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THE OLD TYRANNY OF NEW IDEAS

August 6, 2017

 

A few days ago, Gizmodo dropped an infamous 10 page conservative manifesto that’s gone viral around Google’s Mountain View, California campus. You can read it here. It was written by an anonymous and deeply annoyed software engineer taking umbrage with the “Ideological Echo Chamber” at the company.

 

I’ve argued this echo chamber exists nearly everywhere these days, not simply within the artfully designed halls at Google. His screed is so off-base in so many ways I won’t even bother to dignify the assertions with refutations. Suffice it to say, the author announces up front that he does not endorse stereotypes and then launches into page after page of stereotyping that’s camouflaged behind a veil of biology research. It’s an age-old trick racists employed when justifying the rape, murder, pillaging and enslavement of the African people. The scientific method once proved that African craniums weren’t as big as a Caucasian’s, so naturally, they should've cherish the stability of slavery. Right?

 

Some mock-worthy highlights of the Google manifesto include the statement that disparity a.k.a. human inequity is “natural and just.” And there’s a juicy tangent relating to male children castrated as boys then raised as female and, ultimately, gender identify as males. The author never mentions where he’s gained access to this cadre of cross-dressing castrato fem-boys but given his deep knowledge of their gender preferences, one might assume they’re family?  

 

Despite the banquet of half-baked ideas from a thwarted conservative ideologue, he does have three cogent points. They're buried deep within this tirade but I think they’re important enough to winch out of the muck and hose off for further review. Let’s look, shall we?

 

1) The progressive left assumes a chokehold on discourse through the use of shaming and a refusal to deconstruct their own assumptions and methodology.

 

I experienced this first-hand with a non-profit where I was a volunteer. It was a mixed-gender shelter for homeless youths and the shelter hierarchy was obsessed with oppression. Every single micro-interaction got viewed through the lens of some party oppressing another. The leadership enacted policies and measures to mitigate every possible instance of oppression, real or imagined. But the shelter’s leadership refused to be accountable for the efficacy of these initiatives. When I asked how they gathered benchmarks and metrics to assess the efficacy of these anti-oppression measures, I got stonewalled. Shamed into silence. Like the author has stated, when underlying assumptions are sacred and not to be questioned the lack of discourse fosters an extremist, authoritarian ideology. It was actually traumatizing to care about a population, volunteer to serve them and then get chastised for failing to serve in the unquestioning, ideologically correct manner as dictated by staff. It felt… what’s the word? Oppressive.

 

2) The male gender role is largely inflexible.

 

The author is slightly cuckoo about gender and traditional female roles but his premise is correct: feminism has made great progress alleviating many of the restrictive gender expectations for women but men haven’t enjoyed the same freedom of an expanded gender identity. As a person with chronic mental illness and a victim of past sexual abuse I’m well aware of stigma. She was my godmother. The last thing I’m going to add to my list of stigmatizing attributes is the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad who’s wife  supports him and the family while I write memoirs and blogs and shovel handfuls of prescriptions into my mouth. Highly unmanly. Both men and women reinforce very static gender roles for males—expectations for status, strength, ambition, competitiveness, and the demand for an emotional stoicism that boarders on personality disorder. There are reasons that men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than women and those reasons are tied up in the rigid gender expectations we face as “real” men.  As Dan Griffin so aptly puts it: we can’t just change what men think, we have to change what we think about men.

 

3) Viewpoint diversity is the most important type of diversity.

 

The author laments that Google (and again, I’d say society at large) treats people only as members of some group, not as individuals. We try to enforce “diversity” through cheap and easy identifiers like skin color, gender or ethnicity. While it’s true that minority voices are usually exempted from the same platform as the ruling voices of the majority, it’s naïve to believe that being black makes a person harbor a diverse viewpoint (Michael Steele). Or being female makes a person retain pro-female viewpoints (Kellyanne Conway). It’s a fallacy to believe that adding statistically representative demographics equates to a true diversity of viewpoint. I submit that most of the minority candidates who’ve achieved some equity within the corridors of power have done so because they’ve fallen in line with the status quo, not because they challenged it with their “diversity.” I’m reminded of Satya Nadella, the Indian CEO of Microsoft. When faced with allegations of the company’s still rampant sexism and gender inequity the diversity hire said that women needn’t worry about the wage gap. “It’s not really about asking for the raise,” said Satya in 2014, “but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along.” Right. Diversity.

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