[personal profile] mjg59
The Fantasyland Institute of Learning is the organisation behind Lambdaconf, a functional programming conference perhaps best known for standing behind a racist they had invited as a speaker. The fallout of that has resulted in them trying to band together events in order to reduce disruption caused by sponsors or speakers declining to be associated with conferences that think inviting racists is more important than the comfort of non-racists, which is weird in all sorts of ways but not what I'm talking about here because they've also written a "Code of Professionalism" which is like a Code of Conduct except it protects abusers rather than minorities and no really it is genuinely as bad as it sounds.

The first thing you need to know is that the document uses its own jargon. Important here are the concepts of active and inactive participation - active participation is anything that you do within the community covered by a specific instance of the Code, inactive participation is anything that happens anywhere ever (ie, active participation is a subset of inactive participation). The restrictions based around active participation are broadly those that you'd expect in a very weak code of conduct - it's basically "Don't be mean", but with some quirks. The most significant is that there's a "Don't moralise" provision, which as written means saying "I think people who support slavery are bad" in a community setting is a violation of the code, but the description of discrimination means saying "I volunteer to mentor anybody from a minority background" could also result in any community member not from a minority background complaining that you've discriminated against them. It's just not very good.

Inactive participation is where things go badly wrong. If you engage in community or professional sabotage, or if you shame a member based on their behaviour inside the community, that's a violation. Community sabotage isn't defined and so basically allows a community to throw out whoever they want to. Professional sabotage means doing anything that can hurt a member's professional career. Shaming is saying anything negative about a member to a non-member if that information was obtained from within the community.

So, what does that mean? Here are some things that you are forbidden from doing:
  • If a member says something racist at a conference, you are not permitted to tell anyone who is not a community member that this happened (shaming)
  • If a member tries to assault you, you are not allowed to tell the police (shaming)
  • If a member gives a horribly racist speech at another conference, you are not allowed to suggest that they shouldn't be allowed to speak at your event (professional sabotage)
  • If a member of your community reports a violation and no action is taken, you are not allowed to warn other people outside the community that this is considered acceptable behaviour (community sabotage)

Now, clearly, some of these are unintentional - I don't think the authors of this policy would want to defend the idea that you can't report something to the police, and I'm sure they'd be willing to modify the document to permit this. But it's indicative of the mindset behind it. This policy has been written to protect people who are accused of doing something bad, not to protect people who have something bad done to them.

There are other examples of this. For instance, violations are not publicised unless the verdict is that they deserve banishment. If a member harasses another member but is merely given a warning, the victim is still not permitted to tell anyone else that this happened. The perpetrator is then free to repeat their behaviour in other communities, and the victim has to choose between either staying silent or warning them and risk being banished from the community for shaming.

If you're an abuser then this is perfect. You're in a position where your victims have to choose between their career (which will be harmed if they're unable to function in the community) and preventing the same thing from happening to others. Many will choose the former, which gives you far more freedom to continue abusing others. Which means that communities adopting the Fantasyland code will be more attractive to abusers, and become disproportionately populated by them.

I don't believe this is the intent, but it's an inevitable consequence of the priorities inherent in this code. No matter how many corner cases are cleaned up, if a code prevents you from saying bad things about people or communities it prevents people from being able to make informed choices about whether that community and its members are people they wish to associate with. When there are greater consequences to saying someone's racist than them being racist, you're fucking up badly.

What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 07:58 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Since I won't be read, I guess I can write anything.

Though that code is clearly not well-formatted in its entirety, please keep in mind that these guys lost all their sponsorship because they dared inviting and letting talk someone who is professionaly relevant.

But because that invited person thinks something weird, in an unrelated subject, you and other judge them as thinking the same thing. This is already preposterous as is it, you also blame them for it even though THEY did not hurt anyone.

I am fed up with the black and white world that you depict, I am fed up with all this hatred that YOU are the the very first to convey. Please relax and stop blaming people for merely thinking differently. You are against racism, I am against racism, fine. If the guy in question thinks differently, fine. As long as nobody ACTUALLY suffer, then fine... And I don't mean by that "if someone reads a code of conduct and feel offended"...

And the saddest fact about such a post is that you have no clue that the less tolerant here, the one who is more likely to hurt people, are actually people just like you who just cannot stand the idea that other people could think differently.

I find it just as "racist" not to hire someone because they are black even though they seem the best candidate as not supporting a conference cycle just because they dared invite the person deemed the more competent but thinking (in some unrelated subject and occasions) something else.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 10:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> "You mean because that person is racist"

"…is alleged to be…"

I think the problem here is that you state something as fact which is clearly a matter of perception.

I personally do not know that person, and I will not form an opinion about someone on the basis of someone else shaming them for being X or Y.

> "The difference here is that being black doesn't hurt other people, but being racist does."

*Having thoughts* and prejudice of people for whatever reason does not hurt anyone. Publicly shaming someone for whatever reason does.

The problem is that people are trying to project their own thoughts and perceptions as the only valid truth. Not even allowing others to form their own independent thoughts and opinions.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> "Voicing them does. Attempting to convince others of them does."

My point exactly. Not only are you voicing your opinion against that certain someone, you are also trying to convince a conference to ban him, and after that even to boycott that conference altogether.

(disclaimer: I base my opinion on a summary I have read about the incident, so it may not be well-informed)

There is also a difference between simply voicing your opinion (as in Person B saying that person A is bad) and starting a public hate campaign against person A that tries to destroy their whole reputation and livelihood.

There is also a difference between compartmentalization (and taking everything personally) and directly offending people personally.

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-02-27 01:03 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-02-27 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-02-27 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 12:24 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wait... you offer a link that says people think hes kinda racist, but he comes back with how you judging that metric for racial superiority is racist and he doesn't claim anyone is superior. Then, despite your source, you claim something it specifically did not confirm, and don't provide evidence to back it up and just say "no." I know people arguing on the internet aren't obligated to give each other anything, but you need to do a little better than that if you have any hopes of accomplishing anything by responding here. You cant turn people to your cause like that.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 11:40 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Okay, tell me if I'm wrong here: you never actually looked at who that speaker was and what he said. You just believe you can't form an opinion based on “someone else shaming them”, but you won't look by yourself at what he said. Am I right?
That would be very telling about your priorities, if you had so much time to spend defending him, no time to check what he did, and wouldn't believe other that took the time to check…

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 11:20 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If you murder three random people at the conference, then what you did is relevant to the conference. However, if you have happen to murder three people in the past (maybe was already convicted and served your time), it should be irrelevant to the conference. Right?

So: if you have racist opinions but in the conference keep them to yourself, I don't see how it can be relevant. If, however, you go to a conference, give a talk and manifest your racist opinion, it is a problem. It is also likely to be violation of the those rules. Where does the guy's behavior stand between those two extremes?

Theoretically (and judging by the name) he comes to a conference to talk about software development. In practice, such conferences include many off-topic communication.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"When you put a racist on stage, people don't just see the presentation that person is giving"

Are they prejudiced then?

Is the presentation less credible if it is done by a black person?
By a woman? By a muslim? By someone with strong views *for* islam? By oneone with strong views *against* islam?

Why should *any* of that matter at all?

"they see that being a racist doesn't prevent you from professional success. They see that there's no social cost to expressing abhorrent opinions."

So having an opinion different from the "mainstream" should prevent you from professional success?

Should there really be a social cost of having (and expressing) "abhorrent" opinions? How about expressing your opinion of which god/messiah (if any) should be considered the one and only true one?

I mean seriously. At some point you should realize that you are using the same "abhorrent" behavior that you are trying to fight against.

Maybe we should just round up every "racist" and put them in concentration camps before we gas them and burn them.
What kind of beautiful world we would have after this ~ethnic~ opinion-based cleansing. Noone else in the world to challenge our view of what is right and wrong.

We should embrace being different. Different in skin-color, gender, lifestyle choices and opinions. We do need diversity. But also intellectual diversity and diversity of opinion.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 11:58 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If O.J. Simpson participated in the "hour of code" and was invited to a tech conference to speak about it, I imagine the outcry from white people (in the USA) would not be minimal. And he was deemed "not guilty" in a court of law, even!

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I can't imagine anyone would care.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 03:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You have a crappy imagination, then.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 12:17 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I stand with the anonymous parent. This is a slipper slope. Banning people from technical conferences just because they have other opinions does not seem right to me. Ok racism is bad, but what if tomorrow people will be offended by other things like ideology (this conference accepts only republican speakers), or religion (this conference welcome only Christians speakers and all Muslims are banned) . As long as an ideology is not acted upon, I feel wrong to ban it . Banning ideas or ideology, even if morally wrong, often produce the opposite result. Moreover if somebody is invited to talk about technical content that is per-se neutral, and this person is not there to pursue his/her personal agenda, it is about loosing a important contribution to science for no reason. What is this code of professionalism would have banned the scientist that put that small dishwasher on a comet a couple of years ago just because he had a pinup t-shirt in his closet ? Slippery slop. We are scientist, and we talk science during a technical conference. Let's keep it this way.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 06:35 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"If a conference makes choices you don't like, don't support that conference."

Then just don't support Lambdaconf. Bun no, you are spilling shit on them and whining.

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: [personal profile] tim - Date: 2017-02-28 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-02-28 06:50 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: [personal profile] tim - Date: 2017-02-28 06:53 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-02-28 06:55 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2017-03-01 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

From: [personal profile] vatine - Date: 2017-02-28 06:48 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
>The difference here is that being black doesn't hurt other people, but being racist does.

then punish them for actions that actually hurt people in quantifiable ways, not thoughtcrime. this "legitimizes" bs is meaningless nonsense.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-27 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You cannot provide an environment that is welcoming and inclusive towards both racists and people of color/ethnic minorities. You cannot provide an environment that is welcoming and inclusive towards both misogynists and women. You cannot provide an environment that is welcoming and inclusive towards both homo/transphobes and LGBQT folks.

You have to pick which of the above groups in each category you want to welcome into your environment, because you can't have both, almost by definition.

Given that one of these groups of people in each category are just a bunch of people being their intrinsic selves, and the others are specific individuals who are behaving in a way that they could change at any time, if they wanted to and chose to, then I'm perfectly happy excluding the bigoted asshats.

I'm also pretty sure that you end up with access to more total competence in your community by excluding a handful of highly competent shitheads, and nurturing the competence of hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of marginalised people who would otherwise be excluded. And even if that's not the case, I know which community I (as a straight white cis male) would rather be a part of.

Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 02:01 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The evidence from LambdaConf itself suggests otherwise.


Re: What is wrong with you?

Date: 2017-02-28 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just because some members of marginalised groups manage to sidestep or overcome the obstacles that are put exclusively in their way, even if more did so this year than last year, that is not evidence that those obstacles do not exist, or are not discouraging many others to the point where they are excluded.


Matthew Garrett

About Matthew

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

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