I can’t help it: I just love stories where earnest well-meaning people petition Google to rectify grievous toponymic errors. Consider “the Persian Gulf”, AKA “the Arabian Gulf”, wisely AKA “the Gulf”. On Feb 7, the National Iranian American Council issued a press release that began:
NIAC Protests Google’s Use of Divisive Terms for the Persian Gulf
Washington DC – NIAC has protested Google’s inclusion of the politically divisive term “Arabian Gulf” on its application Google Earth. Historically, the usage of this term for the Persian Gulf has been led by pan-Arab figures such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to rally the Arab masses against the non-Arab peoples in the Middle East.
I went looking at this gulf, and was surprised (but amused) to find that Google has decided to hedge its bets and call the gulf both Arabian and Persian:
But that, apparently, was not enough to appease the NIAC:
Last week, NIAC’s Board sent a letter to Google’s CEO, Dr. Eric E. Schmidt, pointing out the political nature of including this alternative term for the Persian Gulf on their applications. NIAC is also seeking a meeting with Schmidt to ensure that the mistake is corrected.
Somehow I don’t think that including all possible names for this gulf was an unintentional error.
Then today, in my inbox, the next phase in this wonderful war for the hearts and minds of Google Earth users… The Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reports:
TEHRAN, Feb. 08 (ISNA)-“No war in Persian Gulf” was the most important message that artists delivered in the 15th Persian Gulf Environmental Art Festival in Hormuz island to show both Iranians [sic] peace-loving nature and prevent distorting the name of this gulf.
The sentence was designed and written in huge size on a monochromatic part of the island with good aerial look to be seen on Google Earth.
This has to be the single-most innovative political protest of the new millennium: Dislike the labels in Google Earth? Write your own for all to see.
[PS: National Geographic Magazine got a similar treatment back in 2004.]