Rust says tech will* always be political

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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I don't think that whoever @rustlang is should be speaking on political maters on be half of the entire Rust community.

There is no way that @rustlang has a mandate to do so. It presumes everyone has the same views about everything, which seems very unlikely to me.

As far as I know there have not been any debates or voting on any political issues within the Rust community. Unless it goes on behind closed doors somewhere.

I don't recall any RFC's proposing the stance the Rust community should take on any political issue.

Further, if all that was in place then the Rust language community would have morphed into a political party. Is that what is wanted here?

Correct me if I am wrong.

By all means individual developers and users can say whatever they like and support whatever cause they like in their own name.

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I don't want to prolong on the topic of doctors because this is not constructive for the thread but politics is a double edged sword. A doctor must not decide whether to provide pregnancy termination because of the laws implemented by the politicians of the state/country of the ruling adminstration. Politics is not "only right" or "only left". One cannot exist without the other (except for tyranny). The doctor's personal political stance on this should not matter as well.

Regarding who posted the tweets: while the @rustlang Twitter account is usually managed by a single member of the project, these tweets were a decision of the whole Rust Core Team.

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I also think that the code of conduct is not political. Saying "everyone is welcome, including PoC and other minorities" is not a political statement, it's what I naturally expect from any organization. Saying "only people are welcome here who share our values" would be a political statement, and would be inappropriate in a welcoming tech community like Rust.

Don't get me wrong; I do think that it's sometimes important to discuss politics in tech communities. Good places for such discussions are Reddit, Discord and of course this forum. But I don't think that the Rust core team should endorse certain political views on Twitter.

The statement that "taking a stand against police brutality is more important than sharing tech knowledge" is quite controversial, for several reasons:

  1. For many people, it's not more or less important now than it was one or two years ago, especially if they, like me, don't live in the US.
  2. For some people it might not be important because they don't want to be political, and you can't force them to.
  3. "taking a stand against police brutality" and "sharing tech knowledge" is not mutually exclusive, many people might want to do both. The tweet seems to imply that you have to stop sharing tech knowledge in order to take a stand against police brutality.
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Another aspect, which is peculiar to languages made in the post-internet world, is that Rust isn't just a language.

It's also crates.io, the default code-sharing platform. It is always the Rust team's call what they allow there, who is allowed as an account holder, and, most importantly*, having a specific "Rust library sharing platform" makes Rust a lot more inward-facing by further compounding the already existing impedence mismatch of integrating "Rust" with "non-Rust" (even if it technically contains code in non-Rust languages, packaging it as a Crate allows us to appropriate the code as if it were ours; I'm looking at you, *ring*).

Which shows, very clearly, the implicit political viewpoint of in- and out-groups, realized in the software.

* while the core team has the authority to do almost anything they like with crates.io, they pretty much only exercise it as an emergency measure. Which, now that I think about it, is a very different attitude than what they hold towards this forum, which is much more proactively managed. I get it: one is seen as a "community", while the other is more of a "public utility", but still, it's the places where people put their focus that tell you what they really care about.

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