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

Theodore Ts'o <tytso@mit.edu> Fri, 07 October 2022 22:26 UTC

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Date: Fri, 07 Oct 2022 18:23:08 -0400
From: Theodore Ts'o <tytso@mit.edu>
To: Dan Harkins <dharkins@lounge.org>
Cc: last-call@ietf.org
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Subject: Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins
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On Fri, Oct 07, 2022 at 11:38:40AM -0700, Dan Harkins 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.  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.

In practice, with the way micro-agressions tend to be handled is that
folks are told --- look, the way that you said that was hurtful; could
you please refreain from doing that?  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?


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.  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.

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.

At least in my opinion, the fact that some of your posts have gone
beyond those lines, isn't even a close call.  So if you will take a
bit of advice from someone who has worked with you quite a lot back in
the IPSEC days, 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.

Best regards,

					- Ted