I have a confession. I love Amazon, Google, and Facebook. I know they are supposed to annoy, perhaps even alarm, true-blue conservatives like me, with their monster presence on the web, their lefty owners, and their “spying” on us night and day. But I can’t help myself. I love ‘em.
In fact, I’m not overstating the case when I say that they have changed my life for the better. I kid you not. For the better. Oh, they haven’t cured my insomnia or improved my wife’s disposition — but better in most other ways.
Facebook’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg makes me a bit uneasy. He’s said a few mean things about Trump. But then who hasn’t? Yes, he went to Harvard, that wellspring of all things on the left. But I can’t fault him for that. He was a bright kid who probably drifted in, and then dropped out, without a whole lot of thought. Zuckerberg is actually a registered Independent and has donated money to a number of Republicans, including Orrin Hatch, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan.
If Zuckerberg were in my living room right now, I would thank him for inventing Facebook. Without Facebook, I never would have gotten together with my childhood friends, Harold and Red. I hadn’t seen them since high school when, out of the blue, Harold located me on Facebook. Then Harold, Red, and I got together in Las Vegas and had a big time drinking and reminiscing. We now meet once a year in Vegas.
Facebook is so large and ubiquitous that people go to Facebook to look for old friends.
On Facebook, I stay in touch with my son, my daughter, and even distant relatives. My daughter posts photos and videos of my grandkids playing roller hockey and climbing rock walls in the local Ninja gym. My kids and I go back and forth, in real time, about the grands’ joys and achievements. I find it hard to believe that anyone would choose not be on Facebook.
Oh, there are Facebook competitors like Instagram and Linkedin, but none is as well designed and has the reach of Facebook. If there were an equivalent social media site with Facebook’s reach but run by conservatives, I would be there. But since there isn’t, I’m a Facebook fanboy.
When I first started out surfing the Web, I used a search engine called AltaVista. But when Google came along, AltaVista and other search engines found themselves trailing in its wake. In the best spirit of the free enterprise system, Google beat out the other search engines because it was better and thus left its competitors in disarray. That’s free enterprise’s creative destruction at its best.
It’s been the dream of humanity to have virtually all the world’s knowledge, literature, and art at one’s fingertips. Google made that dream a reality. Type Edgar Allen Poe into Google, and up pops, within seconds, a list of materials on Poe that would shame a card catalog. That list includes all of his works, hundreds of critical essays, and photographs of Poe himself. Tomorrow morning that list will have changed: In the middle of the night, while you were sleeping, Google crawled around the web mining more data on Poe. For a person like me, who grew up long before the Web, that is miraculous stuff.
I sometimes skip the dictionary and instead look up a single word on Google, particularly if it’s an unusual one. I even use it as a simple foreign language dictionary. Type “How do you say “grandmother” in German and you get back “die Grossmutter.”
I sometimes go to Google ten or so times when I write a post for Ricochet. For this post, I’ve already gone to Google four or five times, including one in which I asked the question, “What politicians has Zuckerberg donated to?” Before Google, it would have been laborious at best, maybe impossible, to find that information.
A few days back, I was curious about paintings by Grant Wood. I looked up Wood on Google, read his bio, and looked at a list of his works. Then I pressed on the “Images” button and browsed through hundreds of paintings by Wood. I was surprised how much I liked some of them. Before I looked at those images, my knowledge of Wood was American Gothic. Then I went to Amazon and typed in the Wood painting that caught my attention, Stone City, Iowa. I ordered a print of it for $8.99. It’ll be here in two days, free shipping. What a world!
Is there anything that Amazon doesn’t carry? I reuse the coffee capsules for my Nespresso coffee maker. To do that, I need small circular aluminum caps to seal the capsules. I go to Amazon and find three different brands, along with reviews of each. I buy a special low carb granola cereal on Amazon that I can’t get anywhere else. I found an absolutely wonderful treat dispenser/mic/camera for Bob the dog on Amazon. I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
At this moment I’m sitting in my daughter’s home in Olympia, Washington. She has a rather handsome crystal-looking skull on her shelf. Out of curiosity, I typed “skull” into Amazon’s search engine. Up pops, oh, maybe a hundred skull items, including a skull hairbrush, a pair of men’s underwear with a skull print where the crotch is (I was tempted by that one) and any number of life-sized anatomically correct skulls. Each comes with a lengthy description and numerous reviews. How can traditional stores compete with Amazon?
Now I even order clothes on Amazon. They will let you order five pieces of clothing in different sizes and colors. When they arrive, you try them on to see if they fit, Amazon provides a free package to send back what you don’t want, including all five if you wish. Amazon doesn’t charge you until they see what you’ve kept. In my last packet, I sent all five pair of trousers back, though one pair, the Lee Extreme Comfort Relaxed Fit trousers, were just a size too small. So I ordered a pair one size larger. They just arrived today. Perfect fit, as I knew they would be. Twenty-nine bucks, minus twenty bucks for use of their Visa card. (Guys, have you ever worn Lee Extreme Comfort Relaxed Fit trousers? With a wide and elastic waistband, they’re almost as comfortable as my sweat pants.)
Lots of companies pretend to put the customer first. Amazon actually does it. They will even tell you where you can buy a particular product for less than they sell it for. Who else does that?
Some people find it creepy, but I like the fact that Amazon not only keeps track of what items I buy but also what items I’ve looked at. If you don’t like this to happen, you can turn off the cookies that keep track of your purchases. But I like to see when I open up Amazon, “Items You’ve Viewed Recently” and “Buy It Again.” Handy.
Amazon has been a godsend for authors who are rejected by, or prefer not to be, published by a traditional book publisher. I have a friend back in Kentucky, a onetime colleague at the university I taught, who now writes fantasy and science fiction. His books really aren’t traditional publisher’s material, but he publishes his books through Amazon’s self-publishing services. As I say, my friend wouldn’t have been able to get his books out there as easily without Amazon. He’s sold a lot of his books. Amazon has made his retirement more interesting.
Yes, recently, Amazon has censored certain books, in particular, a few anti-vaccine books and a few white nationalists books, some “gay conversion therapy” books, and The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure. But this is rare. Amazon publishes all kinds of controversial and even inflammatory books that you can’t find elsewhere, including The Anarchist Cookbook and a few books on how to kill people and get away with it.
I’m something of a First Amendment guy, but even I hesitate to fault Amazon for refusing to sell a book on the untraceable poisons to use to murder your office mate who drives you crazy with his snort/laugh. Or a book that argues for the slaughter of Jews.
Amazon is a private company, not the government, so they have the right to publish, or not publish, almost anything they want. I bought a book a while back, Final Exit, on how to kill yourself. (I like to be prepared.) Amazon carries about ten other how-to-kill-yourself books. I like the fact that these books are available through Amazon. I doubt if they are available in traditional bookstores.
Do I worry about the Big Three spying on me? Not at all. The fact is, I’m not worth spying on. I guess if I had some kind of vital information that the Ruskies wanted, I would worry. Neither does it bother me for these companies to track my preferences and buying habits. In fact, I like it. Yesterday, as I mentioned above, I was looking up skulls on Amazon. Later that day I was on Facebook, and up popped an Amazon ad for skulls. Amazon kept track of my searches and wanted to give me a second chance at a skull. It’s synergy, man.
So you see, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that the Big Three have changed my life for the better: Facebook gets me in touch with old friends that I thought I’d left behind, Google puts the world’s art and literature at my fingertips, and Amazon is the best store the world has ever known.