Attention newspaper reporters: I’ll pay you $1,000 to interview this attorney about her latest case – even though I don’t care if she wins or loses.
Her name is Harmeet Dhillon. We spoke on the phone recently, and we agreed only on this…
I’m offering you financial incentive to fix that.
Dhillon represents James Damore. You might not recognize the name, but you’ve probably heard his story.
Last summer, Damore was a senior engineer at Google when he posted a rambling 10-page letter called Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber on an internal employee mailing list. It was controversial both for its substance and its clunky writing, which either barely concealed Damore’s vile opinions or led others to misunderstand him.
Damore’s letter opens…
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.
And then he uses stereotypes…
We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.
Last July, the Vice-owned tech site Motherboard first reported on the letter, calling it an “anti-diversity manifesto.” The mainstream media followed, quoting passages like, “Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things” and “abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes.”
Conservative media outlets embraced Damore. The National Review declared, “Google shouldn’t have fired James Damore.” The tech media mostly lined up on Google’s side. Gizmodo wrote, “Damore is not a victim of censorship. He did some stupid shit and got fired.”
Damore’s letter even led to this fascinating story in The New York Times, which was all about the intense reader reaction to its own coverage: ‘Thought Bullies’ or Right Move: A Divide Over James Damore Firing.
But that’s not the part of the story that interests me most. Or compels me to pay you.
The Google gag order
When Dhillon filed the lawsuit on behalf of Damore, Google asked the judge to do something very un-Google-like: Seal documents in the case. Why? Because according to Dhillon, Google’s lawyers first came to her and…
They said to me, “Our employees whose names are in your complaint are getting death threats. We want our employees to be safe. So would you agree to seal the complaint and condemn this?” I said, “No, we’re not going to agree, and we’re not going to condemn it – because we didn’t cause it.’”
Dhillon says she asked to see the death threats. She was underwhelmed…
They sent me back a couple comments from a Breitbart article. They were shit-posting comments, basically. Not death threats you could take to a policeman.
(Dhillon – who’s also the Republican National Committee representative from California –says she knows what a real death threat looks like: “I get death threats, I’m a prominent Republican in San Francisco.”)
Yet these random comments from random assholes was enough for a judge to temporarily strike documents from public view – even though Dhillon says she looked up those employees, and many have Twitter accounts. Some even commented on Damore’s letter.
“They aren’t shy about expressing themselves” she says. “They just don’t want to be criticized.”
On June 29, Dhillon will attend a hearing before the judge that will accomplish one of three things: rescind this gag order, extend it, or make it permanent.
“The implication is if this is allowed to stand, every time a company says any time our employees are getting death threats, you can’t do any reporting,” Dhillon warns. “It’s a one-way ratchet. I don’t know how you undo this.”
Of course, Dhillon could be exaggerating. She’s an attorney zealously representing her client. But that’s the problem – I don’t know for sure, because the mainstream media hasn’t written one word about this. They covered the crap out of Damore before, but they’re silent now.
Only the aforementioned Breitbart has reported on this ironic development, ending the story like this…
Google boasts of its commitment to transparency. From their website:
“We believe in the empowering and democratizing effect of putting information in the hands of everyone, everywhere. We started nearly two decades ago with the goal of organizing the world’s information and making it universally useful and accessible.”
It seems the same principles do not apply to information that exposes the company’s own wrongdoing.
I don’t often agree with Breitbart, but I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with it harder.
I’m offering $1,000 to the first reporter who covers this irony for a mainstream daily newspaper. Doesn’t matter which one or where it is.
You might wonder: How can a story published in Sheboygan or Palatka or Eugene or Sturgis go national? Simple.
Many local reporters have cynical tales of national media stealing from them. As a D-list journalist myself, it’s happened to me – stories I’ve broken have been “re-reported” by the likes of CNN and The New York Times without giving me any credit.
National media outlets regularly scour local media outlets looking for pre-packaged story ideas. So why not use this theft for good instead of evil?
Your story will offer a lazy national reporter an easy assignment. Of course, that won’t influence national news outlets that refuse to cover this. As Dhillon says…
I kept tabs on who reported on the initial complaint. So I emailed a few of them – softly. I sent them a note, “Hey, do you know that Google got this taken off the docket? Are you interested in this?” I got no response.
“I’m surprised that no one seems to care,” Dhillon told me. “Maybe they want to retain their cozy relationship with Google.”
I don’t know about that. The mainstream media hasn’t been shy about investigating Google and Facebook. More likely, it’s political.
A Wired headline probably sums up the feelings of the nation’s assigning editors: James Damore’s lawsuit is designed to embarrass Google. Several stories about the lawsuit mention Dhillon was considered for a post in the Trump administration.
So national editors and reporters might doubt Dhillon’s veracity when she says….
I’m not looking for people to take sides in this lawsuit, but transparency is important. The public has a right to know.
Me personally, I’ve been a journalist long enough that I don’t get dizzy when a source spins the news. It’s rare that anyone talks to a reporter without an agenda. So I only care about the news, not the motive.
In this instance, Dhillon makes a scary good point, and I’ll pay to spread it around.
So if you’ve made it this far, here’s what you need to do…
1. Your story must be published before Friday, June 22. That’s one week before a judge decides to end, extend, or make permanent Google’s gag order. “It would be great to get public pressure and publicity on this going before that,” Dhillon says. I agree.
2. Your story must be published in a mainstream newspaper. We can argue about exactly what that means, but let’s agree what it doesn’t: No partisan websites (left or right) and no personal blogs (like this one).
3. Your story must be about Google’s gag order. You should interview not only Dhillon but other First Amendment advocates. You should also try Google and see what they’ll say – or refuse to say.
4. Email me a link to the story. First posted, first paid. If you believe it’s unethical to get paid twice for one story, or feel it’s a conflict of interest, I’ll donate $1,000 in your name to a charity of your choice.
In case you’re wondering: The $1,000 is coming from the small bank account I maintain as the longest-serving board member with the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ can’t control what I do with my money, so this is how I’ve decided to spend some of it. Weird, I know.
For questions and/or submissions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.