Saturday, 9 September 2017

Tetley's Tempest

It's been a few weeks since the storm brewed up in the Google tea cup, so I suspect it's now "safe" - to a point - to weigh in.

I am a participant from time to time on the on-line Q and A site called Quora (allow this to be another pitch - it's really an excellent medium, even just to lurk). I recently was asked a question directly by one of my "followers" about the now infamous "manifesto" of former engineer Mark Damore, and his subsequent firing.

Regarding the Google “anti-diversity screed,” do the angry people asking for the author's firing believe people shouldn't be allowed to have a measured debate about the subject or the points in the letter?

The 'top' response is from an actual Google employee called Daniel Tunkelang); it is terse but ultimately water tight.

My problem is, I don't think he actually believes his own answer.

I was out of the country in Kenya for the weeks when this Tetley Tempest blew up. 

Isn’t it obvious that the answer to your question is “yes” ? 

I am not going to argue that Google, a private employer for whom people sign at-will contracts of employment, does not have the right to decide what sort of internal speech it will allow, and which it will proscribe.

Of course they do. 

Mr Tunkelang (the Googler) gives basically a mic-drop answer:

Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences.

Let’s set aside whether the claims in the so-called “manifesto” are true or false (which, if we are being honest, is beside the point). I don’t *know* that the disparities in male/female engineers is due to some biological difference. I don’t *know* that they aren’t for that matter. 

And neither do you.

It’s irrelevant.

The author really should know the culture at Google (and elsewhere here in Silicon Valley) better than to be the nail that sticks out. I have many friends at other companies (e.g., Apple, Facebook, Twitter) who almost in unison tweeted, posted, and blogged their alignment that Damore (the author) not only had to go from Google, but in fact, should never work in the Valley anywhere, ever again.

The reaction was damned close to unanimous.

I find it hard to believe that Damore was unaware what a ruckus his comment would cause, and he should not have been shocked that he was fired. I would not be surprosed to find him Doxxed and later, his apartment surrounded by angry people with whatever the Left use in lieu of Wal-Mart tiki torches.

Where I part ways with Mr Tunkelang and others is, I don’t think that they actually believe what they’ve written.

Imagine the opposite - where a relatively consevative company (I dunno. Is “Hobby Lobby” still in business) had a very opinionated young  employee whom it discovered had written some sort of manifesto talking about the need to be less religious, complaining that the overtly Christian tone of many of her colleagues was backwards or off-putting or whatever.  Suppose that a couple of her very strongly pious colleagues announced that they were so offended that they stayed home from work.

The CEO got hold of it and decided that her comments were sufficiently anti-religious and hostile that she was creating a hostile environment, and fired her.

Do you imagine, for one second, that most of those who openly called for the professional defenestration of Damore would say that Hobby Lobby has the right to decide for itself what is and is not hostile, and fire her?

Be honest. Any hands up?

I do not know Mr Tunkelang at all, but I can say that of those on social media whom I do know that the answer is “no.” In fact, several were quite upset when people decided to boycott the Dixie Chicks for insulting comments about President Bush. These were people, mind you, not asking that the Dixie Chicks be “fired” (not even sure how one would do that in any case), but who condemned people for violating Nathalie Maines’s free speech rights because they said they would not buy her records.

The same people who now demand that some NFL franchise hire Colin Kaepernick - a guy who was the backup for a team that went 2–14 just a few years ago demanded that the San Francisco Giants void the contract of pitcher Mark Dewey when he refused to wear a red ribbon on his jersey in 1996.

I have lived in the Bay Area for the past 25 years, save for a period in Paris, and it is just empirically true that there are just certain opinions that one is not really allowed to voice out loud if one values his or her career. Punishment is swift, and it is unmerciful.

I understand very well that companies have a right to decide whom they will and will not employ. And I agree, completely, that freedom of speech and freedom from consequences are not the same.
But I do not think that that maxim should be so fluid and situational as some would allow it to be.

The late Bill Buckley once said, of alleged liberalism:

Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.

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