James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired after posting a 10-page memo calling the company an “Ideological Echo Chamber” and arguing women are underrepresented in tech because of inherent differences, has taken his side of the story to one of the friendliest venues imaginable: Reddit.
In an AMA session on the /r/JamesDamore subreddit, Damore took a number of questions from people who largely seemed to be supporters. While Damore’s critics have focused around his belief the claims he put forth in the memo are just science—disregarding the way science is conducted and interpreted has always been shaped by social forces like sexism and racism—the ex-Googler showed no signs of a change in perspective.
It’s perhaps not surprising Damore, who responded to the firing by getting a t-shirt labeled “Goolag,” remains convinced he was wronged by Google management. In his AMA posts, Damore expressed the belief he would ultimately be proven right and tech companies would have to respond to his concerns.
In one post, Damore wrote that he still has allies within Google, but they are “afraid of ‘coming out of the closet.’”
Damore also replied to a user who asked what his response to critics that said “you shouldn’t circulate long-form politically-charged manifestos in the workplace,” portraying his creation of the screed as a form of whistleblowing.
“I was participating in a concerted effort to discuss the terms and conditions of my working environment and point out potentially illegal policies/behavior,” Damore said. “I believe I have a legal right to do that.”
In response to the same user, Damore advised young programmers to seek out companies which weren’t so “ideologically driven” and accused the “mainstream media” of “misrepresenting me.”
In another post, Damore listed his criticisms of the coverage, saying he was falsely portrayed as “anti-diversity/misogynist,” and disagreeing that anything he wrote suggested women were less capable engineers instead of merely disinterested in coding. He also said he had not heard that Google was “actually paying the media to trash me,” but added he believed “some of Google’s adwords relationships are partisan.”
Damore also said he did not believe women were “neurotic,” despite claiming in the original document that women, on average, experience more “neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).”
Damore also explained why he thought minorities were getting preferential treatment in the hiring process at Google.
Another user challenged him to consider whether the reason more conservatives don’t work in the technology field on the same grounds he proposed regarding women in the memo. Damore dismissed the notion, blaming it on a liberal culture at tech companies.
“It’s likely a combination of both cultural differences, less openness, and a feeling of being alienated by academia and tech,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t necessarily expect equal proportion conservatives and progressives, but we shouldn’t make conservatives feel like they need to stay in the closet.”
Finally, in another series of posts, Damore said he was surprised by the reaction to his memo because “I thought that talking about the ideological echo chamber and the dangers of authoritarian leftist policies, that it would pacify some of the reactions that I got.” He also said he had “assumed that Google engineers would be more data/science driven than they apparently are.”
Damore also claimed “most that see the progressive echo chamber for what it is support me” and said Google could not address his allegations right now because the topic was too “emotionally charged.”
He also wrote he would have “to admit ignorance about many of people’s past and political positions and that’s a weakness of mine,” which was why he asked far-right activist Mike Cernovich to tweet out the “Goolag” shirt. (This doesn’t explain why he chose to invoke the imagery of Soviet forced labor camps in the first place.)
As Gizmodo reported last week, there’s considerably more to Damore’s story than this. While he was attending Harvard, two administrators apologized for a skit Damore performed in at the 2012 Systems Biology Program Retreat, saying it had “presented material that offended many members of our community.”
Damore’s claim the company broke labor law by terminating him also relies upon a specific interpretation of National Labor Relations Act rules that is, at the very least, legally debatable. Then there’s the whole idea Damore was just presenting scientific reality to his coworkers, which again, relies on the assumption his view of scientific reality isn’t colored by his personal beliefs.