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09.15.20

Grief, Sadness, Anger, and Shame Tactics for an Unsafe Working Environment With a Debian Clique in Charge

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 4:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

The Cambridgeshire coroner recently held a final hearing into the death of Debian Contributor Lucy Wayland. Wayland died almost immediately after the Debian 2018 Christmas lynchings.

Before getting into where Debian has gone wrong, it is important to emphasize consideration for Wayland’s family at this time. Speculation about the details of Wayland’s death is both distressing for people and un-necessary when considering the problems in the Debian environment.

The purpose of this blog is not to focus on Wayland, rather, it is about the issues.

Do people understand?

With a tragedy like this, there are many emotions at play. Grief. Sadness. Anger. Shame.

Shame may be the worst. A previous blog examined shaming people back in March, shortly after Wayland died.

If the Debian community understood the dangers of shame, we wouldn’t see people like Molly de Blanc, as girlfriend of the former Debian Project Leader, standing up at a prominent event like FOSDEM and gloating about how she got to demote people in 2018.

Before de Blanc gave that speech about being an enforcer, most of us thought the term toxic woman had been relegated to history. It seems odd that somebody who claims to be a champion of diversity has brought it back so convincingly.

Out of respect for Wayland’s family, Debian needs to unilaterally acknowledge something went wrong at Christmas 2018 and furthermore, distance itself from the preaching of Molly de Blanc and other amateur-hour enforcers.

Personally, I became involved in the Linux movement in the early nineties and became involved in Debian in 1997. Yet it wasn’t until 2012 that I applied to be on the Debian keyring. There is no single reason for that delay: on the one hand, the bureaucracy appeared somewhat intimidating and on the other hand, it simply wasn’t necessary for my work. It isn’t even necessary today. I only applied to be on the Debian keyring in the hope that I could contribute to the community. I didn’t join to get one of Lamb’s Debian Developer Certificates for myself, I only wanted to give back and share.

At the time Wayland passed away, she was at the lowest tier of the Debian hierarchy, a Debian Contributor. When I resigned from my role in the GSoC team citing extraordinary personaly circumstances, Chris Lamb, Enrico Zini and other ruthless individuals suddenly decided to amuse themselves by “demoting” me to this same lowly tier. It was a deliberate and malicious attempt to humiliate me, but it also served to humiliate other people, like Wayland, at the same tier. None of them knew the pain my family was going through at that time. Their callous behaviour only made it worse.

When any organization goes through restructuring, it impacts everybody.

As noted in the blog about enforcers, all the witnesses to shaming suffer just as much, if not more, than the victims. How would Lucy Wayland feel seeing other experienced volunteers being subjected to cruel demotions at Christmas?

During the credit crisis, I spent a number of years working in London’s capital markets. Restructuring was a regular occurrence. In one case, a hedge fund decided to let us all go on a Monday morning. I had only joined and I was one week short of completing the probationary period. Technically, the firm was only obliged to pay me for one more week. After telling the team we had no jobs, the director immediately proceeded to advise that I would get the same payout as everybody else. The next thing he said is that one of our colleagues, who was on holiday, was not to be given the bad news until he returned. He was going to get an extra week added to his notice period. The firm didn’t want to disturb his holidays.

My next mission was at a large bank in Canary Wharf. It is a much larger firm. Even during the crisis, while some teams were being cut, other people were being hired to perform essential roles in the bank.

As a larger organization, the redundancies would come in waves, every few months and the rest of us would continue operating. First the contractors were released and a whole bunch of desks were empty. Then they started reducing some permanent staff members. Many of our project managers disappeared, only the key developers remained.

To say this was a little bit grim is an understatement.

Nonetheless, our managers tried to keep their feet on the ground. In one firm, I remember a manager walking out when HR tried to sack people behind his back.

Despite this tragedy, nobody was simply dumped into the street. Staff were given counselling, resources and payment for a transition period. Some things, like Christmas, were still sacred. Even at the height of the credit crisis, I don’t remember anybody being sacked at Christmas.

When I saw what Chris Lamb, Molly de Blanc and their underlings did to Dr Preining in Christmas 2018, I couldn’t help feeling outrage. If the supposedly ruthless merchant banks of London didn’t dare to violate Christmas, how could Debian, an organization constituted on volunteering, do so?

Yet it only got worse.

The more questions I asked, the more evidence of corruption emerged. For example, developers sending veiled threats to interns, behind the backs of the mentors. It reminded me of that case where a manager walked out on a plum job in Canary Wharf when HR sent communications behind his back.

Grievance procedures that give people inadequate time and information to respond to any complaint. In other words, Enrico Zini, Joerg Jaspert and Jonathan Wiltshire, the Debian Account Managers, running a kangaroo court, just like Guantanamo Bay military trials in Cuba.

The coroner recently found that Wayland died from an accident, alone in her home. Having reviewed the details carefully, it is not hard to imagine any volunteer dying in similar circumstances after being subjected to or simply exposed to such thuggery by the Debian cabal.

After a report found organization culture contributed to a series of tragic deaths in Amnesty International, their entire board offered to resign. Wayland’s death happened during Chris Lamb’s term as Debian Project Leader and immediately after lynchings that Lamb helped orchestrate. Lamb hasn’t even acknowledged it, simply putting out monthly reports about his technical works.

Debian’s roll of shame

It is ironic that as extremist members of the transgender community attempted to make a safe space for their uncompromising rhetoric within Debian, the death of another transgender volunteer appears to be an example of collateral damage.

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