Friday, August 14, 2009

Politicans & Footballers: How long should a sex scandal haunt you on google?

One of the brilliant things about the predictive searches on Google is that it lets you know what other people are searching for and which are the most popular searches. It has also thrown up, for me, a big question in the last few days - google can be a great record of your successes but also a permenant reminder of your failures. If you make a slip up - no matter of what proportion it doesn't only damage your career at that moment but can follow you around. Currently, as far as I know, there are only references to "conservative" and "Norwich" for me. But imagine if you were caught in a scandal; how long would that ghost you on Google? And do different people suffer in different ways and for different lengths of time?

Take for example a young man called Ben Alnwick; the goalkeeper in City's 4-0 win in the Carling Cup this week. Having heard of Alnwick from his time with Spurs I googled him to see his form. Aside from his footballing career, predictive google gave me 7 alternative searches about him - all referring to a sex scandal that we was involved in 3 years ago when he was 19 years old. He was filmed having sex with a lady alongside 2 of his team-mates and 3 years on he still pays the price on google. If you google Alnwick thats what you know about him.

So out of interest I turn to Steve Norris; former Tory Minister and erstwhile candidate for Mayor of London. Mr Norris was one the people who typified "Tory sleaze". Norris apparently kept 5 mistresses secret from his wife for some time - a very busy man! Google Mr Norris and ... you guessed it, not a word of this comes up! If you google Norris he gets away with no references.

So what are the differences between Norris - a high profile sex scandal - and Alnwick - a low profile one - where Alnwick is still there and Norris isn't? Could it be what they have achieved after the sex scandal is over? Alnwick is still playing football, not a lot to report, whilst Norris has gone on to be one of the most high profile Tories and their first candidate in the London Mayoralties.

OK, so let's take a politican who fell from grace and never recovered. Somebody who has done virtually or actually nothing since leaving office. Take, Ron Davies. Labour's Welsh Secreary was forced to quit in 1998 after a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common. Let's predictive google Ron Davies then, of whom we have heard nothing since then. Well, there is one reference to just "resignation" and one to "badger" but nothing to otherwise suggest what he was involved in. If you google Davies you have to click on to find his sex scandal.

So maybe its to do with the time period; Alnwick's case was quite recent so let's look at more and less recent cases. Every google predictive on (Lord) Cecil Parkinson is about his sex scandal and love child - and that happened 20 years ago. For Boris Johnson, his sex scandal is not mentioned at all.

Could it be be about political seniority? Former Prime Minister John Major's affair has a single reference, as does Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescotts. Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook gets away with it completely. Unlikely to be about that then.

What about the more bizarre caes? Well, LibDem MP Mark Oaten's has 4 predictive references and 3 of them are about his incidents with Rent Boys. So maybe.

Either way, footballer Alnwick has a right to be a bit miffed if his minor case ghosts him on Google longer than the more serious sex scandals by politicans. However I suppose that the predictive google works on how popular certain search phrases are - so the public set what is notworthy and what isn't. Mayne Norris & Cook have been "forgiven" in the eyes of the public whereas Oaten hasn't? Certainly people who google Oaten seem to care more about the scandal than his other political works. Or maybe ALnwick is just more interesting?

This issues continues to puzzle me - and I suppose it will carry on doing so - about why people google what they do. A combination of factors, not least public curiosity about the cases must lead this one.

But predictive google continues to give me hours of fun even if it isn't always fair on people. For example who on earth is googling "Charles Clarke Diet"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Something you should read ...

Harriet Harman's Lies About Rape Exposed Today