Intolerable

I really should know better than to 386 myself, but this manifesto from a (former) Googler has me furious.

Oh, first of all, let me just get past any inevitable whinging that I’m not bothering to refute the bullshit contained therein. In the spirit of Brandolini’s law, here are some thorough debunkings:

Okay, with that out of the way, let me get to what really grinds my gears about this.

First off, there’s the contents of the document itself. It is reprehensible. It sets out to prove a biological link between a person’s gender and their ability to work at Google. It fails miserably, as shown in the links above, but it is cleverly presented as though it were an impartial scientific evaluation (I’m sure it’s complete coincidence that the author just happens to be a man). It begins by categorically stating that the author is all for diversity. This turns out to be as accurate as when someone starts a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but…”

The whole thing is couched in scientism that gives it a veneer of respectability. That leads me to the second thing I’m upset about, and that’s the reaction to the document.

Y’know, it’s one thing when someone’s clearly a troll. It’s easy—and sensible—to dismiss their utterances and move on. But when you see seemingly-smart people linking to the manifestbro and saying “he kind of has a point”, it’s way more infuriating. If you are one of those people (and when I say people, I mean men), you should know that you have been played.

The memo is clearly not a screed. It is calm, clear, polite, and appears perfectly reasonable. “Look,” it says, “I’m just interested in the objective facts here. I’m being reasonable, and if you’re a reasonable person, then you will give this a fair hearing.”

That’s a very appealing position. What reasonable person would reject it? And so, plenty of men who consider themselves to be reasonable and objective are linking to the document and saying it deserves consideration. Strangely, those same men aren’t considering the equally reasonable rebuttals (linked to above). That’s confirmation bias.

See? I can use terms like that to try to make myself sound smart too. Mind you, confirmation bias is not the worst logical fallacy in the memo. That would the Texas sharpshooter fallacy (which, admittedly, is somewhat related to confirmation bias). And, yes, I know that by even pointing out the logical fallacies, I run the risk of committing the fallacy fallacy. The memo is reprehensible not for the fallacies it contains, but for the viewpoint it sets out to legitimise.

The author cleverly wraps a disgusting viewpoint in layers of reasonable-sounding arguments. “Can’t we have a reasonable discussion about this? Like reasonable people? Shouldn’t we tolerate other points of view?” Those are perfectly sensible questions to ask if the discussion is about tabs vs. spaces or Star Wars vs. Star Trek. But those questions cease to be neutral if the topic under discussion is whether some human beings are genetically unsuited to coding.

This is how we get to a situation where men who don’t consider themselves to be sexist in any way—who consider themselves to be good people—end up posting about the Google memo in their workplace Slack channels as though it were a topic worthy of debate. It. Is. Not.

“A-ha!” cry the oh-so-logical and thoroughly impartial men, “If a topic cannot even be debated, you must be threatened by the truth!”

That is one possible conclusion, yes. Or—and this is what Occam’s razor would suggest—it might just be that I’m fucking sick of this. Sick to my stomach. I am done. I am done with even trying to reason with people who think that they’re the victimised guardians of truth and reason when they’re actually just threatened by the thought of a world that doesn’t give them special treatment.

I refuse to debate this. Does that make me inflexible? Yep, sure does. But, y’know, not everything is worthy of debate. When the very premise of the discussion is harmful, all appeals to impartiality ring hollow.

If you read the ex-Googler’s memo and thought “seems reasonable to me”, I hope you can see how you have been played like a violin. Your most virtuous traits—being even-handed and open-minded—have been used against you. I hope that you will try to use those same traits to readdress what has been done. If you read through the rebuttals linked to above and still think that the original memo was reasonable, I fear the damage is quite deep.

It may seem odd that a document that appears to be so reasonable is proving to be so very divisive. But it’s that very appearance of impartiality that gives it its power. It is like an optical illusion for the mind. Some people—like me—read it and think, “this is clearly wrong and harmful.” Other people—who would never self-identify as sexist in any way—read it and think, “seems legit.”

I’m almost—almost—glad that it was written. It’s bringing a lot of buried biases into the light.

By the way, if you are one of those people who still thinks that the memo was “perfectly reasonable” or “made some good points”, and we know each other, please get in touch so that I can re-evaluate our relationship.

The saddest part about all of this is that there are men being incredibly hurtful and cruel to the women they work with, without even realising what they’re doing. They may even think think they are actively doing good.

Take this tweet to Jen which was no doubt intended as a confidence boost:

See how it is glibly passed off as though it were some slight disagreement, like which flavour of ice cream is best? “Well, we’ll agree to disagree about half the population being biologically unsuitable for this kind of work.” And then that’s followed by what is genuinely—in good faith—intended as a compliment. But the juxtaposition of the two results in the message “Hey, you’re really good …for a woman.”

That’s what I find so teeth-grindingly frustrating about all this. I don’t think that guy is a troll. If he were, I could just block and move on. He genuinely thinks he’s a good person who cares about objective truth. He has been played.

A nasty comment from a troll is bad. It’s hurtful in a blunt, shocking way. But there’s a different kind of hurt that comes from a casual, offhand, even well-meaning comment that’s cruel in a more deep-rooted way.

This casual cruelty. This insidious, creeping, never-ending miasma of sexism. It is well and truly intolerable.

This is not up for debate.

Have you published a response to this? :

Responses

Webrocker

Spot-on about that ex-googler’s “manifesto” and its layers of reasonability around an intolerable core.

(…) It may seem odd that a document that appears to be so reasonable is proving to be so very divisive. But it’s that very appearance of impartiality that gives it its power. It is like an optical illusion for the mind. Some people—like me—read it and think, “this is clearly wrong and harmful.” Other people—who would never self-identify as sexist in any way—read it and think, “seems legit.” I’m almost—almost—glad that it was written. It’s bringing a lot of buried biases into the light.(…)

adactio.com

# Posted by Webrocker on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 7:25am

Vasilis

Brilliant explanation of why this “manifesto” from a (former) Googler is not up for debate. Read it if you disagreeadactio.com/journal/12658

# Posted by Vasilis on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 12:46pm

Jan Wessel Hovingh

This is exactly what I thought: ” It sets out to prove a biological link between a person’s gender and their ability to work at Google.”

James

This isn’t explanation. It’s just anger. And pain. And exhaustion. How will humanity reconcile divides if everyone just spits fire?

# Posted by James on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 5:22pm

espen

Hvis du er en av de som tenkte “vi må jo debattere med han Googleren med manifestet”. Du har blitt played brorsanadactio.com/journal/12658

# Posted by espen on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 6:33pm

Vasilis

It’s much more than just anger. There are some excellent arguments in there about why certain things are not up for debate.

# Posted by Vasilis on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 6:41pm

James

I see dialogue as the only path to reconciliation. Otherwise there is only continued divisiveness. But I appreciate not all will agree.

# Posted by James on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 7:35pm

Kiki

“When the very premise of the discussion is harmful, all appeals to impartiality ring hollow.” adactio.com/journal/12658

# Posted by Kiki on Friday, August 11th, 2017 at 7:48am

Bleistifterin

danke für den link. Nützt zwar nichts, aber habe ihn unter den unsäglichen Faz Artikel gepostet

Peter Molnar

Everything is up to debate. Question everything moves the world forward. There are indeed problems with stating and concluding things, but ‘not up for debate’ is just as wrong as those. This is irrelevant to the contents of the memo.

Luke Youngblood

What baffles me is that Damore has no comprehension of the vast amount of harm he has done to tech workers everywhere. 1/2

.- .---- .---- -.--

👍🤙👍👍👍👍👍👍🤙👍🤙👍🤙👍👍🤘🤘🤘🤘🤙👍🤙👍👌👌👌👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👍👍🤘🤙👍👌👏👏👌👍🤘👌👍👏👌👍👍👍👍👍👏👏👏👏👏👏👍🤘🤙👍👌👏👌👍🤙🤘🤙👍🤙🤘👍🤙🤘🤙👍🤘🤙👍🤙🤘👍👍@adactio 👍adactio.com/journal/12658

pauljacobson.me

Skip to contentPaul Jacobson Life and its many opportunities MenuAbout Photos Contact me Privacy Statement Search for: Mindsets/Policy issues The James Damore memo can’t negate talented women or their work Posted on 2017-08-10 by Paul / 1 Comment What I find disturbing about the James Damore memo about men’s and women’s comparative capabilities (aside from the memo itself) is that its publication seems to negate women’s daily achievements in the eyes of so many men who read it.Even the mighty pen can’t change a reality that talented women create each day. It can’t undo the extra work that women have to do just to appear comparable to men in men’s estimations[1]. Anyone who agrees with Damore’s conclusions about women’s abilities based on biology, even just a little, clearly needs to look up once in a while, and pay attention to what women are actually accomplishing. A memo doesn’t negate talented women or the work they do. Although, we can’t say the same for its proponents’ link to reality. Postscript: Also read Jeremy Keith’s post titled “Intolerable“. It can’t even offer a compelling explanation for why men’s estimations have any real value. ↩ Share this: Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window) Share on Skype (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window) Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window) Like this: Like Loading… accomplishments, biology, gender parity, google+, james damore, men, women Paul Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid View all posts by Paul → Post navigation Older post A little Firefox nostalgia Newer post A reminder how to use a semicolon You might also like 1 Comment Paul says: 2017-08-12 at 11:12 Paul mentioned this article on pauljacobson.me. Reply What do you think? Cancel reply Search for: Let’s connect Message @pauljacobson Being social View pauljacobson’s profile on Facebook View pauljacobson’s profile on Twitter View jacobson_p’s profile on Instagram View paulj’s profile on LinkedIn View pauljacobson’s profile on GitHub View pauljacobson’s profile on Google+ View pejrm’s profile on Flickr View pauljacobson’s profile on WordPress.org Recent Posts Celebrating Women in Tech with the awesome #WITBragDay meme A reminder how to use a semicolon The James Damore memo can’t negate talented women or their work A little Firefox nostalgia Digitized 78rpm records now on Internet Archive Follow this blog follow us in feedly Subscribe to posts Subscribe to comments Recent Comments Johnny on The tools I use to be productive with ADHD nuclearpengy on My blog-Twitter stats synchronicity nuclearpengy on My Feedly wishlist nuclearpengy on Digitized 78rpm records now on Internet Archive nuclearpengy on A reminder how to use a semicolon Recent tweets My Tweets Subscribe for email updates Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Email Address #hoverlove Sharing #hoverlove for HoverJust sharing a little love for Hover, my awesome domain name registrar. My Gravatar profile PaulPaul Enthusiast, writer, strategist and photographer. Inbound Marketing Specialist. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid Verified Services View Full Profile → Content license Creative Commons Licence Paul Jacobson’s blog content by Paul Jacobson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://pauljacobson.me/contact-me/. Archives Archives Select Month August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 March 2005 February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 Themes ThemesSelect Category Applications Art Blogs and blogging Books Business and work Creative expression Design Devices Education Entertainment Events and Life Film Food and Drink Games Legal Media Mindsets Miscellany Mobile Tech Music People Photography Podcasting Policy issues Politics and government Publishing Science and nature Semantic Web Social Web Spirituality Sports Telecoms Television Travel and places Tutorials Useful stuff Web/Tech Wellbeing Writing Subscribe for email updates Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Email Address Meta Log in Entries Really Simple Syndication Comments Really Simple Syndication WordPress.org Try Media Temple Powered by Media TempleWhy is this here? I recently moved this site to Media Temple and I like it so much, I want to share the love. This is a referral link so I do benefit when you click. Then again, so do you. © 2017 Paul Jacobson Powered by WordPress | Theme: Graphy by Themegraphy %d bloggers like this:

# Sunday, September 10th, 2017 at 9:10pm

9 Likes

# Liked by Ólafur Sverrir on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 2:50am

# Liked by Hugh Isaacs II 🇺🇸 on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 2:51am

# Liked by Ivan Wilson on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 2:51am

# Liked by Beyoncé Owles on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 12:05pm

# Liked by Keith J. Grant on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 5:01pm

# Liked by Jason LeMoine on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 7:25pm

# Liked by Michelle Boese-Empey on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 8:44pm

# Liked by DF (Duane) Hobbs on Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 at 4:19pm

# Liked by Charles Stanhope on Monday, August 21st, 2017 at 5:37pm