To be honest, I had never heard the term “marginalization” in real life prior to 2020. Nowadays, it appears to be the woke left’s catch-all phrase to describe non-white males. Even worse, marginalization has evolved into the default excuse or explanation for when a non-white male experiences a non-ideal outcome. I understand the appeal, especially in the current political climate. In a society that prioritizes subjective wokeness over objective reality, it’s easy to blame a poor outcome on marginalization instead of digging deeper.
Last week was terrible. We started with policy changes that felt simple, reasonable, and principled, and it blew things up internally in ways we never anticipated. David and I completely own the consequences, and we’re sorry. We have a lot to learn and reflect on, and we will. The new policies stand, but we have some refining and clarifying to do.
Honestly, I didn’t think we’d ever see an apology from Basecamp because there’s nothing worthwhile to apologize for, and apologizing to the woke left is something that should be avoided at all costs.
- Basecamp is a for-profit business that pays employees to perform work. If Basecamp feels that political discussions at work reduce productivity and increase hostility, asking employees to refrain from such discussions is reasonable. Asking employees to focus on work at work is not immoral, racist, privileged, (insert woke buzzword here), or something to apologize for.
- I’m not sure who the target audience for this apology is. The offended parties will certainly take this apology and put some woke spin on it to make Basecamp look even worse.
The following account is my response to the initial disclosure and apology made by the person leading the team that had maintained the list over the years. That initial disclosure had some inconsistencies and omissions which led to an exhaustive investigation. It also included the arguments and graphics that, as Casey reported, positioned the existence of the list on a pyramid of escalations that can lead to genocide.
I’m probably in the minority, at least the vocal minority, but I think Basecamp’s move to discourage political discussions on internal company channels is completely reasonable.
Employees are paid to work on tasks defined by the company, and the work is 100% contractual. As companies grow and change in response to both internal and external influences, workplace rules may change. In this case, Basecamp has decided that it’s no longer appropriate to engage in sensitive political discussions at work. It’s probably a response to the current political climate, and I don’t blame them for this decision.
Unsurprisingly, most people on Twitter think Basecamp has done something wrong. To me, it’s ridiculous that the idea of a business asking employees to focus on work at work has somehow turned into a controversial s***storm that requires a PhD in wokeness to fully understand. Again, Basecamp is a for-profit business, and they have every right to take steps to ensure that employees are distracted as little as possible during work hours.
Stuff like this is exhausting to write about, so here are a few random thoughts.
- People who view this situation as “white men oppressing employees' rights to free speech” should take a long, hard look in the mirror. There’s no oppression going on here. Woke folks choose to view the world in a binary lens without nuance and situational context. Situational context is very important in the real world. A high school teacher asking students to be quiet and pay attention is not oppression. Basecamp asking paid employees to refrain from engaging in political discussions on company time and in company channels is not oppression. It’s only oppression (maybe) if you take the situational context out of the equation. Basecamp’s actions here are not concerning in the least. What is concerning is people’s collective inability to recognize situational nuance and think critically before jumping on the bandwagon to score wokeness points.
- I got rid of my HEY account last year, but I’m thinking of re-subscribing. I have enormous respect for Jason and DHH’s decision to double down on business, and I think it’ll act as a catalyst for other founders and executive teams to do the same. The current political climate is overheated, and it makes complete sense to de-risk by reducing political talk in company channels. Employees are still free to talk about whatever they want on non-company channels. There is no oppression going on here.
- I have to wonder how all these Basecamp critics would run a multi-million dollar business. As founders, Jason and DHH have the most to lose out of anyone at Basecamp. To think that they made such a decision with ease, especially at a time like this, shows a distinct lack of empathy. Oh wait, Jason and DHH are both well-to-do white men, so I guess they don’t need any empathy. But really though, what would you do as a founder of a successful company in this political climate? Would you choose to ignore political discussions that trigger employees, causing them to be less productive, or would you stop political discussions from happening so people can focus on the work they’re being paid to do?
Andrew Atterbury, Politico:
The GOP-controlled Florida House on Wednesday passed controversial legislation banning transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports, shifting attention to the state Senate where final approval is needed to send the bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
House and Senate Republicans in Florida have seized on women’s sports as a priority in 2021, following the path of more than 20 other GOP-leaning states that are using the issue to limit transgender rights. LGBTQ advocacy groups like Equality Florida are aligned with the majority of Democrats in opposing the legislation, arguing it would lead to increased stigma and misinformation surrounding transgender students.
Democrats pushed back against that rhetoric, insisting the legislation is aimed at LGBTQ rights and not girls’ athletics.
This is a bad situation, and I don’t see a clear path for either side to “win”. Personally, I don’t think transgender athletes should be allowed to participate in sports with the opposite sex – unless the context is specifically co-ed. The reason for this is simple – men versus women sports are clearly determined by biological sex, not gender. A man who transitions into a woman is not a biological woman, and biological women are at a physical disadvantage to biological men when it comes to sports.
We have to draw the line somewhere. Banning transgender athletes from playing girls' sports is not a hate crime against transgender people. It’s a reasonable measure to preserve fairness in sports. If I wake up one day and decide to identify as disabled, it would be unfair for me to participate in a sports league for disabled people. Similarly, if I wake up one day and decide to identify as female, it would again be unfair for me to play women sports.
Unfortunately, America has progressed to the point where determinations based on objective biology (men versus women sports) are being called out as transphobic. I’m not sure where we go from here. In the current political environment, the people who respect biology as a determining factor to create a level playing field will be cancelled, while the people who are pushing for unrestricted transgender participation in sports – a flawed idea by design – will be amplified and praised. What a world we live in.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I think my views on D&I are not as liberal as many of my friends and coworkers. For a workplace that follows traditional corporate standards, I think designing a diverse environment is usually an overall net positive as long as it’s not performed through the lens of a rigid framework.
So, I think D&I is nice to have in a traditional workplace, but I’m not the type of person to push the idea on everyone I know. In the WordPress space, it’s common to see certain individuals go on and on (literally everyday) about diversity, underrepresentation, marginalization, and how white people should always keep their “privilege” in check (or something like that).
It makes me wonder if these people are taking the whole diversity thing a little seriously. Really, I don’t think talking about how marginalized and underrepresented you are every single day is good for your mental health. I’ll be honest – as someone who is apart of one of these so called marginalized and underrepresented groups, I’ve never come across a negative workplace scenario that was caused by my race or ethnicity. Does this mean I’m “privileged”, or is the whole D&I conversation just turned up to 11 right now?
My views on D&I are the way they are because I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a necessity for every single workplace environment. D&I is not a requirement to be productive, and it’s not a requirement to build amazing products. Hear me out before you call me privileged or racist.
Working in blockchain is amazing. It’s what I spend all my free time on, and lack of purposeful D&I is one of the reasons why I love it so much. I’ve never met most of my colleagues in the blockchain space, and I don’t even know most of their names. We mostly communicate through Telegram, Slack, and occasional audio calls, and we get work done.
In this context, there is no D&I mental overhead because it’s completely abstracted out of the equation. It’s near-impossible to distinguish someone’s race from text-based communication. Since people usually prefer to stay anonymous in blockchain, “real” profile pictures are pretty rare. I’ve been working in blockchain for three years now. In that time, one guy who I thought was Asian ended up being a white dude from Amsterdam. Similarly, someone else who I thought was a white guy living in the USA ended up being an Asian guy living in the Philippines. Best of all, no one (including me) gives a s*** about any of this. People are judged solely based on their work ethic and the skills they bring to the table, and that’s how it should be.
Abstracting away D&I completely is, of course, only possible in an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous work environment. So, this begs the question whether this kind of work environment is superior to the traditional corporate workplace where a huge amount of emphasis is placed on learning more about the backgrounds of your colleagues. Interestingly enough, I feel closer to my colleagues in blockchain than my colleagues at my day job. This makes me wonder whether concepts like HR protocols, fear of coming off as “privileged”, and other sorts of virtue signaling constructs actually prevent colleagues from forming strong friendships in an efficient manner.
It’ll be interesting to see if “anonymity in the workplace” spreads to other industries over the coming years. For this kind of workplace environment to become commonplace, there needs to be a huge shift in how people think about and design corporate structures. I think DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are a step in the right direction.
The idea here is instead of motivating people to work via a “corporate ladder” backed by accepted rules and behaviors, give people a direct stake in the organization via a token and design the governance system in a way that incentivizes everyone to act in a productive manner.
I think the D&I trend over the past few years is the latest version of “social glue” that allows traditional companies to continue functioning with respect to current events. Social glue is important because the governance structure of most companies is not set up in a way that fairly rewards those who contribute the most, and punishes those who don’t do a good job – this is because social norms take precedence over everything else in a non-anonymous environment. Thus in order to keep a company together, tools like D&I need to be introduced to prevent the social fabric from tearing.
My grand thesis is that as we evolve into a society that truly values privacy, the inefficiencies of traditional corporate structures will become more and more apparent. At the same time, I think decentralized and pseudo-anonymous work will become more popular.
Let’s see what happens.