Opinion

Google’s Dictionary Supplies Biased Terms, Calls Patriots ‘Xenophobes’

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Posted: Aug 03, 2019 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Google’s Dictionary Supplies Biased Terms, Calls Patriots ‘Xenophobes’

Source: AP Photo/David Goldman

We’ve all looked up a word to find out its definition, but some of the political terms on Google’s “dictionary” are biased and could have long term implications for our nation’s political future.

If you look up the word “conservative,” for example, you get these acceptable synonyms: traditionalist, conventional, orthodox, stable, prudent, and old-fashioned.  But these are also accompanied by these rather unflattering words: dyed-in-the-wool, unchanging, hidebound, timid, unadventurous, unenterprising, and set in one's ways, and stick in the mud.

Terms associated with leftist politics did not have such condescending synonyms. 

The word “progressive” was described as modern, liberal, advanced, forward-looking, forward-thinking, go-ahead, enlightened, enterprising, innovative, up-and-coming, new, dynamic, avant-garde, modernistic, disruptive; radical, left-wing, reforming, reformist, revolutionary, revisionist, and progressivist.

The word “liberal” had similarly positive results: tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened, forbearing; permissive, free, free and easy, easygoing, laissez-faire, libertarian, latitudinarian, unbiased, impartial, nonpartisan.  The only remotely negative words were indulgent, lenient, lax, and soft.

Perhaps the most offensive term on Google’s dictionary is the word “patriot.”  The synonyms offered are nationalist, loyalist; chauvinist, jingoist, jingo, flag-waver, isolationist, and xenophobe.  It almost sounds like they’ve hired Colin Kaepernick to supply their synonyms.

According to a February 2018 article in The Guardian, Google apparently gets their dictionary data from Oxford Dictionaries, which supplies “thumbnail definitions, audio recordings of pronunciations, etymology, a graph of usage over time and translation facilities.”  To test this, I looked up the word “patriot” in its database and received the same damning list of insults: nationalist, loyalist, chauvinist, jingoist, jingo, flag-waver, isolationist, xenophobe.

Regardless, Google is ultimately responsible for passing off these inaccurate, rude definitions to millions of unsuspecting users.

As kids, we’re taught that certain books are informational resources that do not include opinion or bias.  The dictionary and the encyclopedia are supposed to be such resources.However, in recent years, some of these resources have chosen to shirk their responsibility of fairness and become political.  

For example, a couple of weeks ago, President Trump tweeted about Democratic congresswomen of color "who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.”  He said they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Amidst the outcry of racism, Fox News political analyst Brit Hume said he believed this message was not racist, citing Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s first definition of racism, which reads, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Afterwards, the official Webster’s Twitter account appeared to reprimand Hume.  “Many of our entries have helpful usage notes if you scroll farther than the first definition.”  

Over the recent years, it has also made fun of candidate Trump’s spelling.  After he accused Marco Rubio of being a “leightweight,” the dictionary tweeted out the definition as “we have no idea.” They also mocked Trump’s usage of “unpresidented” as well as many other incorrectly spelled tweeted words.

In an era obsessed with fake news and rampant polarization, it would be nice if our supposedly unbiased resources weren’t also trying to push their own political agenda down their users’ collective throats.  In fact, being honest and unbiased during these uncertain times would be a much-needed act of patriotism.  

And no, I’m not trying to use that word as an insult.  I’m using it as it’s been used throughout the ages – as putting aside our petty differences and doing what’s right for our nation.

Mark Meckler (@MarkMeckler) is president of the nonprofit Citizens for Self-Governance and a co-founder of the tea party movement.