Cowardly Communication

Last night a story broke about a Google employee circulating an email to his colleagues regarding the company’s diversity policies. From skimming it, the email seemed reasonable, i.e. it wasn’t deliberately offensive or insulting. However, some people are appalled that someone working in Google holds such opinions, let alone shares them, and are calling for him to be sacked. Others are urging people not to read the email, as if it were a gorgon’s head.

This is wholly unsurprising. The immediate response from many people when faced with opinions they don’t like is to try, using fair means or foul, to silence that person. This has been going on for years, and the latest weapon in the censors’ arsenal is to try to get the person sacked, and to deprive them of their livelihood.

This situation is likely a natural progression from what these people got used to on a personal basis. Some years ago, everybody moved their online presence from forums, blogs, and message boards to Facebook, and then Twitter. It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the shift was quite fundamental. When you read a blog or join a forum, you have no way of filtering out content you might not like. Similarly, there’s no way of restricting the audience of what gets published, aside from a requirement to register. Everything you write can be accessed by anyone, and there is no restriction on what you might read.

Facebook is quite different, and you can select what you see and who gets to read your posts. This is understandable because it initially started out as a social networking site, but quickly became a platform for (supposedly) public content: Facebook has been used for campaigning, promoting events and businesses, and politicking almost since the beginning. Then came Twitter, which was never about keeping friends and family updated on your life, it was always supposed to be a platform for sharing your views with the big wide world and connecting with like-minded people. Only they included an option to block people. Now I can perhaps see the value of being able to block people you don’t like from contacting you, but from seeing what you are writing? What’s the point of that, especially on Twitter? It’s like an author publishing a book and placing restrictions on who can buy it, or standing on a rooftop and yelling but asking half the people on the ground to cover their ears.

This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I’ve been blocked from reading Louise Mensch’s Twitter feed. If she doesn’t want people reading it, why the hell is she writing it? The answer is obvious: she only wants certain people to read what she’s writing. We used to call this “private correspondence”, but nowadays people try doing it on the most public, open forum the world has ever seen. In other words, they want the prestige and attention that comes with being a public voice, only keeping the benefits of private correspondence. For me, this is a cop out, and one of the reasons I don’t like the blocking functions on Twitter. When I write this blog I assume everyone who knows me, including friends, family, and employers, might read it. This sharpens the mind somewhat, and keeps me from writing bollocks I can’t defend. If your public thoughts need to be hidden from certain people, perhaps your thoughts are the problem, not them.

Hence we have the Twitter generation who, at the click of a button, can stop people communicating with them and stop them seeing their public pronouncements. Little wonder they think the entire world can be made to run like this as well, hence the calls for the Google employee to be sacked and Charles Murray to be denied a platform to speak at American universities.

And you see this spilling over into people’s personal lives. Like a public blog forces you to think about what you write, so interacting with people in the real world forces you to think about how you behave. Before online dating, you’d have to find a partner among your friends or social peers. Even if you met in a bar or club, chances are you’d be mixing in the same circles and not living too far apart. Whatever the case, you had to approach them (men), or wait for them to approach you (women). The way of filtering out the riff-raff was to mix in the sort of circles you’d want to find a partner in, i.e. if you’re a student you’d normally hang out with fellow students and go to student bars, not down in some biker bar the wrong side of the railway tracks. To stay in that social circle, you’d have to adopt acceptable behaviours. Those behaviours might seem pretty ugly, especially where students are concerned, but nevertheless you had to conform to some sort of socially acceptable behaviour when interacting with others. If you didn’t, you’d face a negative response, be it criticism, nasty remarks, ridicule, or rejection from those around you. In short, in the absence of a method to block all negative responses, you had to think a little about your behaviour.

Young men are often cads and young women are often loose, but one of the main things which modify such behaviours is the social opprobrium that follows. I know guys who went out of their way to dump a girl gently because they didn’t want a huge negative reaction from her and her friends which would leave him feeling like a heel. Ending a relationship is never nice or easy, but it’s part of life and – like so many other things – it’s something one must learn to do as an adult.

The mobile phone probably changed that, initially. If you had to finish with a partner, you’d normally have to do it face-to-face, therefore she would have the opportunity to respond. If you did it by rotary phone, she could call you back. If you did it by letter, she could write a response. Then mobile phones came along and you could block her number and any response, and with texting the whole process became much simpler and cleaner: “Were dun luv, lol xxx” followed by a block and that’s that. In the age of internet and fragmented communities, you’d probably not even see them again: gone are the days of dating a girl in the village.

I’ve had girls hurl abuse at me or cry down the phone or via text message or email when I’ve split up from them, and I’ve probably done the same thing in return. Unless things start getting really psychotic, and they never have, I feel obliged to listen and soak it up. An emotional response is by definition irrational, and if one’s aim is to end up down the road with both parties reasonably happy and free of hated and humiliation and having kept face, then the emotional period must be dealt with properly.

A few years back I had a good friend come out of an appalling relationship, which she ended leaving the man (rather justifiably on some measures) absolutely livid. She had her reasons, but he had reason to feel rather aggrieved. He didn’t take it well, and she complained to me that he had sent her a flurry of nasty text messages when he was drunk a couple of weeks later. My response was something like this:

“Yes, he’s upset, understandably so. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a reason. What he’s said to you is awful, but there are reasons for it: he’s not saying it in isolation. My advice is to ignore it, because it’s angry correspondence. Respond to him when he’s nice, ignore him when he’s not, and be willing to communicate provided you remain firm that you’re not getting back together and he understand that. He needs to save face, and he needs time. If he’s still doing this in six months or a year, that’s a different matter. But right now…well, it’s to be expected.”

My friend took my advice and things became more civil. Eventually the guy moved on and she stopped hearing from him, both with their heads held (reasonably) high. Had she ignored him completely or responded in kind, things could have escalated. At best, he would have felt permanently aggrieved, and this is never a good thing. Of course, the modern advice is ignore, ignore, ignore – as if the whole thing happened in isolation. I suppose it depends on who you are, but I’m the sort of guy who thinks a woman who you’ve been in a relationship with deserves a period after the breakup of being pissed off, and she has a right to communicate with you. Guys who say “it’s best just to cut them off completely” are usually saying so for their own benefit (although they’ll say it’s for the girl’s) and it calls into question how serious the relationship was anyway. They’re hurting, and most of the time they want to save face, not get back together. If you won’t help them do that, then yes, the relationship should have ended – at her hand.

The Twitter generation are having none of it, though. These days I hear guys laughingly saying how they blocked some girl they recently dumped, because she kept texting him. What did they expect? I have seen women go running to the police complaining of harassment because some guy who they utterly humiliated had the temerity to her them know via email exactly what he thought of her. Unsurprisingly, Plod leaped into action and started issuing blanket threats of arrest and prosecution without even getting the guy’s name right, as is their wont. Modern men and women want to enter into something as complicated as a relationship but expect to be able to exit at the push of a button as if it never happened. I’ve seen women declaring love and talking earnestly with a man about long-term plans and then a few days later end the relationship by phone and block all communication saying “it’s best we both move on”, like some toad of a politician who’s been caught breaking the law. Men do the same thing, and it puts a serious question mark over anything which happened prior to that: if you’re prepared to pull the plug and run away like that, it was probably never serious in the first place – and he or she is certainly not ready for the give-and-take of a proper relationship. I’ve always seen a refusal to talk as simple cowardice.

Last year I wrote this:

Communication is everything in a relationship. When things are going well, communication tends to go well. But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open. Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message. But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply. The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over. Dead. It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off. But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest. Get back to talking as soon as possible. Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship. If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

The same is true at the end of a relationship:

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what. If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

The irony is that, in the age of unprecedented means of communication, many people have forgotten how to do it. It’s far easier to block, filter, ban, and silence than to talk, read, and listen as the latter requires effort on your part.

I don’t actually think it is iPhones and Twitter that have caused this: I think they’re merely responses to what people want. I have my opinions on why people have become like this, and I’ll write about them shortly. Doing so is likely to make me quite unpopular with some people, so I will have to tread carefully. No block function, see?

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37 thoughts on “Cowardly Communication

  1. “It’s like an author publishing a book and placing restrictions on who can buy it…”

    You just know that if there was a way, there’s authors out there that’d do just that…

  2. You just know that if there was a way, there’s authors out there that’d do just that…

    Yup!

  3. “Guys who say “it’s best just to cut them off completely” are usually saying so for their own benefit (although they’ll say it’s for the girl’s) and it calls into question how serious the relationship was anyway.”

    I’ve counseled a few guys where this was absolutely necessary due to the fact that they were so at risk of falling back into the trap again. They needed to go cold turkey for their own survival. In fact I would put it out there that any guy who needs support when holding to a breakup in the first place will probably have to go cold turkey to be successful.

    I get what you’re saying about the norms of polite society. But that society is largely over due to the systematic attacks on the family over the last 30 years. Combine the anonymity of the Tinder generation with the fact that most men are completely ill-equipped to deal with women, (particularly modern women), and it’s a total disaster out there for these guys.

  4. So, are you saying we need to continue to communicate with the SJWs while they recover from their relationship break-up with the conservative right? Not respond angrily to their angry tweets, but still keep the lines of communication open?

  5. Is this really new? In the olden days you’d just change digs and your phone number,

  6. I’ve read the email in question and found myself nodding in agreement to much it. Two things struck me about the response online.

    First: right in the beginning of the email, the writer says that Google is “an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed”. The response from most commenters (and Google itself, really) has been to try and shut down the discussion. Which goes to show that the author really has a point; lots of organisations point to the value of many types of diversity, but I don’t know of many that put a value on the diversity of thought or opinion and seek to promote it. Usually they do the opposite.

    Second: reading comments on Twitter, Facebook and the like, I lost count of the number of commenters who seem to think that the guy is saying “women should not be involved in tech”, despite the fact that much of the article discusses ways to, er, increase the representation of women in tech. This sort of thing really makes me wonder about the level of reading comprehension on display here.

  7. This is just part of the march through the institutions. The progressives have been very effective in the last decades at hijacking the public service and they have doubled their efforts at taking over the large corporations too. Anyone who points this out is going to get attacked. No parasite wants to call attention to itself.

  8. http://voxday.blogspot.ie/2017/08/suppressing-dissent-at-google.html

    The link contains further links to internal Google emails about the initial email about diversity etc within Google.
    They are mind-boggling. What is especially striking is how many managers seem able to say that they will no longer work with the author of the email- as if they rather than the company can determine this.
    I looked up one individual managers’s personal Google+ account. He refers to a book by Laurie Penny- “Laurie is spot on, as usual”, which is probably as much as you need to know

  9. I’ve counseled a few guys where this was absolutely necessary due to the fact that they were so at risk of falling back into the trap again.

    If they can’t stop themselves going back for the guaranteed shag, then yes, that’s probably for the best.

    In fact I would put it out there that any guy who needs support when holding to a breakup in the first place will probably have to go cold turkey to be successful.

    Depends, I think. Being dumped is humiliating, and a lot of the support is in terms of saving face more than anything.

    But that society is largely over due to the systematic attacks on the family over the last 30 years. Combine the anonymity of the Tinder generation with the fact that most men are completely ill-equipped to deal with women, (particularly modern women), and it’s a total disaster out there for these guys.

    Yes.

  10. Not respond angrily to their angry tweets, but still keep the lines of communication open?

    I’d treat their angry tweets with aloof indifference as a man would a child. If they want a sensible discussion, then by all means let’s have one.

  11. Is this really new? In the olden days you’d just change digs and your phone number,

    Rather more hassle than blocking somebody, isn’t it?

  12. This sort of thing really makes me wonder about the level of reading comprehension on display here.

    Indeed. They’re either thick, lying, or both. Whichever it is, they’re not worth responding to.

  13. I saw this and, although it is not talking about mature relationships, does highlight a lost generation … See what you think:

    Yup, I saw that and when I can be arsed (I’m still on holiday) I will blog about it…and it will tie into what I said in this post. I think the iPhone is simply giving kids what they want, not changing their core behaviour.

  14. as if they rather than the company can determine this.

    If the managers are allowing this then they’re not managers. Which I suspect is the case. Google owes its success to a clever algorithm, the rest of it is just fluff that anyone else could do and will do.

    I looked up one individual managers’s personal Google+ account. He refers to a book by Laurie Penny- “Laurie is spot on, as usual”, which is probably as much as you need to know

    Indeed it does.

  15. Some people would say that you are better off for not reading Louise Mensch’ twitter feed and should be grateful.

  16. “What is especially striking is how many managers seem able to say that they will no longer work with the author of the email- as if they rather than the company can determine this.”

    Strength in numbers. If one person mouths off about a colleague they might be taken into an office and given a talking too. Much more than this and you suddenly get a situation where the manager can either piss of 20 people (he can hardly fire them without having a serious personnel shortage to deal with) or the one poor sod who wrote the offensive email (or rather, he’d probably leave of his own accord.)

  17. Maybe women aren’t attracted to the software biz because they know the men they’ll meet there will be ultra boring and therefore not too attractive as mates?

  18. “It’s like an author publishing a book and placing restrictions on who can buy it…”

    You just know that if there was a way, there’s authors out there that’d do just that…

    Nope. They would get the cash and there is no way to respond really. A book isn’t free to use.

    I’ve just recently went through this where I work. Some SJW objected to something that I said on LinkedIn and twittered it to my employer complaining. They didn’t even read the article or had any interest in what was in the thread but cherry picked words out of context to say that I had brought the company into disrepute. Our company is full of SJWs and this was an opportunity to get someone brought into line. My nose was growing at the disciplinary. Lucky only LinkedIn has my real name. No promotions for me this year. I’m pissed.

  19. Ah, the dreaded Dear John letter. Here you are in some pesthole, just dying for mail from home, and this is what you get. I did receive one once. It hurt like hell, but her penmanship was always good, so there was that. I think people have always desired a method to break up with a minimum of fuss on their part, they are just doing the same thing today using different means.

  20. “Our company is full of SJWs and this was an opportunity to get someone brought into line. ”

    Post the Leave vote, where I twigged how badly the left react to things not going their own way, I’ve toned things down at work (I still occasionally burst out with the ‘Theresa May is a socialist’ level of comment). Also I don’t (at work) visit controversial sites like Breitbart as you never know who is looking at your screen from behind you. I had a sparkling wine induced go at Obama at a (UK, not US) work function once and I pissed a senior guy off with that. No direct influence although possibly some workflow diminished, although we are friendly enough now.

    No need to talk about these things at work. We have anonymous voting at the poll booth for a reason.

    I don’t use LinkedIn (I have a picture-less account which I visit 3 times a year)

  21. I think Tim’s point about public vs private correspondence, added to Phil B’s link to the Atlantic article, is interesting.

    Kids are generally evil little selfish bastards, until they get socialised, which is at least part of the reason we send the little sods off to school and various clubs and activity groups and what not. If they’re sitting on social media, then there’s a vast amount of context, tone of voice and body language missing from those online interactions, at a stage when they are still learning* how to accurately use written language. No wonder it’s all going a bit Pete Tong for them.

    On Facebook itself, I see a friend’s 17 year old son liking things (yeah, he’s 17, so it’s teenage girls changing their profile picture to ones with bikinis, particularly over the summer holidays), so apart from random teenaged female flesh suddenly appearing in my timeline, not wholly unwelcome, I must say, but I do wonder how many of the girls have actually given any thought at all to their security and privacy settings, let alone what they actually post up there. Come to think of it, the same goes for the boys.

    *Reading for comprehension is a skill. Writing for comprehension, much more so. Reading what you thought the author wrote, on the other hand, is embarrassingly easy.

  22. On LinkedIn; there’s a few guys who I worked (and got completely wrecked) with for 5-7 years; so I do know them pretty well.

    Every once in a while, they’ll post a like or comment on something that I know damn well they think is bollocks. But what they’re doing, is just maintaining their visibility in the network.

    The problem does start to become one of diversity of thought; all of the network develops its own orthodoxy, and the recruiters are on there as well…

  23. @LPT. Private thoughts need to be kept as such in work or only shared with trusted colleagues. The burden is incredible when some idiot does the standard “leave morons” speech or repeats the party line in climate change. I just, as is my way, ask for evidence, then demolish accordingly. Doesn’t put my views on the table as it just critiques one side of the argument to destruction. If called upon I can critique my own views as cover. It’s sort of what I do for work quite a bit anyway so it doesn’t mean I break cover too often.

    If you can’t keep quiet just think of Farage and Robinson and the verbal beating they get. Appalling to keep ones head down and it is quite possible to see how a few ardent (anti-)fascists can ruin everyone’s life.

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  25. They didn’t even read the article or had any interest in what was in the thread but cherry picked words out of context to say that I had brought the company into disrepute.

    It would depend on what you’d said, your financial position, and how much you want a career with these guys but if that were me I’d have gone for the jugular. I’d have written a letter, scanned and attached to an email to the corporate head of HR copying in the ethics committee to the effect of:

    “The correspondence received in relation to X is in breach of the company ethics policy and managerial code of conduct and is a gross invasion of privacy tantamount to harassment. If I receive any more communication on this subject I will be seeking legal advice. I trust you will ensure I don’t.”

  26. Kids are generally evil little selfish bastards, until they get socialised, which is at least part of the reason we send the little sods off to school and various clubs and activity groups and what not.

    That doesn’t happen nowadays because, from what I’ve seen, children run the households not the adults. No wonder they grow up to be such narcissistic shits.

  27. Having now read the guy’s post it strikes me that he ‘doth protest too much’. He could have made his point more briefly and jumped to the conclusions rather than provide evidence for male and female differences and so on. It is obvious that going down this route would offend lots of people and that the overall message would be lost. I’d like to think I would have played this better myself. Thankfully I work in a ‘hard’ profession (although you’d think that would apply to Google too!) so there is limited scope for this crap to make much waves, except for the occasional dumb training session. Anyway I hope he gets to keep his job; it would be telling if he got fired.

  28. “That doesn’t happen nowadays because, from what I’ve seen, children run the households not the adults. No wonder they grow up to be such narcissistic shits.”

    Quite. It’s just bizarre. We just watched (on iPlayer) a BBC programme about various people taking on puppies for various reasons. Our dog trainer* said watch the episode; the family with the spaniel and the three year old girl (turns out there are two older kids as well) will drive you nucking futz.

    Jesus H. Christ on a fucking bicycle. He wasn’t wrong. The father at least realised that the problem wasn’t the four month old dog. It was his three year old daughter. He just seemed to be completely incapable of even attempting to do anything *at all* about it. He seemed to really, really want to write a strongly worded letter to his wife about it, but was too scared to pick up his limited edition Mont Blanc. The wife didn’t seem to realise there was even a problem.

    And they’d named the kid Isolde. Fucking scarred for life, that one. Three years before she’s even managed to wind the dog up enough so it rips her face off, her parents have fucked her life right up. Christ Almighty, the parents should have been drowned in a river before they hit puberty. Proper health and safety, that would have been.

    *It’s not as if we actually know what we’re doing. It’s just that we aren’t stupid enough to think that we do. Sometimes, anyway.

  29. “That doesn’t happen nowadays because, from what I’ve seen, children run the households not the adults.”

    Not all households. A recent example oldest son arrives back from work, parks in garage, engine off only to hear far too loud hard core music blaring out from his car with new woofer speaker installed. Dad walks downstairs and says its too loud for the neighbours, volume reduced, youngest son comes out of bedroom to see what the noise is about and witnesses all of this, dad goes back upstairs. Father figure role complete.

  30. Of course, the guy who wrote the email has been fired to protect Google’s echo chamber, despite the CEO reportedly saying “there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK.”.

    Tim, I seem to recall a previous post of yours where you described a potential future of small groups of freelance guys working on the productive stuff – effectively doing an end-run round the corporate SJW crèche. Digital technologies and events like the above will only accelerate this.

  31. I can see why you skimmed it! I started to read it & then got a little bored so skipped little bits, then big bits… But one sentence that caught my eye was this;

    “Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is require for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.”

    I thought he was on our side! What’s this he is saying? Right wingers are great for doing the drudgery work? Huh? Thanks a lot mate!

    I think he has been holding back his opinions for some time & then it all got too much and he spewed it forth. He has one leg firmly on each side though so as not to upset too many lefties but never-the-less, he has upset them all. Lefties don’t like dissidence!! Didn’t anybody tell him that? Off with his head!

  32. Jesus H. Christ on a fucking bicycle. He wasn’t wrong. The father at least realised that the problem wasn’t the four month old dog. It was his three year old daughter. He just seemed to be completely incapable of even attempting to do anything *at all* about it. He seemed to really, really want to write a strongly worded letter to his wife about it, but was too scared to pick up his limited edition Mont Blanc. The wife didn’t seem to realise there was even a problem.

    See today’s post.

  33. Not all households.

    Absolutely, and you appear to know how to raise a family. Also, TNA did a fine job of keeping his brood in line when I saw them in Paris.

  34. Tim, I seem to recall a previous post of yours where you described a potential future of small groups of freelance guys working on the productive stuff – effectively doing an end-run round the corporate SJW crèche. Digital technologies and events like the above will only accelerate this.

    Absolutely. Eventually Google will be full of powerskirts who will have to outsource the hard stuff to small companies made up of 4-5 shitlords.

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