As much as it's tempting to just say "well, Google's gonna Google" as I did at first, this article had some surprises
, so it's worth reading.
First, there's the stuff I happened to already guessed about how Google weighs human rights based on the shit they did to Brazil
and the rest of the world
and how they prefer to support pedophiles
rather than make less money.
Our 2010 decision to stop cooperating with Chinese government censorship on Search results was the first time a non-Chinese corporation stood up to the Chinese government. In doing so, Google put everything on the line — its future in the world’s fastest-growing internet market, billions of dollars in profit, even the safety of our Chinese employees. At one point, I began planning for a possible mass evacuation of all our Google employees based in China, as well as their families. Although difficult, I was intensely proud of the principled approach the company took in making this decision.
However, the decision infuriated not only the Chinese government, but also frustrated some Google product executives eyeing the huge market and its accompanying profits.
Yeah, you know what ended up happening there.
It was no different in the workplace culture. Senior colleagues bullied and screamed at young women, causing them to cry at their desks. At an all-hands meeting, my boss said, “Now you Asians come to the microphone too. I know you don’t like to ask questions.” At a different all-hands meeting, the entire policy team was separated into various rooms and told to participate in a “diversity exercise” that placed me in a group labeled “homos” while participants shouted out stereotypes such as “effeminate” and “promiscuous.” Colleagues of color were forced to join groups called “Asians” and “Brown people” in other rooms nearby.
That is like some Michael Scott shit! Except crueler and more misogynist.
In each of these cases, I brought these issues to HR and senior executives and was assured the problems would be handled. Yet in each case, there was no follow up to address the concerns — until the day I was accidentally copied on an email from a senior HR director. In the email, the HR director told a colleague that I seemed to raise concerns like these a lot, and instructed her to “do some digging” on me instead.
Via this article, I learned about Absher
, a horrific application supported by both Google and Apple.
The application provides 160 services for residents of Saudi Arabia including making appointments, renewing passports, residents' cards, IDs, driver's licenses and others, and, controversially, enables Saudi men to track the whereabouts of women they control as part of the country's male guardianship system.
I read another article about China that has some insights about why people people are OK with authoritarianism and propaganda
, and obliquely, might explain why people (including people who work at Google) are OK with Google and why it might be hard to convince them otherwise.
For many, it’s about economic interests, the old unspoken pact between the government and civilians that “I’ll make you rich if you accept my authority.”
“Yes,” Tang agreed. “What is democracy in the end? It’s the powerless and the dispossessed fantasizing power and money being shared with them. In a sense, it’s very much like Communism.”
“Indeed,” another person said. “Democratic or socialist, each system has its own way of fooling people, but we’re past the point of believing in any of them. Don’t just draw the bread on paper. Give us real bread.”
This is really interesting because it is seems like a contrast with populist US voters, for whom it is not about materialism, but rather about, in some sense, dignity and restoring a social order in which their race is either supreme or "the first among equals". But a lot of Chinese nationalism comes from a desire to assert dignity/supremacy as well, as the article discusses.
On trying to change entrenched viewpoints, here is what happens when you tell a group of people that some behavior is racist:
When I read this part of the discussion the following morning, I felt sick to my stomach. I understood that our WeChat conversations were casual and not to be taken too seriously, but I also saw the danger of such casual talk about another race — stereotypes sustained and cultural superiority reaffirmed. So I decided to speak out once again. I gave historic reasons for why we should be more sensitive toward Africans. Of all people, I said, we Chinese should be more sympathetic and empathetic to people in Africa, as we were both victims of colonialism. Empathy requires us to not see a country and its people through a lens of power, but to put ourselves in their shoes and to try and understand their struggles. Knowing my audience, I also added a buffer at the beginning of my response to save my classmate’s face. I applauded Tang for his kindness — “I fully believe that you’re not racist under any circumstances,” I said, “for I know personally that you’re a kind-hearted person.” I made my point general, not targeting anyone in the conversation.
After a few hours, Tang responded. “Whether this whole thing has to do with racism is beyond us,” he said. “Let’s not talk about this anymore.” Immediately, three other guys — also the opinion leaders of the group — gave him their thumbs up.
For the next few days, people kept chatting in the group about various topics. I chimed in once but was ignored. Amidst their conversations, the word empathy was used several times, always sarcastically, as if they were subtly mocking the person who brought it up first.
On the idea of changing ideas through discussion in the first place:
I observed their discussions from my phone, uncomfortable about joining in. I thought of the American scholar James Carey and his seminal theory on communication, which I had learned in grad school. Rather than viewing communication as a transmission of information, Carey proposed that it is a construction of a symbolic reality, a ritual through which shared beliefs are maintained, strengthened, and transformed.
This projection of community ideals and their embodiment in material form — dance, plays, architecture, news stories, strings of speech — creates an artificial though nonetheless real symbolic order that operates to provide not information but confirmation, not to alter attitudes or change minds but to represent an underlying order of things, not to perform functions but to manifest an ongoing and fragile social process.
Yeah, I don't know, man. Rings true, yet also I don't know that to do about that. Maybe I should stop discussing things?