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[flagged] Maybe We Should Go Easy on Uncle Bob (philosophicalhacker.com)
19 points by kmdupree on July 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

Watching the uproar, I am ashamed of the tech community I've called home for many decades.

Bob's always been the kind of person that would take a position, popular or not, and ask people to reason with him so that either he's wrong or the other person is. There's no hate here, just open inquiry.

Sometimes Bob has good ideas, sometimes he has bad ideas. Like the rest of us. Sometimes he states his ideas poorly.

My mission is to make technology developer's lives happier and more productive. To do that I meet people where they are and openly and honestly try to help. I find when I get my focus on to other things, I tend to do a really poor job.

When I see this kind of herd-like mobbing and shunning, supposedly by professionals, I wonder what it's like to work with some of these people. Would I want to bring somebody in to an emotionally-charged situation that publicly shames and shuts down conversation they're uncomfortable with? At some point you're either humble and your mission comes first -- or you're sitting on the sidelines throwing rocks at people. If I ran a brothel and it caught on fire, I would want some people in a red truck to show up and put the fire out. I wouldn't want a lecture on evils of the business I was in. Save the lectures for your church group.

I apologize for the rant. I personally know people on both sides of this. It is disturbing. I feel like what happened to Bob can happen to anybody. As one person IMed a week or so "Having an opinion like Bob's or supporting him is a good way to lose your job!"

It is. And that's fucked up.

In general, it seems that we easily decry public shaming or mass pile-ons when we have no dog in the fight, but when we feel we have the moral high ground, it's all too easy to fall into mob-thinking. History is full of dangerous mobs who felt morally justified in their actions only to be judged as immoral at a later time, which is perhaps reason enough to avoid mob-thinking. This is clearly one of humanity's blindspots.

I keep getting back to one word, whether it's hiring good teams or public displays of purity: humility.

On HN, we try to assume positive intent. Many times I fail. But it's that effort, that humility, that makes productive conversations happen.

I'm okay with being correct and moral and having strong convictions -- and the world not agreeing with me. That's because who knows? I might be wrong. Been wrong a lot before. But once I drop that humility, then it's only natural to go out seeking wrongs to right. After all, I have the high ground!

There comes a point when all the arguments are well known, the direction of travel is obvious, and there's no real grounds for disagreement given the facts. At that point one can easily assume that the disagreement is not in good faith, and therefore not worth engaging with.

I think there can be good faith disagreement even when all the items you mentioned are agreed upon. The basis for the disagreements may be presuppositions, values, and priorities - people may differ here, in good faith.

To use a controversial (and simplified) example, the abortion debate may result from conflicts between a women's right to autonomy over her body vs. a child's right to life. I think both sides would agree these two values are positive; the difference is which takes priority.

Now it may also be true that it's not worth arguing about values, because they are not likely to change based on argument. But I still think many of these arguments are made in good faith.

It breaks my heart when I hear the stories about these kids.

That said, Bob is right. Is it even controversial to say there's a massive amount of shameful political rhetoric going around out there? I mean, that's usually the case, whatever is happening in the world. Each side is always watching for any kind of misstep by the other that can be exploited for political gain.

Remember when the whole country spent a long time taking about nothing but Clinton's affair? All over the news. We even impeached him! Shameful political maneuvering. Am I defending his affair by saying this? Obviously not. But the reason the country got worked up about it was not that it really mattered so much what he did, but that someone powerful had something to gain by igniting a political firestorm.

So yeah it plays really well to audiences, babies being torn from their mothers bosoms. And it's really good for Trump's opponents if you hear a lot about it. So you're going to hear a LOT about it.

Why do intelligent people think it's wise to take a stand on a medium as crippled and incendiary as Twitter? Regardless of the merits of your views or where they lie on the political spectrum, you're basically putting on a seal suit and diving into a tank of hungry sharks.

I've been thinking about your comment for the last couple of days. It was quite piercing. I don't have a good reply. The best I have is that Twitter seems to do something that other forms of communication do not.

When it works is when I throw out some technical issue I'm struggling with and people chime in and help. When it doesn't work is when I try to provoke or lash out emotionally because nobody listens to me. I wish there was much more of the first and much less of the second.

I'm with Uncle Bob on this one.

For the record, he tweets things that lean both right and left.

It's true Trump broke up families. It's equally true that Obama handed immigrant children off to sex traffickers. Neither should be compared to Nazis.

Those who use such hyperbole will be completely ashamed of themselves in years ahead. Count on it.

We should, because one day we will all be old, and we will all have snot nosed kids react to our current "liberal" ideas in exactly the same way.

Taken out of context, my "shaming" tweet looks like a horrible overreaction. And I agree! Shaming someone for a mild tweet about a historical analogy is just weird.

Look at the context and it makes more sense. Unfortunately, TFA left that context out. The context was:

a) Bob's attempt to deflect criticism of a child-separation policy, which is going to cause lasting harm to thousands of children, mostly by repeating right-wing pundits that were outright defending the policy.

b) Five hours of tweets before mine, most of which were people trying to engage in good faith with Bob and being ignored.

c) Bob's history of engaging in bad faith mockery of people who criticized his attitude towards women.

All that led to a situation where a) I wanted to tell Bob I agreed with people saying he was in the wrong; b) I felt every point I wanted to make had already been made by other people replying to Bob, who he had largely ignored; and c) I didn't want to engage in further discussion with Bob.

Finally: I'm not far-left, politically speaking. I'm registered independent and fairly centrist in terms of the historical American political spectrum. (That puts me on the right-wing/conservative side by European standards.) I believe in market-based solutions, personal freedom, and minimal regulation sufficient to counterbalance the wealthy and powerful.

I am also someone who sees racists, holocaust deniers, and overt Nazis coming out of the woodwork. In my home town of Portland, a very left-wing city, the Proud Boys (a white supremacist group) are inciting violence and beating people up [1]. Holocaust deniers and self-proclaimed Nazis are running for GOP office [2]. Lifelong Republican voices are abandoning the party [3].

I don't know what the best response to this is. I'm just somebody who's never gotten involved in politics before. To me, it seems like a situation where social norms [4] are breaking down--where, previously, racist views were something you hesitated to share in mixed company, now more and more people think it's okay.

In my mind, our country needs to reset social norms. Making it socially uncomfortable to deflect criticism of a cruel and unjust policy is one small step.

[1] https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/04/rauner-cruz-nazi-a...

[2] http://www.wweek.com/news/2018/06/30/portland-police-declare...

[3] https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/george-will-leaves-go...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_norm

PS: I'm leaving for a vacation today, so I may not respond to replies.

James, this is totally a fair criticism. Sorry that I left out this information initially.

I've edited the article to reflect more of the context you've highlighted here.

It was cool to learn a little more about you and I respect your commitment to fighting against white supremacy, etc.

Hope we can still disagree respectfully. If there's anything else you feel was unfair, please let me know.

I think the only part of the situation I disagreed with was that you said you were there to shame him, rather than his actions or ideas (those to me are shameful and deserve to be called out). I'd probably also disagree with the approach of being willing to combat his ideas without a desire to engage in further discussion (what is the point of making a statement, whether a tweet, downvote, etc., with no desire to possibly influence their future choices? Chances are, it's meant to silence opposition, but not help improve things.)

But I don't think we should take it easy on the fact that Bob finds the real moral atrocity is political rhetoric in this situation. That's intellectually immature of him to not be able to see beyond what he finds to be hyperbolic rhetoric of one side and instead focus on the actual issue.

There could be more effective ways to engage him and his audience that doesn't instantly turn off their brains to opposing opinions, but I think shameful ideas should be called what they are.

> Can social pressure work on positions that make up large portions of the country? Not in my experience. I’ve only seen polarization come from “social pressure” on conservatives.

It worked very well on drunk driving. Previously seen as a minor problem, a very public campaign to shame the act—and drunk drivers—has reduced the incidence of drunk driving considerably—fatalities down 50% since 1980.

If you think your government carrying out ethnic cleansing operations is just a minor thing but that comparing those ethnic cleansing operations to earlier ones by other governments that you were taught were bad is rude...

You are not a good person.

Shaming is thoroughly justified here.

What the US government has been doing to the most vulnerable, brought here by their parents, fleeing persecution and coming to what was once a beacon of hope for a better life; is shameful.

Shaming those who support shameful policies is one of the few effective ways we can arrest the slide into catastrophe.

When the .gov is looking at ways to strip naturalized citizens of their citizenship; you should be alarmed because it will not stop there. Look around, do you have coworkers, family, loved ones who are not in the groups favored by this administration? They are at risk. We are all at risk.

If the price of putting a stop to this is to slightly reduce the social standing of someone who I only ever hear of when he does something gross. ( Porn slides at a conference, this. ) I am OK with that.

I'm an open borders guy. I have been for years. I have no problem with vastly liberalizing immigration policy.

I also have direct experience in immigration, having worked at ICE for a couple of years. I know how it works on the inside.

I've worked with immigrants and have done my best to help them my entire career. I've been very fortunate to have worked with great people from all over.

Finally, I know a lot of people on both sides of this issue.

If you are willing to accept new information, I'd like to share with you that the U.S. is not carrying out ethnic cleansing operations. To me that appears a very dramatic and unsupported claim, geared toward getting people upset (and keeping yourself upset) more than understanding the issues involved.

I have a dozen things to be angry about when it comes to U.S. policy on immigration and travel. Almost weekly I am either angry or ashamed. But the world does not exist to conform to my emotional state. I have been angry about many of these things for a long, long time.

None of that has anything to do with Bob. Picking out a new victim every week and publicly shaming them isn't going to bring people together to solve problems. This behavior is creating a world in which problems and conflict are just going to get worse, not reach resolution. These folks are not helping the very causes they claim to support -- one of another half-dozen things that drives me nuts about watching this idiocy. Want to fix this? Me too. Stop trying to keep exacerbating it.

This sort of thinking is hilarious, you've got admit.

The most immediate example here is the gay marriage debate. It goes like this:

Conservative: Gay people shouldn't be denied marriage to the people they love.

Liberal: That position is pure fucking evil and you're a terrible person for believing such.

Conservative: Why are liberals so mean?

Of course the classic case of conservatives insisting that liberals are "uncivil" was during the actual civil rights movement. Oh how all the protests and speeches incensed people. To this day there's still many people who believe that the 60s protest movements for equal rights... somehow broke the West.

None of this is new or particularly interesting. The heroic defenders of the status quo have always played this card. The more horrific position held up to and including, say, whether certain people should be allowed to exist, the stronger the calls for "civility" and "calm, reasonable debate."

What's interesting here is perhaps the speed of Twitter. This dynamic no longer plays out in weekly newspaper columns. Now people get called out for their evil beliefs (and have no doubt, they are evil in the only meaningful sense of the word) in a matter of minutes.

> This behavior is creating a world in which problems and conflict are just going to get worse, not reach resolution.

That doesn't appear to be the case at all. It turns out that speaking up early and often does indeed work to, say, stop the government from destroying families. Certainly it seems far more effective than anything else proposed including "civil" debate.

It is pretty funny. The people wanting us to be polite are always the ones getting in the way of finding solutions. That's because as it turns out, it's quite rude to have to re-think your worldview!

No doubt there are some nice tactical wins. For each of those, my money says society loses more with all the people that get shut down and just don't talk any more. Admittedly that's a theoretical debate, but such is the nature of these things.

Talking about theory, direct democracy was never a goal of the United States. In fact, there was a lot done to prevent it. Twitter closing the feedback loop and making things more direct and immediate would be considered a horrible step backwards by most of the people who understood why the country was structured the way it was. If we've got to learn that lesson again, I guess that's the way goes.

In this particular case; Mr Bob Martin is kind of a repeat offender. As far as I am concerned he's just another one of the overly famous white dudes with horrible opinions that have made the Ruby community seem quite toxic to many outsiders.

Aside from stepping in on this thread; I certainly have not put him on blast on my twitter because as far as I'm concerned he's an irrelevancy.

However, I do think that shame is a necessary part of a functioning civil society; particularly in a society where the levers of power have been systematically stolen by a faction that seems determined to ride the society into war to consolidate their power. A faction that willfully provokes ethnic cleansing to give their supporters a taste for blood.

You may think I am being hyperbolic in my description of American politics; but I am if anything underselling it because I hope to reach a few people reading this thread.

Calling out people who are normalizing active ethnic cleansing campaigns is just one part of it. People saying crap like Mr Martin should be shamed by the people who think they can be salvaged. But informing someone that their behavior is shameful and evidence of a reprehensible callousness to the humanity is not a particularly life-ruining event for the one being called out.

Trying to excuse their behavior and take the lever of shame away from those who are attempting trigger society's immune response is bad and dangerous because it normalizes those opinions and makes them likely to spread further.

tl;dr Don't shoot at the firemen trying to save your house.

Do you even understand what ethnic cleansing is? Clearly you don't.

The current administration is unquestionably undertaking a racist policy of deporting non-whites in service of demographic change. The idea that anyone could apply "both sidesism" to that sort of vile and horrific act is itself pretty vile. You may be reluctant to think that people who you think are just normal people (or even people you know and like) with (seemingly) good intentions who are "just doing their jobs" are actually key participates in crimes against humanity. But it has always been this way.

Crimes against humanity are rarely committed by movie villains, they are committed by ordinary folks just like you and me, people you would think are good honest people if you judged them by their ordinary day to day activities. But those people are still capable of committing atrocities. And if you can watch an ordinary person commit an atrocity and still think they are a good, honest, ordinary person, then you are complicit. A lot of pretty ordinary people have done some horrific things throughout history, while even more ordinary people watched and did nothing.

Do you want to talk immigration or internet shaming and productive conversations?

I'd love to talk about immigration. I know a lot about it and would love to learn more. But the question here is whether or not this kind of internet behavior is productive or not. The title of the article is "Maybe We Should Go Easy On Uncle Bob". So the topic at hand is how we treat one another, especially people that say things that drive us nuts.

I've allowed myself to get a little more emotional than usual on this because I know a lot of the people involved and I care about the issue. I need to ask myself, just like everybody else needs to ask themselves: how do I publicly treat people I feel to be acting immorally or saying things I find horrible and/or disgusting? Especially when I'm upset.

It's a simple question, and it forms the foundation of this topic, whether it's immigration, Bob, whatever.

For five years I kept on my office wall a picture of SWAT team members taking little Elián González from his family in Florida in the 90s. There's this false dichotomy that political weasels want you to believe: if you don't speak out and publicly moralize, it's because you don't care enough. That's complete crap. I believe in open, civil, and honest discourse exactly because I care so much about these issues. I don't want the internet to operate like some giant church group. I don't want to go back to the 1950s where there were some things that were okay to talk about in polite society and some things that weren't. Too many people have struggled for far too long to make speech open for us to head back into that abyss again.


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