It’s almost a lazy comparison, but today’s tech oligarchies are a lot like petty feudal kingdoms, each with its own god-like founder, zealous subjects, and a monoculture so alienating it makes the Teutons look approachable and chill. But if the sovereigns of Silicon Valley truly are the descendants of these ancient iron-fisted despots, what does it say about the state of their realms when the jesters start quitting over increased ethical concerns?

 Jan Matejko

“Wanton beheadings I can handle, but keeping tweens on YouTube by recommending Ben Shapiro videos is just pure evil.” 

For over a decade, French software engineer Manu Cornet was Google’s unofficial corporate satirist. An amateur cartoonist, Cornet started flooding the company’s internal meme message board with his Goomics, a webcomic that answered the question: what if Dilbert was by a millionaire teen who writes code on a yoga mat. Over time, his comics became wildly popular among his fellow software serfs, who related to Cornet’s mockery of Google’s Peter Pan employees’ obsession with pointless perks ...

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Like having a corporate meme message board.

Google’s regular genocides of their app suite ...

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

As the architect of the Google Weather app, Cornet had seen his share of red suns. 

And, of course, most of all his dunking on Google’s many rivals in the contested valley. 

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

These jokes kill in a room of LISP programmers.

Looking at his Goomics, which we non-Google normies have only recently been given access to, it’s clear that Cornet is very much the software engineer of online comic artists. The true value of his cartoons lies in him commenting on and chronicling the politico-cultural (d)evolution of the Googlian Empire. In that role, Cornet gleefully describes himself as Google’s “court jester,” the irreverent fool who’s unafraid to criticize the most powerful and thin-skinned entrepreneurs in the tech oligarchies. And for those hoping that the tech emperors in charge of multi-billion corporations and all of our private data don’t need an online cartoon to tell them they have no clothes on: Consider that Cornet’s most popular comic among tech bros, an unsurprisingly algorithmic meme about company mechanics …

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

It's funny ‘cause it’s flowcharts.

... apparently spoke such truth to power it gave then Microsoft-CEO the epiphany to completely change its corporate culture. So indebted was she to this moralizing MS Paint panel that she included it on page one of her business strategy bible. 

But inside Google itself, Cornet was a tragic fool in more metaphorical ways than someone with a STEM degree could possibly comprehend. While historical jesters indeed were able to criticize their lieges unlike other mortals, people are quick to forget that they were still a cog in the sovereign propaganda machine, their true job as entertainers to distract dissenters from their megalomaniac master’s most heinous flaws through superficial, light-to-medium razzing.

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Nothing says “down with the owning class” like lovingly tracing their People Magazine headshots.

That former CEO and veteran data-reaver Eric Schmidt stuck one of Cornet’s comics on his office door for years was not a bug but an approved feature; treating it as just another brightly colored, humanly self-aware bit of Google veneer that drew away attention from the darkest deeds performed in the name of the Ever Watching Algorithm.

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Being a Googler means saying sorry for the things you let people find out about.

Over time, Cornet did fulfill his true jesterial destiny. All he needed to do was grow more and more depressingly disillusioned with Google’s good-guy facade. By 2018, after a series of stupendous ethical violations in the tech industry, Goomics had switched from relatable content to full-on political satire, with Cornet acting as a one-man ethics watchdog hellbent on raising Google employees’ awareness of their online overlords’ descent into despotism. While his earlier cartoons would poke fun at corporate nap pods and maddening tech bureaucracy, his later works featured biting commentary of Google’s despicable in-house censorship …

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Its amoral abuse of the world’s private data ...

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Even its cozying up to totalitarian regimes, be it domestic oppressors like ICE …

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

or the Peevish Republic of China …

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

Cornet was even able to feel the asphyxiating grasp of the Google oligarchy firsthand. When he published a selection of Goomix comics as a book in 2018, the then Google employee claims a murder of corporate lawyers descended on his office and tried to coerce him into dropping some of the more critical comics of the Glorious Techpublic.

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

The Fall of Lucifer – a graph.

Having seen his satirical art barely affect the decline of the Alphabet utopia into a data dystopia, Cornet finally threw his floppy hat with bells into the ring. In 2021, he tendered his resignation from Google, citing: “I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.” But since a fool is nothing without a foolish king, Cornet now draws his lines over at Twitter. There, he has started an internal series of "Twittoons" satirizing the ethical issues of the social media platform. And since this is Twitter we’re talking about, us outsiders can already imagine the endless series of slight variations on this Goomic: 

Manu Cornet at goomics.net

For more weird tangents, you can follow Cedric at the home of Twittoons.

Top Image: Manu Cornet at goomics.net

 

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