Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: Lessons for Your Business
[This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. Read Part 2 here.]
A Mind Changed Against the Will Is of the Same Opinion Still
Recently, a Google employee, James Damore, was fired for circulating a truly brave memo that dared to suggest “that Google has become an ideological echo chamber where anyone with centrist or right-of-center views fears to speak his or her mind,” and “that part of the tech industry’s gender gap can be attributed to biological differences between men and women.”1 Google more-or-less confirmed Mr. Damore’s first point by firing him. Science backs up Mr. Damore’s second point.
According to a poll distributed on an internal Google mailing list dedicated to discussing the memo, approximately 57.4% of respondents indicated disagreement with the statement that the document is harmful and shouldn’t have been shared. To reiterate, 57.4% of respondents believe the document was not harmful and that it was okay to share it.
“The contentious internal discussion revived a concern dating back to 2015: An unknown number of Google managers maintain blacklists of fellow employees, evidently refusing to work with those people. The blacklists are based on personal experiences of others’ behavior, including views expressed on politics, social justice issues, and Google’s diversity efforts.
A Google spokesperson told Inc. that the practice of keeping blacklists is not condoned by upper management, and that Google employees who discriminate against members of protected classes will be terminated. It’s not clear whether that principle applies in Damore’s case. Although political affiliation is a protected class according to California labor law, the views expressed in the manifesto and echoed by others who oppose political correctness do not seem to merit legal protection.
Indeed, Google’s decision to fire Damore suggests the company concluded they don’t, although its slowness in acting suggests it was not an easy call. According to New York Times reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi, Damore ‘said he will likely take legal action against the company.'” (Mann, 2017)
Damore absolutely had a First Amendment right to write what he wrote in the memo. Legally speaking, Google may have had the right to fire Damore for writing what he wrote, however, even if Damore’s writing did not violate any anti-discrimination laws or regulations. On the other hand, Google may have violated Damore’s legally protected right to free speech–especially political speech–because of California’s labor protection laws, which are stronger than those in most states.
Unquestionably, however, Google did the wrong thing in firing Damore, because it ignited a firestorm of negative publicity for its harsh response to Damore. Google’s actions are tantamount to censorship of legitimate, if not politically-correct, views. Such censorship is intrinsically un-American and diametrically opposed to principles of freedom of thought and freedom of speech, which are necessary for the proper functioning of a society that values liberty and justice.
In short, Google’s Orwellian response to Damore’s harmless memo should be shocking to the conscience of any person who values liberty–especially those who consider themselves patriotic Americans. Even those from the opposing ideological camp, the self-described “Social Justice Warriors” (or “SJWs”), ought to realize that this sort of corporate action is not only inappropriate, but it is actually counter-productive, because it creates a backlash against the tyrannical censors that mere polite, tolerant disagreement would not cause.
So, what is a company to do when an employee publishes an internal memo, or some other document, that attracts unwanted attention to its unpopular management practices or criticizes its politically-correct agenda or its internal ideological echo chamber? In our next article, we’ll discuss some helpful suggestions for preventing lawsuits and other disputes that may arise in connection with such circumstances.
1 Mann, S. (2017, August 7). Google’s Other Ugly Secret: Some Managers Keep Blacklists. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/sonya-mann/google-manifesto-blacklists.html
This article may be freely reprinted or distributed in its entirety in any e-zine, newsletter, blog or website. The author’s name, bio and website links must remain intact and be included with every reproduction. View general information about this license; or view detailed legal information about this license.