Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF

Phillip Hallam-Baker <> Tue, 02 March 2021 21:53 UTC

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From: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2021 16:53:35 -0500
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To: Christian Huitema <>
Cc: Keith Moore <>, GENDISPATCH List <>
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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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On Tue, Mar 2, 2021 at 4:37 PM Christian Huitema <>

> On 3/2/2021 11:31 AM, Keith Moore wrote:
> On 3/2/21 6:33 AM, Dan Harkins wrote:
>   This is why it is important to set the record straight on this bit of
> folklore. There is really no racist baggage associated with the OK gesture
> but now people feel empowered to selectively condemn people who use it. It
> has become a weapon to attack opponents.
> I think the lesson for IETF and TERM there is "be very cautious about
> creating new weapons that can be used to attack opponents".   Because
> people can and will use such weapons for purely political ends, e.g. to
> demonize the people who are promoting ideas that the attackers believe will
> harm their interests.   It's often easier to attack people personally than
> to attack their technical contributions, and we want to be very careful
> about legitimizing such attacks.
> It could be say that demonizing the OK gesture is an attack on veterans.
> In the French air force, that gesture was part of the standard ground
> check. So much noise that you can't speak, so the mechanics used it to
> signal all clear. I suppose the same was true in other NATO countries. As a
> consequence, it was widely used in regular communication between service
> members to signal that things were fine. I sometime find myself doing it
> out of habit, and I suppose others do too.
> -- Christian Huitema

The issue is not the fact that it is a legitimate gesture with a widespread
legitimate use. What creates an issue is that a particular group of people
decided to subvert that meaning.

And no, I do not accept Dan's interpretation of events here. If you have a
group of swaggering bullies discussing ways to 'own the libs' who come up
with the idea of 'pretending' that a certain sign has a racist
interpretation, the outcome is that other groups of people with swastikas
are going to end up using that sign with precisely that racist meaning.

There is a phrase 'whistling Dixie'. Dan Emmett's lyrics aren't explicitly
racist but the context in which they were presented is the runaway slave
pining for his former bondage. It is an anti-abolitionist song. And
'whistling Dixie' means making a coded racist reference whose meaning can
be denied by the swaggering bully who knows full well that it is not being

Implausible deniability is a real thing.