Can We Talk About Damore’s Demise?

At this point, there have been quite a few really thoughtful dissections of former Googler James Damore’s infamous memo. Some have explained why the hysteria surrounding it, as reflected in CNN’s twit and a few million feminist and ally rants. On the other side, it was pointed out by people who actually read the memo that it didn’t say what so many tried to reduce it to saying.

The obsession on one side was that Damore was “scientifically wrong” that women were biologically ill-suited to their jobs at Google. The obsession on the other was that the justification for women being given special treatment was that they were, indeed, different, and can’t have it both ways.

In the middle, the question of the accuracy of Damore’s memo was irrelevant. Putting aside that it was impossible to reduce the memo to a one-liner, which many did to argue their bias, as the memo was long and covered a great many ideas, including Damore’s embrace of gender diversity while he disagreed with the mechanisms to do so, so what?

Google’s express employment policy was to encourage free and open exchange of ideas, including politically unpopular ideas. So it fired Damore for doing so.

Google has been targeted for its lack of diversity for years, and the tech industry in general has gotten a deserved beating for sexual harassment of late. Among the things Google did in response was the hiring a VP for diversity. And a VP for diversity has to diverse.

On Saturday, Danielle Brown, Google’s recently appointed vice president of diversity, responded to Damore’s memo and the backlash it generated via an internal memo to employees. Brown unequivocally dismissed Damore’s arguments, noting, “Like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”

Declaring that Google is “unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company,” she went on to assert that all employees with “alternative views, including different political views, [should] feel safe sharing their opinions.” “But,” she added, “that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

As Walter Olson explained, there is a regulatory regime that compels companies to take a defensive posture when exposed to claims of a hostile work environment. Invoke “harmful stereotype” and you’re guaranteed a Title VII violation. That explains why the Google Legal Department and Human Resources would go immediately to firing Damore for the shitstorm that followed.

One engineer reportedly wrote that the memo had caused “irreparable harm … to 1000s of Googlers,” and that “going forward, I cannot — and I will not — work with James Damore.” He went on to detail the ways in which he would not engage with or interact with Damore, his code, or his product development.

Others, like Marc Randazza, have noted that this doesn’t change attitudes, but pushes them underground where they fester.

The result of such a lynch-mob mentality fueled by intolerance for different points of view is twofold. First, it winnows out those who might disagree, making the cone of tolerance and ideological pluralism ever-more narrow. Second, it drives holders of minority viewpoints or people with differing ideas underground, and causes them to seek out and communicate only those who agree with them — which can push them to radicalization.

These results destroy our marketplace of ideas — replacing it with a melee of venom.

But regardless of these concerns, Damore had to go, a sacrifice to the mob.

I strongly suspect that more than a few Silicon Valley higher-ups agreed with the broad themes of Damore’s memo. But just as tech titans accept some censorship and oppression as the price of doing business in China, they accept performative progressivism as the price of having nice campuses in the most liberal state in the union and recruiting their employees from its most elite and liberal schools. And for questioning that political performance while defending the disproportionate maleness that makes it necessary, the Google memo-writer simply had to go.

It doesn’t matter whether Damore was right or wrong, tone deaf or boldly saying what others were thinking but lacked the guts to express. What matters is that James Damore was burned at the social justice stake for saying so. But why this matters beyond Google, beyond feminist shrieking, is of far broader, and nefarious, concern.

In response to the litany of political pariahs, like Charles Murray, being dismissed as “brain farts,” Judge Kopf offered a thought experiment:

Because the empirical evidence from 131 studies by a wide variety of criminologists is overwhelming that race is a statistically valid predictor of recidivism, albeit only one such predictor out of a total of 17 (race ranks 5th most predictive statistically), should a person like Dr James Oleson B.A., M.Phil., J.D. (Berkley), Ph.D. (University of Cambridge), a former Supreme Court Fellow, and former Chief Counsel to the then newly formed Criminal Law Policy Staff of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, be shouted down should he appear at a law school to talk about such things? More simply, should Dr. Oleson’s research be dismissed as a brain fart?

In criminal law, the ship is already under sail to shift to a new algorithmic port, where empirical outcomes will produce arrests, prosecutions, jailing, conviction, sentence and imprisonment, all based on the sanitary acceptance of computers predicting which human beings are expendable.

Are these valid? Can we sleep better at night knowing that the algorithms are sufficiently reliable that the prisons are filled with the bad dudes? As we want, and fear, better decisions than we, mere mortals, have proven ourselves capable of making, we rely on the efficacy of people like James Oleson to be right.

But the lesson of James Damore is that we’re allowed to fully and openly discuss the critical questions of our world, our technology, our differences, provided they conform to ideological imperatives. Or, to put it another way, we are free to say anything, provided it conforms to the demands of social justice. This is how technology will approach lives, and ruin them, and we will not only allow it to happen, but be afraid to question lest we suffer Damore’s demise.

35 thoughts on “Can We Talk About Damore’s Demise?

  1. Scott Jacobs

    “going forward, I cannot — and I will not — work with James Damore.” He went on to detail the ways in which he would not engage with or interact with Damore, his code, or his product development.

    And no one on the side of “burn the wrongthink witch!” even begins to grasp why this is a bigger problem than “dude thinks wrong.”

    Also, if 83% of the engineers at Google were male, then 17% are female*. That’s about a percentage point off from the national average of women wise CS degrees. That sounds pretty close to me to fair representation – if you hire at a rate greater than the average, you’re talking about likely hiring people that aren’t actually as good and doing it just to fill a quota. Which was Damore’s point.

    And Google, oblivious to everything but the howling, feckless mob, actively proved Damore’s point – failure to mouth the proper pieties, and divergence from orthodocy, will be punished.

    When you are criticized for authoritarian behavior when confronted with disagreement, and your response is authoritarian behavior, it makes me think the criticism is accurate.

    1. SHG Post author

      It doesn’t matter if he was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if he was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if he was right or wrong.

      What matters is if we take issues and ideas off the table, right or wrong, we are doomed to live a lie.

  2. B. McLeod

    Well, Damore had to know on Day 1 that he was working in Political Correctnessville. So, his case is different that the society-wide battle against SJWs. Damore voluntarily went to a place where expression was controlled, and then failed to toe the line.

    1. SHG Post author

      Is it PC, or does it pretend to be PC to avoid the hatred of the child mob? This is the kingdom of nerds, trying very hard to appear to look like the cool kids. While no doubt some have been indoctrinated to the cause, have these binary thinkers really abandoned all reason for feelz? I find it highly doubtful. This is a show to appease their SJW peers, and Damore is a sacrifice to their gods.

  3. el professor presente

    Witch burners are really going to town on this one conflating demographic trends with individuals. The memo author literally goes out of his way to say “don’t do that,” and they’re all, “Yes all women!” As if any relative disparity in trends absolutely must attach to every individual in that group. Hopefully this is part of a slow awakening for a lot of folks that The Good Guys are not such good guys on these issues.

      1. el professor presente

        If this guy literally wrote what they are accusing him of having written, I don’t think it would be called witch burning. People can probably think of a few things someone could write in a memo like this that would rightly get them shitcanned.

        It’s not just that they are conflating, or that this is one of the big problems that social justice thinkers have in common with bigots. It’s that the conflating is the justification they give for the burning.

        1. SHG Post author

          Is there an official list of which ideas justify witch burning and which do not? It would make life easier.

          1. Patrick Maupin

            Yes, the list is on display in the dark, stair-less cellar, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”

          2. el professor presente

            I left the brochure at the office, but I’m pretty sure the list includes work memos that express solidarity with the KKK and advocate pedophilia.

            The number of people criticizing Google would drop to near zero in that case and it’s not like Google expressly solicited input on these subjects oh I see what you did there.

            Apologies for losing focus.

            1. SHG Post author

              Pedophilia’s a crime, so advocating crossed the line. Fair enough. But where’s the line with the KKK, provided it doesn’t involve the commission of a crime?

            2. el professor presente

              (lost the reply function, so replying to previous post)

              Wait, is the line at advocating or commission?

              But if the statements are being misrepresented anyway, the line isn’t the determining factor. The tactics are. Even if you are “well-intentioned” – hell, even if you don’t actually dissent but make a juicy target or are caught on the SJW-equivalent good guy curve – eventually the witch burners will put you on the other side of it, whether by moving the line that even you agree is there or by untethering the accusations from what was actually said. And often burning their own ideals in the process.

            3. SHG Post author

              Committing the crime put you in prison. Advocating the crime puts you on the wrong side of the line. But this was your argument, so why are you asking me to explain it to you?

            4. el professor presente

              I should have said “your line.” It appears we’ve established that there is in fact a line beyond which a person can cross in a workplace memo and be reasonably fired and subjected to collective derision, and that it is somewhere between advocating criminal activity and viciously attacking your female co-workers as biologically inferior. For those that would respond to this situation by hunting down that line, or even attempting to eradicate it, I think they’re getting distracted from a larger culprit.

            5. SHG Post author

              So, you put out half a thought, try to shift it me, then punt with “it appears *we’ve* established.” “We’ve” established nothing. “It” does not “appear.” Either draw *your* line or stop wasting my bandwidth with empty words.

            6. el professor presente

              OK. In this context, an explicitly hostile statement of conscious bias against other individuals employed at the company based on their sex identity. Maybe replacing my vague reference to “a few things” with that will close the trap door that seems to have fallen open in my argument.

            7. el professor presente

              I see wiggle room with the other prongs, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for anyone looking to get fired. Sorry it took me so long to tee it up for you.

            8. SHG Post author

              You were spinning in circles because there is no good answer, no clear doctrinal rule that isn’t swiss cheese, which creates a sufficiently clear line to distinguish acceptable dialogue and “hate speech” of whatever flavor you prefer. Don’t feel bad. No thoughtful person has an answer, but there’s an inclination to dive into the rabbit hole without realizing it has no bottom.

  4. Robert

    Is this episode a good example of why it is important for us all to read employee handbooks very carefully since EHBs are basically terms in a contract and violation of terms can lead to revocation of the contract? I suppose the counter to that is that the terms have to offered in good faith and since Google promises a “diverse atmosphere” this doesn’t speak to kindly to their good faith.

  5. Fubar

    Advertising jingle for my new law firm specializing in those sensitive Human Resources issues that nobody dares to mention in public:

    Bang a drum, clang a gong, blow a bugle.
    Our advice keeps HR budgets frugal:
    First you say you admire ’em,
    Then you troll ’em, then fire ’em.
    Call our firm: Snuffy Smith Barney Google!

      1. Fubar

        Hey! We don’t just do mergers with pore crim lawyers and their clients.

        We always bring in high finance partners too.

        Don’t any young twirps these days ever wonder what happened to Smith Barney?

        If Page and Brin had followed our advice they’d be too bodaciously big today to worry about SJW feelz.

  6. Christopher Best

    I think these folks saying they can’t work with Damore now that they know what he thinks are on to something. What we ought to do is have all the Tech companies come together and make a list with all the names of people who think bad things, and then we just won’t hire them any more!

    What could we call such a list of souls tainted black by wrongthink?

  7. Brian Cowles

    Just wanted to mention that Medium has posted the uncensored memo, including charts and citations. As far as I can see, they don’t appear to have left anything out that appeared in the Gizmodo document you referenced.

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