the opposite direction, it obliterates the distinctions, it clearly pushes us back into chaos.

There is an expression “to fish in troubled waters” (Russian uses the term “in muddy waters”). PC practitioners deliberately muddy waters, so that the criminals can fish, abuse, violate, and destroy with impunity.

The angels of political correctness have turned into the demons of chaos and destruction. The events that shake European cities are the grim reminder of this process.

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May survives ‘no confidence’ vote as UK moves towards March 29 deadline or Article 50 extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 168.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the ‘no confidence’ vote that UK Prime Minister May won with the a slim margin…meaning that though few MPs have confidence in her ‘Brexit withdrawal’ negotiating skills, they appear to have no problem allowing May to lead the country towards its Brexit deadline in March, which coincidently may be delayed and eventually scrapped altogether.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is cozying up to Brussels’ oligarchs, working his evil magic to derail the will of the British people, and keep the integrationist ambitions for the UK and Europe on track.

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Via RT


The UK government led by Theresa May, has survived to fight another day, after winning a no-confidence vote, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, following parliament rejecting the PM’s Brexit deal, earlier on Tuesday evening.

The no-confidence vote was defeated by 19 votes – the government winning by 325 to 306. It’s a rare positive note for May’s Tory cabinet after the humiliating Brexit defeat.

Speaking immediately after the vote, a victorious May said she was “pleased” that the House expressed its confidence in her government. May said she will “continue to work” to deliver on the result of the Brexit referendum and leave the EU.

May invited the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with her individually, beginning on Wednesday evening.

“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver on Brexit,” she said.

Responding to the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the House had “emphatically” rejected May’s deal on Tuesday. The government, he said, must now remove “clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would result from that.”

Labour will now have to consider what move to make next. Their official Brexit policy, decided by members at conference in September, states that if a general election cannot be forced, then all options should be left on the table, including calling for a second referendum.

Liberal Democrats MP Ed Davey also called on May to rule out a no deal Brexit.

The way forward for Brexit is not yet clear and May’s options are now limited, given that the Brexit deal she was offering was voted down so dramatically on Tuesday.

Gavin Barrett, a professor at the UCD Sutherland School of Law in Dublin, told RT that May will now have to decide if her second preference is a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. Her preference will likely be a no-deal Brexit, Barrett said, adding that “since no other option commands a majority in the House” a no-deal exit is now “the default option.”

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Final Steps in Syria’s Successful Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty

The war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The situation in Syria evolves daily and sees two situations very closely linked to each other, with the US withdrawal from Syria and the consequent expansionist ambitions of Erdogan in Syria and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) takeover in Idlib that frees the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian aviation to liberate the de-escalation zone.

Trump has promised to destroy Turkey economically if he attacks the Kurds, reinforcing his claim that Erdogan will not target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the US withdraws from the area. One of the strongest accusations made against Trump’s withdrawal by his opponents is that no Middle Eastern force will ever trust the US again if they abandon the SDF to its fate, that is, to its annihilation at the hands of the Turkish army and its FSA proxies. This, however, is not possible; not so much because of Trump’s economic threats, but because of Damascus and Moscow being strongly opposed to any Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria.

This is a red line drawn by Putin and Assad, and the Turkish president likely understands the consequences of any wrong moves. It is no coincidence that he stated several times that he had no problems with the “Syrians or Syrian-Kurdish brothers”, and repeated that if the area under the SDF were to come under the control of Damascus, Turkey would have no need to intervene in Syria. Trump’s request that Ankara have a buffer zone of 20 kilometers separating the Kurdish and Turkish forces seems to complement the desire of Damascus and Moscow to avoid a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the SDF.

The only party that seems to be secretly encouraging a clash between the SDF and Turkish forces is Israel, criticizing Ankara and singing the praises of the SDF, in order to try and accentuate the tensions between the two sides, though naturally without success. Israel’s continued raids in Syria, though almost constantly failing due to Syrian air defense, and the divide-and-rule policy used against Turkey and the SDF, show that Tel Aviv is now weakened and mostly irrelevant in the Syrian conflict.

In Idlib, the situation seems to be becoming less complicated and difficult to decipher. Russia, Iran and Syria had asked Erdogan to take control of the province through its “moderate jihadists”, sit down at the negotiating table, and resolve the matter through a diplomatic solution. Exactly the opposite happened. The HTS (formerly al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria) has in recent weeks conquered practically the whole province of Idlib, with numerous forces linked to Turkey (Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki) dissolving and merging into HTS. This development puts even more pressure on Erdogan, who is likely to see his influence in Idlib fade away permanently. Moreover, this evolution represents a unique opportunity for Damascus and Moscow to start operations in Idlib with the genuine justification of combating terrorism. It is a repeat of what happened in other de-escalation areas. Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly requested the moderates be separated from the terrorists, so as to approach the situation with a diplomatic negotiation.

In the absence of an effective division of combatants, all are considered terrorists, with the military option replacing the diplomatic. This remains the only feasible option to free the area from terrorists who are not willing to give back territory to the legitimate government in Damascus and are keeping civilians hostages. The Idlib province seems to have experienced the same playbook applied in other de-escalation zones, this time with a clear contrast between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that shows how the struggle between the two countries is much deeper than it appears. The reasons behind the Khashoggi case and the diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were laid bare in the actions of the HTS in Idlib, which has taken control of all the areas previously held by Ankara’s proxies.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow and Damascus would like to encourage Erdogan to recover Idlib through its proxies, trying to encourage jihadists to fight each other as much as possible in order to lighten the task of the SAA, or whether they would prefer to press the advantage themselves and attack while the terrorist front is experiencing internal confusion.

In terms of occupied territory and accounts to be settled, two areas of great importance for the future of Syria remain unresolved, namely al-Tanf, occupied by US forces on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and the area in the north of Syria occupied by Turkish forces and their FSA proxies. It is too early to approach a solution militarily, it being easier for Damascus and Moscow to complete the work to free Syria from the remaining terrorists. Once this has been done, the presence of US or Turkish forces in Syria, whether directly or indirectly, would become all the more difficult to justify. Driving away the US and, above all, Turkey from Syrian territory will be the natural next step in the Syrian conflict.

This is an unequivocal sign that the war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus. Several countries — including Italy in the near future — will reopen their embassies in Syria to demonstrate that the war, even if not completely over, is effectively won by Damascus and her allies.

For this reason, several countries that were previously opposed to Damascus, like the United Arab Emirates, are understood to have some kind of contact with the government of Damascus. If they intend to become involved in the reconstruction process and any future investment, they will quite naturally need to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus. The Arab League is also looking to welcome Syria back into the fold.

Such are signs that Syria is returning to normality, without forgetting which and how many countries have conspired and acted directly against the Syrians for over seven years. An invitation to the Arab League or some embassy being reopened will not be enough to compensate for the damage done over years, but Assad does not preclude any option, and is in the meantime demonstrating to the Israelis, Saudis and the US Deep State that their war has failed and that even their most loyal allies are resuming diplomatic relations with Damascus, a double whammy against the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists.

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Google Manipulated YouTube Search Results for Abortion, Maxine Waters, David Hogg

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News.

The Duran

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Via Breitbart


In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”

The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.

In the leaked discussion thread, a Google site reliability engineer hinted at the existence of more search blacklists, according to the source.

“We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” said the employee. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

Others were more concerned about the presence of the blacklist. According to the source, the software engineer who started the discussion called the manipulation of search results related to abortion a “smoking gun.”

The software engineer noted that the change had occurred following an inquiry from a left-wing Slate journalist about the prominence of pro-life videos on YouTube, and that pro-life videos were replaced with pro-abortion videos in the top ten results for the search terms following Google’s manual intervention.

“The Slate writer said she had complained last Friday and then saw different search results before YouTube responded to her on Monday,” wrote the employee. “And lo and behold, the [changelog] was submitted on Friday, December 14 at 3:17 PM.”

The manually downranked items included several videos from Dr. Antony Levatino, a former abortion doctor who is now a pro-life activist. Another video in the top ten featured a woman’s personal story of being pressured to have an abortion, while another featured pro-life conservative Ben Shapiro. The Slate journalist who complained to Google reported that these videos previously featured in the top ten, describing them in her story as “dangerous misinformation.”

Since the Slate journalist’s inquiry and Google’s subsequent intervention, the top search results now feature pro-abortion content from left-wing sources like BuzzFeed, Vice, CNN, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In her report, the Slate journalist acknowledged that the search results changed shortly after she contacted Google.

The manual adjustment of search results by a Google-owned platform contradicts a key claim made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his congressional testimony earlier this month: that his company does not “manually intervene on any search result.”

A Google employee in the discussion thread drew attention to Pichai’s claim, noting that it “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists.”

One of the posts in the discussion also noted that the blacklist had previously been edited to include the search term “Maxine Waters” after a single Google employee complained the top YouTube search result for Maxine Waters was “very low quality.”

Google’s alleged intervention on behalf of a Democratic congresswoman would be further evidence of the tech giant using its resources to prop up the left. Breitbart News previously reported on leaked emails revealing the company targeted pro-Democrat demographics in its get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016.

According to the source, a software engineer in the thread also noted that “a bunch of terms related to the abortion referendum in Ireland” had been added to the blacklist – another change with potentially dramatic consequences on the national policies of a western democracy.

youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

At least one post in the discussion thread revealed the existence of a file called “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist,” which contains a list of YouTube search terms that Google manually curates. In addition to the terms “abortion,” “abortions,” “Maxine Waters,” and search terms related to the Irish abortion referendum, a Google software engineer noted that the blacklist includes search terms related to terrorist attacks. (the posts specifically mentions that the “Strasbourg terrorist attack” as being on the list).

“If you look at the other entries recently added to the youtube_controversial_query_blacklist(e.g., entries related to the Strasbourg terrorist attack), the addition of abortion seems…out-of-place,” wrote the software engineer, according to the source.

After learning of the existence of the blacklist, Breitbart News obtained a partial screenshot of the full blacklist file from a source within Google. It reveals that the blacklist includes search terms related to both mass shootings and the progressive anti-second amendment activist David Hogg.

This suggests Google has followed the lead of Democrat politicians, who have repeatedly pushed tech companies to censor content related to the Parkland school shooting and the Parkland anti-gun activists. It’s part of a popular new line of thought in the political-media establishment, which views the public as too stupid to question conspiracy theories for themselves.

Here is the partial blacklist leaked to Breitbart:

2117 plane crash Russian

2118 plane crash

2119 an-148

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

2121 florida shooting crisis actors

2122 florida conspiracy

2123 florida false flag shooting

2124 florida false flag

2125 fake florida school shooting

2126 david hogg hoax

2127 david hogg fake

2128 david hogg crisis actor

2129 david hogg forgets lines

2130 david hogg forgets his lines

2131 david hogg cant remember his lines

2132 david hogg actor

2133 david hogg cant remember

2134 david hogg conspiracy

2135 david hogg exposed

2136 david hogg lines

2137 david hogg rehearsing

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

The full internal filepath of the blacklist, according to another source, is:

//depot/google3/googledata/superroot/youtube/youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

Contradictions

Responding to a request for comment, a YouTube spokeswoman said the company wants to promote “authoritative” sources in its search results, but maintained that YouTube is a “platform for free speech” that “allow[s]” both pro-life and pro-abortion content.

YouTube’s full comment:

YouTube is a platform for free speech where anyone can choose to post videos, as long as they follow our Community Guidelines, which prohibit things like inciting violence and pornography. We apply these policies impartially and we allow both pro-life and pro-choice opinions. Over the last year we’ve described how we are working to better surface news sources across our site for news-related searches and topical information. We’ve improved our search and discovery algorithms, built new features that clearly label and prominently surface news sources on our homepage and search pages, and introduced information panels to help give users more authoritative sources where they can fact check information for themselves.

In the case of the “abortion” search results, YouTube’s intervention to insert “authoritative” content resulted in the downranking of pro-life videos and the elevation of pro-abortion ones.

A Google spokesperson took a tougher line than its YouTube subsidiary, stating that “Google has never manipulated or modified the search results or content in any of its products to promote a particular political ideology.”

However, in the leaked discussion thread, a member of Google’s “trust & safety” team, Daniel Aaronson, admitted that the company maintains “huge teams” that work to adjust search results for subjects that are “prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content” – all subjective terms that are frequently used to suppress right-leaning sources.

He also admitted that the interventions weren’t confined to YouTube – they included search results delivered via Google Assistant, Google Home, and in rare cases Google ’s organic search results.

In the thread, Aaronson attempted to explain how search blacklisting worked. He claimed that highly specific searches would generate non-blacklisted results, even controversial ones. But the inclusion of highly specific terms in the YouTube blacklist, like “David Hogg cant remember his lines” – the name of an actual viral video – seems to contradict this.

Aaronson’s full post is copied below:

I work in Trust and Safety and while I have no particular input as to exactly what’s happening for YT I can try to explain why you’d have this kind of list and why people are finding lists like these on Code Search.

When dealing with abuse/controversial content on various mediums you have several levers to deal with problems. Two prominent levers are “Proactive” and “Reactive”:

  • Proactive: Usually refers to some type of algorithm/scalable solution to a general problem
    • E.g.: We don’t allow straight up porn on YouTube so we create a classifier that detects porn and automatically remove or flag for review the videos the porn classifier is most certain of
  • Reactive: Usually refers to a manual fix to something that has been brought to our attention that our proactive solutions don’t/didn’t work on and something that is clearly in the realm of bad enough to warrant a quick targeted solution (determined by pages and pages of policies worked on over many years and many teams to be fair and cover necessary scope)
    • E,g.: A website that used to be a good blog had it’s domain expire and was purchased/repurposed to spam Search results with autogenerated pages full of gibberish text, scraped images, and links to boost traffic to other spammy sites. It is manually actioned for violating policy

These Organic Search policies and the consequences to violating them are public

Manually reacting to things is not very scalable, and is not an ideal solution to most problems, so the proactive lever is really the one we all like to lean on. Ideally, our classifiers/algorithm are good at providing useful and rich results to our users while ignoring things at are not useful or not relevant. But we all know, this isn’t exactly the case all the time (especially on YouTube).

From a user perspective, there are subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content. Now, these words are highly subjective and no one denies that. But we can all agree generally, lines exist in many cultures about what is clearly okay vs. what is not okay. E.g. a video of a puppy playing with a toy is probably okay in almost every culture or context, even if it’s not relevant to the query. But a video of someone committing suicide and begging others to follow in his/her footsteps is probably on the other side of the line for many folks.

While my second example is technically relevant to the generic query of “suicide”, that doesn’t mean that this is a very useful or good video to promote on the top of results for that query. So imagine a classifier that says, for any queries on a particular text file, let’s pull videos using signals that we historically understand to be strong indicators of quality (I won’t go into specifics here, but those signals do exist). We’re not manually curating these results, we’re just saying “hey, be extra careful with results for this query because many times really bad stuff can appear and lead to a bad experience for most users”. Ideally the proactive lever did this for us, but in extreme cases where we need to act quickly on something that is so obviously not okay, the reactive/manual approach is sometimes necessary. And also keep in mind, that this is different for every product. The bar for changing classifiers or manual actions on span in organic search is extremely high. However, the bar for things we let our Google Assistant say out loud might be a lot lower. If I search for “Jews run the banks” – I’ll likely find anti-semitic stuff in organic search. As a Jew, I might find some of these results offensive, but they are there for people to research and view, and I understand that this is not a reflection of Google feels about this issue. But if I ask Google assistant “Why do Jews run the banks” we wouldn’t be similarly accepting if it repeated and promoted conspiracy theories that likely pop up in organic search in her smoothing voice.

Whether we agree or not, user perception of our responses, results, and answers of different products and mediums can change. And I think many people are used to the fact that organic search is a place where content should be accessible no matter how offensive it might be, however, the expectation is very different on a Google Home, a Knowledge Panel, or even YouTube.

These lines are very difficult and can be very blurry, we are all well aware of this. So we’ve got huge teams that stay cognizant of these facts when we’re crafting policies considering classifier changes, or reacting with manual actions – these decisions are not made in a vacuum, but admittedly are also not made in a highly public forum like TGIF or IndustryInfo (as you can imagine, decisions/agreement would be hard to get in such a wide list – image if all your CL’s were reviewed by every engineer across Google all the time). I hope that answers some questions and gives a better layer of transparency without going into details about our “Pepsi formula”.

Best,

Daniel

The fact that Google manually curates politically contentious search results fits in with a wider pattern of political activity on the part of the tech giant.

In 2018, Breitbart News exclusively published a leaked video from the company that showed senior management in dismay at Trump’s election victory, and pledging to use the company’s power to make his populist movement a “hiccup” in history.

Breitbart also leaked “The Good Censor,” an internal research document from Google that admits the tech giant is engaged in the censorship of its own products, partly in response to political events.

Another leak revealed that employees within the company, including Google’s current director of Trust and Safety, tried to kick Breitbart News off Google’s market-dominating online ad platforms.

Yet another showed Google engaged in targeted turnout operations aimed to boost voter participation in pro-Democrat demographics in “key states” ahead of the 2016 election. The effort was dubbed a “silent donation” by a top Google employee.

Evidence for Google’s partisan activities is now overwhelming. President Trump has previously warned Google, as well as other Silicon Valley giants, not to engage in censorship or partisan activities. Google continues to defy him.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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