Google's Gabriel Stricker, director of Global Communications and Public Affairs, opened the Google Instant launch this week. And he was incredibly condescending to the audience.
He said that the reason Google holds events like this one was that "we hear from a lot of you that with the kind of breakneck pace of innovation that we go through at Google, it's nice for us to kind of let you catch your breath." He went on to tell the audience that they would "hear from our Search rocket scientists in a second who will hold your hand through the latest and greatest of what we're up to."
So Google is so awesome that the company has to pause so the rest of the world can catch its breath? And we're all so stupid that Google geniuses have to "hold our hands" as they explain things?
Come to think of it, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt often comes across as arrogant and condescending. He recently asserted that Google users actually "want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."
Responding to a question about Google's ever-increasing invasion of privacy for profit, Schmidt said: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
Google: I know the world of public opinion is changing at a "breakneck pace." But let me hold your hand through this.
You're an incredibly successful company that has hired a lot of very brilliant people. You make billions from advertising with a model that depends on the trust of hundreds of millions of people. Your future success also depends on national governments allowing you to do things like read our e-mails, track our locations, take pictures of our houses, map the locations of our Wi-Fi networks and so on (yes, Google is still doing this, as are its competitors).
Neither humans nor governments make decisions based on rational self-interest. Unlike your founders, the public is not composed of Vulcans. Emotion is often involved. Such comments by precisely the kinds of people who should know better -- your top PR guy and your CEO -- do incredible damage to your reputation, which if left unchecked can create needless resentment that will come back to bite you in the backside someday.
Such high-visibility condescension benefits no one, and does damage to the company in subtle, impossible-to-measure ways. When public resentment and distrust comes back to get you, it will not be traceable to the comments that initially planted the seeds of wariness about the company.
Am I wrong about this? Please let me know whether Google is blowing it by being careless about the perception of high-level comments.