The Google Rorschach Test


If you’re here, I’m sure you know about the memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”. Not since the black/blue versus white/gold dress has the internet been so divided over a seemingly simple matter. The document was either a reasonable evidence-backed paper or a sexist Anti-Diversity Manifesto. It’s a long document, you’ll see what you want to see.

People are outraged because it pays to be outraged.

Look: A dozen years ago, Harvard President Larry Summers said something similar about differing trait distributions between the sexes.

It was not a big deal, but MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins was attendant, and had the following reaction:

“My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow… I just couldn’t breathe, because this kind of bias makes me physically ill.”

She had to leave the room because “it was just too upsetting…I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.”

(Lady, if that’s your gut response to basic science, you’d best get the hell out of your field.)

But see, that was her schtick. Hopkins is the author of a 1999 screed titled “MIT Study on the Status of Women,” a catalog of all the ways MIT had mistreated female faculty. Dr. Hopkins found that women had been SO terribly mistreated that she was subsequently awarded a 20% raise, an endowed chair, triple the lab space, and additional research funds. Go Nancy.

As a then-student in the Computer Science department, I would never have heard about Summers’ closed-door remarks if Hopkins hadn’t gone running to the press. Of course the statement was intentionally misrepresented. The Guardian reduced it to this bullshit headline: “Why women are poor at science, by Harvard president.”

I was invited to all sorts of Harvard women’s luncheons, where we gravely discussed our feelings and how badly they’d been hurt. I was pretty sure Larry was right, but far be it from me to deny a free lunch.

Following the calls for castration, President Summers apologized in multiple outlets in increasingly pathetic ways. “I was wrong,” he realized in a Damascene moment.

Now, Larry Summers is not a complete idiot. I mean, he IS, but he also knew that it was safer to allocate $25 million of someone else’s money to diversity interests than try to defend his point.

But you see, Larry — once you pay the Dane-Geld, you never get rid of the Dane.

As a female in Silicon Valley, I get lots of free stuff. It’s awesome. There are Women hackathons, Women dinners, Female Founders conferences. Every year, Google hosts a Women Techmakers celebration. These events typically consist of a lot of grievance-airing and self-absorption, but also a lot of free food, which is why I like going to them so much.

If you play the victim for long enough, eventually you truly believe it. That’s why there’s so much moral outrage over a document that Google could have simply ignored.

And that’s why we’ve devolved into a famously litigious culture that rewards competing acts of emotional fragility, whereby the more offended you can show you are, the more likely you are to earn a diversity job and warm approval from a populace whose free exchange of ideas will be further degraded by more speech codes and diversity departments and mandatory microaggression training.

This fair-but-frail fellow takes a page right out of the Nancy Hopkins playbook:

Oh dear, it seems an offensive tweet has rendered him a drooling flatworm for 25 minutes. Surely this constitutes assault.

Edit: I hadn’t realized that female Google employees were already working on a class-action lawsuit for gender discrimination. Why write code when you can shake down your employer instead? h/t @Provoost

8 thoughts on “The Google Rorschach Test

  1. Brilliant. Love your work. As a older “Latino” in a technical field I too enjoyed a lot of meals at grievance sessions. I was often told how oppressed I was despite showing up in a BMW. Funny though my siblings back in Mexico had no problems operating airlines, a stock market and all the other complex matters attendant to a G 20 economy. Here since 1979 on campuses and corporations–victim! Luckily, on way out to retirement and a good thing as things are getting nuttier and nuttier. The whole identity politics schtick has a certain psychotic aspect which appears to be growing. It was quaint in the 1980’s its dangerous now.

    1. Well, don’t let too many people hear your story, or you’ll ruin the handouts for everyone else.
      Are things so crazy where you are? I work at a small company so we’ve retained some sense of normalcy. I can’t tell if the online insanity is manufactured by MSM or somehow reflects reality.

  2. As an aside I neglected to mention. It was odd to me at the time that Larry Summers took so much crap. His mother Anita Summers was a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Quite accomplished in the field of real estate economics. She graciously provided me data (on discs!) for my dissertation. I think she may have been among the first tenured female faculty back in the bad old meritocracy days…. I doubt Larry Summers threatened by intelligent and accomplished women or a sexist….

    1. WOW! That is an amazing factoid. Really neat.

      And, Larry Summers is skilled in the art of politicking, so I think he took the path that would be best for his career.

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