Intolerance

Published in Thoughts, Politics on Jan 15, 2021

People in the developer community are some of the least tolerant people. Especially those who market themselves as tolerant.

It's a well-known fact that the developer community (especially on Twitter, especially US-related, especially SF-related) is extremely politically homogenous. I wouldn't say that the political views themselves are extreme, but the enforcement of them is.

This links to the whole cancel culture thing. People in the developer community who happen to have more right wing views almost never talk about them, and when they do, they often get vilified.

Note that I'm not defending any side's views here, I'm talking about this vilification only.

A recent example would be when Jack, the Statamic founder, wrote about why he's voting for Trump.

This caused a lot of backlash, he lost many Twitter followers, and many people went on a mission to hurt the business that puts food on his family's table.

Headless CMS solutions that aren't Statamic

So as it turns out, the guy who made Statamic has decided to publicize his extremely unfortunate views
[...]
TL;DR? Statamic is run by a jerk and I’d love to recommend y’all some alternatives in case you’re using it or considering it and want to course-correct.

@endangeredmassa

Disgusting and ill-informed. Demanding civility debating safety and equality is not valid.

I won't be listening to @fullstackradio anymore.

@adamwathan do you want to continue to associate with this? If so, I won't be recommending tailwind anymore.

A friend replied with a comment about the disparity between the person who wrote the article, and his podcast co-host.

So you have a beef with Person A because Person B voted in a way you clearly don’t agree with? Wut? 🤷‍♂️

And to that someone replied with a very usual response:

Reframing support for human rights violations as voting in a way tells us everything we need to know about you.

We've hit the project-evil-upon-people-you-disagree-with bingo!

  1. Ignoring the point (comment about nonsensical disparity between who wrote the article and who should be "punished")
  2. Going back to the points that criticize Jack
  3. Manufacturing evil (human rights violations)*
  4. Projecting evil upon anyone who dares to question the logic of arguments that make bold accusations
  5. "Tells us everything we need to know about you"

* Nothing that's a human rights violation was mentioned in the article, so this is exaggeration with only one goal — falsely making a person look evil.

I won't go in depth on Jack's arguments, both because they're not important in this context, and because it seems like both the article and tweet are gone now. I don't want to bring attention to things that people don't want shared, and I'm already not happy with how much I'm using this as an example. I went with it just because it's a recent thing and happened in one of the communities that I'm part of — Laravel.

Overall, a lot of responses looked like this:

@thomaslaker

I was genuinely about to jump into statamic but fuck that guy. Political opinions are one thing, but supporting trump is just pure disgusting.

So much wrong

I'll go over why this is wrong.

Counterproductive

It's counterproductive for one's own sake to be like this.

In the examples above, the people are simply deluding themselves.

First, they're incapable of debate which is limits their ability to learn new things and explore new views.

Second, they don't want to explore new views. In the examples above, not a single person has enough self-awareness to consider that they may be wrong.

In response to Jack's articles, some people addressed specific points he made.

Those responses were valid and included actual points that could be objectively proved right or wrong. In a second article, Jack mentioned that he didn't know enough about some of the issues that people mentioned.

But the vast majority of responses didn't seek a nuanced argument. They just knew they were right and that Jack was wrong.

It's extremely easy to think that you're right, and it's very difficult to realize that you're wrong. But you can't get anywhere without being able to see when you're wrong. For your own sake.

I'm aware that as much as I'm trying to write this in a nonpartisan, objective way, I might say something factually incorrect or make a logical fallacy.

Those things are bad, so it's easy to not acknowledge them. But hearing out what other people have to say is infinitely more valuable to you than being in your echo chamber repeating to yourself that you're correct and everyone else is wrong.

I don't write because I think I can force perfect views on anyone, I write partially because I get to hear people's responses and counter-arguments. As such, comments are enabled on all articles.

Just look at r/slatestarcodex. So much useful debate. Most commenters share their point, think of counterpoints, try to address them, and say why they think their point applies. Other people reply with more things supporting their point, or — more often (and for the better) — with counterarguments. It's extremely enjoyable to read both the blog and subreddit.

The price of being wrong is too high. I want to hear all the things I'm wrong about out of my own self-interest.

Hurtful

I've mentioned how such intolerance hurts the people themselves, but of course the more important point is that it's being hurtful to others purely out of one's own immaturity.

I'm not going to defend Jack's points as I disagree with almost all of them, but they were all written in good faith. People are not evil. Everyone just acts on their values, and everyone believes their values are the right ones.

If I read someone's article "Why I voted for Donald Trump" that cites their thinking, I'd respect it as much as an article "Why I voted for Joe Biden" that cites the author's thinking.

The articles, that is. And the author's right to and validity of opinion.

Reading through their points, I may subjectively disagree with certain things, and I may even find things that can be easily proven to be objectively wrong.

If I wish to, I can contact the author (or write a response article) and say why I disagree.

But it'd be wrong to simply call out the author for being a insert random evil word used incorrectly....uhh...FASCIST! just because I disagree with his conclusion without going through our differences in thinking or values.

It's genuinely fascinating how on one hand we can vilify close-minded people from the past, such as for (by our standards) inhumane religious practices — while at the same time behaving the exact same way.

If you go after people who vote for Donald Trump because you inherited an opinion from your favorite morally corrupt late night comedian — that Drumpf bad — and concluded that anyone who disagrees with you is a fascist (idea supported by an .mp3 laugh track, confirming that your view is indeed the universal consensus): you are an idiot.

And if you go after people who vote for Joe Biden because you inherited an opinion from your brotard friends, grandparents, or anyone else who's clearly the epitome of an informed citizen/nuanced thinker: you are an idiot as well.

As I was writing this article, I've read through the threads that responded to the original tweet.

Most were absolutely horrible, and some were very kind. Kind responses were either:

  1. Fellow Americans with identical views (who would've thought)
  2. Europeans European Union [UK is an outlier] (turns out we don't care about American politics or cancel culture, and it's refreshing to see someone come to a different conclusion than every progressive, nuanced, and contrarian developer who votes the same party as everyone else)
  3. People who disagreed with him and voted the opposite, but still showed respect for his opinion

Number 3 is what's rare and warms my heart. It acknowledges that the person arrived at a different conclusion than the author, but respects the fact that different people can arrive at different conclusions when presented with different sets of facts without being literally Hitler.

And the horrible responses were all the same. Here's a list. To create your own cognitively & emotionally mature thinker, mix & match at least 4 options:

  1. Complete self-absorbtion and conviction that they are 100% correct and cannot possibly be wrong
  2. Viewing the opposite party as the purest manifestation of evil
  3. Because that's not enough, adding some manufactured evil to the mix
  4. Conflict resolution skills on the level of declaring war against anyone who they disagree with
  5. r/justlearnedthefword
  6. Making sure to signal virtue with at least two things in their bio

Done! Your nuanced high resolution thinker is ready. Time to fight evil on Twitter.

Unsustainable

There's something wrong with our value systems when we value ideas (that we haven't even spent days thinking about) over other people.

@assertchris

If you’re not disappointed by this, I’d kindly request that you unfollow me, or in some other way let me know so I can unfollow you. I don’t want to cause a scene, but I have no energy to spend keeping friendships with folks who openly care so little about their neighbor.

Only in the west can people break genuine friendships over choices of politicians that they'll never meet and will only ever see on a digital screen.

"If you don't agree with me, unfollow me."

That's fine, if you want to have a political account, you may wish that certain people don't follow you.

"I don't want to cause a scene"

This is funny.

If you as a kid got into an argument with another kid, and said that you won't ever talk to them again because of that argument, you'd be — rightly — laughed at, told that you're causing a scene and that you should relax. That's talking about emotionally underdeveloped, barely walking and talking 6 year old kids.

And here you have full grown men ending friendships over which one of two awful presidential candidates they happen to prefer.

That genuinely sounds like kids ending friendships and making a scene because the other person has a different favorite football player.

"folks who openly care so little about their neighbor"

And here we've hit the dishonest evil projection bingo again. It really happens every time.

Again, I'm not saying that anyone is evil, but what Chris is doing here is evil.

Without going through anyone's personal accomplishments and contributions here, I'll just say that I personally wouldn't use "openly care so little about their neighbor" to describe someone who's building and maintaining a huge free open-source project that's helping thousands of people, but your values may differ.

It doesn't seem healthy to jump so quickly to the conclusion that someone is a bad person.

In my head it's completely imaginable that a good person would hold extreme views (including the ones I'm criticising here — I don't believe these people are evil) due to wrong information, natural biases, and external influences.

And it's also completely imaginable that they can change their mind when debate is done well.

Artificial

Every time I tweeted something that even in the slightest way disagreed with established Truths™, I had people DM me saying to be careful about sharing my views. Or as one of the nuanced thinkers featured above would say, "unfortunate views".

This wasn't a one-time thing either. It happened multiple times.

Which makes me think that the political climate in our community is largely artificial, since many people don't share their views because they're not what is thought to be the consensus-matching, peer-reviewed, ministry-of-truth-approved views.

Not many nonsensical things in life can exist naturally, so clearly there's something wrong here (which tells me, as an optimist, that it won't last).

It seems that people don't share their views because others don't do it. And others don't do it because they don't do it.

And as an extension, the power of this intolerance comes largely from people fearing it.

As I mention below — there really isn't that many crazy people. If everyone was true to their beliefs, this cancel bullshit would have much less power. If you try to cancel everyone who doesn't share your view, and that happens to be 50% of the people, you'll simply be viewed as the more annoying half of the population.

Nuance

Unless you agree with every letter I wrote (= unless you're me), you likely have a list of but-what-abouts slowly expanding in your mind.

I'll try to add some nuance in the next sections.

Not always left

It may seem that I'm taking a right-wing stance here by criticising this behavior on the left, but that's just because this article is specific to the developer community.

However it's not fair to say that this is purely a left-wing thing.

This is a problem with echo chambers, not with political sides per se. There are communities online where you'd get vilified by right-wingers for having voted blue. And all of my criticism applies to that as well.

I'm not trying to defend any political view whatsoever here, I'm talking purely about a societal problem.

That said, this is infinitely more of a thing of the left than the right.

And when you do get vilified by the right, they'll just call you a cuck or something. They won't actively try to prevent you from being able to put food on your family's table. That's almost uniquely a leftist thing.

There are many factors, such as younger people being more left-leaning — while making the largest part of the online population. So yes, technically it's possible that the average left-leaning person and right-leaning person are equally extreme but we see more of it coming from the left because there's more left-leaning people online. Insert counterargument, insert counterargument to counterargument. Yes, it's a complex thing, but the important thing is that this happens more from the left than the right, the cause doesn't change anything on the fact that a lot of evil is being done.

And when these bullies say:

It's not cancel culture it's just the consequences of your actions

They're just projecting all the negative things in their life as those are direct consequences of their actions — being a dick who no one likes.

Genuinely search for this and try to find one kind and compassionate person.

You'll see people repeating it as a mantra, because of course, things that are true need to be endlessly repeated. Of course.

Doesn't signal delusion by one bit! Perfectly honest.

Even if I was wrong and these people were completely correct, consider that there's a lot of ways to contribute to the world and make it a better place — creating things, nonprofit work, starting a business, genuine activism — and these people go for the role that administers punishment. Maybe that says something.

Not all left

Here's a reply Jack got:

@AlexBall12

Long time customer of @statamic (very small, low revenue customer I might add 😉) and will continue to be.

While my views are very different, and my vote was opposite, I 100% appreciate and respect anyone that votes based on thoughtful analysis and not soundbites. Good share 👏

This is an extremely kind and respectful response, in my view.

And how did people respond? They fought this person too.

This issue is not left vs. right, it's intolerant people vs. everyone else.

Evil matching

To build up on the section above, it seems that humans not only have a great ability of pattern matching, in the current political climate they also have a great ability of evil matching.

Must. Find. Evil. Fast.

In a healthy society, you'd exchange ideas through discussions, not vilify people based on them having ideas you don't agree with, without hearing their reasoning first.

This is related to my point about these people thinking they can't be wrong, out of hubris.

See, Alex above has "very different views". Let's say those views are very different compared to mine.

How come I could say that he's being extremely kind and respectful? If I wanted to, I could see him as the purest evil.

It's very easy to see opposing views as complete evil, because they go exactly against your entire value system. And your value system is one of the most important things you've got.

So they're not trying to implement, say, more social economic policies. They're trying to take away my rights, my freedom, my hard earned money. That's revolting. That must be evil.

Except... that thinking doesn't lead anywhere. Yes, with complete conviction in your values, and complete loyalty to them (which is not a bad thing), everything opposing seems terrible. And the paragraph above is exactly in line with how I'd react when I was 15 and very interested in political philosophies.

But that's when I was 15. Very much not mature. And what you see these days in our community is the exact same thing. Except, unfortunately, they're not 15.

If you're an open-minded person, these things should be easily imaginable for you:

  1. A left winger viewing healthcare repeal as an attack on basic freedooms
  2. A right winger viewing a healthcare law as a huge economic issue
  3. A left winger viewing economic regulation as a force for good, keeping large corporations in check
  4. A right winger viewing economic regulation as a force for evil, creating barrier for entry for new competition
  5. A left winger viewing drug laws as a restriction of individual freedom
  6. A right winger viewing drug laws as the basis of a functioning, productive society
  7. A left winger viewing abortion as a woman's basic right to her body
  8. A right winger viewing abortion as killing innocent lives
  9. A left winger viewing military spending as an extremely unnecessary expense
  10. A right winger viewing military spending as the basis of a safe, sovereign state

It's just too easy to strongly hold views, too easy to view opposite views as evil, and yet too easy to be wrong.

A minority, but an influential one

As I mentioned, this is not a lot of people, it's just very loud people.

However, they also get support from influencers who jump on every opportunity to get attention and signal their virtue.

The tweet threatening Adam to stop associating with his friend also received a reply from Ali Spittel, a "developer advocate" with 92,000 followers.

And now Adam is at fault for...

spins wheel

High resolution thinking

...creating a podcast that interviews web development experts!

High resolution thinker

How outrageous.

How dare he.

This is so ridiculous that it's genuinely hilarious to be honest. Jack writes an article, Adam is his friend, Adam gets threatened and now we're inventing ways to make him look like a bad person.

You know what acting as a bad person is like? Exactly ^ that.

The reasons for the guest list being white and male (which it's not, it's just mostly that) is obviously that people who are likely to get interviewed on that podcast (web developers, Basecamp-type business owners, OSS maintainers) are ... likely to be white and male. Because this field is, at least in the west, predominantly white and male.

Pretending outrage

holy shit ...

manufacturing problems

is that guest list ...

and implying racial and sexist prejudice

white and male

is a pretty shitty thing to do. Not to mention that this outrage is completely fake, because if she genuinely spent as much time checking her claim as the time she spent getting outraged & implying very ugly intentions, she would know that her claim about the guest list is not even true.

These are not good personality traits or people to look up to.

What to do about it

Don't care

Stop being so intense about politics.

Yes, it's an important topic, and yes, you should push your values forward.

But you shouldn't push against others. It doesn't even work.

If you want to stop someone from having horrible views, change the person's views. You won't change them by attacking the person. If someone's hateful, attacking him will only increase his hate.

Not only are these cancel morons bullies, they're also counterproductive. Making the world a worse place, and making their side look evil.

Reasonable liberals dislike cancel idiots not only for being extreme, but also for making their entire side look bad.

Now I imagine that some readers have the "but the tolerance paradox!!!" argument in their head, and I covered that too.

Caring about politics is good, but to what extent?

I live in Central Europe and here politics are largely that we don't give a fuck. People will blame whoever's in charge for their issues, but that's all.

People won't fight each other for voting opposite parties. Hell, we even have the Communist Party here. Yes, the real one. And in 2017 they got 8% of parliament votes.

I also live in a village of roughly 800 people. In 2017, the commie party got 15% of the votes.

When the communist party was in power, our country was (within a 10% confidence interval) exactly as free as it was during Nazi occupation — and we're right next to Germany. Restricted speech, travel bans, mandatory employment, torture of political criminals, execution of innocent people LET'S GO.

Hammer and sickle aside, about 98% of all those votes are just nostalgic seniors longing for the era when they were 20.

Communism is ideologically the most opposite to what I believe in absolutely all ways. Do I go fight every person who voted for that party?

Of course not, because it doesn't matter.

Neighbors won't fight each other because they voted opposing parties. They might mention who they voted for in a conversation, but that's it.

It won't offend the other person because he doesn't care.

There is time and place for debate, but it's not all the time. And there's time and place for conflict, but unless you're getting occupied by armed people, now is not it.

When I was younger I used to admire how everyone was passionate about politics in America. It was in line with my 15-year-old conviction in the importance of politics.

But, looking at America now, it's infinitely worse than here in this regard. It's not like America gets more done, yet it's all at the cost of a polarized society and growing conflict.

Our country is pretty alright politics-wise and there's no conflict here. America might get a tiny bit more meaningful change done, but definitely not proportional to all the conflict.

So stop it. Relax about politics and focus on things that matter more.

Change values

Politics are downstream from personal values. If you want someone to have "good" politics, make them have good values and make them see good information.

You won't change anyone's mind by telling them that their entire mental model of the world is wrong. The brain physically can't allow that.

Focus on changing the right things.

Realize that you can be wrong

The core of this issue is people not realizing that they can be wrong.

You wouldn't fight anyone if you weren't convinced that you're 100% right.

But ... can you be 100% right? I don't think so. And conflict is a massive risk if you can't know that you're right.

If you're not in danger, don't fight people.

Consider that you can be wrong. Think of counterarguments to your positions. Try to find data backing them up. Try to disprove them. Have a debate with someone with opposing views.

But don't go after people for having different views than you, just because you think that yours are the right ones.

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