MOUNTAIN VIEW — For the alt-right, Google’s firing of an engineer over a controversial 10-page memo about its diversity policies has been a gift.
America’s arch-conservatives, who gained a voice through the election of President Donald Trump with a crusade against political correctness, already mistrusted the search giant. They have said it censors their views and tried to influence the last presidential election.
But now, the company’s firing of engineer James Damore over a memo arguing women are biologically less suited for tech jobs than men has put Google squarely in the crosshairs of the alt-right.
Conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, in a Facebook post Friday, wrote, “Google has given up on science in favor of conspiracy theories, mythology and social justice. That is now the company’s official position. Incredible.”
Leaders in the right-wing movement, who have a strong following on social media, responded to Damore’s firing by organizing nationwide protests for Aug. 19, targeting Google headquarters in Mountain View and offices in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas.
The anger against Google has led to numerous calls on Twitter for a boycott against the company. One user, with the hashtag boycottgoogle” called on the public to contact Google’s advertisers.
“Don’t support regressive or ideological echo chamber corporations,” @ThothMRM tweeted.
In the wake of Damore’s firing, a blog has leaked apparent internal memos and names of those inside Google who were critical of Damore. Yiannopoulos — whose February appearance at UC Berkeley sparked a riot — posted on Facebook the photos and names of employees who identified themselves as Googlers on Twitter.
Followers of Yiannopoulos’ Facebook feed responded, with one commenting about a Google worker: “I’d like to sock him in the mouth and then stomp on him a few times when he’s on the ground.”
Citing concerns about leaks and public posting of employees’ names and photos, Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday canceled a planned all-hands meeting about Damore’s dismissal, even though Pichai had come home early from a family vacation to preside over it.
Google is home to technological innovation, colorful company bicycles, free-food cafeterias, and — suddenly — fear. Google declined a request for comment on the situation.
The search giant’s size and power make it an ideal focal point for a movement comprised mainly of conservative white people who consider themselves left behind in 21st century America, said Larry Rosenthal, an adjunct professor of public policy at UC Berkeley.
“If you have a group of people that are disempowered in the economy, disempowered politically, and you’re trying to organize them, picking off big powers — cultural dominators — has to be a uniting influence,” Rosenthal said.
At its root, the controversy over Damore’s memo is a fight about whether social and economic disparities, such as the gender imbalance in tech, should be addressed through measures to lift up disadvantaged people possibly at the expense of the advantaged, Rosenthal said.
“This memo says, ‘I’m not contributing, I got mine fair and square and I’m not here to help others, and I don’t think my employer should be discriminating in any way that discriminates against me,’” Rosenthal said. “This is a touch point for a social conflict that we’re having about equality and inequality.”
Montana State University professor Paul Pope, who studies the language of the alt-right movement, said Google — in firing Damore — provided the movement with a “boogeyman” to rally against.
“They have to find every avenue, event, or circumstance that can help spread their message out there,” Pope said.
Since his firing, Damore has sat for video interviews with conservative online pundit Stefan Molyneux, who has publicly pegged the IQ of sub-Saharan blacks at the borderline-disabled level of 70, and with far-right darling Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto professor and vocal foe of political correctness.
Damore wrote in his controversial 10-page memo that women, on average, are more agreeable, display higher anxiety and show a higher interest in people rather than things.
“Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are ‘just,’” Damore wrote in the post. “I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
Damore was also photographed in a T-shirt with the Google logo transformed into “Goolag” — the photographer was Peter Duke, whom the New York Times dubbed “the Annie Leibovitz of the alt-right” in reference to his political leanings and famed celebrity photographer Leibovitz.
Duke, in correspondence with this news organization, called online critics of Damore’s memo “SJWs,” an acronym for liberal “social justice warriors.”
Damore’s essay was “completely reasonable and well cited,” said Duke, who described himself as a “warrior” in the anti-liberal movement of late Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart.
“Understanding that (Damore) was dealing with the worst people on the internet, and I don’t use that term lightly,” Duke said, “we came up with a plan for updating his image and executed in a few hours.”
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