NOTE: This is part I of a three-part series related to Google’s recent firing of James Damore.
Google has recently fired an engineer named James Damore over a memo he wrote that circulated through the company. In the memo, Damore criticized the approach Google and the rest of Silicon Valley has taken to address issues of discrimination. The employee sent the memo anonymously, but it was leaked and published online (initially minus its references by a silly website that I will not give publicity to) about a month later. The engineer was “doxed” (identified by online users with malicious intent) and subsequently fired for promoting negative stereotypes.
There is a lot of hilarity to take note of regarding this fiasco.
First, one of Damore’s major points was explaining that Google, whose staff and management lean left politically, may have ideological blind spots: “when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.” Damore was fired for expressing views that counter the consensus at Google, unequivocally proving his point.
Second, Damore concluded his memo by explaining:
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).
Though Damore clearly encourages inclusion and judgment of individuals based on their merits (not their race or gender), the mainstream media has widely referred to the memo as “anti-diversity.” This is entirely made up.
Third, after the memo went viral, Google’s “VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance” responded in a memo of her own saying, “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.” Yet, when it came to an individual adding diversity of thought to the conversation, Google decided to exclude Damore.
I have been highly critical of Google’s decision to fire Damore. I not only believe that Damore’s memo was largely accurate and an extremely important topic of discussion for both Silicon Valley and the world at large. I also believe that had it not been accurate or important, it would still be ridiculous for an employer to fire someone over their views, especially when they are carefully researched, well-intentioned, and directly related to the workplace.
However, this does not mean I believe Google broke the law, and there is a case to be made that Google acted in its own best interest by firing Damore.
No Right to Employment
To start, employers should have the right to fire employees for any reason or no reason at all. Employment is not a right in the same sense that life, privacy, and a speedy trial are.
The right to life means it is wrong for someone to kill you without justification (like self-defense or an accident).
The right to privacy means no one can force you to expose information about yourself or invade your personal space without your permission. You need a warrant for that.
The right to a speedy trial means that the government cannot keep you incarcerated for very long without proving it has reason to do so.
To be clear, just because you have a right (whether in a religious sense or based on American Constitutional law) does not mean the government or other individuals will not violate it. Rights are what you are supposed to have, not what you wind up with in the end. Having a right to life does not mean you will not be murdered.
You do not have the right to employment in this sense of the word right. The right to employment would be the right to force someone else to pay you for your labor against his will. There is nothing in the US Constitution or an honest interpretation of Classically Liberal human rights that could rationalize the right to employment.
The only time it makes sense to bar an employer from firing an employee is if the agreed-upon contract contains relevant stipulations. If a contract were to say that an employee would only be terminated under a certain set of circumstances, and the employee were fired without said circumstances taking place, there would be a rights-based justification for prosecuting the employer.
Unless James Damore’s contract specified that he could not be fired for “promoting gender stereotypes” or something of the sort, Google had every right to let him go.
Right to be a Bigot
A bigot is a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. Bigotry has no bias within itself. There is no specified set of “opinions and prejudices” that bigotry promotes or disavows. This means that bigotry can be exercised by anyone on the political spectrum from right to center to left. Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow can both exhibit intolerance.
When Google deemed James Damore’s opinions so unworthy of discussion that they could no longer be professionally associated with him, they reached a peak level of bigotry. Google unapologetically expressed that they will not tolerate a certain level of deviation from the opinions and prejudices they are devoted to.
This may demonstrate lack of character, intellectual close-mindedness, and immaturity, but it does not violate anyone’s rights. There are no laws and no Classically Liberal reasons that suggest bigotry is any sort of criminal act.
Google has every right to be bigoted and intolerant.
Maybe Anti-Diversity Works
This last part is not based on research, experience, or my own personal opinion about diversity in the workplace. I’ll just be thinking out loud.
A read a tweet recently that asked what evidence there is available to support the idea that diversity in the workplace is a benefit. Is there any?
Maybe Google would be operating in their own best interest by firing openly Conservative employees, free speech advocates, evolutionary biology aficionados, and individuals who do not embrace extra-normative lifestyles. Perhaps an unchallenged, far-left hegemony, selective science adherence, and hyper-tolerance in the workplace will lead Google to better productivity and greater profits.
Maybe diversity in the workplace isn’t such a great thing after all. Pontificating about diversity while actively undermining it, however, could be the best corporate strategy yet.