NPR spreads the Brooks around

NPR gave David Brooks a chance to repeat his very inept reading of James Damore’s memo yesterday.

[AUDIE] CORNISH: One last idea that came out of Silicon Valley, and this is a debate over a viral memo from a Google engineer who argued, among other things, that Google had a left bias that created a politically correct mono culture that shamed dissenters into silence. Also made some comments about men and women and biological differences. David, you argue that the person who should have been fired is Google’s CEO. How come?

BROOKS: Well, you know, all of this starts with a long debate we’ve been having for decades about evolutionary psychology and the differences between men and women. And there’s this vast body of research out there on this subject. And it shows, first, mostly, there are no real significant differences between men and women on abilities, on the ability to do math, on IQ – pretty much the same. There are some minor differences between populations, mostly in levels of interest, not in levels of ability. And – but these are all about populations. You can’t tell anything about a person, about an individual from any of these studies. Who should work at Google? Who should not work at Google? Who’s good at tech? And James Damore…

CORNISH: But just to stop you there, like, if you say something bad about your…

DIONNE: That sounds like a critique of James Damore.

BROOKS: No, that’s exactly what James Damore…

CORNISH: This is the name of the engineer.

BROOKS: And this is exactly what James Damore wrote in his memo. And now a whole series of evolutionary psychologists have come out – I quoted a couple in my column today – saying that he was a pretty accurate summary of the body of research. And so someone at a scientific company should not be fired for sort of accurately summarizing the science. Now, I understand why – go ahead, E.J.

No, that is not what Damore wrote in his memo. Jesus. If you can’t even get that right then shut up about it.

DIONNE: Oh, go ahead, David.

BROOKS: I understand why some of the people who are there, who are – especially some of the women who are in a hostile work environment being silenced in meetings are upset because they’re living in one reality, which is the reality that we live out every day as individuals. And they’re absolutely right. But James Damore, his – the research he summarized is talking about populations. And he, too, is right. And Pichai should have done a much better job of, A, not firing him and, B, explaining the differences.

CORNISH: E.J., last word to you.

DIONNE: Where I disagree is I don’t think the research is anywhere near as good as David is suggesting it is. And some of what he said were pure stereotypes. Women generally have a stronger interest in people, rather than things relative to men. And I thought Anna Wiener in The New Yorker really had it right that this memo was a kind of smack in the face for plenty of tech workers and executives – for plenty of women who are used to tech workers and executives considering hiring women as lowering the bar. I mean, there was something just terribly wrong with this memo. I’m a pro-labor guy. I don’t like people getting fired, but I think this memo had a lot of problems in it.

I’m pro-labor too, so that includes being in favor of women’s ability to work in an environment where their presence is just taken for granted. Women shouldn’t have to feel they’re only provisionally there, subject to the daily judgement of men who swap stories about how much more neurotic women are.

I wonder…if Damore’s memo had been about Other Races as opposed to the Other Sex, and had been otherwise identical, would David Brooks be defending it and saying the CEO should be fired?

I don’t know, of course, but I doubt it. I doubted it when Michael Shermer said it’s more of a guy thing – I thought if it had been “it’s more of a white thing” it wouldn’t have made it out of his mouth. I still think that. The same applies to Sam Harris’s “estrogen vibe” – I don’t think he would have said “melatonin vibe.” I think guys like Shermer and Harris and Brooks can hear it when it’s about race, and stop themselves, but they can’t damn well hear it when it’s about women.

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