The “Political” Resistance to Being Nice

In recent years, a war over social justice as been raging in the IT industry and one battleground in this war appears to be the codes of conduct that organizations sometimes ask their workers to comply with.

Business Insider just published an article describing one skirmish in particular.

This story tells of a contributor to the LLVM project who left because he had a political conflict with their new code of conduct. And the way I see it, the article also illustrates how people just need to get a grip. There’s nothing wrong with a code of conduct that sets the expectation that people will be nice to each other unless they have a personal problem with being nice, in which case… Who need’s them?

Sometimes, dissenters appeal to the moral grounds of freedom and find fault with trying to force people to be accepting, but that seems a bit over the top to me, especially compared to the long-standing existence of other policies like dress-codes that are no less intrusive yet receive comparatively little blow-back. Indeed, complaining about having to be nice to others is no more ridiculous than complaining that you can’t come to work in your pajamas. Both policies do in fact obstruct your total freedom, but so does the simple act of sharing a world with others.

Often times, the opposition to a code of conduct is really about something else. Rafael Avila de Espindola, for instance, is described in the article as the developer who left the LLVM project due to his personal conflict with the project’s new code of conduct but when you look at his reasoning, as he explained them, we can see that he is more generally pissed off what he calls the “Social INjustice Movement”.

(full story here)

The little play on words… ‘seems common vernacular among those who have been harboring extreme political hangups. Indeed, according to Avila, “the last drop” was the association LLVM was establishing with an organization called Outreachy (I want to talk about that name, but I won’t), that offers paid internships to people in groups that are considered to be underrepresented. Avila describes them as “an organization that openly discriminates based on sex and ancestry”.

Well, of course they do… When the industry in general discriminates one way based on sex and ancestry, a common response is to counter with discrimination the other way based on the sex and ancestry. Condemning them for doing so is no less ridiculous than condemning someone for using violence to defend himself against violence. At least in my opinion.

And it’s then it’s LLVM’s job to interview the candidate interns and further discriminate based on experience, ability and willingness.

I can’t even begin to imagine how to gauge the benefits and consequences of countering one type of discrimination with another type of discrimination but we don’t need to… and that’s pretty much my point. The association with Outreachy has nothing to do with the code of conduct Avila was refusing to accept; for him, the code of conduct is probably more a symbolic representation of the social justice movement as a whole, which I guess is OK on some level but not so much when you’re actually making false accusations.

Avila very clearly stated that through the code of conduct “the community tries to welcome people of all ‘political belief’. Except those whose political belief mean that they don’t agree with the code of conduct.”

Which would be what? The political belief that we shouldn’t expect people to be nice to each other?

Here’s the code of conduct that Avila has such contention with.

  • be friendly and patient
  • be welcoming
  • be considerate
  • be respectful
  • be careful in the words that you choose and be kind to others
  • when we disagree, try to understand why.

Seriously Raphael?