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Re: Code of Conduct complaint about Linus's comments at DC14

Ean Schuessler <ean@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> writes:

> And, at some level, all of this... all of these packages, all of these
> lists, all these web sites are a by-product of the OS that Linus has
> helped to guide into existence. This may be an ugly assertion that some
> people hate to give an ear to but there is truth to it.

I find this argument rather interesting to dig into a little bit, since I
think it exposes some assumptions that are critical to why different
people see this issue different ways.

What I hear when I see people make this argument an implied argument that,
by doing great technical work, one earns the right to behave as one
chooses towards other people, or at least to behave worse than we'd
tolerate from someone else in the community.  I can see some of the appeal
in this argument, but I fundamentally disagree with it.  I don't think
anyone has the right to treat people disrespectfully (dis-courteously?
the problem with courtesy as a word for this set of things is that it
sounds so much milder when negated than I think the reality is), no matter
what things they've done.

In fact, I would go a step further and say that letting people get away
with bad behavior because they've done something amazing in an unrelated
space is the cause of a lot of really awful and evil things in the world.
Thankfully Linus isn't doing anything nearly that bad!  But look at, for
example, some of the horrible behavior of NFL football stars in the US,
who have used that celebrity status to get away with doing some really bad
things to other people with far fewer consequences than they would have if
they weren't NFL stars.  In that context, most people seem to think this
is a problem.  I would apply the same principle universally.

So, I don't think anyone is confused by the facts you're stating, Ean.  I
don't think anyone has forgotten those facts, and I don't see any reason
why someone should find them ugly either.  Linus has done wonderful things
for the broader community, written some great software, and yes, built a
community.  I'm all in favor of acknowledging that openly.  I applauded
him at the DebConf event in that spirit.

He also occasionally acts really nastily towards other people.  There's a
human tendency to try to reduce everything to simple statements of good or
bad, but the world doesn't work that way.  It's important to be able to
hold both of those concepts in one's mind at the same time.

As I've said elsewhere, I think the Linux kernel community became
successful *despite* these occasional outbursts from Linus, not *because*
of them, and it would be an even better community without them.  But I
will also say that, even if that is not true, I would still be opposed to
and quite upset by the outbursts.  This is a sort of "The Ones Who Walk
Away from Omelas" thing for me.  If it takes that sort of behavior to
build the community, then we shouldn't build the community.  (Thankfully,
I don't think that's the case.)

That's just me, obviously, and other people will have different takes on
it.  But I've gotten the impression from several people that they somehow
think that we would be negating the good things that Linus has done by
objecting to the things he does that we find unacceptable.  Far from it.
The world would be a much simpler place if people who did good things were
somehow incapable of doing unacceptable things, and vice versa.  That's
not the world we live in.  All these things can be true at the same time.

Russ Allbery (rra@xxxxxxxxxx)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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