Google Image Search For "Completely Wrong" Brings Up Page Full Of Mitt Romney Photos

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 10 2012 2:10 PM

Google Image Search For "Completely Wrong" Brings Up Page Full Of Mitt Romney Photos

Google image search results for "completely wrong."
Google image search results for "completely wrong."

Screenshot / Google

After getting pummeled in the polls for videotaped remarks in which he said that 47 percent of Americans view themselves as "victims" and want government handouts, Mitt Romney decided last week to distance himself from that sentiment, calling his previous statements "completely wrong."

He seems to have succeeded in getting the word out—perhaps even more than he intended. To the amusement of his critics, a Google image search for the term "completely wrong" now returns a page full of Romney images.

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On a scale of one to Santorum, this is hardly the worst Google bomb a politician has faced. At first blush, it's a little reminiscent of the one in which a search for "miserable failure" returned George W. Bush's official White House biography as the top result.

The difference is that this doesn't seem to be the work of a prankster or political foe. As far as I can tell, Romney's association with "completely wrong" is a natural product of Google's search algorithms in action. So many news outlets picked up his retraction of the "47 percent" comments that those articles simply dominate the top results. In other words, this is entirely self-inflicted. And it's not likely to go away anytime soon: A quirk of these types of Google problems is that they tend to be self-reinforcing as more people search the phrase to see the results for themselves.

Don't feel too bad for Romney, though. Poll results suggest his flip-flop (he originally stood by the "47 percent" remarks, and some of his supporters tried to spin them to his advantage) is working.

Update, 3:11 p.m.: A Google spokesman confirms that this is not an intentional "Google bomb." The search results for "completely wrong" are the natural result of a flurry of recent news articles associating Romney with the phrase. How long this will persist, then, simply depends on how long the quote stays in the news—and, to a lesser extent, how many bloggers write posts like this one, which have the effect of perpetuating the association. Sorry Mitt.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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