The perfect culture war: how conservative pundits reacted to Google's fired engineer
Pundits identify with James Damore, who wrote a 10-page manifesto suggesting gender inequality in Silicon Valley was natural
Google’s decision to fire an engineer who sent out a screed on diversity to his colleagues is the stuff of conservative culture war dreams.
For a start, a lot of conservative pundits can identify with James Damore, the now unemployed author of the 10-page manifesto. Damore seems overbearing, writes at punishing length about why inequality is natural, and addresses himself to a modern world that finds his thoughts irrelevant and even offensive. That’s pretty much the profile of the average writer at National Review.
It also plays into the right’s trustiest narrative: white male victimhood.
Commentators have responded to the firing with alacrity – National Review alone had published eight articles touching on the event by the time of writing this morning. Across the board, pundits howled about freedom of speech, something that never seems to come up when they are going after some luckless academic – or even now and again one of their own – who has violated the terms of “populist correctness”.
Publication: The Federalist
Author: Ben Domenech is the founder and publisher of the Federalist, and is relentlessly energetic in producing print and audio content for the site.
Why you should read it: This really is something. In an innovative variation on the “you aborted Beethoven!” meme, Domenech runs a thought experiment that concludes with the revelation that Google would probably not employ the pope. He doesn’t canvas the possibility that Francis would not be a good fit for reasons beyond his “problematic” views.
Extract: “Yes, I suppose this example is not particularly subtle. But the point is, Google’s diversity rules mean they couldn’t hire the pope. Do they think it’s a problem? Should we?”
Publication: National Review
Author: David French turns up here a lot, but on days like today, he’s just irresistible.
Why you should read it: This is French’s “day two” take, where the firing of James Damore is folded into an elaborate take which also takes in Lena Dunham’s airport tweeting. He can’t say this is a First Amendment issue – it isn’t – so he resorts to the argument that this represents an erosion of the “culture” of free speech in the US. Curiously, this concern has not prevented him going after other people’s jobs in print in the past.
Extract: “But just because something is legal does not mean it’s right, and the result is a crisis in the culture of free speech in the United States. As the politicization of everything proceeds apace, the ‘company line’ has increasingly moved well beyond promoting its own products to promoting a particular kind of politics. Major corporations and virtually every university in the nation are now political entities just as much as they’re commercial entities, and they wear their progressivism on their sleeves.”
Author: Charlie Nash is reporter for Breitbart tech, the same Petri dish that incubated Milo Yiannopoulis.
Why you should read it: Part of Breitbart’s stock in trade has always been the publication of decontextualised material that supposedly reveals leftwing bias in powerful institutions. Making hay while the sun shines, Nash uses some screenshots from the company’s internal social network to argue that Orwellian leftists are involved in a broad effort to purge conservatives from the company. To most people it will look like – at the very worst – like the kind of niggles and grandstanding that are a part of internal forums at many workplaces. Expect Breitbart readers to receive it as proof that we are living in 1984.
Extract: “In a series of screenshots from 2015 onwards provided to Breitbart News by a verified Google employee, individuals described as left-wing Google management employees can be seen discussing the ways they punish their colleagues both inside and out of the company.”
Publication: The American Conservative
Author: Rod Dreher is a blogger at The American Conservative, the author of a successful book urging Christians to detach themselves from American society, and the poet laureate of aggrieved white conservative masculinity.
Why you should read it: One wonders upon reading this how long it is since Dreher has talked to anyone who works outside the hothouse of conservative media. Workplace surveillance and codes of conduct are part of life for many working people, especially in professional settings like Google. Admittedly, this has a lot of negative consequences, and not just for outspoken conservatives. Needless to say, Dreher doesn’t canvas the best – perhaps the only – way to challenge arbitrary management power: unions. Be warned – this post rivals the gender manifesto itself for length.
Extract: “Look at what Google has done, and look at the reaction on social media from those who support Damore’s firing. It’s a heretic hunt. Consider what it must be like at Google this morning, knowing that managers can and do go through your email and keep a blacklist blocking your advance within the company because they conclude that you hold the wrong opinions – and you never know about it. They make decisions affecting your career based on things they’ve read in your private email, and never give you the opportunity to defend yourself. Anyone within the company who expressed sympathy for Damore on email is now on notice that Collin Winter will not work with them. And anyone who wishes to curry favor with Collin Winter knows how to suck up now.”
Publication: Hot Air
Author: Ed Morrissey is a full time blogger for Hot Air and has a column at the broad-church magazine The Week.
Why you should read it: This is the closest anyone on the right has gotten to conceding that the memo Damore sent was monumentally dumb and inappropriate. The libertarians at places like Reason – usually on hand to defend employers’ rights to 86 employees for any infraction – are staying scrum. Morrissey still goes into bat for Damore and castigates Google’s “echo chamber”, but can’t bring himself not to hint that the author of the manifesto comes across as a crank.
Extract: “ The parts of the memo that do speak on biology are rather silly, presumptive, and largely unsupported – a series of extrapolations based on weak or unfounded assumptions, such as ‘Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males.’ Often, eh? Got a percentage on that? What exactly was the sample size on the peer-reviewed study of castrated males raised as females? And what exactly does that have to do with women in coding jobs?”