LambdaConf – a functional programming conference – invited an active and overt white supremacist as a speaker. A bunch of people signed a petition protesting that; LambdaConf told them more or less to fuck off. Now the neofascists are targeting all the petitioners, and Eric Raymond, noted open source developer, has jumped in endorsing a do-not-hire blacklist.
And somehow, at the same time, you have the Horror Writers Association appointing fascist David A Riley to their award jury, and people are fighting over what’s wrong with that.
Now, Nick Mamatas argues that there’s a bit of a difference, in that awards are specifically bringing an entire aesthetic to a function, and Moldbug – the LambdaConf white supremacist speaker – was only going to be talking about code. True, but for me, it’s not really different, just different in degree, because developers are making decisions that affect the aesthetics of real life, all the time.
Take that flap recently where a GeoIP company sent every person looking up an IP address’s geographic location to a specific address in the middle of the US if they didn’t have an actual, correct hit for that IP address. They literally chose an old woman’s farm as their default, because it was the nearest address to geographical US centre.
As a result, she’s been facing years of abuse from strangers, because the company never thought somebody would look up some woman’s address online and go harass her.
They outright said that. Tell me that’s not bringing an aesthetic to software.
And just as much as that sort of programming aesthetic, there’s simple flat out personal safety. White supremacists – like misogynists – don’t believe that everybody in the room is an actual person, right? Unless the croud is whites only, or male only, or both, of course. Preferably both.
Take Dave Sim as an example of an overt misogynist. I won’t be in the same room with that man. Preferably not the same building; certainly not at the same event. That’s because he quite literally believes that women are not people, and that women exist only to drain off of real people, meaning men.
If I have to be in the same room with him, I want a gun, because I don’t trust him not to attack me or some other woman. I think it’s very unlikely, of course. But I’ve read his writing about women, and I would not rule it out. And if we woke up tomorrow and found he’d cut up some woman and put her parts in a dumpster, I would have exactly zero surprise.
And given that this shit happens, and happens routinely, I don’t think that’s irrational. I think it’s called real life impact.
So in the case of an overt white supremacist like Moldbug, you’d have to be profoundly stupid – on an emotional/empathetic level at very, very least – to think people of colour aren’t going to have the same reaction. Because that also happens, in real life.
And I don’t think most of these people are stupid. I just think they’re fine with that.
Which is much worse.
This is part of a collection of posts on racism, sexism, and homophobia in geek culture, covering a variety of specific subtopics. A sorted list of posts can be found here.