One of the problems with the political moment we’re in is that there are powerful incentives for people to be stupid and dishonest. The ingredients of this imperfect storm include: a populist climate where nearly all institutions are distrusted, appeals to feelings of persecution will be richly rewarded, political principle for many people is measured by blind loyalty to (or hatred for) a particular personality, stirring controversy is valued regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence to support an allegation or clickbaity innuendo, and conspiracy is counted as courage. All of this leads to a kind of socially constructed garbage heap that will either attract flies, vermin, and other scavengers, or turn people into them.
This was the story of Milo before his self-immolation. This is the story of Infowars and Gateway Pundit. And it is the story of the failed-actress-turned-faux journalist Emerald Robinson.
It looks like conservative mag National Review was taking Google cash too. To suppress conservative speech on social media. Was this something that @NRO donors & contributors knew was taking place? Let's ask @JonahNRO @DavidAFrench & others today. https://t.co/TX3VMFniTw
— Emerald Robinson (@EmeraldRobinson) December 14, 2018
Dear @DavidAFrench you've got bigger problems than policing imaginary sub-groups of people who don't read you. You guys were caught playing with Google cash. How many days can you change the subject or ignore the question? This is Day 1. Wow us with your faith & tell the truth! https://t.co/3EDmKTN89x
— Emerald Robinson (@EmeraldRobinson) December 14, 2018
Now, there are only two possibilities here: Either Robinson is an idiot or she thinks her fans are.
The sum total of her “evidence” that NR took Google cash to suppress conservative views comes from a Breitbart story about a Wired story. Here’s the gist: Google gave money to CEI, where Iain Murray works. Iain wrote a piece for us in which he disagreed with a New York Times writer who thinks the government should break up big tech firms, including Google. And . . . that’s it.
So here are a few facts. Iain has written scores — probably hundreds — of pieces for NR, many on antitrust issues from a libertarian/conservative point of view. Many of us count him as a respected friend. His piece on Google and antitrust is exactly the kind of informed, principled take you’d expect from Iain.
That Google would give money to a think tank like CEI (or AEI, where I am a fellow) is not a scandal. It’s not even suspicious, nor was it a large amount of money, from what I hear. Whether Google is suppressing conservative views is debatable. That CEI or AEI contributed to this alleged effort because Murray or AEI’s Jim Pethokoukis are opposed to the Justice Department breaking it up is dopey troll bait. Defending a reasonable antitrust position is not a defense of suppressing conservative views — even if Google is in fact suppressing conservative views.
And the idea that they paid National Review to “suppress conservative views” is not only conspiratorial hogwash at least three levels removed, it’s something you could believe only if you literally don’t know what you’re talking about (which is Robinson’s specialty). Why did we run a piece calling for Google to be broken up, then? Why did we run literally dozens of pieces criticizing Google’s handling James Damore? Why did we run this editorial? Why did David French write this?
Look, I honestly suspect Robinson makes up many of her “sources” and that she’s a fake reporter while claiming to wage a war on “fake news,” but even she can figure out how to use the search engine at National Review. And that’s all you need to do to realize how sand-poundingly dumb her crusade is. Or she could just read Iain’s piece. Does it read like bought-and-paid for PR for Google? Are we to believe that NR ran a perfectly sound article opposing state interference in a private company, from a decades-long contributor, because we took “Google cash”?
Yes, yes we are. Well, not “we” per se, but Robinson’s intended audience is, because Robinson’s modus operandi is to replace facts and argument with innuendo from mostly mythical “sources.” That’s why my mentions on Twitter teem with people who think that this is some huge story and that I can’t answer her tough questions until I get clearance from Google. Meanwhile, note that her tweet targets David French and me, neither of whom have anything to do with who gets published at NR or who gives NR money. She targets us purely because she’s a Trump sycophant who thinks the only relevant fact is that we’re not. Like the good little McCarthyite that she is, she thinks that it’s a waste of time to connect the dots, either because she has none of the journalistic skills to connect them or because she believes her own paranoid swill. And, when we ignore her tripe (which I will admit is the reasonable thing to do) our “silence” is proof of the conspiracy.
Here's @JonahNRO again refusing to answer whether @NRO took Google money – a story widely reported in @wired @WSJ – and engaging in personal attacks instead. Subscribers & donors to @NRO should demand answers. https://t.co/wdv8NlpOT3
— Emerald Robinson (@EmeraldRobinson) December 17, 2018
Let me put a few things on the record so I can go back to ignoring this ridiculous person and her hoodwinked fans: No one has ever told me what to write or not to write, re: Google or any other corporation throughout my entire time at NR (though I did once mock an oil company that advertised with us and got an earful since I could have used any other company. Oh, and I wrote a cover story calling for the bombing of Canada in the very issue that a US-Canada friendship group advertised with us. That caused some hullabaloo). I learned that Google gave some money to NRI for the Buckley Prize dinner only because I asked about it this week (something Robinson could have learned were she an actual reporter of some kind, rather than a MAGA infomercial hostess). But that just proves my point: No one is telling anyone what to write or not write. This is a joke.
Last, let me say I am open to the idea of breaking up Google and/or Facebook. But it’s worth noting that doing so would be a very radical move, which is why not even Robinson’s beloved Trump administration is considering it. It would also be an insanely stupid thing to do for the sake of stopping the suppression of conservative views, not least because it wouldn’t solve the problem and because it would do great harm to all sorts of economic and constitutional principles.
Nonetheless I am open to the idea. I just don’t think the case has been made. You see, that’s what serious people do: They wait for persuasive facts and evidence to be marshaled before reaching a conclusion. Robinson peddles conclusions and innuendo pretending that they’re facts.