Tag Archives: dissent

Comment Of The Day: “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”

The perspective Ethics Alarms readers often add to topics based on their personal experiences is a often great enhancement to the discussions here. This Comment of the Day by Alex is a perfect example, as he clarifies the context of the Google diversity memo through his own observations as an employee of another large tech company.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”:

Rather than rehash the memo or analyze it or say what is right or wrong with its reasoning, I’ll instead add my experience dealing with internal policies and “requests for comment” at a large tech (software) company – this is a direct competitor of Google, based in the Pacific NW and employing ~100,000 people (you can figure out who they are with that). My background is in Electrical Engineering with a strong focus on Computer Science, and I was hired by my previous employer just out of college after spending a summer internship with them. I worked there for 12 years, until the summer of 2016 (actually today is my one year anniversary at my new job). In my time there I can only describe diversity and HR policies around race and gender are schizophrenic, even if well-intentioned. These are my stories [insert Law and Order opening notes].

The official harassment/discrimination policy as stated in the employee handbook (which was updated every year) is incredibly vague, and this is intentional (although no one will come out and accept it publicly). We are in an at-will state, so you can be easily dismissed based on that one vague rule; and it has been used as a negotiation tactic on borderline performance dismissals to settle for a lower severance package. (“Do you really want us to state that you’re leaving for violations of the harassment policy? No? Ok, how about you settle for 2 weeks instead of 4?”) But I also have to state that the cases where I saw this section being arguably misused can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Also, I am certain that there are good intentions behind this policy, but as is the case with many well-intentioned rules, it is when the rubber meets the road that things get messy.

Every year we had to take Standards of Conduct training. Every year we had a new edition, and every year there was at least one case study dealing with gender or racial discrimination. Some years were better than others, but in general the training was terrible. If you had the cognitive abilities of a 7-year-old you could figure out what were the right responses without watching the videos or reading the policies. (The Saturday morning cartoons I watched in the 80s – G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers – had more complex moral dilemmas). I remember one year around the middle of my tenure when the videos and cases were actually interesting and engaging. A case that I still remember from that time is about an ambiguous situation between a male manager and a female engineer not in the same chain of command. There was a big internal debate about that one, and the next year we had the blandest possible training to avoid controversies.

The above two points are to set the stage: corporate policies are clear, you should toe the line, do not do anything that might be misconstrued, you can be dismissed for very small transgressions.

And then… well… tech companies are rebels, they thrive in chaos, and you’re expected to rock the boat. In many (may be even all) groups you can only grow so much by being a technical expert, you are expected to influence larger and larger teams as you get promoted to keep getting good performance reviews. You can be the only expert on a certain software component, but unless other people know about you and have been “influenced” by you, you are not considered good enough. This has the effect of incentivizing “visibility”. Other people and other teams should know you exist and be willing to state that you’ve had a positive impact for the company. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day (2): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

This is the second Comment of the Day on the post about the Alexandria, VA gym that kicked white supremacist, aka “Nazi”, Richard Spencer out because a Georgetown professor found his presence there, in town, in the universe, offensive.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

Stipulated: This person believes things that we think are wrong, and we want him, ideally, to stop believing them.

I assert that shunning him is counterproductive with regards to getting him to stop believing these things. He is almost certainly aware of the public opinion of Nazis, and he evidently doesn’t care, so peer pressure is already shown not to work. Besides, truth is not determined by a majority vote, so if we act like our numbers are the major argument against the Nazi ideology, or whatever similar ideology this person subscribes to, it not only weakens our position in his eyes, but also leads us to forget the real reasons for what we believe.

We have at least four options:

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Comment Of The Day (1): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

 

Suddenly there is a bumper crop of Comments of the Day on Ethics Alarms; two more are slated for re-publication today, both in response to Spartan’s provocative opinion that she would leave a gym that allowed white supremacist Richard Spencer work out there, even if he restrained his urge to heil. 

First up is Mrs Q, a relatively recent addition to the ethics colloquy here, and one who has distinguished her self quickly for non-nonsense posts of clarity and purpose. Her reference in this post to the “socialist shithole” of Portland was especially timely: yesterday we learned that the city’s social justice warriors had driven a local burrito business to close for the offense of “cultural appropriation.”

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

…In my mind I don’t see myself as a quadruple minority. Yes my skin color is brown, I’m a lady married to a lady, work from home due to disability…but I don’t think of myself in terms of “special classes.” I’m probably more like a country conservative old school hippy stuck in a socialist shithole (Portland OR). However how do you think many of the young white liberals here tend to treat me? Well some dismiss me because I don’t agree with their stances. I’m called a traitor or “uncle Tom” by those who speak “anti-racism” because I don’t see myself as a victim & have no problem with people thinking so-called racist thoughts.

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”

My initial response to this comment by Spartan on the post about Richard Spencer being harassed while trying to use his gym membership and the gym’s response of kicking him out rather than his harasser was in part:

“A very clear and well-stated exposition of an unethical point of view that many misguided people agree with…thus imperiling our pluralistic society.”

It troubles me greatly that so many intelligent Americans are thinking this way in 2017.

Here is Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

This guy is a public figure and he will be recognized. He chose to be in the limelight. Gym members are allowed to quit their memberships because they don’t want to work out with an asshole. Now imagine (in liberal Old Town) that 75% of the members decide to quit their memberships at this gym because they don’t want to be around him. The business will now suffer.

I used to go to this gym, and I can tell you that I would not want to be around this man. So, although I would not circulate a petition or demand that the gym expel him, I would quit my membership. And, I probably would tell all of my friends why, so I imagine many of them would quit as well. Also, keep in mind that this gym is super tiny — you are pretty much forced to interact with other members.

In this scenario, the gym might end up closing because of lack of membership. So, this is trickier than you make it out in your hypothetical. I am not obligated, as a private citizen, to be polite or even silent around odious human beings. While I do not support a gym’s decision to terminate membership based on political (although I’m being generous here) beliefs, the fact is that people can vote with their feet.

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Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too

Let me be clear what you are saying, Professor: when you engage in harassment and bullying, that’s good, but if the bad guys do the same thing, it’s despicable. Do I have that right?

Last week, controversial speaker and white nationalist Richard Spencer was working out at the Old Town Sport&Health gym where he is a member, minding his own business,  when C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, recognized him and got in his face.

“Not only are you a Nazi — you are a cowardly Nazi,’ ” Fair says she told him.  “I just want to say to you, I’m sick of your crap — that this country belongs [to people like you]. . . . As a woman, I find your statements to be particularly odious; moreover, I find your presence in this gym to be unacceptable, your presence in this town to be unacceptable.”

Spencer called for a trainer, who happened to be black, to stop Fair and allow him to go back to working out.

“Seriously? This superior race of a white man needed the help of a female African American? What kind of martial race member is he?” Fair wrote in a post about the incident. Fair continued to harass Spencer, and another gym member stepped in to defend him. Fair said she told the woman, “Right now you’re being ignorant, and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.”

So, naturally, Old Town Sport&Health terminated the professor’s membership for bullying and harassing other members.

Just kidding! It terminated Spencer’s membership for having the audacity to hold different views than Professor Fair. Whether Alexandria kicks him out of town on the same theory, as Fair believes is the right thing to do, is unknown.

Boy I hate it when people make me defend racists. I especially  hate it when smug, self-righteous totalitarians and noodle-spined, unprincipled  gym owners make me defend racists. Nonetheless, Spencer was the abused victim here, Fair was the offender, and she, not he, should have been told to work out somewhere else.

I’m so weary of reading about restaurants that give discounts to diners who pray, and bar owners who declare that no Democrats are welcome and Maine propane dealers who tell their customers that they can freeze to death if they voted for Donald Trump. I’m tired of pointing out what should be obvious to everyone in a pluralistic society, but suddenly isn’t, particularly, it seems, to proto-totalitarians like the Georgetown professor, who is doubtless hard at work indoctrinating her young charges into believing that those with non-conforming views should have their rights taken away for the greater good. I detest Spencer’s views, but I consider Fair and her kind the far greater threat to the nation, in part because there are so many of them. Continue reading

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A “Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men” Ethics Quiz: The Bitter Propane Dealer

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

The quiz itself has little to do with the fact that Michael Turner is the kind of bad American, bad neighbor, bad community member and  jerk who makes Ebenezer Scrooge seem like a mensch, but ponder on his conduct anyway.  If you are one of the residents in Skowhegan, Maine   and you call Turner LP Gas in Skowhegan, Maine to buy propane to heat your home, you get this message from the owner:

“If you voted for Donald Trump for president, I will no longer be delivering your gas. Please find someone else.”

No, it’s not a hate crime, it’s just hate. It gets cold in Maine, and Skowhegan, like the rest of the state, has a lot of poor people among it’s 8500 or so residents. It also has many who are elderly and poor, for whom having to find another propane supplier may be not just inconvenient, but life-threatening. This is why we have public accommodation laws: To protect us, especially the vulnerable among us, from bigots and bullies like Michael Turner.

He is no different in his lack of decency and the void of ethical values in his soul than the racists who refused to allow black citizens to frequent their establishments before the Civil Rights Act, bridal shop owners who won’t sell wedding dresses to same-sex couples, and the innkeepers who turned away a pregnant woman and her husband long ago, on a night we celebrate soon.

Ethics Alarms has discussed this ugly phenomenon many times. The Bush administration tried to validate it by approving the so called “workers’ right of conscience, ” that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments they found morally repugnant. President Obama, to his credit, restricted that wide-open door to division and bigotry, then allowed the rest of his years in office to exacerbate societal schisms to the point that we have large numbers of a political party trying to overturn a legal election while calling  Americans who dared to vote differently than they did racists, sexists and fascists.

A recent Ethics Alarms post titled, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there, asked,

Are all groups, families and individuals now going to be required to declare their political and ideological positions before being allowed to order a lasagna? What is an acceptable group? If there is a protest over a Black Lives Matter dinner,  will Maggiano’s apologize? If Mike Pence and his family eats there and the “Hamilton” cast protests, does that mean they will refuse to serve cannoli members of the Trump administration? Despite the fact that the protests came from progressives, the attack on the restaurant is totalitarian in substance.  What is being commanded is conformity of thought.

Ah, but the persecutors are the good guys, don’t you understand? They know they are right, so they can rationalize hurting anyone who isn’t like them. Michael Turner is this breed of citizen. I must admit, when I warned that electing Donald Trump would turn the U.S. into a nation of assholes, I didn’t anticipate that it would be assholes like Michael Turner.

There’s no quiz on this topic, for it is settled ethics that his practice of punishing neighbors for their political views stinks. No, the quiz involves the conduct of Turner’s customers:

Today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this…

If Turner required customers to state that they voted against Donald Trump in order to buy propane from him, would it be unethical for Trump voters to lie?

Continue reading

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Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late.

maggianos

Ethics Alarms has repeatedly inveighed against public accommodations that have attempted to discriminate based on customers’ social and political views. This growing phenomenon is part of the ugly legacy of division and and hyper-partisanship created by the Obama years, and it threatens to get worse. If we want an ethical society and a healthy culture, we have to unite and reject this undemocratic tendency quickly and emphatically. It literally threatens all of us.

The specific incident prompting this alarm comes from a restaurant in my region, Maggiano’s Little Italy in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Last week, Maggiano’s was subject to a protest so vociferous that the restaurant has to shut down for the safety of employees and diners. The reason for the protest was that National Policy Institute (NPI), an alt-right group, was having a banquet there. In a grovelling e-mail to the community, Maggiano’s management wrote that

“We were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents. After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a “Sieg Heil salute” in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background. We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment.”

When did it become required conduct for restaurants to investigate the liberal bona fides of a group before it could be granted leave to dine there? When did what a diner tweets after a meal become conduct a restaurant had to account for? If Maggiano’s can be bullied into apologizing for serving the NPI, why would serving any other group or organization that some group of self-righteous protesters find objectionable, fairly or not, pose a similar risk?

Put aside the Nazi salute: that’s inappropriate conduct in a public place, and the restaurant could certainly, and should, tell diners who behaved like that to leave. That’s not what the restaurant is apologizing for, however.  They are apologizing for hosting the group, despite its Constitutionally protected political views. Continue reading

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