Whither the “Google Memo” Guy?

James Damore (aka the “Google Memo” guy) is one of two plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit reports that the technology giant has violated labor laws by discriminating against employees who are white, male, or “perceived” as conservative. According to the legal document, Google managers “blacklisted” outspoken conservatives from group projects and potential promotions while Google executives established a system of ethnic and gender quotas that discriminates against white males.

Damore was fired last year after his internal memo “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” went public. The memo’s thesis is twofold: (1) “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” and (2) men and women are biologically different in socially significant ways, which partially explains “the gender gap” in “tech and leadership.”

From information in the lawsuit, it’s clear that Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters is a citadel of performative corporate do-goodery. Bosses at other jobs might make you read Friedrich Hayek or Dave Ramsey; hire female interns based on looks (I knew of one boss—a real estate fief—who would always take pictures of interns from behind, then send the images to every man in the office); and let you know that if there’s any talk of unionizing, your store or warehouse will be shutdown overnight.

But Google executives are different (so they’d like you to think anyway). Google executives don’t encourage middle-class misogyny; they encourage “diversity and inclusion.” Google doesn’t host quarterly casino nights or annual trips to Telluride; it hosts “Diversity Summits” and weekly “TGIF” meetings. Diversity is the “Googley way.” In other words, fewer white faces from Ivy League schools; more non-white faces from Ivy League Schools.

Worth noting: Google’s “left bias” is reserved for demographic affectations only. When Google Express workers tried joining the Teamsters Union two years ago, Google closed delivery hubs and outsourced those jobs to businesses with temporary and “sharing” employment models.

Damore was prompted to write his memo after attending one of Google’s diversity summits. (Damore, who worked as a software engineer, had been promoted twice in three years and felt that further advancement required attending such company events.) Before then, he had already complained to human resources that he felt Google’s myopic attention to diversity was “elevating political correctness over merit.”

Google’s business culture absurdly mixes work and leisure. Most of its offices share the amenities of a college campus and the aesthetics of a children’s museum. There are gyms and swimming pools, mini-golf courses and billiard tables, random massage chairs and Squabble-inspired wallpaper. Most important, employees are urged to use Google’s internal messaging and social media to openly discuss political-cultural issues. Damore shared his memo with company emailing lists (including skeptics@google.com). From there it was passed around to other company social groups until someone leaked it to news sites Vice and Gizmodo.

Internal reactions to the memo were generally negative. There were calls for Damore (and anyone sympathizing with his views) to be fired.  According to the lawsuit, he received “multiple threats and insults from his coworkers.” HR told him that “although Google could not ask him to take it down because it was protected political speech, they still thought it was in his best interest to do so.” Eventually, HR instructed him to work from home until things “cool[ed] down.” Days later he was fired via phone.

Damore became an instant hero and martyr to the alt-right/alt-light crowd. He was interviewed by Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Stefan Molyneux, and Tucker Carlson and praised by the hosts for standing against Google’s radical left-wing agenda. With his firing, libertarians and “classical liberals” were appalled to find that bosses could stifle free speech just as much (if not more) than politicians. Left-wing heresies like worker rights, anti-trust laws and even nationalization were openly contemplated on libertarian and “anti-government” message boards. Capitalism, it turns out, doesn’t protect free minds from free markets.

Fame didn’t last long for Damore. He was incredibly uncomfortable in interviews—often ill-prepared to speak on anything outside his own situation. Ironically, given his memo’s title, the only opinions he seemed to have were echoes from right-wing YouTube.

This last bit is actually true for the memo as well. Portrayed in the media as a careful scholarly examination of “possible non-bias causes of the gender gap,” it’s in fact nothing but typical reactionary complaints embedded in social science platitudes.

Only ten pages long, the memo begins with Damore citing clinical research on the “personality differences” between men and women, and, by page six, he’s already repeating intellectual history from the Pat Buchanan-David Duke School of Cultural Marxism:

As it became clear that the working class of the liberal democracies wasn’t going to overthrow their “capitalist oppressors,” the Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics. The core oppressor-oppressed dynamics remained, but now the oppressor is the “white, straight, cis-gendered patriarchy.”

First, “Marxist intellectuals” have always engaged in “gender and race politics.” The Socialist Party platform of 1912 included “unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women,” and Communists in the 1920s were already working alongside black organizers in the South (and being rewarded for it with violence and murder from racist mobs and police). Second, there’s still plenty of old-fashioned clamoring for “class warfare.” Democratic Socialists of America is the fastest growing political organization in the country and, in 2016, 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike for better working conditions. Third, Damore has learned first-hand why scare quotes around “capitalist oppressors” is unnecessary. He wrote something his boss didn’t like and was fired for it. The only recourse he now has—suing Google for “discrimination” and for infringing on his political speech—exists because of those he so ignorantly derides.

As is clear just from the above, Damore isn’t a sharp thinker. He went to Harvard and worked as a Google engineer, yet has the credulity and sophistication of an indoctrinated preteen. The opinions in his memo are either tedious (men and women are different) or naive (Google has a “left bias”). He’s an acolyte of ideological nonsense from YouTube and, like many acolytes, prematurely thought he was sufficiently inculcated to become a proselytizer. Not only a victim of capitalist hierarchy (although, to be fair, his coworkers would’ve probably voted him out anyway), Damore is also a victim of his own false sense of intellectualism.

No one should fall for the political stupidities Damore fell for (wanting acceptance into a power structure is much different than wanting to tear it down). No employee should be compelled by their boss to speak up, then fired for what he or she says (luckily for Damore, under California labor laws a boss’s power over his employees isn’t completely unchecked). No company’s actions should be autonomous from the will of its employees (although this principle probably wouldn’t have saved Damore his job, since his coworkers seemed more eager for his firing than management). And no one should hide their bigotries behind “just-stating-the-facts” rhetoric (Damore isn’t a bigot, he’s a dupe who fell for the bigot’s time-tested bait-and-switch of giving priority and significance to certain facts while concealing their own ideological notions behind bland appeals to reason).

Google’s diversity initiative isn’t radical, but it’s not nothing. Economic power matters. The balance of forces in a society (whether racial, sexual, or other) matters. Damore’s appeal for Google to practice “viewpoint diversity” isn’t disingenuous but it isn’t sincere either. For him, it only means the company should hire and “empower” more conservatives. No syndicalist CFOs then.

That Damore and his defenders are calling for protections they wouldn’t extend to others if circumstances were different isn’t surprising. Persistent imperviousness to irony or tragedy is a defining characteristic of the fooled and fool-hearted. But his case is a reminder that regardless of privilege or income (Damore was making $150,000 a year in just company stocks), an employee with no institutional power is free to debate anything except whether he’s allowed to come into work tomorrow.