The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic:

Lead_960 (1)This week, headlines across a diverse array of media outlets proclaimed that at least one Google employee was so antagonistic to women that he circulated a 10-page “anti-diversity screed.”

That is how Gizmodo characterized the now infamous internal memo when publishing it Saturday. Similar language was used in headlines at Fox News, CNN, ABC News, the BBC, NBC News, Time, Slate, Engadget, The Huffington Post, PBS, Fast Company, and beyond (including a fleeting appearance in a headline here at The Atlantic).

But love or hate the memo, which makes a number of substantive claims, some of which I regard as wrongheaded (and which would’ve benefitted greatly from an editor with more emotional intelligence than the author to help him avoid alienating his audience, even if he was determined to raise all of the same arguments), the many characterizations of the memo as “anti-diversity” are inaccurate.

Using that shorthand is highly misleading.

As many who read past the headlines would later observe, its author, who was later fired, began, “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”

The balance of his memo argues that he is not against pursuing greater gender diversity at Google; he says it is against the current means Google is using to pursue that end and the way the company conceives of tradeoffs between the good of diversity and other goods.

More here.

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