Debian’s Newspeak

debian-newspeakMuch has been said about the recent decision to start banning. Uncountable threads have been started, degraded into flame wars. And I often was part of these (others I cannot quote due to their stage on debian-private), feverishly opposing the idea of mailing list bans solely based on obscure, often undefined, and very subjective grounds. I myself was threatened several times to be banned. And I was always assured that there is nothing to worry, the Code of Conduct is good for us, the mailing list bans are objectively decided.

Alas, it seems that my believe in objectivity of the listmasters is decreasing exponentially. I cannot count the bans put into effect in the last months, many of them based on emails that to me looks harmless. They might not be the apex of courtesy, but still they are normally written, besides sometimes lacking of technical content. But lack of technical content cannot be a decisive ground – otherwise practically 99% of the posters to Debian mailing lists would be banned.

Rule One: In Debian never, absolutely never, make a joke that could hurt the sensitivities of an human, quasi-human, android, plant, or extraterrestrial life.

I repeat, I am strongly against banning, especially based on the Code of Conduct. Good behaviour is required and bad behaviour is punished by bans. But nobody defines good or bad. A typical example is sarcasm. As a Viennese this is somehow my second (or first) nature. But it seems that especially in the Anglo-Saxon/American standards, sarcasm is considered bad behaviour and brings me regularly close to being banned. That is what sets law apart from moral. Law enforces rules, but does not decide what is good or bad. Moral decided what is good or bad, based on some higher standard. But what is happening that in Debian we are basing punishment on moral, a very dangerous and slippery path. Too many cases where moral used for punishment have gone wild. And in Debian it has gone wild in a very short time.

But it seems that Debian as a project, pushed by a lobby group, has decided that this Anglo-Saxon/American way of political correctness and cleanliness is the way to go. Furthermore, based on some of the bans, I cannot get rid of the impression that a very active group of developers, eager to gain power, are using this method to finish of some personal vendettas.

As sad as it is for me, I have to live with this Newspeak. The consequences I have learned are:

  • never use sarcasm, it is bad and will ban you
  • better never post in debian-project, debian-private, debian-devel, etc unless doing some really uninteresting posts, like vacation messages
  • refrain from personally discussing with those involved in the banning fun

and last but not least, most importantly

  • never, absolutely never never never, make a joke that could hurt the sensitivities of an human, quasi-human, android, plant, or extraterrestrial life.

Life in Debian just has become much more boring. And of course, there is no trace of sarcasm in this post.

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