How Google Parties

Friday night I was hanging out with billionaires and royalty, and was reminded of Dorothy Parker’s quip, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

I was at the book launch of How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, the boss of Google, a man worth $8.3 billion. Princess Beatrice was there, “a vision of glamour”—according to the Express. Jemima Khan, Nat Rothschild and Roman Abramovich’s girlfriend (the one who sat on the ‘black woman chair’) attended, along with various other members of the 0.0000000000000001%.

It was at the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, London, which is where celebrities go for dinner. The bar area has a fully-grown tree, inside. There was free, unlimited champagne, and waitresses who would take my glass and give me a new one if they found it less than half full. These are austere times.

How Google Works adjusted

A tree walks into a bar, doesn’t want to leave.

How I got in shall remain a secret, but I wasn’t invited. My connection to the event has to do with editorial work I do for the publisher of Julian Assange’s new book, When Google Met WikiLeaks.

The background to the story is this: In 2012 Eric Schmidt, the Google guy, published a book called The New Digital Age for which he interviewed Julian Assange, among others. The book is, unintentionally, a frightening dystopian sci-fi horror—an insight into the imperialist mind-set of Google. Last month, partly in response, Julian Assange published When Google Met WikiLeaks. It has two main arguments: 1) Google is deeply enmeshed with US foreign policy; 2) it’s not enough to focus on state spying any more—private sector corporations, and especially Google, are up to their necks in it.

By coincidence, Eric Schmidt has written an unrelated new book, How Google Works, which came out at exactly the same time as Assange’s and, curiously, has almost exactly the same cover. (Assange’s publisher, OR Books, suspected their design had been plagiarised, but decided imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.)

How Google Works coversSchmidt’s is one of those ‘how to’ corporate management books. I haven’t read it, but for a short time I possessed a copy on Friday night. I opened it at random to read one sentence that said: “Specialize: sometimes the best way to grow a platform is to find a speciality that has the potential to expand.” That was enough.

The fact that the two books have come out at the same time means that whenever Schmidt does a publicity interview for his book he is asked about Julian Assange’s view that Google is “a privatized version of the NSA.” Schmidt’s peevish responses—“Virtually everything Julian says is not correct”; “he is, of course, writing from the, shall we say, luxury lodgings of the local embassy in London”—belie his frustration that the smooth sailing of his book tour has been disrupted by this political iceberg.

So when it emerged that Schmidt was in London for his book launch, I thought it might be amusing if I went along in a t-shirt emblazoned with WikiLeaks in the Google colours.

How Google Works me cropped adjustedI realised, while waiting outside the venue at the start of the evening, that I was somewhat underdressed. I watched the doormen rush to let passengers out of the chauffeur-driven cars that pulled up smoothly. Immaculately dressed people emerged from the vehicles, their importance underlined by the way they strode directly into the party without so much as a smile for the staff.

This was a society event, a “who’s who,” according to the Evening Standard. It was hosted by two Bright Young Things with an unquestionable talent for smiling in photographs. One of them describes himself as a “LEGEND” on his Twitter bio. As far as I could make out, for these two and their exalted guests, the evening consisted of a succession of brief exchanges each ending with a pose for the official photographer (who took one look at me and moved on).

Sneaking up on the American ambassador.

Sneaking up on the American ambassador.

I spoke to a very nice yacht guy. He looks after the boats of a Gulf royal family and said that, although they do live in luxury, it’s not as over the top as people think—their aeroplanes aren’t lined with gold or anything. He rested his hand on the tree and got sap stuck to it. “That’s a real tree,” he said.

A glitzy ditsy woman pointed at my t-shirt and said, “Ah, you work for Google!”

“No, it says WikiLeaks.”

“Oh, I love Wikipedia! It’s so great.”

“Wikipedia is different from WikiLeaks.”

“I know that.”

Then there was a man who is booked to go into space with Virgin Galactic. I hope he has a lovely time and decides to stay.

I asked a young guy in a royal blue suit if he could take a picture of me, using my phone. He acted as if I had given him a parking ticket. Three presses of the shutter button was the maximum he could do.

“I don’t like WikiLeaks. Don’t like any leaks,” he said.

“You must really hate the Obama administration then. They leak.”

“I’m not going to get into a political conversation tonight.”

Suddenly Eric Schmidt himself was next to me, signing copies of his book. I had a cheeky idea. I gave him the copy I was holding and said:

“Could you make this out to Julian Assange?”

He looked at me over his glasses. “No,” he said, and walked off. It was bad tempered. I’ve never had a billionaire turn me down before.

Then the two beaming hosts called everyone’s attention for the speeches. Still wearing fixed smiles, they gave off that particular combination of entitlement and blankness peculiar to the elite. If the eyes are the windows to the soul then theirs must be double-glazed with the curtains drawn. “They look thick,” my companion said, putting it more succinctly.

“Our friend Eric writes books much faster than we can read them,” one joked, and I don’t doubt it.

I was trying to get up the nerve to ask Schmidt a question. Actually I was terrified because I planned to ask: “In 2011 you told Julian Assange to his face that you were ‘sympathetic’ to his vision. Recently you told ABC News that he is ‘very paranoid’. What has changed in between, except that on the issue of surveillance Assange has been vindicated and Google has been implicated?”

That would have spelled the end of the free champagne for me, but no questions were taken. Instead, after a very short speech by Schmidt about how wonderful everyone was, they had a violinist.

One possible reason for Schmidt not taking any questions is that he was in a room full of people who had no interest whatsoever in his book. I’m sure they all believe that such events serve an important function—enhancing their reputations, their financial connections, or whatever—but mostly I think they just like showing off. This was the very pinnacle of the social pyramid—the ultra-rich and the highly visible, there to be seen to be there. It was professional socialising. I noticed that some guests slinked out once they had been snapped by the official photographer, an efficient social transaction neatly executed.

The most striking thing was that none of the people I eavesdropped on or talked to seemed to have the slightest bit of intellectual curiosity. They were very good at talking about themselves, their business, their investments, foundations, charities, yachts and space trips, but any mention of things outside their immediate experience, anything political for instance, and they shut down, shifted around, said something jaw-droppingly naïve or just banal.

I mentioned previously that I had a copy of Schmidt’s book only briefly. Copies were placed on the tables for people to take. Before I went to the toilet (where, incidentally, the vast urinals were filled with ice cubes, an opulent touch ultimately undermined as they were melted by piss), I put down my book, along with a copy of Julian Assange’s book, on a table. When I came back neither was there. It makes me smile to imagine that some rich person somewhere went home with Julian Assange’s book instead of Schmidt’s. Unfortunately though, if they think it’s Schmidt’s book, they will probably never read it.


Alex Nunns tweets at @alexnunns

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16 thoughts on “How Google Parties

  1. Brian Holden says:

    Thanks George thousands were you in spirit

  2. Dave says:

    What jaw-droppingly naïve or banal things did they say?

  3. Rita Pal says:

    Just counting the IQ there :). Won’t take me long. Very entertaining write-up. Well done.

  4. […] a Wikileaks T shirt to Eric Schrnidt’s book release in London [Muck […]

  5. Xelcho says:

    Great stuff!

    The elite are so significantly more intelligent then us, unwashed masses. Clearly they attained their wealth through hard work and shear strength of intellect. I too fully appreciate the author’s descriptions. Please share more of this as these windows into the world full of bullsh!t are great to educate the bewildered herd of the pathetic elites.

    Great fun thanks and please promote others to follow suit!


  6. It is nice to be poor. Brilliantly written piece and so enlightening! Thank you!

  7. mogol_gr says:

    How to become almost famous, and than all these years to resize him to bring him back to earth, this is democracy.

  8. sus Gunte says:

    Oh My.. Look at this: The Eric Schmidt Worse-Case Scenario Theory:

    There was a posting on the web, some time ago, that proposed what sounded like a crazy concept about Eric Schmidt and Google running some insane scheme to take over America. That posting was before The Snowden thing happened.

    If you had come across this guy’s posting from a year, or so, ago, you might have dismissed it as whack. In light of the facts that have now emerged in the news.. it’s kinda sounding more “right on the mark”. See what you think:

    “I used to work at Google. I left because of what I saw. Eric Schmidt has gone nuts. He can act normal in interviews but behind the scenes, he has lost his marbles from hyper-affluenza. He has this secret group called New America Foundation that tells politicians what to do, he even tells Obama. HIs people are ON STAFF in the White House. He has this spy thing called INQTEL that does weird politics manipulation. He buys girls for weird parties. He has a concept that he wants America run “his way” and that he has the money to buy that plan. He got some other big Silicon Valley investors to buy into his plan and they seem to be doing this thing based around the FDR Smedley Butler federal take-over attempt. Look up “Smedley Butler” online but don’t look anything up on Google. Schmidt, and the boys, have the Google search engine rigged to hide anything that comes out about this. He and the boys got Obama to give billions and billions of dollars to them through TARP and the Department of Energy. He even claimed, once at a private party, to have arranged, with Goldman Sachs, to have faked the last economic collapse in order to get the TARP and Department of Energy funds created so that they could be given to “his boys”. I’m going to China until this blows over. You will see that the beneficiaries of the TARP and DOE cash were almost all connected to Eric. Schmidt uses the Google built-in spying systems to keep an eye out for any trouble-makers who might squeal. Good Luck.”

    Hmmmmm.. What do you think?

    • tilgovi says:

      First, and most obviously, is the claim that we should “Look up ‘Smedley Butler’ online but don’t look anything up on Google.” I have. Google’s results don’t differ significantly from any others. Information is easily available. A number of books have been written. You are seeing conspiracy where there is none.

      In-Q-Tel is, in fact, a somewhat scary group, for those that worry about the military-industrial complex, having ties to the intelligence community and investing in many data mining, hardware, software, and materials science companies. However, while In-Q-Tel was a Keyhole investor that cashed out after Google bought the company I don’t see anything linking In-Q-Tel and Schmidt.

      Finally, to repeat something like that Schimdt “claimed, once at a private party, to have arranged, with Goldman Sachs, to have faked the last economic collapse” is repetition of hearsay that’s so negligent it’s hard to assume good faith.

      I think you’re delusional and you should start reading more intelligent things before you’re driven to hurt yourself or others.

  9. Shashank Tiwari says:

    Yes u are right some thing big is going on…

  10. Arc Naboo says:

    “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

    If there was a god than there wouldn’t be any problem in the World or any genetic problems or human error.. It is already proven that the Universe can manifest itself from nothingness. After this point what we must do is enlighten people so they can understand the reality of life. Our life source is energy and we will transform into another energy upon our conscious life ends. Only way is to keep t hat energy untainted and pure if you truly want a good “after-life”. Do you really think 0.000001% believes in a god or any other supreme being? hahaha.. Only people who are desperate believes in some sort of god and not to mention if a person chooses to be decent just because of divine reward is no different than that 0.000001% ..

    There is only one way for true utopia and it starts with getting rid of men made belief systems(aka control systems such as money, religion, race labeling, borders, you name it)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with that 0.00001% , thing is we already know how they are, this is nothing new bro but i guess there are still a lot of people who doesn’t. I bet my life there are even some idiots who are reading this post and only think they can think of is to be one of those 0.000001%.. We are living in a world where selfless is something rare, hopefully one day somebody will change everything in a good way for everybody including for that 0.00001% and their wannabes..

    • Frank Grayson says:

      Sigh. There is always at least one. One person who latches onto one statement that mentions God and feels so triggered that they simply have to comment with statements that attempt to prove that they know more than everyone else, let alone more than God. In essence, an attempt to prove that they are god.

      Arc, first off, there are problems in the world because there is sin in the world.

      Second, so it “has been proven that the universe can manifest itself from nothingness.”? Do tell. What are these new, man-made, revelations that bring something out of nothing, and even more so, cause the earth to be the only little planet in the known universe to support abundant life?

      Your view that we will “transform into another [form of] energy” when we die is not very scientific either, is it?! Unless you are talking about science-fiction. Have you died yet or talked with someone who has and told you this?

      You are right though about wanting to get rid of race labeling. We are all one race, under God.

      But cheer up, though. Indeed, one day someone will change everything in a good way. Hopefully by then you will know Him.

  11. isaiah says:

    Not really sure what your point is?

    “The most striking thing was that none of the people I eavesdropped on or talked to seemed to have the slightest bit of intellectual curiosity.”, dude, that’s 80% of the population, rich, poor, black, white, latin, woman, man, etc….people are into themselves, that’s not breaking news.

    You literally could of wrote this article about any party in the world. People didn’t know your cause of wikileaks, which I love wikileaks BTW…but guess what? some people have no clue what wikileaks is, just like I have no clue about millions of things in this world nor care and neither do you.

    I just found this post very general.

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