James Damore, the Google engineer fired for writing a controversial memo about diversity in tech, spent hours responding to people in a Q&A session on Reddit.
Damore was fired a week ago for his document, which was titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” and argued that some lack of diversity in tech was down to biological differences, and not just bias. The document caused an uproar from those – including female employees at Google – who read implicit suggestions that women were inferior to men at software engineering.
Damore hosted what’s known as an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, where any registered user can ask him any question. Theoretically, this opens Damore up to debate on his actions – but he’s found a huge amount of support on Reddit and the questions were mostly friendly.
Here’s what we learnt:
- Damore has not apologised for his memo or the upset it caused, and still believes its conclusions are correct, despite considerable opposition. “I honestly haven’t seen any valid criticism that disputes my claims,” he wrote. He has said he initially gave interviews to YouTubers popular with right-wing and extreme right audiences because he wasn’t ready to deal with “hostile” media. He said he planned to give interviews to what he described as left-leaning outlets this week. Damore, on Twitter, has retweeted and been retweeted by conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who has previously claimed date rape does not exist. Damore said he was ignorant about “people’s past and political positions”. He wrote: “We decided to have Mike Cernovich tweet my image because he has 300K followers.” He complained about his treatment by Google, and specifically his boss Ari Balogh. Balogh wrote a “disparaging post” about Damore following his memo. Damore complained this was a platform to “publicly crucify me”. He went into work after his memo went viral, but worked in Google’s common spaces because he felt “awkward”. He worked from home subsequently because of “personal threats”. Interestingly, Damore said he may be on the autism spectrum, though he hasn’t been formally diagnosed. “I am likely on the spectrum because my thinking is very pattern oriented and I didn’t start talking until much later than normal,” he wrote.
What Damore chooses not to talk about is also illuminating.
It is striking how little he seems to talk about other people, and how unapologetic he is. In his memo, Damore argued for “de-emphasising empathy” when talking about diversity because this “emphasises bias”. During his AMA, he made no references to how his memo impacted women and minorities at Google. And in previous interviews, he has seemed bewildered that people “got offended”.
Damore also doesn’t talk much about his legal case against Google, and said he avoided answering certain questions because it related to his claim. He did say he had been told “I can win it”.