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Crowdfunding for LambdaConf

Fri 1 Apr 2016 by mskala Tags used: , ,

A "tech conference" called LambdaConf, after a blind reviewing process, accepted a technical presentation proposal from someone who had written about unpopular views on politics. Pressure groups demanded the conference exclude him; when the conference organizers decided not to do so, the pressure groups campaigned to have corporate sponsors withdraw support. Much to their discredit, most of the corporate sponsors did in fact do so. A "crowdfunding" campaign has been organized to replace the money those sponsors could have provided. I have donated, and I hope you will as well.

I have strongly advocated extreme support of freedom of expression, and have written about it here and in other public places, all my adult life. It is also integral to who I am that for me there is no distinction between recognizing that a problem exists and attempting to solve it. Thus for me it was an easy decision to donate to this campaign, and that should surprise nobody who knows me even moderately well or knows anything about my history.

Nonetheless, I have chosen to keep my name anonymized on the donors list, and I'm not going to tell you how much money I donated. This is not about proving I am a good free expression advocate, let alone proving that I am ten times as good a free expression advocate as someone else who donated one tenth as much. I have plenty of other ways to prove those things. This right here is about actually supporting the people involved, and it doesn't matter who I am or how many dollars I spend, if the people get the support.

Similarly, I don't want you to donate to prove which "side" you are on, along any of the dimensions along which people think "sides" exist. This is not about you; it's about actually supporting the people involved. And I don't want you to donate to prove that you support or admire me. If you support or admire me, there are other ways I wish you'd prove it. Do this because it is morally right. Don't do it to prove anything.

My support of LambdaConf is not complete. In particular, I wish they had not bowed to the pressure groups even so far as they did. They should never have given some of their attackers legitimacy by acknowledging those people's existence at all. They should never have even given serious consideration to the idea of banning a technical presentation for the speaker's off-stage political writings. What a thing to do! I hope they will become more confident in their position and will not compromise it in these ways in the future. I also am not a big fan of "crowdfunding" at all, and I'm unconvinced about the real value to society of non-academic "tech" "conferences" in general.

Nonetheless, I don't expect or demand perfection from human beings as a condition of my support. On this occasion I think the world is a better place for LambdaConf being able to run on the basis of the present campaign, as compared to a world where a Twitter hate mob is able to shut down legitimate technical discourse with the dirty tactics of blacklisting and no-platforming in service of the equally dirty goal of shutting down legitimate political discourse.

UPDATE: The campaign reached its funding goal after about 24 hours. Thanks, everyone!

2 comments

Eggo
Support for speech PLUS fighting against moral signalling? You seem like a person worth reading. :)
Thanks for donating--you inspired me to do it too, even though they're way past the goal.
Eggo - 2016-04-03 18:59
Matt
Well, it's hard to fight against moral signalling in any visible way... if that were really my top priority I'd have just made my donation without mentioning it here. Any visible action automatically becomes partly a signal. Thanks for the support.
Matt - 2016-04-04 04:12


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