Inclusive Conferences Upsets People for Being Inclusive

Posted on April 9, 2016 by Richard Goulter

I’ve a huge amount of respect for Alice Maz, who tweeted out:

lambdaconf refused to bow to the outrage mob and rescind an invitation offered to a programmer under a blind submission process. so the outraged turned on the sponsors, seeking to kill the conference entirely simply because they objected to one speaker’s writings. we of put together the money to purchase a sponsor slot outright. now we ask you to join us in supporting lambdaconf. what is outrageous to us is that a band of political ideologues want to remake our spaces in their image, catering to their views alone. we oppose those who would demand that technical speakers be vetted for political hygiene before being allowed to deliver apolitical talks. above all else we want a community where everyone has the freedom to do the work they love, regardless of identity or politics. and we are sure we are not alone in this.

amar47’s letter is a gorgeous example of “Don’t judge me; judge the bad guys.”. I don’t doubt amar’s emotion and anger.
The letter basically says “Yarvin is a bad guy; he is applying to speak on a tech conference with bad motive.
There’s a key sentence:”But [asking women/minorities for their opinion] is damning. LambdaConf believes that it is fair for speakers to contribute unpaid labor to resolve the problem of Yarvin’s inclusion”. – Asking the people most adversely affected by the decision is damning? Surely not. I’m sure if the conference organisers had asked all attendees for equally-considered opinions, the accusation would be not giving enough weight to women/minority opinions.

That Yarvis’ talk passed through a double-blind process, and the objection to Yarvis is over something completely unrelated to the conference makes this particularly .. frustrating.

Viewpoints like amar’s don’t seem to understand that the sword swings both ways:

The point I sympathise with the most is “but Yarvis makes many attendees uncomfortable”.
Two can play at that game, with the premises: tech is full of white dudebros; feminists/progressives make white dudebros uncomfortable; those who make attendees uncomfortable should be excluded… modus ponens.

Indeed, if the majority are allowed to exclude the minority for arbitrary reasons unrelated to the content of the talk, do the pro-diversity folk really want to see how that plays out if the majority happen to have different priorities?

Similarly compelling is “but Yarvis is a bad person”. (Interestingly, despite STEM’s strong favour of constructivism, the point isn’t “but Curtis is wrong” but essentially “he’s gross”). – But, similarly, “exclude the gross people” hardly seems a progressive attitude to endorse. To assert “people of that kind are bad; no way will they stick to a code of conduct” is prejudicial.

– It’s also a bit cute; the far left has been lampooned for their “trigger warnings”. Here, it’s not merely enough to label an idea as bad & as to be avoided; but it’s considered intolerable that such people would attend the same conference.

The Haskell Book’s post is better in that it comes to the right answer.

– I like “Free Association is cool” point.
ClarkHat remarks on this point: in that, yeah, if people withdraw from association, it’s not exactly “censorship”, but it still sucks; & that the progressives weren’t known for shouting loudly in favour of freedom-of-association in the cases where the baker refused to cater to a gay wedding.

The post’s point is very close to a sensible one: It’s a net benefit that different kinds of people get to come together and discuss a topic of shared interest. (That is the win for “tolerance”: that people can do this despite otherwise disagreeing with each other on things). HaskellBook then goes on to say “but, yeah, I would taint a double-blind process with veto’ing; I wouldn’t invite such a person” and “well, overall it’s more in-favour of my political views than against my political views to support the conference”; such attitudes aren’t exactly a win for tolerance.
– :/ Sure, people can be free to not associate with you; I’d have more respect if the progressives were to further say “feel free to not associate with these minorities”.

There’s a kind of irony to Status 451’s successful fundraising:
Those who angrily see tech as controlled by white dudebros and hostile to feminism will say “look, see how dominant white-dudebros are; see how little power/voice we have”. – The other side of the fence will say “look, see how opposed to diverse viewpoints the other side is; see how they seek to shut down that which they can’t control”. (And so they disagree; & the sun also rises).

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