[personal profile] mjg59
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.

Date: 2016-06-08 02:32 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
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.

Date: 2016-06-08 09:02 am (UTC)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
From: [personal profile] tim
tl;dr powerful people have power?

Date: 2016-06-09 02:44 pm (UTC)
ext_1781436: (Default)
From: [identity profile] https://makabra.org/id/miroslaw
nah, we simply should never stop to question our heroes.

Date: 2016-06-12 11:03 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> ...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.

Date: 2016-06-19 03:20 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
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".

Date: 2016-06-21 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> 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.

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Matthew Garrett

About Matthew

Power management, mobile and firmware developer on Linux. Security developer at Google. Ex-biologist. @mjg59 on Twitter. Content here should not be interpreted as the opinion of my employer.

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