The quasi-political rant below the link is something I posted on my Livejournal account earlier. I hadn’t really planned to talk about Terri Schiavo . . . I’d intended to write about Google (and I did . . . sort of), because Google Scholar is a big deal to me, mostly because I can’t imagine how they’ll bring it online on time and on budget. The copyright issues alone are staggering, and the XML is no less daunting to think about. At any rate, I started writing and it went somewhere I hadn’t planned on. I know this is a library blog (or it’s supposed to be) but there’s no rule against being a librarian and having an opinion about something. The trick is not for us to never have opinions, but to not let our opinions interfere with our willingness or ability to find an answer to someone’s question. Even if we don’t agree with their politics. I suspect that’s a hard beam to balance on, and since I don’t work the reference desk at the Academy I don’t have to worry about it often. Still, it remains something to think about.
I have a great deal of respect for the folks at Google. How often does the name of a company become a verb in the vernacular? I can think of Xeroxing a document; FedExing a package; if you trust his autobiography, at one point at the FBI there was something called ‘pulling a Liddy’, which apparently meant to take a hyperbolic rant from one’s boss and turn it into a literal instruction; and now there’s Googling a person, place, or event.
Just for the heck of it I put “Terri Schiavo” (spelled incorrectly) into a new Google page, hit the Search button, was sent to a page with the correct spelling, clicked on that link and was sent to the results page which noted 1,360,000 hits for her name (did I tell you? that’s a smart search engine.) Then I clicked on the link for Google News and got yet another page with 34,900 results.
Terri’s case has been reported, analyzed, and fought over by all kinds of people with powerful strong opinions one way and the other for 15 years now. I don’t think there’s much more to say on the subject that hasn’t been said thus far so I’ll set up a link to Google’s news page and that’ll be my paltry contribution to this particular tragedy’s coverage. And yo, 1.36 million hits is more than enough righteous anger for anyone.
It’s useful (for me) to occasionally do some kind of Google reality check, since events close to home often seem very big in comparison to people, places and events that lie further from home. So I wrote a list of some other heavy-duty sources of moral outrage and plugged them into Google and sorted the results in descending order:
Nuclear proliferation: 2,490,000
Terri Schiavo: 1,360,000
I’m not trying to minimize the real pain involved for the people who find themselves in awful situations. I am suggesting that once this political moment passes (and with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case brought by Terri’s parents, that may happen pretty soon)–make no mistake, this is a political moment–99% of the people who are now hip deep in their righteous indignation over Terri Schiavo’s misfortune will likely soon forget about her and move on to something else.