The Internet’s Ideological Echo Chamber: The TLDR of the Google Memo

Its that time of year again!  We’re in the middle of summer, Trump is still the president, and people who haven’t read something are condemning the writer for the opposite of what he actually said.  I am talking, of course, about James Damore of Google, and his memo regarding Google’s ideological echo chamber and struggles with diversity.  Being the learned citizen that I am, I read the document which was written by someone with a PhD in Systems Biology so definitely more learned than me, and will do what no screeching posturing Google Diversity director (or whatever that hypocrite’s title was) attempted and actually break down the memo and its arguments in 1500 words or less.

For the beginning section, James speaks about biases, specifically those of the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, ideologically speaking.  Depending on the worldview you’re looking at them through, some traits he listed might seem more positive or negative than others; for the left, he describes them as a very change-oriented, open, idealistic mindset who views disparities as a symptom of injustices, while the right he describes as a more pragmatic, stable, authoritative mindset who views disparities as natural byproduct of the world and acknowledge the competitiveness of human nature.

Notably, he follows this by stating that both sides must exist in a society and a company to create a stable, prosperous organization.  A grouping too far to the ideological right will be stagnant, overly hierarchical and secretive, while a group too far to the left will be in constant flux and chaos alienating those who aren’t able to keep up with the constant change.  His final point on the topic of bias is that the left ideology has taken a commanding position within Google to the point that it is stifling or eliminating those with a right-leaning bias.  The fact that he was fired for this memo by those demonstrably of the left-leaning bias is evidence enough for this.

The next section is the start of James’ troubles.  He addresses the gender gap within the technology sector, specifically the dominance of men in those positions.  The left ideology bias mentioned earlier, namely the injustice as the root cause of disparities, is offhandedly mentioned in that at Google employees are “regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership.”  He does not dismiss this statement and even says that its something to be aware of, but then he follows up with a few truth bombs.  Namely that there are fundamental differences between men and women that exist beyond social constructs given they are present in cultures worldwide, there are clear biological causes for said differences, and that their existence is fully expected from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

The differences, he notes, are not hard and fast rules.  He explicitly never claims them to be hard and fast rules, simply general trends that contribute to the discrepancies; note again that this is part of the right leaning bias he mentions that discrepancies are natural, as opposed to the left leaning bias that discrepancies are the result of injustice.  The important thing to note and why this document has spurred such a ruckus by those who never read it is that it is believed that this memo proclaims that all differences can be explained biologically and psychologically, something the alt left which is pushing to change these gender norms (ahhh!  See there!  The tendency of the leftist ideology to cause change) finds antithetical to their worldview.  It is completely ignored that James Damore’s actual stance is that of neutrality and reconciling the differences between the two biases.

To get off the topic of the memo’s contents for a second, allow me to explain a facet of statistics that people don’t often know.  When you’re trying to identify statistical differences, like say why more men than women hold leadership roles or positions within the base coding departments of Google, what statisticians look for is not one be-all end-all cause, but instead they are trying to measure the contributing factors to that discrepancy.  Damore does not dismiss the injustice element of the discrepancy, which is his alleged cardinal sin and anyone who looks at it in such a way needs to seriously reconsider how they interpret documents (I’m looking at you, Wired.  Again.  Seriously, get your shit together).  Instead, he states that those injustices only explain part of the discrepancy, and that he believes biological and psychological differences account for another portion of it.

This is where we return to breaking down the memo, and come to the part that everyone seems to have overlooked because who can honestly be expected to get more than 3 pages into reading something.  This isn’t high school, people can’t honestly expect individuals to actually read that much, right?  Anyways, James Damore acknowledges the gap that exists, and offers solutions to close that gap between the number of men and women employed in leadership, tech, etc.  For example, incorporating more teamwork-oriented programming environments, which are usually solitary affairs.  Adjusting the amount of competitiveness within some departments that tend to lean towards a right ideological bias which thrives on competition to better appeal to generally less competitive individuals such as SOME women.  Encouraging more part time work so individuals like single moms are better able to balance their home and work life.

One more gem that I guarantee no article attacking Damore nor those defending him will EVER mention: he claims that the male gender role is currently too inflexible, and allowing society to progress to allow men to be less ‘masculine’ will cause them to leave tech and leadership for more feminine roles, opening up more opportunities for women.  Again, no one else has mentioned this little facet that I have seen, and whether you agree or disagree with the notion that men need to be less manly, I posit that the fact that BOTH sides have glossed over this point is proof that people who are fighting this ideological battle haven’t given the memo the time to properly read it, which is a shame.

Moving on from that, several pages in, he finally becomes openly critical of Google’s practices, critiquing their attempts to close the diversity gap that exists with discriminatory hiring, training, lowered requirements for diversity hires, and standards allowing for confirmation bias in examining diversity and driving possible illegal practices.  He goes on to explain that the different biases on topics such as how women are perceived as a protected group by society or different sciences that one side or the other dismisses or ignores in favor of their own conclusions (such as the left with gender studies and the right with environmental sciences).  It is here that the footnotes are especially worth paying attention to; Damore at one point specifically calls out communism as a system which has failed in its implementations due to human morality failings, and identifies the rise of gender and identity politics as the attempt to replace the have-nots rising up and overthrowing the haves into oppressed minorities rising up and overthrowing the oppressive majority, which in the context of this memo might men women and minorities overthrowing white men.

Bringing the memo to home plate, James Damore again does not simply dismiss Google’s attempts to fix discrepancies in representation within specific departments and leadership as he is so often accused of doing.  Instead, his stance is that Google’s efforts are admirable and have made strides when pursued from a left-leaning ideological bias, but they have started to hit diminishing returns; pushing those practices to eliminate discrepancies in hiring as far as Google has is actually exacerbating the problem and causing structural difficulties in Google’s staff.  He is offering further solutions and suggestions to approach the problem of diversity discrepancies from a right-leaning bias to work IN CONJUNCTION with that of the left.

Many of his suggestions are a plea to stop the demonization of those with right-leaning biases so that they actually feel safe to speak up and contribute to the wider discussion on diversity within Google and to scale back some of the diversity programs that have been put in place with a left-leaning bias in mind. I want to harken back to when Damore first explained how he was portraying a left and right bias.  Damore’s stance is that Google has shifted ideologically too far to the left, and in doing so has become unable to fix its diversity issues by framing them as a morality issue rather than an environmental issue.  In doing so, Google has prevented its right-leaning employees from being able to speak up about what programs might work and what programs are not having the intended effect, such as the environment of microaggressions and PC culture alienating employees of the company who feel unsafe contributing to conversations about Google’s work environment.

Of course, by stating things like ‘women should have the opportunities to work part time to better balance their work and personal lives’ and ‘Google’s culture prevents right-leaning employees from positively contributing to solutions to the diversity issue’ and other such heretical nonsense, Damore was fired.  But, if you’re reading this, you probably already knew that, and just wanted a shorter honest summary of Damore’s writing.  I highly recommend you read it yourself though, because not even this article does the memo its full justice.  The core point here is that many people, even many people interviewing Damore himself, are wanting to step up into this ideological battle and engage in symbolic marches on Google’s headquarters over an ideological battle that they haven’t even examined the root cause of.  People who defend Damore may not agree with everything in his memo; personally, I find the notion of feminizing men so they pursue other roles to be a TERRIBLE idea.  My view is that differences should be celebrated and taken advantage of so everyone can pursue their own personal route of least resistance to prosperity!  I as someone seen as antisocial should not be allowed anywhere NEAR a customer-facing job, while someone who is a social butterfly should not be trapped in their own little cubicle typing into a computer all day.  But these are disagreements that need to be talked out and explored, which is what James Damore ultimately was advocating for.  For this heretical message of openness and understanding, Google fired him within a day of this memo going public.

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