By Anthony Castillo
As with most major corporations who move into communities where they may be less than welcome, Google is in the midst of a subtle public relations campaign to win over the hearts and minds of Venice residents who may not be aware of the
extent to which Google is changing the face of our community. And maybe get the rest of us to think “well, they really aren’t that bad after all.” But don’t believe it for a second, a mega corporation cannot be trusted.
You may have noticed Google attaching its name to the just completed Venice Art Walk. This event has been held for many years before the arrival of Google to Venice, and is something that taps into what Venice has been about for decades:an artists’ community. So of course Google would want to be associated with it, if in name only. And at a recent Venice Neighborhood Council meeting a librarian from the Abbot Kinney library spoke about Google’s youth training program and free training classes for kids interested in the tech world. All of this looks quite benign on the surface, but there is much more motivating these actions than meets the eye.
These recent attempts by Google to do community outreach and throw some money around town are only the beginning of what will be a long and ongoing strategy to try and sway Venice opinion in Google’s favor, and get people to look the other way as Google is buying up large parts of Venice to expand its presence, while further fueling the hyper-gentrification of Venice, which will in turn destroy the very things that make Venice, Venice. The more protests that are held in front of Google’s main office to call them out on the negative effects they are having here in Venice, the more they will try to put a positive spin on the company’s image as a good Venice neighbor. But after all of us are priced out of Venice who will be left? Google, its supporters and a bunch of trust fund hipsters?
While some might call me paranoid or alarmist, the facts bare out my concerns. These types of superficial PR maneuvers are just part of doing business when it comes to major corporations, and Google is no exception. Fact, Google is buying up Venice first one building at a time, and now it has become one city block at a time. Fact, Google wants to encourage the term “silicon beach” when referring to Venice. This attempt to change the image of Venice only serves to make the gentrification that Google is fueling look like progress and not what it really is, a land grab. Fact, Google is a dues paying member of the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and is funding extreme far right wing organizations (something I’ve written about in detail here in the Beachhead February 2014 issue #388).
Fact, Google doesn’t give a dam about Venice, its working class, long term residents, or its history. Google is in the business of doing one thing: collecting data on all its users so it can make maximum profits off of selling this information. That is what Google cares about, period. Google is also expanding into other areas of concern. Its purchase of Boston Dynamics, for instance. This robot making company is in the business of producing some of the scariest creations ever imagined. They then are sold to the military and possibly police departments. Think on the ground drones and you will get what I’m referring to. See for yourself on Boston Dynamics You Tube page (which of course Google also owns). Everyone, not just folks here in Venice, should be concerned about what this arm of Google is up to.
So the next time you see Google do what on the surface looks to be a good deed for Venice, remember they are no different from say a fossil fuel company, a defense contractor (i.e. Boston Dynamics/Google), or a chemical company who has to go out into the community from time to time to whitewash its image, so it can continue to do business with the least amount of push back from the surrounding community. And don’t forget, all that information that Google has on all of us, the NSA also has, and Google is just fine with that. Let’s see where Google comes down in the fight for net neutrality. Because either way they will still get our data. I for one will be skeptical of anything Google does to mask what it is really about, and all of us living here in Venice should be as well.
By Anthony Castillo