President Trump sometimes makes me laugh.
“Most of the stories that come up about me on the Google search engine are bad stories,” was the gist of one of his Twitter complaints the other day.
At almost the same time, the President tweeted his belief that CNN, NBC and the Washington Post are publishing stories that make him look bad.
If most of the stories do in fact make President Trump look bad, shouldn’t Google searches turn up those bad stories? Trump might have a complaint, but in this instance it is not Google.
Google and other search engines are aggregators.
If all that is “out there” is bad stuff, search engines will list bad stuff. That only means there is a high volume of bad stuff “out there.” Volume has nothing to do with truth.
I use Google. I used it this morning to verify the source of the quotation/cliché, “Out of the mouths of babes....”
Google did provide a lot of information. The King James Bible version is, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength,” Psalms 8:2
If I had stopped there, I would have written the above as, “Out of the mouth....”
But, wait. As they say on “As Seen on TV” commercials, “There’s more!”
Google skip-hops me to wiktionary.org, which is an offshoot of the Wikipedia written-by-anyone pseudo-encyclopedia.
There we find, “Out of the mouths....” Note the plural, and the more appropriate modern English insistence that substantives (mouths) and modifiers (babes) both be either singular or plural, just because it sounds better, I suppose.
But, wait. There’s more!
Wiktionary also offers, “Out of the mouths of babes....” as a stand-alone quotation. Speakers quite often cut the sentence off that way, assuming that everybody knows that “strength,” also known as wisdom, can sometimes be found in the uncorrupted utterances of not yet worldly-wise children.
My Internet browser, Firefox, has a back arrow direction finder.
It takes me back to the search page ... and a claimed full 10 screen pages of stuff that is related to “Out of the mouths of babes....”
For fun, I clicked on Page No. 10.
It first took me to bushrangergolf, an aggregation of quotations about golf. Some came from Babe Didrickson Zaharias, 1911-1956. She was a great woman golfer in an era before great women golfers were recognized as athletes. I got a chuckle from how she approaches hitting off tees: “I just hitch up my girdle and let ‘er fly!”
Isn’t that a neat Babe Zaharias quotation?
The page, “Great Golf Quotes” cites no sources. So we do not know from it alone where Babe said that, to whom she said it, when she said it or even if she said it.
So much for accuracy. And I have no idea about why Babe’s girdle is connected to a search for a Biblical psalm.
President Trump is not alone in expecting more from search engines than they can responsibly deliver. Most of us, seeking legitimacy to win an argument, hit the “Google” button and scroll only until we find something that matches our preconceived notion of what is right. Then we post it wherever the argument resides, usually with a patronizing “See? Told ya!”
Facebook is a prime arena for dueling views of reality. Presidents Trump and Barack Obama are prime targets.
“Trump says Sessions is a blockhead!” will be the screaming headline of an article that a Trump critic found somewhere, copied and pasted, and offers to the world as guaranteed good-as-gold truth.
Except that if it came from the Daily Mirror or any other source that thrives on sensationalism, it probably is not true.
President Obama is out of office.
In rebuttal to a criticism of President Trump for his actions ordering American flags to be flown at half-mast as a tribute to recently deceased Sen. John McCain, someone hyped a meme that screamed: “Obama did not lower the flag AT ALL for Chris Kyle!”
Chris Kyle was an outstanding, heroic military sniper in Afghanistan who was murdered by an apparently deranged student at a firing range.
McCain was a sailor, a pilot, a prisoner of war, a two-term member of the federal House of Representatives, a two-time presidential candidate and a six-term U.S. Senator. Kyle was a very, very good sniper.
False equivalence, driven by hatred that won’t go away even after the object of the hatred has gone away.
The point is not President Trump’s perceptions, or Babe Zaharias’ girdle.
The point is that even factual accuracy can be hard to verify via the Internet when opinions, criticisms and often untrue claims are pushed to the top of the search list based on such algorithmic factors as number of page views.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org