(In the time it took me to write this, wander off, then check Twitter, the subject of this piece is no longer working at Apple. I don’t think it changes the conclusion, though.)
In a small corner of Twitter, today’s main character was Antonio García Martínez. García Martínez, if you’ve never encountered him, is the kind of glib opportunist who migrated over to tech from finance a decade ago, built a cynical product the world absolutely did not need, and helped make it worse by scaling it to billions. He wrote about all of this in a memoir of sorts called Chaos Monkeys, which apparently chronicles a baroque kind of experience at the dawn of this new gilded age.
The reason García Martínez is “it” is because word started going round that he’d been hired by Apple to help them build their fledgling ad business. Outrage started to simmer on Twitter until it ended, naturally, with a petition from Apple employees asking their senior leadership why they’ve hired a misogynist and racist.
We are deeply concerned about the recent hiring of Antonio García Martínez. His misogynistic statements in his autobiography — such as “Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit” (further quoted below this letter) — directly oppose Apple’s commitment to Inclusion & Diversity. We are profoundly distraught by what this hire means for Apple’s commitment to its inclusion goals, as well as its real and immediate impact on those working near Mr. García Martínez. It calls into question parts of our system of inclusion at Apple, including hiring panels, background checks, and our process to ensure our existing culture of inclusion is strong enough to withstand individuals who don’t share our inclusive values.
The letter contains a dozen or so quotes like this, mostly from the aforementioned memoir, asking (quite naturally) how someone who’d published this could come to work at a place with a very public dedication to diversity and inclusivity. Even taking into account García Martínez’s attempts at explaining away this crass take, it’s hard to square this rather boorish view of the world with a commitment to equality. Personally, I think it’s fine for churls like García Martínez to out themselves by publishing this dreck, but if I were an employee at Apple, I don’t think I’d want to work with them.
Generally, I’m someone who believes in redemption and in giving people the opportunity to prove that they are better than their worst day, or a resurfaced screenshot, if they are committed to changing and improving themselves. That’s true of García Martínez or James Damore or really anyone. I think culturally we struggle with a framework for true redemption, and polarization and online pile-ons have only made that worse. I’m also someone who believes that we should believe people when they show us who they are and García Martínez appears to be completely unrepentant about, well, any of this.
All of which obscures an altogether different issue: why on earth is Apple hiring the type of person who helped build the core of Facebook’s business, the business they’ve spent the past year very publicly decrying? It’s not as if García Martínez is a random UX designer who’d been whittling pixels at Instagram, he literally helped build Facebook’s retargeting platform.
If I’m an Apple employee, I might also want to know: what are we building that led us to hire this guy in the first place? Haven’t we spent years making a very public stand for consumer protection, privacy, and treating our users with respect? Why are we suddenly finding ourselves even recruiting someone who helped build the very business we hold ourselves in direct opposition to?
Can Apple now seriously argue that all the recent privacy moves aren’t a cynical plan to simply corner the mobile advertising market? How long before Mark Zuckerberg starts to ask “if Apple is so committed to user privacy, why are they hiring the people who built Facebook’s ad business”?
García Martínez likes to claim he writes in the mold of a Hunter S. Thompson, which is exactly the kind of excuse disingenuous vulgarians trot out when their odious behavior catches up with them. At my most generous, I might be willing to grant that García Martínez’s unapologetic pulp is a black light on the crime scene of Silicon Valley. Maybe he’s trying to pull off some Andy Kaufman-like reveal, showing the hypocrisy at the heart of all this money.
Apple should take their employees’ concerns seriously, and they should also ask what led them here to begin with.