Freedom of speech, although sorely tested in court, remains intact, legal experts contend. Americans are at liberty to speak their minds. But often they don’t—at least not at the office.
Google may have the answer.
In a 10-page memo sent to fellow Google employees in July, software engineer James Damore suggested biology—not inherent sexism—could play a role in the male-to-female employment disparity at Google and within the tech industry as a whole. He also said a corporate ethos that elevates racial and gender diversity to a moral imperative, and the company’s questionable means of rectifying the gender gap, serves to silence those whose ideology does not align with company policy.
As if to prove Damore’s point, Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded by firing him Aug. 7, just three days after the memo became public and went viral, calling his opinions “offensive and not OK.”
The incident highlighted workplace tensions that cause employees—mostly conservatives—to self-censor in order to avoid public shaming, or worse, if they don’t toe the leftist ideological line that bigotry and biases are the foundations for all employment and social disparity.
As a private company, Google is free, within legal limits, to establish policies dictating workplace engagement, noted attorney and National Review columnist David French.
“But just because something is legal does not mean it’s right, and the result is a crisis in the culture of free speech in the United States,” French wrote in an Aug. 8 commentary. “In field after field and company after company, conservatives understand that the price of their employment is silence.”
Even private conversations in public places could get employees in trouble with the boss, if thought police like actress Lena Dunham have their way.
As she disembarked a recent flight at New York’s JFK airport, Dunham overheard two American Airlines flight attendants speak disparagingly about transgenderism and children. She took to Twitter to report the incident.
“American Airlines employees headed out talking transphobic [expletive deleted],” Dunham tweeted. “Thought company should know what beliefs uniformed employees espouse.”
The company thanked her for the information and said it would investigate the private conversation, news outlets reported. Company officials reportedly have not been able to substantiate Dunham’s claim.
Damore has spent his first week of unemployment—free from the Google “echo chamber”— giving interviews and defending his thesis in the low key, but data-studded, tenor stereotypical of some, but not all, male software engineers.
“There’s a very strong idea that the left ideology is the only ideology possible. We should be able to express differing opinions,” Damore told CNN Tech. “I’m a centrist, and they’re calling me a Nazi. That is a real problem.”