Monday, January 28, 2008

Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore's Internet News

Google's Lost in Translation
So my pal and occasional hero John, of Random Squeegee fame, discovered yet another oddity in Google's translation tool. Sometimes, for reasons known only to the Lord, Google Translate will convert the English word "Crap" to the Spanish name "Guillermo."

So, any theories? I'm betting some anonymous Google programmer used to get pantsed and thrown in the girl's locker room by a high school bully named Guillermo. Or perhaps this is a personal vendetta being waged against Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Speaking of Tom Cruise and Anonymous Vendettas...
A gang of hackers who are calling themselves "Anonymous" have declared war on the Church of Scientology. So far, their attacks seem to consist primarily of posting melodramatic videos to YouTube about how they're going to bring Scientology down. The Church of Scientology International (or CSI, so you just know David Caruso is somehow involved) has responded by releasing a statement claiming that the videos have sparked interest in their "faith" and inviting people who want to learn more to visit their website.

The whole thing apparently started when a video of Tom Cruise was leaked onto the Internet. The video, excerpted from a Scientology presentation, features Cruise all wide-eyed and earnest as he claims:
When you're a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you're the only one who can really help. We are the authorities on getting people off drugs. We are the authorities on the mind. We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures. Now is the time.
The Church of Scientology responded with their usual level of restraint by immediately sending out cease and desist letters to anybody who had ever come within 5 feet of a computer and threatening legal action against anyone who dared to offer the video for download. Because that always works. Few people took the Scientologist threats seriously (although the video did vanish from YouTube for a few hours before reappearing with a vengeance). Some folks consulted lawyers of their own and determined that CSI's legal team was, frankly, talking out of its collective ass.

The Scientologist's hamfisted tactics inspired a gang of self-proclaimed hackers to declare war on them. Usually, these guys devote their efforts to stealing passwords and harassing online communities who don't share their love of anime. But this time, they decided to put their talent for annoyance and mischief to work for the greater good.

I honestly don't know who to root for in this battle. On the one hand, you've got a massive organization with a history of bullying, brutalizing, and blackmailing people who have spoken out against it. And on the other hand, you've got a bunch of console cowboy wannabes who have obviously watched V for Vendetta a few times too many. It's like a cage match between Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. I don't care who wins... I just wanna see lots of blood spilled.

To tell the truth, I would probably be more sympathetic towards Anonymous if I didn't think their campaign against CSI was simply a self-aggrandizing ploy full of sound and fury signifying nothing. I've always been a huge fan of subversive attacks on organized religion. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was a brilliant response to the Kansas School Board's decision to teach Intelligent Design as scientific theory. The First Church of Shatnerology hounded Bob Larson mercilessly with crank calls after he cheated on his wife with an employee named Margo. The satire of Landover Baptist Church is so convincing that several of their articles have been forwarded on by outraged Christians who weren't in on the joke. And God knows, I love me some Melba!

But there is nothing particularly clever or daring about the Anonymous attack on Scientology. In their videos, they claim (with kewl digitized voices) that they will "systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form." Yet, so far, their campaign of terror has consisted of some half-assed denial of service attacks (which accidentally took down a school in the Netherlands). Anonymous wants to pretend like they're a band of ragtag freedom fighters struggling against an oppressive evil organization. But while the Church of Scientology certainly fits the bill as an Evil Empire, Anonymous is not the Rebel Alliance. Hell, they're barely Jar Jar Binks.

Their "bold" attack actually comes off as petty, juvenile, and a bit silly. It's like expressing your outrage at the Bush administration by leaving a flaming sack of dog poo on the White House porch. The Church of Scientology has weathered organized assaults from people who were far better informed and far better equipped to damage them. Somehow, I doubt the pranks being perpetrated by Anonymous are going to have any lasting effect.

Ironically, if anything is going to bring down the Church of Scientology, I'm betting it'll be Tom Cruise.


Professor said...

Random unorganized thoughts spurred by your post: These people have nothing better to do than make anti- Schientology youtube videos?? Wow- did they come up with that after smoking a doobie and eating all the Twinkies?

And personally if won't take down the Bush administration but I would totally love to see a flaming bag of poo on the White House porch... The thought gives me the giggles!

And finally, last night when Tom Cruise took the stage at the SAG aawards I thought "There's a man in need of some good PR." And I turned it off and didn't bother to even listen to what arward her was giving. His rah-rah religion had just made me want to ignore everything out of his mouth, even the innocuous presentation of some award.

Farrago said...

I think Anonymous is merely engaged in some simple sabre rattling, just like CSI did about the Cruise video.

They know that everyone knows of the potential power of the internet, so One has to be wary of anyone'e sabre. Of course, Anonymous's sabre is broken off at the hilt, but no one would know that because they'll never really unsheathe it.

John said...

Leaving a flaming bag of dog Guillermo on the white house steps my not solve anything, but it'll make me feel better.