Great Battle, Wrong Field

Life is hard, opinions are hard, and fighting for your opinions and beliefs is the hardest. This is why it upsets me that so many people just get it totally wrong and cause more harm than good. These are the incidents when the wrong person gets fired, conferences get canceled, people get accused of all sorts of things and careers are hurt. 

Life is hard, opinions are hard, and fighting for your opinions and beliefs is the hardest. This is why it upsets me that so many people just get it totally wrong and cause more harm than good. These are the incidents when the wrong person gets fired, conferences get canceled, people get accused of all sorts of things and careers are hurt.

With Twitter, it happens a few thousands times more than it ever would in the past. This is as much of a merit as a problem, as when a valid problem occurs and is validly reported the whole community it effects - lets say tech for example - will find out really damn quickly.

Some people see this valid reporting of unacceptable, racist, sexist, demeaning or downright assholely behavior, and want to continue that fight. Great!

Sadly, some of these people are often waiting for an opportunity to show off how amazingly pro-foo and anti-bar they are, and ignore the facts of the specific incident they are talking about.

Opportunistic White Knighting

A person (usually a male) who sees the typical maiden in distress, and believes that he can help her. A male version of the “mother figure” that some girls become. — Urban Dictionary

White Knighting in general is not a problem, it generally means that people are trying to help when there is a problem. The issue is when somebody tries to help when there isn’t a problem, thus creating a bigger problem. One example of this in my community PHPness Gate happened a few months ago. Essentially, two “ballsy girls” (their words) decided to wear a t-shirt with a dick-joke on it, and the internet exploded.

Several guys flew off the handle to condemn this behavior, and a well known feminist in the community assumed they were booth babes hired by a company. This point of view seemingly suggests this feminist assumes women would only be at a conference because they were paid to be there, but… they were running the conference.

Sorry, that’s sexist.

There are a million more examples of this, all with similar stories. Somebody tried to do the right thing, didn’t look close enough at the facts, caused a shit-storm. If you’re going to take your opinion public, make sure you do your due diligence. Basically, if you’re going to play reporter, do it properly instead of printing slander, rumors or bullshit.

Invented Accusations

On a much smaller scale, today I got into an argument on Twitter where a friend was accused of being a misogynist and a rape-apologizer. Paul runs a generic blog, where he posts about everything from PHP code to politics, and the politics are usually subjects he is interested in for his own political reasons, whatever they may be.

Now, the accusations from this individual are centered on the fact that he posted a few articles in which is was proven that the woman accusing a man of rape lied about it. That seems like a fairly innocuous, but then Twitter happened:

and:

I tried to point out that re-posting or quoting some articles about instances in which a women was either proven to be lying, or admitted lying during the case, does not suggest that all women are lying. The fact she assumed either of us would ever think that is completely out of left field to me. A.k.a: WAT?!

I not only assume that these cases are absolutely edge cases, but have had people close to me suffer the effects of sexual abuse in a few forms. I know the damage it does to a person, I know how they carry the scars for years, and I would never in my fucking life suggest that they were lying.

On the flip side of the coin I dated a girl who lied to me about being raped by a close friend of mine, while we were dating. I planned to do something extreme when I found him, until I learned from a friend he was at the local pub when it happened, with 10 of the locals as a witness and was all over the CCTV for the entire evening. The pub was 9 miles from the place this girl said it happened, and he didn’t drive. She later admitted she did it for attention.

From my experience it would be moronic to assume that all women are lying, but it would be equally moronic for anyone to suggest that lying about it never happened, because I know it’s happened at least once.

Anyone convicted of rape should go to prison for a long time, but taking an innocent man to court over a lie should be punished with jail time too. Lying under oath is already a crime, as is wasting police time, so I can see why Paul is interested in these stories when a women makes up a total lie and walks away from it scott-free.

The argument went on for a bit, and the issue morphed from her assuming we thought all women were lying, to a new issue: that because Paul had posted about these edge cases, and not about when a guy did it and actually did it, that he was statistically skewing his blog to suggest that a higher majority of rapes are lied about than is in fact the case:

I asked:

Apparently that was what she wanted. So now, Paul must become a “Yes / No” detector for every rape in the entire world, if he wishes to post an article which strikes his political cord: that when it’s proved that a woman is making false accusations, she needs to be prosecuted. Not every woman ever, not guilty until proven innocent, but the rules of the legal system should be followed both ways without stigma.

Anyway, go and look at my feed and see if between that tweet and her next I said anything inflammatory. The tweet with the most potential to be misunderstood is this:

Now I’m not talking about having a penis, I’m saying my only political views center around one single simplistic philosophy: don’t be a dick. I have no reason to take issue with any race, gender, age or religion, but if you act like a dick we’re going to have a problem.

I don’t feel like men are a poor down-trodden group, mistreated by mean feminists as this one suggests, I’m saying I don’t like her acting like a dick to my friend, accusing him and me of all sorts of shit.

A tweet comes my way:

Rape threat. Check.

I closed Twitter down on my Macbook, partly because I was finding the entire thing insane. While I was giving a presentation at the office I had this tweet pop up on the projector screen, while AirPlay sharing my iPhone with investors and co-workers:

Slander. Check.

I signed out for good at that point, I’m going to let her troll herself out. I don’t know what the driving force is behind this anger, but it strikes a cord with the point of my article:

  • Fight the good fight.
  • Fight it in the right place.

The Ongoing Problem

Whenever you find a chance to accuse somebody of something on Twitter, firstly, work out if you need to. It’s probably smarter to send them an email and publish their responses in an open letter if your concerns are not heard, but if you are going to think about it long and hard.

Is that conference really run by the KKK, or was the call to papers just answered by a bunch of white dudes?

Is that line of code that says foreach ($model as $babe) really suggesting tech is a boys-only club and women are only welcome on a strippers pole?

Is that areyouabrogrammer.com quiz suggesting that only men are welcome in development?

Nope!

Is there sexism in tech?

Fucking loads.

I plan to write an article about how we can potentially solve some of these issues based on conversations I’ve had with other on the topic, which is the only way I can see of making something positive out what is always a difficult situation.

Stop opportunistic white-knighting, stop accusing people of shit because they said something that seems close to one of your pre-defined responses, and don’t be a dick.