A week ago, James Damore was anonymous. Now, the Google engineer who lost his job after he wrote a viral antidiversity screed has become an icon of the alt-right, with more than 40,000 Twitter followers (literally overnight) and a dedicated online constituency.
This didn't happen by accident: Damore's swift lionization as a casualty of both unchecked social justice warring and an unregulated Big Tech monopoly that silences dissenting voices is the work of a well-oiled pro-Trump media machine, one that's able to instantly bring its brand of digital insurgency to any skirmish. And in the case of Google, and Silicon Valley as a whole, the new right is digging in for a long, hard fight, with Damore at the center.
According to multiple self-proclaimed leaders of the new right, the Damore fiasco isn't just this week's latest outrage, but a tentpole moment in the larger online culture wars.
Silicon Valley offers a perfect target. For years, anti–social justice trolls and right-wing media personalities have railed against the tech industry for censoring their viewpoints and blocking them from services. And in recent months, the battle has intensified. BuzzFeed News reported recently that online payments and crowdfunding companies have “banned or hobbled the accounts of several prominent people and groups that promote far-right politics.” Last week, YouTube announced it would put extremist content “behind an interstitial warning” that prevents them from being monetized, recommended, or eligible for comments or user endorsements. And the pro-Trump crowd has attempted to counter with their own platforms — a movement the New York Times called "alt-tech."
"This is just like GamerGate and it will play out just the same way," Milo Yiannopoulos told BuzzFeed News. "Frothing outrage from the Left, joyful victory for the libertarian Right, and a public left even more skeptical than before about the liberal institutions who presume to rule over them: the media, the academy, Hollywood, and of course Silicon Valley." Yiannopoulos argues that the Google incident is just the latest blow to the progressive left, which he claims is dying.
And according to the new right, the fight has just begun. In an email to BuzzFeed News, Chuck Johnson — a former freelance journalist who has reportedly worked with the Trump transition team and now owns the right-wing crowdfunding site WeSearchr, alleges that he's working with supporters to surveil and undermine Silicon Valley "until either the companies change or go under."
"The five Silicon Valley monopolies have been behaving illegally on hiring and firing decisions for years, and it is now coming to a head. The no platforming has continued capriciously and vindictively for years, and we are now fighting back," Johnson wrote.
The battles, it seems, are forthcoming. Trump Twitter personality Jack Posobiec has organized a "March on Google" event slated for Saturday, Aug. 19 at Google campuses across the US. And new-right leader Mike Cernovich is planning an equally confrontational approach.
"If you ban us from Twitter, we're going to chain ourselves to the front door at Their offices. If YouTube puts me in their video ghetto, I will show up at the CEO's house. Don't worry, it'll be perfectly legal — we'll just hold signs," Cernovich told BuzzFeed News of his plans for what he is calling the new right's newfound activism.
But every major new-right movement needs a leader. Here's how Damore went from engineer to hero overnight.
Multiple sources told BuzzFeed News that Chuck Johnson first approached Damore.
Once Google fired Damore, Johnson approached him and offered to help with his media strategy. Within minutes, Johnson helped set up a crowdfunding page for Damore on Wesearchr. In four days, it had raised over $40,000 of its $60,000 goal.
Soon after, Johnson told BuzzFeed News he persuaded Damore to bypass traditional media — he reportedly had offers to speak to multiple cable and TV networks — and give his first interview to pro-Trump YouTube star Stefan Molyneux.
"I no longer believe in PR that starts with the lying media first," Johnson told BuzzFeed News of the interview decision. "James is obviously brilliant and should be allowed to elaborate on his views on camera."
Bypassing traditional media for a longform video interview is a tried and true pro-Trump media strategy.
In general, the pro-Trump media believes in unedited interviews, which they argue are authentic and can't be edited to reflect bias.
Others in the pro-Trump media cite the Molyneux interview as a crucial move for Damore. "I think it indicated to our whole group that he was the real deal," Posobiec told BuzzFeed News. Cernovich agreed that the decision to forgo legacy news endeared him to the pro-Trump base.
"He's red-pilled on the fourth-generation media strategy," Cernovich said. "You don't give the ratings and ad dollars to the the people who want to go out there and trip you up or demonize you." Cernovich argued that the Molyneux interview allowed Damore to reach his target audience — which doesn't read, listen, or watch mainstream media.
Almost immediately, Damore's supporters gathered on social media around the hashtags "#GoogleMemo," "#GoogleManifesto," and "JeSuisJamesDamore" to voice their support and publicize the firing.
And then Breitbart and other pro-Trump media outlets immediately piled on with stories alleging to expose Google corporate culture as hostile toward conservative viewpoints.
Across pro-Trump message boards and Discord chatrooms, pro-Trump trolls quickly began throwing out anti-Google conspiracies and making the company a target of its vigilante investigations.
And then the memes started coming...
As the pro-Trump internet ramped up its campaign, some of its more prominent figures, including Yiannopoulos, began singling out Google employees who supported Damore's firing online.
As interest in Damore's cause kept growing, he gave a series of interviews to other anti–social justice and conservative personalities, including Ben Shapiro and Canadian professor Jordan B. Peterson.
Each interview upped his profile and provided more fodder to his supporters, who quickly began comparing his memo to Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
Next, Johnson enlisted photographer Peter Duke to come to the Bay Area and photograph Damore.
Duke was recently dubbed as the Annie Leibovitz of the alt-right by the New York Times and specializes in photos of pro-Trump/new media personalities. Duke took a series of photos of Damore on Thursday, which were then used to start Damore's Twitter account.
Johnson and Duke then spread the word to other pro-Trump personalities that Damore was officially on Twitter.
"I was hanging out when I got a message from Peter about the photos and the account," Cernovich told BuzzFeed News. "He had like 127 Twitter followers, and so I tweeted out that picture, and said this is Damore's real account. And it took off and went viral."
Just as Damore's Twitter account took off, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher tweeted his concern about Damore's firing, calling for an investigation in Congress.
Then Damore headed to Mountain view to stage a protest.
Two sources said that, on Johnson's advice, Damore and Duke headed to Google's Mountain View campus to allegedly crash the employee town hall meeting Google CEO Sundar Pichai had organized to discuss diversity issues at the company. Pichai was planning to address questions from employees about the memo and Damore's dismissal, and about company culture regarding politics.
Around this time, some of Google's internal communications leaked to major news outlets, including Wired. They included a number of the questions employees planned to ask the town hall. Coupled with fact that employees had been outed throughout the week by Vox Day and Yiannopoulos, Pichai canceled the town hall.
"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be 'outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall," Pichai wrote in a memo announcing the cancellation. "In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion."
But the pro-Trump media took credit for the canceled meeting, suggesting that Damore intimidated the company and CEO.
"I don't believe the cancellation was due to people being doxxed — all the information that was published was public. It's more that they knew Damore was gonna infiltrate and come up and try to go onstage to talk, and that it would be the perfect media spectacle," Cernovich told BuzzFeed News. Cernovich and two other sources told BuzzFeed News that Damore's plan was to Periscope the Google town hall and force the company to address his concerns.
The canceled town hall only exacerbated the online vitriol directed toward Google. Pro-Trump personalities like Posobiec railed against the company Thursday night, suggesting that Google was unwilling to have an open dialogue with Damore and his supporters. "It's like — wait — you guys are Google. You have all our data. You know everything about us. We can't shine any light on what your policies are?" Posobiec said of the canceled meeting. "Double standard."
Now, the pro-Trump media say that Damore's newfound fame is indicative of a bigger movement — an all-out protest against Silicon Valley.
To hear the pro-Trump personalities tell it, their protests have only just begun. As of today, anti-Google billboards at bus stops have popped up around California with phrases like "Goolag" and "search for diversity of thought somewhere else."
"I think it'll be a wake-up call to other tech companies to let us be," Posobiec said. "We've pushed the fight into the mainstream now, and it's huge — I keep waiting for Trump to tweet about it."
Annie Leibovitz's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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