James Damore, the former Google engineer who published a screed against Google’s diversity initiatives, wants you to know he isn’t using autism as an excuse.
But he says being on the spectrum means he “sees things differently.” And yet another interview with the 28-year-old shows he still doesn’t fully understand why everyone got so upset that he attributed the lack of diversity at Google and in the tech industry to biological differences between men and women.
For example, he’s sorry/not sorry. “My biggest flaw and strength may be that I see things very differently than normal,” Damore tells the Guardian. “I’m not necessarily the best at predicting what would be controversial.”
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Cases in point: One of Damore’s first moves after being fired by Google in August after his publication of “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” was to grant an interview to a Canadian psychology professor who rails against political correctness (and gender-neutral pronouns).
Then he met up with a photographer who’s known as “the Annie Leibovitz of the alt-right” and donned a not-Google but “Goolag” shirt. Damore claims he didn’t do enough research before he did the photo shoot. “I can definitely see how it was damaging, but it was a free professional photo shoot and I wasn’t really familiar with politics then,” he tells the Guardian. “I was pretty busy and ignorant.”
This is curious, because he also told the Guardian that before he published the memo — which also criticized Google’s political biases — that he had been doing a lot of research into politics. This includes reading what’s known as the bible of the men’s rights movement, “The Myth of Male Power,” and other works.
Also, a freshly fired Damore sat down with Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart News tech editor who Twitter-trolled his way to infamy.
In addition, Damore tweeted in September: “The KKK is horrible and I don’t support them in any way, but can we admit that their internal title names are cool, e.g. ‘Grand Wizard’?”
After all that, Damore is frustrated he is being associated with the “alt-right” — white nationalists and supremacists — when he really thinks of himself as “centrist,” he tells the Guardian.
The Guardian piece also introduces a feminist writer who feels “pretty sorry” for Damore, an unnamed Google engineer says he is also autistic and was fired after sparring with a female colleague, and a psychiatrist who says employers need to be “more understanding” of people on the autism spectrum.
But hey, the piece says Damore — who is suing Google over his firing — “is fiercely resistant to portraying himself as any kind of victim.”
And Damore himself said: “Journalists and commentators were incentivized to distort facts to generate outrage.”
But here’s a fact. Damore wrote this in the memo: “Women, on average, have more neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance). This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.”
He also pushed back against actual facts — that women get paid less than men; in fact, Google is being investigated for related allegations — by including this in his memo: “Yes, in a national aggregate, women have lower salaries than men for a variety of reasons. For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men. Considering women spend more money than men and that salary represents how much the employees sacrifices (e.g. more hours, stress, and danger), we really need to rethink our stereotypes around power.”
And the outrage wasn’t just directed at Damore. Google and its CEO, Sundar Pichai, were dragged right into the raging cultural wars of our times. There were even calls for Pichai — who at the time said “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK” — to be fired.
Meanwhile, Google — like many other companies in tech and elsewhere — continues to be largely white and male both in the overall composition of its workforce and in its leadership.
Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group
Tags: diversity, gender, Google, James Damore, women