by UnHerd
Tuesday, 18
May 2021

Fired Apple employee: a reckoning is underway

Freddie Sayers spoke to the tech engineer about his recent dismissal
by UnHerd

Last week, tech giant Apple made headlines for the summary dismissal of one of its employees. Following a petition signed by over 2,000 Apple employees, the company decided to fire Antonio García Martínez, a senior ads engineer who had only just started, over comments he made in his 2016 book Chaos Monkeys. According to the petitioners, García Martínez had a “history of publishing overtly racist and sexist remarks” which “directly oppose Apple’s commitment to Inclusion & Diversity”. 

The quote from the book that is regularly cited, out of context, as proof of García Martínez’s apparent sexism is below:

Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit. They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence, but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they’d become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel.
- Antonio García Martínez, Chaos Monkeys

But as Matt Taibbi writes, this quote has been taken out of context, which is crucial to understanding the deliberately over-the-top style of the passage. In the memoir, García Martínez writes about meeting a six foot tall British trader who is “an imposing, broad-shouldered presence, six feet tall in bare feet, and towering over me in heels,’ who he compares favourably to other women in the Bay Area. But it is also a comparison with himself — a geeky tech engineer — which is why he was attracted to the strong British trader:

British Trader, on the other hand, was the sort of woman who would end up a useful ally in that postapocalypse, doing whatever work—be it carpentry, animal husbandry, or a shotgun blast to someone’s back—required doing.
- Antonio García Martínez, Chaos Monkeys

In an interview with UnHerd, what García Martínez finds so strange about his defenestration is that the company knew about his literary past when they first hired him:

Apple pretended that this is some kind of news they just discovered, even though they knew ahead of time. This is an old book and Apple is playing coy and pretending to not know about the book. But of course, they knew about it. They asked all my professional references about it — people very prominent in the Valley.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

On the hypocrisy of Apple regarding his book:

The ability to contextualise that creative output or other non-work output varies in real ways. Look at the rap lyrics of Dr. Dre, who’s currently sitting on the Apple board. They’re, in my opinion, absolutely putrid. And yet, there he is. I don’t see a lot of standing on principle here. I see a lot of activism, and those are not necessarily the same thing.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

Why is the quote re-surfacing now?

There’s a reckoning in corporate America more broadly and definitely in Silicon Valley around what one does at work. There’s this kind of cliche about ‘bring the real self to work,’ which I find disingenuous. We don’t bring the real self to work. The conversation you and I would have over the third pint in a pub is not what we would have as co-workers. It’s a ridiculous notion to say that your company is a family, or that the company is like the government that can actually solve social problems.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

Where does this all lead?

If you’re an artist or writer, and every word you write, you have to project forward 20 years of politics to imagine whether it’s acceptable or not, what sort of art would you end up with? There’s a lot of 20th century political movements that you can cite that art should always be in service to politics. And those political movements did not end up pretty, either artistically or politically in those movements. 
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

García Martínez has personal knowledge of such regimes, as his parents fled from Communist Cuba:

My parents were Cuban exiles; my father came with nothing in his pocket. He came through the Cuban refugee centre in Miami. I was born in the US and raised in Miami, which was very much a Cuban exile city. Communism is an all encompassing philosophy in which everything is in service of the state and the party. That’s a very dangerous trend and very dangerous expectation for culture.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

Referring to his case, some reports claimed that Silicon Valley had a white male workforce. Is this true?

It’s empirically false to claim that most of Silicon Valley is white. Anyone who’s actually worked in tech realises that it’s not true. I find it odd to interject the whole racial politics of it into tech, to be honest. Do I find it funny that a Latino minority, who managed to make it up the ranks is getting assailed by a bunch of white people who have strong ideas about whatever their politics are? Yeah, I do find it pretty ironic, actually
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

What Silicon Valley is really like:

It is an interesting weird world… Companies like Facebook and Apple, are somewhat cultish. And I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way… You have to have a religious faith in what the company is doing. Because often there are real doubts about whether the company can succeed. And it’s a motivating factor.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

On role reversal between public companies and the Government:

It used to be the big, bad government that comes in and shut things down. Now that’s been inverted. In some sense, the government isn’t doing anything. It’s really corporations that are stepping in due to public pressure. It’s an odd inversion because there are people who say “you don’t have a First Amendment right on Facebook because it’s not the government. A private company can do whatever they want”. Which is legally true. But it’s weird that we’re arguing against corporations following what we consider to be core First Amendment freedoms.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

What worries him about Big Tech?

Moderating content is all behind closed doors. They adjudicate content policy and say “this is good, and this is bad, etc”. That is what I consider dangerous: a Supreme Court of Facebook that decides when we read and see.
- Antonio García Martínez, UnHerd

Join the discussion

  • This interview made me think of the case of Carmen Segarra, the US Fed employee hired to study conflict-of-interest policies at the vampire squid, Goldman Sachs. Martinez is of Cuban, Segarra of Puerto Rican descent. They are both Hispanic but both look like white Americans. Lovely Carmen’s case was even sadder than Martinez. Her employer thought she was being too uncompromising in her recommendations regarding Goldman Sachs, and they fired her. She received vindication of a sort when a corporate merger between Kinder Morgan (yes, the same Kinder Morgan Justin Trudeau gave billions to when the Canadian government bought the Trans-Mountain pipeline) and El Paso Corpn was ruled on by a judge who found many of the same deficiencies in conflict-of-interest procedures that she had complained about. It seems that being Hispanic doesn’t prevent people like Martinez and Segarra from being hired to responsible positions. Possibly it even helps them. But it also doesn’t seem to offer them any protection against unfair dismissal. (I know, you can’t draw any firm conclusions from the experience of just two Hispanic-Americans, but it does suggest a hypothesis for testing.)

  • “”Hoist with his own petard”” as Shakespeare put it – haha, what a D***.

    So he made his millions writing code so Facebook advertisers can track and fallow you everywhere on the internet, and then a decade later gets fired because his past fallows him about. Karma. My guess is the reason he actually said nothing but appeared with Freddy is because he has a huge lawsuite mounting as a Hispanic fired by a bunch of White guys. haha (sorry if my unconscious bias against the entire tech/woke/rabidLiberal1984/elites shows up in my posts)

    ***Freddy, next interview, the second in command of MI-6.***
    Freddy: ‘So tell us about all this secret stuff you do.’
    MI-6 Guy: ‘Can’t really say much, it’s not that big a deal really.

    Freddy: So what sort of places do you work in?’
    MI-6 Guy: Well, some here and some there, bit all over really, sort of like anything, just doing stuff and whatever.’
    Freddy: ‘Well thankyou for these wonderful insights, good by.’

  • In his concluding comments, Freddie acknowledged that Mr. Martinez was clearly nervous
    Was he nervous? He just seems very high-strung. He seems like exactly the type of person I imagine creating all of these ‘amazing’ high-tech products that are designed to keep one scrolling through multiple apps and screens all day long. He even admitted he was one of the creators of the advertising schemes early on. He just seems like a great example of what I imagine those at the upper echelons of Apple, Google, FB, etc are like – full on 24/7 constantly checking their devices.

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