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Book coverThis afternoon, after having agreed several times that the newly en-Duchessed Catherine’s dress did indeed resemble a fusion of those of Grace Kelly and Princess Margaret but that it was unclear what this portended, apart from the wisdom of staying away from gin and mountain roads, I was leafing through Charles Mackay’s wonderful 1852 edition of ‘Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds‘. It seemed timely.

I was in search of the list of methods of divination, of which my favourites are Kapnomancy – by smoke, and Oinomancy – by the lees of wine, but it struck me that we should add a 21st century version, divination by internet or googlemancy. For it is clear from the search terms that bring people to a site like this that the belief is firm that whatever wish or intimation is being sought, the internet will provide.

There are those searchers for whom it is sufficient that they can conceive of something – and fervently wish for it to be – for the certainty that it will exist on the internet:

  • court cases regarding moving a birmingham city council boiler from upstairs to downstairs
  • “victoria osler” model
  • “terry thomas”+”vocal coach”

Although, in a properly ordered world, that last one most certainly would exist and indeed be compulsory.

For the googlemancer, everything must surely be on the internet:

  • how many legal cases does birmingham city council have

(I have visions of updating the number being a full time job for one poor devil).

Then there are the people so assured of the magical powers of the internet, that they believe it will know what they seek, regardless of what words they put in:

  • very bendy
  • trigger haappy caretaker

There are inevitably those seeking an answer to the great mysteries of life:

  • is an estoppel request a bad thing
  • why does my friend have an order for committal form against h [sic]
  • who is grant shapps
  • how long does 12 month tenancy last starting in june
  • appeal refused after hearing at supreme court uk by letter , how will the letter look like?

Or again, those who think that the internet will reveal the hidden patterns of fate on which they can rely:

  • civil court cases landlords v tenants uk – who regularly wins

And then there are many who offer up some facet of their existential situation, presumably for the internet’s guidance:

  • my solicitor earns more than me from claim
  • my solicitor was unqualified unbeknown to me
  • just for men looks fake
  • was getting jobseekers not now

Sometimes, perhaps, google does predict the future, although across questions and not in a way the questioners will ever see.  A whole family life is spanned here:

  • can my daughter be added to my council house tenancy
  • can my mum legally take me off a tenancy

It is humbling to think how very few of the googlemancers this site might actually have helped. We could not satisfy even such a simple request as ‘Caroline Flint Nude’ (although I give thanks hourly for our inability to do so). It is then a source of great joy that at least the fowl-loving tenants might have left with some balm for their troubled (and utterly incomprehensible) souls:

  • can u keep chickens in a new charter home
  • are chickens legal pets in tenancy agreements
  • is it legal to keep chickens manchester

There are times, of course, when googlemancy resembles nothing so much as Cephaleonomancy – divination by asses’ heads:

  • daily mail statutory interpretation

Somehow, we are on the first page of search results for that one. Presumably because not even the maddest of crowds could conceive of such a thing, however prey to ‘imitativeness, wrongheadedness, folly and delusion’.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


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