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13 November 2018
Beware of Bigotry
Bobby Fischer, the eleventh World Chess Champion, was one of the best chess players of the last century. Did you know that, along with anti-Semitic statements, he also said that women chess players “aren’t creative and are all fish”? Did you also know that he publicly described the 9/11 events as “wonderful news”?
Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was one of the greatest American entrepreneurs. Did you know that he said in 1919 that “the Jew is the threat” and wrote an anti-Semitic set of booklets called The International Jew?
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. Did you know that he believed that blacks lacked basic human emotions and claimed he had “never seen an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” or poetry among blacks and argued that blacks’ ability to “reason” was “much inferior” to whites’, while “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous?”
Did you know that Garry Kasparov, one of greatest chess players of all time and a world chess champion, said in a 1989 interview with Playboy magazine that “there is real chess and women’s chess.”
I could go on and on with similar examples.
Do you agree with these guys? Most probably, just like me, you don’t. Most probably you have your own views. Political, social, racial, and what have you. The question is—what do you do with them? And what do you do with those you disagree with? Do you stop listening to them? Do you call them stupid, despite their obvious achievements in their trades? Do you ostracize them in order to stay only with those who share your views?
Here comes an example.
I was on my way to the airport just a week ago, planning to attend a conference as a speaker. My talk was about DevOps practices. I was planning to present our practical results in the area of multi-server deployment without a single central point of failure. While in the taxi, I checked my inbox and found this:
Hi Yegor, It has come to our attention that some of your views on women in tech published as posts on your blog and twitter conflict with our aims of promoting an inclusive and diverse conference. In this light, we have decided to cancel your talk. You are of course still welcome to attend the event as an attendee, assuming you accept the terms of our code of conduct. Apologies for the late notice on this.
I never asked, but I bet they are referring to “this blog post” and this recent tweet published one day before the cancellation email.
My social views conflict with their aims and that’s why they decided to not let me speak about DevOps!
I wonder, what would they have done if they had found out that I was, for example, a Muslim and believed that “a woman’s sphere of operation is the home, and a man’s corresponding sphere is the outside world.” What if they had find out that I was a Mormon and believed that “women have qualities of faithfulness, benevolence, and charity that balance the more aggressive and competitive nature of man”? What if they had found out that I was a member of the KKK, or a communist, or an MRM activist? What if I was a supporter of Trump, Putin, or Kim Jong-un?
According to the logic in their email, they would also cancel my talk. They would cancel all talks coming from Muslims, Mormons, communists, Orthodox Christians, and many others, who are not quiet and tolerant liberals, preferably without any social or political views. They would also never play chess with Kasparov, drive Ford cars, or live in the United States, which made the mistake of having a racist president. Is it really inclusiveness they care so much about?
As Sam Altman, a co-founder of Y-Combinator, said in his blog post, “It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.”
Doesn’t it remind you of the time of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich? Over half a century ago Nazis and commies were fighting with those who were thinking differently. What are we doing today? Aren’t we fighting with those who think differently about women, Jews, people of color, homosexuals, and many other controversial topics? Einstein’s ideas in physics were attacked because he was a Jewish pacifistic internationalist. Now it’s time to attack programmers who seem to be sexist. Just a change of terms, but the principle is the same.
The new flag for repression is political correctness, which, according to Doris Lessing, a Nobel Prize winner, is the “heritage of communism” used by a “self-appointed group of vigilantes to impose their views on others.”
Did we really learn any lessons from the last century or are we still the same good old bigots, looking for a reason to hunt down those who we disagree with?
You want to know the name of the conference? It was DevOpsDays Oslo. They are not alone. There were a few others also who canceled my talks. Here is a non-complete list of them (I will keep updating the list, if and when I know for sure what the reason for rejection was):
I will not hide their names. Just like Nazi criminals these guys should be known, visible, and prosecuted, as soon as possible.
PS. Let me build a list of other victims (if you know more, please add in comments, I will extend the list):