Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why Do Arabs Hate Google?

The “suggest” feature on Google often causes controversy, because Google suggests what Google users often search for, and Google users — like most inhabitants of the planet Earth — are notoriously politically incorrect. The most frequently searched topics can be quite offensive, and when offense is being taken, who do you think is standing at the head of the queue, ready to claim their share?

You guessed right! So it’s no surprise to find an article in Arab News with the headline “Google slammed for suggesting ‘smelly Arabs’”:

The ‘Google Suggest’ feature, a labor saving device designed to predict queries will automatically suggest completing your query with ‘why do Arabs stink?’ or ‘why do Arabs have big noses?’

This sounded like a real hoot, so I opened Google and tried it out. Here’s a screen cap of the result (which was still allowed by Google as of this morning):

Why do Arabs

After I stopped laughing and wiped the tears from my eyes, I continued reading the article:
- - - - - - - - -
It is not hard to understand why Arab interest groups such as the London-based Arab Media Watch (AMW) have started to remonstrate against the suggestions.

“What’s worrying is that these (suggestions) are based on the overall popularity of searches, so if you may not have been looking for that, many other people have,” Guy Gabriel, advisor to AMW told The Media Line. “We’re in a day and age where the Internet is a tool by which we break down barriers and learn more about different communities across the world so it’s alarming to notice on Google that this isn’t the case as it stands.”

This assertion doesn’t make sense. If we “learn more about different communities across the world”, we discover that — statistically speaking — Arabs tend to do some things more than other groups do, and those things include driving taxis, wearing turbans, owning gas stations, and wearing black. Yes, they really do write from right to left. And, not to put too fine a point on it, they also tend to throw rocks, fight with Jews, and lose wars.

Smelling bad is a matter of personal opinion, and everyone can determine that one for himself. As for “big noses”: if you took a pair of calipers to the schnozzes of a thousand Arabs and compared the result with a thousand toffee-nosed Brits or Yanks, what do you think you would find?

So what’s the big deal?

Well… Anything that offends Arabs is a big deal, so Google will probably have to “fix” this feature eventually. The AMW aims to make sure of it:

The organization advocating fair and objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media says Google is “failing in its aim to avoid offending a large audience of users,” and said the feature not only perpetuates stereotypes but also highlights a worrying trend among Google users.

“I’m not suggesting that Google are aware of this and they are refusing to do anything about it,” Gabriel said. “Now that it has been flagged, they are in a position to do something about it.”

In other words: Google, you have been warned.

AMW claimed that while searches regarding other ethnic groups produced a similar range of pejorative or stereotypical suggestions, queries about Arabs yielded more offensive results than other groups, and a search using Jews produced noticeably far less.

Yes, I can well imagine that this is the case. Familiarity breeds contempt, and over the last decade or so the English-speaking world has become very familiar with Arabs, perhaps much more familiar than it would like.

However, if the Arabs have ended up the losers in an ethnic popularity contest, the only possible explanation is our inherent racism and Islamophobia. What Arabs themselves say and do has no bearing on the matter — our “prejudice” is the only possible explanation.

What if those insulting suggestions concerned — to pick another ethnic group at random — the Danes? How would those proud Vikings react if such aspersions were cast upon them?

All the Danes I know would laugh themselves silly.

So I tried “Why do Danes” in the Google search box, and… Nothing! Google users don’t even care enough about Danes to ask insulting questions, and that’s the most insulting thing of all!

So I had to make up my own suggestion list for “Why do Danes”:

  • wear helmets with horns sticking out
  • drink beer
  • eat smelly fish
  • have blond hair
  • eat licorice
  • light candles
  • listen to Lady Gaga
  • etc., etc.

Are we offended yet?

I tried a lot of other ethnic groups, religions, and nationalities, and found Google to be a treasure trove of user preoccupations concerning Eskimos, Hindus, the Irish, Africans, Italians, Greeks, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Canadians, Australians, Britons, and Americans.

But my favorite “Why do” list was for the Turks. It contained only two items: “deny the genocide” and “smell bad”. Now, that’s succinct.

Google, despite its lofty PC intentions, has inadvertently created a massive database of ethnic stereotypes. If you want to find out all the insulting things that people think about, say, the French, just google “Why do French” and wait for the suggestions to pop up. Hint: the olfactory sense is involved here, too.

As a matter of fact, most people outside the Anglosphere seem to “smell bad”. Considering that this is an Anglophone list, I suppose that’s not surprising. A French person who googles a question about “les Anglais” might well turn up something uncomplimentary about all those malodorous goddams across the Sleeve.

But back to the Arabs. For some reason the Google suggestions left out the most relevant question of all:

Why do Arabs have such thin skins?


Anonymous said...

Why do Arabs have such thin skins?

We should definately search for an answer to that. I mean search alot, really alot! ;-)

Zenster said...

The most frequently searched topics can be quite offensive, and when offense is being taken, who do you think is standing at the head of the queue, ready to claim their share?.

Why, it could only be those skinless people living in our sandpaper world ... MUSLIMS!!!

“Why do Danes”:

● wear helmets with horns sticking out

Without wishing to intrude on an obviously humorous episode, it is only with the debut of Wagnerian operatic spectaculars that one began to see Viking characters portrayed in bicornate headdress. Such cranial appurtenances have never been found in actual Scandihoovian burial sites.

“Why do Danes”:

● eat licorice

The only sane answer to that particular conundrum is:

Because we can.

Ralph Waldo once said:

"Licorice is the liver of candies."

A statistic was once published which showed that Danes consumed more licorice than chocolate, and we all know how much Danes like chocolate! They even have stores called lakrids butiks (licorice boutiques), that sell upwards of 100 different kinds of licorice. Danes have raised licorice candy making to a fine art by way of using gelatin, finely milled starches and other high quality binders to avoid the usual grainy texture of American or British types. Then they accent the flavor with menthol, eucalyptol, mint, chili pepper and other extracts plus the ever-present salmiak (ammonium chloride or sal ammoniac), for its traditional salty flavor.

Not to be outdone, the Finns even have a licorice vodka named, “Super Salmiakki". According to lore, it was temporarily outlawed because of how easy to drink thei concoction was. The Finns just made it at home until the authorities dispaired and repealed the prohibition.

Chrispium: Why do Arabs have such thin skins?

We should definately search for an answer to that. I mean search alot, really alot!

Your tone seems to imply the use of sharp and pointy or rough, abrasive implements in the course of a rather protracted investigation.

Zenster said...

With apologies to Monty Python's Flying Circus:

[cue announcer]

Tonight's show comes live from the tiny village of Rabid in Buckinghamshire, and our first question tonight is from a Mrs. Elizabeth Scrint who says she is going on a Mediterranean cruise next week and can't find anything wrong with the Syrians.

Well, Mrs Scrint, apart from being totally unprincipled left-wing troublemakers, the Syrians are also born skivers, they're dirty, smelly and untrustworthy, and, of course, they're friends of the awful gippos. (applause) There you are, Mrs Scrint, I hope that answers some of your problems - have a nice trip. (more applause)

Well now, the result of last week's competition when we asked you to find a derogatory term for ... the Belgian Muslims. Well, the response was enormous and we took quite a long time sorting out the winners. There were some very clever entries.

Mrs. Hatred of Leicester Said 'let's not call them anything, let's just ignore them' ... (applause starts vigorously, but he holds his hands up for silence) ... and a Mr. St John of Huntingdon said he couldn't think of anything more derogatory than “Muslims” (cheers and applause; a girl in showgirl costume comes on and holds up placards through the next bit)

But in the end we settled on three choices: number three ... “The Moose Limbs” (placard 'The Moose Limbs'), sent in by Mrs. Vicious of Hastings ... very nice; number two ... “The Slammers” (placard) ... from Mrs. Childmolester of Worthing; but the winner was undoubtedly from Mrs. No-Supper-For-You from Norwood in Lancashire ... "Miserable Fat Misogynistic Rapist Islamic Belgian Bastards”. (placard; roar of applause) Very good - thank you, Carol. (Carol exits)

But as you know on this programme we're not just prejudiced against race or colour, we're also prejudiced against - yes, you've guessed, stinking Islamic clerics! (applause) So before the streets start emptying in Chelsea tonight; Let's go straight over to our popular prejudiced panel game and invite you once again to - Shoot The Imam!

ChrisLA said...

Unfortunately, there is an element of truth in most stereotypes. People who strive to be more socially acceptable work to overcome negative characteristics -- accent reduction, cosmetic surgery, oral surgery, and just plain soap and water. Google is like your very honest young cousin who tells you the truth, even if it hurts. Arabs should not hate Google, but should rather take a few hints from Google's neutral statistical observations.

Anonymous said...

HA! :o) LOL,
Thanks Baron. You just saved my day. And that says a lot after the Politiken stunt yesterday.

Henrik R Clausen said...

“Why do Danes”:

● eat smelly fish

Hey - that's the Swedes!

Now I'm offended...

ɱØяñιηg$ʇðя ©™ said...

I guess sarcasm is also against the CoC. *sigh* :(

PatriotUSA said...

AMW claimed that while searches regarding other ethnic groups produced a similar range of pejorative or stereotypical suggestions, queries about Arabs yielded more offensive results than other groups, and a search using Jews produced noticeably far less.

Well, for lack of a complicated answer, DUH.

Arabs, Muslims, whatever have a black eye here, or megastink simply because they are mor barbaric than all others, are guilty of almost all
acts of terrorism and
I could go on
and on but most here
know already.

Where is Jeremy? This should be perfect for a thin skinned Frenchman. No offense meant to others who may be french, or live in France.

Anonymous said...

I cracked up when I searched my own ethnic group. No suggestions, but I pressed enter and among the top searches that had to do with why do Romanains, it was why do Romanians speak English so well and the other one was why do we take courses abroad.

X said...

Plenty for me. The first was "why do the english have bad teeth?". And the third was "why do the english have such bad teeth".

It's a pervasive myth. I actually get very annoyed about it and I'd much rather have people thinking that we drink too much. At least that one's true. :) said...

When someone takes offence where none is offered I call them what they are. Thieves.

Professor L said...

Why do Australians call people from England poms?

Why do Australians call women Sheila? (IKYN, that is actually a name. I pity whoever has it)

Why do Australians shorten words?

Why do Australians drink so much?

Why do Australians have an accent?

The answer to all is simple - Irish descent means we love insulting the poms (Prisoners of Mother country - yup, they're stuck there :p), Welsh descent means we pick out appaling names for our womenfolk, Scottish descent means we slur our words if they're too complicated, and our whole British ancestry loves beer.

Oh, and if you don't speak English with an accent, you're doing it wrong.

pragensis said...

It would be worthwhile to ask the same questions in Arabic. Then, most likely, WE could complain.

Siegetower said...

OH dear...I typed in 'Why do Germans" and the top was "love scat". Oh dear.

But this is all good to know. These are the questions asked by Mankind.

las said...

Archonix... sorry mate, but the Brits do have bad teeth. It's a scientific fact. Even the Simpsons alluded to this uncomfortable unpleasantry when Lisa was fitted for braces. The Orthodontist showed her photos of Her Majesty's subjects with bad teeth... as a precautionary tale of course.

X said...

Las - you take that back or I'll smile at you!

Dymphna said...

@Law Wells--

The connotation of "Sheila" outside Oz isn't well known, other than the fact that Aussies use the name.

My daughter's name was Sheila. When she was a teenager I passed along what I'd been told was the Gaelic (anglicized) version of the name. She loved it, and started using that spelling...

I also mentioned it to a black friend of mine but she said she'd stick with Sheila, thank you very much. Hard enough to be black without, in addition, having people think you're black Irish.

las said...

Thanks Archonix. We definitely need more of this. What is all to apparent is the fact that only a Western mind would obsess over offending another nationality. I remember years ago, (and I do mean years ago) my first year professor in Russian confessed his bemusement on how Canadians could twist themselves into knots to avoid offending the "other". He explained that Russians don't have such scruples. A person is who they are, he reasoned. He claimed Russians describes a hard worker as one who "works like a Bulgarian". Now I don't know why they use this expression exactly, but he was tickled by the fact that Canadians would go far to "not state the obvious."

Great people those Russians. I established and solidified my conservative bona fides under the tutelage of these old Soviet dissidents.

Speaking of Russians...have you ever observed modern day Russian aristocrats... There's no snob like a Russian snob. They even beat the French.

Engineer-Poet said...

"I typed in 'Why do Germans" and the top was "love scat". Oh dear."

Is there something wrong with enjoying Ella Fitzgerald?  (I suppose that if you listened to German all day, anything melodius would be a relief. ;-)