A 10-page weekend memo by a former Google engineer called for a rethinking of the company’s “extreme and authoritarian” culture of “diversity and inclusion.” His reward? He was fired, of course, proving his point.
If you need any further proof that what software engineer James Damore said was true it was in the immediate reaction on Monday by Google to his screed. Damore said he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
In making a plea for being treated as an individual, Damore wasn’t ranting, calling anyone names or making claims that couldn’t be sustained by simple recourse to a biology text or, even, to personal experience. Even so, his anodyne comments were treated as extreme ideological anathema, and he was instantly banished from the company for making them. Fired.
Be clear on this: Damore was only asking for tolerance of different points of view, including those of conservatives. He described himself as a “classical liberal,” which means he believes in reason, tolerance, freedom of conscience and the right of individuals to their own beliefs.
He was careful to note, too, that he is not inimical to much of what Google’s authoritarian culture now imposes on its workers: “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” What he did oppose was the one-size fits-all culture of victimhood and deified diversity that the company, like much of the rest of Silicon Valley’s tech culture, forces its employees to adopt.
He didn’t demand acquiescence to his own views. He merely asked for an “honest discussion” of the fact that we are not all mere emblems of different victim groups, but rather individuals, and deserve to be treated as such.
“Google’s political bias has equated freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety,” Damore wrote. “This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.”
Yet in the end, Damore said, he was fired for the odious crime of “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
Damore’s firing only adds an exclamation point to his reasoned remarks. And Google executives jumped on the bandwagon, issuing remarks to show just how “woke” and completely brainwashed they were into the company’s ideology. It’s sickeningly reminiscent of the bad old days of the purges in the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution in China, when friends, colleagues and family were routinely compelled to publicly denounce and criticize those whose beliefs had suddenly become fatally politically incorrect.
Google will now be faced with the irony of being sued for its own intolerance. Steeped as it is in Silicon Valley’s culture of immense moral privilege, it doesn’t seem to understand that federal anti-discrimination statutes don’t allow companies to discriminate against someone for their political views. It’s not allowed. It’s un-American.
And who knows? As some have suggested, Google’s intolerant political monoculture and extreme dominance of its markets might tempt federal antitrust officials into taking action to break it up. In the interest of “diversity,” of course.
Google and others in Silicon Valley such as Apple have a creepy habit of lecturing Americans on their backward political and moral beliefs, while serving as authoritarian nannies for what we read, write and view. They pose as guardians of personal and intellectual freedom, but are really centurions of the new censorship, stifling debate and thought itself.
In Google’s case, its Orwellian insistence on a kind of progressive groupthink is beyond creepy — when magnified across dozens of politically correct corporations across the country, it poses a danger to our nation and its precious freedoms. The chief diversity officer of Google, Danielle Brown, wouldn’t even link to Damore’s memo, claiming “it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
Apparently, neither does the rest of the tech world. As Elaine Ou, a blockchain engineer at Global Financial Access, pointed out in Bloomberg: “Past and present colleagues chimed in over the weekend with calls for (Damore) to be ousted. Media outlets like TechCrunch, Gizmodo and Motherboard jumped on board to declare the memo an ‘Anti-Diversity Manifesto.’ It appears that the ideological echo chamber extends beyond Google’s campus.”
This is indeed a major problem in a country premised on the sanctity of free speech and the right to one’s own opinion.
Sadly, Google’s is the kind of thinking one expects from totalitarians, not from those who prize intellectual freedom, the right of dissent, and an open society based on reason. Google and all the rest of the anti-freedom left should be deeply ashamed of itself. If this is “woke,” maybe it’s time Google went back to sleep.
“What’s the true test of one’s commitment to free speech? It does not come when he permits people to be free to say or publish ideas with which he agrees. Not by a long shot. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech comes when he permits others to say and publish ideas he deems offensive.”
— Walter E. Williams
From David French:
If you’re a lawyer arguing against free speech at the Supreme Court, be prepared to lose. Today the Court affirmed once again the Constitution’s strong protections against governmental viewpoint discrimination, even when the viewpoint discrimination is directed against “offensive” speech. In Matal v. Tam, the Court considered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to register a trademark for a band called “The Slants” on the grounds that the name violated provisions of the Lanham Act that prohibited registering trademarks that “disparage . . . or bring into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.”
Given existing First Amendment jurisprudence, there would have been a constitutional earthquake if SCOTUS hadn’t ruled for Tam. The Court has long held that the Constitution protects all but the narrowest categories of speech. Yet time and again, governments (including colleges) have tried to regulate “offensive” speech. Time and again, SCOTUS has defended free expression. Today was no exception. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Alito noted that the Patent and Trademark Office was essentially arguing that “the Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend.” His response was decisive:
[A]s we have explained, that idea strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”
Quick, someone alert the snowflakes shouting down speeches on campus or rushing stages in New York. There is no constitutional exception for so-called “hate speech.” Indeed, governments are under an obligation to protect controversial expression. Every justice agrees.
The ruling is worth celebrating, but when law and culture diverge, culture tends to win. The law protects free speech as strongly as it ever has. The culture, however, is growing increasingly intolerant – subjecting dissenters to shout-downs, reprisals, boycotts, shame campaigns, and disruptions. Some of this conduct is legal (boycotts and public shaming), some isn’t (shout-downs, riots, and disruptions), but all of it adds up to a society that increasingly views free speech as a dangerous threat, and not as one of our constitutional republic’s most vital assets. Liberty is winning the important judicial battles, but it may well lose the all-important cultural war.
From Walter E. Williams:
George Orwell said, “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.” If one wants to discover the truth of Orwell’s statement, he need only step upon most college campuses.
Faculty leaders of the University of California consider certain statements racism and feel they should not be used in class. They call it micro-aggression. To them, micro-aggressive racist statements are: “America is the land of opportunity.” That is seen as perpetuating the myth of meritocracy. “There is only one race, the human race.” Such a statement is seen as denying the individual as a racial/cultural being. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” That’s “racist” because it gives the impression that “people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.”
These expressions don’t exhaust the list of micro-aggressions. Other seemingly innocuous statements deemed unacceptable are: “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough,” “When I look at you, I don’t see color,” or “Affirmative action is racist.” Perhaps worst of all is, “Where are you from or where were you born?” For more of this, see a document released by The College Fix titled “Diversity in the Classroom,” UCLA Diversity and Faculty Development.
This micro-aggression nonsense, called micro-totalitarianism by my colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell (http://tinyurl.com/nxulxc), is nothing less than an attack on free speech. From the Nazis to the Stalinists, tyrants have always started out supporting free speech, and why is easy to understand. Speech is vital for the realization of their goals of command, control and confiscation. Free speech is a basic tool for indoctrination, propagandizing, proselytization. Once the leftists gain control, as they have at many universities, free speech becomes a liability and must be suppressed. This is increasingly the case on university campuses.
Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, writes about the campus attack on free speech and different ideas in his article titled “Obama Unleashes the Left: How the government created a federal hunting license for the far left.” He says that in the Harvard Crimson, an undergraduate columnist wrote: “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice. When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.” The student was calling for the suppression of the research of conservative Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield.
Oberlin College proposed that its teachers be aware of politically controversial topics such as “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, capitalism and other issues of privilege and oppression.” The presumption that students must be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.
Last year Vassar College faculty and students held a meeting to discuss the school’s movement to boycott Israel. Before the meeting, an English professor announced the dialogue would “not be guided by cardboard notions of civility.” That professor’s vision differs little from Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party in their effort to crush dissent.
Azusa Pacific University “postponed” a speech by political scientist Charles Murray to avoid “hurting our faculty and students of color.” Brandeis University officials rescinded their invitation to Somali writer and American Enterprise Institute scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose criticisms of radical Islam were said to have violated the school’s “core values.” Brandeis officials claimed that allowing her to speak would be hurtful to Muslim students.
Western values of liberty are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America. These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality before the law with entitlement. As such, they pose a far greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist organization or rogue nation. Leftist ideas are a cancer on our society. Ironically, we not only are timid in response, but also nourish those ideas with our tax dollars and charitable donations.
From Charles C. W. Cooke:
Fundamental liberties are usually black-and-white propositions, and back when the architects of Anglo-American freedom had confidence in their work they had a lexicon fitting for people prepared to defend them. Tyrants and usurpers were termed “tyrants” and “usurpers.” Free men were entitled to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Not now. Now, we speak of “compromises” between liberty and propriety, and of the need for the government to make sure that the citizenry and the media are “reasonable.” We are all familiar with Canada’s march toward tyranny and I have written often of similar British violations. Now, in my country of birth the government claims to have come to a “deal” on the freedom of the press. This should raise alarm bells: Free nations, suffice it to say, do not come to “deals” on the freedom of the press.
As John O’Sullivan reports, London, once the undisputed center of the free world, has fallen to the dull charms of cheap censorship. For the first time since 1711, it seems that the state will regulate the media. Those famous words that open the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law,” written by men whose commitment to British liberty was so unshakable that they broke with the crown in order to preserve it explicitly in the republic that they had made, are the last vestige of a classical-liberal order that once looked impregnable. The Commonwealth is in a sorry state: In Canada, the Supreme Court is so happy for the government to silence the people that it has ruled that the truth constitutes no defense; Australia’s government is following the ugly trail of the Leveson inquiry, Britain’s investigation of the press; and in New Zealand the march toward outlawing all “hate speech” continues. And what of England my England? My country now imprisons people for being offensive on Twitter and arrests students who call police horses “gay,” stifles politically incorrect expression, and has found a majority of the political class willing to regulate the press. Only America retains ironclad prohibitions that remain unbroken by the vandals.
On David Letterman’s show late last year, the Eton- and Oxford-educated David Cameron claimed not to know what “Magna Carta” meant in English. At the time I suspected that this was a pretense — an attempt to remain cool in the face of learning. Now, I am not so sure. Cameron should pay a dear price for his enabling of the Leveson report and its consequences. But he will do no such thing. He is, after all, supported by the other two main parties and a majority of the public. A few have stood up, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson among them, “refusing to sign up to any of it.” They are brave, but they are eccentric. This way, slowly but surely, does liberty die.
In America, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s preposterous claim yesterday that speech he doesn’t like is not protected by the First Amendment — and his unlettered recital of the “fire in a crowded theater” nonsense — were treated by thinking people as just that: preposterous and unlettered. In England, such ideas now have a strong, influential, and growing constituency. The old phrase “it’s a free country” is being diminished in favor of meaningless but masturbatory talk of “multiculturalism” and “inclusiveness.” What tosh. As far as this Brit is concerned, if any of the new ideas come into conflict with the classic principles of freedom then those new ideas can shove it. Screw feelings, reasonableness, compromises, and “deals.” Screw “balance” and “moderation” and “third ways.” Give me liberty or give me death! David Cameron can go hang, for all I care. I can still write that — right?
From John O’Sullivan:
Before I saw this morning’s news, I happened to be in the midst of Tom Stoppard’s fine trilogy of plays, The Coast of Utopia, about the different lives of such 19th-century Russian revolutionary intellectuals as Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin. The third play, Salvage, which begins in the Hampstead home of Herzen (I’m still reading it; its action may yet move to Paris or Geneva), contains the following remark from Herzen to his fellow-exiles about their English hosts:
They invented personal liberty, and they know it, and they did it without having any theories about it. They value liberty because it’s liberty. So when the Republic collapsed, you socialists — (He nods to Blanc.) — and you bourgeois republicans — (He nods to Ledru-Rollin.) — ran straight for the Dover Ferry.
Today, Britain’s three major parties agreed on a shameful compromise to bring the fractious British press under official regulation for the first time since 1771, when John Wilkes — the English equivalent of John Peter Zenger — successfully established the right of newspapers to publish uncensored reporting of parliamentary and public affairs. It is a serious attack on freedom by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, and a cowardly retreat in the face of that attack by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tories.