The witch-hunt against Larry Garfield, part 2: “I do not know which one is more damning.”

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. I’m posting this sometime on either a Saturday or a Sunday, something that I almost never do for several reasons. But this can’t wait for the next nominal business day, which is Monday 2017 April 17 (ignoring that many businesses will be closed because it’s the Monday after Easter Sunday).

I had posted this immediately after Larry’s third post on the topic. I had hoped more would develop in the extra days I wound up giving this post, but little has. That said, it’s a relief that people are still talking about this. I got a link from Misha Verbitsky’s blog on a LiveJournal-based platform earlier this week, which I appreciate (the entry is in Russian, and I might add, doesn’t appear to be handled well by Google Translate without reformatting). Misha is one of many that have denounced the actions of Mr. Buytaert and Ms. Sanicki regarding this situation.

Anyway, the basic theme of Larry’s third post on the topic, with the title “Regarding the continued mystery” and with the all-too-appropriate slug “tmi-part-3”, is to list two alternative possibilities in response to several things that have been said or done, with the statement “I do not know which one is more damning.” after each set.

I’m going to quote at least some of those here with my own thoughts.

The [joint post from Mr. Buytaert and Ms. Sanicki on the Drupal Association blog] implies that the “information” considered included “some of Larry’s online interactions, both on and off”. In the information provided by the Community Working Group (CWG) to both me and the Board, however, there is no interaction listed at all. The only “interaction” mentioned that was not part of the CWG’s “mediation” process was from the original individual who reported my private life to the CWG, who now, in hindsight, was upset that I had brought my autistic housemate to Midcamp.

It’s also worth noting that on 3 February 2017 I asked the CWG for copies of what excerpts of my private posts they had as of then. I asked them again on 25 February, after my call with Dries. I was not provided with any such information until 27 February, a mere two hours before I received Megan’s email dismissing me from the track chair position and DrupalCon engagements. Even that information was incomplete, as it included only a screenshot and two non-Drupal links. The packet I received for the Board meeting (after action had already been taken against me) included the out-of-context excerpts Klaus had shared with me, an additional excerpt that Klaus had dug up after speaking with me (which I’d not seen before), and anonymized copies of emails to the CWG from three individuals (one of them being Klaus) which included the very first mention of my autistic housemate. At this point there still were no excerpts from anything from

That leaves two possibilities:

  1. The CWG and/or the Board and/or Dries had/has damning evidence of actions I’ve taken in violation of the CoC, actively withheld that information from me over the course of several months, and issued a statement stating clearly that I had not violated the Code of Conduct, but is still committed to withholding the information as they won’t even tell me what supposed evidence they have or are accusing me of.
  2. Megan and Dries are making misleading and inaccurate statements now (which I list and go into below) to cover up the lack of justification for their actions.

I do not know which one is more damning.

Of the two, I would consider withholding evidence from Larry to be slightly more damning. But either possibility means that Drupal’s governance is pretty broken: either the leaders (Ms. Sanicki and Mr. Buytaert) are corrupt and dishonest (in the second case), or the CWG and Board had it in for Larry since the beginning (in the first case).

Next up:

Second, the post indicated that Dries decided to remove me because “Larry had indicated on several occasions that he was drawing down his involvement in the Drupal project, and that context helped inform Dries’ decision.”

It is true that I mentioned to the CWG, and to Dries, that it was ironic all of this was blowing up now as I was likely going to scale back my Drupal core involvement before too long anyway (something many people have done many times). However, I did not say I was going to leave Drupal entirely any time soon; I indicated that it might happen long-term, or not. I never said or implied that there was any imminent departure planned on my part. If that were my intent, why would I have submitted sessions for DrupalCon at the beginning of February, 3 months before the conference? That wouldn’t make any sense at all. Drupal is still a key part of my professional career, as is presenting at conferences, Drupal or otherwise.

That someone gives informal fair warning that they intend to “step down considerately” (as the Code of Conduct specifies one should do) from some positions in no way implies that it is appropriate to force them out of those or others, nor does it rise to the level of a complete and total removal from the project in all aspects.

Additionally, when Dries called me on 24 February he had already made up his mind to ask me to resign. That means he could not have known I was planning to scale back (but not leave) before that unless the CWG specifically told him. That means either:

  1. The CWG told Dries of my likely scaling back when they talked to him, despite CWG discussions supposedly being confidential, and Dries then not mentioning that to me until I told him that I had been planning to scale back late in the conversation on 24 February.
  2. Mentioning that in the post is purely a post-hoc justification for an action taken that did not have anything to do with it.

I do not know which one is more damning.

To me, clearly the first of the two is much more damning, as it means the CWG can’t be trusted to keep confidential conversations confidential. Obivously if Larry wanted to tell Mr. Buytaert that he was scaling back his involvement, he would have done so himself. To mention that there was a possibility in a confidential conversation, that gets twisted around when repeated to “oh, Larry’s going to be leaving the project soon anyway”, is a huge breach of trust.

Given what I’ve seen, I’d expect Drupal’s leadership to “cover its asses” with such justifications. That’s still very damning, don’t get me wrong, but doesn’t rise to the level of violating confidentiality.

Neither of the two possiblities Larry mentions in this stanza of the post should happen in a healthy free software project’s governance.

And then, the process by which Larry’s removal from his track chair and speaking position was decided:

Third, the post states that there was “a careful, and deliberate process that has been going on since October 2016.” Let’s consider the timeline implications of that.

  • October 2016: First report to the CWG, in which they find no Code of Conduct violation by me. They do not inform me of this fact.
  • 16 November 2016: First time the CWG contacts me about there being any reports, and tell me there is no CoC violation.
  • 16 January 2017: Klaus and I have a Google Hangout in which he threatens to blackmail me. I report said blackmail to the CWG the same day.
  • 3 February 2017: I have a “mediation” interview with a member of the CWG. Aside from that member sending me notes to validate, I receive no further communication from the CWG.
  • 24 February 2017: Dries calls me and tells me to resign. I have one brief call with a member of the CWG later the same day.
  • 27 February 2017: Megan emails me to tell me I’m out from DrupalCon.

At no point in this process was there any indication that I was “under investigation”. Aside from the single interview with the CWG there was no request for information from me at all. If the Board was even aware of the matter prior to my referring it to them, I did not know of it. However, when Dries spoke to me on the 24th he said quite clearly that he had not been part of any CWG conversations. That leaves two possible conclusions:

  1. The CWG, Dries, Megan, and the Board were having continual meetings to plan to kick me out of Drupal and actively kept it secret from both me and the DrupalCon track team (who, presumably, would have objected to me having a session picked in the first place if I were already in the process of being removed).
  2. The process was not “careful and deliberate”, but they must now claim that it was in order to protect the current structure and their ultimate decision on my fate.

I do not know which one is more damning.

This is a tough one, but a secret conspiracy to kick Larry out of a project that he has been a loyal contributor to strikes me as at least a bit more damning than simple lying for the sake of ass-covering. Of course, both are very damning for Drupal’s project governance and do not reflect well on those in charge at all.

Three months between the first CWG complaint and Larry being effectively fired from at least his positions at DrupalCon, if not within the entire Drupal project, with no notification to Larry that he’s under investigation, does not strike me as “careful and deliberate”. The half-assed “mediation” between Larry and Mr. Purer also comes across as just another form of CWG ass-covering, now that I think about it. While the amount of care and deliberation can be a very subjective matter, I feel I’m being fair when I call bullshit on the “careful and deliberate” bit.

Moving on, Larry then addresses the question on everyone’s mind: why was he removed from his roles, anyway? (A question, I might add, that has not been satisfactorily addressed by anyone in charge of the Drupal project, including the DA and CWG.)

This seems to be the million dollar question for many (myself included). The post from Megan and Dries implies it’s because of actions I took, or reports they have about me… but they can’t talk about what the actions were, or what kind of allegation they are, or when it happened, or why it was evidently never given to the CWG to resolve, or (if it is as bad as they make it out to be) why it was never given to law enforcement to have me charged with a crime. But don’t worry, just trust that they have this evidence, which they can never speak of. That this evidence totally justifies the decision they’ve already made. A decision which they felt they needed to justify with my supposed withdrawal from the project, despite claiming that regardless of anything else, this secret evidence would, alone, justify my removal.

While a viable plot for a late night comedy show, this is the argument they are using to attack my reputation and my career, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t simply take them at their word that such evidence exists. Especially as we have the original reason direct from the source (Dries’ original, unedited blog post).

Dries’ original blog post, before he edited it, stated quite clearly why he asked me to resign:

However, when a highly-visible community member’s private views become public, controversial, and disruptive for the project, I must consider the impact that his words and actions have on others and the project itself. In this case, Larry has entwined his private and professional online identities in such a way that it blurs the lines with the Drupal project. Ultimately, I can’t get past the fundamental misalignment of values.

First, collectively, we work hard to ensure that Drupal has a culture of diversity and inclusion. Our goal is not just to have a variety of different people within our community, but to foster an environment of connection, participation and respect. We have a lot of work to do on this and we can’t afford to ignore discrepancies between the espoused views of those in leadership roles and the values of our culture. It’s my opinion that any association with Larry’s belief system is inconsistent with our project’s goals.

Before I continue with the quote from Larry’s post, I want to address Mr. Buytaert’s post, as originally written, quoted here. The reason Larry self-outed and thus “entwined his private and professional online identities” is because someone was threatening to blackmail him, namely by making content from a private website public (again, lest we forget, in violation of a privacy-protecting AUP/TOS). And again, what Larry does behind closed doors should not affect his role as contributor to a community-based free software project, especially when that is his livelihood, whether that activity behind closed doors is Gorean role-play, BDSM, or whatever sexual practices or roleplay, no matter how bizarre or “Offensive™” others might find it. That Larry had to self-out to protect himself from blackmail is bad enough.

Again, as I read it, the whole Gorean thing is not even Larry’s “belief system” but simply roleplay. Today, it’s someone into Gorean roleplay and BDSM. Tomorrow, it could be… LGBTQ people? Muslims? Jews? Atheists? Microsoft stockholders? Duck Dynasty fans? The best way to avoid this potentially slippery slope is not to take the first step.

Continuing on:

Note the first line in particular: I’ve been active in Drupal for over a decade, and only now have my “private views” become “public, controversial, and disruptive to the project” despite no changes in the level of “entwining” I was supposedly doing. And they did so through no action of my own, but because of a whisper campaign behind my back which lead to the actions of others who chose to blackmail me. But now Dries needed to excommunicate me because my private life might be “disruptive”. He didn’t, however, go into any detail about what was so problematic about my beliefs other than talking about “equality” in the abstract, despite a decade of evidence that I actively support the same.

In his call with me, Dries said very explicitly there had been no Code of Conduct violation, as far as he knew I had done nothing illegal, and as far as he was concerned my private life was not his business even though he personally found it distasteful. Yet he was still asking me to resign because of the possible disruption to the project from someone else going public. In particular, he indicated that “someone” was threatening to go public in a matter of “days, not weeks”, unless I was removed from DrupalCon.

So I see two possible conclusions:

  1. Dries is so personally disgusted by my (not illegal, not CoC-violating, not his business) personal life he wants to remove me from Drupal because of it, but won’t just own up and say that.
  2. Dries was mostly afraid of my blackmailer making good on his threats to go public and what the bad PR would be, caved, and now refuses to admit that he was in the wrong.

I do not know which one is more damning.

It’s really tough for me to say which one is more damning, but I’m going to go with the first choice. If that really is the case, that Mr. Buytaert can’t just own up to the fact he finds Gorean roleplay and BDSM distasteful, even though they obviously do not affect Larry’s skills when it comes to contributing to the Drupal project, then it’s time for him to resign and let someone else take the reins.

Caving into a blackmail threat and not being able to own up to that being a mistake is also a grave error. But letting one’s personal views cloud the actions one takes against another, especially when the target of those actions suffers career-related damage as a result, is far worse.

This does not have two conclusions of which we are left to decide which is more damning:

With regards to the individual or individuals who “participated in gathering information about [my] private life”, the post claims “The Community Working Group is currently handling this situation through their standard process.” This seems odd given that, regardless of the CWG decision, Dries evidently has the authority to unilaterally remove the offender(s), but has not done so despite agreeing that what they did was a violation of the CoC and likely a crime.

Given that I reported the blackmail attempt to the CWG in mid-January and it is now April and I have heard nothing but a single “mediation” interview, in addition to the innumerable process fails listed above (which even the post from Dries and Megan admit), I must confess that I have little faith in the “standard process”, whatever that is.

This, in and of itself, is outrageous. Get “Offended™” and violate the privacy-protecting AUP/TOS of a private website to out someone whose activities are thusly “Offensive™”, and nothing happens. Even though such conduct is at least a civil tort if not a criminal act, and a clear violation of the CoC.

On the other hand, it’s Larry who’s having to fight to save his career and reputation after being thusly wronged. It’s no surprise that Larry has no faith in the “standard process” after that; I wouldn’t either, and I’d assume most sane people wouldn’t as well.

The post from Dries and Megan also implies that there were to be many more “discussions” between Dries and I, and that I somehow cut it short by going public about the fact that I was being blackmailed. That is a grossly disingenuous statement.

In the very first communication I had from Dries on 24 February, he made it very clear that he wanted me to resign and wouldn’t take no for an answer, yet “no” was the only answer I would give. There was no indication of plans for further discussion, other than him ending with “let’s talk again soon”.

In the only communication I received from Megan, on 27 February, she informed me of my removal from presenting at DrupalCon “given [my] recent discussions with Dries”, with no further explanation or even implication of more communications were to come.

That did not in any way indicate a potential for “a number of conversations to resolve any remaining concerns”. It was an ultimatum, and the end of a conversation. There was no further discussion to be had. Yet the post accuses me of “effectively ending the process in the middle of what we expected to be a series of constructive discussions” when I posted my initial self-outing post. However:

  • I had discussed self-outing with members of the CWG on multiple occasions since January
  • I had told Dries on 24 February that I was considering self-outing precisely as a way to undermine blackmail
  • In my written statement to the Board on 16 March (which Dries would have read) I made it explicitly clear that I intended to self-out as a way to minimize the public damage to my reputation, regardless of the board’s decision
  • Dries emailed me after the Board meeting (on 19 March) to encourage me to not self-out, but held firm on my prompt departure from Drupal
  • On 19 March, I invited the CWG to review my self-outing post before publishing in order to verify that it would not, itself, violate the Code of Conduct

That I was going to self-out was not a surprise to anyone, and at no point was it expressed that there were conversations to be had that didn’t begin and end with me leaving and giving in to blackmail.

I see two possible interpretations:

  1. Dries and Megan intended to have a series of conversations with me to try and convince me to leave quietly and give in to blackmail, but failed to actually tell me this, even after they were aware of the self-outing post I was going to publish, and instead opened with an ultimatum.
  2. They had no such intention and are ret-coning events.

I do not know which one is more damning.

On this one, surprisingly, I really don’t know which is more damning either. I’d lean towards saying revisionism (or as Larry says it, “ret-coning”) is the worse of the two, but the reality is it really doesn’t matter whether Mr. Buytaert and Ms. Sanicki have been caught in a big, huge lie, or are just such terrible communicators that they couldn’t have told Larry their intention was, over the long term, to try to talk this out. Again, both scenarios are dreadful.

The sum total of the actions of Dries Buytaert, Megan Sanicki, Klaus Purer, the CWG, and others invole clearly indicate a gross failure in leadership and culture within the Drupal community. That a gross violation of the standards by which decent people live has been deemed acceptable by no other than Mr. Buytaert himself is enough for me to declare the Drupal project as it stands today in danger of collapsing unless drastic changes are made.

Finally, the conclusion of Larry’s post:

So what does Larry want?

A few people have asked me what it is I want, and what I hoped to accomplish by going public. A fair question. My goal has been, and remains, to defend my name, reputation, and honor against blackmail and libel, from anyone.

There has been wild talk of a Drupal fork, of reorganizing the Drupal Association, of people resigning, and so forth. I have no interest in such discussion, nor interest in a Drupal fork. My goal is not to split or harm Drupal, nor anyone in it. My goal is entirely defending my reputation and putting a stop to blackmail and libel.

I admire Larry’s desire to keep the community unified. However, I just don’t see that happening with the current leadership.

Reorganizing the community leadership, including the DA, is necessary to keep problems like this from happening again. As I see it, as more or less an outsider who has not ever followed the Drupal community that closely (but who nevertheless wants the option to run a Drupal site without regrets in the future), is that there are systemic issues here that need to be fixed to restore confidence in the community’s leadership.

Before I conclude this post, I’d like to briefly address Larry’s hot-off-the-presses blog post “Don’t go low”. Apparently some people are outraged enough to engage in harassment and stalking-like activities, including “doxing”, of those involved such as Mr. Buytaert and even people like Angela Byron, who did not even get involved until after the decision had been made to remove Larry from his positions.

Larry condemns the activity and cites it as no better than what has been done to him:

Dries mentioned that he had received a great deal of private hate mail over this matter, and that it was impacting his approach to the situation. I’ve previously seen a (very small) number of people on Twitter suggesting gathering private information on Dries and others, including their families(!), to use as leverage. In a previous comment, Angie Byron (who was not even involved in matters surrounding me until after I went public) said that she’d received threats against both her and her daughter.

I want to speak directly to those presumably few who have sent such messages, and in the calmest and most restrained manner I can:

What the fuck were you even thinking???

No, seriously, how did you even think that was a good idea? Responding to cyberstalking, prejudice, and blackmail with… cyberstalking, threats, and blackmail? No. NO! Even if you’re trying to support me, NO! I do not want any such support. You are actively making it harder to resolve this situation.

Incidentally, Angela has made a blog post about what the CWG does since she was a former member, and can now speak a bit more freely. I may address this in more detail in a later post here, but did not want my readers to wait until I posted the next part to have a chance to look at it. I am not sure what others are seeing in this post of hers that is hostile to Larry; it appears to be a neutral attempt to get information out there and counteract FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) being spread about Drupal’s CWG.

Finally, since I began this post, Mr. Buytaert has issued what he titles as an apology on his personal blog. In part three, I analyze this post as well as other happenings that have taken place related to the situation, as this post has gotten way too long to try to cover it here.