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The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo (theatlantic.com)
450 points by mimbs on Aug 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 150 comments

Regardless on your opinions of the memo, this article nails it right on the head; Gizmodo and other major news outlets handled this very irresponsibly, posting their version that had no citations, and leading the reader, even at the very beginning, into forming the opinion that this was simply a guy being "anti-diversity".

Whatever your thoughts on the subject are, it needs to be pointed out that this type of journalism is absolutely not neutral (even though they will swear up and down that they are) and should be, at the very least, condemned for doing so. This is and will be an increasingly difficult problem, especially when people just read a headline and a summary.

So true, I thought the last paragraph of the article was particularly apt.

>When journalistic institutions widely publicize material of this sort, only to abdicate the vital work of rigorously addressing its substance, they make its least plausible claims more likely to be normalized. They leave the project of assessing its merits and flaws to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other venues where the loudest voices tend to prevail, instead of offering their own careful reporting and expert analysis.

I buy this point so much because after reading about the controversy on the crazy 1000 comment thread here on HN and the other threads on reddit, there was no top level comment that made the same well reasoned claims this very article did, which IMO is so far the best I have read about the whole debacle. This is what journalists doing their job looks like.

Yes, and exacerbating the problem is that the original memo, even with its citations included, was sloppy and not rigorous, and should have been like shooting fish in a barrel for all the media covering it.

But instead most of the media coverage seemed to be coming from a frame of, "don't validate fringe viewpoints by actually addressing their arguments", rather just ignore their arguments and use other tactics to undermine them. That strategy may have worked in the pre-Internet age, but in the Internet age it risks putting you on the wrong side of "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.". In the Internet age the correct strategy for dealing with the fringe is directly addressing and discrediting their reasoning early, before they can create an echo chamber feedback loop.

But traditional media seems slow in general to realize that, in the Internet age, the fringe eventually defines the center unless stopped early. This episode appears to have been another manifestation of that.

It wasn't an academic paper, it was an internal memo posted to a discussion forum. Even then, it was well structured, moderating in its commentary, and peppered with links to support its arguments.

This sort of criticism seems like motivated reasoning to me, and only comes out when current progressive dogmas are being challenged. When HN applies a scalpel the way you describe to the opposite viewpoint, often supported only with anecdotes, out come the complaints how people's lived experiences are being ignored, how it's proof of a cultural problem, and so on. Not to mention the flagging. It's rigor for thee and not for me.

The media and Google are the echo chamber when it comes to this topic, that's been demonstrated plenty. If they were capable of intellectually reasoning about it, they wouldn't be lumping together reasonable criticism with that of the fringe in the first place.

>It wasn't an academic paper, it was an internal memo posted to a discussion forum. Even then, it was well structured, moderating in its commentary, and peppered with links to support its arguments.

I'm all for challenging the orthodoxy, any orthodoxy, and I sense the gender diversity one has been constructed on not perfectly rigorous foundations and deserves to be challenged. But when you challenge an orthodoxy, fairly or not you're held to a higher standard of rigor, simply as a matter of effectiveness - come up short and you're easily discredited and dismissed. It's like you have to have PhD or equivalent level knowledge of something before your critiques can't be dismissed out of hand. That's at least part of what happened here, the memo just wasn't at that level, and thus was easily dismissed. Maybe the author will now use his in/fame/my to write a more comprehensive and rigorous paper (or book deal) on the topic.

>This sort of criticism seems like motivated reasoning to me, and only comes out when current progressive dogmas are being challenged. When HN applies a scalpel the way you describe

Repeat after me: "HN is not one person or one voice". At least some of us here apply this standard to everything.

I found this entire row to be just depressing. Earlier today there's a medium post about a guy who won't read the memo -- absolutely refuses -- because he doesn't want this "anti-diversity" message polluting him.

This, when one of the memo's explicit points was about excessive dogma around the issue, and inability to have an open and honest conversation about it. The opposition isn't all shrill politically correct authoritarians, but some of them really do come off that way.

'It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.' - Aristotle

I can't imagine been so insecure in my beliefs that I'd actively refuse to engage with opposing viewpoints, in case I got 'polluted'!

The problem with this, is that the alt-right have made a habit of this "look how rational I am as i call you subhuman, why are you so upset by rational truth" thing.

Milo Yianoppolos, who most of the time markets himself as an anarchistic troll, will put on his serious face and claim that he is worried about trans people because it's a mental illness and he just wants them to be treated, rather than play along with their disease. And cite studies etc.

Then he'll have a rally and personally attack a trans student. Which isn't really how a serious scientist approaches the mentally ill.

He also attacks overweight people "for their own good" as they need to get healthy. Then he takes a picture of someone he sees at his gym to mock their weight as they work out.

The Bell Curve is a great proto-alt-right example, where the author will say with a cheeky grin that he never actually said that black people were genetically inferior, even though everyone who read it clearly got that message,whether they agree with it or not. And when he wrote a book saying black people have never contributed anything of any worth to music, why that's just objective science.

The Orwellian double talk of Trump is another classic example. More jobs via trade wars. Yes the author is right, a critique of pointless trade wars shouldn't be called anti-jobs, because journalist should be (and to some degree are) calling Trump's proposals anti-jobs themselves. Why on earth would you think this a valid example to give? It's an obvious con job.

So at some point, you realise that people are just playing a game with you.

But no, surely this man who thinks gay rights are a Marxist plot to take down capitalist America, surely he is only interested in seeking the unvarnished scientific truth?! Fool me once..

Here's the book, it's an interesting premise. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Accomplishment

Murray ranks the leading 4,000 innovators in several fields of human accomplishment from 800 BC to 1950. In each field Murray identifies a number of sources (leading encyclopedias, histories and surveys) providing information about the leading figures in the field. The rankings are made from information in these sources. A raw score is determined based on how many sources mention and on how much space in each source is devoted to a person. Then these raw scores are normalized so that the lowest score is 1 and the highest score is 100. The resulting scores are called "Index Scores".

The book obviously wasn't written with the express purpose of saying "black people have never contributed anything of any worth to music." That's such a ridiculous mischaracterization, as if that was purpose of writing the book, geez...

It's interesting that you and many others trotting out obvious falsehoods these past few days think this is a wise strategy...

It's far more interesting to write about people that have done interesting, impactful, world-changing things. And that's what he wrote about, he didn't set out to write nor did he write the most boring book he could write, he wrote an interesting book about interesting people, actions, and ideas.

If the book doesn't have enough "diversity" for your taste,

No written language was ever devised in sub-Saharan Africa prior to outside influences.

There is no indigenous tonal music tradition in sub-Saharan Africa, apart from maybe singing. The only instruments native to the continent are unpitched percussion.

The wheel was never invented in Africa.

Sometimes reality is just reality.

> The only instruments native to the continent are unpitched percussion.

Talking drums, djembes, balafons, xalams, koras.

How many books about rich, white, christian men being genetically, culturally and morally better than those that don't fall into those groups does someone need to write before your crank detector goes off?

so basically the more you read about reality, the more you disbelieve it because it cant possibly be true?

This comment is beyond the pale. If you post like this again, we will ban you.

You've also been uncivil many times on HN. Please fix this as well if you want to keep commenting here.

>'No written language was ever devised in sub-Saharan Africa prior to outside influences.'

Is just plain wrong, see ( https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1nz7k6/were_... ) also it depends on what you mean by language, Genevieve Petzinger has shown a fully formed written cave art language going back since man (or woman) first started drawing in caves.

See, that's exactly what I expect as a rebuttal (the claim sounded fishy to me as well). The bad way to address it would be to say "that's a very racist thing to say, you white supremacist!".

> Fool me once..

Except this only works with subsequent encounters with the same trickster. Those across your side of the political aisle are not a monolith, yet you assume they are all just a few shades off from Milo. If that's your impression, you should diversify your reading selections. Try John McWhorter, for example.

> Except this only works with subsequent encounters with the same trickste

At some point you have to risk and generalizing when you see similar arguments brought up over and over otherwise "the other side" could continue to use the same tactic as long as they cycle through different people that haven't done it before.

I don't see that as a useful strategy when dealing with political opinions. If you look at how ideas become distributed among large groups of people, it seems clear to me that if someone is being honest, they will likely have something unique to add to the conversation.

John McWhorter? In what way is he anywhere near the same side of the aisle as Milo?

He's conservative and almost invariably disagrees with social justice activists.

Got a link? The John McWhorter I'm familiar with is a linguist at Columbia.

Yep, that's the guy. Below is a good example of his more combative ideas. He's far off from Milo, but that was kind of my point, because he's definitely on that side of the aisle.


Interesting that. According to Wikipedia, he characterizes himself as "a cranky liberal Democrat".

Another quite non-rightist position cited in the W article: "the use of the word "thug" was becoming code for "the N-word" or "black people ruining things" when used by whites in reference to criminal activity."

This only seems relevant if you think that these examples justify refusing to listen to the rational of those you disagree with.

I've listened to all of the above, enough to spot glaring inconsistencies lurking behind their rational facade. What more do you want from me? Automatic agreement with disingenuous trolls and madmen just because they can write fully formed paragraphs and link to cherry picked science?

> What more do you want from me?

I want you to be cautious about generalizing your past experience to future events.

And if you are (understandably, maybe) unwilling to carefully read, with an open mind, documents like the diversity memo - then maybe you should refrain from criticising it.

> it needs to be pointed out that this type of journalism is absolutely not neutral

And actually is a lazy way to even hoodwink people. The correct way is to show a bias and then use the proverbial 'to be sure' statements but bury those later on where they are less likely to be noticed.

There are no neutral journalism. If you want a reporting of facts unbiased by opinions, it would be "viral Google employee memo on the subject of diversity recruitment." Any editorial on the matter would necessarily make a subjective evaluation.

I'm torn by the two sides. On one hand I see the rational and level headed language in the memo versus the reactionary bait-click headlines. On the other hand I sense a mens' rights argument at the core of the memo that isn't very organized. The memo argued against discrimination against men in the hiring process, then suggested creating roles that won't fit the stereotypical male. That's discrimination at the role creation process! If google followed that advice, the author would still have something to be against.

The central point of the memo, from what I read, was that any gender discrimination to hire more women in the workplace necessarily discriminates against the men that would have otherwise gotten the job. Sure he made some good ideas for how to hire more women. But no matter how reasonable the language he used to couch his message, the essence was still against diversity because it will hurt the job opportunities of men.

Another underlying assumption here is that the technical merits of a candidate is the overriding quality to be considered for hiring. And since the pool of qualified applicants are male dominated, then any bias in hiring women will hurt the obviously qualified men. If technical abilities follow a normal distribution (and why not?), then more highly qualified men will be discriminated.

However, technical ability is not the only overriding quality and Google is trying to take the diversity of the team into account during the hiring process. Thus, Google is taking a grander view of not just considering the individual merit of the applicant, but applicant's impact to the team composition as well. This is equivalent to someone in Overwatch who has high stats in a game that won't change his character/behavior even though he does not help the team. Say the player has high elimination stats because they are fighting away from the main fight where his team is at a disadvantage (say holding down the point).

This is a textbook case of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. People who agree with the memo focuses on the parts. They think "hire more great parts = better team." But team composition is actually more important. People who labels the memo as anti-diversity are in favor of team comp, whether they know it or not.

But personally, the most important point of diversity for me is the end of sausage fest at work. Group conversations with one dominant gender day in day out kind of suck. This applies to either gender.

> But personally, the most important point of diversity for me is the end of sausage fest at work. Group conversations with one dominant gender day in day out kind of suck. This applies to either gender.

Agree, but how do you know that you won't be the one sacrificed in the name of diversity? How does one fairly choose which member of the more prevalent gets sacrificed if there is limited headcount? How do you prove that diversity generates more value than stronger individual members regardless of identity?

> how do you know that you won't be the one sacrificed in the name of diversity?

Well, you don't. Just like you don't know whether you will be one of the ones to get rejected from a Google interview that has famously high false negative rates. It's an unfortunate fact of life.

There are studies that show diverse teams have advantages. Some of them are linked in this article: https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter

It's a bit disingenuous to say that those who agree with the memo focus only on individual merit and not team fit. Regardless of the importance of diversity to a given organization, every good interview process will evaluate how well a candidate will fit with an existing team and try to understand how that person will improve the team's performance.

Also, if I replace the term 'sausage fest' in your last sentence with 'clam bake' (apparently the opposite meaning), then it definitely comes off as sexist in my mind. I've worked with both genders throughout my career, and the only truth I've found is that you can't count on anyone to fit their gender's stereotypes with regards to personality. I've met plenty of men who are shy and quiet and plenty of women who are aggressive or assertive; counting on a person's gender to mix things up in a group setting is, in itself, sexist.

One of the things that really irked me was not only their editorialization of the entire thing to paint it like he was wrong, but also reformatting it, and then having circular links back and forth to motherboard like they were both in on it to misrepresent the entire thing. It was poorly laid out and intentionally misleading.

This article doesn't say anything about citations, unless I'm missing something. I've read the memo, "citations" (some of them hardly qualify) and all. "Anti-diversity" might be a little hyperbolic, but it's hard to argue it is anything else in good faith.

The author feels comfortable making the claim women are biologically more neurotic, in a professional setting, no less. His "citation" for this fact is Wikipedia. This is unimaginative sexist bullshit that everyone has heard before. That people feel the impulse to defend this is disgusting.

Whatever innate differences there are between men and women are small and nowhere near as big a factor in the gender-ratio as say, arrogant weirdos sending credos to their entire company declaring women unfit to work in their industry.

> The author feels comfortable making the claim women are biologically more neurotic,

Nope. "Neuroticism" is a technical term, a big-five personality trait. Everyone has it to some degree and having less is not necessarily better, just like all the other traits.

What you are getting all riled about is "neurotic", which is related to a psychiatric condition (although the term is apparently no longer used – who knew?)

> declaring women unfit to work

Yeah, he didn't do that.

Please calm down and read the actual text. If things seem weird or rile-worthy, maybe ask first. Or look.

I did a little writeup, http://blog.metaobject.com/2017/08/the-science-behind-manife... there are probably others that are better.

EDIT: language

I know what neuroticism is.


So why did you then use "neurotic" and get all riled up about it when the document says "neuroticism", which is (a) nothing to get riled up about and (b) a simple scientific fact (as best we know)?


Please stop now.

> The author feels comfortable making the claim women are biologically more neurotic, in a professional setting, no less. His "citation" for this fact is Wikipedia. This is unimaginative sexist bullshit that everyone has heard before. That people feel the impulse to defend this is disgusting.

Wikipedia might not be the most credible source, but the differences in big 5 personality traits between men and women are well documented.

[Here's a study that finds the same, looking at > 17,000 people from 55 different countries.](https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anu_Realo/publication/2...). There's plenty more on google scholar.

And you believe those differences to be meaningful? To programming? And appropriate to discuss with coworkers?

Apart from the clear goalpost-shifting occurring here ("this is unimaginative bullshit" [as in fictitious/incorrect?] -> "this is not meaningful to programming"), I can't help but be astonished at the last sentence. I know comparisons between Victorians and certain modern political movements are a slightly tired cliché by now, but it's difficult to not read it as something along the lines of "And appropriate to discuss in front of the children?".

Grow up, it's a workplace. People go there to make a living, not to be subjected to your half-baked political opinions. It's unprofessional.

I'm currently reading your comment here, at work.

I find your defensiveness and inflammatory remarks more unprofessional and unproductive then anything else in this thread.


If you disagree with someone, be civil - debate with logic and rationality.

What happens with all the correct things that are now inappropriate to say in this brave new world?

"When"? We're pretty much already there now.

Thank God I'm getting old and will be exiting the workplace (relatively) soon. Repeating lies out of fear for your job is corrosive to the soul.

I feel you, but as someone who's in the earlier part of my career, it's honestly not that bad once you learn more about the contours of how it works. There are plenty of people like us who weren't stupid enough to buy into "ignore your capacity for rational thought, believe this by fiat"; they just know not to talk about it in case the person they're talking with is one of the dumb ones.

If anything, IME watching people fall into this trap is a pretty reliably useful indicator of someone's intelligence. I tried it the last few days with a handful of people with whom I'd never discussed politics: "Did you hear about that Google manifesto thing?". I tried it with 8 different people both at and outside of work, and every single time, the people who were uncritically outraged were the ones who I already knew were pretty stupid. Not a single person that I already knew was intelligent had this kind of wild-eyed negative reaction to a guy saying "maybe we shouldn't assume that differences in the employee population aren't due to differences in the input population".

FWIW, my personal best guess is that what biological differences there may be between men and women aren't sufficient to explain the tech gender gap. I just think that it's fucking insane to pretend that the science has conclusively shown that there are no such differences and to attack a guy who dares mention them. The notion that scientists can talk freely about something but laymen can't scares the shit out of me.

what adjectives would you find for the following comment....

'The study findings of increased prefrontal cortex blood flow in women compared to men may explain why women tend to exhibit greater strengths in the areas of empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate concern. The study also found increased blood flow in limbic areas of the brains of women, which may also partially explain why women are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and eating disorders.


Where did you read the memo? Gizmodo lied and claimed to present the whole memo, when they didn't.

What pains me is before reading this article I was slightly biased because of previous articles.

Actually it doesn't pain me... it really pisses me off that so many journalist are fooling people... particularly me.

When I read the bloomberg article (which I submitted to HN and now I want to just bang my head on the table for doing it) I was actually slightly siding with Google. Even though I was constantly telling myself "lets see the memo before judging" I could feel myself making a biased assumption.

I'm so annoyed with myself.

I feel the same. When I first read the censored Gizmodo version, I thought to myself, "Whoah, this guy is making up too many assumptions without any references!" Later, when I found the original version with references, I felt a bit stupid for judging him.

For me it was the other way around. I was aware of the references, so I just nodded and moved on, not realizing how incendiary some of these things sound when you don't have the context.

For example, "neuroticism" being just a technical term for a normally varying personality trait, not "mental illness".

Yeah, I was surprised to see that Neuroticism was a technical term for a phenomenon with a well studied gender gap. If you don't know that it sounds pretty mean.

I've been there. Anybody who says that they've never been blinded by biased journalism or fallen for an internet hoax is lying to you, and possibly their own egos as well.

That being said, this episode is an excellent example of why it is always best to avoid taking "sides." When someone takes a "side", the newspapers, data brokers, social media companies, advertisers, and everyone else rejoice in the profits of "engagement." Meanwhile, precious time in this life is wasted on a trivial concern, forgotten within a month.

I see what you're saying. People have a natural tendency to form an us-vs-them mentality and form their own little tribes. It is an ideological extreme.

However, I believe that there exists a growing extreme on the opposite side of the spectrum that believes there is no right or wrong, and thus we need to be accepting of everything that everyone has to say, which goes too far in my opinion.

I believe that it stems from multiculturalism teaching people that all cultures(and thus values) are valid, which is true on a global scale, but ignores the fact that having a particular culture locally helps in defining what is right or wrong socially and form a communal cohesion. I understand this is controversial. If you disagree, please comment so I may learn the flaws in my argument.

This is an incredibly well-written article. I wish I had the emotional distance and mastery of english express myself with such grace.

Unfortunately for me (and everyone) it takes me a lot longer to find the exact words for my frustrations in a situation like this. So I end up wanting to say inflammatory accusations like "PC-group-think witch-hunt," which captures my anger but doesn't really convince anybody on the other side (but rather escalates the tension).

The author cleverly brings both sides together by picking a starting point we all agree "Accuracy in journalism matters" and dissecting how that value was compromised [in this particular case] in order to promote another value: "Diversity matters."

Paul Graham describes such a technique in his seminal essay.


One way to do this is to ratchet the debate up one level of abstraction. If you argue against censorship in general, you can avoid being accused of whatever heresy is contained in the book or film that someone is trying to censor. You can attack labels with meta-labels: labels that refer to the use of labels to prevent discussion. The spread of the term "political correctness" meant the beginning of the end of political correctness, because it enabled one to attack the phenomenon as a whole without being accused of any of the specific heresies it sought to suppress.


Sometimes I think Conor Friedersdorf is my hero. He regularly turns out articles on prickly topics with a cool, compassionate tone.

>"Donald Trump campaigned on the promise of more jobs for working-class Americans. In service of that end, he has proposed canceling free-trade agreements, building a wall to keep out immigrants, and eliminating lots of environmental regulations. Critics who avow that they favor more jobs for the working class, but oppose achieving more jobs through those specific means, are not described as “anti-job,” especially when they suggest specific alternatives for job-creation. Even if their alternatives would result in fewer jobs than the Trump administration’s plans, that still wouldn’t make a writeup of their proposal “an anti-job memo.”"

Great point. While reporting on this memo isn't 'fake news', it is an example of reactionary, knee jerk, click bait journalism, which is a pernicious problem that stifles nuanced debate, and is probably doing more damage to our society than literal 'fake news'.

Yeah, when I read through the HN comments from the Bloomberg post, I couldn't believe how many people spoke about this guy as though he was an actual Nazi. I can't imagine anyone honestly reading that article and coming to that conclusion. It's almost like once someone signals that this guy is The Bad Guy, reason and individual thought go out the window. Of course, I imagine those folks would disagree with my characterization (and probably make all manner of insinuations about my character or allegiances), which is admittedly not very charitable. That said, there are only so many times you can watch the same pattern of events unfold...

EDIT: In case people don't know what I mean by "pattern of events", I'm thinking of cases like the Christakis/Yale fiasco where people make reasonable, respectable, constructive critiques of progressive values and are met with popular outrage.

Seriously, it sounds like the author of this article is the first journalist who actually read the article in full and reflected on its contents. Unfortunately, it's a few days too late - the rest already spread wrong summaries, the misinformation has been spread, and the author of the memo fired.

I think you are giving all the click-bait writers far too much of a benefit of doubt. Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that they don't know what they are doing.

They know exactly what they are doing, and what they are doing is creating outrage and profiting from it in this eyeball-click-ad driven journalism economy.

Very few are going to have the wherewithal to forego hundreds or thousands of dollars in ad revenues for the sake of a slightly more gently or fairly worded headline or article. The incentives just do not match up.

Yep, and sadly even major news orgs like CNN are doing this now. Case in point:

"Google CEO cuts vacation short to address controversial memo that argued women aren't biologically fit for tech jobs "


"A Google engineer argued that women aren't biologically fit for tech jobs."


This is intentional. It's intended to capture attention from people who will feel a need to argue that the headline misrepresents the content of the memo (which is does).

Then CNN converts that emotionalism and clicks and comments into ad dollars.

It's exactly why the media LOVES any controversial "wedge" issues. They polarize people, and polarized people argue incessantly. And people who are arguing == views and ad dollars.

Or is it intentional by the leaders of CNN to try to side with Google on that case?

That is truly depressing. CNN used to be one of the last places to get non-ideological journalism. Looks like non-partisan journalism really is dead, as is the principle of charity.

Sundar Pichai (the CEO) did the same thing in his letter to employees:

"However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. [...] To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."


To those downvoting, this is relevant because it means that CNN is taking its wording from Pichai. It would have been more accurate to say, "Google CEO cuts vacation short to address controversial memo he says argued women aren't biologically fit for tech jobs" -- but one can understand why they just parroted his take on the thing.

It is a different kind of error than Gizmodo labeling the thing an anti-diversity screed.

> Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that they don't know what they are doing.

> They know exactly what they are doing...

Because you referenced one of the most oft-quoted blunders[1] of Rubio's 2016 primary campaign I can't tell if you're serious or not. It really detracts from the point you're trying to make.

[1] “And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Good catch :)

I deliberately referenced it because I wanted to convey that there was nothing implicitly wrong in the wording he (Marco Rubio) used, and that the blunder wasn't specifically about to the wording but the use to which it was put, and that the same wording _can_ be used properly too, as I hoped I did.

It was a blunder because he came across as robotic and overly scripted, reciting it word for word multiple times, even after Christie pointed it out.

People like kinkrtyavimoodh have a couple of catchphrases, which they repeat all the time instead of answering the question. /s

I've said this before, nice username.

I don't necessarily agree. I think a lot of writers probably read it in full and had a sense of its nuance, flaws, and intentions, and still elected to push the juicy and possibly inaccurate headline for their own, and their publications' own gain.

I think we're just at the point where thinkpieces criticizing the initial wave of thinkpieces are now vogue and profitable.

(FWIW, I believe the wave of misleading or negative coverage of this memo is partly the fault of its means of original publication and distribution. Right, wrong, or indifferent, the way in which unorthodox viewpoints are offered to the public can dictate how they're received and interpreted, and this was not "groomed" to be received well, regardless of the merit of its arguments or lack thereof.)

Agree. In my opinion the memo author was definitely hurt by the length of the memo. There's simply not enough fair minded people in the world who have the time to read such a lengthy missive, or folks are just too lazy these days when they are used to consuming their information in 140 characters or less.

It's important to distinguish between what the memo's author says, and what effect his words actually have. It is an anti-diversity memo, even if it isn't intended as one.

The author makes shaky statements about gender, reinforcing sexist stereotypes. The author applies rationalist disclaimers, which enables already-sexist readers to feel that their sexism is rational. And, most distressingly, the author asserts that Google made a mistake hiring many of the women who work there. Actively making your minority coworkers feel unwelcome is an anti-diversity behavior, and it was an obvious and predictable consequence of how he chose to communicate.

I don't claim to know the author's intent, or how he truly feels about the women he works with. But, regardless of whether he's actually opposed to diversity, we judge words by their consequences. These words are thoroughly anti-diversity in consequence, and judging them in a vacuum is dangerously naive.

> I don't claim to know the author's intent

What so many comments about this memo don't seem to understand is that it it isn't possible to derive the author's intent from the text of their work. The intent of the author isn't included when the reader interprets their work, because the author isn't there[1] to explain their intent. The reader only sees the work.

As you said, intent doesn't matter. When authoring a work, it's important to consider how the work might be interpreted.

[1] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathOfTheAuthor (apologies for using a tvtropes link. It was better than Google's other suggestions)

One of his recommendations was to emphasize intent over unintended offenses.

>> The intent of the author isn't included when the reader interprets their work, because the author isn't there[1] to explain their intent

This is not a recommendation, and it is not a value judgement. It's just a reality.

This could be overcome by and large with a modicum of research and critical thinking.

> ...a modicum of research and critical thinking.

You're assuming that each piece of text has only a single possible interpretation when "research and critical thinking" are applied to its interpretation.

This is so far from the truth I'm not really sure what to say.

For the current topic, see e.g., https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-bio... You'd be hard pressed -- or perhaps simply obstinate -- to claim this piece is devoid of "research" or "critical thinking".

Beyond the current topic, your opinion becomes so obviously false I really don't know what to even say. As a base-line example, let's take any pair of 5-4 SCOTUS opinions on a constitutional matter. I suppose it's possible that half of the supreme court justices (and often slightly different halves) are routinely incapable of critical thinking of research to the text of laws and of the consitution. But that seems like an exceptionally arrogant explanation.

Believing "only my reading of the text is possible if you're remotely capable of research and critical thinking" is, for an author, an extraordinarily enormous mistake.

No, it can't. This is a fundamental limit of language, because language itself - which you're using to accomplish your research - requires using imperfect symbols.

If you don't mind 100% spoilers for Davey Wreden's game "The Beginner's Guide", I highly recommend watching "The Artist is Absent"[1]. It's a surprisingly good introduction to semiotics, death of the author, and enunciation theory, which together explain why you can interpret the narrator of a work, which should never be confused with the author.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N6y6LEwsKc

Define sexism...

Is believing men and women on average have different hormone levels and generally speaking, this leads to different behaviors and proclivities, sexist?

Is admitting there is any difference between the two sexes, sexist?

Is using different pronouns for men and women sexist?

I honestly don't know where someone draws the line who finds this memo "sexist."

I haven't decided yet whether I think the memo is sexist. But I'm confident that, because of how it's written, sexist people who read it will feel validated in their sexism.

It uses the same core argument as sexism: women are less suited to certain tasks, perhaps biologically. And it reaches the same conclusion: we should roll back our pro-diversity and pro-empathy programs. A sexist person who reads this will therefore feel that it supports their views, and, because the argument seems rationalist, they'll conclude that their poor treatment of women is rationalist. That might not be the intent of the document, but it is a predictable outcome.

Words that validate sexist behavior, intentionally or unintentionally, contribute to the problem. Regardless of the merit of the underlying idea, or the valuable conversations it inspired, it's important to remember that the memo itself did harm. It's appropriate that some people are focusing on that.

This idea of avoiding saying something because of how horrible people might choose to interpret it is something I find, frankly, terrifying. This is going beyond just censorship and going into the realm of trying to censor reality.

Where do you draw the line on something like this? Are we allowed to publish statistics that show black people are proportionally more involved in crimes, or is this taboo because a white supremacist might use it to claim blacks are inherently criminal? What if you write something apparently neutral but some terrible person somehow finds a way to twist it to their ends? Do we get to condemn you ex-post-facto over this?

I'm not saying don't have these conversations. Rather, have them carefully, and choose your words with the consequences in mind. There are many good and thoughtful ways to talk about potential issues with Google's gender diversity programs, but instead this memo made some especially bad choices.

For one thing, the memo focuses on needlessly contentious issues, instead of sticking to actionable arguments. It's valid to say that decreasing stress in engineering and leadership positions might attract more women, because modern women tend that value that more. But framing it as a biological issue is hard to prove, and doesn't help support his logistical point. It only has the consequence of hurting people.

The memo also presumes that Google's full-time diversity experts haven't even thought of his concerns. He asserts that seeking out women necessarily lowers the hiring bar for them, instead of asking "How are we mitigating the risk that our pro-diversity push might itself introduce bias into our ideally gender-agnostic perf evaluations?" That's a valid question, and I'm sure Google's diversity team has answers, and I'm sure that some people wouldn't be satisfied with those answers. But jumping to the conclusion that Google's women must be less qualified than the men, just because he can't think of a way to mitigate bias in the hiring pipeline, is self-centered and disrespectful.

I'm very much in favor of a world where it's equally okay to express all ideas! But that doesn't mean we should be equally okay with all modes of expression. No matter which side we're on, we need to think first, then speak. Given the meta-thesis of the memo (especially the "prioritize intent" section), I'm not convinced that the author took much time to consider needs beyond his own.

> It's valid to say that decreasing stress in engineering and leadership positions might attract more women, because modern women tend that value that more. But framing it as a biological issue is hard to prove, and doesn't help support his logistical point. It only has the consequence of hurting people.

What it sounds like you're saying is that saying women are on average more sensitive to stress based on extensive scientific research which implies a strong biological basis, is contentious and hurtful. But then for some reason saying modern women tend to put more value on a stress-free environment, based on nothing but an unsupported assertion, is somehow better?

I don't have a crystal ball, but I suspect you're being naive and that the outrage would have been much the same no matter how he'd chosen to frame this statement. The very assertion that men and women have some innate differences that might be worth exploring seems to be tantamount to blasphemy -- particularly when coming from a man!

> The memo also presumes that Google's full-time diversity experts haven't even thought of his concerns. He asserts that seeking out women necessarily lowers the hiring bar for them, instead of asking "How are we mitigating the risk that our pro-diversity push might itself introduce bias into our ideally gender-agnostic perf evaluations?" That's a valid question, and I'm sure Google's diversity team has answers, and I'm sure that some people wouldn't be satisfied with those answers. But jumping to the conclusion that Google's women must be less qualified than the men, just because he can't think of a way to mitigate bias in the hiring pipeline, is self-centered and disrespectful.

This is just you projecting your presumed intentions on the author. At no point in the memo did he claim or imply that Google's women are less qualified than the men. The only paragraph that can really be taken to say that is the part about "lowering the bar" for diversity candidates; Which is, admittedly, an unfortunate choice of words in retrospect. However the same sentence clarifies that the bar is "lowered" by decreasing the false-negative rate for diversity candidates, meaning those that are accepted are still qualified at the same standards. The sentence also includes a reference for this claim, but this is unfortunately to an internal Google group so we don't know its contents.

On the other hand, right at the start of the document the author takes pains (including a big colorful picture to illustrate the point) to point out that "you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions," which should make it pretty clear that he's NOT claiming Google's female engineers are less qualified.

> I'm very much in favor of a world where it's equally okay to express all ideas! But that doesn't mean we should be equally okay with all modes of expression. No matter which side we're on, we need to think first, then speak. Given the meta-thesis of the memo (especially the "prioritize intent" section), I'm not convinced that the author took much time to consider needs beyond his own.

This is saying that one must choose his words like a politician and consider the reaction of the world at large when distributing a personal opinion document not intended for wide publication to a select group of individuals. The idea that one's career might hinge on using the proper newspeak in such a document is, frankly, terrifying to me. Do people have a right to be upset about his choice of wording or angry at his opinions? Sure, absolutely! But losing your career for this, over an opinion that is, arguably, not really harmful or hateful and expressed in a relatively considerate tone, is something else entirely.

Mm, thanks for calling out the false-negative thing! I think I misparsed that the first time around and got confused between decreasing false negatives and increasing false positives. That's embarrassing, sorry ^_^`

In any case, I think I made a mistake suggesting specific improvements to the memo; lemme pop off the stack a bit:

It's not okay to publish a document to your coworkers that will predictably make them feel unsafe. Full stop.

When you want to express an idea at work, you need to engage in empathy, and try to express yourself in such a way that your coworkers will still feel safe with you. If you can't figure out how to express an idea without hurting your coworkers, then, yeah, you don't get to express it unless you figure something out :/ That's an appropriate workplace policy, and I'm comfortable with the general idea that freedom of expression is subject to some conditions. I know not everybody agrees with that prioritization, though!

More importantly, I'm just tired of articles like this one dismissing the social consequences lens outright. There's more than one valid issue being raised in our community right now, and the importance of one doesn't invalidate the others. Let's have both conversations: how to enable expression of less common ideas, and how to ensure that we express them empathetically. If we approach the problem thoughtfully, I think we can optimize for both :)

(BTW I edited this comment a lot during the first 30 minutes, and pretty significantly changed its contents. Sorry if that ends up being an issue!)

I actually tend to mostly agree with you on this. I think the safest and most rational policy is just to avoid discussing sensitive topics at work so as not to risk creating a hostile atmosphere, and I don't consider this an unreasonable restriction on freedom of expression. Talk politics and immigration with your friends and family, not your teammates at the office.

My problem is that Google as a company, at least as far as the Mountain View campus goes, apparently disagrees. My understanding -- and it's possible I'm wrong -- is that Google supports and encourages openly discussing a variety of topics at work, and the internal tool he used to publish his memo was designed and used exactly for this purpose. (What Googlers apparently describe as "an internal-only Reddit.") If this is true then he was fired not for discussing inappropriate topics, but for holding opinions the hive-mind finds disagreeable.

Either you as a company support discussing sensitive topics in the office, or you don't. If you don't that should be made clear and enforced equally for everyone. If you do then you can't pick and choose which opinions you approve of based on what's popular, and expressing a dissenting opinion should not, at the very least, be a fireable offense!


Weird how race realists use the same template.

People of the different races are definitely different. Otherwise, why do people evolve to so different races? The white people may be better fit for higher latitudes, while the black people may tolerate more heat and sunshine.

In mentality, there may also be differences due to tens of thousands of years of different ways of gather food, even though those differences may be converged by education.

Denying existing differences is not leading to equality. Admit the reality and see if there's anything we can do to improve the situation.

Yeah, that's a good point! It's important to consider the truth of the underlying idea, as well as the consequences of how it was expressed—though I don't like that the blog post seems to give up on the latter problem just because it's less objective. Discussions about social values and social consequences are worth having, despite not being subject to pure rationalism.

Still, while both lenses are valid, I'm focusing on the consequences lens, because we're discussing an Atlantic article that tries to invalidate it. It's not misleading to call the memo "anti-diversity", if you're focusing on the memo's role as a social artifact rather than as a dissertation, and that's a valid perspective. Words often serve both roles, and it's important to consider both.

(Incidentally, I don't find the memo's argument to be especially sound, either, so it's not just that it was expressed carelessly—but that's sorta beyond the scope of this thread.)

>>It's not misleading to call the memo "anti-diversity"

if I had to summarize the memo with an "anti-..." prefix then I would say it's against artificially skewing the gender makeup of the workforce via preferential treatment of female applicants/employees over the discriminated male applicants/employees.

if that's what "diversity" means then I don't know on what logical basis you would be defending the "let's make sure we have a 50/50 gender makeup of the workforce even though the proportion in the applicant's pool is nowhere near that" position.

I myself (and from what I've read in that "manifesto" I believe this is author's position as well) welcome diversity - the 'IT sausage fest' is totally a downside - but not at the expense of ppl getting gender-discriminated.

It would have been much more fair to call it an "anti affirmative-action memo". Framing it as an "anti-diversity screed" is a pretty biased move, not to mention how they removed his supporting content as well. Certainly there are many who hold the opinion that "anti affirmative-action === anti diversity", which is a point worth debating separately, but I still find the framing used by most of the news articles very misleading.

This (conflating opposition to a process or movement for X with opposition to X) seems to be a common trick in the political discourse nowadays, and is unfortunately called out very rarely. We didn't hear many instances of "anti-jobs" as suggested in this article, but it seems like describing a variety of institutions as "anti-white" has been a right-wing staple since long before the emergence of well-connected Tumblr and Twitter rubes who could plausibly be described as such.

The author of the memo is basically saying the same thing that got Larry Summers axed as president of Harvard.

    Harvard University President Lawrence Summers [was fired] for 
    mentioning at a January 14 academic conference the entirely reasonable 
    theory that innate male-female differences might possibly help explain 
    why so many mathematics, engineering, and hard-science faculties 
    remain so heavily male.
Isn't the idea with free speech that you allow people to say things that you disagree with?

Or as someone else has already phrased it nicely:

    "After all, if freedom of speech means anything, it means a willingness 
     to stand and let people say things with which we disagree, 
     and which do weary us considerably."

i appreciate the article for pointing out a nuance often lost in this kind of situation: that teasing out positions and perspectives requires a careful reading, and summaries are often (intentionally) misleading.

but let's be clear: the memo was a political document (in the common sense of the word, rather than about government machinations). sure, james damore may have been trying to have an honest conversation (and honest discussion should totally be encouraged), but the guy's biases and position were clear right from the title onward. he was attempting to assert what he thought was a superior position and got shot down. now others who (secretly or otherwise) share some portion of that position feel vulnerable and defensive, and we get heated discussions driven by primal emotions using otherwise rational-sounding words. it's politics.

that's what the media is zooming in on, because that's where the charged emotions are. cynically, yes, that sells papers (or whatever), but less cynically, that's also where we collectively seem to want more discussion because the social norm is (potentially) shifting and not at all well-defined or collectively understood. the media didn't make a mistake so much as it instinctively cut right to the chase.

I'm pro affirmative action, and I honestly didn't read his message as "My position is superior". The central argument to me felt like he was trying to say he saw things differently, and there should be space for him to say that, not that he has the ultimate truth. I agree with that, even though I think he misunderstands how affirmative action works.

> biases and position were clear right from the title onward

What were those "biases" and "positions", pray tell?

> vulnerable and defensive

You mean those that lied about what the guy wrote and then attacked that made-up wrongthink?

It's actually about ethics in game journalism?

I'm going to join in on the chorus of people here who are voicing their displeasure with the way the modern media works. I'm a left winger but I feel much the same way about the media and the chattering class as the most noxious parts f the right wing. It's not so much that the media is biased in one direction or the other; it's that MSM has mostly abrogated it's responsibility to inform the public. the media, and the class of people that create its content, see themselves as influencers more than reporters.

As an example, take the performance (and I do mean that literally) of Jim Acosta when he made a speech disguised as a question to Stephen Miller about the poem on the Statue of Liberty. Who told Mr. Acosta that what the public wants from its journalists are speeches instead of substantive questions?

It's often said that politicians want to be movies stars. these days it seems that the journalists want to be politicians and it's become a problem that Americans all over the political spectrum are beginning to see.

>MSM has mostly abrogated it's responsibility to inform the public.

That's a myth.

The only real responsibility they have is to maximize profits for their shareholders.

I dispute that. Most major newspapers in the states have existed long before it was common for media outlets to be publicly traded companies. The term "fourth estate" dates back almost to the time of the French Revolution so while it's always been expected that newspapers need be profitable to exist, the interests of its readers and those that stand to profit from the paper have not always been so far apart as they are now.

It would seem that not much has really changed since then:

"To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, `by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.' Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it's benefits, than is done by it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowlege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Norvell, June 14th, 1807

All major Canadian media called the memo anti-diversity. So unprofessional and biased.

[1] https://www.google.ca/search?q=anti-diversity+canada+google

> to help him avoid alienating his audience,

The gender-diversity topic is too charged to accomplish that. Seriously, I would challenge essayists from either side of the debate to write any significant words on the subject that does not "alienate the audience".

Completely agree that the reporting on this memo would have benefited greatly by more careful reporting by the journalism community.

While that may be the case, however, it isn't like the uproar and misinterpretation couldn't have been predicted. Whatever the academic merit of the memo author's claims, the memo was thrown into a social context that was clearly primed for snap judgement.

Particularly regarding social issues, how we write is just as important as what we write. An effective argument connects and convinces, anticipating possible reactions and (mis-)interpretations of the reader.

The irony is that the memo is missing the necessary empathy and social awareness for the audience, qualities that the author attributes to women.

It's ironic that many of the comments here assume Gizmodo and others were acting out of malice to intentionally mislead their audience.

I don't know since I can't read their minds, but both options are troubling. If they did it for easy click-bait money, it's ethically bad. But if they did it on purpose, this is even worse, because it means they manipulate other narratives in the same way. If they can convince very smart HN readers, how totally helpless is the rest of the population?

Why is assuming journalists are unethical different from assuming Google engineers are sexist?

That's why I prefer not to assume anything.

Gizmodo is part of the Gawker Group; they've never been shy about slanting stories to get clicks.

The use of "malice" here seems ambiguous, and I'm having trouble finding an interpretation that makes sense to me. If you say that X does A out of malice, I can see it meaning

(1) X does A, and X expects that X doing A will have an outcome that is morally bad from X's point of view

(2) X does A, and if an arbitrary other person Y did A, X would expect it to have an outcome that is morally bad from X's point of view

(3) X does A, and you (the commenter) expect A to have an outcome that X would find morally bad

(4) X does A, and you (the commenter) expect A to have an outcome that you (the commenter) would find morally bad

(any others I missed?)

(1) seems like a strict definition of malice that is actually extremely rare in the wild (and I don't think anyone here has accused Gizmodo of), whereas (4) is catch-all but seems nearly indistinguishable from "Gizmodo did a bad thing" which is not a very ironic thing to say. (3) sounds more like an accusation of stupidity than of malice. (2) seems pretty close, but one might want to label it "hypocrisy" and it's not clear that it applies here - after all, it's not like the 10-something media outlets in the list who did roughly the same thing were visibly appalled at each other.

Maybe the interpretation should actually be something like

(2') X does A, and if an arbitrary other person Y did a thing A' that (you, the commenter? X?) deem(s) similar to A, then X would expect an outcome that X deems morally bad

(and natural candidates for A' would be right-wing "fake news" or HBD-style cherrypicking in the class of what the perpetrator themselves would perceive as "artistic embellishment and hyperbole to get across an essentially true and important point" but opposed parties would perceive as "intentional misleading"), but then the accusation of malice completely hinges on getting X themselves to agree that A and A' are actually similar. As far as I can tell, rejecting equivocation between extraordinary measures for the Good Cause and extraordinary measures for the Evil Cause is known to be fairly standard for the Social Justice movement, so it's unlikely that the comments in question would expect X to agree, and hence unlikely that the comments in question are implicitly accusing Gizmodo of acting out of malice.

I generally liked the memo, and I'm pretty aggressively pro-affirmative action. Some of the memo is factually wrong, but I think he tried to be measured, and I'm proud of him.

The sentence that popped out at me is this one:

"I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principled reasons for why it helps Google."

I think it's hard for women to understand this, because they are much more likely to have an intrinsic understanding of why pro-diversity social engineering makes sense. As a man, it has often not been obvious to me. I learned a long time ago to assume that women are right about gender stuff, and that assumption has done me extremely well. I've learned an incredible amount, and those acts of goodwill made women much more inclined to be gentle with me and explain things.

But I don't think institutionalizing that kind of trust is tactically feasible, and I'm not sure it would even be a good thing if it happened. Because I think pro-diversity policies will be strengthened, not weakened, if staff can form a rigorous story about how they help the company.

I believe affirmative action helps Google, so I don't think it will be impossible to tell that story, but it won't be easy. It will take work. Mostly because liberal circles don't really talk about it. Diversity is seen as a benefit to diverse people, and therefore good, 'nuf said, as the the Google VP quipped.

I think affirmative action is valuable for the reason the anonymous memo writer thinks it's problematic: because different people are different. I don't think if 50% of Google coders were women that Google would stay the same. I think it would become a very different because women have some differences from men in aggregate.

And so changing admission requirements to help more women get the jobs shouldn't necessarily be seen as lowering the admissions standards, it should be seen as changing the set of things that coders are allowed to focus on. And we should assume that we'll see a whole new influx of a different kind of men too, men who are more similar to the women in the middle of their bell curve, than the men at the middle of theirs.

But ideally the way that should happen is not by saying "let's take 50% women", but by saying "if we were to accept 50% more women, what new kinds of Googler would we be adding? How will those folks make Google stronger? How can we change our hiring criteria to find the best of that kind of Googler?" and yes, those criteria would bring in a lot more women, but they'd also bring in a smaller number of new men! And everybody involved would have an understanding of how Google was getting better. Those women would have more respect. Those men would be better appreciated, even as they were operating outside of old Google norms.

I will say, just ramming 50% more women into the culture is probably fine though. While I mostly agree with the memo's general thrust, that it would be better to do this a different way, I think the alarmism is a little out of place. It's certainly a problem that conservatives are afraid to speak up about gender issues, but I doubt that's Google's biggest culture problem right now.

I think the idea you are advocating, that they should change the nature of the job to make it more accommodating to a more diverse talent pool, is the kind of thing the memo was advocating. See the section titled "Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap".[1] In that section, he suggests making the work more cooperative instead of competitive and making part-time work first-class, among other things. He also suggests making the work more collaborative, which seems a lot like your "changing the things coders are allowed to focus on." He then goes on to note that doing this will also mean Google will diversify the kind of male that it gets, just like you do.

Or am I missing some difference in what you are suggesting and what the memo suggested?

1. http://diversitymemo.com/#reduce-gender-gap

Yes, I think our methodology is the same, but the memo seems to expect that Google will still be <50% women in that scenario, whereas I believe it will be brought to 50%. Which is why I don't see the quota system as a fundamental risk to Google, whereas he does.

What solicited the memo?

I'm not sure why anybody thinks his "intention" or "motivation" are important. Can somebody who thinks that say more?

Because one of his recommendations was to put a greater emphasis on intent?

OK, but that's begging the question (to use this phrase correctly, for once).

I intend to write the next generation search engine. Should Google reward me for that?

What this is all really about, when it get's boiled down, is the testing of the freedom of speech by using offense to rally the mob for censorship of a minority. If the oligarchy gets this style of democratic self-censorship past us, it's one more nail in the coffin of freepeoples everyone.

Apparently, I do not have strong standing from which to comment on this. I'm prone to neuroticism​. My bad. I would have never independently discovered this about myself without a Google guy to point it out.

Thanks Google dude!

This article is so well written I am left wondering what happens if the tide completely reverses and it becomes overwhelmingly clear that Google should not have fired him.

> To me, the Google memo is an outlier—I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.

How about every article or video about cryptocurrency, PRISM, AI, 'Data Science' and a litany of other topics in tech? I have seen almost no 'tech' journalism of any merit, so I'm not surprised to see sloppy coverage of another complex issue. But that shouldn't stop meaningful HN comment threads :)

The fact is, the memo does not simply put forth a question for debate, it treats a massive legacy of misogyny in our culture as a feature, not a bug. He really genuinely sees no problem with a world that pushes people into gender roles. In fact, he thinks we should optimize for it. It's a selfish tantrum thrown by someone feeling a lack of affirmation - disguised as vague argument that he really understands people, tech, and companies much better than his bosses.

If you helps for you to remove anything about identity in here: it's as if someone posted a cruel, snide rant in defense of GOTO statements, attacking OO programmers. Not only is he wrong, he made an extended case for the wrong argument and did it in a way that inflict maximum company damage.

So yeah it would be a big ol' red flag.

> Not only is he wrong

That's merely your opinion, which clearly can be seen from the comments here, has disagreement.

> he made an extended case for the wrong argument and did it in a way that inflict maximum company damage.

How did he inflict damage on the company?

Whoever leaked this internal memo did the damage, but I haven't seen any witch hunt or firing in that regard.

Strange, eh?

Why is this on the second page with 246 points in 1-2 hours? Seems strange...

HN has a couple of things that might be at play here:

1) Users flagged it. There are many reasons to flag a post - it's too political; the discussion is toxic; etc.

2) It set off the flame war detector. This is an algorithm that looks at stuff (who knows? Number of posts? Speed of posts? Depth of posts? Numbers of flags to comments? Amount of votes?) and penalises threads that trigger it.

3) In rare situations mods take action. The mods would be either dang or sctb, and they always say they've taken action.

Not sure if you'll see my reply, but this happens often to HN submissions on politically charged topics. The topic gets flagged to death. It's been like this for a long time.

Why wouldn't I be able to see your reply?


There are at least 3 other HN threads where people are deliberately misrepresenting what he wrote and implying malicious intent where none existed.

Can we at least keep this one for substantive meta-commentary?

Implicit in your comment is that any suggestion of malicious intent by the author is not substantive. That doesn't seem reasonable, given the context.

I think discussing implicit things in such context should be considered harmful. We should limit ourselves to considering only the original text at face value - because it's too easy for anyone to read their own implicit meaning into the text that reflects their own biases.

The context of this discussion, diversity in gender and race, already contains a lot of implicit meaning in the form of the historical development of the culture of discrimination. It's not at all harmful to acknowledge the long, deep history of the use of dog whistle language and malicious intent disguised as thoughtful rhetoric, especially by those who are in the position of power (men, whites, and especially white men).


This is precisely why we're stuck where we are in the first place. If you allow people to call "dog whistle language" and attribute "malicious intent disguised as thoughtful rethoric", you give everyone a fully general counterargument against anything. I could accuse you right now of using "dog whistle language" and there's literally nothing you can do to prove me wrong.

Those ideas are conversational equivalent of bioweapons. Once people start to use them, everyone loses.

>This is precisely why we're stuck where we are in the first place.

No it isn't. It's a failure to acknowledge the reality of society we live and the language that powers and enables the status quo. It's an uncomfortable truth and one that has been painstakingly dug up over decades, but for every two steps forward on this subject the powers that be cause us to take one step back. Your unwillingness to substantially acknowledge such realities is what is stagnating this conversation, because certain ideas and solutions need to be repeated over and over again and sometimes re-branded to make it more appealing to people who don't want to address the problems present in our society.

Here we have a "memo" that uses credible science but has conclusions and ideas completely detached from that science, and then when it is pointed out how incredibly shit his conclusions are, it suddenly becomes an issue about "free speech." It's pretty akin to the whole "states rights" branding that happens with certain other political conversations. It IS dog-whistle language and utilizing such language while pretending you're not, and even worse pretending like you're actually making a point, is incredibly counter-productive to advancing anywhere on gender/sexual issues for everyone. It's dishonest at worst and ignorant at best.

This whole topic has PG's psuedo-philosophical musing's stink all over it and it's quite nauseating to have to dig through it. It's the bullshit asymmetry principle in action.

No, that's not at all how dog whistle rhetoric applies. Please see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog-whistle_politics and particularly the section on the US.

What you're doing is, ironically, actually an attempt to shut down discussion. You're basically saying that an entire 50+ year historical record of politics in America isn't appropriate to bring up because, you claim, it might be used inappropriately to simply shut down debate.

That's not implied in what they said at all. It takes quite a bit of imagination to make that leap from 3 to all.

That's not apparent. Unless you subscribe to the wrong-headed notion mentioned in this article as well.

> the tradeoffs of getting to a staff of 50 percent men and 50 percent women would be worth it (a position implicitly shared by every company that doesn’t have gender parity in its workforce)

If I have 1 employee and I'm a woman, it has to be a man. Otherwise I am implicitly sharing some viewpoint about diversity. Nonsense.

The author took the "I'm not sexist, but..." approach to this. But sadly, because of that, people seem to think he's some kind of objective observer.

If you have to make that kind of declaration, then everything you say afterward contradicts it.

This whole "I'm not sexist, but" line or rejection is one of the most anti-intellectual things I've seen in my lifetime. It's literally the good old witch test. If you don't say it, you're sexist because you didn't deny it. If you say it, you're sexist because obviously a sexist would deny being one.

Not weighing in on the broader issue here or, necessarily, why the author included that bit (see what I'm doing?) but pedantically qualifying one's position and every single clause to the point of absurdity is a style people learn when writing for online audiences, because something about reading text online makes people even worse readers than they ordinarily are, which is saying something, while also making them feel like well-informed experts on every conceivable topic who definitely need to comment on the thing they just read and (generously) half-understood, while also for some reason assuming the writer is some kind of actual fairy tale monster until proven otherwise.

Above sweeping statements intentionally left without pedantic qualification because it accurately expresses my thoughts on the matter as written. Deal with it, Internet.

So there's no need to evaluate the argument, only to parse for key signals in the rhetoric?

Thanks for saving me time in my future critical reading!

I evaluated it. I read the manifesto in its entirety.

He starts off by saying he's not against diversity, but then spends the rest of the paper demonstrating the exact opposite, and then justifies it by claiming that men and women are biologically different, and that a lack of diversity is ok because of that, or that any perceived discrimination is ok, because it's not really discrimination.

And he uses the issue of "dialog" as a smokescreen. It's the same kind of tactic used by creationists wanting to "teach the controversy." They don't really want to honestly debate the merits of each position.

This isn't dialog, nor does he want dialog. It's simply him trying to justify his prejudice, and railing at "PC culture" for not letting him do so.

> I evaluated it. I read the manifesto in its entirety.

Looking forward to your solid rebuttals then! Woo!

> He starts off by saying he's not against diversity


> but then spends the rest of the paper demonstrating the exact opposite

Ummm, okay... You've got a positive assertion here, so you must have something solid here to back up your opinion, right?

> ..and then justifies it by claiming that men and women are biologically different... ...It's simply him trying to justify his prejudice, and railing at "PC culture" for not letting him do so.

Isn't that exactly what you're doing in your comment? Got your own narrative going on, assuming the intent of the author...

> This isn't dialog, nor does he want dialog.

> It's simply him trying to justify his prejudice,

> They don't really want to honestly debate the merits of each position.

Like holy shit you spent the entire comment doing the exact thing you complain about the author doing.

This is the sort of mindset that kills progress, the inability to flirt with the concept of being disillusioned and truly question your own stance and bias. Its like you "mean well" and that's all that matter to you.

Idk man, you can't judge others on their ACTIONS and then only judge yourself on your INTENT.

See, for me that happens when you have to lie about what the other person said to make your point.


What are the chances anyone at Google read the Memo as carefully as this author did before persecuting James Damore?

I suspect the contents of the memo had little to do with Google's official reaction to it.

Stop the presses. You mean to tell me the major media organizations used a misleading headline and description for something highly politicized?! I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell ya.

Language and gender nit-pick: having men and women at 100% parity is not gender diversity, it is gender-binary. You would have to hire a lot more non-binary-gendered people for it to be diverse.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if non-binary-gendered people are over-represented in tech.

(This is just an impression I have based on things I've read in the past, so I can't be sure.)

True fact: saying "I'm not a racist but..." makes anything you say afterwards definitely not racist.

Prefacing an argument with "But before you guys mistakenly think that I'm racist - remember - I have black friends" is not the most important point in an argument.

It is, arguably, the least important one. So much so, that it is a non-sequitur.

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