Cape Fear

Last week I implied that Googlers who did not agree with the progressive consensus were “afraid all the time.” To which a commenter, Balthazar, responded

How afraid are you, really?

I gave a short straightforward answer. But that “comma really” rankled. More than a touch of disbelief there. A better response is required.

What started the whole shebang (sorry): Ex-Google employee Kelly Ellis accusing a coworker of “sexual harassment.” Does the furore around sexual harassment make Googlers afraid?

Working a white collar job as a white male in the 21st century is like living in a bad neighborhood. You can live in a bad neighborhood. You just need to be careful. Take precautions. Be alert, all the time. Park where the lighting is good. Create a protocol of locking your home and car, and always follow it. Avoid people who — well, you know which people to avoid.

This will keep you safe and your possessions whole. Until it doesn’t. Until you get distracted or careless or impatient. Or just really damn unlucky despite your best efforts.

(But no matter what, you’ll blame yourself. That’s what you do when commanded to treat aggression by co-primates as a freakish natural disaster, like being struck by lightning. What were James Stuhlman’s last thoughts before being offed by three of Philadelphia’s finest “youths”? Probably something like, “58th Street. I had to walk the dog down 58th Street. If I had just taken 57th I would have been fine.”)

So. As I said to Balthazar:

… I’ve already worried that a female coworker might take some conversation the wrong way (“was that offensive? She couldn’t possibly think that’s offensive? She’s cool, right?”).

And I was scheduled for a meeting with a woman that I didn’t know very well … and I seriously considered what would happen if she claimed I harassed her, and what steps I could take to prove my innocence.

Precautions. Alert all the time. Fear? Yes, but sublimated into wariness.

* * * * * * * * * *

There are phonomena, and there are epiphonomena. L’affaire de la Kelly Ellis is a phenomenon. What to think about L’affaire de la Kelly Ellis is an epiphenomenon.

Whenever anyone at Ellis’ former employer has emailed, posted, memed, or otherwise expressed their epiphenomenal thoughts in a discoverable medium, they amount to the same thing: Ellis is a victim. The conduct was outrageous. Her alleged harasser was reprehensible. Google needs to do something about the treatment of female engineers.

Note that I do not label this the majority opinion. I label it the unanimous opinion. Isn’t that surprising? Google has 50,000 employees, give or take a few. If you had 50,000 Facebook friends, would they all post the same opinions?

I have my own opinions on the matter. Which: are a little out there. Googlers are from Earth and I’m from Yuggoth. More on that after a few more asterisk breaks.

The following are alternate opinions that are both reasonable and completely in line with classic progressive philosophy.

(I have no interest in naming Kelly Ellis’ alleged harasser, and I have no intention of writing “Kelly Ellis’ alleged harasser” a bunch of times, so let’s invent a pseudonym for the poor man. How about: Tom Robinson.)

  • We have only Ellis’ word for what happened.
  • We should wait to hear Tom Robinson’s side of the story.
  • We should not smear Tom Robinson’s reputation until all the facts have been ascertained.
  • Discussing Tom Robinson as if he were proven guilty puts Google at legal risk.

Which of these arguments were made in the past few weeks on Google’s extensive social networks? The answer appears to be “none.” There was one person who objected (very mildly) that false accusations of rape were found harmful to European men. A few posts later, that person grovelled (very mildly) and apologized.

(Kids, if you’re curious about Tom Robinson: believing that accused rapists should receive due process is not a thing and never has been. Very soon an encyclopedia update will arrive with important information about Toki city in Gifu Prefecture. Please paste it over that other article, about some book.)

If you, as a Googler, expressed one of the arguments listed above, you would get a lot of pushback. You would be called out on Google+, or have a meme made about you. You might have to debate as many as a dozen people. You have a job. You were hoping to spend the evening watching the best team in college basketball double up its opponent. Not arguing with a bunch of fanatics. Who needs this? Y’all have fun now.

And on the subject of “have a job” … the intimidation really hits you when a progressive’s comment or meme gets 30, 40, 50 upvotes. 30, 40, 50 is a lot of people. Compared to little you. And you wonder … will I work with any of these people in the future? Are they on promotion committees? Might I need their help in an emergency?

Much better to say nothing. Thus: Silence. Thus: Unanimity. Fear? Yes, but sublimated into a resigned feeling that it’s best to keep silent.

* * * * * * * * * *

Google, like any large organization, has a culture. Because Google is large, the culture is not uniform. Variance in corporate culture is especially notable when an executive talks about it; the experience of the leader is so often different from that of the grunts.

Some years back, a very senior product manager (whose initials shall be gently encrypted as WE — no relation) sent a mass email to propose how Google could preserve its culture. WE’s method was called “pecking.” When birds discover that one of their nestmates is not quite right, they peck. Each individual peck is not very forceful, but the sum of all of them drives the outlier from the nest.

That Googlers who don’t fit in should be “pecked” by their coworkers went over like a lead balloon. Every geek, myself included, is sensitive to being a misfit. We aren’t the most attractive. Or well dressed. We’re not into sports or celebrities or extreme outdoor sports or whatever the happy shiny people are doing.

In an earlier post I said that progressive methods for enforcing consensus are “indistinguishable from bullying.” That’s a good description. “Pecking” is a better one. Peck away little progressive. Peck peck peck.

* * * * * * * * * *

An interruption for a commercial break. Was Enlightened cannot exist indefinitely on Lovecraft pastiches, futile attempts to instill a sense of shame in progressives, and snarky swipes at dim-witted athletes. Was Enlightened needs to branch out. To monetize! Today’s special: Apparel. Please do try a sample.

It being the early 21st century, we cannot deliver actual clothing over your internet connection. The metaphorical variety will have to do. You will say a sentence — more than once, if you please. You don’t button up a shirt and then immediately take it off. Say these words monotonically, then with inflection, loudly, then softly. Strut in front of a mirror. See how you like it.

“The unanimous opposition to Kelly Ellis’ harassment is a result of Google’s commitment to diversity.”

So what do you think? It comes in red and black, though I can tell you that the unsophisticated onlooker has a difficult time telling the two shades apart.

If you were able to wear this metaphorical tunic without activating your gag reflex — even better, if “commitment to diversity” activated a pleasurable sensation deep in your limbic system — you are well on your way to power. To be sure: an existence as a small avian who pecks one’s nestmates is power of the most limited sort. But even a tiny slice of power is so hot and juicy.

And now back to our program.

* * * * * * * * * *

“If the past is a foreign country, a reactionary is a patriot of that country.” I am a patriot of the past. Progressives hate the past. (They also hate patriots.)

Were I to make my political views known at my workplace — “given the facts are as presented, Tom Robinson did nothing wrong and Ellis is a deranged attention whore”, or, in response to another woman who left: “do you call that a legitimate list of concerns? I call it documentary evidence that women like to complain, and if you take the complaints too seriously you just get more complaints” — it would be impossible for me to continue working there. Not that I would be summarily fired. Tom Robinson was not summarily fired when Kelly Ellis decided to ruin his life. But it was not possible for him to continue working at Google. He was like the soldier in the war movie who gets shot, and continues to fight until realizing he is dead. Dead man walking.

I have no intention of being dead man walking. So I am anonymous. Use proxies. Carefully avoid any information that would identify me.

I am a sound sleeper. I am not a worrier. But sometimes, the night after publishing one of these posts, I wake up with the sweats. Did I just dox myself? Did I let enough personal detail slip that I could be identified? Eventually I decide that, no, I couldn’t possibly have done anything so dumb. Eventually I return to sleep.

Thus: Fear. Not sublimated into anything.

Balthazar, I trust that this detailed reply was helpful.