[Linux-aus] Victim Impact Statement

David Newall davidn at davidnewall.com
Sun Nov 3 16:19:42 EST 2013

I cannot continue being associated with Linux Australia.  It's bad for 
my health, very, very bad.  Apparently telling people how their actions 
have impacted upon me can help mitigate the injury, so I'm resigning as 
a member and composing this message as my exit note. This is a narrative 
in which I tell you how the treatment handed out to me has made me 
feel.  That's an unusual style of posting for this list, but, 
apparently, will help me recover from the injuries inflicted by others 
on this list.

I'm resigning because the treatment met out to me in retaliation to my 
Support for Women post has emotionally battered me.  The post was about 
a serious issue and I had hoped that talking about it might be a good 
thing.  I hope I was polite and cogent, and can see nothing offensive in 
what I wrote.  The concern that affirmative action programs can 
undermine the very people they are intended to benefit was not new nor 
my own idea.  I was inspired to write it after that meme resurfaced in 
quality media a number of times over the last few weeks.  My comment 
about Thatcher was drawn from a recent edition of Q&A.

Some people were obviously incensed by what I wrote, but it seemed to be 
the idea of the discussion that incensed them.  Typical of their replies 
was to call me a troll, which was a hurtful and offensive thing to do.  
What a pity they put in effort to imply that I was being offensive, but 
to omit any explanation of how I offended.  They chose to take offense.  
Calling me a troll was the tactic of a bully.  It's a practice of 
intimidation; kill the messenger; stifle the message.  It hurt.  It made 
me feel anxious and unable to cope with life.

I was hurt by the replies which ascribed nefarious motives to me.  I was 
hurt by having my words twisted and misrepresented, and by having 
different words thrust in my mouth.

Donna Benjamin said, "You seem to assume women are inferior and are 
getting special treatment."  No, I don't think women are inferior and 
nothing I wrote should give that impression.  I did say that women are 
getting special treatment, which they are.  Linking part of my message 
with something that I did not say made me feel frustrated and 
alienated.  It made me feel that I was being demonised.

Donna called me a troll and said I should be removed from this mailing 
list.  It's easy to call me a troll, but the accusation without any 
substantiation hurt very much.  It left me bewildered. What part of what 
I wrote was trolling?  Linux Australia is the preeminent association of 
my peers, and to agitate for my removal was to agitate for my 
professional isolation.  It made me fear for the future.

Pomke Nohkan repeated Donna, accused me of obviously intending to 
troll.  Wrong.  I wasn't, and I don't see what gave the idea that I 
was.  Pomke called for me to be banned.  I felt like the whole world was 
turning against me; and for what?  Only for saying something which is a 
concern that has been widely raised, and which seems so self-evident.  
When you mandate that a women is chosen, you leave that women open to 
being undermined as not being the best candidate.  That must be 
particulaly upsetting for women who happen to be the best candidate.

Daniel Bryan said, that there are other forums to air "Mens' Rights 
Activism."  My post had nothing to do with men's rights, and he made me 
feel that I being pilloried by people who hadn't even read what I wrote.

Rob Kearey said, "I'm done with entitled-neckbeards. I'm out."  This 
made me feel that I did something wrong, that I drove him out, that I 
was not capable of successfully delivering a simple line of reasoning.

Paul Gear wrote that "David is sitting back right now laughing that we 
were all silly enough to take the bait."  I felt deeply hurt by this and 
every other accusation of being a troll.  I tried hard to craft my 
message politely and cogently, and even though Paul expressed some 
sympathy with the views I expressed, being called a troll made me feel 
like a failure.

Kim Hawtin said that, "David is well versed in trolling on our local 
lists," and that made me feel physically queasy.  Kim has previously 
accused me of trolling, which is a tactic designed to intimidate me and 
to alienate others against me, and I did feel intimidated.

Andrew Pam said I "intentionally posted contentious opinions with the 
intent to cause offense."  Calling the opinions that I expressed 
contentious implies that the counter-opinion is widely accepted, but the 
thread, as well as common life experience, shows otherwise.  It wasn't 
the opinion that was contentious but the subject matter.  I had tried to 
broach the subject without offense, so being accused of intending to 
offend made me feel unwanted in this list.

Russell Coker said it is "reasonably common for undiagnosed Autistic 
people to be labelled as trolls."  I  have struggled with depression for 
over a decade.  His veilled accusation of autism made me feel angry.  I 
have a hard time coping; just getting up each day is hard, let alone 
going out and doing things.  Being called autistic exacerbated that.

Glen Turner twisted my words by taking them out of context.  He put it 
that I said, "women gain opportunities at the expense of more capable 
(or more needy) men."  I did say that, and the risk of that outcome is 
intrinsic to a policy that requires appointing a woman. But by omitting 
my subsequent sentence, "this undermines their credibility," Glen made 
me feel the victim of "negative spin."  Glen once played a hugely 
important role in connecting Australia to the internet, and I felt 
belittled by his use of my words to present a meaning that was not 
originally there.  His subsequent refusal to correct himself added to a 
feeling of paranoia.

Hugh Blemings, on behalf of the council, announced that the subject was 
not to be dropped because it "doesn't meet a reasonableness test of 
being relevant to linux-aus aims or Free and Open Source Software."  I 
cannot, for the life of me, understand how that got said without 
challenge from us all.  How can the council say that a discussion on 
association policies is unreasonable?  The attempt at censorship, and 
the lack of outrage expressed over it, made me feel paranoid.  Joel Shaw 
agreed with the censorship!  I especially felt that the council was out 
to get me.

When I refused to meekly accept that the council could prohibit 
discussions relating to association policy, Rusell Cocker repeated his 
Asperger claim in these terms:  "you're really doubling-down on the 
behavior that gives Aspies a bad reputation."  I doubt he really does 
think that policies may not be questioned.  Linking his implied slur 
with the council's ham-fisted attempt to wrongly stifle discussion was 
doubly hurtful, as well as bewildering.  Does he think that policies may 
not be questioned, or is it just this one?

Apparently a complaint was made against me, and the council have chosen 
to follow process.  They do not have to do that.  They are entitled to 
find the complaint without merit, and had they done so I wouldn't have 
known it was made.  They chose otherwise.  They threatened me.  This 
made me feel confused: was my message really offended?  Is the topic 
taboo?  It made me feel anxious: that the council intends kicking me 
out, denying me association with my peers.  I was unable to work.  I had 
to go to bed, and wasn't able to eat, or to get up again, until three 
days later.

My posting was not imflamatory, although a few people chose to react as 
if it was.  It was not unreasonable, although the council took two 
different approaches to stop ensuing discussion.  When I asked people on 
this list how they felt about the council's action, not a single person 
cared enough to reply, other than Craige McWhirter, and one other 
private message of abuse.  Neither of those two messages addressed the 
question of how they felt about the council's action against me.  Nobody 
spoke to that issue.  That made me feel more unwelcome than did all of 
the hate mail sent in response to my original post.

I feel very hurt by the many people who chose to belittle me, or to 
attack me instead of what I said.  I considered suicide.  I feel 
unwelcome because of the lack of any sort of support over what I tell 
you is an abuse of process by the council, in fact two abuses, including 
the censorship as well as the complaints process.  I have become anxious 
and feel agitated, cannot work at all, indeed it has been a great 
struggle to compose this impact statement.  I am now able to get up, but 
avoid seeing people.  I cannot talk to clients and so have switched my 
phones off.  Even though I will have no professional peers with whom to 
engage, the impact has been so great that I resign membership.  I have 
no real choice in the matter; to do otherwise will prevent me from 
recoverring from the harm done to me.  I see no future where I contine 
being a member, which would not include deliberately personal attacks on 
me.  I cannot stand idly by while the council engages in underhanded 
attacks against me to protect bad policy, or even good policy, if is is 
good; but apparently not so good; apparently it needs censorship from 
discussion; apparently it needs bullying and intimidation for its defense.

I am very sorry to lose contact with those others of you who have me 
politely, as people should be treated.  I am greatful to the majority, 
who engaged in the discussion that I started, rather than engaged in 
personal attack against me.  Some people supported what I said; some 
people opposed it.  Most were constructive and pollte. Some people 
chastised those who attacked me, instead of the message, and I was 
encouraged by that fair-mindedness.  But it was not enough.  Nobody 
objected to council censorship.  Nobody objected to egregious abuse of 
complaints process.  I cannot be part of a group that makes me a 
pariah.  I cannot be part of a group that drives me to actual tears, 
leaves me so low that I cannot get up, cannot work, cannot see friends 
or family.

I cannot stand to imagine how this statement will be treated.  I expect 
it will be largely negative.  I shall unsubscribe as soon as I see it 
has been received.  I resign membership and revile you collectively as 
nasty bullies who lie and intimidate to achieve a purely political goal 
using what should be a technical group.  I hope some of you feel shame 
over how you treated me, but predict only joy at an outcome sought after 
and achieved.

I thought writing this was supposed to be cathartic, supposed to help me 
move past how I have been treated, but I feel even worse. Maybe it takes 
time.  I thought that I would feel terrible resigning membership, but 
no, that is giving me a sense of peace.

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