Bonum Certa Men Certa

Stardust Nightclub Tragedy, Unlawful killing, Censorship & Debian Scapegoating

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 23, 2024,
updated Apr 23, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

Last week, the jury returned an unlawful killing verdict in relation to the 48 deaths at the Stardust nightclub fire in 1981.

In the context of an inquest, unlawful killing tells us that the circumstances of the death involved some sort of crime. The crime may be deliberate or it may be a matter of extreme incompetence. The verdict of a coroner's inquest does not name a guilty party. We could use the same framework to think about the deaths in the Debian suicide cluster.

Shortly after the jury announced their verdict, people noticed a blog from Russ Allbery in Debian.News and other syndication services on the topic Review: The Stars, Like Dust. Russ publishes a lot of book reviews and it could have just been coincidence. Nonetheless, there are a lot of accusations about trolling in Debian so it seems like a good opportunity to look at the similarities between the Stardust deaths and the Debian suicide cluster deaths.

Some things change...

The tragedy was a long time ago in 1981 but it remains highly relevant today.

Some things changed. For example, both Ireland and the UK now have much stricter safety regulations in business premises. The quality of building materials and the standard of electrical installation work has improved a lot.

Forbidden music was censored

One of Ireland's most notable folk singers Christy Moore became a convicted criminal for singing about the fire.

Yet this is something that has changed: Ireland abolished criminal speech laws and and the Internet provided a way for people to circumvent the censorship and listen to Moore's song They Never Came Home.

To put that in perspective, nobody was ever convicted of a crime in relation to overcrowding, the ignition of the fire or the blocked fire exits. But Moore was convicted for singing about those things.

We can see exactly the same phenomena in Debian. Nobody has ever been investigated or convicted over the Debian suicide cluster deaths but there have been enormous efforts to punish those who spoke up about it.

... but some things don't change

The fire was on Valentine's Day, 14 February 1981 and the initial inquiry concluded in November 1981 with a finding that it was probably started by arson.

No evidence of arson was documented. It looks like this was not much more than guesswork.

Eventually, in 2009, a review was commissioned by the Government. The report declared that the finding of arson was not justified. The Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, publicly accepted his conclusions. The arson verdict was now erased. The families of victims were left in limbo for another 15 years waiting for the new verdict, a lot like the open source community has been left in limbo waiting for an official report about the suicides.

In 2019 the Government agreed to a new inquest. The inquest began in 2023 and last week it produced verdicts of unlawful killing. The finding of arson was not substantiated.

The Wikipedia page about Unlawful Killing tells us that such verdicts only require proof on the balance of probabilities. News reports suggest that in Ireland, the verdict had to be beyond reasonable doubt, which is a much stronger verdict.

Scapegoating in Ireland and Debian

The finding of arson in 1981 has the impact of shifting blame. By finding that arson was a possible factor, the inquiry was reducing the weight of blame on the owners of the nightclub and officials at the Dublin City Council for their own failings in health and safety practices.

Moreover, a finding of arson shifts the blame from the landlord classes to the youth. Rather than seeing the youth as victims, the arson finding encourages us to consider the possibility that one of the youngsters had a role in their own suffering.

We can see the same in the world of Debian. Frans Pop chose to write his resignation/suicide note the night before Debian Day yet Wouter Verhelst wrote a blog insisting that Pop had other reasons for suicide.

We can see the same phenomena in Debian and other open source software groups that have implemented amateur hour Codes of Conduct (CoC). Whenever there is some kind of conflict, the CoC is used to shift the blame from wrongdoing by the leadership figures and use some volunteer as a scapegoat.

We find the same thing again in the Catholic abuse scandals. The Crimen Sollicitationis is a Code of Conduct for handling abuse cases. In rule 73 of this code, the wording selected by the author in the original Latin version of the text explicitly suggests that the child is a collaborator in the crime rather than a victim. The finding of arson suggests that some of the youth may have been collaborators in their own demise.

Crimen Sollicitationis, the CoC for hiding abuse, goes on to provide a procedure for interrogating victims who make a complaint. The victims are asked to admit that they made the complaint because they are seeking forgiveness for their own "participation" in the forbidden act.

We saw the same phenomena in Debian. Dr Norbert Preining made a complaint about harassment from the Debian Account Managers. He gave an example of the nasty messages these people sent him in December 2018 ( evidence).

A common theme used by the abusers and those investigating abuse is the questioning of the victim's reasons for making a complaint. Victim's were asked if they were seeking forgiveness or absolution. The implication is that a victim asking for absolution is admitting they were somehow party to the wrongdoing. From the thesis of Sally Muytjens:

The confessional is a unique situational context for clergy and was utilised by DN actors as a multi-functional DN resource (Cahill and Wilkinson 2017, 16). Clericalism was exploited as a significant DN resource in this situational context. Where a victim is seeking forgiveness, they are extremely vulnerable as the priest has the power to grant or withhold absolution.

The church teaches us from a young age that the confessional is a place of secrecy and privacy. The messages Debian Account Managers are sending to their victims seek to exploit the same psychology, from the message published by Dr Preining:

We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable)

Sure enough, after a few weeks of this, Dr Preining was guilt-tripped into sending a public email where he asks for absolution and the absolution was subsequently granted to him.

In fact, we can see the same psychology in other social problems that Ireland is facing today. For example, for a long time, the Irish government dragged their feet over compensation to victims of the Mica scandal. The biggest social problems in Ireland today involve the health system, homelessness and insufficient housing, even for those who are working and able to afford the rent. In each case, public discourse about the subject tries to shift the blame to those who are suffering or some third party like the immigrants.

Other Recent Techrights' Posts

IRC Proceedings: Saturday, July 13, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, July 13, 2024
Julian Assange’s Brother Gabriel Shipton Explains the Logistics of 'Smuggling' Julian Out of the United Kingdom
a lot of new information and prison stories
[Video] Why Wikileaks Publishing War-Related Documents Was Both Important and Justified
It's important to remember the principle which says privacy is for the powerless, whereas the powerful (like those with the power to kill) deserve not privacy but transparency
[Meme] Attacking the "G" in GNOME (Since 2009) Was a Mistake
Spending 50,000 pounds to sue women of racial minority
Difficult Times in GNOME Foundation
GNOME Foundation is in "crisis management" or "face-saving" or "damage control" mode
 
The Smugness of "I'm a Journalist"
Attacking women for expressing their opinions (for example, about the abuse they received) isn't unprecedented
It Takes No Courage to Become Another Corporate Stooge
transition to spam
Why Techrights Has Just Programmatically Blacklisted ZDNet
Even their "Linux" writers are AWOL
Gemini Links 14/07/2024: The Stress of 24/7 Notifications and FOSS tools for Sipeed Tang Nano 1K
Links for the day
Windows Already Down to 10% in Lao (It was 96% a Decade and a Half Ago), Vista 11 Adoption Has Stalled
And GNU/Linux is topping a 1-year high in Loa
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
Links 13/07/2024: Patent Trolls in UK Court of Appeal, Eric Schmidt Continues so Show Womanising at Google
Links for the day
Links 13/07/2024: Not Quite Dead Yet After All and Unfederated E-mail
Links for the day
Holly Million, GNOME Foundation departure after Albanian whistleblower revelations
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
[Meme] Like They Got Rid of Molly (and Now Holly)
Pay over 100,000 dollars a year for someone without any background in tech (to "lead" a tech project)
Microsoft Windows Falls to Almost 10% in Palestine (It Was Measured at 100% Just 15 Years Ago)
quite a big drop
Guardianship of the Licence is Not Enough (the Case of Systemd and Microsoft)
Whether the GPL gets enforced or not, if people adopt lousy software, that will have negative consequences
Speaking Out and Spreading the Message of GNU
Free Software Foundation (FSF) got 112 new members since 2.5 weeks ago
3.5 Years in Gemini
It's important to speak about and spread the word (about software freedom, BSD, GNU/Linux, patents etc.) in a medium that's strategic and growing
[Meme] Whoever in GNOME Decided to Attack the G (GNU), It Was a Foolish Miscalculation
How could they expect any outcome other than GNOME's own collapse?
Windows Down to Unprecedented Low in Czech Republic, Android Rises to New Record
From 98% in July 2009 (15 years ago) Windows is down to all-time low of 38% and well below Android
GNOME Foundation Lost Nearly a Million Dollars in 2 Years, IBM and GAFAM Won't Bail It Out Anymore
Seems like a suicide mission
Google News Has Become a Big Pile of Garbage
The issue predates chatbots, but these SEO tricks were accelerated somewhat by slop
OpenAI and ChatGPT Could Very Well Collapse and Shut Down Later This Year (Huge Losses, Sagging Usage Levels, and Massive Debt)
we illuminate the suppressed observations that Microsoft-sponsored publishers and cheaply-made slop (LLM spew disguised as "news") try to distract from
Links 13/07/2024: TikTok Interferences, YouTube Throttled in Russia
Links for the day
Kathy Lette on Julian Assange Staying at Her Attic, Why His Release Matters So Much, and Jen Robinson Staying Over Yesterday
They talk a lot about politics, but the segment mentions publishers, including Rushdie
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Friday, July 12, 2024
IRC logs for Friday, July 12, 2024
Microsoft Windows Down to a New Low in Canada (Only a Third)
Very steep decline a decade ago
Links 12/07/2024: EU/China Tensions and Ukraine War Updates
Links for the day
EPO Staff Reps: "Until now, Mr Campinos is still leaving the appellants in the dark about the exact content of the opinion of the Appeals Committee on the EPO salary adjustment procedure."
Campinos chooses to lawyer up rather than listen up
EPO Staff Representatives Say It Has Gotten Very Hard to Get Promoted (Forget About Getting Rewarded for Hard Work)
This has long been a problem
[Meme] That Time EPO Workers Were Panicking Because the Elevators Kept Getting Stuck
Many people forgot that
Occupational Health, Safety and Ergonomics Committee (LOHSEC) at the European Patent Office (EPO)
nobody in EPO management ever gets punished for crimes, no matter how severe
[Video] Julian Assange's Brother Gabriel Shipton on How the Convoy to the Airport Was Arranged, Being at the Beach With Julian Assange After Release (He's Doing Well), and How Taylor Swift Has 'Helped' Julian
At the airport he was greeted by many press crews, but they were not there for him. They were there because of Taylor Swift.
[Meme] Financial Disinformation From Chatbots Controlled by the Manipulator (Rigger)
ChatGPT, the media is starting to say you're all hype...
Microsoft is Actually Quite Worthless, Its Valuation is Based on Lies and Consistently Defrauding Shareholders
Microsoft's future is not what Wall Street "tells" us
Links 12/07/2024: Nations That Already Ban TikTok and Russia's 'Shadow War' Online
Links for the day
Gemini Links 12/07/2024: Changing and the WIPO Lunacy
Links for the day
Let's Encrypt Continues to Collapse in Geminispace and That's Good News for Free Speech (Among Other Things)
due to the way modern Web browsers work, many sites have no option but to use Let's Encrypt or pay for some other CA to issue some worthless-but-glorified bytes
Microsoft Falls Below 20% in Montenegro - Plunging to All-Time Low
sharp drop
[Meme] The Free Speech Absolutist From Apartheid South Africa
What will it take for all sensible people to quit X/Twitter?
The Final Demise of Social Control Media May be Upon Us (It Ought to be Collectively Abandoned for Society's Sake)
If it keeps going down, prospects of a turnaround or rebound are slim
Linux is Displacing Microsoft and Replacing Windows in Germany (Android Surge and New Highs for ChromeOS+GNU/Linux in Germany)
Germany is upgrading to GNU/Linux, not to latest Windows
The Latest NDAA Amendment Can (or Should) Allow the United States to Remove Microsoft Even Faster From Its Infrastructure (Which Routinely Gets Cracked Completely by Russia and China, Thanks to Microsoft)
It's time to move!
Reorganising for Better Efficiency and More Publication (Original Material)
XBox "journalism" these days is mostly slop (chatbot spew disguised as news), so studying this matter isn't easy
Software Freedom is Still the FSF
At the moment the best advocacy group for Software Freedom is the FSF
Links 12/07/2024: XBox in Trouble, Crackdowns in UAE
Links for the day
Gemini Links 12/07/2024: Make Tea Not War, Considering Guix
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, July 11, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, July 11, 2024