Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Anti-Semitic Auto-complete?

By Symi Rom-Rymer

Journalist Stéphane Foucart posed an interesting question in a recent article in the French daily paper, Le Monde: what can Google tell us about our prejudices?  Intrigued by an earlier piece in Télérama, a weekly French magazine, that pointed out that the word ‘Jew’ often appeared in the Google search drop-down menu when someone typed in the name of almost any French top media executive or public leader, Foucart undertook his own unscientific study; producing the same outcome.

Based on this experiment, he took the results as a sign that the canard that Jews run the media or exert undue influence on French politics still hold sway among the general population. He furthermore argues that this is uniquely a French problem since the word ‘Jew’ did not  come up in the American or Spanish versions of the search engine, given similar inputs. Therefore, he concluded that Google had laid bare the French people’s latent anti-Semitism.

But what does this experiment really reveal?  Much of the answer to that question relies on the nature of Google searches.  Search results are derived from an algorithm designed to avoid a small group of people, intentionally manipulating the system to associate one word with another.  Common search words that pop-up in the search window cannot, according to a Google’s spokesperson, be created by a small group of people wishing to influence larger searches.  For example, a neo-Nazi group in Paris could not force the Google search engine to automatically link the word ‘Jew’ when someone types in ‘get out of France.’  Instead, Google judges the popularity of searches based on those carried out by each unique IP (Internet Protocol) address.  In order for a search term to grow in popularity, then, it must be typed in on a significant number of distinct computers each time for it to be recognized by Google.  Thus, the reason ‘Jew’ comes up so often in tandem with public figures is because a significant number of French people are entering those terms into the Google search engine on their own computers.

But Foucart ends his inquiry too soon.  If one actually clicks on the search term in question—let’s say ‘Nicolas Sarkozy’ + ‘Jew’—the picture become more complicated.  Contrary to what Foucart might expect, the top three links that come up are not, in fact, to extremist organizations.  Instead, they are links to Sarkozy’s Wikipedia page, a pro-Jewish personal blog praising the French president’s ascension to power, and an article in Haaretz.  Similarly, ‘Bill Clinton’ + ‘Jew’ (another automatic paring) brings up articles about his daughter’s marriage to Marc Mezvinksy. Because the most popular sites that appear in a Google search are those that appear at the top of the page, it seems that more French-speakers are more interested in reading Sarkozy’s Wikipedia page or about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding than anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. If ‘Jew’ is a common search term in the Google French engine, but the most popular pages are innocuous or even laudatory, as in the Sarkozy example, it is questionable that can we confidently conclude that the ‘Jew’ search, however discomforting it may be, is the most trustworthy indication of wide-spread anti-Jewish feeling in France.

Without detailed study, it is impossible to know why the French conduct the searches that they do or what they are hoping to find.  Perhaps they are obsessed by their leaders’ supposed Judaism.  Or perhaps they turn to the internet, just as Americans do, to confirm or deny rumors they might hear from the media or others about certain public figures.  Reports of increasing anti-Semitism in France, like anti-Semitism anywhere is always troubling, but sometimes the supporting facts are more ambiguous or are simply not borne out by deeper examination.  Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

Obama’s Jewish CIA Director: Anthony Lake?

The New York Times claims Lake can have the job if he wants it. While it’s not clear that he does, he’s certainly in the running for something important. After all, Bill Clinton’s former National Security Advisor backed Obama from the start, as Robert Greenberger explains in his profile of the recent convert to Judaism in Moment’s May/June issue.

“Unlike other veterans of Bill Clinton’s Administration—such as Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke (Lake’s equally ambitious rival in the foreign service class of 1962 who is considered to be a frontrunner for Secretary of State in a Hillary Clinton administration and is also Jewish), Lake chose not to support Hillary Clinton.

“Instead, he threw his weight behind Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, to whom he is now senior foreign policy advisor. Lake was one of the first members of the Washington, D.C. Democratic foreign policy establishment to notice Obama. He heard about him in 2002 while in Chicago to give a speech about civil liberties with Federal Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva, a former congressman from the Chicago area. “Somebody asked me if I would talk to this guy who was a state senator who had decided to run for the U.S. Senate but had no chance,” Lake remembers. “Would I talk to him about foreign policy? I said, ‘Sure.'”

“This guy was Obama.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

–Jeremy Gillick


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This Week’s Links

  • Sir Paul McCartney is soooo the man. He’s bringing “a message of peace” to Israel. [JPost]
  • This is definitely not kosher: Charedi men were caught sneaking to computer labs late at night and looking at porn. [Ynet via Geek Heeb]
  • Getting tired of Ahmadinejad talk yet? Too bad. Lots of people are irate at his planned appearance at an interfaith dinner tonight. [CSM]
  • His Royal Highness Prince Charles has a thing for Judaism, apparently. [Totally Jewish]
  • “The peculiar character traits I have noticed displayed by Jews over the years are the comic equivalent of gold dust.” Comedian Mark Maier on Jews and comedy. [Jewish Community Online]
  • Either Bill Clinton is procrastinating, or he really cares about the high holidays. He won’t start campaigning for Obama until they’re over. [Ha’aretz]

—Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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Web Op-Ed: I Used to be a Democrat by David Epstein

By David Epstein

My trajectory from Democrat to Republican had a few curves of my own making. First, I volunteered to work for George McGovern as the 1972 campaign’s Ohio general counsel. I stood behind George McGovern, a brave World War II pilot and mushy foreign policy thinker, simply because he was the lesser evil alongside Richard Nixon.

In 1976, I voted for Jimmy Carter. As President, Carter said we had made bad decisions based on “an inordinate fear of communism.” I traveled in the Soviet Union and its satellites and spoke with the victims of the totalitarian states; my observation was that an inordinate fear of communism is totally warranted. Continue reading