Matthew Garrett ([personal profile] mjg59) wrote2016-06-06 08:33 pm
Entry tags:

Be wary of heroes

Inspiring change is difficult. Fighting the status quo typically means being able to communicate so effectively that powerful opponents can't win merely by outspending you. People need to read your work or hear you speak and leave with enough conviction that they in turn can convince others. You need charisma. You need to be smart. And you need to be able to tailor your message depending on the audience, even down to telling an individual exactly what they need to hear to take your side. Not many people have all these qualities, but those who do are powerful and you want them on your side.

But the skills that allow you to convince people that they shouldn't listen to a politician's arguments are the same skills that allow you to convince people that they shouldn't listen to someone you abused. The ability that allows you to argue that someone should change their mind about whether a given behaviour is of social benefit is the same ability that allows you to argue that someone should change their mind about whether they should sleep with you. The visibility that gives you the power to force people to take you seriously is the same visibility that makes people afraid to publicly criticise you.

We need these people, but we also need to be aware that their talents can be used to hurt as well as to help. We need to hold them to higher standards of scrutiny. We need to listen to stories about their behaviour, even if we don't want to believe them. And when there are reasons to believe those stories, we need to act on them. That means people need to feel safe in coming forward with their experiences, which means that nobody should have the power to damage them in reprisal. If you're not careful, allowing charismatic individuals to become the public face of your organisation gives them that power.

There's no reason to believe that someone is bad merely because they're charismatic, but this kind of role allows a charismatic abuser both a great deal of cover and a great deal of opportunity. Sometimes people are just too good to be true. Pretending otherwise doesn't benefit anybody but the abusers.

Agreed!

[identity profile] unixbhaskar.wordpress.com 2016-06-07 03:58 am (UTC)(link)
Matthew you are spot on. Channelising the power to the right channel is very important.
ext_1793572: Picture of Justin W. Flory, jflory7, from January 2016 (jflory7)

Thank you

[identity profile] jflory7.id.fedoraproject.org 2016-06-07 06:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Hi Matthew, I've been reading your blog for a while now and I often find myself agreeing with your thoughts and opinions, especially about these types of things.

I appreciate the perspective you add in to these situations, especially so early on when so many people are either shocked or in denial and many different voices are talking over each other at once. Your thoughts always appear to be like taking a step back from it all and taking a healthy amount of rational thought to the discussion… for many, I think you put into words what others struggle to put together. From a young open source contributor slowly entering the world of software and beyond, thanks for setting a positive example for others in the community.

I'm not sure I believe you...

[personal profile] lersek 2016-06-07 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
... because you communicate extremely effectively. What's your hidden agenda here? ;)

(Anonymous) 2016-06-08 02:32 am (UTC)(link)
What you are describing isn't a hero but a firebrand. Healthy, functioning communities tend to have methods to leverage the work of firebrands while protecting neophytes from getting burned by them. While I can't say for sure, your (and my) careful avoidance of the actual individual, and the slow drip of reports coming in sure seem to describe a tech community that a) isn't healthy, b) isn't functioning very well, and c) is made up of participants who are scared as hell of getting burned.

If a single bad actor can sink the entire community into a Chaumian whirlpool of paranoia, it's time to stop using the pronoun "we" because it no longer holds any meaning.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

[personal profile] tim 2016-06-08 09:02 am (UTC)(link)
tl;dr powerful people have power?
ext_1781436: (Default)

[identity profile] https://makabra.org/id/miroslaw 2016-06-09 02:44 pm (UTC)(link)
nah, we simply should never stop to question our heroes.

(Anonymous) 2016-06-12 11:03 am (UTC)(link)
> ...the slow drip of reports coming in sure seem to describe a tech community that a) isn't healthy, b) isn't functioning very well, and c) is made up of participants who are scared as hell of getting burned.
> If a single bad actor can sink the entire community into a Chaumian whirlpool of paranoia, it's time to stop using the pronoun "we" because it no longer holds any meaning.

1) The "single bad actor" might not be the source of the fear and dysfunction.

2) It's important to remember that tabloid journalism is alive and healthier than ever.

Fear and anxiety drives clicks.

Anyway.

Just as we should be constantly aware that our heroes are flawed humans -just like the rest of us- we should also be aware that folks who are sufficiently inconvenient to powerful people can find them on the wrong end of all sorts of nasty things.

In short, work hard to be blinded neither by fame nor by hatred.

(Anonymous) 2016-06-19 03:20 am (UTC)(link)
What's scary, and certainly points to the unhealthy state of this community, is how quick people are to assume that all that they read is entirely true, no matter how many red flags pop up. When you have thousands of people with billions of dollars to spare with a known agenda for character assassination (rather than an assumed one which only paranoid conspiracy freaks can claim confidence in believing in), versus a high profile and outspoken individual, it's saddening to see people immediately do a 180 on their opinion of them, especially when the majority of details do indeed come from tabloid journalism.

At least a few of those news sites have fixed their stories when some of the "victims" themselves have come out and said "actually, none of that happened, you're talking complete nonsense".

(Anonymous) 2016-06-21 05:12 pm (UTC)(link)
> What's scary, and certainly points to the unhealthy state of this community...

I don't know if you're the OP anon, but if you are, you keep confusing the picture painted by various news orgs with the state of the community. Folks who buy e-ink by the barrel and rely on clicks to keep the "presses" running are likely to make the world seem far more dire than it actually is.

What controversy is this post referring to?

(Anonymous) 2016-06-27 11:06 pm (UTC)(link)
I have a feeling this post was brought on by some sort of controversy involving a charismatic public figure. Anyone know what?

Re: What controversy is this post referring to?

(Anonymous) 2016-06-29 05:38 am (UTC)(link)
It's the smear campaign against ioerror. The name is going unmentioned so that the complete lack of concrete, verifiable evidence doesn't hinder the campaign's effect. "Listen and believe."

Re: What controversy is this post referring to?

(Anonymous) 2016-12-12 06:04 am (UTC)(link)
Unverified and often contradictory testimony (some of which, in the case of witness testimony, was contradicted by the victim who claimed that nothing bad was happening, and the witnesses misunderstood the situation) is not verified evidence. There is plenty of witness and victim testimony for UFO abductions, but that is not verifiable evidence. Now I don't claim that he wasn't a dick, because there actually is un-contradictory evidence for that. The more extravagant claims made are the ones which are lacking evidence.

So verifiable evidence? Sure, in theory. Verified, or practical to verify at this point in time with the information given? No.