By Julian Assange
• In this extract from his new book When Google Met Wikileaks, WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange describes the special relationship between Google, Hillary Clinton and the State Department — and what that means for the future of the internet.
WikiLeaks readers can obtain a 20 percent discount on the cover price when ordering from the OR Books website by using the coupon code “WIKILEAKS”.
Eric Schmidt is an influential figure, even among the parade of powerful characters with whom I have had to cross paths since I founded WikiLeaks. In mid-May 2011 I was under house arrest in rural Norfolk, about three hours’ drive northeast of London. The crackdown against our work was in full swing and every wasted moment seemed like an eternity. It was hard to get my attention. But when my colleague Joseph Farrell told me the executive chairman of Google wanted to make an appointment with me, I was listening.
I was intrigued that the mountain would come to Muhammad. But it was not until well after Schmidt and his companions had been and gone that I came to understand who had really visited me.
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In Autumn 2013 the Obama administration was trying to drum up support for US airstrikes against Syria. Despite setbacks, the administration continued to press for military action well into September with speeches and public announcements by both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.63 On September 10, Google lent its front page—the most popular on the internet—to the war effort, inserting a line below the search box reading “Live! Secretary Kerry answers questions on Syria. Today via Hangout at 2pm ET.”64
If anything has changed since those words were written, it is that Silicon Valley has grown restless with that passive role, aspiring instead to adorn the “hidden fist” like a velvet glove. Writing in 2013, Schmidt and Cohen stated,
This was one of many bold assertions made by Schmidt and Cohen in their book, which was eventually published in April 2013. Gone was the working title, “The Empire of the Mind”, replaced with “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business”. By the time it came out, I had formally sought and received political asylum from the government of Ecuador, and taken refuge in its embassy in London.
At that point I had already spent nearly a year in the embassy under police surveillance, blocked from safe passage out of the UK. Online I noticed the press hum excitedly about Schmidt and Cohen’s book, giddily ignoring the explicit digital imperialism of the title and the conspicuous string of pre-publication endorsements from famous warmongers like Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, Bill Hayden and Madeleine Albright on the back.
Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt and Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Council head under President Richard Nixon, during a “fireside chat” with Google staff at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, on 30 Sep 2013. In the talk, Kissinger says National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is “despicible”.
Billed as a visionary forecast of global technological change, the book failed to deliver—failed even to imagine a future, good or bad, substantially different to the present. The book was a simplistic fusion of Fukuyama “end of history” ideology—out of vogue since the 1990s—and faster mobile phones.
It was padded out with DC shibboleths, State Department orthodoxies, and fawning grabs from Henry Kissinger. The scholarship was poor—even degenerate. It did not seem to fit the profile of Schmidt, that sharp, quiet man in my living room.
But reading on I began to see that the book was not a serious attempt at future history. It was a love song from Google to official Washington. Google, a burgeoning digital superstate, was offering to be Washington’s geopolitical visionary.
One way of looking at it is that it’s just business. For an American internet services monopoly to ensure global market dominance it cannot simply keep doing what it is doing, and let politics take care of itself. American strategic and economic hegemony becomes a vital pillar of its market dominance.
What’s a megacorp to do? If it wants to straddle the world, it must become part of the original “don’t be evil” empire.
A “don’t be evil” empire is still an empire.
Jan Oberg comments
“One of the most important articles on the not-so-obvious-to-most roles that Google is also playing and its relations to politics and the military.
It’s long but well worth the time it take to get through it. And every important aspect is documented in footnotes.”