Right Opinion

Google's 'Tolerance' Requires Repression

Michael Barone · Aug. 11, 2017

Would a fair society have exactly the same percentage of men and women, of whites and blacks and Latinos and Asians, in every line of work and occupational category? If your answer is yes, and that any divergence from these percentages must necessarily result from oppression, then you qualify for a job at Google.

If not, forget about it.

In your own lives you may have observed that few occupational categories — certainly not Google engineers — have such gender and ethnic percentages. You probably guessed that this results in part from people with different characteristics having different interests, talents and goals.

But you’re not allowed to say that out loud, as Google engineer James Damore did last month in an internally circulated 10-page memorandum entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” He cited the conclusions of neuroscientists and psychologists that measurable differences between male and female brain structure result in different behavior and preferences.

“The memo was fair and factually accurate,” writes Canadian neuroscientist Debra Soh in the Toronto Globe & Mail. “Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behavior.” If you believe in evolution, it’s easy to see how it could make women more nurturing and interested in working with people and men more aggressive and interested in working with things.

Paradoxically, nondiscriminatory societies may see wider differences. “Research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences,” Soh writes, “because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy.”

That’s apparent in today’s medical profession. Fifty percent of medical students are women: equity. But as psychiatrist/blogger Scott Alexander points out, male and female M.D.s tend to choose different specialties: 75 percent of pediatrics residents are women; 72 percent of radiology residents are men. Pediatricians work with people, radiologists with things.

Damore’s memorandum became public Aug. 6 when Gizmodo labeled it an “anti-diversity screed.” Similarly inaccurate and slanderous characterizations were published by The Washington Post, CNN, Time, The Atlantic, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, ABC News, Fox News, BBC, NBC News, Fast Company and Slate. “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed,” wrote The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf.

Far from lamenting diversity, Damore called for letting it flower. He criticized Google’s diversity programs as counterproductive and suggested alternatives. But he doubted that the trade-offs required to boost Google’s engineer employees from the current 20 percent women to 50 percent would be worth the cost to the business.

In other words, he embraced the heresy of disbelieving the dogma that a fair society must have gender equality and proportionate ethnic representation in every occupational group.

The punishment for heresy is, of coursem excommunication. Damore was fired Monday.

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment,” said Google’s vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, “means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But” — key word — “that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Similarly, Google’s CEO said Tuesday: “We strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves. However” — key word — “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

George Orwell would recognize this doublespeak: We totally support free speech except when we call it heresy. Tolerance requires repression.

Ironically, for a company that makes money by transmitting information, Google’s position is intellectually incoherent. What its CEO dismisses as “harmful gender stereotypes” are the conclusions, after years of painstaking research, of serious neuroscientists.

And Google’s tacit endorsement of the quasi-religious dogma that a fair society must produce gender balance and proportionate ethnic representation is at war with both experience and logic.

Defenders of that dogma fear that rejecting it would justify gender and ethnic discrimination. But that’s wrong. Just follow James Damore’s advice: “Treat people as individuals, not just as another member of their group.”

The dogma is needed to justify the elaborate apparatus of gender and racial quotas and preferences and the lavish campus and corporate diversity bureaucracies to enforce them and stamp out heresy. As a reliable transmitter of free thought, Google seems headed down the path toward the Spanish Inquisition.


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