The human species excels at causing pain. The annals of history are littered with elaborate and hideous tortures we’ve invented for each other—waterboarding, “the blood eagle,” death by a thousand cuts. And yet in the end, there’s possibly nothing more painful than being forced to listen to your white, male co-worker expound on “diversity.”

The world got to test this hypothesis over the weekend, when Google employee James Damore’s 10-page manifesto on evolutionary psychology, political correctness, and workplace sensitivity (among other things; look, it’s a crowded screed) leaked via Motherboard and Gizmodo. The agony—it’s not quite “being eaten alive by fire ants,” but it’s close.

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The aggrieved Damore alleged that Google had become “psychologically unsafe” for him and his colleagues, due to its unwillingness to consider women’s natural inferiority. He claimed that women are biologically more prone to “neuroticism” and stress than men, less willing to make the personal sacrifices that leadership positions require, and, of course, more interested in “feelings and aesthetics” than “ideas” or “things.” Code, both an idea and a thing, is thus unsuited for the fragile and feelings-y female brain.

Despite all this, Google had refused to accept that women would rather crochet doilies and hold hands than work in tech and continued to hire them! According to Damore, Google’s beliefs were therefore “[e]xtreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression” and its practices were “[a]uthoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression.”

Though it’s pleasant to imagine Google as a ruthless matriarchal queendom, that seems unlikely. Google is in fact currently in trouble with the Department of Labor for “systematically” paying women less than men. It has said it is working to correct the problem, and in a response to the manifesto, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance, Danielle Brown, wrote that “[diversity] and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate.” But whatever “extreme” culture of feminism Damore perceived was probably all in his head. The deck is still stacked in his favor; it’s only the attempt to improve the situation that’s made him feel picked on.

The mindset, however, is not his alone. Under President Trump, the anti-diversity backlash — which Trump arguably embodies; he is so transparently bad at governing that it’s hard not to conclude he was elected mostly on the strength of his quest to avenge himself on a black President and a female candidate — has the full backing of the US government. In the same week that the Google manifesto leaked, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice planned to investigate colleges for discriminating against white people. The report, based on a leaked document, said that the department was carefully non-specific in its language around race. Still, staff surrounding the project noted, its intent was clear.

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The initiative was hailed by Roger Clegg of the conservative think tank Center for Opportunity: “The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” he said.

By the way, that last bit — that affirmative action policies specifically disadvantage Asians seeking higher education — is a myth. And while we’re here, a few more urban legends: no, affirmative action doesn’t create quotas; no, it doesn’t primarily benefit people of color (in fact, most beneficiaries are white women); and, no, it doesn’t mean black people attend college for free.

Like the ruthless feminization of Google, the anti-white bias of American higher education is a sort of mass hallucination, whipped up by white male entitlement. And yet it’s the kind of fable that takes hold because when you’re privileged enough to always get your way, the experience of not getting it, even once, apparently feels like persecution.

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