In the course of your Veterans’ Day celebrations—going to the bank, realizing from the sign on the front door that it was a holiday, going directly to the liquor store, experiencing a period of missing time, then coming back to some dude in a pointy helmet shouting “nein! nein!” from your headlock—you might have forgotten to check Google. Even if you did check the Google on Thursday, you might not have noticed that its special Veterans’ Day logo was, in fact, an Islamic crescent rising behind the American flag. That may be because the infiltration of Islam in American society is so pernicious that you never notice until it’s too late, or possibly because you have seen the letter “e” before. Either way, you have to agree that Google Veterans Day Controversy: American Flag, Islamic Crescent Moon Doodle Sparks Internet Outrage. That’s how Associated Content’s William Browning sees it, anyway. Props to Mike for the link.
In contemporary media, “controversy” is a relative term. Browning cites several “tweets via Twitter” as proof that Google committed a massive public relations blunder, which is roughly equivalent to trying to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem by asking around at Denny’s. Twitter is where we send assholes to yell until we can figure out how to get them to space. Yet Browning concludes that “the Google doodle is definitely stirring up fears of fanning the flames of anti-Islamic sentiments in America.” Let’s take a moment to peel back the onion on that sentence:
1) The Google doodle is not itself an expression of anti-Islamic sentiment, nor is it yet
2) fanning the flames of such sentiment, but
3) it is stirring up fears that someone might do that,
Like all great writers covering a scandal they themselves invented, Browning is marked by his ability to simultaneously hold two conflicting ideas in his head. After dismissing Islamic conspiracy theorists like Pamela Geller and Terry Jones as “crazies,” he proceeds to argue that the Goog did this on purpose. Then he seizes the moral high ground. And I quote: “The Google doodle is distasteful at best, hateful at worst, for this Veterans Day. Your Google doodle is supposed to enlighten and educate those who click on it, not cause a rift between two world powers.”
First of all, dude, Islam is not a world power. They need nine months of planning to blow their dicks off on Christmas morning, whereas we have Google. Second, the Google doodle is supposed to educate those who click on it? I thought it was supposed to make me briefly say, “Oh hey, a pumpkin,” before I type “cat uses toilet.” At this point, Browning has fallen into the trap of writing a sentence by feel. He has forgotten that he set out to write about other people being offended by the letter “e,” and then that he adopted the position that Google made this ostensible gaffe by mistake, and then that Google’s plan was supposed to secretly promote Islam, so now it’s “distasteful at best, hateful at worst.”
That certainly sounds like the note people hit at the end of an argument, even if it makes no goddamn sense at all. We’re into raw hackwork, now, but hacks are people, too. This is the part where I would like to point out that written things don’t just appear out of nowhere fully formed, like we learned in church, but are in fact written by people.* William Browning’s ear may be a victim of society, but he’s still the one typing. Accepting that, I can think of three possible explanations for this story:
1) William Browning noticed that the “e” kind of looked like a crescent and he imagined a fantastical scenario in which that became a controversy. From there, it was only a matter of writing the classic “some are saying” story. Now that we have Twitter, “some are saying” is a sourceable phrase.
2) William Browning is a stay-at-home dad. I didn’t think there was much evidence for this explanation until I saw another of his stories for Associated Content, “Supermarket Hands-On Educational Lessons for Kids.” “A trip to the supermarket with your kids is a great way to teach several important life lessons,” he writes. “It’s the ultimate field trip—using classroom skills in a practical and completely tangible setting.” Finally, my kids will get to experience a tangible setting, instead of the vaporous dreamspace they float around in at home.
3) Associated Content, the employer of William Browning and distributor of this story, is owned by Yahoo!. It’s true.
None of these explanations is particularly heartening.