National Review Nods

Over at National Review, Nicole Gelinas is critical of James Damore’s memo to Google.  It is disturbing that a conservative magazine like National Review should decide to publish a piece making the points that this one does.  If Damore can’t get a fair hearing for his views at National Review, then things are pretty bad.

Gelinas takes the view that Google was wrong to fire Damore, because Google says it encourages internal dissent.  But Gelinas then criticizes Damore’s memo.  I agree that Google is being hypocritical here.  But Gelinas’s critique of the memo is unfair and weak.

Gelinas appears to have two points.  First, she acknowledges that many of Damore’s points are true.  But then she criticizes Damore not saying anything new.  “He said nothing that hasn’t already been said, in tiresome fashion, for decades.”

But if Damore has merely repeated old truths, and that is enough to provoke a firing and such wrath, then that shows those tiresome old truths need to be repeated.  They are being ignored.

Second, Gelinas treats his claims as unhelpful and subject to abuse.  He writes that the characteristics of men and women may lead them to choose different areas in which to work.  Gelinas again treats this as a tiresome old truth.  But then she claims that this truth can be abused.  It would justify a manager assuming that a woman will not continue to work hard in the future, but a man will.

But Damore is not arguing for such treatment.  He wants to treat people as individuals.  That others could use his reasoning to take improper or illegal actions is besides the point.  His point is merely that if one were to hire and promote simply based on merit, that would not necessarily lead to equal numbers of men and women in positions of leadership within Google.

Google, however, does not appear to accept or recognize this tiresome truth.  Instead, it acts as if it were not true, assuming discrimination when other explanations for disparities might be true.  While discrimination is always a possibility, it is significant that in other areas, where the evidence that Damore relies upon suggest that women would be interested in the jobs, women far outnumber men (such as with new veterinarians and pediatricians who make more money than programmers).

There are many responses that a conservative publication like National Review could have appropriately taken in response to Damore’s memo.  But the one they chose to publish – which repeats the biases that Damore challenges – was not one of them.