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Days When I Despair for My Side of the Aisle

Pace all of the right-wing triumphalism over the Army of Davids bloggers-correct-the-world schtick, there are times that blogs serve only to give dumb a megaphone. For my Democrat readers, here's a beacon of hope: conservatives are getting sloppy, a sure sign that we deserve to head back into the wilderness for a few years.

Today's episode of silly hysteria? The utterly unmemorable People's Cube [1], a conservative parody site, gets blacklisted by Google. Quick as a flash, they complain that it must be because someone at Google finds their conservatism offensive. Poor little picked on right-wing parody site being abused by the huge evil Search Engine Conspiracy!

Please. The People's Cube isn't big enough to hit the radar of a Google engineer, who would spend all day targetting this drivel if he for some reason wanted to get revenge for the Anti-Kerry Blogger Bash. The web is Douglas Adams-league huge, and if something happens with Google, nine times out of ten the answer's in an algorithm.

This story stunk like month-old milk in a dorm fridge. But like Saturday-night freshmen back from partying on Broadway, major right-wing sites such as Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin and Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler grabbed that moo-juice and looked to find a good mixer. No fact checking. None of that Goliath-killing 'expertise.' Just headlines like "A Google Purge?" (Malkin) or "Google Purges People's Cube" (LGF).

As of this writing, only Little Green Footballs has linked to this article with a much more reasonable explanation. It seems that the People's Cube was either a victim of a spamming attack (maybe) or was more likely using invisible text in an attempt to boost itself up in the rankings for certain search terms. Far from being a victim of persecution at the hands of some left-wing BogeyCorp, it seems that the People's Cube likes to engage in a little black optimization of search engines. Google was right to drop it.

Which doesn't excuse Malkin, LGF or AIR. Search engine optimization isn't simple, but it's also not some dark area of mysticism impenetrable to intelligent man. All you had to do was look at the site--admittedly, in a site cache--and turn off the stylesheet to see what happened. Well, you'd have to do that and have some passing idea as to why some search engines drop sites, otherwise known as "having some limited idea what you're talking about."

Weren't these supposed to be the folks who check facts before making serious accusations? If they don't know how to do it, find someone who does before spouting off. Their linked source material magisterially claims that he "can think of only three reasons" for being dropped, all political. That's a good sign that your source is either (a) an idiot, (b) hiding something, or (c) hasn't thought hard enough for other possibilities. But it fit in with the current "wisdom" among certain conservatives: Google buddies up to China, so now it's evil corporate whore censor scum. As I've said before, when a story just happens to confirm your prejudices, that's just the time to check them.

There's all sorts of media bias against conservatives, but not here. This kind of carelessness makes me cringe. Sloppy fact-checking gives that much more ammunition for those who see blogs as nothing more than politically-charged echo-chambers and one more data point for liberals to point at when they want to call conservatives paranoid.

UPDATE: The original version of this article left the question mark off of Malkin's title. I've corrected this.

[1]: I'm not linking to them. I refuse to encourage the goofy ignorance of that site by adding my Pagerank to its listing. If you want to find the article, it's linked off of any of the other right-wing bloggers I list above. I know it's a bit rude to you, my readers, but I hope you'll allow me a "clean hands" defense.


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Well, it's supposed to be an army of Davids, right? This episode shows the blogosphere working exactly as it should. Some bloggers raise an issue, but perhaps lack the specialized knowledge to get to the bottom of it. Other bloggers pick up the story and straighten it out. Incorrect theories get corrected quickly and efficiently. Teamwork.
I'm not entirely persuaded, GB. If Malkin or LGF had come out in a questioning manner, I'd agree, but they didn't. The correction, on either site, is not posted as a new entry, but as an update long after most readers have moved on. And the "Google did evil" concept simply spreads. As a result, expect to see this kind of story become an urban legend in the near future. If the big bloggers make a mistake and the small bloggers point it out, is that mistake really "corrected?"
Malkin still hasn't corrected the original post, and while AIR provided one update, the 2nd update was an explanation from the People's Cube saying they were "correcting" for a problem with Google's sitecrawler bot. AIR seems to know even less about search engines than I, as he accepts this claim without analysis.
Actually, Malkin did half-ass update. She linked to LGF's update, but you can only see it from the monthly archive. (Rebuild the site, Michelle!) AIR's acceptance of the People's Cube's explanation just shows he doesn't know what he's talking about. Hidden text doesn't correct a "deficiency" in the Google spider: it's an attempt to game the system. Just because TPC doesn't like where its ranking is doesn't make Google's spider "faulty."

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