The past few years have given the news cycle some real gems in terms of politicians behaving badly – Anthony Weiner taking pictures of his junk while also having his last name be junk, Rob Ford tackling a woman and admitting to doing crack, Rick Santorum – the list goes on. The internet immortalizes bad decisions and awful moments, captured and replayed forever. But the internet could have a much more sinister use if the powerhouses of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple think it through: picking our politicians.
Think of the worst things you’ve ever done on the internet – images you’ve saved, sites you’ve visited, YouTube comments you’ve made – it’s a hell of a lot if you’re under the age of 30. Even if you deleted every last thing from your hard drive, history and YouTube, there’s a chance it exists somewhere.
Okay, so what? Why does it matter if some techies at YouTube know that I compared the movie Fred Claus to the Armenian Genocide when I was in college? I mean, it was a truly terrible movie, right? Why the hell should I back away fr — never mind.
The point is, yes, it was stupid, but it’s probably not going to ruin my life or ever come back to haunt me. Why would anyone care about your history either? You’re just a person like everyone else!
But let’s say you gain some political aspirations when you turn 40 and decide, “Hey, it’s time for a new kind of representative: one with integrity and morals.” You’re running for Congress!
Awesome. You start your campaign and it’s going swimmingly – you don’t have many skeletons and the ones you do you disclose, feel bad about and move on. You’re going to be a U.S. Congressperson, baby.
Then you get a call from some folks who say they’ve got some very interesting information on your search history from 25 years ago, in 2009 – you spent two hours per day looking at Disney princess pornography. And these folks have all the data to prove it. You know why?
Because they are the people who own the internet. And now, they can keep this all quiet and help you win, and then they get to own you. You vote in their favor on every congressional measure and you live and work in the pocket of a massive internet conglomerate, throwing away those deeply held ideas of integrity and morality. Hey, at least America won’t know you were into watching Jafar do Jasmine when you were 15.
Accepting this idea means that these companies are calculated, shrewd and ruthless, willing to exploit others for their bottom line. Not so crazy to imagine. How do you think these companies got to where they are today? Gentleman’s agreements and paying above minimum wage?
To be a multi-billion dollar corporation, you’ve got to squash some folks. And if the NSA is able to collect our phone calls, why can’t the people who actually own the phones, the computers, the search engines, etc.? It would be hugely beneficial for these companies to leverage embarrassing data at their fingertips into creating lawmakers who will support them 100%. Dark as it may seem, it just makes sense.
Is this whole scenario likely? Maybe. Is this a conspiracy theory? Most definitely.
Haven’t you ever wondered about the permanence of the internet though? Haven’t you ever considered that deleting your browser history all those times didn’t really get rid of your strange proclivities? I certainly have. I’ve done things on the internet I’m not proud of – I posted debates arguing that George W. Bush was in fact one of our BEST presidents, I accidentally saw Tub Girl [If you haven’t, please don’t. I’m dead serious. Don’t.], and much much more that I’ll exclude for the sake of me really not wanting to talk about it.
Thankfully, I am not going to run for President, but the kids who are 16 right now and live half their lives on the internet will. Some 16-year old kid named Haldyn writing weird shit on the internet is going to answer for it, and he or she shouldn’t have to, despite his name.
When you’re a kid, what you do online shouldn’t follow you forever, but for this generation, it will. If not in a giant corporate conspiracy sort of way, at least in a way where your political opponents can dig and find everything you’ve ever done, said or searched online.
The only saving grace is that if you have the time and money to run, you probably can search the living hell out of them, too. The internet as the great equalizer.
Or we only have Amish presidents from 2030 on.
Bennett Rea is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles, CA. A survivalist with various primitive skills and a distrust of Snapchat, he’s just trying to be a human in an increasingly technological world. He also works at an art gallery on one of the country’s trendiest retail blocks and constantly battles the urge to flee for a cabin in the mountains filled with books and bourbon.