On The Story with guest host Dana Perino, I discussed the Google contretemps, opposite Julie Alvin of Bustle. Our exchange was perfectly civil; we even identified a few areas of common ground, including an acknowledgement that there are some intrinsic differences between men and women, as well as an agreement that neither of us endorsed every point in the controversial diversity memo. But aside from that, it really seemed as though we were arguing past each other for most of the segment (click on that link, or skip ahead to the ten minute mark below):
Afterwards, Alvin tweeted her belief that conservative critics of Google's decision are "missing the point:"
I strongly disagree. The most important point, as I see it, is that discussion-suffocating punishment of alternative views renders meaningful discussions about thorny political, social or cultural questions difficult to impossible. During the show, Alvin asserted that James Damore made a number of bad arguments in his commentary. I'd be willing to bet that she and I would differ on the extent and nature of our objections to what he wrote, but she says that she wants America to "actually talk" about these issues. Here's the thing: We can't actually talk through anything if people are banished for their non-conformist ideas. We know that Damore had some allies within the Google workforce on these subjects, and it's undeniable that a great many Americans would side with the broad thrust of his complaint. Simply accusing all of those people of embracing "pernicious sexism" is not a dispositive or convincing argument to the unpersuaded; in fact, it can be seen as a means of shutting down a debate before it really digs into any substance. Firing the wrong-thinker is even more of an obvious discussion-ender. Forbidding a perspective from being (fairly mildly and thoughtfully) articulated betrays any notion that a "conversation" is welcome. What's really welcome, if we're being honest, is a soliloquy in which right-thinkers bestow their wisdom upon others, and dissenters are made to hold their tongues. Or else.
Two elements of this whole maelstrom are especially worrisome to me, each of which I addressed earlier. The first is the extent to which much of the media has been willing to blithely mischaracterize the content of the memo itself, whether through dishonesty or journalistic ennui. Many of the people who claim to desire "conservations" can't even be bothered to honestly engage with the opposite side's arguments. The second is the venue in which Damore first aired his thoughts. Google reportedly encourages its employees to use internal, private forums as clearing houses to blow off steam, criticize or ridicule management, or broach concerns about business practices. Based on my understanding of this model, Damore did exactly that -- employing neither slurs or vitriol while advancing his case. Then he lost his job. I must say that it seemed a bit hyperbolic when I first read it, but perhaps the "new dark ages" description of the End of Discussion mob's methods and goals is rather apt.