Breitbart has published a leaked video of an hour-long staff meeting that happened at Google shortly after the 2016 election. The tone of the meeting, which is led Alphabet president Sergey Brin, is that of a wake. Brin opens the meeting saying, “Okay, folks, I know this is probably not the most joyous TGIF [meeting] we have had.” He adds, “Let’s face it, most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad because of the election.” He then makes a joke about pot legalization which lightens the mood in the room and gets people laughing. But the mood doesn’t stay light for long. “I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too,” Brin says.
After Brin, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made some reassuring remarks about democracy. He suggested that India, a democracy with a billion people, had “much more divided opinions than what you’re seeing here.” He continued, “I’ve seen over time— have faith in it. It tends to work out. There are many, many scary moments when it looks like the wheels are coming off but it tends to make [it] through okay and it seems to better than any other system out there.” But Pichai seemed close to tears when he said Google’s values wouldn’t change and society needed to continue to stand up for minorities.
The meeting continues like this as a kind of sad, group-therapy session for disappointed progressives. One speaker, CFO Ruth Porat, even asked everyone to give the person next to them a hug. From Breitbart:
- (00:09:10) Trying to explain the motivations of Trump supporters, Senior VP for Global Affairs, Kent Walker concludes: “fear, not just in the United States, but around the world is fueling concerns, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.”
- (00:09:35) Walker goes on to describe the Trump phenomenon as a sign of “tribalism that’s self-destructive [in] the long-term.”
- (00:09:55) Striking an optimistic tone, Walker assures Google employees that despite the election, “history is on our side” and that the “moral arc of history bends towards progress.”
- (00:10:45) Walker approvingly quotes former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s comparison between “the world of the wall” with its “isolation and defensiveness” and the “world of the square, the piazza, the marketplace, where people come together into a community and enrich each other’s lives.”
- (00:13:10) CFO Ruth Porat appears to break down in tears when discussing the election result.
- (00:15:20) Porat promises that Google will “use the great strength and resources and reach we have to continue to advance really important values.”
- (00:16:50) Stating “we all need a hug,” she then instructs the audience of Google employees to hug the person closest to them.
The entire meeting goes on for more than an hour, so there’s a lot more of this, including a discussion about what Google can do to combat “fake news” aimed at low-information voters. The video itself embeddable so you’ll have to click over to Breitbart to view it.
What’s noteworthy here isn’t that everything said in the meeting is negative (thumbs up for what Pinchai said about democracy) but that, from the top down, the entire company takes it for granted its employees are in mourning over the results of the election. The subtext of all of this is clearly that the wrong person won and everyone is right to be anxious and upset. Google turns out to be exactly the narrow, progressive club that former engineer James Damore said they were last year.
It’s a bit difficult to see how a company which is such a partisan monoculture could possibly take care not to abuse its power to step on the people (about half of the country) who it thinks are wrong and possibly even dangerous. The tone of this meeting is that of mourning but the underlying stance is adversarial. Is it really possible this doesn’t have any real-world outcomes in Google’s work?
Put it this way, if a major tech company had held a celebration of Trump’s win a few days after the election, I doubt anyone would say that viewpoint was unlikely to impact their work.
Update: Here’s Google’s response. The short version is: What political bias?
Here’s Google’s statement on that video Breitbart got its hands on pic.twitter.com/Sw5TTukJYw
— John Paczkowski (@JohnPaczkowski) September 12, 2018
Update: Here’s the full video: