Google became famous as an information company with its motto: “Don’t Be Evil.” Well, in the wake of its firing of a 28-year-old employee for expressing dissatisfaction with Google’s stifling ideological conformity, some critics are saying the company is now for soft authoritarianism.
Make no mistake. James Damore didn’t have his First Amendment free speech rights violated by Google. Working for a private employer, his right to speak out is limited – even under California’s broad protections for political speech. Recall that in 2014, Brendan Eich was forced out as CEO of Mozilla after it became known that six years earlier he had made a $1,000 donation to a traditional marriage ballot measure in California. Recall that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton opposed same-sex marriage until after the 2012 election.
But that fact didn’t slow down what gay columnist Andrew Sullivan called a “lynch mob.” Eich was forced to resign, even though California labor code makes it illegal to fire an employee for donating money to a campaign.
Lazy journalists have falsely characterized Damore’s 10-page memo – posted on an internal Google bulletin board but leaked to the media by critics – as an “anti-diversity” screed. But it was hardly that, given that it ended with the author saying “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.”
The lazy coverage of Damore’s points angered Conor Friedersdorf, a writer at the liberal Atlantic magazine: “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed,” he wrote.
Damore used what many considered insensitive language to point out there are differences between men and women that may explain the relative scarcity of women in computer coding jobs – a conclusion that the scientific literature backs up. He said he was not arguing “that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
But when it comes to fighting the Gods of Diversity, Damore’s lack of nuance was fatal. Some female Google employees were so offended they didn’t show up for work. The company was besieged by both Social Justice Warriors and employees (though an unscientific poll of several hundred Google employees showed only about half were upset by his comments).
The lazy coverage of Damore’s points angered Conor Friedersdorf, a writer at the liberal Atlantic magazine: “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed,” he wrote. “(Damore’s memo) is not against pursuing greater gender diversity at Google; he says it is against the current means Google is using to pursue that end and the way the company conceives of tradeoffs between the good of diversity and other goods.”
However his memo was received, Damore’s sudden firing generated criticism from many quarters. Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, wrote on Twitter: “Censorship is for losers. Women & men deserve respect. That includes not firing them for politely expressing ideas but rather arguing back.”
Eric Weinstein, the managing director of the investment firm Thiel Capital, had his own Twitter response: “Dear @Google, Stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR. Thx in advance, A dad,”
Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and an independent member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is also disappointed in Google’s action. “It’s particularly troubling to see this coming from the company that we rely on to bring us information. Can a company this intolerant of differing opinions be trusted to do that job?”
Indeed, it appears that Google’s desire to appease the God of Diversity – the pseudo religion whose tenets increasingly govern American life and are not to be challenged – has taken priority over the spirit of free inquiry it was founded on.
A few years ago the comedy show “The Simpsons” tackled the diversity dogma and gender differences in a particularly hilarious way. So hilarious, that I fear if someone at Google shared it over the company’s internal bulletin board, they might wonder if their job would be in jeopardy. Judge for yourself by watching.
Let’s just hope the Social Justice Warriors don’t launch a crusade to remove the clip from YouTube – which is owned by Google.
John Fund is a columnist for National Review. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFund.