Why the Alt-Right Loves Google's Diversity Conundrum
Google seems to be taking hits from all sides these days, and the
announcement of another "diversity" lawsuit directed at the firm by an
ex-employee only adds to the escalating mix.
The specific events related to these suits all postdate my consulting
inside Google some years ago, but I know a lot of Googlers -- among
the best people I know, by the way -- and I still have a pretty good
sense of how Google's internal culture functions.
Google is in a classic "damned if you do and damned if you don't"
position right now, exacerbated by purely political forces (primarily
of the alt-right) that are attempting to leverage these situations to
their own advantage -- and ultimately to the disadvantage of Google,
Google's users, and the broader community at large.
This all really began with Google's completely justified firing of
alt-right darling James Damore after he internally promulgated what is
now widely known as his "anti-diversity" memo.
The crux of the matter -- as I see it, anyway -- is that while
Google's internal discussion culture is famously vibrant and open (I
can certainly attest to that myself!) -- Google still has a corporate
and ethical responsibility to provide a harassment-free workplace.
That's why Damore's memo resulted in his termination.
But "harassment" (at least in a legal sense) doesn't necessarily only
apply to one side of these arguments.
To put this into more context, I need only think of various corporate
environments that I've seen over my career, where it would have been
utterly unthinkable to have the level of open discussion that is not
only permitted by Google but encouraged there. At many firms today,
Google's internal openness in this regard would still be prohibited.
Many Googlers have never experienced such more typical corporate
workplaces where open discussion of a vast range of topics is
impractical or prohibited.
Yet even in an open discussion environment like Google's, there have
to be some limits. This is particularly true with personnel issues
like diversity, that not only involve complex legal matters, but can
be extremely sensitive personally to individual employees as well.
The upshot of all this -- in my opinion -- is that "public" internal
personnel discussions per se are generally inappropriate for any
corporate environment given the current legal and toxic political
landscapes, especially with evil forces ready and willing to latch
onto any leaks to further their own destructive agendas, e.g. as I
discussed in "How the Alt-Right Plans to Control Google" --
and in other posts.
Personnel matters are much better suited to direct and private
communications with corporate HR than for widely viewed internal
This isn't a happy analysis for me. Most of us either know victims of
harassment or have been harassed one way or another ourselves. And
it's clear that the kinds of harassment most in focus today are
largely being encouraged by alt-right perpetrators, up to and
including the sociopath currently in the Oval Office.
But in the long run, acting compulsively on our gut instincts in these
regards -- however noble those instincts may be -- can be positively
disastrous to our attempts to stop harassment and other evils. How and
where these discussions take place can be fully as important as the
actual contents of the discussions themselves. Insisting on such
discussions within inappropriate environments, especially when
complicated laws and "go for the jugular" external politics can be
involved, is typically very much a losing tactic.
Overall, I believe that Google is handling this situation in pretty
much the best ways that are actually possible today.
Lauren Weinstein (lau...@vortex.com): https://www.vortex.com/lauren
Lauren's Blog: https://lauren.vortex.com
Google Issues Mailing List: https://vortex.com/google-issues
Founder: Network Neutrality Squad: https://www.nnsquad.org
PRIVACY Forum: https://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: https://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
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