Rep. Gohmert's Record For Stunning Technological Ignorance Is Broken By… Rep. Gohmert

from the having-quite-a-week dept

My goodness. Yesterday we posted about Rep. Louis Gohmert’s incredible, head-shakingly ignorant exchange with lawyer Orin Kerr during a Congressional hearing concerning “hacking” and the CFAA. In that discussion, Gohmert spoke out in favor of being able to “hack back” and destroy the computers of hackers — and grew indignant at the mere suggestion that this might have unintended consequences or lead people to attack the wrong targets. Gohmert thought that such talk was just Kerr trying to protect hackers.

I thought perhaps Rep. Gohmert was just having a bad day. Maybe he’s having a bad month. In a different hearing, held yesterday concerning ECPA reform, Gohmert opened his mouth again, and it was even worse. Much, much worse. Cringe-inducingly clueless. Yell at your screen clueless. Watch for yourself, but be prepared to want to yell.

The short version of this is that he seems to think that when Google has advertisements on Gmail, that’s the same thing as selling all of the information in your email to advertisers. And no matter how many times Google’s lawyer politely tries to explain the difference, Gohmert doesn’t get it. He thinks he’s making a point — smirking the whole time — that what Google does is somehow the equivalent of government snooping, in that he keeps asking if Google can just “sell” access to everyone’s email to the government. I’m going to post a transcript below, and because I simply cannot not interject how ridiculously uninformed Gohmert’s line of questioning is, I’m going to interject in the transcript as appropriate.

Rep. Gohmert: I was curious. Doesn’t Google sell information acquired from emails to different vendors so that they can target certain individuals with their promotions?

Google lawyer whose name I didn’t catch: Uh, no, we don’t sell email content. We do have a system — similar to the system we have for scanning for spam and malware — that can identify what type of ads are most relevant to serve on email messages. It’s an automated process. There’s no human interaction. Certainly, the email is not sold to anybody or disclosed.

Gohmert: So how do these other vendors get our emails and think that we may be interested in the products they’re selling.

Okay, already we’re off to a great start in monumental ignorance. The initial question was based on a complete falsehood — that Google sells such information — and after the lawyer told him that this is not true, Gohmert completely ignores that and still asks how they get the emails. It never seems to occur to him that they don’t get the emails.

Google lawyer: They don’t actually get your email. What they’re able to do is through our advertising business be able to identify keywords that they would like to trigger the display of one of their ads, but they don’t get information about who the user is or any…

Gohmert: Well that brings me back. So they get information about keywords in our emails that they use to decide who to send promotions to, albeit automatically done. Correct?

NO. Not correct. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what the lawyer just said. Gohmert can’t seem to comprehend that Google placing targeted ads next to emails has NOTHING to do with sending any information back to the advertiser. I wonder, when Rep. Gohmert turns on his television to watch the evening news, does he think that the TV station is sending his name, address, channel watching info, etc. back to advertisers? That’s not how it works. At all. The advertisers state where they want their ads to appear, and Google’s system figures out where to place the ads. At no point does any information from email accounts go back to anyone. And yet Gohmert keeps asking.

And not understanding the rather basic answers. Unfortunately, the lawyer tries to actually explain reality to Gohmert in a professional and detailed manner, when it seems clear that the proper way to answer his questions is in shorter, simpler sentences such as: “No, that’s 100% incorrect.”

Lawyer: The email context is used to identify what ads are most relevant to the user…

Gohmert: And do they pay for the right or the contractual ability to target those individuals who use those keywords?

Lawyer: I might phrase that slightly differently, but the gist is correct, that advertisers are able to bid for the placement of advertisements to users, where our system has detected might be interested in the advertisement.

Gohmert: Okay, so what would prevent the federal government from making a deal with Google, so they could also “Scroogle” people, and say “I want to know everyone who has ever used the term ‘Benghazi'” or “I want everyone who’s ever used… a certain term.” Would you discriminate against the government, or would you allow the government to know about all emails that included those words?

Okay, try not to hit your head on your desk after that exchange. First, he (perhaps accidentally) gets a statement more or less correct, that advertisers pay to have their ads show up, but immediately follows that up with something completely unrelated to that. First, he tosses in “Scroogled” — a term that Microsoft uses in its advertising against Gmail and in favor of — suggesting exactly where this “line” of questioning may have originated. Tip to Microsoft lobbyists, by the way: if you want to put Google on the hot seat, it might help to try a line of questioning that actually makes sense.

Then, the second part, you just have to say huh? The lawyer already explained, repeatedly, that Google doesn’t send any information back to the advertiser, and yet he’s trying to suggest that the government snooping through your email is the same thing… and Google somehow not giving the government that info is Google “discriminating” against the government? What? Really?

Lawyer [confounded look] Uh… sir, I think those are apples and oranges. I think the disclosure of the identity…

Gohmert: I’m not asking for a fruit comparison. I’m just asking would you be willing to make that deal with the government? The same one you do with private advertisers, so that the government would know which emails are using which words.

Seriously? I recognize that there are no requirements on intelligence to get elected to Congress, but is there anyone who honestly could not comprehend what he meant by saying it’s “apples and oranges”? But, clearly he does not understand that because not only does he mock the analogy, he then repeats the same question in which he insists — despite the multiple explanations that state the exact opposite — that advertisers get access to emails and information about email users, and that the government should be able to do the same thing.

Lawyer: Thank you, sir. I meant by that, that it isn’t the same deal that’s being suggested there.

Gohmert: But I’m asking specifically if the same type of deal could be made by the federal government? [some pointless rant about US government videos aired overseas that is completely irrelevant and which it wasn’t worth transcribing] But if that same government will spend tens of thousands to do a commercial, they might, under some hare-brained idea like to do a deal to get all the email addresses that use certain words. Couldn’t they make that same kind of deal that private advertisers do?

Holy crap. Gohmert, for the fourth time already, nobody gets email addresses. No private business gets the email addresses. No private business gets to see inside of anyone’s email. Seeing inside someone’s email has nothing to do with buying ads in email. If the government wants to “do the same deal as private advertisers” then yes it can advertise on Gmail… and it still won’t get the email addresses or any other information about emailers, because at no point does Google advertising work that way.

Lawyer: We would not honor a request from the government for such a…

Gohmert: So you would discriminate against the government if they tried to do what your private advertisers do?

No. No. No. No. No. The lawyer already told you half a dozen times, no. The government can do exactly what private advertisers do, which is buy ads. And, just like private advertisers, they would get back no email addresses or any such information.

Lawyer: I don’t think that describes what private advertisers…

Gohmert: Okay, does anybody here have any — obviously, you’re doing a good job protecting your employer — but does anybody have any proposed legislation that would assist us in what we’re doing?

What are we doing, here? Because it certainly seems like you’re making one of the most ignorant arguments ever to come out of an elected officials’ mouth, and that’s saying quite a bit. You keep saying “private advertisers get A” when the reality is that private advertisers get nothing of the sort — and then you ignore that (over and over and over and over again) and then say “well if private advertisers get A, why can’t the government get A.” The answer is because neither of them get A and never have.

Gohmert: I would be very interested in any phrase, any clauses, any items that we might add to legislation, or take from existing legislation, to help us deal with this problem. Because I am very interested and very concerned about our privacy and our email.

If you were either interested or concerned then you would know that no such information goes back to advertisers before you stepped into the room (hell, before you got elected, really). But, even if you were ignorant of that fact before the hearing, the fact that the lawyer tried half a dozen times, in a half a dozen different ways to tell you that the information is not shared should have educated you on that fact. So I’m “very interested” in what sort of “language” Gohmert is going to try to add to legislation that deals with a non-existent problem that he insists is real.

Gohmert: And just so the simpletons that sometimes write for the Huffington Post understand, I don’t want the government to have all that information.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: For the point of personal privilege, my son writes for the Huffington Post.

Gohmert: Well then maybe he’s not one of the simpletons I was referring to.

Sensenbrenner: He does have a Phd.

Gohmert: Well, you can still be a PHUL.

Har, har, har… wait, what? So much insanity to unpack. First of all, Gohmert seems to think that people will be making fun of him for suggesting that the government should “buy” access to your email on Google. And, yes, we will make fun of that, but not for the reasons that he thinks they will. No one thinks that Gohmert seriously wants the government to buy access to information on Google. What everyone’s laughing (or cringing) at is the idea that anyone could buy that info, because you can’t. No private advertiser. No government. It’s just not possible.

But, I guess we’re all just “simpletons.”

Seriously, however, we as citizens deserve better politicians. No one expects politicians to necessarily understand every aspect of technology, but there are some simple concepts that you should at least be able to grasp when explained to you repeatedly by experts. When a politician repeatedly demonstrates no ability to comprehend a rather basic concept — and to then granstand on their own ignorance — it’s time to find better politicians. Quickly.

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Comments on “Rep. Gohmert's Record For Stunning Technological Ignorance Is Broken By… Rep. Gohmert”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

Due to the fact I head-desked repeatedly over a previous article (can’t remember which one, thanks to the concussion), I found myself with no alternative than to head-wall…uhhh…what’s going on and why is there a big crack in the wall….ah crap, the landlord is looking a bit pissed off.

Gotta go guys, turns out I may need to go to the ER. Can someone send the bill to Gohmert for me?

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: Re: WTF????

How exactly did you get that he appears to care about the public??? It’s quite obvious what this is all about.

He is a standard congresscritter. He was receiving or sending an email to his mistress/girlfriend and he happened to notice a Viagra or Cialis ad targeting him. He freaked out and just had to know who else was reading his email. He panicked and decided legislation needed to be enacted to keep the FBI off his ass.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t blame the lawyer for failing to switch tactics, or attempting to repeat what he said. Being confronted with a level of willful ignorance of something so basic is like getting hit in the head with a metal baseball bat. It’s just stunning especially when it comes from someone that you’re expecting to know better, like from anyone over the age of eight.

I feel for that poor Google lawyer. I guarantee he walked out of that room still trying to figure out what just happened, and he’ll only really figure out what he should have said several hours later while he’s getting lambasted for failing so miserably at his job.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are no requirements on intelligence...

I recognize that there are no requirements on intelligence to get elected to Congress […]

And that’s a problem. I’ve long advocated that all elected and appointed offices should come with minimum intelligence and literacy requirements — and that those should be proportional to the scope and power of the office. (E.g., the requirements for a member of the US House should be higher than those for a member of a state house but lower than those for a cabinet official.)

YES, I am painfully aware that testing methodologies leave a lot to be desired. I know that (pretty much) all of them suck in different ways. But so does having illiterate, ignorant morons like this in positions of power. So let’s at least make a first-cut attempt at it: make ’em take a general IQ test, the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, and whatever else we can throw in. Let’s set thresholds (and we can even make them generously low to start with) and require that prospective office-holders surpass them before being appointed or filing for candidacy.

I know this isn’t strictly democratic or inclusive. I don’t care. When we allow chimps like Bush to become President and baboons like Gohmert anywhere near the mechanisms of government, it costs us dearly.

Aerilus says:

Re: There are no requirements on intelligence...

He would probably qualify

“Gohmert was born in Pittsburg, Texas. He received his B.A. from Texas A&M University in 1975. At A&M, he was a brigade commander of the Corps of Cadets and class president. He later received his Juris Doctor from Baylor University in Waco in 1977 where he also served as class president. Gohmert served in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, at Fort Benning, Georgia, from 1978 to 1982. The majority of his U.S. Army legal service was as a defense attorney.” Wikipedia

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, unless they do something outright illegal, it’s basically ‘suck it up and don’t elect them next time’.

If politicians were immediately able to get booted from office for their actions, they would be a lot more careful to not screw over the general public so much, rather than the current approach of ‘do whatever you want, just make sure to reign things in when election time closes, and hope none of your opponents(including the voters) has a decent memory’.

Ninja (profile) says:

Jesus Christ I’m glad you demonstrated your irritation in the article, prevented me from getting irritated too. It is clear he does not wish to listen to anything. He has his ideas set in stone by divine fire and lightning.

There’s no use trying to discuss with such morons. What Google could and should do is issue an official statement and plaster all over the web explaining in a detailed way how things work. The dangerous part here is that this moron will spread his stupidity and many will buy hence the need for clarification QUOTING him and pointing where he’s wrong (like TD did). And send a copy via paper letter via snail mail to Gohmert. I’m afraid he’s too stupid to use an e-mail properly.

Some Other AC (profile) says:

Re: He's from Texas...

As a Texan, I am repeatedly disappointed by a large number of the political idiots that push themselves out into the public view. To explain this one’s ignorance, he was elected to serve Eastern Texas, as in Tyler, TX…home to one of the most ignorant of the federal court systems in the country.
Just listening to him speak made me want to ram rusty 10 penny nails thru my ears.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: He's from Texas...

Well, do keep trying.

I mean, sheesh, you guys have Rick Perry, Lamar Smith, and now this guy from Texas.

Bush II came from Texas as its governor before he became President…

I’m not saying all politicians from Texas are that bad, hell, I hold contempt for my own politicians at times as being too ignorant of how the world works, but, it really does look bad when you have those guys, you know?

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: He's from Texas...

I’d say something about the south, but I’m from MN, and I’d like to apologize for Michelle Bachman.

That said, this guy clearly didn’t want anything other than the answer he already had in his head. That much was clear. Could the lawyer asked for a whiteboard and attempted a drawing explaining how the system worked, and asked that questions be held until the end?

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: He's from Texas...

I apologize, I wasn’t trying to paint all the people from the South that way, just most of the politicians.

Seriously, what is UP with all the politicians from the South? About the only one who makes sense is Ron Paul and he’s considered a loon by most people.

Doesn’t help that three politicians from Texas are Rick Perry, Lamar Smith and now Gohmert.

Don’t forget that Bush was Texas governor before becoming President.

Not saying that people from the South are bad, I’ve got friends down in Florida, but there are some CRAZY people in charge from that area.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: He's from Texas...!=stupid

Criticize his policies all you want (and with good reason) but Bush 2 is actually not an idiot. He speaks in complete sentences, is able to articulate an argument that includes refutation of opposing views, and has been known to change his mind.

Stupid-looking/sounding politicians do so to play to their base, whether it’s “I’m part Indian” or “What if Guam capsizes,” their constituents hear what they want to hear.

out_of_the_blue says:

BUT Google COULD AT ANY TIME provide the email addresses TOO.

“at no point does Google advertising work that way.” — SEZ YOU! Taking the word of mega-corp Google, when they’re clearly in the DO EVIL stage.

And you’re basically just deflecting valid questions here: the lawyer fumbles because direct answer would spill the beans.

Unless Google IS stopped at some point, what are you going to do AFTER they’ve gone further? Again, you’re just blithely asserting that it’s benign and will stay so. — Stick to fantasy football, Mike, cause you suck at where everything isn’t above-board and there are bad actors.

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Where Mike’s “no evidence of real harm” means he wants to let secretive mega-corporations continue to grow.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: BUT Google COULD AT ANY TIME provide the email addresses TOO.

“Unless Google IS stopped at some point, what are you going to do AFTER they’ve gone further? Again, you’re just blithely asserting that it’s benign and will stay so”

Sure OOTB might not have raped and murdered over a hundred preteen children in the last decade, but what are going to do once he has?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BUT Google COULD AT ANY TIME provide the email addresses TOO.

Actually, we have more than Google’s word for this.

Those of us who work in the anti-spam field have developed some very good methods for discerning who does and doesn’t hand over email addresses to third parties. (No, I won’t be disclosing them here.) Those methods have been refined over a long period of time and they’ve proven themselves to be quite accurate.

If Google was handing over email addresses to third parties, we would be publishing that information and shouting it from the rooftops. Thus far, however, there is no evidence that they’re doing so.

(And yes, we’re aware of isolated cases where people have cited anecdotal evidence claiming so. Analysis of these invariably indicates that they’re running on insecure or already-compromised computers and thus THEY are the source of the leak in question.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BUT Google COULD AT ANY TIME provide the email addresses TOO.

“Taking the word of mega-corp Google, when they’re clearly in the DO EVIL stage.”

But you have no problem taking the word of Time-Warner, Sony, or any of the other mega-corps you shill for, boy?

I’d say it was a double standard, but that would imply you have standards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BUT Google COULD AT ANY TIME provide the email addresses TOO.

i love how you bash mike over letting “secretive mega corperations” while you support the very same artificial scarcity that gives them all that power to use for corrupt purposes in the first place.

Plus Mike didn’t claim google “does no evil”, google said that

iambinarymind (profile) says:

No incentive....

The politician has no incentive to be informed as he receives his paycheck through state force/aggression (or threat thereof).

Until we’re interacting with individuals on a consensual basis and through voluntary exchange, we will continue to see the ignorance and absurdity that results from state aggression expand like highly aggressive cancer.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: No incentive....

Why are you using the fruits of state violence (an internet largely paid for and created through ‘taxes’) at all then? Please bugger off to somewhere remote; do not use the state road system though as that is also the ‘fruit of state violence’.

Sheesh, can someone please buy a large island we can ship all the fundie-libertarians too so they can enjoy the ‘fruits’ of a libertarian dystopia?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

If I understand what Gohmert was asking, it seems like he was wondering how he keeps getting spam for penis enlargments, and he wants to know how those people got his email, and assume they got it from Google because they’re evil and know everything about him. Basically, he totally doesn’t understand what Google does, and is totally uninterested in learning.

Texas, why do you elect idiots!?

Anonymous Coward says:

I wish everybody on this planet were as smart and as perfect as Mike Masnick. The way he so carefully chooses his underlings–the Tims, Leigh, and Zack, especially–shows what an incredibly brilliant and perfect leader he is. No one else would have plucked those jewels up like he did, in his unquestionable perfect perfectness. Techdirt is a testament to God’s gift to humankind, Mike Masnick. I love to hear him tell us all how stupid everyone else is. Just imagine if Mike were in charge of this nation, with the Tims, Leigh, and Zack by his side. No mistakes would ever be made. Everything would reflect Mike’s perfect brilliance. He never says anything dumb. He’s the most enlightened human being that ever existed–if he’s even human at all. He’s super-human, and perfect, and wonderful. Techdirt reminds us each day how perfect he is.

rasz says:

Im on the fence with this one. This lawyer tries very hard NOT to say “we dont give that information to our clients”.

In fact google DOES give out that information in a form of adsense logs (ip/location/age group/gender).

So instead of selling your email google lets you set a dragnet triggering on certain keywords – everyone who fits it will end up in your adsense log.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem is the congressman thinks that the advertisers know (specifically) who they are targeting rather than what kinds of people (location/age group/gender/keywords/etc) they are targeting.

In other words it’s no more a privacy issue than having a membership card at a grocery store so they can determine what kinds of products you buy so they can target you with ads/sales

Anonymous Coward says:

Something like that has been done. When I was in high school, one teacher I one mine had a kid who had broken into a computer installation, and they destroyed the kids computer by sending a high voltage current down the phone line and frying the kid’s computer.

SO the idea of destroying someone’s computer is not new, and now this guy wants to legalise that kind of thing? That is totally nuts

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Power converters and surge protectors protect against surges from lightning missing phone and power lines. Direct lightning strikes can and do vaporize 20 ft of 3 inch by 1/8 inch copper earthing straps, along with 5 miles of phone line and parts of the exchange it connected to. It also took out the television transmitters and several racks worth of electronics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“how the fuck would a PHONE line carry enough current to fry the computer”

Back in the “old days” of modems, a telephone line was just a pair of copper wires that runs from the phone to the telephone central. And yes, there was a pair of wires for EACH phone in the country (well, at least in my country there was).

One fun thing you could actually do (and I did once) was plug an analogue phone into those lines half-way and listen in on other people’s conversations. A sort of “man-in-the-middle” attack.

Anyway, if the computer was connected to the analogue line via modem you could theoretically fry the computer by sending a very high current down the line. That could easily be done by unplugging the wires at the other end and sticking them into the wall socket. evil grin

This would not be easy to do on a digital line, though. Mostly because you can’t guarantee that you won’t be frying anything else down the line.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

110vac would not ‘fry’ anything connected to the phone line. For starters, the ring signal is 90VAC. Anything capable of handling 90V with a reasonable safety margin can handle 110V.
Secondly, phone lines are required to withstand what would at first appear to be insane voltage levels. In North America, the phone lines must withstand 1500 volts. The reason is because above ground phone lines typically run along the electrical poles, and the phone company doesn’t want to be responsible for setting a couple of blocks of houses on fire just because a live electrical wire happens to drop onto the phone wire below.
Any time I hear a story of something being intentionally fried by way of the phone lines, I have to see some pretty good evidence before I’ll believe it.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

i have only seen it once, and it was a 4 square block area due to lightning strikes(4 on the same exchange in a short period)

anything hooked to the phone lines coming out of the area of the exchange effected was smoked, i knew 6 people in that area who where very lucky to have APC surge protectors(before apc went to crap), they all had their phone line running thru the apc, every one of them’s apc was fried, as was the computer and phone hooked to the apc…..

apc covered it, the phone company also covered it but it took them 14 months to pay off, then they only paid back a % of the lost in money the rest was given via discounts on your phone bill…..(im really not kidding, i wish i was…)

but, thats the only time I have heard of a major loss due to phone line surges…..funny enough, there was also damage in some cases to stuff on the normal power in some homes due to surge threw computers/fax machiens…..(yeah, again, i was like WTF….but i saw it with my own eyes)

in the end, it sold alot of apc and triplite UPS’s after word got out that APC and TripLite where paying out faster then the phone company was…..

oh and yes it made the papers, and there was even a pretty detailed explanation of what happened, in effect the surge protection between the exchange and the homes/businesses connected had fuzed with the first strike…..the pictures where interesting, im sure the company that made the surge suppression system had to pay out or got sued as well….because clearly i didnt work at all….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Your teacher is either lying or misremembering a particularly hilarious physically impossible event from the Left Behind series of Christian novels. There is no way at all to do this in the real world. Sure, you could maybe crack the BIOS and overclock the CPU until it burns out but I would LOVE to see someone try to do that remotely without being detected.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

google around for what spiking is, it was possible to “spike” somebody but, not the way described and not via “hacking”, my grandmother got spiked once the phone company replaced her phone the next day(was an accident, they where trying to find a bad something or other on the exchange and didnt disconnect something so a few peoples phones got damaged, no big deal really, i kinda think it was used to find bad caps, since a spike is one way to pop a weak cap)

again though, the story dosnt add up, the teacher would have to be at the old time phone exchange and would have to know how to physically do it, nothing was automated back then…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Spoken like someone who has no actual concept of how electricity works. A phone line inside the home is far too small to carry the current required to do what you suggest. High voltage? High voltage doesn’t do shit. Current is what causes the damage. You can stand in a room that has been charged with a few million volts of power. If there is no current, meaning it is static, you don’t feel a thing. Now, a 30ga wire isn’t going to carry more than a couple microamps before it is in danger of burning out. Poof. Gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think Adblock will block those ads, but there are plugins/addons to hide them. I use Gmelius for Opera, less for the ad removal and more for the flexible UI adjustments.

But it’s just a CSS tweak to remove the text ads from gmail or even

The same kind of tweaks will allow you to completely hide the comments section of YouTube, which makes that experience a whole lot better.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:


The notion that the government would pay Google for private information about its citizen’s communications is laughable. Completely laughable. I mean they already have Subpoenas, Warrants, and National Security Letters.

They’d be more likely to build a gigantic multimillion dollar facility in the Utah desert to surreptitiously collect and store the information themselves. Pay Google; HA!

jimb (profile) says:

I wasn’t expecting this sort of thing for about another 15 years, until some of the many “home-schooled for ideological reasons” kids getting taught that evolution is a liberal conspiracy, that there’s no science to support human-caused climate change, or that there’s no reason not to literally believe every word written in (insert your religious dogma text of choice) were old enough to elect to Congress. It appears that there is no shortage of people natively stupid enough yet old enough to run for Congress to support this kind of ignorance and imbecility even without the benefits of an education aimed at preserving ignorant beliefs rather than teaching techniques for the application and use of intelligence. The sad thing is Gromert is probably in a ‘safe’ district and likely immune to removal by election due to the preponderance of ‘low information content’ voters carefully gerrymandered into the district.

That One Guy (profile) says:

To put things in perspective :

Here’s a couple of gems from his wikipedia page…

-‘In a 2012 meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee, Gohmert stated his strong support of a trans-Alaskan pipeline, as a means for caribou to have more sex.

According to Gohmert, “When [the caribou] want to go on a date, they invite each other to head over to the pipeline. So [his] real concern now [is] ? if oil stops running through the pipeline ? do we need a study to see how adversely the caribou would be affected if that warm oil ever quit flowing?? Gohmert’s comments were not favorably received by the rest of the committee; reportedly, Alaskan representative Don Young was forced to stifle his laughter in response.’

-‘Gohmert does not believe in man made climate change, and has asserted that data supporting the theory is fraudulent. Gohmert has opposed cap-and-trade legislation, such as the one that was passed in the US House when it was Democratic controlled. Gohmert supports expanding drilling, and exploration and drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)’

-‘On July 20, 2012, Gohmert appeared on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” radio show the day of the July 20, 2012 Aurora, Colorado cinema shootings, which left 12 people dead, and 59 injured. Gohmert blamed the shooting’s outcome on the erosion of Judeo-Christian beliefs, and the lack of concealed carriers in the theater.’

-‘On 16 December 2012, two days after the murder of over twenty people at an elementary school, Gohmert appeared on Fox News Sunday and suggested that the tragedy would have never happened had the teachers been armed. He told host Chris Wallace, “I wish to God that she [principal Dawn Hochsprung] had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out … and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.” He also claimed that the 20 victims who had been killed with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle had “defensive wounds.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: To put things in perspective :

Precedent mostly, soon as what was previously protected area is opened up for commercial use, then the whole ‘protected area’ idea becomes a complete and utter joke.

“Well this was an area kept preserved due to several endangered/threatened species that lived here, but now that we’ve discovered (insert valuable resource here), they’ll just have to move elsewhere, as profit takes precedence over preservation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Scroogle was the name of a search engine using Google as it’s base to draw info from. No matter who sent the search terms, Scoogle sent a proxy IP and filtered the ads out, leaving Google with little information to filter through. It failed and closed it’s doors due to Google changing it’s APIs constantly and being under a near consistent DDOS attack.

I do not expect that Gohmert knew of this unless he was told it by someone else.

Remember that this is an example of who makes our laws for the internet as well as the country. It is highly unlikely he understands the complex interactions of other issues any better than he understands email and Google. He’s been spoon fed just enough info to make him dangerous without the understanding he needs to make accurate and informed questions nor proposals for bills to become law.

In essence this is what is happening in Washington at a large scale. We already have a shining example of what happens when someone that really understands the issues and tells them and what happens afterward. The Republican Study Committee put out a report on revamping copyright only to have it removed within 24 hours followed by the firing of Derek Khanna for having the audacity to speak of what really needs done. As long as you are firing the messengers with the understanding of the issues we will return to a replay of Mr. Gohmert over and over as our politicians consistently get it wrong as Mr. Gohmert has demonstrated with his unique misunderstanding of the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Gohmert should really, really look hard at his assistants and see if they are doing their jobs.

Things that come to mind.

– Gun for hire.
– Blackmail(somebody has dirty on this man and is using it)
– He is truly that dumb.
– His sources(i.e. assistants, lobbyists) are stupid.

Is not so much that he asks dumb questions, is that he gives the impression that he wants to guide the questions to a certain outcome that he already decided what it should be and then at the end tries to call up others to join forces with the “I be very interested from hearing from others that have “suggestions” bla bla bla”.

Blatant BS is never a good way to start things, unless when you already know the direction others will go, something that is missing here since he seems to be taking the temperature in an very obvious way.

This is not a dude that inspires much confidence.

trevor (profile) says:

Draw a Picture

Maybe next time the lawyer should get a white board and draw it out for him:

1. Advertiser: “Google, here is $100k. display X ad when Y word is found in user emails.”

2. Google Machine: *scan email searching for key words, inserts X ad when Y word found*.

3. User: *Opens email* “hey, my mom invited me home for a steak dinner and there is an ad next to my email for Outback Steak House. Google, you cray.”

Notice, not once did the advertiser get to see any emails.

I R Congress?

trrll (profile) says:

Google to blame for spam?

It sounds like he has decided that Google is to blame for the spam in his mailbox. So every time the lawyer tried to tell him that Google doesn’t sell its customers email address, it was INPUT ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Probably what Google’s lawyer should have told him (not that I blame the lawyer for failing to figure out on the spot how to break through such impenetrable stupidity) was, “Look! If we sold advertisers our customers’ email addresses, then the advertisers wouldn’t need us any more–they could just cut out the middleman and send their ads directly to our customers without paying us. So we’d be cutting our own throats if we did what you think we’re doing.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is a bit of information that Mr Gohmert may be ignorant about it.

Out of about 1.3 billion connections 500 million were from non-PC devices, meaning if you actually fought back and fuck up those devices you have printers that would not work, cameras, switches, routers and all kinds of devices that could stop working because of allowing others to hack the hackers attitude.

jackn says:

OK, does anybody here have any — obviously, you’re doing a good job protecting your employer — but does anybody have any proposed legislation that would assist us in what we’re doing

He lucky he wasn’t questioning me. At this point, I would let him know that he was MY Employee. and I would demand that he acknowledge and understand before proceeding. Then I would have him get me a glass of water!

E-K says:

Seriously, Rep Gohmert is dumb. But the google lawyer? Come on! He is unable to explain to him that google does not give advertisers access to the users emails. All of this nonsense would have been avoided with a half decent google representative. He keeps mumbling and almost stutters when answering… there is no way his point can come through and no way for Rep Gohmert to learn how the process works. And that will lead to sad regulations in the future… but here I blame google’s rep.

Beta (profile) says:

clueless like a fox

I believe that Rep. Gohmert knew — on some level — that what he was saying was factually incorrect, he just didn’t care. He had his prepared questions, and when the lawyer began to point out that he was flat wrong, klaxons sounded in Gohmert’s head and he simply started talking over the objections and making full speed for the segue into asking the room for legislation (pausing mid-sentence to throw one last dart, “protecting your employer”, that he still had in his hand). He conspicuously did not allow further explanation.

What’s most interesting about this the Representative’s keen instinct for knowing what he can get away with. Someone less polite than that lawyer could have demolished the whole argument with a loud and well-timed “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” But Rep. Gohmert made that psychologically impossible.

It’s like watching a good mentalism act, only less entertaining. And far, far more expensive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Obligatory Billy Madison quote:

Mr. Gohmert, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Gohmert: I’m not asking for a fruit comparison. I’m just asking would you be willing to make that deal with the government? The same one you do with private advertisers…”

Yes, the FBI could buy ads from Google to display the FBI Warning ad on any Gmail message containing the key words “copy” and “movie” or “music”. Just like Budweiser buys ads on CBS to display the Chlydesdales ad during the Super Bowl.

Bet Gohmert’s wondering how Budweiser knew he was drinking beer and watching the Super Bowl at the same time and wants to stop CBS from selling his home address to advertisers.

Tom Landry (profile) says:

Meh…..while Gohmert certanly shows a lack of knowledge, it doesnt seem to live up to the level of “OMG” that Mike is suggesting (Im referring strictly to the video)

On the other hand, orin isn’t giving direct informative answers to the senator. Thats his job I suppose but its also behavior that most large companies exhibit when there are fact-finding sessions that could even have whiff of liability. I commend the sentator for calling the attorney out on his overly rambling answers that wastes the time of elected officials who might be trying to do the right thing.

Lastly, Orin needs to take a trip to the testosterone factory

Oleg (profile) says:

Not so fast on Rep. Gohmert. Sure, somehow Google has brainwashed us all to trust them, and their stats on our ad’s activity, even though we never actually see the context in which they run our ads (Direct mail at least has Postal bill).

We blindly accept that our ads are running (Google calls these impressions). Only when someone actually clicks through (CTR) do we start getting feedback, and then we know for certain when someone buys. Pre-click ads may or may not be free.

Congressman Gohmert has (purposefully/inadvertently?) forced us to confront the unpleasant fact that we are are blindly trusting Google to run your ads, and then subsequently taking it on faith when Google reports back that they did — a nice business model, if you can get it.

Maybe Google can explain to us and Rep. Gohmert how paying customers verify that the ad impressions truly happened, and are not some kind of slick stored procedure in a fantasy database.

Anonymous Coward says:

Talk about a biased article. The man is attempting to get the lawyer to explain the process by which google generates ads and then asks if
Google would ever enter into a similar arrangement with the govt. Obviously he is mistaken as to the nature of google ads in emails, but his heart is in the right place. He is concerned about google sharing its customers info with the govt, why is this reprehensible?

Ultimately, in spite of his technological ignorance, I was disappointed in the way the lawyer seemed to dodge the direct question. I knew what the guy was asking, the lawyer seemed more interested in attempting to show his ignorance than answer the question if google would enter into a deal with the feds to share our info.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Google deep-packet-inspects gmail traffic. In other words, they have an automated process that reads your emails, and certain keywords trigger certain advertising. This a fact. The weasel Google lawyer was doing everything he could to not admit that by instead denying Google was doing something else such as selling addresses or the actual content of email.

Google is a profoundly evil company and kudos to Congress for waking up to that fact.

Mike Gallagher (profile) says:

Not possible

What everyone’s laughing (or cringing) at is the idea that anyone could buy that info, because you can’t. No private advertiser. No government. It’s just not possible.

I was surprised to read this. How could it be considered not possible for google provide unrestricted access to their servers for the federal government? It’s unlikely, and unethical, but it’s absolutely possible. As misinformed as Rep Gohmert is, he appears to be concerned about the very real possibility that google could sacrafice a users privacy on request from the government.

Stuart says:

didn't the gohmert campaign buy ads from google?

In this day and age, isn’t it pretty much standard for a national political campaign to buy Google’s ads?

In either case, I’m sure that many federal agencies and offices have purchased ads and certainly many more at other levels of government. It would have been pretty powerful for the Google Rep to to say simply ,”Yes, we have already offered the same deal that we give to companies to the government 6436 times. We can get an ad campaign started for you right now if you’d like. Will that be Mastercard or visa?”

Winston says:


“What they’re able to do is through our advertising business is be able to identify keywords that they would like to trigger the display of one of their ads”

so… a keyword in the message triggers an ad on your screen because “the email context is used to identify what ads are most relevant to the user…”

but… “they (the advertisers)don’t get information about who the user is” and “Google placing targeted ads next to emails has NOTHING to do with sending any information back to the advertiser”

So the advertisers don’t get your information or email address.

But an automated google server must get information about your url,type of operating system, router address, your ips, and of course how many times the key words or phrases are used; otherwise they would not know where to place which ad or in what format.

Of course google would never log that information or allow anyone to search the data for a specific computer!

How could the government ever use that against you? Gohmert is obviously an techno-ignorant conspiracy theorist…..nothing to see here..move along.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

An easy read version for Representative Gohmert

Google Lawyer: They don’t actually get your email. What they’re able to do is through our advertising business be able to identify keywords that they would like to trigger the display of one of their ads, but they don’t get information about who the user is.
Translation: Advertisers never see your email at all. What they’re actually able to do say to Google, “We want this word, that word, and the other word to trigger a display of one of our adverts,” and Google makes it happen via an automated process, during which no information is collected, personally identifying or otherwise.
(Above statement translated by someone who’s technically retarded. What does that say about Gohmert?)

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