Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins

Keith Moore <> Sat, 08 October 2022 17:48 UTC

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From: Keith Moore <>
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Subject: Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins
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On 10/7/22 18:23, Theodore Ts'o wrote:

>>    A study from McKinsey. Oh.
>>    "Good intentions are important, but the impacts of people’s actions
>> are the true measure of goodness."
>>    The real danger of that it places the recipient of the message into an
>> unimpeachable position of authority. While it's certainly possible that
>> someone would be dishonest as to their intention in making a statement
>> it is also possible that someone would be dishonest in how they
>> perceived a remark-- stating that offense was taken when it really
>> wasn't. But it's not possible to question how the recipient took it,
>> otherwise you are not "validating someone's experience" or their "truth".
>> And this can lead to targeted abuse of people where these kinds of
>> "micro-aggressions" are fabricated in order to silence or punish
>> someone.
>>    Sorry, I don't buy it. Intentions matter.
> Dan, the problem with your position is that it's possible for the
> sender to be dishonest about their intentions.
Well, sure.   It's also possible for the recipient to be dishonest about 
their reactions.   Offhand, I don't know why I'd assume one over the other.
> And so unless we have
> the ability mind-read, it's impossible for other people to figure out
> what the sender's true intentions and motivations might be.  And, if
> that gives "senders" free license to say anything that might be
> hurtful, or divisive, and be able to be able to say, "Whoops!  I
> didn't mean to hurt anyone", that's not really an acceptable outcome,
> either.

Well, if someone says you said something hurtful to them (and told you 
what it was), and you say (more or less) the same thing again, you can 
be reasonably accused the second time of doing something you knew would 
be hurtful.   Sure, your audience might have been lying, but you're not 
able to read their mind to know one way or the other.   You need a 
tremendously good reason to say the same thing the second time, and 
probably there is no such reason.

> But at also, whoever is
> adjudicating matters will also tend to use a reasonable listener test.
> It is reasonable to for someone to insert what is pretty obvious
> divisive topic, like race, into a completely unrelated discussion,
> like masking?  Is it reasonable to assume that someone didn't realize
> that this might be hurtful/divisive/trollish?  Would it really
> constrain someone's ability to express themselves if they were to
> enjoined from using anologies of race in either technical discussions
> of protocol or anti-COVID masking policies?
You're implicitly asking this of an audience that has already been 
primed to see Dan as disruptive, and more specifically to interpret 
Dan's message as "inserting race into an unrelated discussion".   So 
it's not exactly a fair question.

Is it wrong for Dan to point out that racial prejudice is sometimes used 
disingeneously, to argue for or against something for which the 
relationship between that something and racial prejudice is dubious?   
As far as I can tell it happens all the time in US political dialog.  At 
least that's how I read Dan's message when I hadn't been primed to read 
it a different way.

(Does it belong in IETF?   Mostly no, but maybe yes when the point is 
relevant to IETF decision-making.)

I'll grant that most of the IETF audience is, mercifully, probably not 
exposed to such propaganda as Dan seemed to be referring to, so if that 
was the intended point of Dan's message it was unlikely to be understood.
> There have been those who probably believe that it doesn't pass the
> laugh test that a senior engineer can't understand why injecting race
> into an unrelated discussion might not be a socially appropriate thing
> to do.
That sounds like the "professionalism" argument again, which is far as I 
can tell is an argument in favor of conditioned uniformity. It's like 
assuming that everyone /should/ /be/ conditioned to think, speak, and 
behave according to the same rules, even when the rules are harmful.   
People who have been conditioned to those rules are especially likely to 
believe that.   As in "we can't speak about that subject, why should 
someone else be able to do so?"

I'm personally glad that such conditioning isn't universal; it means 
that there are still people who are able to question those things. I've 
seen tremendous harm done by that kind of conditioning, including a lot 
of harmful racial and gender and age prejudice, protection of abusive 
people, etc.

>    Maybe that's a reasonable assumption, and maybe it's not.  But
> if someone believes very strongly that they should be able to inject
> race into IETF discussions, and that there should be no constraints on
> how they communicate ("Free speech!", I hear the cry), then this might
> be one of the places where there may need to be social consequences
> that need to be imposed.
Notice the slippery slope, from an unwise reference to a political trope 
that most of the audience probably wasn't aware of, to blaming the 
speaker for what someone else insists (without evidence) was his 
intention, to an unsupported assertion that said person wants no 
constraints on speech at all.
> People of good will might disagree on where those lines might be
> drawn; but if we believe that there*is*  such a line based on decorum,
> and that IETF lists shouldn't be a free-for-all ala certain Reddit and
> 4Chan fora, then draw these lines we must.
...followed by an argument based on that unsupported assertion, then a 
comparison to something absurd.   You left Dan on the side of the road 
fifty kilometers back.
> [...] I believe you will be much more successful if you were
> to dial back some of your opinions about culture war related topics
> within the IETF context.
> You're free to hold such beliefs; but the IETF really isn't the best
> place to be trying convince people one way or another on such topics.
> It's not likely to be successful, since it will be seen to be
> off-topic, and it's going to get in the way of the technical
> contributions you might want to make to this organization.
Yeah, I agree with that much.   But was the character assassination