When you think about it, it was conservatives’ fault that Google engineer James Damore was sacked for contributing to an internal message board Google set up for soliciting ideas and feedback on its diversity initiatives. After all, conservatives champion the kind of at-will employment laws that prevail in California, and Damore therefore could expect little latitude to criticize his own company. If only you would grant unions or appropriate federal mandates to govern these relationships, you wouldn’t have to fear being a conservative at the workplace. So I’m told, at least.
To my ears though, this argument reminds me of a much older and fatter brother sitting on your chest and banging your own hands across your face. “Stop hitting yourself,” he says as he laughs. It’s a bully’s taunt.
The order of events went something like this. A month ago, Damore contributed his memo, which includes chapter headings like “Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap,” to a board set up for employee ideas for promoting diversity. He also submitted it to an internal listserv for skeptics, asking for comment. It was from here that it went semi-viral within the company.
Then a left-leaning person in Google leaked it to a left-leaning media outlet, knowing it would kick over the hornet’s nest of left-leaning social media, scaring lawyers inside Google, who would then advise executives that continuing to employ Damore risked Title VII litigation, which is shaped by left-leaning legal activists in such a way that employing anyone with known non-progressive views on politics or religion becomes a potential legal liability, since even having them around starts to create a hostile environment. Left-leaning activist employees then set the media up for the day-two story, going public to explain that they can’t work with someone who donated to the wrong political cause, or wrote the wrong thing on a message board; they feel unsafe. Or they call in sick. Left-leaning executives and managers start sharing that they are making internal blacklists. The Left has a word for this phenomenon where people pretend to be threatened and hurt so that they may lash out and threaten others. They call it gaslighting.
In any case, by this point the workplace environment is hostile indeed. And the only way to make it unhostile is to let it close in on its prey and vent its fury.
By the time conservative activists and media unearth and begin to publicize evidence that the person in question had never been reported to human resources for offense or discriminatory behavior, the head is already rolling across the floor blinking Morse code for help. Job done, the left-leaning activists and journalists who coordinated the panic in order to make the “private business decision” inevitably turn around and blame conservatives for it. “The only notable event here is Google’s power to fire people,” they say, smiling at you somewhat dimly, their pupils still dilated from the thrill of the kill, “so you’ve only yourselves to blame. We’re the ones looking our for his interest.”
The combination of activists leaking old petitions or documents to create a media-generated moral panic, with the threat of government and legal action waiting in the wings, is how the Hollywood blacklist worked.
The combination of zealous activists leaking old petitions or documents to create a media-generated moral panic, with the threat of a dollop of government and legal action waiting in the wings, is precisely how the Hollywood blacklist worked. Activists at the American Legion went through old petitions that the Communist Party circulated in the 1930s, oftentimes for innocuous causes. They’d publicize the names, create a media panic, and wait for the studios to respond, and there was always the congressional committee to rely on. Freelance tattletales such as Ayn Rand would search out Disney films for the flimsiest traces of red. The choice of Silicon Valley as a particular target, much like the choice of Hollywood then, was driven by the industry’s exalted status and by the strong suspicion that its current personnel were unrepresentative, drawn from certain groups, in a way that indicated deviation from commendable values.
And like the freelance Hollywood blacklisters, today’s ativists have missed the real threat by decades. Most Communists in Hollywood had left the party after the Hitler–Stalin Pact, never to return to it. (That’s why congressmen used the famous line-blurring question: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”) Similarly, the tech industry, now mature, has little tolerance for workplace sexism, and its anxious desire to hire female software engineers reverberates through the whole industry.
One website that facilitates online “technical interviews” disguised female voices as male and vice versa. The result they found was that the interviewers demonstrated a slight but measurable preference for female candidates. Look at the coding bootcamps and schools. These are run by veterans of the software-engineering industry, and their business model is to recruit people who can be taught how to code and immerse them in the knowledge and culture that will lead to jobs in Silicon Valley. They require tuition from students, but their real money is made from acting as recruiters for the candidates they train. Some schools offer serious tuition discounts to women and other underrepresented groups because they know that the likelihood of placing these candidates is so high. Others are opening programs for women only, where female candidates pay no tuition until they are placed in a job. If tech companies weren’t competing so hard for women software-engineering candidates, programs like this would not be financially viable.
I’m not normally an apologist for market forces. But in the current climate, it is entrepreneurs who are drawing women into tech, despite misgivings that some women might have about the culture of software programmers. Do not believe a media mob that has just made a worker universally infamous, lied about the contents of his writing, and used their platforms to speculate that perhaps Damore didn’t know or like women, when they turn around and blame the quaking employer who unceremoniously dumped him.