The Culture Wars Have Come to Silicon Valley
The culture wars that have consumed politics in the United States have now landed on Silicon Valley’s doorstep.
Silicon Valley’s politics have long skewed left, with a free-market’s philosophy and a dash of libertarianism. But that goes only so far, with recent episodes putting the tech industry under the microscope for how it penalizes people for expressing dissenting opinions. Mr. Damore’s firing has now plunged the nation’s technology capital into some of the same debates that have engulfed the rest of the country.
Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said Mr. Damore’s comments carried additional weight to people on either side of the political spectrum because he was an engineer at Google, one of the world’s biggest technology companies.
Alongside other giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Apple, these companies “are seen as pillars of our society,” Mr. Galloway said. “Controversy and statements that emanate from these employees take on a different heft.”
The technology industry has long marched in lock step on issues such as supporting immigration and diversity, even though their companies remained largely male, white and Asian. But last year’s election of Mr. Trump — with his broadsides against political correctness, his coarse language toward women and his actions to restrict immigration and deny climate change — seemed to threaten many of those ideals.
At the same time, Mr. Trump’s words may have made dissenters in the tech industry more comfortable about speaking out.
“Trump, in a sense, licensed people to express what some people would call politically incorrect thoughts,” said Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia University’s Business School. “Then there’s the other force that a lot of Trump’s policies go against the inclusive ideals these companies espouse.”
Should there be limits to open discussion in the workplace? Below is a selection of reader reactions to the news of James Damore’s firing.
Mr. Damore’s memo and dismissal transformed him into a hero on right-wing news sites like Breitbart, which has long criticized the political leanings of the tech industry.
“Google drives a big sector of tech into the arms of Trump: fires employee who wrote memo about women in tech jobs,” Dr. Pinker wrote.
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One of the most outspoken supporters of Mr. Trump in Silicon Valley has been Mr. Thiel, a founder of PayPal, who has since faced derision from other people working in tech for his political stance. In a sign of how deep that ill feeling runs, Netflix’s Mr. Hastings warned Mr. Thiel last August, a few weeks after Mr. Trump had accepted the Republican nomination for president, that he would face consequences for backing Mr. Trump.
“I see our board being about great judgment, particularly in unlikely disaster where we have to pick new leaders,” Mr. Hastings wrote in the email to Mr. Thiel, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. "I’m so mystified by your endorsement of Trump for our President, that for me it moves from ‘different judgment’ to ‘bad judgment.’ Some diversity in views is healthy, but catastrophically bad judgment (in my view) is not what anyone wants in a fellow board member.”
Mr. Thiel and Mr. Hastings declined to comment through their spokesmen; neither challenged the authenticity of the email. Both of the men remain on Facebook’s board.
Mr. Luckey, through mutual agreement with his employer, stayed away from the Oculus offices to let the controversy die down, according to three people with knowledge of the episode who asked for anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. In December, before returning briefly to the office, he told colleagues he was committed to staying at the company, according to a copy of a message he posted on an internal discussion board, which was reviewed by The Times.
But by the end of March, Oculus said he was no longer working there.
A Facebook spokeswoman reiterated an earlier company statement saying that Mr. Luckey’s departure was unrelated to his political views. Mr. Luckey declined to comment on his departure from Facebook.
August 09, 2017
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