Opinion

Media Misses The Mark In Botched Coverage Of Google Memo

The media coverage of a memo sent by a Google employee that led to his firing badly mischaracterized the memo as an “anti-diversity screed” when in reality it was neither a “screed” nor “anti-diversity,” but a well reasoned argument questioning the efficacy of Google’s diversity policies.

Barstoolsports.com referred to the memo in their headline as an “‘Anti-Diversity’ Email” sent out to “40,000 Co-Workers Explaining Why He Dislikes Women.” Believe it or not, even Fox News hopped on the anti-diversity headline bandwagon, along with just about every other news organization.

CNN originally followed suit, but changed the phrase “anti-diversity memo” in their headline to “controversial memo” about a half an hour later, perhaps after being one of the first networks to have read it.

The memo’s argument centered on that fact that disparities between genders in the tech industry cannot be blamed solely on sexism or bias, but inherent differences between men and women and how it may affect their differing career choices must be taken into account. “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes” begins the memo.

Many news organizations made broad-based assumptions about the contents of the memo, using their imaginations to fill in the blanks. Some just dipped their toes in the world of make-believe; others took the plunge entirely. The media coverage was so fraught with misrepresentations of the memo, even left-leaning publication The Atlantic had to draw a line in the sand.

“Classic nerd. Lashing out at women because he can’t get one” wrote Barstool, referring to the now fired Google employee, James Damore, as the “anti-women” guy. Whether or not Damore is a nerd or capable of “getting” a woman may or may not be true, but it is actually a baseless claim confused for a refutation of his arguments.

Over at Axios, it presented an unfair, and oversimplified description of the memo’s argument as “men are more genetically apt to be good engineers than are women.”

The problem according to Axios is that Google and the rest of the tech industry “is comprised of people who live in America” and because of this “it is prone to many of the same cultural flaws inherent in other industries and communities. Sexism. Racism. Intolerance of dissenting views.” America, according to Axios, is sexist, racist and intolerant.

Ironically, media reports displayed intolerance towards the arguments made in the memo, choosing to mischaracterize it rather than refute the points, or address its position. Google fired Damore as a result of the memo, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai called it “offensive.”

The author, James Damore, explicitly states he is not against more gender diversity at Google, but he is against the current means Google has employed to achieve it. The purpose of the memo, writes Damore, is to create an “open and honest discussion with those who disagree [which] can highlight our blind spots and help us grow.” Hardly an anti-diversity screed, but one suggesting a different course to achieving greater diversity.

At one point in the memo, Damore reiterates, “I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad.”

Damore took issue with Googles’ singular focus on “unconscious bias” towards “race and gender” while seldom considering “moral biases.” Googles political crusade to create a more diverse workforce has silenced many and “created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed” according to Damore.

The memo explicitly rejects using discriminatory means to reach a more politically palatable outcome and provides arguments for what Google can do to increase gender diversity. Among them are to “de-moralize diversity,” “confront Google’s biases” and “stop alienating conservatives.” The most ironic of all the suggestions, was to “stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races.”

Many in the media took issue with the memo’s claim that women are prone to higher anxiety than men, claiming his motivation was purely sexism. However, The National Review highlighted a passage in “Stanford Medicine” saying “Women are twice as likely as men to experience clinical depression in their lifetimes; likewise for post-traumatic stress disorder.” Moreover, an article in “Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews” provides more scientific cover noting that “female-biased conditions include depression, anxiety disorder, and anorexia nervosa.”

The general disdain among the establishment media was aimed at a caricature of Damore’s memo that doesn’t exist. Rather, it thrusts the media’s narrative of a sexist American society into the spotlight. One can most certainly disagree with Damore’s arguments, but making baseless claims that they are “anti-diversity” or “anti-women” is a convenient way to avoid confronting them.

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