On Monday, Google fired senior software engineer James Damore over a memo he wrote criticizing the company’s “ideological echo chamber” and calling on the company to “stop alienating conservatives.” As it turns out, political contributions from the board members of Alphabet — Google’s parent company — underscored that very bias.
In his memo, Damore warned that everyone has bias and that biases from the Right and the Left balance out to make an organization stronger. “Google’s left leaning makes us blind to this bias and uncritical of its results, which we’re using to justify highly politicized programs,” he wrote.
Perhaps he should not have been surprised. Ten of the 13 Alphabet board members have given more than $3.9 million in political contributions since 1989, and a full 80 percent of those gifts ($3.1 million) went to Democrats, according to a Newsbusters analysis of data from OpenSecrets. The board members gave $3,129,964 to Democrats and only $509,450 to Republicans, with $282,606 going to groups equally funding Democrats and Republicans.
The largest donor on Alphabet’s board is chairman Eric Schmidt, who gave $1.17 million overall. Almost three-quarters of that ($842,900) went to Democrats, with only a quarter ($291,500) going to Republicans.
The second largest donor, L. John Doerr, gave a whopping 89 percent of his $1.16 million to Democrats ($1.02 million). Republicans got a measly 3.4 percent ($39,300).
Only Paul Otellini, former CEO of Intel, gave more to Republicans than Democrats. His donations proved minuscule compared to those of his colleagues, however. He only gave $186,600 overall, of which $128,550 went to Republicans and $11,050 went to Democrats.
While all ten board members who gave more than $4,000 to political causes had given at least that much to Democrats, five of the ten have given zero to Republicans in the past 28 years. Sergey Brin, for example, gave 98 percent of his political contributions to Democrats ($835,800 out of $850,800).
James Damore’s most important complaints about Google’s ideological blindness were cultural and scientific — an unwillingness to acknowledge basic biological differences between men an women — rather than blatantly political.
“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” Damore wrote. “This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.”
Damore laid out specific reasons Google should “stop alienating conservatives.” First, “viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.” Therefore, the company should be more welcoming to those with divergent political views.
Secondly, Damore warned that “in highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility.” Therefore, Google “should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.”
Finally, “alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.” Google is arguably weakening its own organization by driving conservatives away.
Damore definitely stirred the pot by writing this manifesto, and perhaps he should not have been surprised at Google’s response — firing him. But the political history of Alphabet’s board of directors does indeed back up his complaints that the tech giant with the best search engine is indeed slanted to one side over the other.
With Google a household name for searching the Internet, accessing maps, using email, and many other services, this bias is indeed problematic, and the company should address it as soon as possible.
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