Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF

Fernando Gont <> Sun, 28 February 2021 04:40 UTC

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To: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>, Fernando Gont <>
Cc: Andrew Campling <>, GENDISPATCH List <>, "STARK, BARBARA H" <>
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From: Fernando Gont <>
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Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2021 01:40:10 -0300
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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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Hello, Phillip,

On 28/2/21 00:53, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:
> On Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 10:01 PM Fernando Gont < 
> <>> wrote:
>     Hello , Phillip,
>     On 27/2/21 14:15, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:
>     [....]
>      >
>      > TERM is in a similar situation. We are going to need to deal with
>     a lot
>      > of cross cultural issues and even within the Anglosphere.
>      >
>      > Take the OK hand gesture. Until a few years ago it had no facsist
>      > associations whatsoever. Then a group of racists on 4-Chan
>     decided to
>      > start using the gesture 'pretending' it to be a racist gang sign.
>     And of
>      > course the minute that racists started flashing it as a gang
>     sign, it
>      > became a racist gang sign. And of course, deliberately insulting
>     people
>      > and then telling them they must treat it as a joke or they will
>     'look
>      > stupid', is simply a way to double down on the insult. Bully, bully.
>      > swagger, swagger, sneer, sneer, oh why are we being cancelled?
>      >
>      >
>      > Meaning is determined by usage. Who is using the term, why they are
>      > using it, matter.
>     I'm not sure what this means.  That said, given the number of countries
>     and cultures on this globe, I doubt anyone could really expect that
>     people should be aware about stuff like the stuff you're referencing.
> Oh I am pretty sure most people understood the point.

I was noting that *I* wasn't sure what that meant.

>     For instance, I don't know what's 4-chan (some online forum?), or even
>     what you call the "ok sign" -- here we probably have at least to
>     different signs for it.
> Again, you seem to have got my point.
> And none of that changes Wittgenstein's point that meaning is usage and 
> the reason certain symbols become offensive is that some groups decide 
> to use them for the purpose of giving offense.

Symbols become offensive for what people associate with them, based on 
their background and personal history.

If you plan to get rid of e.g. "signs" for how they may have been used 
by some, I bet you'd also propose to get rid of religious symbols, and 
national symbols such as flags -- because in the vast majority of such 
cases, at one point or another they have been associated with (and 
actually involved in) terrible things.

> There was nothing 
> offensive about the penitents robes of the la Borriquita brotherhood 
> until Hollywood decided to adopt them as the uniform of the Klu Klux 
> Klan which at the time had been extinct for decades. Today, they are 
> almost universally understood as a hate symbol.

Not really. A lot of people over here wouldn't associate those with the kkk.

>      > And yes, there is a partisan political dimension to this. I didn't
>      > remove the terms 'master' etc.' from the Mesh specifications
>     because I
>      > was concerned they might cause offense. I removed them because I
>     want to
>      > make absolutely clear that I oppose the fascist seditionists who
>     stormed
>      > the US Capitol on January 6th.
>     I believe that our ability to do useful work may be endangered if our
>     documents are going to become "political statements".
> That is inescapable in an environment where people have been told they 
> must take sides.

That doesn't make it right, or even appropriate.

(Also, in the words of Wittgenstein "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof 
one must be silent")

>     (quite the contrary, there reason for which I'd be keen to avoid
>     specific terms is for the possibility that might offend e.g. a fellow
>     colleague)
> It is not about merely giving offense. This is about the use of words to 
> tell people that they are less important than others.

You are implying *intent*. In many cases (or in some places), it might 
be the case. In others, it might not.

(see e.g. 

>      > When a bully appears and attempts to appropriate the US flag as
>     his own
>      > personal banner, there has to be resistance. Defining the exact
>     means by
>      > which the US flag is to be worshiped by taking away the career of
>     the
>      > man who defied him was a way of claiming sole ownership of the
>      > interpretation of the nation's symbols. Which was of course the
>     reason
>      > we needed to demolish the monuments to their ideology.
>     This thread was started in the hopes of fostering diversity and
>     inclusiveness in the IETF.
>     I don't think discussion of USA internal political affairs is of use
>     for
>     such purpose.
> The rise of populist authoritarianism was hardly limited to one country.

You imply that certain events are of utmost concern to the global community.

Please let me note that for some of us in such global community, a large 
number of other events (including former presidents commonly portrayed 
as "patriots") have been a much larger concern. -- Please do check e.g. 
USA foreign policy of at least the last 50 years.

> And while the role of the Internet and social media were rather 
> different to that being asserted by some, we certainly played a role
> The reason I am bringing up the political context directly is that is 
> the only thing that makes these proposals important. We would not be 
> making expensive changes to APIs if this was merely about offense. The 
> reason that we are getting rid of terms like 'master' and 'slave' in 
> protocol specifications is not some urge to follow some abstract left 
> wing fashion. The reason we are eliminating 'master' and 'slave' is 
> because there has been a resurgence of support for the racism and last 
> month a white supremacist carried the banner of the slaver confederacy 
> through the US capitol.

I'll unfortunately repeat myself here: IETF is supposed to be a global 
organization. Please don't expect the global community to discuss (or 
even be aware of) USA domestic affairs.

It's kind of ironic that in an email thread about diversity and 
inclusiveness in a global organization, participants are expected to 
discuss the domestic affairs of one -- no matter how prominent -- of the 
many countries where participants come from.

Fernando Gont
SI6 Networks
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