Google and its terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week in full

Discriminatory highlights from hell


Another organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, also added his expert view – which was there really isn't any noticeable difference between men and women in the context of a job developing software for Google (or, really, anywhere).

"I think it's a travesty when discussions about data devolve into name-calling and threats," he argued. "As a social scientist, I prefer to look at the evidence."

Those defending Damore pushed an article published on a website that specializes in promoting controversial views (example lead story: Should We "Stop Equating 'Science' With Truth"?)

In that article, three social psychologists and a "science writer who has a PhD in sexual neuroscience" were asked about the memo and said variations on the same theme: that Damore had accurately summarized the studies he had referenced. They disagreed as to whether it held any implications for Google but did note that people on the other side of the face had been throwing around inaccuracies just as joyfully and unpleasantly as those on Damore's side.

But none of these reasoned responses attracted a fraction of the attention as the pitched battles online.

By Wednesday, the row seemed all-consuming: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, tech news sites, and even broader media outlets were saturated. Any new details, however, were few and far between, so the stories became about the fight itself.

Google workers, including its new diversity veep Danielle Brown, locked their Twitter feeds out of sight to escape the angry mob. Googlers who protested against the infamous memo complained their names and contact details were being leaked to and posted on right-leaning blogs by fellow staffers, encouraging online trolls to harass them.

Instant experts

If it all felt too much for you, you weren't alone. At the same time as the abuse swirled around online, President Donald Trump appeared the join the madness, making incredibly aggressive – and false – statements about improvements to the US nuclear program.

When Stephen Schwartz was aggressively challenged on Twitter after explaining that "literally nothing has happened in the last 201 days to increase the overall power of the US nuclear arsenal" – directly repudiating Trump's claims – he felt obliged to point out who he was: "I'm a nuclear weapons and weapons policy expert specializing in US nuclear weapons. It is literally my job to know. What's your expertise?"

That exchange was immortalized by others who called it "peak Twitter". But, bizarrely and disturbingly, it only served to make him a target for others who simply continued questioning his knowledge.

Even though nuclear weapons and diversity hiring could not appear to be two issues further apart, in the revolving whirlwind that is uninformed opinion online, they felt one and the same. The constant online fighting became pushed as an Us vs Them showdown, even though plenty of us wanted it to just go away.

"The Alt-Right Finds a New Enemy in Silicon Valley," exclaimed the New York Times. "When James Damore, a Google engineer, was fired this week for writing a 10-page manifesto… it might have seemed like the end of a bizarre, short-lived morality tale. But for the alt-right, the battle was just beginning."

And then, just as things threatened to die down, Damore was persuaded to give an interview to a podcaster who has built a YouTube following by promoting the very same kind of views that the sparked Damore's document in the first place.

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