Difference Between ‘Don’t Do Evil’ and ‘Don’t Be Evil’

Those of you who follow all things Google because of your work or involvement in the Web will no doubt know the name of Matt Cutts, who has become the ubiquitous spokesperson for the search giant, especially in matters of SEO (search engine optimization).

I’d always heard that Google had an official policy on avoiding evil, that is, on not doing evil. In a recent online discussion, however, the same Matt Cutts corrected someone who cited the Googlian policy as "Don’t do evil."

Wrong, said Cutts. The official policy is "Don’t be evil."

This struck me as a bit curious because, in my reasoning anyway, one could follow the dictum of "Don’t be evil" but still "do evil."

You know, one could justify an action that resulted in harm, perhaps even deliberate harm, by using the "white lie" logic that parents use when they don’t tell their kids the unvarnished truth. Or one could even live in denial about one’s action while still claiming one is not evil, like those who throw coworkers under the bus to save their jobs while justifying it as "he had it coming," or whatever the excuse du jour might be.

My sentences are getting a little convoluted here from using one too often, but I hope my point gets across. Most of us live by situational ethics and we’ll do whatever is necessary, even if it’s wrong or evil, to further ourselves or to protect our lives, livelihoods and loved ones. In short, we’re totally capable of doing evil and convincing ourselves that we’re not being evil.

That’s why I find Google’s choice of words peculiar–and full of wiggle room to actually do evil.

Dennis Kneale Is Right, Except in His English Usage

CNBC host Dennis Kneale, who appears at 5 p.m. PDT and 8 p.m. EDT, etc., is taking a lot of heat from the blogosphere for proclaiming the recession over. I happen to agree with him that we’ve come out of the depths and are moving back up, and in fact I date it earlier than Kneale dpes. I say the depth was reached in February, but it had nothing to do with Obama or his inauguration. Right about the time of Puxatawny Phil’s spring-into-action on Feb. 2, the depths had reached us as the Lehman/GM shock began taking perspective. In fact, about a month later (a lagging indicator, as they all are except for us sages), the stock market started going up in fairly dramatic fashion, and consumer confidence started returning.

Lately, however, we’ve had a lot of Obama arbitrage and profit-taking from other people’s woes–investors and companies hunkering down and hoarding up on profits (or money however they can get it–think layofrfs) as a hedge against maniacal Obamaic plans to raise taxes, raise the minimum wage, rip off corporations in the name of nonexistent global warming, socialize the banking and auto industries, unionize every firm in America, and turn health care back to the dark ages when it was cheap (because nonexistent).

All that being said, my main point is that Kneale was right in calling the recession over. For the next months, or years, until Obama comes to his senses, the arbitrage and profiteering will be the logical response to illogical governmental actions. The recovery will stay on hold until then, but it’s over if we can get the government to realize it and take a two-year vacation.

Where I part with Kneale is in his choice of words when he was fighting back against bloggers who were calling for everything from his dismissal from the network to decapitation on public television. At one point, he referred to "homoerotic" bloggers who accused him of being gay (which he denies). However, that was surely the wrong word. What he meant was "homophobic," unless he was referring to bloggers who get orgasms by blogging against him. Then, that would truly be "homoerotic." Sadly, though, it may also be close to the truth.