Interview with Google Manifesto creator James Damore (August 15)

The author of the Google memo, software engineer James Damore, decided to do his first interviews with two popular and controversial Canadian YouTube vloggers shortly after being fired at the start of August. In a wide-ranging interview I asked Damore back on August 15 about why he chose to do interviews with these two Canadian intellectuals involved with the recent transformation of right-wing thought. Unfortunately the publication this was intended to be published with had a long queue of articles in its lineup and I was ultimately given a kill fee.

Damore did his first interview with University of Toronto psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson, who made international headlines and rose to prominence in his refusal to use transgender and gender-neutral pronouns outlined by new university policy. He has since become popular internationally, receiving well over $50,000 monthly from Patreon subscribers and has nearly 400,000 YouTube subscribers. He also received nearly $200,000 from a Rebel Media fundraising campaign after he had for the first time had one of his grant applications rejected. Although Peterson has a large fan base of conservatives, he doesn’t identify himself as a conservative per se, but instead a classic British liberal fighting for free speech, and it just so happens at this point in time free speech is being literally bludgeoned on the head by the far left.  

In Damore’s second interview he spoke with Mississauga-based Stefan Molyneux, the founder of Freedomain Radio, a YouTube show with over 650,000 subscribers. Molyneux, a staunch Trump supporter, discusses taboo subjects on his show like the supposed average intelligence differences between races, which tend to be ideas embraced by the alt-right. However, Molyneux disavows the association and self-identifies as a libertarian and classical liberal.

In my interview with Damore I asked him about the influence of these two popular Canadian vloggers on his own thought and beliefs, the media’s characterization of him, and Trudeau’s feminist policies.

In your interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson you said that you were a huge fan of Peterson’s work. How long have you been listening to and reading Peterson’s works?

About six months. But I’ve been reading a lot of similar material before then.

So why are you a fan of Peterson’s then?

So he’s very articulate and has well-informed opinions about the dangers of a lot of these extremist ideologies. He nicely describes the dangers of the extreme left and the extreme right.

Did his lectures on the general differences [psychologically] between the sexes help inform your memo at all?

It was consistent with a lot of the other research that I had done. It was another data point [for the memo] but not the sole data point.

Do you have any idea why Peterson’s YouTube and Gmail accounts were shut down a couple weeks ago?

Yeah, I don’t know. One reason I heard was that he had an auto-respond thing that was sending out a tonne of emails, and that’s why they suspended him. But I don’t really know enough to speculate if it was actually for political reasons.

So he might have been flagged for spam?

Yeah, that was at least one of the reasons given internally.

So it didn’t have anything to do with their new free speech policy then [that you’re aware of]?

It might’ve, but I don’t really know.

Do you know if Google employees complained of right-wing vloggers a lot?

There’s definitely political bias in some of our policies and I think that that bias has likely affected our algorithm that determines what videos are offensive for example.

Do you think that the tweaking of algorithms is negatively affecting right-wing vloggers?

Yeah, it probably is.

One of your other first interviews was with right-wing Canadian vlogger Stefan Molyneux. Are you also a fan of his work?

Yeah. I’ve only seen a few of his [videos], and I’m a fan of his libertarian viewpoints.

What exactly do you mean by his libertarian viewpoints? Could you give me a couple of examples?

I guess he just seems to be very pro-freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

In the YouTube CEO’s rebuke of you she said that if your memo was pointing out average differences between the capability among human races no one would be defending you or your memo. And Stefan Molyneux–I don’t know if you’re aware of this–but he’s done videos on the differences on the average IQ of [people from different] races in explaining the disparity between the races. Do you think some scientific studies should be taboo to discuss in the media because of the bigotry and prejudice they will likely cause from people who will pervert or misinterpret the findings?

I think it’s dangerous to make any knowledge taboo.

Okay, so even studies–because a lot of these studies are looking at averages, right? So is there, do you think there is a danger that based on these averages that people will make prejudices towards people based on their identities, like race or gender?

So I think people already make stereotypes. They’re based on what they observe. So it’s not as if not talking about certain things will stop stereotypes from being created.

Okay, but you’re not concerned with [the studies] inflaming it or making it worse?

I think that some of that can be misguided. And there are likely cultural reasons from some of the disparity that we see. And so it can be misguided and reinterpreted by white nationalists or something, but I think making something taboo also has its own dangers that we should acknowledge that.

So you think it is okay that Stefan Molyneux talks about the differences in the average IQ of the different races then?

I haven’t seen that much of his stuff, but as long as he isn’t misrepresenting it. That data or knowledge is already available somewhere on the internet already, so I don’t know of what the real danger is [in discussing it].

So seeing the negative reaction from the mainstream media and many others to your essay, do you think that the general public can handle science showing that women are generally less suited for and have less of an affinity for certain careers like tech than men?

So I think it definitely runs counter to some of the media’s narratives and they feel threatened by that. And that’s why they lash out. I think that many in the public, though, acknowledge that this is common sense. Men and women have different interests on average.

So are you at all concerned that your argument could be misconstrued and lead some to form a prejudice towards women, that they’re inferior intellectually?

Yeah, I definitely don’t want anyone to take that from my memo. I never talk about inferiority or intelligence in it though. So they would just be reading words that I didn’t write.

But in your memo you said that men are more inclined to systematize things, and also that women are more neurotic [on average], which Peterson and yourself have pointed out is the proper psychological term, but aren’t those seen as inferior qualities in a way?

Yes, it’s unfortunate that neuroticism has a negative connotation. But a preference towards systematizing versus empathizing doesn’t really have positive or negative connotations as far as I know.

How could the factoring in of the research that you cited in your memo help women in the job market? …How will citing this research help women? I know that you’ve said they can tweak jobs so that they fit womens’ personalities better, but what else could they do?

Yeah, I mean I think tweaking the knobs and looking more to the science would be a net positive.

But you don’t think affirmative action is a good policy?

I think that there are a lot of negative outcomes that can happen from those types of policies. For example, by emphasizing people’s gender, to make women feel like they’re actual victims, it creates an inter-group tension. You also create stereotypes, which can be harmful to anyone.

What stereotypes do they create then? You said that Google shames white males, could you explain how they do that?

So, at least some of the stereotypes, for examples academia, where affirmative action is stronger, when you actually lower the bar for certain groups you create the stereotype that those people in those groups aren’t as good as other people. But if you make the admission levels equal for everybody then there would be no negative stereotypes within that setting.

So you also mention that Google applied pressure to management and teams to increase diversity. How did they apply pressure to teams to increase diversity?

They set goals for increasing the amount of diversity within a team or within an organization, which cause certain teams or boards to prioritize certain candidates and employees based solely on their demographic information.

Okay, i.e. sex and race?

Right.

You also mentioned that Google is a left-wing ideological echo chamber. If Google continues to lack diversity in ideological thought, what do you think could be the possible consequences for the tech company?

So, at least how I see it, without any checks against these policies, it will only get more extreme and more authoritative, and this is what we saw in communism. Where it just doesn’t work and a lot of these policies have the same ideology, where they look at individual people and traits and say ‘Oh, if this trait is a disadvantage, then we need to make it equal to all the other traits.’ But the only way to do that is something like communism where everything is equal in every way.

Okay, how would that affect the product at Google, let’s say YouTube or the search engine?

You see, I think it would decrease worker productivity. And the political biases would also become stronger within the products that Google creates, like YouTube and search.

So in Canada, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently upped the female quotas at universities for research grants in STEM fields. If universities don’t comply they risk losing their federal funding. Why, in your opinion, is affirmative action or preferential treatment like this bad policy? I guess you’ve already touched on this, about it creating negative stereotypes, but could you expand on this?

Yeah, and no one wants to feel like a token woman, for example… Once you stop giving grants based on merit, and you just give it based on the demographic of the grantee, that will inevitably hurt the science.

Do you think it was wrong or discriminatory for Trudeau to give half of his top-level cabinet minister positions to women despite there being far fewer women in his caucus, in order to promote equality?

We should treat people as individuals and not just members of their gender.

So Trudeau’s government was caught asking Google to delete the previous government’s web pages from its search results shortly after they were elected. Also, the government has many contracts with Google. Do you know if this is common for Google to work with governments in de facto censorship of web pages by removing them from search results?

So I know that if you own a site you can ask Google to remove it. But if it’s just updating sites that are now deleted. But there is censorship in some countries, like Egypt I think. But yeah, it’s definitely not ideal, [Google’s relationship with some governments].

In Western countries though, like the example I gave with Trudeau, do you know if Google works closely with a lot of governments?

I think it works closely with some governments. But none generally as Western a country as Canada is.

How is Google deceiving itself into thinking some roles are people-oriented when these roles aren’t actually people-oriented, as you state in your memo?

Yeah, so there are definitely roles within tech that in general are people-oriented, like product managers and other management-type positions. But low-level coding is very systems-oriented. And even if we say the job is people-oriented, the interviews and the training, like in college, is not at all. So if we wanted to change things we would have to change our interviews and change computer science education, which is not clear if that’s correct because most of what you’re doing is just writing code, and looking at code, and analyzing code.

You said that you felt betrayed by Google in one of your interviews. Did you not have any inclination that Google management would respond to your memo by firing you?

No, I definitely didn’t. I mean I had been sharing my document for about a month and it was for feedback about our diversity program. And trying to actually improve Google. And then they just fired me for trying to improve Google. And that’s why I felt betrayed.

Okay, but in your memo you said it’s a left-wing echo chamber, right? So you didn’t have any idea that they would respond negatively and attack the messenger when you present these ideas that run counter to their ideology?

I guess I had just never seen it as this bad. I had only seen small-scale shaming before that. It was definitely after I talked to more people that they did say that people have been fired over similar things.

Once it was leaked publicly though, did you think that they might sacrifice you or get rid of you to clean up the mess?

I still thought that it was bad PR for them to fire me. Because it just proves my point that these views are silenced. I didn’t even think there was more than a 50 per cent chance I would be fired on Monday.

How do you feel about the alt-right or far-right promoting you?

How do I think they are? Or how do I feel about them doing that…

Yeah, do you think they actually are [promoting you], or do you think it’s people like Stefan Molyneux who is [somewhat] mischaracterized in the media, or have you found that a lot of far-right people and the alt-right community are supporting and embracing you?

I mean I think that my largest support has been from libertarian outlets, and both of the YouTube interviews [with Peterson and Molyneux], most of my largest support has been from libertarians, which is more centrist. I think the extreme right may be using me as an example of the dangers of the extreme left, but I also attack both extremes so I don’t know if I have 100 per cent of their support.

There are plans to hold free speech rallies over your firing, are you afraid that these demonstrations could erupt into violence like Charlottesville did?

I don’t really know the details of what sort of protests are planned. I mean I think violence often ensues when people can’t have discussions. If people can discuss things rationally and calmly then they don’t resort to violence. And it’s only when they’re silenced and feel like they don’t have another option do they resort to violence.

Do you think the Google left-wing echo chamber could result in violence in the future?

Yeah, I think that we’ve already seen that at the universities, like U. C. Berkeley where the extreme left used violence to silence speakers. I hope that there is no actual violence at Google though.

You were interviewed by Tucker Carlson last night. He said [in a subsequent tweet] that Google is essentially a monopoly and should be regulated like any other public utility. What are your thoughts on that?

I think that’s also very dangerous, because you know it’s definitely not a full monopoly, there are other companies that provide similar services. And if you only regulate Google but you don’t regulate Bing or the other search engines, then a lot of problems may ensue.

Have you been following the Breitbart stories that have been coming out from current and former Google employees?

I haven’t been reading it… There was someone that questioned having so many gender pronouns because we had a TGIF [meeting] where we talked about ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, and then some other [new] pronouns. And he expressed that it was difficult for him to keep track of all those. And he was clearly on the autism spectrum and so like maybe he didn’t say things with very much tact, but he was fired soon after that.

Was it in a couple months using the PIP method then?

So I at least heard that they used some claim of sexual harassment against him a couple weeks after that.

How do you plan to use your new-found prominence?

At least I’ve been given a voice. So I’m trying to add some reasonable discussion to the topic and hopefully to other topics in the future.

So you plan to keep promoting and standing up for your beliefs publicly?

Yeah, I mean I’ve been talking to the media so that’s sort of public.

Yeah, I was just curious if you’re considering a job in media now because you did write that Wall Street Journal piece and Ben Shapiro gave you a job offer to write columns for the Daily Wire. I was just curious if you’re planning to use that voice you’ve been given to its fullest… Are you planning to stay in the spotlight?

Yeah, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to see how I like it. There’s definitely aspects of just writing columns that I wouldn’t necessarily like.

Like what?

I don’t like keeping up with the day-to-day politics. It’s too detail oriented. I’m more interested in ideas.

Okay, so you think the day-to-day stuff is just squabbles and doesn’t really look at the academic findings or anything [substantial], it’s just partisan?

Yeah, at least I’ve seen this first-hand with the dealings of my document.

How do you think you’ve been mischaracterized by the media then?

I’m regularly mischaracterized as a ‘sexist bigot who hates women and thinks women are incapable of working in tech.’ And then there are random mischaracterizations like I didn’t cite anything or that I’m completely misusing the science, which are both untrue.

Okay, and what would you say to your former female colleagues that said they would feel uncomfortable working with you?

I guess I would ask them why?

Well I guess that they would say that you are stereotyping women as inferior.

I never said that women were inferior. I only said that there may be reasons why we don’t expect 50-50 representation in tech and that not everyone is interested in technology. The women at Google are obviously interested in coding so it doesn’t change anything… So none of my things are applicable to an individual and I never say something about abilities really.   

 

     

 

 

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