This Google Doodle of a Brazilian favela was Twitter’s controversy du jour yesterday. One tweeter described himself as “choking on [his] own outrage,” given Google’s insensitivity to the poverty and crime that make the favelas places of misery for most of their inhabitants.
The favelas are places of much suffering. Google’s prettification of them is silly and insensitive. But let’s be serious for a moment: Google Doodles do no harm to anyone. None. They are far too trivial to deserve outrage.
Few things are more tiresome to me than the educated Left’s ceaseless policing of the symbolic/discursive realm (e.g., politically incorrect Google Doodles), in what might charitably be described as the naive belief that consciousness-raising promotes justice, which by now we ought to know it doesn’t. Those of us who have been trained to manipulate symbols and language tend to overrate their importance, but at this point in history there’s no excuse for such overrating.
On a less charitable reading, people like policing symbols and discourses because you can do it from your computer without ever lifting a finger, or paying a cent, to alter the structural injustice that perpetuates the favelas. Signaling your outrage on Twitter does absolutely nothing to help anybody. Getting Google to take down their Doodle is a pathetic parody of a moral victory.
Meanwhile the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer. Families and communities around the world are under assault by malicious forces. The favelas in Brazil receive no relief, and children keep getting shot in Chicago, and Wall Street (i.e., international capitalism) proceeds from strength to strength in sublime indifference to it all. If we’re going to choke on our own outrage, there are plenty of reasons. Google Doodles are not among them.