Smashing things to send a message

This thread has been bothering me for a while now, but I haven’t had time to really clarify and collect my opinions until now. I consider @rando a friend so I’m also very biased and this is of course coming from a defensive point of view. Also, because I’m fairly emotional about this, I’m sorry in advance if I’m misrepresenting anyone here. I hope I’m not. Finally, as I write, I don’t think these thoughts are structured in a very coherent argument, they are simply thoughts that I am still working through.

First, I agree that smashing working equipment instead of just putting it on the sidewalk is wasteful.

The quick escalation of this conversation from ‘smashing shit to make a point ain’t a great idea’ to ‘this kind of aggressive behavior is pure madness’ and ‘Smashing something is violent behavior’ and ‘I’m asking you to take a 30+ day break from Noisebridge’ seems an excessive pile on. Like, what is the goal of continuing to keep denouncing the act of smashing a space heater in stronger and stronger terms and then asking that rando take a break? What does that do for Noisebridge? How does this set our standard of discourse for the next difficult discussion?

Rando is hardly the first person to smash a thing and get rid of it and hardly the first person to smash a thing just for the pure joy of smashing a thing at Noisebridge. For example, iirc, during the last hackathon a laptop from the hackshelves was smashed in the dirty shop so we could just get fun photos of a thing getting smashed. We do smash things here. While rando’s point certainly could have been better made, there is not a clear norm in our space that smashing things is off limits behavior.

Instead of piling on and asking rando to take a break, perhaps we could have had a restorative conversation talking more specifically about why this particular act of smashing a space heater in this case was troubling to people in the community. Maybe we could have come up with some new community norms and understanding. I do think that rando’s contributions to Noisebridge make it worth our time to discuss things with him and show more kindness and understanding than we’ve arrived at here.

I consider “Asking Someone to Leave” Noisebridge a way to resolve an immediate intractable issue in the space caused by someones behavior. I only have the information in this post, but this case of smashing a space heater to make a point does not sound like that. I don’t think it was established that rando wouldn’t stop smashing space heaters to make a point about responsibility for them in the space. rando has been a part of Noisebridge for a while and I think he can and would respond to the concerns of others in our community. I don’t think that rando would keep smashing space heaters to make a point, now knowing that it makes several people in the space uncomfortable. Of course, I can’t speak for rando so this is speculation based on my own experiences with him.

That being said, I’m also not suggesting that people shouldn’t encourage rando to take time off from Noisebridge if there is something more going on.

Based on the parts here about ‘I would love people to start taking responsibility’ , " Especially in combination with you hating around against people who haven’t even met’, and ‘All of us have been hustling hard to work on this wonderful thing we all love and it’s important to not get yourself wrapped up in it’. It appears that there are some other concerns about rando that this discussion about the space heaters is, unfortunately, over lapping. I think for the worse in the long term. If we are concerned about something else that is making us want to encourage rando to take a break from the space, for his and/or Noisebridge’s health and safety, I think it would be better to address those concerns explicitly, directly, and ideally in person. Right now, it seems like something else is being swept under this space heater issue, but if these aren’t addressed clearly than I don’t see what time off from Noisebridge will achieve. Although, maybe these conversations have already happened and i’m just not aware of them.

If you made it here, thank you for reading all that.

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I did. This is a very good writeup; I was pondering this myself over the past weekend and am finding myself nodding along in agreement as I read it.

I hope I didn’t let anyone down on Saturday by not actually showing up; I was working on my scooter which took a lot more time and energy than I’d anticipated; by 8pm I was done but exhausted. At any rate, I have Some Thoughts (and Inside Baseball) on the “something else is being swept under the space heater” angle. Also disclosure, @rando is a super awesome friend of mine, so there’s my bias. But at Noisebridge, that bias matters a whole lot and is at the core of our trust network in determining what is and isn’t excellent, and who does and doesn’t get Asked to Leave. If we had due process at Noisebridge I’d appeal this 30+ day sentence. But we don’t, so instead we’ll have to work it out like mature, emotionally capable adults, face to face.

I won’t be fighting with a disgusting gas tank at any point in the day tomorrow (hopefully) so I will actually be in the headspace to get into it then. I hope others can come, cuz we need to figure this shit out.

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I didn’t sentence him to 30 days but smashing something like that is totally violent behavior. And the smashing will continue? Having grown up in a household where adults smashed things when they got angry I think it’s important to point out that this behavior is not okay especially at Noisebridge. I didn’t think he was going to have to take a break for 30 days but my point was to get him to recognize that there is a better course of action.

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Also, this most recent space heater smashing seems to be the culmination of a dispute with Clouda who is now 86’d. When the last space heater was smashed I also spoke up and said there is a better way to resolve things.

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At risk of speaking out of turn as someone (relatively) new to Noisebridge, I’d like to voice my agreement with @hicksu. From my experience @rando cares a lot about Noisebridge and the community, and I would expect him to enthusiastically and excellently take part in further discussion of how to solve the issue without resorting to unexcellent options such as smashing. I think it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t more of an attempt to solve the issue through discussion before asking @rando to leave the space. My understanding of the rules regarding being asked to leave the space is limited-- if @gaardn (and anyone else who felt unsafe because of @rando’s actions) was okay with it, would it be possible to go through a more restorative process? Perhaps a conversation involving @gaardn, @rando, as well as any others involved who’d like to calmly and respectfully discuss the issue.

I definitely don’t intend this post as a “callout” against @gaardn. I understand the thought process and initially agreed completely with your decision, but on further pondering I think there could have been a more excellent way of responding to @rando’s (in my view) unexcellent decision.

Before I hit send-- I’d like to echo a sentiment I’ve seen several times over the last couple of weeks here on discuss.noisebridge. We’re all here because we love Noisebridge. I think that all the actions taken had excellent intentions in mind-- but sometimes excellent intentions doesn’t lead to excellent results. We can work towards more excellent results through restorative processes and conversations, and I think that resorting to what is effectively a month long ban for a single poor decision could hinder this.

I love noisebridge, and all of you,
Cobi W. (cwil)

Edit: I just read the post on the meeting tonight. Some of what I said now seems redundant, but I’ll leave it up.

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Do the people in this thread truly believe we should ask people to take a break from Noisebridge for sleeping, but not a person that has been physically violent?

@hicksu is correct in that there is more depth to asking Matt to take a break, and I’d like to discuss it privately because it’s trigger-sensitive involving other people, but I need to remain firm on this point:
violence alone is reason enough.

No one should ever feel unsafe at Noisebridge. Uncomfortable, sure, but never unsafe.

I don’t feel the need to call out specific people that have expressed concern during this incident and previous ones, but I will contact them to see if they’d feel comfortable describing in their own words the situations in which Matt had created an unsafe environment.

I like Matt, too, and I think highly of the contributions he’s made to the space. There comes a time, though, when you have to separate an artist from their work. We don’t tolerate abusers at Noisebridge because they’re toxic to our community and drive off the healthy contributors. Jacob, Lizzie, Beka, Sid, Nick, etc. all made significant contributions, but they are unwelcome because allowing that behavior to continue would destroy the healthy boundaries we intentionally built.

We’ve lost dozens of excellent individuals recently because we tolerated shitty behavior. Was this tolerance worth the fracture we experienced in our community? We care for our community immensely, so why didn’t we protect it?

I was not at Noisebridge when Matt was smashing a perfectly functioning space heater - but in that moment I was contacted by 2 separate individuals that were confused and afraid of what was happening. They did not feel safe and feel discouraged from returning to Noisebridge. How many people are we willing to “trade” so Matt can behave in a way he knows is unacceptable?

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Physical violence does not mean the same thing as smashing a space heater. Respectfully, it has a very different meaning. Making others uncomfortable is a different problem, which is important.

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Physically violent against human life? Absolutely.

Physically violent against property in a room where smashing things is the norm? Absolutely not.

Respectfully, I don’t think this is about smashing a heater.

He was physically smashing the object to send a message to a person and threatened that the smashing would continue. That is VERY different than smashing a laptop for fun and YouTube. If you read up on domestic violence smashing objects in this way is quite prevalent and is a form of abuse.

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Maybe terrorize is another useful word to add to this thread.

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Can we stop dancing around the issue here and have the people who were feeling unsafe or have concerns with Matt DM me on here please? It’s hard for me to empathize with anonymous hackers

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I feel like I could imagine this space heater smash several ways.

One way is that he was very angry and frustrated and decided to smash something in anger. I can see how that would be scary - like someone out of control.

The other way I could imagine it, he found a space heater left on again and was concerned about the fire risk to noisebridge. He’s mentioned it before, but folks aren’t listening because they are still being left on overnight. He decided to destroy a space heater to make a point that the space heaters are being used unsafely and pose a threat to the entire space. When I think of it this way, it seems pretty reasonable. It’s extreme but there’s really no bigger to Noisebridge than an unattended fire.

Decommissioning a dangerous machine is very different than violence or aggression.

I’d also understand, in this mindset, why he would chose to smash rather than donate a space heater. The first one he smashed, that turned out to have been used by Micah, had a splintered cord that was poorly repaired - it would have been a fire hazard anywhere.
But for any space heater - If your goal was to make a statement that Noisebridge needs to pay a lot more attention to fire safety, donating it is 12 point Ariel while smashing is 72 point bold ALLCAPS. Smashing it Gets people talking, and it absolutely worked - we have brainstormed in this thread a half dozen actionable steps we can take to reduce our fire risk.

So it seems to me that depending on how you view Matt’s state of mind determines how you view this action. Do you see concern ? Do you see rage? Do you see responsibility? He only gave us a single sentence, and apparently none of the people in this thread were there. This lets us really read this action as whatever mental state we imagine him to be in.

We are all bringing our previous experience and biases into that - from @gaardn who has apparently dealt with other issuing involving Matt that she won’t divulge, to @hicksu who sees Matt as a friend and also has sometimes smashed stuff at noisebridge before in a good way, to @David who is remembering previous experience with abuse and relating this to that experience. We’re all seeing ourselves and our own history in this.

I think there are reasonable positions all the way from “this is an excellent act of radical self-defense of Noisebridge” to “this behavior terrorizes me and makes me feel unsafe”

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Your two ways don’t mention intimidation. You honestly think intimidation played no role here?

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I think he did it once then there was a reaction and people responded negatively (particularly Micah whose posession it was), letting him know this was not ok to do, then he did it again, and threatened to do it again. I’m not cool with it, and by posting it publicly it pisses me off. If he wants to take the space heater home and do some shit to it then fine it’s disappeared whatever. Violently destroying it in that way to send a message is fucked up.

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If Rando had stolen a Noisebridge space heater or any other useful piece of Noisebridge equipment, we would recognize such an act for what it is – an unexcellent (and unethical) act which limits what Noisebridgers can do in the space (for example, stay up late hacking even if it’s cold outside).

Purposely destroying a space heater is even more unexcellent because, as @jarrod said, it is wasteful (by being destructive), in addition to the aforementioned negative of depriving NBers of something useful that we already possess that enables us to do more Noisebridge-y shit.

Another argument: if I am worried that people are wasting time playing games at Noisebridge rather than creating, and I consider this harmful to the culture of Noisebridge, is it therefore OK for me to unilaterally destroy gaming equipment?

No one would accept that as reasonable. Yet, when Rando performs an analogous action – destroying useful equipment in order to prevent people from performing actions he doesn’t like (namely wasting electricity) – somehow he gets away with it.

Overall, I suspect that some people’s anarchic tendencies and intuitions relating to their contempt for property rights and conceptions of “violence” are clouding their judgment regarding the (rather obvious) unexcellence of Rando’s behavior, whether one considers it “violent” or not.

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I se concern for the space burning down and throwing money into a vast PG&E shaped hole.

I see the rage where someone raised concerns and was repeatedly ignored or downplayed.

I see the responsibility when Matt texted me immediately after this post, saying he’s lost that light and agrees he needs a break, and feeling bad about starting up this shit. He was worried that I’d be mad at him for this, which I’m not; just disappointed that a friend of mine wasn’t feeling supported enough in voicing their frustrations.

He made a misstep in trying to be excellent. Whomst amongst us hasn’t? He’s not in this thread fighting his detractors. He’s not whipping up a vast conspiracy against the group.

He’s sorry and wants to make amends, and we should be working on that if we’re going to do anything about restorative justice.

I mean, shit. I’ve doxxed people in my political organizing. I’m still involved in that particular group because I recognized that I fucked up and the community saw what I did as a gross expression of my burnout because it was so out of character. We worked it out and I like to think I’m a better version of myself today than I was before.

I’m a lot more interested in figuring out who was hurt and how to fix it and help Matt be a better version of themselves than debating the finer points of violence and property rights.

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@David Point of Fact - I believe it was Noisebridges spaceheater that Micah liked, but Micah didn’t own it. Micah left it running unattended, and I think Rando smashed it without knowing if it was personal or Noisebridges.
EDIT. I was there when he found that heater and I agreed that it was an active fire hazard because the cord was fraying and badly repaired. I think he said he was gonna trash it and I gave a thumbs-up. This is for the first one. I wasn’t there for any subsequent smashes

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I <3 what you said Victoria

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@tdfischer Are you suggesting that even of Rando doxxed someone at Noisebridge, you don’t think he should be 86’d for that?

This start of a new train of conversation should get a separate thread if it is going to be followed at all. My reading of the doxxing example is that it is to make a point that people can make mistakes in a community and recover ties with that same community through apologies and making amends; not a comparison or equivalency of the errors themselves.

Edit: ooo I just got my “first quote” achievement. :yum:

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