Damore is Gone. Google's Problems Remain.

If only there was a way to search for the truth

Politics Features Google
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Damore is Gone. Google's Problems Remain.

Damore is gone, but Google’s diversity problem remains. According to The Verge:

Google employee James Damore has been reportedly fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” The senior software engineer authored a 10-page “manifesto” condemning Google’s diversity efforts and claiming men are biologically more predisposed to working in the tech industry than women. In an internal memo to Google employees, CEO Sundar Pichai says he has cut his family vacation short to return to work and tackle the issues raised in the manifesto.

If you have not had a chance to read the single saddest essay of the year, I encourage you to take a gander at Damore’s rambling, ten-page-long jeremiad of hurt feelings and blighted takes. You will witness the spectacle of a 28-eight-year old Silicon Valley megabro with a Harvard Ph.D. feeling oppressed.

If I could boil down all the feelings of entitlement in America, mix them with all the pseudo-intellectual posturing on Reddit, and then compress them into a perfect crystal of resentment masquerading as bro-science, I’d have the Damore Essay. Cambridge has delivered another moral savant. Reading the patchy logic and sweeping assumptions, I have never been more convinced that philosophical education ought to be mandated across every American vocational track—especially engineering. The screed contains an abundance of terrible ideas. It’s the “My Humps” of blog posts:

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.

You can imagine the rest. Eventually the memo went public, and we were off to the races. A number of Google employees agreed, according to The Verge, “While a large majority of Google employees reportedly expressed disgust at Damore’s internal document, not all employees disagreed with it.” Pichai, the CEO of Google, straddled the line:

So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions. The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

Pichai apparently wanted it both ways, but this isn’t the kind of issue where a leader gets to pretend the Earth is both flat and round. A comparison may be instructive. In 2015, when the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon chanted a racist song on video, the President of the University, David Boren, wrote to the fraternity that

Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members. ... All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue.

The President of OU makes $442,203 a year. In 2016, the CEO salary for Google was $199.7 million. What exactly is in that row of extra zeroes that shaves off the moral sense?

Pichai’s temporizing was short-lived. Damore was booted shortly after.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

The Internet’s favorite mixed bag of mad dudes descended after the firing of Damore. Noted shut-in Julian Assange leapt into the fray. Ben Shapiro complained about male humans being challenged somewhere on the globe. The online alt-right roused themselves from thirty-hour Minecraft binges to be very not mad at Google. Per Newsweek:

Breitbart led its site Tuesday with several articles on the firing; one featured a picture of a face, the mouth gagged with tape, with the word “silenced” written across it. In some memes shared on Twitter, the “Google” logo was rearrange to spell “Goolag”, meant to associate the tech giant with Soviet Russia’s “gulag” prison camps. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro dubbed Google’s managers “corporate fascists” and the tech giant a “leftist monopoly” and, in one of several tweets about the issue, suggested Damore should “immediately declare himself a woman and sue Google for discrimination based on gender stereotypes.”

What the far right get from the Google business is fairly obvious. Their life is based on shoehorning their twisted-corkscrew politics into whatever’s being discussed. Google—every MBA’s favorite tech company—is a prime target for far right whinging. It fits their pattern.

It’s the eternal tragedy of the far right. They want to seem edgy and extreme, but they desperately desire acceptance from the powers of society, which lean culturally liberal. They can’t make art, so they make lists which inform you that certain rock songs are actually conservative. The alt-right claims to despise the Academy for its liberalism and progressive politics. But they still aim their children for the Ivy League. Instead of founding their own St. Reagan’s University of Bell Curving, they parasite from the standing order of higher education: they have the Koch Brothers set up Free Market Institutes and Western Civilization Schools across America. Everywhere and at all times, the alt-right are the thirsty love-haters of the liberal order they claim to despise.

When you get right down to it, the dream of conservatives is not to create a world where bowties come back into style, but to persuade liberals to wear bowties. Because the entire reason for the far right is to protect existing power, they are only a little hostile to established companies—such as Google.

Here’s a guarantee: write down the name of the writers who are bashing Google for firing Damore. The next time anyone critiques the American economy for being unjust and unfair (which it is), these same profound thinkers will use Google as an example of Everything Which Is Right With America. Their conservatism is of a shallow, facile kind, and lasts just as long as a media cycle. Their principles are paper-thin silhouettes, and may be outlined as follows:

— Women and men are inherently different, because of this anecdotal evidence.
— Since our society is already fair and just, there is no need for remedying injustice.
— Men have power, authority, and economic might, but that’s just fine, since, uh, women prefer babies or something.
— This pseudo-science is really science, promise!

All of which are easily disproven, and have been for some time. But that’s beside the point.
The Google firing is another opportunity for them to vent their grievance, of which they have an infinite supply. It makes them relevant for all of three seconds, and gives them a chance to trot out their dead horses for one last gambol. The creaky, moth-eaten coupons are dusted off and brought out: “Liberals are the real intolerants.” “Trump will make everything right.” “Reverse racism is actually the problem.” “If feminism is so great, why doesn’t it care about men?” Even typing these clauses has taken about a year off my life.

By the time Google got around to cashiering Senior Software Engineer Damore for his
Victorian-ass theories, you could see their groaning arguments rolling out like moss-covered mill wheels: He is a martyr, alt-right Twitter croaked, like a raven in heat. So much for the tolerant left! The only time the right is honest-to-God in favor of standards is when they apply to one of their own—just as the only time they care about free speech is when one of their own voices is suffering consequences. These are the same voices who defend disaster capitalism’s freedom to fire with impunity. Odd, isn’t it, that in this one instance they take offense?

IT’S WORTH A GOOGLE

So much for our friends on the far right. What can we make of Google’s problem with women and people of color? What was the ground that nourished Damore? As I have written elsewhere, Google is demonstrably backwards on measures of diversity. In 2015, Wired wrote that

... the search giant released its latest diversity report detailing the demographics of its 53,600 full-time employees at the end of 2014. There’s been little progress despite a year’s worth of initiatives. Women still hold roughly one-fifth of the company’s tech jobs and leadership positions. African-Americans make up 2 percent of the company and Hispanics 3 percent, both unchanged from last year. ... After working on a communications plan for about a year, Google in May 2014 became the first major Silicon Valley tech company to release its diversity statistics. As suspected, they weren’t pretty: globally, 30 percent of employees were women and only 17 percent of its technical employees were women. Of Google’s US employees in 2014, 61 percent were white, 30 percent Asian, 2 percent African American, and 3 percent Hispanic.

The funny thing about privilege is that it is a self-reinforcing phenomenon. Privilege rests on unthinking assumptions. The people with privilege assume they sit at the top of the heap by some scientific law—some just mandate of nature. If the privileged are challenged—even a little bit—they automatically go into the-sky-is-falling mode. Google has made several small stabs in the direction of diversity, and even those paltry moves were enough to create a backlash inside the company. Damore is merely the most obvious point of a long spear.

MEN ARE FROM EARTH, AND SO ARE WOMEN

My favorite part of the No-Girls-Club diatribe is contained in a footnote:

In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason.

No, you don’t. First things first: “Classical liberal” is short for libertarian, which is a kind of alt-right that smokes weed. It’s appallingly common on the Internet, which is reason enough to doubt his seriousness as a commenter and as a grown-up. Read his footnotes to discover the greatest hits of the mangry playlist:

”... Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics.”
“Political correctness is … a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.”
“While Google hasn’t harbored the violent leftists protests that we’re seeing at universities, the frequent shaming in TGIF and in our culture has created the same silence, psychologically unsafe environment.”

Yawning is the best response. But more to the point, Damore. If you valued reason, you wouldn’t have appealed to lazy generalizations, and you’d have done research on the topic. As Fast Company bluntly pointed out after reading Damore’s polemic, “Every single one of those claims is false.” One of Damore’s claims had to do with prenatal testosterone. But as the site pointed out,

For starters, men aren’t the sole producers of testosterone at birth or afterward. Women also make the hormone, in addition to estrogen. And men produce estrogen, too.

Damore claimed men and women have differing brain makeups. Wrong.

Even neuroscientists can’t tell if an individual brain belongs to a man or woman,” says Christia Spears Brown, PhD, a developmental and social psychologist at the University of Kentucky. She cites the work of neuroscientist Daphna Joel and her team who examined the brains of 1,400 individuals and found that only about 3% of people have a brain that is fully “male” or fully “female.”

There’s more. See for yourself.

Every piece of evidence we have suggests that strong claims for established gender attributes cannot be made with any degree of rational confidence. It has been proven, time and again, that divisions between the sexes in terms of test-taking and achievement are typically due to extraneous circumstances, and if remedied, their achievements achieve parity. We have well-researched, long-term evidence which suggests the huge inequalities of our societies, and the ideology which supports those societies, deforms and changes people’s understandings—their understanding of themselves, their own capacities, and the capacities of others.

You would know these things, Damore, if you wanted to know the truth. But that’s not your interest, is it? What you really want, I think, is to slay the P.C. dragon that you tell yourself exists, while turning a blind eye to your own privilege, and the system built around it. You value individualism because that same system, which accepted you into Harvard and Google, told you have made it on your own merits.

But this is fantasy. The system lies. “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber?” Oh, my poor wayward son, you and your colleagues have spent your entire lives in an echo chamber. You worked at one of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest companies. Their headquarters is literally called “Mountain View.” That same corporation has a long history of not caring about diversity. You were hired by that all-powerful firm, and when you were perched upon the golden peak, you used your position to … what? Advocate for tomorrow? Not be evil? Change the world? No. You mocked anyone who cared, and after a lifetime of getting literally everything, you still felt persecuted, so you Joffreyed so bad that they had no choice to fire you for peddling Stone Age theorizing. Here’s a Google search for you: “Cry me a river.”