Exhuming McCarthy: Corporate Social Justice And The Google Memo Saga

Google diversity memo - free speech - social justice

A software engineer at Google published an internal memo questioning the current diversity strategy and warning that the company was becoming an ideological echo chamber where dissenters felt intimidated about expressing their views. Google immediately validated these concerns by firing him.

One wonders exactly what Google would have to do before senior executives at the company are forced to admit that their corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil”, is little more than a bitter joke.

The company has been in the headlines the past few days thanks to a “scandal” precipitated when software engineer James Damore published an internal memo questioning Google’s approach to diversity in the workplace.

Entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, the memo alleges that “differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership”, before pointing out that a free discussion cannot take place because:

“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.”

The memo goes on to consider various non-bias related causes of the gender gap in tech. At all times, James Damore is at pains to emphasise that he is not suggesting that all men or all women share the various traits under discussion, merely that there are indisputably different distributions of preferences and abilities between men and women which might account for some or all of the gender representation gap in the industry. Damore emphasises that “many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions”.

Damore then goes on to propose a number of potential ways to reduce the gender representation gap without relying on methods that could be described as affirmative action, including a genuine embracing of part-time work, rewarding cooperative as well as competitive behaviour and striving to make it more socially acceptable for men to free themselves from expectations of the male gender role:

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.

Read the whole memo here – it is only ten pages in length, and quite unlike the monstrous manifesto that it has been portrayed as by a hopelessly biased media.

As it happens, I agree with some of Damore’s premises but not his conclusion. I was swayed partly by this article by Josh Barro in Business Insider, which posits that if there are indeed natural gender imbalances in tech because of differences in aptitude and interest, it still behoves corporations to guard against the possibility that hiring managers, expecting that women will be less suited for certain roles, then subconsciously discriminate against female candidates.

Barro explains how this phenomenon might manifest itself:

  • A widespread assumption that “most” of the good job candidates will be men may lead to stereotyping in the hiring process, with hiring managers more likely to assume that men are good candidates and overlook qualified women.

  • Women may self-select out of the field because they internalize the stereotype that it is “for men,” and the stereotype may also make men overconfident in their fitness for the field and more inclined to pursue employment in it.

  • A male majority in the field is likely to be excessively self-reinforcing, as research shows that hiring managers tend to use the qualitative and “culture fit” aspects of hiring to hire candidates who resemble themselves, and most of the hiring managers in a male-dominated field will be men.

  • As seen in several high-profile cases in Silicon Valley, male-dominated management structures may foster cultures of pervasive workplace sexism and harassment that drive women out of the field.

Barro goes on to explain:

The memo misses this entirely, jumping from a claim that gender differences in interests and aptitude “may in part explain” the strong male skew in Google’s engineering groups to a conclusion that specific efforts at Google to recruit and retain women and underrepresented minority candidates are counterproductive and should be ended.

For example, the author complains about “hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for ‘diversity’ candidates by decreasing the false negative rate.” That is, he’s upset that women candidates get a second look when men don’t.

But this is something you would absolutely want to do to prevent a phenomenon described above: hiring-manager biases and stereotypes leading to a lopsidedness by gender in hiring that exceeds the actual lopsidedness by gender in the qualified candidate pool. It makes sense to be extra certain that women who got screened out were rejected on the basis of qualifications and aptitude, not something else.

These are sound points, some of which I did not stop to fully appreciate when originally penning my response – I’m glad that I waited 24 hours and did some wider reading before hitting “publish” on this.

Of course, there was no such reflection and nuance to be found in the mainstream media, whose reporting might well leave you thinking that Damore had rewritten Mein Kampf for the 21st century and published a bitter screed attacking women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

CNN certainly took this hysterical approach:

“Aren’t biologically fit for tech jobs”? CNN should be ashamed of themselves for this blatant misrepresentation, if only they still had the capacity to feel shame. Of course, James Damore actually said no such thing. One can agree or disagree with the various premises and conclusions in the memo, but on the whole it was a thoughtful, measured and articulate reflection on a very topical issue. Rather than firing him, Google should have been proud to employ somebody who raised the issue respectfully with the aim of improving the company.

But apparently the memo has taken a grave psychological toll on Google’s “woke” and sensitive workforce. Now we hear that several female Google employees apparently failed to show up to work the following day because they were too distressed about the contents of the memo.

From NPR:

Another software engineer who used to work for Google, Kelly Ellis, says some women who still work at the company stayed home on Monday because the memo made them “uncomfortable going back to work.”

Seriously? What reason had they to feel uncomfortable? The memo was the creation of one employee – an employee who was publicly chastised by Google’s Head of Diversity, who hinted strongly that the memo “crossed the line” and violated the company’s code of conduct – and who was later fired from his job. It is hardly as though Google had suddenly been invaded by a swarm of alt-right campaigners or men’s rights activists. The corporation is overwhelmingly and publicly set against Damore’s position, to the extent that they excommunicated him for his beliefs.

The only person for whom Google proved to be a hostile work environment here is James Damore. And the only reason for any employee to stay home from work claiming distress was to parade their conspicuous victimhood and revel in their own (largely) imaginary oppression.

When I was eleven years old and in my first year of secondary school, I was queuing for the school tuck shop when some massive neanderthal of an inbred fifth-year kid shoved me out of the line and called me a nigger. And yet somehow I managed to board the school bus and show up to class on time the next day. And I was a child. Now these are intelligent, grown-ass women working for one of the most prestigious firms in the world, and we are supposed to believe that they are so fragile, so wounded by a MEMO of all things that they weren’t able to do their jobs. Again, I ask: are you for real?

This is why I say that social justice is a cancer on society. A cancer. Not just because it suppresses the free speech rights of ideological dissenters and creates a truly chilling atmosphere in which a significant portion of the population is cowed into sullen, fearful silence for fear of losing everything if they dare to express themselves reasonably and honestly. Not just because of that, but also because the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is turning fully grown adults with jobs, mortgages, credit cards and often kids of their own into little more than oversized, perpetually vulnerable babies. It poisons the body politic and fractures society into separate warring special interest or “victimhood” groups, all jostling for attention, sympathy and affirmative action. Social justice activism is corroding our society from within.

There is no good reason for anyone to be traumatised by the Google memo, even if they disagree with its contents. One can disagree with the either the premises or the conclusion of the memo’s main argument, but it should be possible to have a civil discussion without acting as though real physical or mental harm has been done by the mere expressing of an opinion.

Anybody smart enough to work at Google should be capable of articulating a response to the “offensive” memo if they disagree with it strongly enough. Moreover, they should actively welcome the opportunity to debate these ideas so as to win over more supporters. That’s how social causes have traditionally advanced themselves, often with great success and rapidity.

But now this is apparently too much of a burden. Now the regressive Left is unwilling to do the hard work of argument and persuasion, preferring instead to push the “fast forward” button and speed ahead to an imagined time when everybody agrees with their social justice dogma. And since this ideological consensus does not yet exist (and God willing never will), the Left must instead artificially enforce it by clamping down on contrary opinions and making dissenters feel so fearful that they simply cease to express themselves.

David French makes this very point in the National Review:

The primary victims of this new culture of groupthink are social conservatives and other dissenters from identity politics. In field after field and company after company, conservatives understand that the price of their employment is silence. Double standards abound, and companies intentionally try to keep work environments “safe” from disagreement. Radical sexual and racial politics are given free rein. Disagree — and lose your job.

It takes a person of rare constitution and moral courage to speak up. And that’s precisely how the far Left likes it. After all, what value is there in disagreement? They’ve figured out that elusive path to racial, gender, and sexual justice, and disagreement only distracts. It does worse than distract. It wounds.

But take heart, conservatives. It’s not all bleak. After all, the government is highly unlikely to persecute you for your speech. And if you want to succeed in cutting-edge businesses or enjoy equal opportunity in the academy, you do have one good option. You can shut your mouth.

You can shut your mouth. Which is precisely what the social justice brigade wants to happen – we have recently seen reports that various employees at Google are maintaining personal “blacklists” of other staff with whom they will refuse to work or consider for promotion because they have supposedly failed to publicly embrace the diversity agenda with sufficient enthusiasm.

One such boastful threat reads:

“While Google appears to be doing very little to quell the hostile voices that exists inside the company, I want those hostile voices to know:

I will never, ever hire hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit of technically excellent or whatever

I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

“You’re being blacklisted by people at companies outside of Google. You might not have been aware of this, but people know, people talk. There are always social consequences.”

And it’s not just Google. I logged in to LinkedIn the other day to check my notifications and was immediately barraged with tens of status updates from various connections working at a variety of large corporations, bragging about all of the amazing things that their firms are doing to celebrate Pride month. Now from a personal perspective I have no problem with that. But if I was a social conservative who takes seriously the responsibility to treat everybody with respect but feels unable to endorse certain social movements for religious reasons, I would be very nervous right now.

Why? Because more and more, employees are exhorted to make explicit their “allyship” of various designated identity groups, or otherwise endorse the aims of the broader social justice movement. We saw this in Britain last week with the National Trust furore, where volunteers were prohibited from serving in customer-facing roles unless they agreed to wear Pride ribbons (eventually the National Trust backed down under public pressure).

The bar has been moved. Mere tolerance is no longer sufficient – increasingly we must be seen to actively affirm and celebrate every lifestyle choice, gender identity or dubious fad which falls under the auspices of the social justice movement.

This is incredibly dangerous. The idea of our employers becoming auxiliary parents to us is as insidious as the idea that the state should play this role in our lives. In fact, the current moves by many corporations to enlist their employees as agents of social change on top of their day to day responsibilities is incredibly paternalistic, almost like something out of the early Industrial Revolution, when benevolent (or not so benevolent) industrialists housed their factory workers, provided for their basic welfare but also carefully regulated their leisure activities and social lives to uphold moral standards.

As I wrote yesterday:

Whereas a decade ago one could reliably find leftists railing against the power of corporations and the supposedly unfair, coercive power balance between employer and employee, now those very same leftists are screeching that big corporations are not doing enough to indoctrinate their employees with the new social justice dogma.

Of course, vesting corporations with such power is in fact highly dangerous and quite likely unconstitutional, particularly when lawsuits start to emerge where employees allege that their employer has pressured them to violate their own conscience when it comes to matters outside the workplace.

If this trend continues, we will soon reach a point where social conservatives, social justice agnostics and anybody else who fails to actively affirm progressive dogma becomes as unwelcome in the corporate world as those suspected of communist sympathies were in 1950s Hollywood. That is the direction in which we are headed.

The rejection of truth in favour of total ideological conformity. Groupthink, paranoia and blacklists. McCarthyism is being exhumed and reanimated before our eyes in the year 2017 – this time not by anti-communists, social conservatives or the religious right, but rather by the so-called progressive Left.

 

 

UPDATE: 9 August, 23:00 BST

Curiously, nobody ever seems to ask why the male to female ratio is so skewed in other professions such as steelworking, mining, forestry or construction, careers which are often less glamorous, more dangerous and entail greater physical labour. It is almost as though gender equality activists tacitly admit that there are in fact differences between men and women which make one or other gender better suited (though by no means exclusively drawn) to certain careers. And if we accept this in the case of physical labour, why not also with mental labour – other than the fact that to even ask the question is now considered heresy?

And why do we only care about diversity in high-status non-manual jobs? Could it possibly be because the world of social justice largely consists of a self-appointed priesthood of middle and upper-middle class people talking exclusively to one another about their First World Problems and busily confirming their own biases, while working class people are too busy trying to get by to worry about whether their employer is sufficiently nurturing of their chosen identity?

 

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Is Hillary Clinton Suffering From Something More Than Pneumonia? Her Campaign’s Evasiveness Makes It Impossible To Discount

Even if Hillary Clinton’s collapse at the New York 9/11 memorial event was a one-off consequence of reported pneumonia, everything that the Clinton campaign has done and said in the aftermath invites scepticism and disbelief that this is the extent of the issue, raising more questions than answers

For the first time, I am nervous that Donald J Trump might just do it – that he, rather than Hillary Clinton, might be the one taking the oath of office on January 20 next year. Not because Donald Trump has in any way become more palatable or presidential – far from it – but because of the growing, gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach that the Clinton campaign is perched atop a huge unexploded bomb of negative health revelations.

Until yesterday, such discussions about Hillary Clinton’s health were largely confined to the sensationalist or alt-right press, with online journalists such as Mike Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson collating video “evidence” of what they claimed to be some underlying neurological condition. While Clinton’s behaviour in some of these videos certainly appears strange, none of them met a convincing standard of proof that something is definitely awry.

But then yesterday came shocking footage of Clinton swaying alarmingly as she waited for her motorcade to appear and whisk her to safety after she “overheated” at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City, before her legs finally buckled and she appeared to faint and topple forward into the vehicle, being dragged the remainder of the way into the van by aides and Secret Service personnel.

Nothing that the Clinton campaign has done since the emergence of that video has assuaged the entirely reasonable concerns of journalists and American voters. Among the litany of questionable actions:

  1. Clinton’s handlers left her press pool stranded at the 9/11 memorial event, leaving without them and giving them no knowledge of what had transpired
  2. Rather than taking Hillary Clinton to a tier-1 trauma centre hospital for evaluation, which is apparently correct Secret Service procedure in the event of a protectee falling ill and potentially losing consciousness, Clinton was instead driven to her daughter Chelsea’s Manhattan apartment to recuperate
  3. Approximately 9o minutes later, Clinton emerged from the apartment building all smiles, remarking upon what a beautiful day it was in New York before getting into her waiting vehicle unaided
  4. The Clinton campaign’s story kept changing throughout the day – first she had simply decided to leave the event due to “overheating” (on a rather mild day), then it was reported that she was dehydrated, and only once she had returned to her home in Chappaqua, New York was it revealed that she was suffering from pneumonia
  5. The diagnosis of pneumonia was apparently made on Friday 9 September after weeks of speculation about Clinton’s persistent and severe cough (previously attribute to allergies), and yet the campaign never made this public and it would presumably remain a secret even now had Clinton not been filmed collapsing on Sunday
  6. No further details as to the type of pneumonia suffered by Clinton have yet emerged, even now. If it is the bacterial type Clinton may well be contagious and yet participated in numerous fundraising events, as well as hugging a young child who ran up to greet her in the street
  7. In a failed attempt at damage control, Bill Clinton told the media that Hillary has suffered from this type of dizziness on several occasions in the past, though the campaign’s official story is that the collapse was pneumonia-related
  8. In a failed attempt at damage control to the damage control, Hillary Clinton called into the Anderson Cooper AC360 show on CNN, and upon questioning was unable to recall the number of times that she has had these spells in the past five years

This is not good. The millions of Americans who saw one of their two main presidential candidates collapse between the kerb and the open door of her waiting SUV and have to be dragged inside, feet trailing behind and losing a shoe in the process, might reasonably wonder why her entourage and the Secret Service thought it fit and proper to drive her to Chelsea Clinton’s apartment rather than a properly equipped medical facility.

They might also reasonably wonder why that same candidate then breezed out of the apartment building with a beaming smile and seemingly not a care in the world a mere 90 minutes later, exclaiming that she was “fine” and making absolutely no reference to the troubling scene we had witnessed earlier, leaving it to her campaign to make the pneumonia revelation only once she was safely ensconced in her home.

Many more Americans might wonder why so much of the mainstream media, from CNN and MSNBC to more predictable web-based outlets like The Guardian, Slate and the Huffington post, are determined to run interference in defence of Clinton, downplaying the incident as a mere “stumble”angrily exclaiming that climate change “denialism” is worse than misleading voters about one’s state of health or that past dishonesty by presidential candidates like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F Kennedy effectively excuses any similar dishonesty in 2016.

Worse still from Clinton’s perspective, speculation about her health is now rife within the respectable conservative media – no longer something to be hinted at or linked to on Twitter late at night, but occupying the minds of American conservative thought leaders.

Here’s Rod Dreher, no Clinton or Trump supporter and not normally given to hyperbole or conspiracy theorising, admitting:

Until this weekend, I thought Clinton health rumors were just right-wing conspiracy mongering. That confidence collapsed when Mrs. Clinton did, on the streets of New York. The story now has two narrative lines: 1) How sick is Hillary, really?, and 2) Why did she lie about it?

The Clintons lie to protect their power. Clinton partisans will tell themselves, and the rest of America, that whatever happened on Sunday, and whatever series of tales the Clinton campaign has been telling to manage the story, we have to push it all aside to keep Donald Trump from winning. Feminists did the same thing back in the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s abusive, exploitive relationships with women. But not everybody who dislikes Trump hates him so much that they are willing to overlook Clinton’s lies, especially if they are not about things that happened in the past, as with her husband’s lies in the 1990s, but about things that weigh on her ability to perform as president.

Plus, Bill Clinton had a lot of charisma with which he shielded himself. Hillary has none. People may admire her, but they do not love her. That matters.

Hillary’s lies about her health and her “deplorables” remarks do not make Trump a better person, or a better candidate. But they do make him a slightly more plausible one with some voters than he was going into the weekend. When an election is as close as this one, that kind of thing matters.

And the National Review’s David French:

Taken together, these facts say nothing good about Hillary, her campaign, or the prospects for transparency in a potential Hillary Clinton White House. One of the oldest Americans ever to run for president has had repeated, significant health events, has concealed the true extent of her health problems from the American people, and continues to engage in a pattern of deception to this day. Does anyone really believe that Hillary would have admitted either to a significant health episode or a pneumonia diagnosis had cameras not caught her appearing to pass out on a perfectly temperate September day in New York?

Compounding the problem, not only will she conceal the true extent of any health problem until the facts emerge on their own, she’ll empower her allies to mock those who raise health concerns, to cast them as nothing more than crazed conspiracy theorists.

Anyone can, of course, find crazy things on the Internet easily enough. But the notion that a 68-year-old woman with a history of blood clots, a recent serious concussion, and obvious public discomfort (including apparently passing out at a public event) might not be fit enough to withstand the rigors of the presidency is hardly a fringe thought. Age and health weren’t fringe worries when Bob Dole or John McCain ran for president. When Ronald Reagan was campaigning for reelection in 1984 (especially after he performed poorly in his first debate), age and health dominated the public conversation.

To be clear, this is a preview of how Hillary would conduct herself in office. You can be sure that if she lies and minimizes her health challenges as a candidate, she’ll do so as president. (If past practice is any guide, she’ll lie about anything that makes her look bad.) If she falls ill, the American people risk experiencing the same thing Soviet citizens experienced — being fed the official line that their leaders simply had “colds” (or, in Hillary’s case, “allergies”) until the truth could no longer be concealed.

If it were some other candidate, someone with a more open relationship with the press and minus the history of lawyerly evasiveness, one might accept the belated pneumonia explanation at face value and chalk the confused messages emanating from the Clinton campaign as understandable confusion within the team. But we are not dealing with 2000-era John McCain. Hillary Clinton’s life is not an open book – it is a lengthy tome where several sections are torn out while others are heavily redacted, the censor’s black ink sometimes still wet as one turns the page. And those asking to be made leader of the world’s most powerful and consequential country don’t get the benefit of the doubt.

It brings me no joy to write any of this. While this blog is on the record as being unimpressed bordering on despairing of both candidates, when it comes to choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump there is simply no contest – Clinton represents four more years of dreary continuity with a background hum of ethics concerns whereas Trump, hardly the picture of honesty himself, threatens a truly authoritarian dystopian future with a new crisis every week. Given the binary choice, this blog would choose Hillary Clinton without apology.

But there appears now to be every possibility that the Clinton campaign is perched atop a powder keg of dynamite, and that every public appearance for the next two months will be a heart-in-mouth ordeal of wondering whether she will make it through to the end or else cause what would surely be terminal damage to her campaign by tripping, choking or passing out again on live television.

There are questions which appear to be legitimate and not from the lunatic fringe, asking whether there is something much more significant wrong with Hillary Clinton’s health. And yet the Clinton campaign continues to stonewall and use Trump’s refusal to release full medical records as cover for being equally secretive. Making campaign decisions (like not allowing a full protective press pool) simply because Donald Trump has done the same is unbecoming of a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who should aspire to a standard of transparency significantly higher than that set by the reality TV star.

This is no time for further evasions. If there is a more serious, as-yet undisclosed health issue affecting Hillary Clinton, it needs to be made public. Now. And if public reaction is particularly negative then an urgent discussion needs to take place about replacing Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket while their is still time for the replacement Democratic Party nominee to have a fighting chance against Trump.

Pneumonia can happen to anyone. But this palace intrigue and the swirling conspiracy theories surrounding Hillary’s state of health are entirely self-inflicted, a product of the Clinton campaign’s pathological evasiveness and secrecy not only relating to health matters but other issues too. And it simply can not be allowed to continue.

Hillary Clinton is one more “medical episode” away from effectively gifting the presidency to Donald J Trump. Her campaign needs to decide whether they are happy to have that on their collective conscience.

 

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