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Critics Debate Autism's Role in James Damore's Google Memo (themarysue.com) 353

James Damore "wants you to know he isn't using autism as an excuse," reports a Silicon Valley newspaper, commenting on the fired Google engineer's new interview with the Guardian. But they also note that "he says being on the spectrum means he 'sees things differently'," and the weekend editor at the entertainment and "geek culture" site The Mary Sue sees a problem in the way that interview was framed. It's the author of this Guardian article, not James Damore himself, who makes the harmful suggestion that Damore's infamous Google memo and subsequent doubling-down are somehow caused by his autism... It frames autism as some sort of basic decency deficiency, rather than a neurological condition shared by millions of people.... This whole article is peppered with weird suggestions like this, suggestions which detract from an otherwise interesting piece.. All these weird suggestions that autism and misogyny/bigotry are somehow tied (as if autistic feminists didn't exist) do unfortunately detract from one of the article's great points.

Having worked at a number of companies large and small, I can at least anecdotally confirm that their diversity training rarely includes a discussion of neurodiversity, and when it does, it's not particularly empathetic or helpful... Many corporate cultures are plainly designed for neurotypical extroverts and no one else -- and that should change. I really do think Lewis meant well in pointing that out. But the other thing that should change? The way the media scapegoats autism as a source of anti-social behavior.

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Critics Debate Autism's Role in James Damore's Google Memo

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2017 @08:38AM (#55586035)

    that is all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      After they tried to shame him as "conservative" for discussing social science research, they tried to shame him sexaully by releasing a photo of the guy at the Folsom Street Fair. Hint: conservatives do not attend the Folsom Street Fair.

      Now they're trying to claim that his uncontroversial memo (did you read it? There was nothing wrong with it.) was a product of mental illness. Like you said, "medicalization of dissent." I bet they have a different take on the mentally ill people who claim they are a differe

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        'This guy needs a few lawyers to go after everyone who is attacking his reputation.'

        Might be counter productive (except for the lawyers) since he's the first guy to go after.
        First rule of being in a hole is to stop digging.

        If you are still learning how the world works and you say something that makes a bunch of folks mad, then saying more to defend yourself is unlikey to improve the situation. Kind of like the definition of insanity of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Better to lay

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          >Even if there was any glimmer of right in the original ham fisted paper, it doesn't matter. At this point, the response is ballistic. It is not going to change course. Anything done to try to defend the original sin is going to be met with more of the same.

          That's only true for most situations, not this situation. It's already escalated far past the lay low and let it blow over stage, and turned into part of the culture war. His choices now are bow to the orthodoxy or fight for the truth.
        • Kind of like the definition of insanity of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

          That is not the definition of insanity. Normally this "definition" is just inane, but in a discussion specifically centered around a cognitive disorder it seems almost irresponsible.
      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:34AM (#55587099)
        Straw man argument there. What I (a flaming liberal compared to the entire US government) heard in my circles was:

        - He released a company wide memo which predictably upset a lot of his coworkers

        - The right wing media was taking a break from lecturing about personal responsibility to champion him as a poster boy for political speech run amok

        - He might be claiming to have a PhD when he didn't actually finish it

        - He performed a lewd skit in front of his grad program and got in trouble for it

        - He might be going on conservative media playing up the "I'm a victim of liberals!" angle.

        I'll admit all of that is behavior I've come to expect from republicans, but I heard ZERO indictments of him about his political leanings. Maybe that was just because there was too much material to get to boring stuff like that in his 15 minutes of fame.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:59AM (#55587291) Homepage Journal

      Damore is the one who brought up his autism. Go check the interview.

  • SJW are weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2017 @08:40AM (#55586045)

    They call for tolerance on all views on life except when it doesn't suit their own agenda. I call BS.

    • Re:SJW are weird (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @08:43AM (#55586069)

      They're also misrepresenting what he says. As usual.

      • Re:SJW are weird (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dread_ed ( 260158 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @01:33PM (#55588157) Homepage

        What I find most interesting is that Damore's memo is full of things that your run-of-the-mill, narrative toting, brainwashed SJW should be able to identify with and support.

        Damore said, if you read with some clarity and intelligence, that the patriarchy has, at a fundamental level, influenced and controlled the structure of jobs in the tech sector. His position is that because of male domination in that industry the parts of the job that are not related to the actual work of being a software engineer are more easily tolerated by those with Y chromosomes.

        Long hours, little time off, working weekends, high stress, and recognition based on being noisy and self promoting are all artifacts of a overtly male occupied industry, which is now permeated by decades of entrenched male-oriented business structures. His tentative proposal was to rearrange these parts of the business to better accommodate individuals that do not thrive in that environment.

        I think it was in Google's best interests to tar and feather him. The changes he points to would severely alter the corporate business structure and cost Google an incredible amount of money. Working anyone, not just women, 6-7 days a week for 12 hour days (or more!) would become verboten. Promoting people would require taking a deeper look at each eligible candidate, rather than quickly sifting through the handful of shameless self promoters who constantly squak for promotion. Reducing stress would require redundancy in more positions and necessitate additional employees.

        He is right though. If the tech industry were to change these antiquated ideas of what it takes to make it big at Google, more women would find working there attractive. Lowering standards wouldn't be necessary to increase female participation in their workforce. The drawbacks of the industry that have the best and brightest women choosing other fields would no longer be a barrier. I also think that more men would want to work there too, but as there has been no shortage of men who are willing to sacrifice their entire lives to the company for 70 hours a week plus, this is irrelevant. If the objective is to attract a more diverse pool of qualified candidates, and to keep the ones you already have happy, these changes would certainly do it.

        So yeah, Google dodged a bullet there. Damore's changes would certainly accomplish the goal of attracting more diverse qualified candidates. Unfortunately, Google is too attached to a patriarchal system that preys on the "bread-winner" drive of males for profitability and market dominance. If exploiting their employees wasn't such a big part of their successful business model they could easily change their business structures to make their company more attractive to women.

        Google also got really lucky that there are so many "feminists" that took the "he's a sexist" bait and ran with it. If they had bothered to actually think about what he said, rather than using it as an opportunity to rant and scold, his points could have spurred a debate that may have ultimately become an important turning point in the all too silent war that has been simmering between workers and corporate America. Alas, useful idiots are available by the millions and they are always looking for an opportunity to be offended in a loud and public voice. The end result is that Google gets to maintain their antiquated, male-centric, patriarchal business structure and at the same time receive the support of women everywhere.

        What a damn shame.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2017 @08:46AM (#55586079)

    The point of the (well written) original article was that Damore had handled things poorly due to his condition, not that his opinions arose due to his condition. E.g. he describes how he was associated with people he had never supported following the media backlash, and his poor social skills prevented him from being able to properly articulate his true position. Also he described how aspects of the wording in his memo could have been improved if he had been able to better predict the reactions of those around him.
    It seems to me that this Mary Sue article has an axe to grind, perhaps not surprising given the source.

    • He didn't handle the situation poorly. He actually handled it quite well, despite being burned by a very loud public.

      This autism thing he brought up is, of course, a bad move, but I guess he's in duress and not a PR pro. ... He should probably get one.

  • I think some aspects of Aspergers or other Autism spectrum disorders have it RIGHT in that emotion has no place in decision making. Do the right things for quantifiable reasons and don't expect everyone to read between the lines and come to same conclusions because people are too chicken shit to say what they mean.

  • Early days (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @09:05AM (#55586177)

    The media "broke coverage" of Autism with Rain Man in 1988, and other than a few brief echos on Oprah and such it didn't say much again until the new millennium.

    Would you think that with 17 years of practice, they'd have it down to a graceful sensitive socially correct science by now? I wouldn't. There was 10 years of "AWARENESS" beating the drum as loudly as possible while the "diagnosed" rates climbed from 1:10,000 through 1:150 and settled down around 1:68. Now that everybody is AWARE, there's been scant attempt to teach the nuance between Aspergers' and the various levels of dysfunctionality.

    Give it another generation, when people who were AWARE in elementary school start framing the message it might take on a more human tone. For now, we're still getting our stories from the barely clued in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )

      What makes it problematic is the amount of assholes who label themselves "Autistic" to get away with being arrogant assholes with zero concern for their environment, bordering on being a psychopath (though I leave it open for debate what side of the border they're on). Which is the absolute opposite of what you'll find in a highly functional Autist who is actually trying what he can to appear "normal" and blend in.

      It's a bit like the shit those transtrender assholes pull. Trust me in one thing: Someone who

    • Give it another generation, when people who were AWARE in elementary school start framing the message it might take on a more human tone. For now, we're still getting our stories from the barely clued in.

      That's a generous description of Slashdot :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2017 @09:11AM (#55586203)

    His mistake was to speak up. Autism doesn't turn people into idiots, often quite the opposite, but it makes it difficult to predict how other people will react. Social customs are highly illogical and usually not codified, but they govern everyday life to a high degree. Autists often speak their mind and offend without intent to offend. It is difficult to understand that it could be wrong to say what you truly believe and can corroborate with facts. It's not a "basic decency" deficiency. Autists are typically honest people, simply because they are bad at deceiving other people. An honest person who doesn't know when to shut up can be quite exhausting however.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @09:46AM (#55586391)

      Autists usually believe you when you tell them something and they will respond honestly. So if you tell them that you want an "open and frank discussion", they will give you one. And they will of course not understand when you react in a hostile way because all they did was to give you what you wanted.

      In other words, never ask an Autist for something you don't want because you WILL get it.

      • they will respond honestly.

        This is so true. My son and I are both on the spectrum and both have trouble lying. He will try to lie, but is horrible at it and crumbles on even the most basic questioning. Personally, I find lying extremely hard to do. I can do it if it's a small lie like "No, honey, I didn't buy you a birthday present" when I really did and am keeping it as a surprise, they're fine. If it's something bigger like trading in a car for a new one and I think the old car's transmission is shot, the

  • Wel duuuhh
  • Another place where everyone dissenting with the obvious glorious achievements of the glorious revolution were labeled insane. I mean, you have to be insane to not realize you're living in the best of all possible worlds!

    (I wish I was kidding) [wikipedia.org]

  • First, let's spin the time-o-meter back a bit and remember that Damore's original premise was impaired based on technical factors ALONE. This was a deficit of analysis, nothing psychological. He tried to mis-apply population and sub-group statistics without quantifying any null hypothesis or larger context.

    Technical issues aside, the specific wording and tone used in his note is a separate issue. I'm no linguist or lit-crit person, but he seemed to be very abstract, as if he had no direct, personal invol

  • why is anyone paying any attention to this? at all?

    i remember back when the whole point of so-called "nerd culture" was to, you know, avoid sensationalistic tabloid culture bullshit.

  • If not for double standards, the left would have no standards at all.

    He "self identifies" as autistic. According to the left's rules, that's good enough for him to qualify as a woman [breitbart.com] or black [urbandictionary.com]. But not autistic?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      That Dolezal women was pretty much universally criticised and "the left" rejected her. Also, Damore says he was diagnosed.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      When did Slashdot become a subsidiary of Breitbart?

      Then again, with a name like "Orgasmatron" I guess no one should be surprised where you stand. You're not one of the pro-pedo republicans are you?

  • This is incredibly troubling, because it takes a legitimate if somewhat controversial statement, and wonders what mental disease or syndrome the speaker might have, as a cause, rather than dealing with the arguments directly.

    In other words, it's a fancy way of saying, "All right-minded people would never even consider that, so something must be wrong with him."

    • Further, it supposes that having Autism means there's something "wrong" with you. "He said something I don't agree with or something unpopular, therefore let's blame Autism. While we're at it, let's look at everyone with Autism as suspect for this in the future,"

      This happened after the Sandy Hook shooting where reports surfaced that the shooter had Autism and the news media went on a "Does Autism Cause Shootings" frenzy. The answer? No, it doesn't. People with Autism are more likely to be victims of violenc

  • I mean, yeah, it's a problem for people who can't tolerate reality. But society blaming autism for speaking the truth seems a little odd...
  • Nobody wants to hear that he might have autism. Not because it may or may not be true, but it forces people to recognize this is a complex issue with valid points from many sides. It makes it harder for people to vilify someone with black and white logic, and people who have already made up their minds hate that kind of thing.
  • ... and the totalitarian climate that comes with it.

  • A trusted source of unbiased news if ever there was never one. HA HA HA!

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.