Saturday, April 02, 2016

tl;dr of LambdaConf drama

Short: SJWs dont like person's politics, try to shutdown small programming con due to person being speaker. (from @jcase).

LongerLambdaConf (a tiny conference for LISP-like programming languages) accepted a speaker with objectionable political views, who under a pseudonym spouted Nazi-like propaganda. "Social justice" activists complained. The conference refused to un-invite the speaker, since his talk content was purely technical, not political. Also, because free-speech. Activists then leaned on sponsors, many of whom withdrew their support of the conference. Free-speech activists took up a collection, and replaced the lost money, so that the conference could continue.

Much longer:

LambaConf is just a tiny conference put on by a small number of people. It exists because, in the last few years, there has been a resurgent interest in "functional languages".

The speaker in question is Curtis Yarvin. He has weird views, like wanting to establish a monarchy. Last year, he was censored from a similar conference "Strangeloop" for a similar reason: a technical, non-political talk censored because people couldn't tolerate his politics. The current talk seems to be similar to last one, about his "Urbit" project.

LambdaConf, in the spirit of diversity, stripped the authors names when they evaluated papers, so that biases about gender and ethnicity don't enter into the evaluation process. They didn't know who they had accepted until after they accepted him.

We all use the word "social justice warriors" or "SJWs" to refer to bigots who fight for feminism, LGBT rights, and racial diversity. They fight for the same things that the rest of us do -- but just with a lot of hate and intolerance for anybody who disagree with them. They've become a pox on the technical community recently. Note that Wikipedia says that "SJW" is a pejorative word designed to belittle feminists. That's not true, as this case shows, as there are ardent feminists on both sides of this issue, but only one side are the SJWs (the ones who don't tolerate people who disagree with them).

The free-speech activists are a bunch of libertarians. In other words, they support feminism, LGBT rights, racial diversity, and everything else the SJWs do -- but at the same time, they support free speech and tolerance of those who disagree with them. Several of them are associated with a blog "status451.com", refering to the new HTTP status code "451", which of course refers to Fahrenheit 451. Among the people I follow on twitter who support this are @maradydd, @ClarkHat, @AliceMazzy@puellavulnerata.

They used Indieogogo to manage the donations. They sought $15,000, but have gotten more than that after only one day.

There is a big debate about "free-speech" and "social-justice" going on at the moment. Some claim that the speech of some, those with "privilege", drowns out the historically oppressed, so current free-speech norms are not in fact equal for everyone. Indeed, the process of stripping the author's names from papers removes the ability to overcome those historically disadvantaged like women, minorities, and LGBT. On the other hand, in this case, it's LGBT women who are calling this argument "bullshit".

Many technical conferences have adopted the SJW policy of fascist codes-of-conduct. Hopefully we can revers that trend and get conferences to adopt a policy of accepting speakers based on the contents of their talks rather than their politics.

8 comments:

Siegfried Kiermayer said...

In a society where it was not legal for woman to vote 50 years ago, i do believe that giving a person like Curtis Yarvin no platform even if it has nothing to do with his world view, is a good thing.

I don't care for Curtis Yarvin at all. I probably care more about equal rights than for him.

João Santos said...

The guy is a racist and misogynist, would you be able to attend a talk by or work with someone who thinks you shouldn't be there just because of your genitals or color of the skin. The guy thinks some people should be slaves instead of developers for crying out loud, while he has all the right to freedom of speech (while he doesn't believe in it) he doesn't have the right to speak in a particular conference, the organization just said that this piece of shit is more important than their female and minority attendants.

Bernd said...

I'm afraid the issue has nothing to do with free speech. It is merely used as a cover to justify the organizers decision to associate themselves and their conference with a notorious racist.

New Versailles said...

"You don't understand - this guy's politics are odious. Highly offensive! Super doubleplus ungood!"

This was adequately communicated up-front by the writer when he referred to Yarvin's writings as "Nazi-like propaganda." The point commenters are missing is it simply isn't relevant.

This is a conference on functional programming - and nothing else. If a conference attendee is really so repulsed by a speaker's personal writings (and that is what we're talking about: writings), then the elegant solution is simply to attend one of the other 40+ talks being offered at the conference. Shutting down the entire event so nobody can attend is antisocial and completely unnecessary behavior.

Siegfried Kiermayer said...

@New Versailles: Not a valid argument. Apparently enough sponsors do care about it and see it differently. If the result is, that the people who are holding the conference, think it is more important to give him one lecture than other people think about attending and/or sponsoring the event, than the result should have been that the conference becomes much smaller and with less or none sponsors.

I also don't care about the work of a person who is a racist. Why should i?

And yes i would also go so far to say that people who become aware of someone like Curtis Yarvin should react and do something. Send a clear message. Everyone of us has a responsibility and just ignoring it is an ignorant move.

William Young said...

"The guy is a racist and misogynist, would you be able to attend a talk by or work with someone who thinks you shouldn't be there just because of your genitals or color of the skin. "

Umm, he does not believe that.

"The guy thinks some people should be slaves instead of developers for crying out loud."

That is also ridiculous. If that's your take away from his original piece, then you fail at reading comprehension. If you want his explanation in plainer English, you can read him here https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4bxf6f/im_curtis_yarvin_developer_of_urbit_ama/d1dc2nd and here https://medium.com/@curtis.yarvin/how-to-respond-to-hostile-media-inquiries-2ce34b7ba8a6

New Versailles said...

"Apparently enough sponsors do care about it and see it differently. If the result is, that the people who are holding the conference, think it is more important to give him one lecture than other people think about attending and/or sponsoring the event, than the result should have been that the conference becomes much smaller and with less or none sponsors."

I see - the ends justify the means. If I were to mount a harassment campaign against your employer until they decide you're more trouble than you're worth, then I wonder, what would you have to say about these tactics then? All fair in culture war?

"I also don't care about the work of a person who is a racist. Why should i?"

Because professionals can disambiguate meritorious work product from the personal lives of creators. There would be literally nothing left after you purged the taint of racism from all technical contributions throughout human history.

"Everyone of us has a responsibility and just ignoring it is an ignorant move."

You don't have a responsibility to shut down other people's conferences. In fact, you have a moral obligation NOT to aggressively sabotage other people's projects.

Here are some solid options that don't involve shuttering an event for hundreds of people:
Write an article on why you disagree with Yarvin's politics.
Tell Yarvin you don't like his politics.
Don't attend Yarvin's talk.
Don't attend the conference.
Start your own conference and invite whomever you like (caution: this is hard and takes a lot of effort).

Andrea Shepard said...

For the record, the important motive to me is not even what exact code of conduct or selection policy a particular conference adopts, but the level of pressure being applied to adopt particular policies. If LambdaConf had decided CY was just too controversial to be worth it, I'd have hoped someone else occupied the niche of selection purely on technical merit, but ultimately it's their venue. Similarly, I have no objection to the people who feel really strongly the other way organizing their own conference with their preferred policy; some of them apparently have (https://twitter.com/moonconf), and I wish them the best of luck.

However, there is an effort, more widespread than any particular conference or project, to universalize particular preferred positions on these questions, as also evidenced, for example, by calls for "centralizing this kind of reporting, codification and enforcement across the FLOSS ecosystem" in https://brainwane.dreamwidth.org/76629.html, as well as by the attempt to pressure LambdaConf into adopting a political litmus test for speakers. This sort of attempt to universalize particular policy preferences by mob tactics is very much worth resisting.

Furthermore, it is apparent that for at least some of them, the particulars of CY's ideology are not even relevant - the mere fact of provoking controversy seems to suffice. I was originally galvanized into actively entering this conflict by these chilling words:

Social equillibrium[sic] is tremendously important, and disruption to that equillibrium[sic] is a cancer which the community must stamp out for its own preservation. Moldbug must be the recipient of this correction, not because of his views (which are reprehensible), but because of the effect he has. (https://gist.github.com/djspiewak/3a6ff436865d9e5794e4)

This amounts to little more than a universal justification for any ostracism: anyone targeted is *by definition* a 'disruption to social equilibrium' regardless of the reason.

-- puellavulnerata