This article quotes communications that contain obscene language.
The lawsuit James Damore filed against Google on Monday provides a fascinating glimpse into the way the company and many of its employees see the workplace in terms of a demographic hierarchy, and what happens to those who diverge from the consensus view.
Details from diversity training sessions, accounts of alleged reverse discrimination, and screenshots of internal communications on company forums and message boards in the lawsuit cast the company culture as extremely hostile to employees with unpopular opinions, especially heterosexuals, men, white people, and those who hold conservative views.
Damore and another former Google employee, David Gudeman, allege the company discriminates against white male conservatives, and maintains illegal diversity quotas for hiring managers. Damore was fired last year after an internal memo he wrote positing that men and women have biological differences that affect their work preferences and abilities was leaked and went viral.
In screenshots laid out in the lawsuit, “Googlers” as they call themselves, talk openly of blacklisting and purging the company of employees whose views or identities are deemed outside the bounds. Employees were allowed to award those who spoke out against Damore’s memo “peer bonuses” — a company kudos of sorts monitored by the “Google Recognition Team.”
“We want to be inclusive of people not ideas” one employee identified as Alon Altman wrote in a message included in the lawsuit. Damore says that sentiment was backed up at an Inclusion and Diversity Summit he attended in June, when he was told by Google employees the company does not value “viewpoint diversity,” but actively strives for “demographic diversity.”
The lawsuit succeeds in suggesting a sharply divisive worldview pervades Google, in which those deemed worthy of tolerating (women, minorities, transgenders, etc.) are to be protected and agreed with at all costs — the recipients of unbridled compassion and understanding — while those who fall outside the bounds are to be ruthlessly disowned and expelled. Here are 19 of the most notable and bizarre snapshots of corporate culture laid out in the lawsuit.
1. ‘Living as a Plural Being’
In a section claiming Google tries to “stifle” conservative parenting styles, the suit reads: “Google furnishes a large number of internal mailing lists catering to employees with alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality, for the purpose of discussing sexual topics. The only lifestyle that seems to not be openly discussed on Google’s internal forums is traditional heterosexual monogamy.”
A footnote next to the word “plurality” adds: “For instance, an employee who sexually identifies as ‘a yellow-scaled wingless dragonkin’ and ‘an expansive ornate building’ presented a talk entitled ‘Living as a Plural Being’ at an internal company event.”
The suit also includes a screenshot of the presentation on “living as a plural being” when the presenter is discussing how to address coworkers with multiple identities. Examples of “not okay” etiquette listed include “addressing any one headmate in particular; we’re all listening!”
2. ‘Don’t hire white men’
A few of the messages show Google employees proposing hiring practices that exclude certain groups of men, or putting women in charge of hiring for a year to ensure diversity quotas are met. One employee wrote: “Alternate proposal: moratorium on hiring white cis heterosexual abled men who aren’t abuse survivors.”
3. ‘Bias busting’
Damore recounts attending “voluntary” diversity training because Google employees stressed attendance as necessary if he were to advance in the company. “At the in-person training, entitled ‘Bias Busting,’ Google discussed how biases against women exist in the workplace, and how ‘white male privilege’ exists in the workplace,” the suit reads. “The training was run by the ‘Unbiasing Group’ at Google.
4. ‘I will keep hounding you until one of us fired’
After a coworker leaked his memo to the public, Google’s human resources instructed Damore to work remotely for a while to let emotions cool, after he forwarded them a particularly angry email from another employee. “You’re a misogynist and a terrible person,” read a late-night email from Alex Hidalgo, a Google engineer. “I will keep hounding you until one of us is fired. Fuck you.”
5. ‘The Derail document’
The suit claims Gudeman was fired in part because he took issue with the merits of a “derail document” written by Google manager Kim Burchett. “The thesis of this document is that on this one particular set of topics, the left-wing political frame of systematic bias, must always dominate, and the receiver must accept that frame, and its associated worldview, in their response,” the suit claims. It does not provide the actual document.
In his response, Gudeman said “the point of this document is to disallow any defense at all that a man might make when some woman complains about bias. There is no defense. The woman is always right. The man has no alternative but to submit to her superior moral position. We have a word for that attitude, it’s called ‘sexism.'”
He says the criticism was widely derided and deemed “un-Googley.”
6. ‘You did something so amazing that Matthew Sachs awarded you a Peer Bonus’
The suit includes a screenshot of one of the emailed “peer bonuses” awarded to those who opposed Damore.
“Congratulations, Simone Wu!” the email begins. “You did something so amazing that Matthew Sachs awarded you a Peer Bonus. Here’s what Matthew Sachs had to say: Simone has been doing a fantastic job speaking up for Googley values and promoting [diversity and inclusion] in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is [Damore’s memo] … Visit your award history page to see your certificate to print and proudly hang on your cube, wall, fridge, robot etc.”
7. ‘Discourage them all throughout the industry’
“If we really care about diversity in tech, we don’t just need to chase serial offenders out of Google, we need to discourage them all throughout the industry,” a lengthy internal post on Damore read. “We should be willing to give a wink and a nod to other Silicon Valley employers over terminable offenses, not send the worst parts of tech packing with a smile …”
8. ‘I will hurt you’
Damore’s memo prompted another employee to post this quote: “I’m a queer-ass nonbinary trans person that is fucking sick and tired of being told to open a dialogue with people who want me dead. We are at a point where the dialogue we need to be having with these people is ‘if you keep talking about this shit, i will hurt you.”
9. ‘Relies on crowdsourced harassment’
Google encourages employees to enforce unwritten norms by harassing and ostracizing those who break them, according to the suit, and by allowing employees to create “blocklists” on their communications systems. “[Google] relies on crowdsourced harassment and ‘pecking’ to enforce social norms (including politics) that it feels it cannot write directly into its policies,” the suit states.
10. ‘I…apologized for whitesplaining’
In a message from July 2017, a repentant Google employee publicly realized he was “whitesplaining” black history. “I (a white Googler), in an attempt to build a rapport with a Black Noogler and demonstrate my lack of ignorance of Black History, ended up whitesplaining Black History to him…thereby demonstrating my ignorance of Black History in the process. A few minutes later, feeling like a complete idiot, I went back to him and apologized for whitesplaining.”
His comment was lauded by another Googler.
11. ‘You’re being blacklisted…at companies outside Google’
Google manager Adam Fletcher wrote in 2015 he would never hire conservatives he deemed hold hostile views. “I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team,” he wrote. “Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit or technically excellent or whatever. I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”
“You’re being blacklisted by people at companies outside of Google,” he added. “You might not have been aware of this, but people know, people talk. There are always social consequences.”
12. Conservative author triggers ‘silent alarm’ over lunch with employee
Conservative blogger Curtis Yarvin, who advised Steve Bannon and other members of the Trump administration, triggered an alarm when he visited the Google campus to lunch with an employee. Security escorted him off the premises. The suit alleges other conservatives are on that list, including Alex Jones and Theodore Beale.
13. ‘Should inclusion on the list require something resembling a trial?’
Burchett once proposed creating a list she would personally manage of “people who make diversity difficult,” to include employees who did things like make statements “unsupportive of diversity.” She suggested the list could serve as a punishment that could incentivize “better” behavior among the offenders listed.
“Things I’m still pondering: should inclusion on the list require something resembling a trial? should people be removed after some period of time if they start behaving better?”
14. ‘Throw away that bad apple with no regrets’
The suit says Google manager Jay Gengelbach discussed blacklisting an intern whose views proved intransigent, despite the efforts of Google employees to bring him around to their views. “I was there at the lunch were said intern said the things he did,” Googler Matthew Seidl replied on the thread. “A number of people there did try to esquire as to what he was basing his belief on and give counter examples. They didn’t really take.”
Another Googler chimed in, “Throw that bad apple away with no regrets.”
15. ‘I won’t say violence has no place’
In one thread, employees discussed at length whether Trump’s win meant it’s time for a violent revolution. “How do people cope with this?” one employee wrote. “I’ve never been part of a military or war effort before. … I don’t know how useful I’ll be.”
Another advised: “Get in touch with your friendly local antifa. … I won’t say violence has no place, but if you are going to be doing anything risky, I can’t overemphasize the important of networking with people who’ve been thinking about scenarios like the one we’re in for years, and building relationships with them. We are only powerful if we organize.”
“This list is not truly anonymous,” another cautioned.
16. ‘If you don’t want to get punched …’
One employee explained what to believe if you don’t want to get physically assaulted. “There is literally only one reason an antifascist would be violent towards you. You are a fascist. … If you don’t want to get punched by an antifascist, it’s simple: don’t go to white supremacist rallies and don’t own white power symbols.”
17. ‘How to (Properly) Punch a Nazi’
Two more bits on punching Nazis. In the first, an employee explains why peaceful measures aren’t enough when facing people with certain views. “How do you let people know you don’t take their ideas seriously? … No-platforming fascists does scale. So does punching one on camera.” And a cartoon sent around depicts a Nazi-punching strategy.
18. ‘Psychotic break from reality’
Those who oppose certain liberal orthodoxy must be either “deeply deceived” or have had “some sort of psychotic break from reality,” another employee wrote, adding: “What you think of as information is nonsense.”
19. ‘This is where my tolerance ends, with intolerance’
“You can’t support Donald Trump without also supporting his racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia,” a Googler wrote in a lengthy communication on Trump supporters. “Or even worse, if you vote for Donald Trump because of his economic policy or because you feel the other party is corrupt, then what you’re saying is that economics is more important than the safety of your peers. This is where my tolerance ends: with intolerance.”
Google briefly responded to Damore’s lawsuit Monday in a statement reported by The Verge. “We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore’s lawsuit in court,” a spokesperson said.