Google, many opine, has far too much control and influence over the lives of everyone. Now, as AJC (the Atlanta Journal Constitution) observed, they have been found to have really messed up what they are supposed to be best at; searches. The jokes in the Atlanta area are that whites are few and far between on the transit line there and that it is poorly run. Many of the jokes are non-PC, but Google seemed to let algorithms dictate such things since they have grown too large to even perform their basic tasks correctly.
A 23-year-old “white guy” from Charlotte, North Carolina, was on Reddit asking advice about travel in Atlanta, Georgia, via MARTA. He was told the offensive “joke” by Google. The only reason that the man told what his race was had to do with Google giving him quite an answer as to what MARTA stood for and it’s infamous nickname. Things are so hotly contested now that “rebranding” is even being talked about.
When “what does MARTA stand for” was punched into the popular search engine by the gentleman, the first answer given was “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta,” a longstanding city joke that is often frowned upon.
The bold, black letters appeared where the words “Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority” were to have been.
Google, after hearing about their blunder, removed the snippet, but people are still asking questions the tech giant as they grow too big to run properly (a recent search by this author showed only that the error was fixed as an answer, not the real name).
“Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We’ve looked into it and acted quickly to address the issue,” said Google spokeswoman, Crystal Dahlen, on Wednesday.
The error happened when Wikipedia was used, which does correctly define the name and says that the “Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is the principal public transport operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area.” However, it also shows that “sometimes sarcastically said to stand for ‘Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta’, a replacement backronym, due to the relatively low number of white riders, particularly after peak commuting hours.”
The computer must have logged the wrong reference.
Now, talks are renewed to re-brand the company, a pointless effort that will cost a fortune in logo changes, attire, and more. Also, any new name given will be turned around in a similar manner, so the effort, if taken, is simply a waste of time and capital.
MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher felt that the “backronym” was “created to marginalize rapid transit and the people who depend on it.” Clearly, she is thinking too deeply into the blue humor and non-PC joking that has always been part of American culture. Sometimes, jokes are made and spokespeople are supposed to know the difference.
Then again, so are search engines.
Way back in 1987, a reporter named Frederick Alle wrote how he would always remember “a furious young white woman, the tendons in her neck strained and popping, her features distorted with rage, shrieking at the marchers, ‘Do you know what MARTA stands for?!?” She had taken the fake name as being real and was using it against blacks at the time.
“Anyone white who has lived more than a month or two in these parts has heard a fair bit of racial humor, including the longstanding joke about the “real” acronym for MARTA — Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. It is supposed to be only mildly offensive, a naughty commentary on the belief that Atlanta’s public transit clientele is largely black,” he added.
Clearly quite offended, he also said, “I never did find it terribly amusing. But now, after hearing that young woman spit it out, rat-tat-tat, as though it were some pointed weapon in a war for white supremacy, I never will be able to hear it again without shuddering. Nor any other supposedly harmless quip that plays on race.”
Somehow, what is being lost here is that the more PC reasoning is given a platform of legitimacy, the more those points of view will be accepted, and the more that crude humor is treated as a true offense, the worse it will get for everyone. Those who feel everything that is uttered is a direct slander are always going to fight if the proper context is not applied.
In this case, context says that certain things crop up as names and no one really intends any malice by repeating them. People of all races have their jokes, and they always have, in almost every culture in the world.
However, in America day, such a truth is not supposed to be uttered. Ever.
While it is debated, however, it would be nice if at least Google could get it right.