“The male gender role is currently inflexible. Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more ‘feminine,’ then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles,” he wrote. These are all quotes from James Damore, the Harvard-educated employee who worked as a Google engineer until being fired for daring to suggest Google needs more diversity but should rethink how to foster that diversity.
According to the tech site Gizmodo, Damore wrote an “anti-diversity screed.” Re/Code referred to it as “sexist.” The tech site Mashable assailed anyone who defended Damore as being part of the “alt-right.” The problem, chiefly, is that many critics claimed Damore said things he did not and painted the things he did say in the worst possible light.
It is, for example, true that Damore said women suffered from “neuroticism” more than men, but he made clear he was using the psychological, scientific terminology for suffering higher anxiety and having a lower stress tolerance in job and life situations. He did not mean it as a pejoratively as the left painted it. In fact, he did not pull his statements out of thin air or make them up. Damore based his statements on sociological and psychological studies that are accepted by the scientific community, of which he is a part.
Social conservatives are looking at what Google has done and, while acknowledging Google has every right to fire an employee, are concerned this outcome bodes poorly for anyone who thinks differently from the left.
There are shadows of Brendan Eich’s ouster from Mozilla in this. Eich, Mozilla’s then-chief executive, was driven from his job by outrage generated by technology reporters and pundits for having the audacity to give money to a traditional marriage campaign in California. No one questioned Eich’s qualifications or abilities in technology. But Eich had the wrong values and thoughts, so he had to be fired. Silicon Valley has no place for social or intellectual conservatives. Or look at Silicon Valley’s treatment of Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire, who has had the audacity to give legitimacy to President Trump. Thiel is now treated as a pariah in the tech press.
In his Google memo, Damore made clear that he, too, wanted to increase diversity at the company. But he also wanted Google to consider other ways to do it. For example, noting that “women generally … have a stronger interest in people rather than things,” Damore suggested Google could “make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.” Noting that women often find it difficult negotiating for a higher salary, Damore noted this was a generalization and that some men shared this characteristic. He encouraged Google to abandon women-only programs on salary negotiation and make it available to anyone who had that problem. For daring to suggest Google not stereotype men and women, Damore stands accused of stereotyping people.
Unfortunately, many believed Damore dared to engage in wrongthink. Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, declared she disagreed with Damore but said, “Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions.” It is pretty clear now, despite those words, views outside left-wing groupthink are not shareable inside Google.
This is par for the course at Google. Ben Domenech, publisher of the Federalist, noted in June that Google’s Eric Schmidt declared anyone who disagreed with him politically would not be operating from “science-based thinking.” According to Google’s current chief executive, Sundar Pichai, Damore had to be fired for daring to cross “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” This is an ironic line to take, considering Damore’s memo pointed out repeated instances of Google engaging in stereotypes and generalizations that often apply people regardless of gender.
The firing feels rather Orwellian. Damore agrees with diversity. Damore admits and acknowledges that there is a gender and race diversity problem, and he shared his employers’ desires to fix it. But he wanted to caution the company not to perpetuate sex or race-based programs that do not fix the problems. He likewise dared to suggest that intellectual diversity was as important as skin color and gender diversity.
Many in the left-leaning tech press were so outraged Damore would differ from their views that they could not even fairly assess his views. He has been treated as a sexist, racist outcast who is anti-diversity. His views were mischaracterized or characterized in the worst possible light to dismiss him and his ideas.
By daring to think differently, even by relying on studies and using defined words in the sociological and psychological lexicon, Damore was painted as an anti-diversity bigot. No matter how Damore had phrased his memo, it seems he would have offended someone and been fired. The only way to avoid it would be to keep his mouth shut and embrace the groupthink.
Therein lies the problem for Google. Despite what Brown may have said about diversity of ideas at Google, it is clear no one can have diverse ideas at Google. Doing so might lead to offense, and offense must lead to job termination. It creates a situation in which one’s views, no matter how reasonable or how commonly shared they are, can be out of bounds if they differ with prevailing groupthink.
Conservatives have every reason to be worried by Google’s actions. Google has become the default search engine for the world. It does not take a rocket scientist to know how easy it would be for Google to change its search algorithms to devalue what its employees believe is wrongthink. With Google in a near monopoly position for Web searches, it has the ability to alienate conservative thought, Christian values and others to Internet silos and ghettos that most would be unable to find.
The most troubling part is that much of the political left would be okay with silencing because they see censorship of ideas they hate as a positive thing for the world. Many of the left seek to win culture wars not on the merits of arguments and ideas but simply by punishing and silencing any who disagree.