Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Posted Feb 10, 2011 0:52 UTC (Thu) by rgmoore
In reply to: Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Parent article: Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
If we're aware that the potential exists to irritate someone then it's best to take that into account and avoid potential offense.
I think this is a key point. Different people have different standards of offensiveness, and we need to keep that in mind when deciding what we want to say and do. And, perhaps more important, it is the role of the listener, not the speaker, to decide if speech is offensive. If a substantial group of people* thinks that something is offensive, then it is offensive even if the speaker meant it innocently, though I would hope that innocent intent- and a good apology- would be enough to mollify an offended minority.
That said, it's possible to get carried away with trying to avoid offense. It's important to be a welcoming community, but it's also important to have room for open debate and honest differences of opinion. You don't want to become so sensitive that you let people use pretend outrage as an excuse to shut down opinions they don't like. That doesn't seem to be the case in this instance- it doesn't sound as though anyone objects to Mr. Pesce's opinions, just his way of getting them across- but it is something to guard against.
*Exactly what "substantial" means is obviously open to debate. I think it depends on the nature of the offensive content, and on the group that's being offended. If the offensive behavior has a target (e.g. sexually suggestive pictures of women or ethnic jokes), a large minority of the target group is substantial even if- maybe even especially if- they're a tiny fraction of the whole population.
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