Rust says tech will* always be political

Not sure if my post belongs on this forum but I can't think of a better platform to ask Rust(?) without creating internet drama like on Reddit/HN or whatever. I'm not here for that, I want here to know the answer to my questions with an open mind.

I came to know of Rust from Reddit. Someone posted a Rust solution in r/Dailyprogrammer when that was a thing. Since then I love Rust for the technical reasons stated out in the offical page back then. The single most pivotal thing that got me hooked into Rust is how it handled errors (lack of exceptions, Result/Option with match without too much runtime overhead). Then as I used Rust more and more I came to love many other aspects of it. Enough background, I'll get to the point now.

  • A recent post from the The official Rust twitter page states:

    Rust believes that tech is and always will be political- take some time today to invest in your community.

My question is why is Rust trying to take a political stance? Can it not be just a programming language? Politics is inherently controversial. Someone from the other aisle in the political spectrum may not share your views but it doesn't mean that the person is inherently evil, it ushers debates, discourse in socio-economic issues. That's great but there are places where these discourse only adds overhead. Take medical science for example: sure you could add political debate on pregnancy termination and the ethics of it but it adds nothing but hindrance to those who are just trying to do the job. Surgeons do not want to think about politics when the are working, I think they want to leave those political aspects at the door when they walk in to the operating theater. They want to be apolitical. They want to do their job, just like many other professionals. Does Rust (the augmented personality in twitter) not like those who are(/want to stay) apolitical? Why should I worry about these when I have to worry about BC correctness while mutating my HashSet of HashMaps in Dijkstra's algorithm?

Now, just for the record, In real life, personally I too unequivocally stand against police brutality. Being born and raised in a third world nation and (currently) living in an English speaking country as an ESL person of color, I myself am familiar with many of the detrimental experiences as Black people do in America. However I do question why would Rust think that sharing tech knowledge is of less importance?

Not to mention, as people laid out in twitter:

  1. There are many more humanitarian crisis that keeps happening in other countries. Why is it that Rust (the twitter personality) blissfully ignore them? Coming from Bangladesh, I saw the brutal ethnic genocide that took place in Myanmar. The videos of low-income Muslim men, women and children being lynched, cut and shot to death were graphic. Why is it that Rust did not close down the twitter to show solidarity for the lives lost?
    That was just something I saw personally very closely. I'm sure many Uighur minority in China were also raped, sent to concentration camps and brutally killed not so long ago. Why did Rust not do the same?

Is Rust only for the US citizens? Because the silence and the actions seem to imply so. My question does not mean I want to undermine the movement to stand up against systematic racial discrimination and police brutality in the US.

  1. Where can I find the justification of the statement that sharing tech knowledge is less important than protesting police brutality?

I guess the point of my (some might say, nonsensical) post is that I expect Rust (if it has a personality) to be more responsible. Closing down twitter doesn't hinder from tech work, doesn't hinder me as I do not have an account in that site. However:

Where do you draw the line? Why stop at twitter? Did you, (Rust) subconsciously weighed the importance of protesting such issues only enough to merely temporarily close down twitter? Isn't that very insulting? And why don't you do the same for people living in far more harsh living conditions in war torn countries where just surviving every single hour of the day is a challenge? Why don't you care as much about us?

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Without making any intentional statement toward the larger issues at play here, I'd like to point out that the tweet in question says that tech always will be political, not that it always should be political (as the thread title suggests).

Good point and I revised the title accordingly.

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Anything that involves many people working together will involve politics. There is no escaping that.

Certainly many such endeavors try to keep politics (and religion) out of their proceedings and considerations. But given that there is no escaping politics maybe it's a good I idea for a community, like Rust's, to acknowledge that up front.

This can of course have it's downsides as well, as Brendan Eich discovered. I'm sure there are many here nervously censoring everything they write knowing that if they let some opinion they hold escape they would be hounded out of the house.

What I want to know is: Who actually is Rust Language / @rustlang? posting on twitter and wherever else?

Clearly a programming language cannot have political views. This is an actual person. Apparently speaking on be half of the Rust devs or the Rust community at large. Do they?

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I think it mostly comes down to an uncomfortable fact:

Everything is political, in some amount.

Politics, at the root level, is just an opinion that you try to derive policy from. Just like you can't "not have an opinion", you can't be "perfectly apolitical".

An easy example is the connection between GitHub and ICE. There's a binary choice there: keep supporting contracts between GitHub and ICE, or drop the contract. Either choice is political, and there is no "apolitical" position that GitHub could choose.

You might argue that "status quo" is apolitical, but that is far from the truth; "status quo" is closer to conservatism than apolitical. Ignoring problems doesn't make them go away, so being "apolitical" can easily be construed as "status quo", and that's a clearly political stance to take.

Should it be this way? You could probably have a whole philosophy course on why everything is political, but the fact is that we really like making things political, because everything informs policy.

I can't say whether brand accounts vocally supporting the movement is the "correct" thing to do, because that's basically only knowable in hindsight. What I can say, though, is that Rust is a language (and community) built on empathy an inclusivity, so this is perfectly in character for the "brand image" of the community accounts.

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An easy example is the connection between GitHub and ICE. There's a binary choice there: keep supporting contracts between GitHub and ICE, or drop the contract. Either choice is political, and there is no "apolitical" position that GitHub could choose.

I don't know the news about GitHub/ICE but I do know the story about Microsoft being proud to support ICE with their facial recognition technologies. Of course, the wording of it was quite political, hence suffered a bit of backlash. (Microsoft is too big and the current administration glorifies what ICE does so they got away with it as far as I know).

This is important that by saying that they are "proud to support ICE" they made a political move, or at least what I understand of it. Microsoft is an American company, if the department of Homeland Security (or any other authority) asks, they are bound to comply. The blog post and especially the wording of it was clearly a political choice.

I personally never liked how Microsoft operates, so my wording may contain hyperbole.

I'm just saying politics usually translate to trouble and overhead. You pick one spot of one side, and immediately the other people on your side feels left out and make political enemies with the entirety of the other side. We are programmers. We build. We shouldn't invite such division into our community. But that's just my opinion.

I guess my long post was not a well thought-out reaction. I kinda regret putting my name on the OP now. I do not want unnecessary attention.

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Moderation note: Again, due to the topic, we are moderating this thread a bit more strictly than usual. Please do try to keep things on topic and please avoid overtly partisan language.

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I also would like for Rust official channels to not be used for political promotion, unless the issue in question directly affects Rust as the (international) project. I am completely fine with members of Rust teams promoting their political views using personal channels and I don't agree with those who think that leaders of technical projects should be politically neutral in public space, but I do believe that the linked tweets is an abuse of authority and should be heavily discouraged.

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I too wish the Rust community was somewhat less political.

Of course nobody can be perfectly apolitical, but nowadays we are flooded with a lot of politics. Quite often, I get tired of all the bad news, all the people debating over things I'm not interested in, or conversely, being rudely put down and stigmatized (with catchy slogans like "being on the wrong side of history" and the like) for having a non-mainstream opinion in one way or another.

Technology is not only my job, it is also a hobby that I am sometimes pursuing for the sake of recreation, for the sake of being able to escape from all the politics that is happening to me every day. In these situations, it can be disappointing and frustrating when I hear politics coming from yet another place, even if I explicitly don't want to take part in it for a while.

Another problem is that when a governing entity for a technology adheres to a certain set of political views, those who do not align with it can be alienated or outright banned from the relevant platforms. To be clear, I don't think this is happening in Rust but it had happened in the context of tech companies, conferences, etc. in the past, and I found that highly unprofessional.

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This is entirely my own opinion. We should be very clear on what we mean when we're discussing "Rust" in this thread, as I think people are confusing Rust the language and the project around it.

Rust the programming language is a piece of software you can download, disconnect yourself from the world at large and continue to use and modify on your computer.

The Rust project is a real world community and organisation of people that works on building new versions and provides support. Which is done mostly by volunteers and a lot of whom are people who are underrepresented in tech. This organisation of volunteers has the agency to try to build the type of community it wants to be a part of and participate in. Since the very start the Rust project has had a Code Of Conduct which states the following in the very first line.

We are committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all

This is an inherently political statement when we live in a world where there has been significant systemic injustice against people of colour and queer folk, both in tech and in the world at large. Working towards providing a welcoming environment for all requires an active voice to push back.

I resent the argument that somehow racial justice is an US issue. As if most country's histories aren't marred with racial violence and injustice, and that somehow racism doesn't continue to be a problem in those countries today.

The Rust Twitter account is run by the Rust core team, it's their decision to decide what content should be on it. I don't think the agency or language of what to post on social media should be decided by the community. If you don't want to see it, you can always just unfollow them.

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I'd only add:

  • It can be very difficult to avoid politics. One day a politician can declare your entire field to be "political" and suddenly even talking about your job is "politics".
  • A person's mere existence can be "political". In this case escaping politics is a luxury they may not be able to indulge in.
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Rust isn't just about some syntax and hash table algorithms. It's an organization with people, and that is already political. Some people's mere existence makes things "political" if they belong to a certain minority. It's political who is welcome on the team and who isn't (even saying "we don't care, everyone is welcome" is a political stance). Even the fact that we're discussing this in English (and not Mandarin or French) is not politically neutral.

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I do find it unfair that @rustlang chose to participate in a US political issue when there have been similar issues in other places around the world in the past.

@rustlang called out it's stance against police brutality in general which helps make it less US centric but, because of the timing, it doesn't completely divorce it from the current US issue.

On the other side, this issue does affect Rust the project. This is because it affects part of the community which in turn affects the project. The question is if this is a big enough issue to Rust the project to warrant this response. I do not know.

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I resent the argument that somehow racial justice is an US issue. As if most country's histories aren't marred with racial violence and injustice, and that somehow racism doesn't continue to be a problem in those countries today.

I did not argue that racism is an US issue only. But this particular action was taken when a serious tension arose in the US. Hence I asked if Rust is for the US citizens only. I also mentioned a couple of brutal racial genocides taking place in other countries. So my obvious question is, why is it that the Rust organization never reacted the same way. They are committed to provide a friendly and welcoming community for all, right? Why are the Muslim people in Myanmar, India left out when they were being hunted down, chased, tortured and slaughtered en-masse? Didn't Rust choose to stay silent? I personally infer that the organization is far too focused on the US? As a former Muslim, I do feel kindof "left-out" by this. Personally I don't mind, but I can't speak of the others.

Note that I did not complain then because I really appreciate the idea of being and staying apolitical but as your reply suggests the Rust organization clearly is not.

I don't think the agency or language of what to post on social media should be decided by the community. If you don't want to see it, you can always just unfollow them.

Is there a ground to cover between the Rust organization and the community? Rust is a community driven project, isn't it?

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I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree (and had to create account here :slight_smile: ) The CoC statement

We are committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all

is not a political one. It only says to me - "you're welcome, all of you" which is something every person would agree with.

we live in a world where there has been significant systemic injustice against people of colour and queer folk, both in tech and in the world at large. Working towards providing a welcoming environment for all requires an active voice to push back.

That's a political statement and some people may agree with it, but some may not. The problem I see here is over politicizing every aspect of human life and it's something quite difficult to accept.
I'd expect community to discuss language, tools, ecosystem, libraries and not exactly political issues (regardless of one's personal political sympathies)

If you don't want to see it, you can always just unfollow them

It's political who is welcome on the team and who isn't

So yeah you're welcome, but nah ... not really

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Rust isn't just about some syntax and hash table algorithms. It's an organization with people,

Maybe it's just me but when I see the word Rust I think of a programming language, probably that's just me being an ESL person.

Even the fact that we're discussing this in English (and not Mandarin or French) is not politically neutral.

In an utilitarian perspective, it is not possible to pick a language and not be political. This is something we can't do anything about, can we? I do smell a hint of strawman (with all due respect) here.

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I think you are being a little optimistic. I believe there are people that disagree with that statement. It is kind of the foundation of the current US political issue.

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I took issue with this line, because I think my situation is unusual in that I do a lot of Rust programming as a hobby, but my full-time commitment is medical school, after which I'll become a doctor in the UK.

Being a medical professional is political. We have a large amount of content in medical school about differences in the access to healthcare people get because of their race, sex, gender, and socioeconomic situation, and we are fully expected to continue thinking about all of it when we start practice. We are even professionally bound by our regulator in ways that I think a lot of people complaining about stuff like this would have issue with.

To get back to the point, programmers are pretty unique in thinking that their work can avoid politics. Tech has always been, and will always be political. Rust is not just a programming language - it's a community and a name that people collect under, and the idea that those spaces are going to be devoid of politics is not productive.

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