Last week Google honored a supporter of dictators and terrorists as a civil rights and social justice activist. But “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”
Visitors to Google.com are used to their “doodles,” the search engine’s creative drawings commemorating important anniversaries and people in history. Google has marked Independence Day, MLK, Jr. Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, and last week, the doodle honored the birthday of Japanese American political activist, Yuri Kochiyama, who died in 2014.
Now for those who don’t recognize the name, Google linked to the Wikipedia article on Kochiyama, which described her as an advocate for “human rights.” But that’s hardly an honest summary. Yes, she supported reparations for Japanese Americans and was an outspoken advocate of oppressed minorities, having herself been forced into an internment camp during World War II. But calling her a “human rights advocate” because of this is a bit like calling the Titanic a popular cruise ship that suffered a navigational setback.
The fact is, Kochiyama spent decades supporting some of the worst movements and political regimes on the planet.
An outspoken admirer of Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-tung, Kochiyama praised the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution—movements that claimed more lives than the Holocaust or Stalin’s ethnic cleansing. She encouraged urban guerrilla warfare as a means of racial liberation—contrary to the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., who insisted on peaceful demonstration.
Kochiyama also became something of an apologist for the bloodiest Marxist revolutions of the last half-century, like the Peruvian communist party, popularly known as the Shining Path, which killed, raped, and tortured tens of thousands over the course of a decade. The Peruvian and U.S. governments, as well as the European Union, all classified the Shining Path as a terrorist organization.
But none of this seemed to trouble Kochiyama, who joined a delegation to Peru to raise Western support for the insurgency. “The more I read,” she would later write, “the more I came to completely support the revolution in Peru.”
And then came September 11th, and with it a display of evil so raw and undeniable, virtually every world leader condemned it. The mastermind behind it—Osama bin Laden—became public enemy number one. But at the height of the War on Terror, Kochiyama had different feelings toward Al Qaeda’s head honcho.
“I consider Osama bin Laden as one of the people I admire,” she told The Objector magazine. “To me, he is in the category of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, all leaders that I admire…I thank Islam for bin Laden.”
Kochiyama even saw efforts to capture or kill bin Laden and other members of his terror network as American power-grabs. She said, “The United States is intent on taking over the world…the main terrorist and the main enemy of the world’s people is the U.S. government.”
This is the character Google—an American company and the most visited website on the internet—thought worthy of honor and remembrance? It says a lot, of course, about the politics of the folks who chose these doodles. But there’s a worldview lesson to draw out, here, as well.
Whom we consider to be heroes depends on what we think is wrong with the world. As Chuck Colson wrote in “How Now Shall We Live?”, if we don’t diagnose the problem correctly, not only will we fail to fix it—we’ll create even more brokenness.
There are so many better choices of men and women to highlight on Google’s homepage. One suggestion off the top of my head: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an author who drew worldwide attention to the human rights abuses of the Soviet Union, and refused to stop speaking out, even after his imprisonment.
Ideas, especially when we’re trying to help the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized, have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. Good intentions, especially when we’re choosing our heroes, are simply not enough.
Google and Yuri Kochiyama: A Bad Hero with Bad Ideas
Did you know that you can submit ideas to Google’s doodle team? All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org and suggest an exemplary individual you believe should be commemorated on Google’s home page. It goes without saying that your suggestions should be positive and gracious.
Yuri Kochiyama, today’s Google Doodle, fought for civil rights — and praised Osama bin Laden
Dylan Matthews | Vox.com | May 19, 2016
How Now Shall We Live?
Chuck Colson, Nancy Pearcey | Tyndale House Publishers | September 1999