A Google engineer fired for circulating an “offensive” document about the company’s diversity practices has given his first lengthy interviews defending himself to controversial right-wing YouTube personalities.
James Damore lost his job on Monday after his internal memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, caused outrage among his colleagues and was leaked in full to Gizmodo. Google CEO Sundar Pichai described the memo as offensive in a note on Monday, and called Damore’s views “not OK”.
In the document, Damore claims to “value diversity and inclusion” and said he “does not deny sexism exists”, but goes on to blame biological differences for the gender gap in tech. He has so far not given full interviews to any mainstream outlet – sticking to brief email exchanges on his firing and on the memo – and spoke at length on Monday and Tuesday to two YouTube personalities popular with alt-right and right-wing audiences: Stefan Molyneux and Jordan B. Peterson.
Molyneux regularly posts YouTube videos with titles such as “Why Feminists Hate Men: What They Won’t Tell You“. Peterson, meanwhile, sets himself against social science terms such as “white privilege” and “cultural appropriation”.
It was on these channels that Damore has chosen to represent himself as a logical figure who cares about solving racial and gender imbalances in tech. The online right has already come out in support of Damore.
The 45-minute interview with Molyneux is public, and you can read Business Insider’s summary here. You can watch the 50-minute Peterson interview here. Damore repeats many of the comments he makes in Molyneux’s interview, such as how he attended a Google diversity programme and found it “secretive” and “shaming”.
But he also revealed he was fired by “my HR representative and my director”, though he didn’t name names.
“I’m sure it came from higher up,” he added. “This is a massive PR move, it would need approval from higher up.”
He said the firing proved his original memo, where he suggested people with conservative views were ostracised within Google, correct.
“The whole culture just tries to silence any dissenting view, and … we really need some more objective way of looking at these things,” he said.
Damore said he hadn’t given interviews to mainstream outlets because “they just want to twist whatever I say towards their agenda.”
During both interviews, Damore gave the impression of being shy, quiet, and somewhat overwhelmed. More often than not, his host dominated the interview. He frequently laughed nervously at the interviewers’ more controversial statements and questions, such as Molyneux’s referencing of “SJWs”, or Social Justice Warriors, alt-right slang for progressives. Damore said several times that he wasn’t “clear” on what to do next.
“It’s been a stressful week, for sure,” he said in response to Peterson’s question about how he was doing. “I’m not feeling too negative about it. It hasn’t fully hit me I think.”
In the interview, Peterson went on a long diatribe against the mainstream media, but suggested Damore should speak to more journalists.
He then went through Damore’s controversial memo in detail, claiming that his scientific references and data were “solid” – though the scientific analysis suggests otherwise.
On Monday, Damore filed a complaint with US labour department officials against Google, but didn’t comment on his legal action.