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Inappropriate Uses of Google Trends (medium.com)
488 points by prostoalex on June 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

I'm glad this was written and has more historical examples than just Brexit.

I could imagine a good portion of the questions could be originating from students. If a large political or economic event happens, it's not unlikely for classrooms teachers to task their students to understand what's happening. Search is the obvious first step for that.

Even more broadly, and in line with the article, extrapolating from a single coarse data point is a Bad Idea™.

Forget students even, I'm an adult with a compulsive information-seeking habit, as I suspect a lot of other HN readers are. I know who Harriet Tubman is, but I don't know all there is to know about her, so on the date that her $20 bill debut was announced I Googled her and read parts of her Wikipedia article, the same way I am constantly doing for all sorts of current event topics.

How can wanting to learn more possibly be demonized? Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?

My specific comment re: students was in reference to the perpetuation of "people who were searching 'what is the EU' have already voted on Brexit". That falsely assumed that those searches were from people who had already voted on the topic, suggesting lack of proper background information for such an important decision.

Young students are a group who may likely search for this information after the vote when it had a major impact on their country as before the vote it wasn't necessarily important for them to have detailed knowledge about it.

I'd hope we would never penalize someone for trying to get background information, no matter how "simple", before making an important decision, regardless of whether they're a student or an adult.

To an even broader point, imposter syndrome is hard enough when you just feel like you're behind on your fundamentals, let alone when you are actually behind on your fundamentals. Improving yourself should never be stigmatized.

The only really valid part of the linked article is the point about how you can't make sweeping generalizations based on a very small sample size and a (relatively) small trend.

Concluding that people probably know what the EU is while searching very specifically using the phrase "What is the EU" is no more accurate or truthful than concluding that they don't know what the EU is.

The author says at one point, "perhaps we can more likely conclude". Perhaps we can. But perhaps we shouldn't make any conclusions and just stick to the thesis that the press should know better when reporting facts?

True, the article gives no basis to conclude that people searching "what is the EU" already know what it is, but it seems like a fair default position. I might search "history of the EU" or "Mitt Romney bio" to get a certain kind of content outside of current events and gossip. I could also see other people with similar (limited, but much greater than 0) knowledge searching "what is the EU" or "who is Mitt Romney" for exactly the same reasons.

The less clueless-sounding queries have spikes on Google Trends that appear very correlated with the "who is"/"what is" spikes, for what it's worth.

Agreed. That's how to do sensible searching.

I didn't know how exit would happen via "Article 50", so I couldn't search for that term.

This election cycle has demonstrated that Google is acting politically, not a neutral repository with great search tools.

> Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?

Funny enough, that's exactly what happens in the US though...

> Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?

The key there is that the research is happening after the vote. They story being told about searches is wrong, but if it was true it would be notable.

If you start with the assumption that your enemies are stupid, you won't have much trouble finding the evidence.

True. Also, if Google Trends were for some reason down for the last weekend, journalists would keep looking for "evidence" of stupidity until they found something else.

That also is a great way to lose a political battle.

What I observe right now after the Brexit vote is the absolute conviction that brexit happened because the fact that it is xenophobic was just not explained clearly enough and the "stupid" brexiter just did not get it.

Googling something does not mean you don't know what it is.

Very often I google things that I know quite a bit about. Sometimes to see if there is any news about it, or just to get to the wikipedia page, and brush up on a few facts.

Google is indeed rightfully called "the Address Bar of the Internet" in the article.

Few of the searches I did today[0]:

- russian letters - because I needed to copy-paste a glyph

- ramen - because I wanted to double-check this word for one of my today's HN comments

- polyvalent - because "wtf does that word in today's HN link mean?"

- sabaton prague - to get the name of a song I wanted to listen to

- list polecający - to double-check that's a right name in Polish for "recommendation letter"

- shield logo - to quickly find an image URL I could post to office chat so that the person who stole my mug can know which mug I'm talking about


I could call only one of these (the "polyvalent") a case of not knowing something. Rest were mostly "utility searches".

[0] - I'd post more, but for the typical weird Googly reason, they completely fucked up the search history interface - it's now mixed with sites visited with Chrome, of which I have significantly more than distinct Google queries. And there is no way to filter the list. Why Google keeps making interfaces dumber and less usable is beyond me, but I'm started to get sick of it.

I often google the things I'm discussing on HN as well, to make sure my facts are straight, and to define words that sounds right to use, but I want to be precise[1]. What I google probably has little relevance to what I "know" or not. Also, I try to google my own position in some arguments to see if I can find the talking points of the other side, and how well my views fare in their light.

1: There's a fine line between using language that some percentage of people won't necessarily know the correct definition of but is precise to your meaning, and using less precise terminology that requires more words and sentences to arrive at what may be equivalent. In my experience, people generally have a mostly correct idea of the meaning of most of the less common words in English, but through remembering prior uses in context, not through necessarily remembering the definition. I like to skirt this line (at least, where it is for me, as it's different for different people), and rely on readers that care to look up the definition of a word that they aren't sure if it implies something specific (as I try to).

Firefox has gotten a lot more usable in the last few versions, and Chrome-style tab isolation should be here a few versions from now. If they're still screwing up in any major way, it's in the ever-closer approximation of the terrible Chrome UI, but there's an extension [1] which solves that quite handily.

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/classicthemer...

Thanks for the extension link. In my comment though, I didn't mean Chrome interface, I meant the UI of https://history.google.com/. It's now made Inbox-style, but with zero functionality.

I just searched for that and used it for the first time to look to prior searches to use in another comment, and found the interface to be pretty bad. But in writing this comment, I found that it has a "go to date" option at the top and a search box that searches your history. It's actually far better than I thought on first use (but I'm not sure it qualifies as good).

Slightly off topic - the best feature of reading on an iOS device is the workflow of select word > define. Going to a browser and typing/pasting in a word then searching is a step too removed for me to do it routinely.

> it's now mixed with sites visited with Chrome

For me it shows major headings of each search I have done, and smaller subheadings of the search results I clicked on. Most of those from firefox, and none of my chrome history is mixed in.

Or in some cases, to 'confirm' that what you think about something is correct or popular. How many of the people searching for the EU stuff were those in both sides looking to validate their own decisions?

But yeah, Googling stuff can mean a lot of things, and its ridiculous to assume it purely means someone doesn't know about something.

To back this up, I often try to Google in non-biased ways. If you search for "Is paleo unhealthy," you're going to get very different results than "health benefits of Paleo."

How often do you google "who is mitt romney?" as opposed to just "mitt romney"?

I honestly took the WP article at face value and told a coworker that Brexit voters were regretting their decision based on conclusions drawn from Google trends.

I feel like one of those ants that have been infected by the mind control fungus, helplessly infecting others with misinformation designed for an agenda.

And for the vast majority of people that heard this, it will never be challenged. They will walk on through life believing it is true and never hearing a single reason why it isn't. The WaPo won't run a front page article tomorrow saying "Why we were full of shit".

It's called the hivemind; people form a collective intelligence instead of independent narratives. This is partially the fault of news, which is quite opinionated these days, and also our willingness to take these reports at face value and integrate them into our knowledge as Truth. (On the positive face, this is called "word-of-mouth") The cure is skepticism, but you know what they say: "no one likes a skeptic".

To be fair, some voters are regretting their decision.

Here's the former editor of The Sun (a large uk tabloid "red top") saying he regrets voting leave.


There are many others, but I link this one because, well, he should have known better.

Have you ever googled "What is X" when you knew what "X" was? Neither have I. This article, while a nice caution, doesn't really dismiss the issue. It's not about "oh I look up lots of stuff," it's about lots of people looking up lots of stuff and coincidently with world events a lot of us are looking up this thing having to do with world events.

I still don't know who Harriet Tubman is. I haven't googled her yet. I'll probably duck duck go her anyway...but that's a different story.

The Washington Post reporters knew that Google Trends data was not accurate and misleading. They went with it because: it is a liberal site, wanted to make people angry against the Brexit voters. Also Jeff Bezos(the owner) has a beef with Trump and publicly supports liberal media outlets like Gawker.

tldr: Nothing unexpected happened, they knew what they were doing.

Rather than downvote, I'd love to see some links regarding if the Post has a liberal bias, that they knew they were publishing inaccurate and misleading information and did so willingly with intent to deceive, and evidence that they want their readers to be angry against the Brexit votes.

I totally agree with your other, factual statements, Bezos I'm sure doesn't care for Trump, and does indeed probably support Gawker. I just can't find anywhere in the world literature any evidence that supports your other claims. Or I guess I wouldn't would I?

Same here. It's seems to me they're trying to spread F.U.D., but I would love to read more if it's backed up.

On the flip side of the coin, some typically conservative media tried to use Google Trends to prove manipulation of instant search results to be pro-Hillary [1], with the same results of not really undestanding how instant search really works [2][3].

[1] http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/06/10/google-burying-anti...

[2] http://www.vox.com/2016/6/10/11903028/hillary-clinton-google...

[3] https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/google-instant-behin...

Neither the WaPo nor Bezos are "liberal" (unless you mean liberal in the economic sense), but the WaPo is very much anti-Brexit. I agree with you that this was a story constructed to fit their editorial line.

This is probably a good time to use Occam's Razor. Assuming that it was malicious bias is a big assumption when the more logical conclusion is that the journalist simply did not know how Google trends works (or how to read a graph without a numerical scale on it). If the journalist wrote the article after reading the original post we could draw a different conclusion but without knowing that it is safer to assume ignorance instead of malice.

In 2014, Facebook made a famous post (https://www.facebook.com/notes/mike-develin/debunking-prince...) mocking researchers for using Google Trends data as evidence it would die.

I made a comment along the lines of this a year ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9828295) when people cited Google Trends as statistical evidence people were looking for a Reddit alternative in light of the controversy back then.

Google Trends is fun for snarky Tweets, but I'm still seeing it used to prove points in startup blogs, which is a problem.

It's easy for Facebook to say, here's our actual engagement numbers because we have (nearly) perfect tracking! But from an outsider's perspective, say a journalist or a hedge fund bro, it's difficult to perform any truly rigorous analysis involving these unobservable behaviors. So people come up with proxies - Google Trends, polls, or if you're truly adventurous, credit card spend information. [1]

Anyways, using products like Google Trends is worth a shot if only because there's few substitutes to imperfect information.

[1]: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sec-capitalone-insidertrad...

Printing misleading charts and presenting as fact is often worse than printing nothing at all.

It's better than the New Zealand Herald (pretty much the national news paper) which regularly resorts to printing Reddit comments in full. Often unattributed.

As the old Usenet maxim goes, the best way to prompt posting of a true claim is, occasionally, to post a false one.

(Doesn't always work. But often does. Or it turns out that the "false" one is justified. Happened to me, once.)

I wonder how many people do that just to lie to people, because if people believe that Google Trends pseudostatistic, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

> I wonder how many people do that just to lie to people

Ooh, lots, I'm sure. It's a brilliant way to lie, because it makes catching you out look like a lot of hard work.

Let's face it, the only reason publications turned to Google Trends to show people Googling "What is the EU?" is because it fit the narrative they had out of the gate. I see the good and bad of Brexit (I'd say "remain" has a stronger case if the EU would reform;) yet the more I read from the media, the more I've leaned pro-Brexit, just out of spite. Every article I've read treats those who were pro-Brexit as if they were complete idiots, as if their concerns aren't legitimate. Even if I disagree with someone's policy position doesn't mean I should completely ignore their concerns and write them off as a bunch of idiots.

Absolutely infuriating to listen to and read. Maybe it's my imagination, but the media as a whole has gotten a lot more preachy within the past 6 months. The new trend seems to be "data journalism" in which most people omit numbers to the contrary of a certain world view (Vox literally has been getting a dataset from Reddit on 'mass shootings.' Even the NYTs and MotherJones called them out, to no avail. Not sure how people are letting them off the hook.)

I honestly can connect more with those that were "Leave" on the E.U. now than in the beginning; simply because the media coverage has come off as so elitist.

The battle lines have shifted. It's now nationalism vs. globalism, not conservative vs. liberal. It turns out that the elite, while split between conservatism and liberalism, is firmly in the globalist camp. The people tend to go the other way, especially once the hollow veneer of political correctness is shattered (terrorist attacks, migrant crises, and economic downturns can do that).

You're seeing it in Britain, where Brexit crossed party lines. The people were told they couldn't have a say on immigration or many other aspects of their lives. Britain's cultural identity, their nationhood, would just have to give way over time to a pan-European globalized society. They were told that high-minded technocrats in Brussels, not the British nation, should run their country. It turns out that the common people don't like that deal.

You're seeing it in America. Trump is not running on a policy platform. He's signed up to enough conservative pieties to get the Republican Party behind him, but his whole campaign is really premised on kicking out the ruling elite and restoring government for the interests of the American people, not the establishment and their globalist agenda. Regardless of whether you agree that his policies will accomplish that, there's no denying that that's the core sentiment that he's tapping into. This is the quote that seems to be extremely popular among his supporters: "We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down."

You're seeing it in continental Europe, with nationalist parties pulling supporters from both the establishment conservative and left-wing parties. Marine Le Pen's National Front has a very good chance of winning the election in France next year. Her platform isn't right-wing or left-wing, it's nationalist and seeks to preserve the culture of the French nation, including their social and economic model.

Alternative for Germany (AfD) is gaining rapidly in reaction to the disastrous decision to allow migrants to flood into Germany. They have benefit in the polls at the expense of both the main left and right parties.

The supporters of these movements are unified in one thing: a love for and desire to preserve their nation's culture and values, which they perceive to be under siege from uncontrolled immigration and globalization.

"We just want to preserve our culture" is the loudest racial dog-whistle I know. It's been around since Jim Crow and it looks like it's not going away any time soon.

This implies there is no such thing as a culture worth saving, and that the only reason someone might find value in it is because of racism. Not coincidentally, this is the globalist message. All people are the same, the only thing that matters is economic growth, and nation-states will soon be a thing of the past.

Turns out, normal people have something to say about that.

I think the nationalism vs globalism framing is correct, but somehow misleading. I love the cultures of countries, but am a globalist.

I don't like that capital is far more global and well-treated than labour is, but at least the EU made some strides in the direction of more movement for people.

However, while in principle the EU is great (my only problem is that it isn't globalist enough), the practicalities seem to have been co-opted by international capital.

For instance, law-making powers are still reserved to the Commissioners. Politicians who never have to run for elections again are not the right people to put in such a role, and yet, that's what happens.

The Council of Ministers are even worse. All the national governments get together, fight, make a decision that the EU then implements, then each national government goes home and blames the EU for it.

Meanwhile, things that would actually make life better for the people of the EU (roaming charges are a good example) are held up for years because they damage sets of national interests.

Don't even get me started on the Euro.

On the other hand, the EU means that western europe and some of the rest has been in relative peace for over sixty years now, and there is definitely more of a sense of common identity across the countries, which is brilliant. We've changed from young men dying in the muck to old men arguing over idiocies, and while that's not a perfect change, its still better than the alternatives.

But the forces of maximising profit by shifting work to lower-cost countries are the real causes of the hollowing-out of much of the UK outside London. This, along with perceived loss of identity, causes those people to lose faith in all of the internationalist movements which are backed by capital, and vote Leave.

Just because something can be a racial dog-whistle doesn't mean that it's wrong or that it's always motivated by racism. I'm a Hispanic-American, the first generation born in America, and I'll be casting my ballot for Mr. Trump.

Here's my reasoning. Immigration has to be at levels, under conditions, and from cultures that are conducive to assimilation. I don't think we have that today, and what's being proposed by the other side is a big step in the wrong direction. Immigration to America works when it's a melting pot. When people are coming to work hard and to earn their own way, not to collect on generous benefits that would make them rich in their home country (edit:[1]). There was a time when a large percent of immigrants went home after a few years because they weren't cut out for America. America does not need millions of low-skill migrants; we already have more low-skilled people than our economy seems to be able to accommodate. Immigration must be for the benefit of the American people, not out of any sense of fairness or duty to potential migrants.

I'm not trying to convince you of my views here, just show you that it's not as simple as calling the other side a bunch of bigots. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to preserve your culture or to defend the interests of your nation.

[1] Clarifying in response to rconti below: I'm not saying that most immigrants are necessarily coming with the express intent on cashing in welfare checks. I think a welfare state is just not as capable of successfully integrating immigrants the way America has been able to in the past. I suspect generational poverty among descendants of immigrants since 1965 vs. descendants of those who came in the early 20th century and prior would show that (measuring one, two, three, and four generations out). I could be wrong and even if the statistics are on my side, there's so many confounding factors that I'd hesitate to declare victory on that basis.

As long as you're confident that, in fact, "these immigrants these days" aren't coming to the US to work any more, the same way "these kids these days" just want to play video games and type in emoji.

From where I sit, it seems that you're buying into a cultural narrative that has no data to support it. Not looking for an argument, just saying you might want to check your assumptions.

Every generation of new immigrants has always pushed hard to close the door behind them. Welcome to the club.

You're right racial comments are not necessarily wrong, but I think you're wrong to vote for Trump.

Just to avoid using very loaded words like "racist", I'm going to say I think we're all "culturist" to varying extents, which means we like people culturally like ourselves. We use race (or sometimes religion) as a proxy for this, because it's simpler - note that it tends to be the less articulate who do this. But actually it's having the same values, the same social habits and ceremonies and the same language to share them that binds us. Put another way, a black person who absorbs enough white culture is acceptable enough to be voted president; and a white person who absorbs black culture (Eminem) is viewed with suspicion by many white people. It's not the colour - it's the culture.

If you and I were not culturists, we'd probably look at immigration and say that there was an optimal size for a society inhabiting a particular part of the world, and we'd welcome people until we hit the limit. As with any population, some of those people would be a net drain on our society, and some would be a net asset.

In fact it's a lot better than that - numerous studies have found that immigrants tend on average to be far more productive than the population they are joining, and it makes perfect sense because by definition they had the vision, energy and resources to leave their old lives behind. I'm guessing you are a prime example of this. And it is this exact effect that made the US such a powerhouse - in the early 1900s they absorbed millions of the worlds brightest and best who then built the miracle that was 1950/60s America. Then they started putting the breaks on immigration, and... oh dear, the economy is faltering! Why ever could that be?

So it's generally accepted that immigration is not actually a serious problem, and it is only the most culturist and least successful members of our society who think it is because it gives them a convenient excuse for their circumstances. And any politician that tries to whip up support by shouting "immigrants are causing all our problems" automatically loses my respect because the argument is a fallacy, and they know it, but it's the oldest trick in the book to get the less fortunate to support you.

History is littered with politicians who used immigrants as scapegoats, and in every case it did not go well. Do you really want to vote for someone using the same tactics that Fascists used to get into power? And even if you decide immigration is a big enough issue for you, are you sure you want to support all his other policies? You really want to waste huge amounts of your country's resources building a totally ineffective wall? You really want to start profiling large segments of the population - a favourite tool of the most repressive regimes in history? And do you really want the US military to be at the whim of someone who loses his temper when a minor court case goes against him? You're going to vote for someone who promises he's squeaky clean but is the only candidate to refuse to release his tax records? Please use (or don't use) your vote wisely.

There's nothing wrong with liking your culture and wanting to preserve it, with wanting it to succeed. If that makes me a "culturalist" or "culturist" or whatever, then I'll wear the label proudly. When my family moved to this country, they decided to become Americans. That doesn't mean abandoning your heritage, or forgetting it--I love Cuban food, poetry, music, history, and humor--but it does mean embracing the society you moved to and raising your children in its values. Some of what we brought will seep into general American culture, and the rest will be relegated to the history books within a couple generations. That's the melting pot.

Mass migration to Europe from the Middle East is an unmitigated disaster, even before the current refugee crisis. France in particular is a good example of what can really go wrong with unmanaged immigration. You have second and third generation Muslims becoming more fundamentalist than their parents, developing incredible animosity toward the rest of France (and receiving it too). Without pointing fingers at whose fault it is, the French or the immigrants, it's a total disaster for both. It frankly doesn't matter whose fault it is, it should have never been allowed to happen. I'm incredibly alarmed that the left in America is totally and willfully blind to those risks. They call you racist and shout you down if you dare challenge them. They're promising to bring in hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East. It will be millions if it goes the way of other promises that the American people have gotten on immigration.

We need to be very careful. We should accept the best and brightest from these countries. But we cannot repeat the horrible mistake that the Europeans have made.

Uncontrolled mass migration is new to America. For the first sixty years of the Republic, there was almost no immigration. Then until the early 1920s, immigration was mostly restricted to Europeans, who already had a great deal in common culturally with Americans. Then from the early 20s until the 1965 Immigration Act, there were strict quotas imposed per country-of-origin that slowed immigration to a trickle. (Though mass illegal immigration does predate the 1965 act by a few years, I believe.)

>And it is this exact effect that made the US such a powerhouse - in the early 1900s they absorbed millions of the worlds brightest and best who then built the miracle that was 1950/60s America. Then they started putting the breaks on immigration, and... oh dear, the economy is faltering! Why ever could that be?

The mass migration from Mexico into the US is not the brightest and most talented, it's Mexican peasants. There's nothing wrong with being a Mexican peasant, and I wish the best for them. The ones who are now my countrymen deserve the same consideration and acceptance as any American. But America does not need to import millions of peasants. They're a total mismatch for what our country needs, which is high-skill labor. We have enough low-skill workers that can't find jobs. I don't see how we benefit from adding more. Especially people with very low expectations for wages and the employer-employee relationship. Mexican poverty is Mexico's problem. Why do we need to make it America's problem too? We have our own problems to solve.

No one thinks the economy is faltering because we're not allowing enough immigration from Mexico. The idea is frankly a little ridiculous.

It didn't have to be this way. The American people have been making their views on this uncontrolled migration, on the wink-wink approach to illegal immigration in particular, very clear for a long time. They were sold a massive amnesty in 1986 in exchange for increased enforcement. It was a great humanitarian act, worthy of a great nation. It also ended up being a total and brazen lie by the politicians. The Democrats are happy to keep importing voters and the Republicans are happy to importing cheap labor. All while swindling the people. Time's up.


So I should vote for the other side that reflexively calls me racist and bigoted whenever I don't agree with them? The side that takes innocent cops that were defending their lives and ruins their careers and lives, so that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can advance theirs? The side that has forced colleges to lower the standard of evidence in college sexual assault cases, so young men can have their lives ruined by an accusation? The side that has invented a gender wage gap to sow division? The side that arranged to carry a massive banner at the front of the gay pride parade in NYC this weekend, saying "Republican Hate Kills"? The side that will try to destroy my career if I donate to the wrong political cause? Look, I can make your side look like demons too.

The attack on the judge was a bad move and poorly argued. Instead of "he's Mexican and I want to build a wall", he could have argued the defensible "he's associated himself with some Hispanic-American political groups that have political goals that I represent a huge threat to" (or really, just have left it alone). I would never join an organization called "La Raza", which literally means "The Race"; the thought is appalling to me, as it should be to you. It was appalling to Cesar Chavez, the left-wing Mexican-American civil rights activist, when they were first founded.

Trump has been in the public spotlight for decades, runs major companies with many employees, and no one ever thought to call him racist or accuse him of discrimination until he said he wanted to build a wall.


Hackernews is rate-limiting me, here's my response to maxerickson:


I stand corrected. Here are the Google search results for "Donald Trump racist" up to 2008, before his criticism of Obama got the word thrown around a ton. Almost everything comes from one guy's tell-all-type memoir (aka tabloid crap) and the rest speaks for itself as political opportunism. If anything, it actually helps prove my broader point about it being thrown around ridiculously.


Year 2000, people call Trump racist: http://graphics.boston.com/globe/nation/packages/gaming/part...

1993, Governor of Connecticut calls Trump bigoted: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/12/05/nyregion/weicker-apologize...

First link, they call him racist. Because he opposed their casino; zero evidence of racial bias, just cutthroat business. Seems like exactly what the GP is talking about - just throwing insults.

Second link is Trump pointing out exactly what the first article says! That X place wants to run a casino, but can't get legal permission. So they go to Indian tribes to get the legal part bypassed. It hardly seems bigoted to point out this is just exploiting a legal loophole.

It does everyone a disservice to so lightly throw around these words. If I were to start calling every panhandler/beggar that bothers me "assault", people would discount it. Same with all these accusations - they are losing their impact and people will start ignoring it. If Trump and the like are to be defeated, his opponents are going to have to come up with more substance instead of yelling "bigot".

(I'm in Guatemala, and some people here realise how good Trump will be for them. By blocking illegal Mexican immigration, if immigrants are needed, it'll open up more legal pathways for countries that aren't Mexico.)

No, you don't have to vote for the other side. But you're definitely voting for someone who is obviously going to be a poor leader. And he's demonstrated poor judgement over and over again. All the signs are out there but you choose to ignore them because you hate the other side so much. I cannot understand how a Hispanic can vote for someone who is so anti-Hispanic among other things. Are you HOPING that it's all an act? Really? This election is not a trick question. Many in the GOP have rejected him. Does that not count for anything?

We don't always get easy choices but I refuse to abdicate my responsibility to make the best choice for my country, even if it means swallowing some of my reservations. The other side has nominated an unprincipled criminal who has shown utter contempt for accountability in the course of her public service. Not to mention that I share about 0-5% of her policy views.

Aside from the whole judge debacle, which I concede can be seen that way, I don't see any evidence that Trump is anti-Hispanic. It's a nice narrative for the other side, because it turns off any thinking about the substance.

The GOP is unfortunately full of people who are more interested in abiding by liberal PC pieties, more interested in not being called racist, more interested in staying in power, than they are in actually delivering for their voters and for the American people. The Romney's and Bush's of the world just offer a slow-motion surrender instead of an overnight loss. Sometimes that's all you can get and it's better than nothing. Trump offered the base a chance to go all in. Despite his weaknesses, it's probably as good a timing as we will ever get.

Like I said in my topmost comment here, there's also the plain fact that many of these Republicans don't share the world view of the wing of the party that Trump represents. American parties are big tents with lots of room for ideological diversity. In countries with proportional systems, politicians have to negotiate with multiple parties to get a majority in Parliament. In America, that fight happens in the People.

Also, look, Trump is divisive obviously. He might win, but he's very controversial and has generated a lot of animosity, because he slaughters everyone's sacred cows. If he loses, some think it could damage the Republican brand for a long time, especially if our politically-correct culture continues down its current path. A lot of Republicans are trying to hedge their bets, to prevent another long-term calamity like the fallout from Goldwater's loss. I disagree with them, but I see where they're coming from.

> The other side has nominated an unprincipled criminal who has shown utter contempt for accountability in the course of her public service. This is really naive. Both sides are hardly saints. This sounds like a talking point from the GOP or Fox News.

So, after the Leavers won the #Brexit vote, we hear of these racist attacks on Polish immigrants by idiots emboldened by the vote result. I would not be surprised to see the same thing happen in the US.

A talking point from Fox News? This has been all over the media for months, even if some left-wing outfits have been trying to downplay it. If a normal government employee did what she did, they'd be out of a job, barred from ever having a security clearance again, and potentially facing criminal charges for the reckless handling of classified data. They'd almost certainly be facing criminal charges for destruction of evidence.

Also, have you not seen the large number of violent anti-Trump protesters attacking Trump supporters and police?

You need to add an extra newline to go to a new line btw.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/02/politics/donald-trump-californ... . It of course opens with the weasely "fair" opening sentence: "Protesters and supporters of Donald Trump clashed in the streets of San Jose, California, Thursday night after the presumptive GOP nominee held a rally." But the violence was exclusively in one direction, violent anti-Trump mobs attacking peaceful Trump supporters while waving Mexican flags and burning American ones. The biggest provocation from a Trump supporter was apparently waving the middle finger. A mob cornered her and threw eggs at her face. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-quick-cuts/watch/trump-supporter-... At least she didn't have a bloodied face and need to be taken away in an ambulance, like some Trump supporters have. This has been playing out all over the US.

If you vote based on who has the most violent supporters, then you'd be crazy to cast your ballot for a left-winger in any Western country. There's a contingent of far-left protesters in the West that just cause mayhem at any major event, like party conventions, G8 summits, WTO summits, Davos, etc. You barely hear about it because it's basically background-noise to Western society at this point. I don't think it's fair to use this as a shot against everyone on the left, unless they're trying to accuse conservatives of violence, or unless they're purposefully tolerating or equivocating about the violence, like the mayor of San Jose did.

A couple of comments. Firstly, I strongly advise you to look at the repeated rise and decline of Silvio Berlusconi. I think Trump's awfully similar to Mr. Berlusconi in many ways, including some of the circumstances that caused Italians to elect him. Italian machismo has a different face than American machismo, but it's kind of the same. Mr. Berlusconi was not politically correct. The net result was a pretty poor PM... beyond scandals and giggle-worthy headlines, there really wasn't much policy advancement, unless it empowered Berlusconi's personal fortunes. He also was a leader that was not respected by the EU in any way, not a terribly good deal in this global world. The economy ended up stalled (Berlusconi fixed none of Italy's business structural problems)

Mr. Berlusconi was also anti-immigrant, similar to Trump (actually not quite as coarse, but no matter). It didn't matter much one way or another, frankly. I get the impression today's Italians don't look quite that fondly on that era.

I get that some of the above (the EU / global part) is part of the reason for things like Berlusconi, Trump, Brexit, etc. I also think, ironically, that any economic impact (which in some cases is big) might disproportionately affect many who vote for such things. Talent / company "brain drains" happened under Berlusconi, and it looks like the same will happen under Brexit. Those that can are more likely to move wherever the jobs and opportunities are. Those that can't end up in a not quite so enriched country. This really isn't a solution for the globalization / technology inequality problem. It might exaggerate it for all I know.

The second: Since 9/11, only two general classifications of terrorists have actually committed mass murder in America. The first is Islamic terrorists. The second is right-wing terrorists (right-wing as in: white supremacists, anti-semitism , militia types, anti-abortion advocates). Don't get me wrong -- the far left-wing certainly is capable of violence, the clashes at the Trump rallies are deplorable, and there have been murderous radical left terrorists in the past. But these days, I consider right-wing white supremacists in particular the most "likely to commit terrorism" category next to radical Islamists. I don't know of a left wing incident recently where a church was mass-shot; white supremacists have mass-shot two churches this decade.

It, of course, is not fair to use these right-wing white supremacists as a generalization of conservatives (as it would be the other way, as you say). But Donald Trump's unashamed nativism, macho authoritarianism, and identity politics does make me worry a bit whether this will encourage more white supremacists terrorism in the future. We'll see, I guess.


Citation needed. He's talked a lot about limiting Mexico's free access to free movement of people. This disproportionately affects Mexico and Mexicans, and their media reflects it!

Having gone through immigration ordeals, it's a slap in the face to embrace illegal immigration. I put up with the law, and it hurts me[1]. Others just say fuck it, run across, and that's supposed to be OK? Or more ridiculously, saying it's not OK is racist?

For every other country that's not Mexico, stemming Mexican immigration is a boon. Of course his words are spun to make people offended. I spoke to one woman here (Guatemala) who said "But he hates people like me". But when asked, she couldn't say why, she had just heard reports. After showing what he really said, she no longer believed it.

Oh, and immigration laws south of the US are a lot harsher than the US! My daughter's a Canadian-American in Guatemala. Since she doesn't have her GT passport, if she tries to leave the country, she owes a $4000 fine for being here illegally[2]. Imagine the backlash if the US imposed exit fines on such immigrants! I only point this out to highlight the absolute hypocrisy when these countries complain about US policies.

Let's face it: A huge chunk of the world population would jump at the chance to live in the US. Their countries would also love that, as remittances are a huge business. (Mexico gets what, $2BN a month? That's perhaps 1-2M households being supported?) If the US needs immigration, then they should do so in a fair-to-everyone way, not in a way that lets people get hurt, forces illegal crossings, allows Mexico to stop non-Mexicans from making the attempt, etc. And this also selects for "not the best people". The professional people I know in Latam would never dream of visa overstay, let alone illegal crossings. The ones I do know that gone illegally might be nice people, but they're hardly the top talent the US can attract.

People need to stop being hysterical, stop worrying about looking bad, and actually examine fairness and data to determine policy. Being anti-illegal-immigration is not racist by any means, and insisting so will just result in being ignored.

1: My daughter was killed indirectly due to immigration law forcing us to go to a poor country with junk healthcare.

2: Yes I can sort it out for probably half that amount. But the point remains.

I believe you can be anti-illegal-immigration and not racist. It's also not a stance that Trump or the GOP owns.

> People need to stop being hysterical Well, have you heard what's coming out of Trump's mouth? He's exploiting people's fear of Mexicans. That carelessness counts as being anti-Hispanic and also, have you heard what he said about that judge...

When Trump talks about building a wall (charging Mexico for it!) and deporting all illegal immigrants you can't ignore that pipe-dream. Somehow this guy is going to solve illegal immigration? That's why you're supporting him? Because why write this huge defence of him?

Again: What has trump said that's actually anti-Hispanic (not even just Mexican) or outright racist? I have looked up a lot of what Trump _exactly_ says. He's very careful with his words; people just project meaning into them to get the result they want.

All people have biases, even judges. The judge in question belongs to "La Raza Lawyers" ("The Race"). La Raza in general is very pro-immigration and doesn't like Trump's policies. Trump didn't say it was because he was Mexican heritage, he said it was because the judge kept ruling against him. But it's not crazy to think there may be some bias there, possibly.

I don't know why you think it's a pipe dream. Charging Mexico is trivial: Threaten the remittances. Tax them or just ban them (add more AML/KYC rules). Since there's 1-2M households depending on this income, even a 2 month interruption would devastate Mexico - they can't play around with it. As far as deporting people, the US deported 1M in a the 50s[1]. With social media and modern tech, it should be easy to surpass that number.

I'm not even supporting him here. I'm just annoyed that people that could take down Trump don't, and instead resort to baseless insults. We just saw this happen with Brexit. The Remain side, outside of debates, was a lot of "don't be racist" screaming. People are ignoring this kind of yelling, and it desensitizes people to actual racism.

This isn't really a good topic for HN, but please email me (see profile) so we can discuss more.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Wetback

Are you the same type of person who accuses people of cultural appropriation? Does it exist or not? Is culture something worth cherishing and preserving and experiencing or is it too tribal for the modern era?

I had a great trip overseas recently. I loved being in a different place and in a different culture. I hope the people of that place continue their traditions because I want others to experience it as well.

I want my own culture to continue, as horrible as that might sound. It's not perfect, and its always changing for better or worse, but its my culture and I think there's value in its existence.

I think the way the recipe goes is something like this: any non-dominant culture is unique and worth preserving (however, it may not be appropriated by outsiders) and any dominant culture is not only oppressive by nature but not worth preserving (should be diluted) except where its philosophy is to prefer non-dominant culture --and it may be appropriated, most naturally.

Do you have a definition of culture? The argument for, or against, preserving it depends heavily on that definition.

I am from India. Millennia of foreign trade and coexistence with other religions yet preserved a cultural identity within most subgroups of Hinduism. This cultural identity relates to seasonal festivals, religious festivals, ceremonies related to events of life (such as birth of a child and marriage), etc.

During the last three decades, or so, we have been experiencing a new wave of globalisation. It has resulted in a growing trend of identity and relationships getting determined solely based on economic factors. This relentless drive for financial growth has largely relegated the cultural legacy to the fringes.

One of the most visible social consequences is that of alienation. Common gatherings and celebrations are rare except in the cases of two or three high-profile festivals. Neighbours do not know one another; they do not talk to one another except for a mechanical "Hello"; they do not have a few moments for one another's needs.

Culturally, these people have - if at all - erred on the side of being "nosy", not alien. But, that is the new reality.

Similarly, those parts of culture that relate to the softer or the subtler aspects of Nature are dying a rapid death. Examples include the harvest festival (makara sankranti) and celebrating Sun (ratha saptami). A natural consequence of this is that people are losing touch with Nature, an appreciation for it, and spend most of their time indoors. There is little to no physical exercise outdoors.

It can be argued that gyms and other exercise regimen should be followed, etc. However, I see more value in having a culture that seamlessly integrates them into everyday life.

Finally, I am at a loss to understand how exactly this relates to racism. Any such connotations have to be tacked on; they are not intrinsic to culture.

A good portion of mainstream American and European liberals would consider Jewish culture to be a real thing that deserves preserving, even while they claim that saying the same thing about any other culture or identity is racist

What is Jewish culture? Jews are as diverse a group as any other group. Jewish culture includes everything from religious nut jobs, to academia, to gay rights, to you name it. Jews are a extremely wide spectrum of opinion. Probably all spectrum of opinion is covered by Jews. So yeah let's preserve that. Let's preserve my Jewish culture, though I am not a Jew I share the same culture of all human opinions.

I love my country[1] Europe which is secular, hedonistic, sexually liberated and with gender equality. I want to preserve it that way.

[1] I do think of it that way.

Funny, "Dog-whistle" is the loudest dog-whistle I know, for strawmanning. "We all know what you really mean, wink wink, nod nod, and therefor you are a bigot / racist / etc."

this comment being downvoted is great testament to the political and, even more important, social inaptness of the highly brainwa... err... educated tech community. not funny.

> the more I read from the media, the more I've leaned pro-Brexit, just out of spite

How can you possibly use "spite" as a justification to make decisions about the next few decades of our future?

Doing anything out of spite (Google definition: "a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone") is surely a bad idea for doing anything, let alone a decision of this magnitude, which needs careful consideration of the facts, not emotion.

> I honestly can connect more with those that were "Leave" on the E.U. now than in the beginning; simply because the media coverage has come off as so elitist.

"Elitist", being a request to listen to the experts, presumably; Nobel prize winning economists, the IMF, banks, businesses, the US government, the unions, major businesses, all the sane UK political parties, and so on. Yes, elitism is terrible. How could it have been presented differently to save your feelings?

What is infuriating is that many (most?) people voted according to emotion rather than considering the evidence.

I think you're discounting the spite vote.

Media is owned by corporations and the elite. They want freedom of movement, because cheaper labor to exploit and easier to move capital around to make more money. They also want one set of rules and laws and taxes. They also find it much easier to manipulate a single body than multiple bodies. If you want certain policies it's much more effective if you have to buy one government over many different governments.

Elite, the few of them that there are, want one world government that allows them to dictate all the policies and tax the population for things like patents and copyright. They want more power and the way to get that is to get everything under one umbrella... or as few umbrellas as possible. It's easier for them to manage their interests that way than if they have to deal with multiple governments all of which represent potentially different power structures and groups.

Uhmm...I also want freedom of movement. If somewhere else is going to pay me more for the same job, I'm moving there.

If I recall correctly, you'd have to be at least a lvl 4 wizard to cast freedom of movement.

Freedom of movement is great, unfortunately we live in a world with 7 billion people and it's likely a vast majority would move from where they are at if they could. 1.3 billion people make less than $1.25 a day. What do you think would happen if they could move somewhere else easily? Equality and economic parity is necessary without creating a humanitarian and environmental disaster of human movement.

I do too, that's where elite interest and interest of modern workers converge and they use that to justify their policies. But often those policies are not good for the locals. Many immigrants do work harder than the locals. Which creates more competition and allows you to exploit the local population better in terms of offering them lower pay and longer hours and fewer benefits. Combine that with automation and you really have too much power in the situation.

About this:

"Every article I've read treats those who were pro-Brexit as if they were complete idiots, as if their concerns aren't legitimate."

You are using very strong language there, but it is important to remember that the pro-Brexit people were badly misinformed, and the concerns that drove them were completely illegitimate in a modern Western country. So it is entirely appropriate that the articles give that kind of treatment to the pro-Brexit crowd. Such articles are accurate and we should be grateful for their honesty and reporting.

Congratulations on so powerfully proving his point: that the root cause of stupidity is a closed mind.

I'd say the core problem here is that people are insufficiently cynical about plurals. If you see a headline that says "Belgians are going crazy about a roller-blading echidna", you should be asking "How many Belgians?". If there's no answer in the article, the answer is "at least two, maybe". Google Trends is just one of many ways that headline might come to exist.

"Which Belgians?" is a similarly important question to ask.

I was somewhat surprised by the immediate inference that people searching "what is the EU?" were people who voted to leave, rather than people who voted to stay, or people who didn't vote at all.

I don't see the evidence behind this piece. In the article linked it says:

<< For instance, in the month before the Brexit vote, 8,100 Britons googled “what is the eu.” That’s around 261 a day. Google Trends showed a huge spike in searches for that term the day after the referendum; assuming searches for the term tripled, that’s still fewer than 1,000 individuals googling “what is the eu” in response to the “Leave” victory. >>

The key is "assuming searches tripled". Did they triple or did they increase by a 100? All the evidence we get is a line going from zero to a little peak. But without any scale:


It seems to be 1/3 of the number of searches for "Game of Thrones". Did only 3,000 people search for Game of Thrones?

I went back to google trends and found this:


On June 24th, people in the UK searched "Game of Thrones" 1.3x as frequently as "what is the eu". According to Keyword Planner, "Game of Thrones" was searched in May 2.2M times. Approx: 73,000/day. This _could_ mean that "what is the eu" was searched 56,000 times.

I like how people get up in arms about the lack of rigour of the other side but forget to check if this piece is likely to be true.

Now, whether it was searched by the "Leave" voters, the "Remain", the foreign residents or the people who didn't show up at the poll, that's anybody's guess).

edit: June 24th was a day with few "Game of Thrones" searches. So not likely one with an average number of searches, i.e. 73,000. Maybe 35,000? The main point is that everybody accepted the 1,000 searches.

Similar-ish to the cancelled 'Google Flu Trends' project, which tried to predict flu outbreaks based on search trends. A paper was initially published, containing fantastic results, but since then the results have not been great:


I like the Google quote at the bottom of the article - '...part of the issue was that they sometimes get a flood of searches simply when there's a lot of flu in the news'.

Who would have thought of that, eh? It apparently took eight years to discover!

Think about this: the media could concoct this narrative after every single election if they wanted to. They just chose this time because it suited their broader narrative. They're trying to tell you what to think and they're surprisingly effective at it. This should be a wake-up call to thoughtful people everywhere.

After this sorry debacle, with all of the major media outlets in the West pushing this ridiculous and spiteful narrative, how can anyone seriously claim that they aren't totally in the bag of certain political interests, that the media isn't pushing a particular world view by spreading lies and deception.

Well written article! I always find it funny when the media claims a majority with their wording when in fact it is an extreme minority.

Like those afflicted with H1N1/Bird Flu/zika/ebola etc.. all are dwarfed by people that die every year from the common flu and yet the news portrays them as epidemics to drum up viewers for a week or two.

I wrote a script that finds pictures of celebrities mentioned on Google Trends, and swaps their faces. Here are Jimmy Fallon and Jada Pinkett Smith: https://twitter.com/faceswapbot/status/731075094739476481

Not entirely sure where this falls on the appropriateness spectrum.

Good piece. The conclusion on the Brexit article was ridiculous.

This is no different from fluff tabloid pieces that say that foods cause cancer. A typical headline might be "Eating chicken every day increases your risk of stomach cancer by 50%!"

Unless they specify absolute numbers, this could be a one in 10 million chance increased to 2.5 in 10 million. Or, it could be 4/10 increased to 6/10.

Really interesting article, it made me curious how Google Trends would recognize the searches with "Go" and "Golang" since Google now suggests the domain of such phrases (Go was recognized as programming language).

As far I know many developers using Go uses "golang" phrase to receive more precise results in search engine, but Google Trends denies such usage of this "trick". I made comparison [1] between the "Go", "Golang", "Elixir", "C#" and I felt pretty amazed that Go phrase is popular the same as C# - I would like to, but I don't think that can be truth. I really suggest to stop using Google Trends as a "representable source" which i.e. programming language is better known (sadly this practice is very popular, even during lectures at colleges/universities or in various publications).

[1] https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/26479102/hn/capture_1.pn... (https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=%2Fm%2F09gbxjr%2C%20...)

very glad this was written -- the sensationalism of it bothered me

This is the sort of thing that I like to keep around to link to people when they extrapolate incorrectly from Trends. However the really poor copy editing honestly makes me reconsider this, as a reader. I think the quality of what you read reflects on you and quality is a measure composed of many variables.

Guilty as charged deletes tweets and learns lesson

And then Iceland beat you. That's gotta hurt.

Any statistical information can be used inappropriately, so it's only logical that it applies to google trends. We seem to be wired as a culture to take stats at face value, myself included. This is a nice cautionary tale.

I believe the “plenty of people” issue is because graphs' vertical scale is not labelled, other than a percentage of the maximum, which says nothing.

Thank you very much for writing this. The staggering smugness I saw, and continue to see, from Reddit threads about how people that voted leave most be slack jawed morons who don't even know what the EU is made me really frustrated. Apparently divisive rhetoric and a sane discourse on politics isn't possible on either side of the aisle (or the Atlantic for that matter.)

> Google [is] the Address Bar of the Internet

Wouldn't the actual address bar be the address bar of the Internet?

Firefox's Awesome Bar (https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/awesome-bar-search-fire...) does its best to blur the distinction. I'm not sure whether theirs or Chrome's came first, but, of course, Chrome does its best to make sure that you see no difference between navigating to a specific address and Googling for it. Certainly I know people who prefer to enter [company name] rather than www.[company name].com in their address bar, and for whom the stop through Google (or whatever search engine of choice) along the way is practically invisible.


Even if you very much know what the EU is, searching "What is the EU" is probably a good start to find a resource that does a good job explaining it in details you didn't yet know.

Oh,that's really true, but we can just ask random people questions what do they think about EU.

I think that majority pro-Brexit answers about EU would be: Illegal immigrants, giving money to Poland and no money for ‎NHS.

Obviously, anyone who has ever searched "What is love" really has no clue what it is. Thus we can conclude that there is a massive population of sociopaths in our society. /s

Or that somebody has successfully cloned an army of Haddaways.

You mean to tell me clickbait media is biased and manipulative?

I'm shocked.

People often compare programming language popularity using Google Trends. It could be interesting to analyze those queries more deeply.

Why is Medium blurring out images? It negates the whole point of having images, i.e. to see them.

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