From Google employee to right-wing Internet hero

Mr James Damore in a T-shirt bearing the word "Goolag". The Soviet Gulag ran forced-labour camps during the 1930s.
Mr James Damore in a T-shirt bearing the word "Goolag". The Soviet Gulag ran forced-labour camps during the 1930s.PHOTO: TWITTER/JAMES DAMORE

WASHINGTON • A week ago, Mr James Damore worked at Google. Now, he is sitting for portraits with Mr Peter Duke, the photographer the New York Times dubbed "the Annie Leibovitz of the alt-right".

In one photograph - the user image for an unverified Twitter account believed to be his - Mr Damore sits in front of a blue background, holding a laptop. His shirt has one word printed on the chest, in Google's font: "Goolag".

The software engineer wrote a 10-page internal memo at Google in which he argued that its current diversity initiatives were "discriminatory" against those who were not women or people of colour, that it should focus more on "ideological" diversity, and that the under-representation of women in some engineering and leadership positions at the company was better explained by biological gender differences than by institutional bias.

The memo went viral at Google - and beyond when its existence was leaked to tech news website Motherboard. Mr Damore was fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes".

But he quickly became a hero on the right-wing Internet, where a coalition of anti-politically-correct online personalities, United States President Donald Trump's supporters and the alt-right believed his dismissal was proof that Silicon Valley was hostile to conservatives - and that something was about to change.

As his Duke portraits show, Mr Damore has embraced the role.

He did not appear to have a Twitter account before his memo went viral. Last Tuesday, he apparently started tweeting as @Fired4Truth.

And the first two long interviews he gave after he was fired were to YouTube personalities who are popular on the right-wing Internet.

One was anti-feminist YouTuber Stefan Molyneux.

"There was a lot of just shaming and 'No, you can't say that, that's sexist, you can't do this', and there's just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they are saying," Mr Damore told Mr Molyneux about a diversity training session that he attended at Google.

The other interview, posted last Wednesday, was with University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, who runs a popular YouTube channel that regularly goes after what the academic believes to be "political correctness".

In the 50-minute interview, Mr Damore accused Google's "upper management" of misrepresenting him, "just to silence me", he said.

Both interviews have hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Two days later, the former Google employee published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

In just one week, Mr Damore has become one of the biggest celebrities on the conservative Internet.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'From Google employee to right-wing Internet hero'. Print Edition | Subscribe