Jun 7, 2011

Santorum’s presidential hopes face a sticky problem

Rick Santorum is running for president? Hah! The religious right of the Republicans might reckon they've found their man in this confrontationist conservative former senator from Pennsylvania, but did they check Google?

Stilgherrian — Technology writer and broadcaster


Technology writer and broadcaster

Rick Santorum is running for president? Really? Hah! The religious right of the Republicans might reckon they've found their man in this confrontationist conservative former senator from Pennsylvania. But did they check Google? Santorum’s a nasty piece of work. Anti-abortion. Anti-evolution. Yep, all the usual stuff. He also reckons the US National Weather Service shouldn't issue free forecasts and warnings in areas served by commercial operator Accuweather, a policy presumably completely unrelated to the fact that Accuweather is based in his home state and has contributed at least $5500 to Santorum since 1999. But Santorum’s comments on homos-xuality have raised the most ire. "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homos-xuality. That's not to pick on homos-xuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be," he told AP reporter Lara Jakes Jordan in 2003, although he denies he’s actually equating consensual same-s-x acts to adultery, p-edophilia, incest and besti-lity. Of course he isn’t. That’s why since 2004 and until just hours ago, a Google search for Santorum’s name returned, in the No.1 spot, the site and its definition -- which you can go and read for yourself. It's not pretty. Essentially, Dan Savage, who runs the popular syndicated s-x advice column and podcast Savage Love, took exception to Santorum’s comments. He asked his readers to suggest a definition for "santorum". And that was the winner. Savage set up the website and tens of thousands of blogs linked to it, providing enough Google juice to ensure its top ranking. It’s called Googlebombing. As I write this, has already dropped to Google’s fourth place thanks to overnight reportage of Santorum’s nomination. Santorum himself believes the problem will go away in time as his presidential campaign gathers momentum. Certainly Google’s secret-sauce algorithm for deciding which search results are listed first gives precedence to more recent links from high-traffic or otherwise reputable sites, rather than eight-year-old blog entries. But that could well be countered by Santorum's opponents resurrecting the frothy meme, linking and re-linking afresh. The kinds of people who battle the s-xual intolerance of the Santorums of this world are likely to be better at organising themselves on the internet than Santorum’s fundamentalist supporters. I’m sure a web developer with an hour or two to spare could easily create, providing a running monitor of where sits in Google’s results, a pretty graph, and hints on how to create effective links for good Google juice. You’d probably make a quid if you stuck a few adverts on it too. Not that I would ever encourage this sort of irresponsibility, you must understand ...

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3 thoughts on “Santorum’s presidential hopes face a sticky problem

  1. mattsui

    Challenging stuff, Stil’.
    I was aware of the “definition” of santorum already.
    Throwing in terms like google juice and secret-sauce was just gratuitous.
    Nice one. We’re well a nd truly on the ‘slippery slope’.

  2. Gareth Perkins

    I hope no one is still eating their lunch.

  3. Stilgherrian

    Well, you should have seen my original version of the article, before our lovely editors tones it down…

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