In his latest column, Brooks argues that “Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.”—not because of extreme gender inequality at the company, but because Pichai fired James Damore, the author of a now-infamous anti-diversity memo. According to Brooks, Damore was just telling the truth:
Damore was tapping into the long and contentious debate about genes and behavior. On one side are those who believe that humans come out as blank slates and are formed by social structures. On the other are the evolutionary psychologists who argue that genes interact with environment and play a large role in shaping who we are. In general the evolutionary psychologists have been winning this debate.
Damore’s memo has been enthusiastically and thoroughly debunked by scientists who are, unlike Brooks, experts on the matter. Writing in Recode, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett—a senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and a journalist, respectively—methodically countered each of Damore’s gender-essentialist claims. An example:
He implies that stress and anxiety are personality traits inherent in females, but more likely they are due to the pressures and discrimination women face on the job that men do not. For example, A 2008 report sponsored by major companies, “The Athena Factor,” found that women in high positions in male-dominated fields, such as tech, suffer harsher penalties than men when they slip up. Women don’t get second chances. Men do.
Despite the lack of real scientific evidence for Damore’s claims, Brooks practically eulogizes Damore as some great hero of the conservative resistance, a maligned and misunderstood soul who has been “hounded,” like the great eugenicist Charles Murray was also hounded by hordes of ferocious liberals. Pichai, in Brooks’s telling, betrayed Damore:
Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.
No CEO is a hero, but in this instance Pichai did the right thing: His options were to force his beleaguered female staff to work with a man who believes biology handicaps them in their field, or to fire Damore. He fired Damore. That was the correct decision.
Brooks’s latest column is far from the worst thing he has ever written. (That honor still belongs to his 2005 masterpiece, “Katrina’s Silver Lining,” which argued that a storm that killed 1,836 human beings “disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty.”) But enough is enough. Brooks should resign. And if he won’t, then the Times should fire him and hire someone who’s capable of rigorous—and humane—thought.