UPDATE 1 (26/03/12): Mealy mouthed response from and twitter exchange with ORG advisory board member Owen Blacker added - comment #7 below.
I'm done. I've absolutely had it with attempts to work with the activist left in this country. No more.
The Open Rights Group held its conference 'Orgcon' yesterday. It's a hub of activity and interesting talks for anyone interested in the crucial issues facing us in the digital realm in general and with regard to the internet in particular. ORG have worked for many years now to raise awareness on issues such as the Digital Economy Act and ACTA and have run many campaigns to get people involved. These are causes that affect everyone and there is good reason for people of all political persuasions to get involved.
You might be reading this and passively wishing I'd included links to ORG and their useful summary pages on the Digital Economy Act and ACTA. That was a conscious choice not to and I won't be doing so again for the forseeable future. Tomorrow I will be cancelling my donations to them.
Let me tell you why.
For many years now quite a number of us on the libertarian right have made attempts to reach out to the broad left on issues of common concern. In my personal experience it was mainly for anti-war actions and campaigns. In every single case there would be at least one person amongst the left-wingers who would say that we "weren't allowed" to join them, and worse. I've known of so many attempts to hold out the Olive branch - and all from the right-libertarian - that have been rebuffed, and often with menaces.
I know this kind of attitude has put many of my libertarian and libertarian-leaning Tory friends off ever going to events run, or largely dominated, by lefties just for this very reason, even if the case for common cause is compelling and possibly necessary for any chance of victory. One of the clearest examples of shooting themselves in the foot in recent memory was in the battle over AV. The lefties refused to work with Farage and UKIP on this despite common cause. As a result the case for AV was seen largely as something exclusive popularised by the Guardian reading metropolitan lefty elite. And people were, it seems, right to think that. This is not to say had they made common cause the vote would have been won, but I suspect the pro-AV vote would not have been so embarrassingly small either, and the turnout perhaps a little better (and the debates from the AV side less childish too).
A couple of friends I'd mentioned the Orgcon to had already declined on the grounds that they didn't want to end up in an argument with left-wingers who would tell them that they were 'evil' and not welcome and blah blah blah. Yeah, you know the rest. But I thought I'd give it a go. I've been a supporter of ORG and their work for some time so now I'm based back in London I thought I'd finally make it to one of their major events.
Unfortunately I groaned almost as soon as I joined the - very long - queue to get in to the conference. Being the gregarious kind of chap I am I decided to start getting to know the people nearby in the queue. An older bloke behind me was ranting to a friend - I was about to say 'hi' but paused to listen first. He claimed, first, that the cuts on pensions would be 'given to the bankers at Canary Wharf' and second, claimed he had met a "right wing sociologist" whose secret task was - apparently - to "destroy the working class". It was a classic facepalm moment and I wondered if I was going to make it through the day without putting someone's head through a window.
Fortunately throughout the day I met a handful of friendly left leaning people with whom I found a lot of common ground. Interestingly they were generally older and also not UK natives. The two keynotes - by Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig were particularly good and well worth watching when they go online. (I'm sorry I refuse to post links and give ORG traffic from this blog). Particularly notable was an argument made by Lessig - he made it clear that it was a mistake to regard these issues as left/right in any way and that the only division that mattered was those within the political class and those without. I thought he was very clear on this. Apparently not.
In the early evening most of the attendees went to the pub. Three libertarian pals joined me at the pub, though (lucky for them) two had to leave a little earlier at which point the two of us left retired to the back room of the pub to continue drinking and chatting.
It was then I encountered Nishma for the third time.
When she breezed in, whilst chatting to my friend, I passively noticed how the group of (white, males) reoriented around her and she became the centre of attention. That's nothing new in left-activist circles as I've observed over the years, though it is relevant for what was about to pass. Despite lots of fine rhetoric about being open minded and the women not wanting to be "objectified", that soons slips when it suits and I witness a ritual even more painful than most I've seen after 13 years of looking after nightclubs full of drunk idiots. I do honestly wonder how many of the men get laid in these circles and how dull their sex lives must be.
Anyway, I digress. Nishma was ranting loudly about Tory bastards this and Tory bastards that and at one point turned to the two of us and asked something about hating right wingers. I said 'well, there's two of us right here'. A stunned silence ensued until one of her compatriots said "libertarians". At which point she seemed to relax slightly. (The underlying implication being that whilst we had some credibility in their eyes, Tories were not allowed full stop! As many of you know there's no love lost between myself and the Tories but I still find much of the left attitude towards them utterly repugnant not to mention often completely wrong).
She then proceeded to tell us how libertarianism "excludes women of colour" (how?) and how everything was the fault of us evil white men. My (female) libertarian friend, to her eternal credit, then leapt to my defence and pointed out what a hypocrite Nishma was. Nishma then came out with the classic line we're all used to now that it isn't racist or sexist if it's white men we're talking about. Both of us started laughing at which point she also then said "and then there's colonialism too". The mutual recriminatory exchange only got worse from then on until she flounced out of the room.
At this point something inside me just gave. I'm done with putting up with this, or just putting it to one side for the perceived greater good. She was surrounded by four (white) men who - as per fucking usual in these groups - just passively accept this offensive concentrated bullshit. But of course they do - they all want to get into her pants and its hard work when the odds are 4 to 1 and they have to pay lip service to not "objectifying" her and taking their licks as "evil white men". If they were confident men and not emasculated craptivists they would have done one of two things - either i) backed up her position or ii) told her to stop being so offensive to almost everyone present and shut up. They did neither. They made a very quick exit, with one muttering "I'm getting out of here!". Fuck 'em. They're welcome to their sex starved lives of constantly having to self-flagellate for being white and male and beg for approval.
Now here's the second important bit:
Nishma Doshi is the Community and Events Organsier at the Open Rights Group.
She's responsible for PR, outreach and is the main point of contact for many people with ORG. As such she's very much a bona fide spokesperson for the organisation and just not some random nutter amongst the supporters.
As I mentioned, earlier I'd ecountered her already at least twice that day. She'd already said something offensive about everyone in the room being "white males" at one of the workshops but I let it slide again in the interests of getting something out of the session. No more. Other greatest hits from this white hot intellect included - in response to her being asked why she thought Boris Johnson was corrupt, it was because "he went to Eton" and during the "hacktivism" workshop she shared her - barely out of teens years of experience - clue for working out who the police informants and undercover agents were. They're socially awkward apparently. This was said to a room full of techie geeks.
With someone this openly bigoted, dogmatic, sexist and racist, following the usual cultural marxist script in such a sensitive position at ORG it is reasonable to assume that her views are at least passively tolerated.
Well that *is* intolerable to me, especially after having promoted and supported ORG for so long and joined in on their various campaigns.
So I'm sharing this blog with all of my libertarian and right wing friends and asking them to share further and boycott ORG unless and until Nishma Doshi no longer works for them and they release an official statement to the effect that they apologise and do not endorse her views and that people of all political persuasions (and white men) are welcome to get involved. I will be cancelling my donations to ORG tomorrow and writing them a formal letter explaining why and what it will take for me to consider ever associating with them again in future.