Should a programming conference host a reactionary weirdo?


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2016/04/01/should-a-programming-conferenc.html


#2

Disinvite him if you want. No one owes him a platform. I don’t care. Just don’t use this bullshit excuse.


#3

How racist is this guy? How racist is acceptable? Any?


#4

Well it seems to me that if the system he’s working on has practical value, it will grow bigger than him, eclipse him, and the world will be a better place for allowing the intellectual freedom necessary for his idea to come into being. And the history writers will write, “despite the unorthodox views of it’s founder, the tech survived”.

If his system is not good enough to win in the world of ideas on it’s own (as most ideas are not), then he’ll need to go around evangelizing it. And if he’s a turd, then people will figure out he’s a turd, and he’ll be unable to communicate with them as a result. He’ll be forced with a choice: find a way to get people to listen to him by repudiating his former persona, or stick with his retrograde persona’s ideas and lose his chance to see the impact in the world he seeks.

So a long winded way of saying, “Let’s let the market place of ideas either expose this guy as the turd he wrote like, or force him to repudiate his turdy ideas”.

I have faith in the progressive arrow of societies. I’m not unduly concerned about free speech about retrograde ideas, because I assume the world will just keep rolling past them.

-jeff

PS: (In reply to codinghorror) He seems to be “theoretically racist”. I.e. he seems to be a “man of letters”, icky, turdy letters, but not real incitements to violence and racism. Perhaps we should spend more effort trying to diminish the clout of much more dangerous orange faced, small handed racists.


#5

Fuck this guy.

Computer Science and the tech industry is already a bromance of epic proportions. How many attendees who aren’t white, heterosexual males is this conference going to lose because they invited this infamous asshat to speak? (He really is rather infamous and well known for his opinions, too.)

I already know people who have decided not to attend specifically because of him. They’ll go to some other tech conference, liks OS Bridge or DjangoCon or whathaveyou, where the environment celebrates (at least to some extent) diversity.

Would we be having a discussion of this sort if a national…say…journalism conference invited a prominent KKK member to speak and people started making noise about it?

Sure, the conference has a right to invite whomever it wants but the attendees have the right to vote with their feet to make this possibly the last LambdaConf too and to go start up another functional programing conference, for example.


#6

I wouldn’t attend a science fiction conference that invited Vox Day to speak at it either, for example, and would actively encourage others to not attend the same.


#7

People still use ReiserFS and McAfee software. If his views don’t come up in the talk I don’t see any reason other than active protest to bar him from speaking (not that that’s a bad reason). Speakers that hold controversial or even straight up horrible views are hosted in a number of contexts - it doesn’t imply support of their views. Having said that, paying him to speak would be pretty bad.


#8

But do they invite Reiser to speak at their conference? We’re not talking about “use of software” here, as you say. We’re talking about giving someone with odious views a platform. They don’t need to and they shouldn’t.

In my world, it does imply support of their views (or active indifference to those people those views target). “No, we’re not racist. We just invite racists to speak!” to every non-white person as they leave the conference.

I think that their should be a personal cost in societal standing and acceptability in polite company for holding notorious and offensive views and spouting them to anyone who will listen on the Internet. Shunning is not a curtailing of rights.


#9

Are minorities, slavery, and ladies likely to feature as topics in his talk about functional programming? If not, what is the basis of the claim that there is a risk of physical and emotional harm to other delegates? If the basis of that claim is that he has made statements elsewhere that, if stated here, might cause physical and emotional harm - are the statements of all the other attendees to be screened for the potential for repeatable harmfulness? If not, what is the basis of the claim that censorship in this instance would be impartial? If so - harmful to whom? What if I find their statements harmful and you do not?

A conference informed by people who know what they are talking about, and a conference informed by people we like, are two different conferences. Which sort of conference are they putting on?


#10

Welcome, Reddit.

I hope you stay and participate beyond this single thread in our glorious community.


#11

I would personally prefer that lambda people stay away from djangocon.


#12

Don’t worry. In reality, most of Moldbug’s fanbase probably leans towards Bitcoin conferences.


#13

Thats a promise I can believe in.


#14

Especially since it appears they already have platforms.


#15

The right to free association carries with it the burden of deciding how important it is to tolerate the presence of any given asshole in your freely associated group. There is no such thing as rising above the fray in this situation and claiming you’re not political and don’t want politics involved in your code-geekery. Guess what: politics found you anyway!

You can either invite him or not. People more reasonable than he appears to be can make arguments for either side. People will judge you, perhaps harshly, either way. Some people will assume that if he’s invited, it’s because you endorse his politics, and if he’s not invited, different people will assume it’s because you hate free expression and want to force everyone to think like you. Presumably both of these things are false, but it doesn’t matter.

So I’d ask myself, “do I want him there?” and act accordingly. (You can try explaining your rationale if you want, but I doubt anyone will care.) I’m not trying to sound glib about it; I deeply empathize with the distaste the organizers might feel at this shit sandwich they’ve been served. But there’s no clever workaround or third path here.


#16

I guess from my perspective, I’m very partial to value judgments.

Like this: “Which do the organizers care more about? Some fuckwad’s ability to talk about his area expertise, or the wellbeing of the conferencegoers along with the general industry?”

But I do recognize it’s more complicated than that.

I just like simplifying things.


ETA, @slybevel and I have been talking about this privately… and from what I can tell, he and I are coming from general places of agreement. He’s more interested in making fuckwads better people. You can’t do that without giving them a chance to speak their minds and be reformed. I, on the other hand, come at this from more of a “looking out for #1” perspective.

He considers social isolation, and shunning a sort of torture. And I don’t disagree. But I’m of the opinion that if someone’s a total dickweed, then I have no obligation to even give them the time of day. In my judgment, my mental health is far more important that whatever someone else’s opinion is. And so I don’t give people I don’t like a toehold. I recognize it limits me a lot.

But then there’s also people who find more moderate communities that accept them, don’t shit on them from day one, and are able to reform people through methods like leading by example, not rewarding antisocial behavior but rewarding basic levels of civil participation and such.

It’s a messy problem.


#17

Me too! Which may or may not have been clear from what I said.

Both choices are “wrong” from the standpoint of at least one set of values (among several irreconcilable value-sets), so let them decide which governs their organization and act accordingly.

And then, in the future, think more carefully about the fact that lambda calculus may be in some sense apolitical, but humans are not, and they are an organization of humans operating in a world of other humans, and this sort of issue can come up at any time while anyone still cares about your organization.


#18

The funny thing is, I learned Python in a functional programming paradigm. It makes a lot of sense to me. You flowchart out your program, then write the code to make it do what you planned.

It has nothing to do with the concerns of hyoo-mon emotion and opinion. But hyoo-mons are the ones who write the code that makes the worky-box do the thing. We can’t have some hyoo-mon writers fucking up the whole environment for others. But even so, the hyoo-mons who do fuck everything up may still have some very good ideas. Even if I’d like to punch them in the face for their personality and philosophy, and even their actions IRL.

It’s a balance that’s way above my paygrade.


#19

One key difference between this turd and Hannibal Lecter is that one is real and one is a fictional character, so who really gives a shit how fictional characters react to another fictional character in relation to the real world? Star Trek displays a laughable view of human nature, and using the utopian human society depicted in it to show how things could or should be has no relevance when it’s not grounded in anything remotely resembling reality other than humans still look like humans.


#20

I guess no racism is acceptable, but unfortunately this is not a priciple that is applicable in real life. Racism is just too ingrained in human society to exclude everyone who displays any of it. If this guy keeps his asinine political views out of his talk and has something of value to add to the uncontroversial theme of the conference, I don´t think he should be excluded. Excluded from positions of political influence? Sure, if you can manage that (you can´t if he puts his mind to it). Excluded from the group of people most of us would personally associate with? No doubt. Excluded from a professional talk about an unpolitical subject? Why?

As for people who feel their “emotional safety” threatened by being in the general vicinity of someone representing different, even outrageous, views, how do you go through life like that?