My Google search history: a frank interrogation
Featuring guest interrogator Kate Knibbs.
Welcome, honored readers, to the inaugural edition of Trashberg’s newest running series, which will see me demanding the unedited Google search histories of various guests and asking them probing, deeply uncomfortable questions about the things they seek out when no one’s looking. But if I’m going to ask others to give up the more intimate parts of their life online, well, it’s only fair that I be willing to do the same. In order to keep me as honest as possible, Wired senior writer Kate Knibbs graciously agreed to step in and pore through my search history from randomly selected weeks spanning the past year, asking whatever she saw fit. Nothing was off the table.
The resulting conversation, which was conducted via Slack and which you can read below, has been lightly edited for length and clarity. And if there’s anyone whose search history you’re just dying to get a peek at, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Ashley Feinberg: Before we begin with the interrogation, I'd love to just get your initial impressions.
Kate Knibbs: So all in all, your searches were actually significantly less lewd than I had anticipated.
I'd also assumed that you would be using Google in a slightly more sophisticated way than you appear to use it in reality. Like, I thought there'd be a lot of playing around with the time settings to pull up older documents, etc.—but instead you seemed to use it like a normie who also repeatedly searched for the same words again and again, as though expecting Google to generate new answers to the same question each time.
Feinberg: Alright, look—
Knibbs: E.g. on the first day of searches you shared, you searched for the word "hatchet" three times in two minutes.
Feinberg: I think one reason for that might just be something inherently broken in my brain. I'll occasionally realize I have three tabs open that are all Google searches for, like, “gold bullion,” with no recollection of why or when.
Knibbs: Did you find the true meaning of "hatchet?”
Feinberg: I think maybe I was thinking I should buy a hatchet. For what? I'm not sure.
Knibbs: You also searched for "axe" in the same time period so there was definitely some sort of interest in chopping tools.
Feinberg: There's a lot of nice chopping implements online—artisanal, really well made, seems like it'd be fun to buy if you had things to chop. Everyone deserves to have a dream.
Knibbs: My dreams tend to involve you not having access to sharp objects, but sure. Anyway, digging in, I really want to ask you about your searches on October 26.
Feinberg: Please do.
Knibbs: Because in the middle of the afternoon, you conducted nine separate searches with the word "goth" in it. Sometimes it was "ancient goths" or "goths Rome," which led me to believe this was a history thing and not a Hot Topic thing.
Feinberg: Oh! I know what that was. I was listening to the Fall of Rome podcast by friend of Trashberg and fellow Discontents member Patrick Wyman. In it, there is naturally a lot of discussion of the various Goth groups, so I think I maybe wanted to see renderings of what people thought Goths looked like?
Knibbs: See, this is why I was surprised—you're more wholesome than you appear. Also, seven hours after your original search spree you went back at night and searched "ancient goths blonde."
Feinberg: Just look at this absolute king.
Knibbs: And then, um, three hours after that, at midnight, you searched simply "fatalism.”
Feinberg: The blonde thing is harder to piece together. There might have been something about blondeness in the podcast? Although that doesn't seem right. Maybe I just wanted to see a goth hottie.
Knibbs: Well, it didn't hold your attention for that long because the next day you were on an entirely different track. one that involved attempting to look up Barbara Bush's phone number?
Feinberg: Uhh, what was the exact search?
Knibbs: "Barbara bush cell phone," searched twice.
Feinberg: Oh! I wasn’t looking for her number (she’s dead). What I was looking for was this:
This is the photo I use as my profile pic for every Slack group I've ever been in. I'm not entirely sure what I was going to do with it, but—just look at that bitch. What's she doing? We'll never know now, because she's dead.
But that same day, you also searched for a bunch of words, and I don't know what any of them mean. It all sounds like fake Gen Z slang. For example, what is "nichychampa?"
Feinberg: Oh god, Nicky Champa is a TikTok dude. I hate him and his boyfriend so much. I have to show you.
Knibbs: The other one was "itspierreboo."
Feinberg: I think I was trying to figure out what their deal is, because I spend an inordinate amount of energy getting quietly mad about them. And yeah, Pierre is his boyfriend.
Knibbs: Oh god, yes please show me. My TikTok algorithm exclusively serves me up TikToks about rescue animals, so I don’t ever see this shit.
Feinberg: This is them.
Knibbs: Oh, wow.
Feinberg: They talk to each other like they're infants, and it's all "pranks" that are clearly 100000% staged and performed with them very obviously holding the phone directly in front of the other’s face.
Knibbs: I feel like Pierre is not really French, and is instead stealing French valor.
Feinberg: Here’s another. God, I despise them. And I'm still not sure what their deal is.
Knibbs: I feel like it's best not to inquire further, honestly
Feinberg: I kind of thought they were twins for a while and were doing some sort of a weird sex twin bit, but that was not it. Anyway, moving on.
Knibbs: I would really like to ask about the next day's searches, because you searched our mutual friend Casey’s name.
Feinberg: Uh huh.
Knibbs: And then searched for her name again, but added “jewish."
Knibbs: Casey is not Jewish.
Feinberg: Well, were you part of the discussion where, for some reason, another friend of ours was insisting that Casey was Jewish?
Knibbs: Uh, no, I was not.
Feinberg: I knew she wasn't. Every part of me knew she wasn't, but I was scared to weigh in and be wrong.
Knibbs: Did you think there was going to be some blog post about it?
Feinberg: Well, I thought maybe… I don't know. Maybe Casey had tweeted about Passover or a fun day at synagogue. Or perhaps she had a written a blog titled, “It’s Me, Casey Johnston the Jew.” The important thing is I was correct. She is not a Jew.
[Reached for comment on the matter, Johnston provided Trashberg with the following statement: “I would never steal Jewish valor. Love and respect to Jews and Judaism, but I would like to clarify for both the record and my confused friends that I am not Jewish.”]
Knibbs: One moment, going to buy the domain name CaseyIsAGentile.com.
Feinberg: That feels like a hate crime for some reason.
Knibbs: Speaking of hate crimes!
Feinberg: Uh oh.
Knibbs: The next night at one in the morning you did the following series of searches:
Feinberg: I see.
Knibbs: Just some bedtime reading?
Feinberg: I can't say for sure what prompted it, but just reading those searches now, I would like to know more about the main Nazi doctor.
Knibbs: And staying on topic—
Feinberg: I bet being Hitler's general practitioner was nerve wracking as hell.
Knibbs: —the NEXT day you googled the following thing, which I am just going to screenshot because I am not Jewish and am not typing it out.
Feinberg: Uhhh… You know, my best guess is… Well, how long after the Hitler searches was that?
Knibbs: It was fully the next day.
Feinberg: I see. Well, sometimes you just like to expand your knowledge base and see whats out there. That’s the best I got.
Knibbs: Immediately after the hitler searches you'd searched "studio ghibli," so i assumed you wanted to cleanse your mind with masterful animated films. Later that day, you seemed to switch gears and searched for another succession of phrases I don’t understand.
Feinberg: Well, the meatus is the hole part of the penis. Though I can't figure out what a splitting maul penis is.
[Several seconds later…]
Okay, I just looked, and a splitting maul is a sort of axe/hammer.
Knibbs: You still wanted your hatchet!
Feinberg: It’s also very possible I was looking for penis injuries.
Knibbs: Ok, the next few days were pretty tame, you did a lot of searches about squash and fencing, nothing too bizarre. But then you unleashed the following queries onto the 'net:
Feinberg: Um, well.
Knibbs: And Ashley, you didn't stop there. You kept searching all these terms the entire next day, as well.
Feinberg: Okay, do you remember Fivey?
Knibbs: I don't remember Fivey, and now I'm honestly scared to hear about him. But please tell me.
Feinberg: Fivey was the little fox mascot that FiveThirtyEight made. Basically it’s Clippy, but for poll nerds.
Knibbs: Oh, I do remember this!
Knibbs: Oh my god.
Feinberg: Anyway, I remember there being quite a few drawings of Fivey pooping in a diaper—you know, just sort of reveling in it. I can only guess that, at that point, I wanted to learn more about diapers in general.
Knibbs: Oh sure, as one does. No need to share the diaper Fivey images. I can use my imagination.
Feinberg: Oh wow, this one is great.
Really well done. Killer lighting.
Knibbs: Did you ever ask Nate Silver about this?
Feinberg: I did tweet one of them at him, I'm pretty sure.
Knibbs: (If any Trashberg subscribers would like to tweet at Nate asking him about this, please feel free!)
Feinberg: Yes, I sure did:
Deafening silence, as expected. It's not even profane!
Knibbs: At this point, if you make a fuzzy little fox graphic and put it on the internet, you're at least partially responsible for the inevitable porn.
Feinberg: Frankly, you should be legally obligated to comment on the resulting erotica. I've been talking to the Biden administration about this. We're working on a solution.
Knibbs: I'm glad to hear it. But the next night, late at night, you looked up something that, again, I would love an explanation for.
Feinberg: Ah. Yes, I do remember watching the [Stranger Things kid] Finn Wolfhard Weezer video
Knibbs: What? Isn't Finn Wolfhard like 12 years old?
Feinberg: Hm, I was hoping it had come out that day, but it appears it came out several years prior. And that’s what I thought! But he looks so old in the video!
He's the main kid you see in the beginning. Tell me that doesn't blow you away.
Knibbs: This is definitely Weezer's finest work in a minute.
Feinberg: Great vid, lots of fun, enjoyable to watch at 1 a.m.
Knibbs: I’m still very amused by you laying in bed thinking, "What I'd really love to see right now is the child actor Finn Wolfhard cosplaying as Rivers Cuomo." Honestly, this feels considerably more perverted than diaper Fivey.
Feinberg: The heart wants what the heart wants.
Knibbs: That said, it’s still less perverted than this, I'll wager.
Feinberg: I’ll admit that is a lot for two minutes. But I do have a vague memory of this drawing of Trump as a furry lion. Or maybe as a furry Jesus lion?
Knibbs: And you just needed to see it?
Feinberg: Well, in discussing it now, I do desperately want to see it. Possibly this was an extension of my Fivey kick.
Knibbs: Honestly, I take back what I said about your searches being less pervy than I thought. Now that we've scratched the surface, they are exactly as pervy as I thought.
Feinberg: If seeking knowledge is pervy, then call me a pervert.
Knibbs: Now, skipping ahead a bit, you finally did do some 9/11 searches. This is also another case of you repeatedly googling the same thing (or some variation) a shit ton of times in a row like a psycho.
And may I ask... why?
Feinberg: You sure may, but I have absolutely no idea on this one. My instinct is to say that maybe there was a conspiracy theory that Bush wasn't actually up in the sky when they said he was? But it's equally possible I just wanted to see some pics of Dubya.
Knibbs: I'm sure the people keeping the FBI files on you were having a fun day with this one.
I actually have to head out soon, but there is one I’d like to simply present without comment.
Feinberg: I have nothing to add here.
Knibbs: And finally:
Knibbs: … did you forget how old you are?
Feinberg: Well, I do sometimes, but I can usually figure it out on my own. My best guess is that I wanted to see how old the internet, as a general entity, thought I was.
Knibbs: I also just want to note that you googled this at 2:30 a.m.:
Feinberg: Didn’t you say you had somewhere to go.