On MAGA Caps and WordCamps

Within WordPress circles, I don’t talk much about politics. I was raised to believe that politics and religion are not polite dinner topics. That belief generally extends to my work-life too. However, sometimes these topics crash into one another at full speed.

I don’t typically provide qualifying statements about my beliefs when writing an article. My words should stand on their own, regardless of my personal views. However, in this toxic political climate in the U.S. that sometimes worms its way into the WordPress community, alternative views are often automatically dismissed if the writer is not considered one of their own. If I wrote a piece that defended conservatism without self-describing myself as a liberal, my words would fall on many deaf ears. Such is the climate that we live in today.

Therefore, without further ado, I proclaim myself as one of you.

WordCamps and Political/Hate Speech

In Symbols of Hate at WordCamps, Aaron Jorbin makes the argument that red MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats should be banned from WordCamps because they are symbols of racism. While one-sided and starting from the position that such apparel is hate speech regardless of context, it is a thought-provoking piece. It is also the sort of statement that will earn you internet points from what is seemingly a majority, Left-leaning inner WordPress community. But, there are unanswered questions and another side to this story that Jorbin failed to explore in his article.

Jorbin opened with a large image. The image has a simple word as a faux HTML tag: </hate>. Before the argument begins, this imagery lets the readers know that there is no discussion. In HTML, the / character is meant to close a statement. The opening salvo is the end of the discussion. The text is merely a formality.

MAGA caps are hate speech.

There is no context in which a MAGA cap is acceptable. The reader should know this because the argument was won before it was given.

“I fully cosign,” said Adam Soucie, the co-lead organizer for WordCamp 2020, on Twitter. “Show up to @WordCampOrlando in one of those red hats and you’ll be politely asked to leave. You know exactly what you’re doing with that choice. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Central.”

The message is clear that certain people are not welcome. More often than not, that message is squarely aimed at conservatives. This type of groupthink is prevalent within the WordPress community. Your political beliefs are not welcome.

In his article, Jorbin does describe how political speech, the MAGA cap, has been co-opted by various hate groups. The question is whether we allow the actions of the minority of one group to become the deciding factor in how we treat the majority. We must also ask whether we hold other political speech to the same standard.

Conservatives within our community often feel like they have no voice. The article and the subsequent discussions taking place on social media help drive home that feeling.

“Today is a hard day to be a Republican in the WordPress Community,” wrote Bridget Willard on Twitter. “I see the tweets. And the moral superiority. It isn’t kind or inclusive.”

She is not alone. Like her, many feel like they will be ostracized if they post a dissenting opinion that does not 100% jive with the Left-leaning vocal majority.

“A MAGA hat makes me angry and uncomfortable, but speech is speech unless there’s a direct incitement,” responded Steve Stern on Twitter. “Do we ban all political content from all WP events? Is a T-shirt supporting a leftist cause OK? WordPress needs to support freedom, even when uncomfortable.”

It is a slippery slope from banning a MAGA cap to stifling more mundane conservative speech, particularly when conservative voices are within the minority in our community. If the MAGA cap is hate speech, it cannot be a stretch to label anything about the man who gave rise to some extremist voices as falling under the same guideline.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that the red MAGA cap is deemed hate speech, regardless of who is wearing it, their intentions, and context. Outright ban it. Does such a ban extend to a “Trump 2020” T-shirt? In the mind of many who would ban the MAGA hat, I can guarantee they would like to see the ban extended to any Trump or even conservative-related apparel. Others may not be willing to go that far. However, for many, a ban on such apparel has absolutely nothing to do with hate speech. It has to do with a difference of opinion. Political opinion. Instead of meeting on equal terms and discussing those differences as open-minded adults, it is easier to quash an opponent’s freedom of expression by labeling it all as hate.

If a red MAGA cap is always hate speech, it is not a leap to say that any Trump-supporting apparel is also hate speech. There has to be a line, and the one between a baseball cap and a T-shirt sporting “Trump 2020” is blurry.

Perhaps the solution is to ban all political apparel at WordCamps, regardless of whose politics are on showcase. If some cannot stomach a MAGA cap, a life-long hunter should not have to look at a “meat is murder” T-shirt. We should also ban the countless other slogans that itch some group or another the wrong way.

Or, we can all put on our big boy and girl pants and step out into the world as adults who might be presented with ideas outside our own from time to time.

WordPress’s mission statement is to democratize publishing. The goal is not to democratize publishing for some or for those who share our political views. The implication is that we are democratizing publishing for all. By extension, WordCamps are about bringing people together from all walks of life. We don’t all share the same views, but we should respect that others believe differently. The idea is to break bread with those who are different from you and perhaps grow from this interaction.

Then, imagine yourself in my shoes. I live in rural Alabama. This is Trump Country. If I got angry every time I came across the path of someone wearing a MAGA cap, I would spend most of my days in a fit of rage. Some of my more liberal friends ask how I live among them, jokingly. Truth be told, it is pretty easy once you start looking at people as people. Once you stop making assumptions about them by the clothes they wear or the political views they hold. Once you sit down and listen to their hopes and dreams and fears.

At WordCamps, the best thing would be for everyone to leave their politics at the door. If we need a rule to formalize it, then so be it. We all have so much more in common that we likely realize. Let’s focus on the good that we can do together.


74 responses to “On MAGA Caps and WordCamps”

  1. No one has a problem with Republicans, or Democrats for that matter. The problem is symbols of hate. While we would all agree that a swastika is a hate symbol, how do we judge what symbols are being co-opted.

    The red hat is in the same category as Pepe the frog and the OK symbol. Plausible deniability.

    But they are already co-opted by hate groups. (See: Charlottesville).

    Some of those who are most adamant about a red hat being a benign political message are also those most outspoken about transpeople, homosexuals, and people of color. It’s not a secret. Look at their timelines.

    I support Adam Soucie’s decision for this one reason:
    If a minority or marginalized group thinks something is a symbol of hate, it probably is.

    I heard people saying that they are scared to come out as a republican or a conservative. Look, it’s not hard to figure out who is a conservative or a liberal or a moderate in the WordPress community. No one cares. You’re not being “blacklisted”.

    If you’re an a-hole who habitually spews hate at minority groups, then maybe that’s the reason people don’t want to talk to you.

    My advice is listen to people who are from marginalized groups. Look at who fights with them and talks down to them constantly. Those people aren’t conservative or liberal, they are bigots.

  2. Well, I’ve started my reply about five times, and erased it five times. (Oops — SIX times.) So, let me try again, with a few observations.

    – Banning speech is hard to do well. There’s a difference (it seems to me) between speech such as “All Christians should be executed” and wearing a MAGA hat. One is clearly hate speech, while the other is a symbol of a movement that includes racism and hate speech. So, you ban the MAGA hat – are you going to ban Confederate flag caps as well? How about a Confederate flag tattoo? How about an Identify Evropa cap, or an Atomwaffen Division t-shirt?

    – Bringing people together around a topic that is NOT political seems to me to be overall a Good Thing. We already self-select ourselves into subgroups that match our political identity and values. (Research shows that people even purchase homes near other people that share their view of the world.) If the organizers of these events are truly concerned about making a difference, they could perhaps figure out a way to have people hear each other’s stories. (There are organizations that go around the country doing that very thing. Glad to share if needed.)

    – And finally (and this will probably get many people angry with me), worrying about MAGA caps is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. As a nation, we are showing dangerous signs of sliding into autocracy, with the Justice Department becoming a tool of the president, and stories of “enemies lists” and purges within the federal government. In this context, I care not a whit about a cap; I care about figuring out how to stop this slide and restore both democracy and shared values. I have offered to multiple groups to come share the stage with a conservative speaker, just to explore where we differ and where we share common ground.

    My $0.02.

  3. I understand what you’re writing here, Justin. And I live in Southern California that has often leaned Right rather than Left. And most of the time, Right and Left are ideologies about the role of government. People who subscribe to those ideas may or may not like the opinions of someone else, but that disagreement doesn’t feel threatening.

    I am a practicing Protestant in a larger context of people who don’t believe what I believe or agree with me. None of that, thankfully in the US, presents a threat. So if you’re irreligious or practicing some other religion, I don’t worry about my well-being if we disagree.

    Here’s where things get crazy. I don’t ever feel threatened because I hold a different political opinion or religious belief. But I have often felt threatened and worried about my safety as a Latino in the context of the dominant culture. Too many sideways glances and whispers make me feel pretty stressed. And I have developed really good radar for when I’m not welcome.

    I state all this to simply say that the sentiment, “Or, we can all put on our big boy and girl pants and step out into the world as adults who might be presented with ideas outside our own from time to time,” feels really off to me. I don’t care about the presentation of different ideas. I care about my safety.

    And I’m positive I’m not the only one. For some, it’s a gender thing. Others, it might be a sexuality thing. For me it’s race. But when the constant macro aggressions suggest that my safety is in question, I’m fortunate enough to have the means to step away and create my own safe space. Not everyone can.

    And if WordCamps become places (and maybe they have for others already) where people don’t feel safe, I’m positive it won’t be because people have different opinions. It will be because they don’t feel safe.

    I think we need to challenge ourselves to dig deeper, past the “put on your big boy pants” and into a healthy discussion about how to make everyone feel more safe.

    Just my .02

    • Perhaps that line went too far. I should probably remove it, but it’s already under discussion at this point. I’ll do better in the future with describing my thoughts.

      The idea was that we should have healthy, adult discussions, and it’s obvious that I had a misstep when trying to make that point.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.

      • I can understand the person who may feel unsafe with regard to religious beliefs and living in communities that don’t share those beliefs. But this post wasn’t about religious beliefs.

        I think we should all be careful not to take things out of context. It can be really easy to be swayed into conversations that aren’t part of the initial thought.

        Taking on the political environment in a post is a brave thing to do, especially given the tendency nowadays for everyone to personalize and presume things that may or may not be implied.

        Kudos to you Justin for attempting to make a difference.

  4. Wholly despicable that a vocal minority…the easily offended get to act as arbiters of first amendment rights.

    I do not wear MAGA hats, but I certainly do not consider “Make America Great” a negative, regrettable, racist or hateful sentiment.

    Shame to those they do.

    I will not attend any WordPress event that bans people from exercising their Constitutional rights.

    • It didn’t take very long for the name-calling, condescending comments to come out.

      This is not dialogue, Edward. This is perfectly conscious insulting of a group of people. It’s this rhetoric that has your country split.
      …and both sides have simply run out of patience for the other.

  5. We can see in some of the replies here as well in the posts that the opinion piece is about that some parts WordPress community has a problem listening and understanding differing political opinions. I’m not even American and I know what is written does not comply with my impression or experience of the American mainstream right which MAGA etc is an expression of.

    WordPress is a web page software. Peoples political, religious values etc should not matter one iota in that context. Banning political views that some disagree with is stupid. There is way to much of that going around in the software industry and with conferences.
    Don’t banned, don’t black list don’t do any of that crap. Be better than that.

    This whole thing also reaks of a USA bias. The rest of the world don’t really give a crap about your internal political struggles. Don’t bring your crap to the WordPress community as a whole and ban this and that because you fail to listen and communicate with each other with regards to politics in your country. The community is larger than the US.

  6. Its not a unexpected or unreasonable for anyone to feel unwelcome if they have to endure a campaign slogan. They are designed to be divisive.

    The first point of the WordCamp code of conduct

    WordCamp “insert location here” believes our community should be truly open for everyone. As such, we are committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, religion, preferred operating system, programming language, or text editor…

    Full text: https://make.wordpress.org/community/handbook/wordcamp-organizer/planning-details/code-of-conduct/

  7. Nobody makes me mad. Nobody’s hat or shirt can cause me to hate or to demonize them. My belief system urges me to react in certain ways. My understanding causes me to respond.

    If someone has a problem with someone else because of what they wear or don’t wear, that is their problem. I have enough in my own life to focus on without having to take on another person’s prejudices if they aren’t willing to have an open and free discussion.

    My political views are my own. I don’t broadcast them. I don’t condemn anyone for choosing to broadcast theirs.

    You don’t know what is in my mind unless you are willing to have a discussion with me without judging me for having beliefs that you think don’t exactly line up with yours.

    Hate is expressed in many forms. Wearing a “W” inside a circle is offensive to some people I know. But then so is brandishing a white feather, to others. Those are more than just corporate symbols. They represent ideas and beliefs of certain groups of people. That is, political. And some people hate other people because of those symbols.

    I think a lot of people really need to slow down. Take a step outside their own belief systems and allow themselves to learn where other people are coming from. I don’t care what you believe, there is something to learn from others who don’t believe exactly the same way you do.

    So many people are afraid of being wrong or judged to be wrong. So, they judge others to be wrong without taking the time to learn. Too many people are pushing ideas of other people without being willing to learn first hand. So what if you are wrong?

    I like learning how to be a better person. If that means I learn something I didn’t think I wanted to learn before I started, then so be it. I benefit. So does society.

    I’m not so impressive that I can’t accept that in my imperfect world, I can be part of some imperfection or misunderstanding. When we come together and open our hearts and minds to the opinions, knowledge and feelings of other people, we learn. Learning is actually a good thing. WordPress wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for learning new things. Allow yourself to be wrong. It isn’t the end of the world if you are. It is an opportunity for more great opportunities.

    Hitting someone or spraying someone with vile substances and spitting in the face of others is not what I consider to be friendly, inviting, accepting or understanding. It is hateful behavior. Actions prove hate. Not symbols, unless those symbols are found to accompany such actions.

    So many people are afraid the “other side” hates them. You might be surprised to learn that you have been told wrong, in many cases.

    But if someone chooses violence in order to open dialogue, that doesn’t really tell me they are open to anything except to be violent. If someone from their “own side” were to disagree with them, they would be met with the same type of hateful actions. I’ve seen it. It is sad.

    Challenge your own belief system before you challenge what you think somebody else’s beliefs are. Of course that is just my opinion, but it has benefits if you try it.

    Conservative, liberal, left, right the answer to our problems isn’t exclusively within any title or group involved in a political belief system. Problems are solved by gathering together and having discussions, putting ourselves in a position of learning from someone else.

    It has worked well for the WordPress community with regard to developing the platform. Some don’t agree with the way things go. But more people learn from others than not.

    Try it in other areas of life. It can work. If you can overcome the fear of your own imperfections.

    Politicians are liars. That has been proven throughout the ages. The political goals are based in the desire to have power over other people. If you look deep into the beliefs of those you follow, you might find that they aren’t your friends either. They will use you to get what they want. It doesn’t matter who they are.

    The rest of us are paying the price for the political aspirations of the few. That’s what has been happening throughout history. But a lot of people on all sides are so caught up in it they can’t see it. Neither “side” is for the rest of us. We need to be smarter.

  8. My two cents on the topic.

    Bans are slippery slopes. OTOH, creating a positive environment and making people feel safe is important for an event like WordCamp.

    I think there might be a simple solution related to WordCamps. Instead of banning MAGA hats and the slippery slope that creates, WordCamps could follow the lead of United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he was asked to define pornography. WordCamps could set a policy that you can wear whatever you want, but if another attendee finds it offensive you will be asked to remove it or change into something else, or to leave. No ifs, ands or buts.

    People who wear things others find offensive know what they are doing, so it should come as no surprise to them that they might be asked to change or remove it. And WordCamp could make this very clear in pre-event messaging.

    So if you want to wear a MAGA hat to a West Virginia WordCamp, maybe nobody might give a damn and everything will be fine. But if you wear one to San Fran WordCamp chances are high you will be asked to remove it.

    And the same would be true for things conservatives find offensive. If you wear something that causes a reaction among certain people — conservative or liberal — expect to have to remove it or change it.

    The one caveat to that is no one will have to remove any hat with a Wappu on it. Cause some things are sacred. :-o

    • “People who wear things others find offensive know what they are doing, so it should come as no surprise to them that they might be asked to change or remove it.”

      Not really, because we talk here not about some kind of objective value, but about subjective. So if I will put on the shirt “Jesus is Lord”, should I assume that it is automatically offensive? Where we should draw the line? Is it my right to express my faith views?

      I guess, Mr. Bean can help use here big time: Rowan Atkinson – Feel Free to Insult Me –

    • I have been reading all of these posts with interest, taking in the different sides of the debate…and then I read this:

      “WordCamps could set a policy that you can wear whatever you want, but if another attendee finds it offensive you will be asked to remove it or change into something else, or to leave. No ifs, ands or buts.”

      OH HELL NO. In that scenario, we have the masses policing each other, everyone will expect to get their way, and no one wins. Can you seriously imagine being told to REMOVE YOUR CLOTHING because it offends someone? Please think about that. I would far rather say “don’t wear any slogans or images on your clothing” than let attendees police each other.

  9. This is not about free speech. It’s about appropriateness, politeness, and decency when we gather.
    Trump’s outlook is not congruent with the spirit or philosophy of WordPress no matter how you look at it. With that said, any hat or other apparel with politically charged words or symbols regardless of party or social cause is inappropriate at WordPress events.

  10. Story time.

    One upon a time we hosted an alt-right site for an individual that was particularly egregious in the way they spoke about some minority groups.

    I loathed this person and their views.

    We are also a business – and free speech is free speech. I don’t want to get into policing the content of the sites we host – as that opens a larger can of legal worms.

    This person mentioned above was paying 4 figures a month to our company for their hosting services. Decent sized revenue.

    An event elsewhere in the world happened that was a direct attack on the minority group said person would often incite violence against.

    I bundled up a few months of this persons hosting fees – and made a cash donation to the organization that was targeted in the attack – and explicitly stated this money was from us, but represented the revenue derived from said person by name. In effect – the nasty person made a sizable financial donation to support the group they demonize.

    How does this relate to MAGA hats? When a MAGA hat shows up at a WordCamp – just note it and make a donation to a cause of your choice in the name of random WordCamp MAGA person.

    While I agree with Jorbin whole heartedly – from a practical sense – banning a symbol of hate (may be) less effective then supporting the broader organizations working to change hearts and minds away from the ideology the MAGA hat signals.

    • So Pagely continued to host a site that had neo-nazi views for 4 figures a month?

      Regardless of who you donated the money to later, you helped spread that ideology.

      No one has to be tolerant of white supremacy or neo-nazism. There is no “good people on both sides”. The only thing it has to teach us is annihilation of human beings. It only ends in genocide. This shouldn’t even be a talking point.

    • While I am confused by continuing to host a site that explicitly incites violence against another group of people. I have yet to see anyone adequately explain how a MAGA hat is a symbol of hate.

      I do understand how some people have taken out of context things said and have repeated things out of context which perpetuated misconceptions, I don’t see where there is a direct connection between making America Great Again and racist or sexist or anything else.

      What I HAVE seen is actions by the President to try and make things better for all Americans. I don’t mind having a discussion on the matter myself. I would like to understand why people really believe there is a direct connection between the hat and hate.

      • Hi, Louis!

        I could explain why MAGA hats are seen as symbols of hatred by many people, myself included, but it would just be my words and one person’s voice is easily ignored. So here is a google link: https://tinyurl.com/quurjhp

        The search term was “when is a maga hat a symbol for hate?” and returned a number of credible sources. I hope you find one in the list you will read.

        Hello, everyone else in the conversation!

        One of the other people posting here has stated that it is a matter of safety; I feel so as well. Because I know people who wear MAGA hats and I have listened to them, I know that many of them are irrational when you disagree with them. Body language jumps to a threatening level very quickly; I’m sure I tense up or something because I feel that the threat just keeps escalating if I continue to interact with them. So I avoid interacting with them, even avoiding eye contact. They aren’t important to me as long as they keep to themselves, and I know they are racist, sexist jerks so why would I want to interact?

        I also would like potential threats in my environment to self-identify. Those MAGA hats are a great way to announce to the world that you hate other people based on arbitrary dividing lines like skin color or who you marry. In truth, anyone wearing flags, strips, stars or other patriotic swag gives me a sense of unsafety…sad, isn’t it?

        I thought about suggesting the safety pins but that does put the onus on the people who feel unsafe to say something. Snopes has a huge article about that here: https://www.snopes.com/news/2016/11/14/safety-pin-solidarity/

        Frankly, I’m already vigilant against threats in my environment. Against myself and against other people. It’s exhausting and unfair, especially to people who are vulnerable and who are already worn down by the constant watchfulness. I’d love to be able to relax at a WordCamp but I don’t think that is possible.

        Well. I guess if you want to wear a hat, thank you for self-identifying. You are telling me a lot with that hat.

        And everyone else? What if we adopt a symbol of our own? I suggest a peace sign. Tie-dyed from the Beatnik era, maybe.

        • So, your response was to give me a link to multiple proven leftist sites and dismiss me.


          “Hello, everyone else in the conversation!”

          I rather expected that. And I have read most of what they had to say, back in the beginning of 2019.

          Thank you.

  11. alright. i wasn’t gonna comment, but i’m gonna push past the societal pressure of devaluing my self-worth and keeping my voice quiet as a woman & a minority. it seems that most that have chimed in live a much different reality than i do. there is a difference that i haven’t seen mentioned here:

    i fear for my life.

    sure, everyone has the right to live and survive as themselves. but is the purpose of a WordCamp a political rally or campaign? does a MAGA hat provide needed medical care for the individual wearing it (like a pacemaker)? if the answer is no, then what is the argument for the NEED to wear something that literally is the symbol of hate, verbal and physical attacks, and even death to several groups of people? it’s a little bit more than just “hey people that are being attacked and killed… just suck it up ok?”

    and the whole “it’s a slippery slope” argument is a pretty crappy one. sure, if someone is wearing a trump2020 shirt, i’ll just avoid that person for my own personal safety, but fine, they have that right. and if i’m wearing some rainbow butterfly unicorn shirt that makes someone literally afraid for their life, as a sensible human being, i would change my shirt.

    there’s a big difference between being offended and being killed.

  12. I didn’t feel comfortable being approached at the Happiness Bar during WordCamp Las Vegas 2019, by a gentleman wearing a MAGA hat, who was making it his duty to preach and push God’s word on people. Guess he thought I was a heathen because of my facial piercings and my last name is clearly a Spanish one… I don’t know. I had to politely request from him to please stop (edit: a few times) and this wasn’t the place for that. This is a true story.

  13. Ironically at WordCamp Orlando last year, one of the organizers tried to slip in a far-left political candidate as Keynote. When the plan was revealed, the WordCamp Orlando organizer quoted in the article went public saying he’d boycott the event.

    In this community, which I dearly love, some animals are more equal than others. The fact I feel compelled to post this anonymously is testament to that.

    WordCamp is not a place for politics. Period. But that should go both ways.

    • Howdy, just wanted to drop in and say that I am the organizer who added the politician (she was not a candidate at the time, though she is now running for re-election) in for WordCamp Orlando.

      I cannot speak for the other organizer, but I did not and still do not have an issue with the decision as originally made, and as later adjusted. I did want to correct the above point, as well as point out that the speaker was listed on the site for close to two months before an issue was raised within a week of the event by parties who would otherwise have noticed.

  14. Jorbin states, “The red “Make America Great Again” hat is a potent symbol of racism. It’s a symbol used by white supremacists that is just as vulgar as a swastika or “14 words”, and it’s one that has no place in a community that seeks to have people who are “considerate, respectful, and collaborative.”

    Oh, please! Jorbin, you are stereotyping and name-calling those who choose to wear red hats. Therefore, you Jorbin, are racist!

    See, how easy it is to spew the word racism…

  15. Okay.

    At what point do you feel a line should be drawn?

    There are clearly some symbols that are unacceptable to wear to a WordCamp — Swastikas. The hooded robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Others.

    Where do you individually choose to draw the line for what is, versus what is not acceptable?

    Can I wear an antifa shirt? How about something with the face of Che Guevara? The Soviet Union, or Chairman Mao?

    Clearly you disagree with the line that was offered, I’d just like to know what you did have in mind as unacceptable behavior?

  16. Justin Tadlock: Although I live in a blue state, I live in a red town. Many loved ones are Trump supporters so I felt good to hear you talk about Trump supporters as “just people with ideas that are different from yours.” I live that.

    In the end, we all have to compete in the marketplace of ideas. I want both MAGA-hat-wearing people and Pussy-hat-wearing people (among others) to feel not just allowed but welcome. We can’t create a mutual understanding unless we stay in the same space long enough to talk to each other.

    But WordCamp is not the place for that meeting of the minds to happen. People are primed for conflict. Some people have never met a person who does not agree with them. That’s a powder keg.

    A politics-free zone would be the best option. How to define that is not easy but it’s worth a try. The effort alone establishes that staying above the fray is the norm at WordCamps. The community will follow the leaders.

    Some schools with feuding sub-populations require uniforms so everyone can relax and learn together. Consider handing out white WordPress/WordCamp hats to everyone. It’s not magic but it sets a tone. This is WHY we’re here.

  17. As a white person, I don’t think this debate is about me. I live in a city that is majority Black & Latino folks and there is a terrifying amount of violence against them and Muslims. Black people, and especially Black women, are a serious minority in the WordPress Meet Up groups in our city. Fortunately, no one would ever think about wearing a MAGA cap here. I think if one’s city is majority people of color AND one’s meetup group is, go ahead, wear a MAGA cap. But, I think it is really unfair to expect people already in the minority to “pull up their bootstraps” and express themselves. I really like Mike S.’ idea of “let’s help everyone feel safe.” If someone is darker, younger/older, less CIS-gender, then make an attempt to be extra welcoming and polite. If that means taking off your MAGA hat or your “I heart Harvey Weinstein” hat, just do it for that WordPress community. Thanks for listening.

  18. I don’t pay the MAGA hat no mind, but I don’t like people trying to force their political beliefs on people. Most of them just seek attention in the first place . My mind will not be on the MAGA at WordCamp.I will be trying to learn new things, networking with people, socializing with like minded people. I can’t say I will go up to them trying to kick it with them but that is their loss. It’s a time and place for everything. So if they lose business opportunities or network connection because of the hat . Well it would be a lesson learned or not.

    • I tend to agree. When we are focusing on the great minds that build & maintain the WordPress community, political positions really aren’t what should be being weighed.

      Unfortunately, people wear things they like to wear, regardless what other people think of them wearing whatever it is. Many people get so used to wearing certain things, unless someone says something about it, much of the time there isn’t a thought.

      And unfortunately, people become unsure, afraid and pass judgement that ultimately damages the entire system of flowing thoughts and ideas.

      If someone says something about it, nicely, offenses may come but not likely to become overriding. If something is said about it with contempt and condemning as the message, offenses will come and will likely divide and severely damage all sides. And for what?

      There are people who are going to act like idiots everywhere we go. Do we have to define our community by those people or do we still have the ability to separate ourselves from politics for a few hours out of our year to enjoy the creation of the most used CMS in the world?

  19. I’m certainly no Trump supporter, but I’m pretty sure “diversity, tolerance and inclusion” also extends to diversity of thought and people who we don’t agree with. Is the guy wearing the hat a troll? Yeah, but he certainly won this one.

    Highlighting such a biased, politically charged post was probably a bad move–the community certainly isn’t mature enough to handle this living in the bubble we do telling ourselves how diverse, inclusive and tolerant we are. Let’s take the opportunity to be self-reflective here.

    And for all of the people talking about fearing for their lives in the post, here’s some perspective (and yes, I’m 3x a minority–all the “worst” things): the number of people killed by hate crimes in the US each year is about equal to those killed by bees, and half as much as those killed by dear.

    I understand this is an emotionally charged topic, but let’s try to approach it rationally and come out of this better.

  20. Coming from Germany where censorship is real. I.e. it is illegal to do the nazi greeting with the arm, Swastikas are forbidden, etc. I understand the fear as well as the reasoning behind it.

    However this is the United States where Freedom of Speech is being put forward even in front of better Healthcare, support of individuals, better social security and retirement benefits, etc.

    As such, all non-direct violence inciting forms of speech shall be accepted. And I say that as an immigrant who has been here for 7 years, going towards 8. MAGA is just a statement and many actually can buy into the belief not as a symbol of hate, racism, etc. but actual embodiment of the statement.

    Make America Great Again. There is nothing bad about the statement. There is nothing bad about the red hat. It is the projection, the image that people put in their heads (as you put nicely Justin).

    And in wearing those hats, in having clear and open conversations about it rather than giving into fear is what will help us move forward. Today it is the MAGA hat, what is it tomorrow? Maybe a ‘Feel the Bern’ bumper sticker?

    Censorship has no place in the USA unless it comes to direct incitement of violence.

    By the end of the day, it would be best to keep our politics at home and go with a positive mindset to WordCamps and focus on the things we have in common. As a previous and upcoming speaker at WCMIA20 I do not care where people come from, what they believe, what they think about my german accent or any such thing. All I care about is that we share our passion for WordPress and the Open Web and that we should defend it no matter what.

  21. Except peoples feelings are not enough. Free speeches limits are usually set at advocating violence. Of course wordcamp organisers can set other criteria but unless they are logical and objective you will create more problems than you solve.

  22. Have you done a youtube search recently? There are numerous videos of people in MAGA caps (even senior citzens) being physically assaulted. Where are the examples of red MAGA cap wearers spitting on and beating up vulnerable members of our society? Seriously, I want to see the video.

  23. 100% Truth. You cannot ban one side of the political argument based on personal viewpoints. If the Trump items are considered racist by one man in charge of what one wears, then all of the political viewpoints needed to be removed. I do like the part about breaking the bread. This is a part of humanity that holds true for all Democrat’s and Republicans alive today.

  24. There should be simply a ban on any type of political expression inside a WordCamp, regardless if it is right or left. All people should feel welcome to WordCamps, who guarantees that for personal experiences someone doesn’t feel unsafe close to a person wearing a Trump t-shirt or a Clinton t-shirt? If I went to a WordCamp in the US, as a European I would probably avoid talking to someone wearing even a Trump t-shirt, knowing how they consider ‘the rest of the world’. If the venue was full of these people I would probably even go away, feeling unwelcome. That’s not how we want a WordCamp to be. If that means banning any form of political expression, then be it. We go there to talk about business and coding, there are other places where anyone can talk about their favorite topics.

  25. You’re a white male and you’ve written an article in which you say that you can’t see a problem with red MAGA hats, therefore there must be no problem with red MAGA hats.

    You say that to deal with this “is pretty easy once you start looking at people as people”. This is white male privilege 101. You have nothing to fear, even from a white supremacist. You and I could probably sit down and have our WordCamp lunch with a table full of literal Nazis, and while the conversation wouldn’t be very comfortable we would have little to fear.

    The red MAGA hat is a symbol of racism, whether you as a white male think it is or not, because it has been co-opted by racists. Aaron explains this in the article you’re quoting.

    Symbols have been co-opted before. The swastika has its roots in ancient religions. The word comes from Sanskrit and means “conducive to well being”, but the adoption of it by the Nazi party has effectively ruined it for everyone.

    While the origins of the [red MAGA] hat is in political speech, that has changed. “…I think what happened is that the hat was essentially kidnapped, weaponized by Charlottesville and by white supremacists and by the violence that went on in some of those rallies by a minority of people at those rallies.” Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan told NPR

    Therefore, consider the viewpoint of people from a demographic other than white males and what a red MAGA hat symbolises to them. Those are the viewpoints that matter when it comes to representation and hate speech and inclusivity and respect and safety.

    • I’m going to nip this in the bud right now. I ask that you not make judgments based on the color of someone’s skin or their gender. This includes me. Being in a certain group does not automatically invalidate anyone’s views. You also don’t know me well enough to know my experiences. Additionally, the prompt for this article was a thought from someone who is not a white male.

      Second, at no point in the article did I say I can’t see a problem with MAGA caps. There is no room for meaningful discussion with incorrect attribution.

    • Automatically counting a person’s thoughts as invalid because of their skin color and gender is racist and sexist.

      “The red MAGA hat is a symbol of racism”

      Propagating slander is the losing party’s strategy. It shuts some people up but it doesn’t change how they vote.

      I don’t want to see WordCamp getting on board with political discrimination. It’s antithetical.

  26. Does Jorbin’s ban extend to African Americans that wear MAGA hats? How about Latinos? I would think not. This is nothing more than a racist and bigoted suppression of the liberties of white conservatives.

    I’m a white male conservative with a MAGA hat that is married to a black female conservative with two biracial children. Am I allowed to wear a MAGA hat or does Jorbin presume to be Lord and Ruler of my wardrobe, too?

    This is nothing more than fascism. Dictating what people can wear for fear of suppression of what essentially boils down to speech. This is a slap in the face to everything the very first amendment stands for.

    Jorbin and those who stand with him are anti American fascists. If you presume to know the mind of every conservative in America, you have a very dangerous mindset and are the reason the country is in the current state it’s in.

    Remember, the further right you go on the political spectrum, they less government control and the more individual freedom. Three further left, the more government control over every facet of life and the less individual freedom. Want to know who the real fascists are? Look in the mirror.

    • “Does Jorbin’s ban extend to African Americans that wear MAGA hats? How about Latinos? I would think not. This is nothing more than a racist and bigoted suppression of the liberties of white conservatives.”

      There’s no reason to believe your conservative black wife or my conservative Latina wife would be exempted.

      “Show up to @WordCampOrlando in one of those red hats and you’ll be politely asked to leave. You know exactly what you’re doing with that choice. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Central. Yes, I WILL die on this hill.” – Adam Soucie (https://twitter.com/AdamSoucie/status/1230923434122764294)

      A few people want everyone else to live in their bubble or go home. I’m grateful that most people in America still value freedom of speech. Not everyone has that right! I love that WordPress helps preserve it.

  27. This thought process of banning attire and making judgement is disturbing. Especially at a forum that centers around PUBLISHING. I don’t know what the dress code is, but business casual and common sense would seem to cover it. I do not consider the statement Make America Great hate speech. Is it ok if I wear a Fuck Trump hat? In my world, personally and professionally, family, friends, and colleagues have mixed views socially & politically. It’s challenging sometimes, but we manage to coexist and continue to do business, love and respect each other. Where do you draw the line on this cancel culture? Common sense prevails.

  28. Justin … you make the assumption that most of the people in the wordpress community are liberal. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe, the most vocal are liberal? and conservatives are more interested in the tech and the WP platform than in forcing their views on others? or engaging in pointless back-n-forth? … the few who choose to wear a MAGA hat are publicly taunted and ostracized? … who needs that?

  29. A post on damn caps on a WordPress site has most comments of the year. Sad! America, you have serious issues. Talk to one another and sort this out! Liberals, conservatives, centrists, non-conformists, all of you! The USA’s oversized influence on world matters means all other “free and open” societies look up to it and follow its path, whether we like it or not.

    All politicians are fooling you, and it’s not useful to have such rigid allegiance for one side or the other. The common people do not win with this constant fighting.

  30. The hypocrisy that surrounds this topic always amazes me. To say the solution to the “marginalizing and oppressive” MAGA hat wearers, is to marginalize and oppress them is insane. How is saying “I fear for my safety around them” any different than someone saying they feel unsafe around dark-skinned people? How can you say the solution to prejudice is being prejudice to another?

    You may all believe you are acting righteous but the truth shines through. Hate speech is speech you hate. Control is the only goal.

  31. 1 Corinthians 13:7 – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

    When Christians roamed the lands of the West, it used to be believed that honourable people should, as a point of principle. always try as hard as possible to assume that somebody else meant something in the very best possible sense. Honourable people always believed the best of their opponents, and to not to do so was to behave shamefully.

    But in 2020 we have “cancel culture”. Everything you’ve ever said gets parsed in the most hostile possible fashion, in a power play aimed at silencing all political opposition. And all of life becomes politicised. Anything, anywhere, is fair game in the attempt to cancel you. The smallest wrong action marks you out as “the enemy within”, ready to be punished and un-personned. Sad.

    Someone explain to me again how we lose nothing of any value when we jettison Christianity as having anything to say to the public square, and make it so that there’s nothing beyond state power, in a winner-takes-all scramble?

  32. Perhaps I do not see the complexity behind this issue, but…

    Can this not be resolved simply by requiring business casual dress attire? No t-shirts, jeans, shorts, head coverings (hats, etc. [except those required by religious tradition]), etc.

    • And no logo on laptops and phones? Because some are also offended by well known high-pressure labour environment and resulting suicides in factories which produce these products? Similar for network-tech like switches, wireless routers, even clothing brands, where do you want to put a line? And why would you exclude any religious tradition? Is religion any “better” compared to an hat?

  33. I am American and I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    I’m a conservative married to a liberal. Do I agree with her politics? No. Do I try to tell her how she should think and what she should believe in? No.

    Nor does she try to tell me how to think, feel, or what to believe in.

    The whole political situation in the US is beyond ridiculous. It’s not a Republican -vs- Democrat thing. It’s gone way beyond that.

    If you hate the MAGA hat and have no tolerance for anyone wearing one, then you need to look at yourself and consider your own intolerance and belief system.

    WordPress is software, not a political movement.

    Don’t make it one.

    • But… couldn’t you also argue that people who wear MAGA hats to WordCamps are trying to make a political statement/movement? I’m not sure why that’s ok but asking people to put their political opinions aside, by not wearing a hat that is clearly controversial and emotionally charged, is not.

      • I personally would prefer everyone put away all the slogans, symbols, colors (um, what else) oh, whatever anyone might consider disturbing, controversial, emotionally charged and possibly might cause another to feel unsafe.

        So, basically, nobody should wear clothes. Oh, wait. Can’t do that because some people would feel unsafe being without clothes and might think others are looking at them.

        Where does it all end?

        Can anyone else see the craziness? Or am I just crazy? I don’t mind it being me. I can stay home and have fun on the computer.

  34. Thank you for writing this, Justin. This is the heart of the matter for me as a conservative:

    “WordPress’s mission statement is to democratize publishing. The goal is not to democratize publishing for some or for those who share our political views. The implication is that we are democratizing publishing for all.”

    I love freedom. WordPress is about freedom. Matt Mullenweg said this 15 years ago (https://ma.tt/2005/04/ken-ham-blog/). It gave me comfort knowing that the man at the top tolerates people with views different from his own.

    “I tend to link to the more liberal organizations using WordPress because that’s what I hear about, but WP is becoming popular on all sides of the spectrum, which is fine by me.”

    How hypocritical it would be to allow only certain views at WordCamp. To be equitable, those in charge should ban every shirt or hat with any words at all or allow everything. I prefer freedom myself. Not that I’d wear a MAGA hat, for fear of being assaulted.

    • “Not that I’d wear a MAGA hat, for fear of being assaulted.”

      That is more likely than any other. Based on what I have seen.

      If you see me on the streets, you wouldn’t know if I am left or right. Democrat or Republican. You wouldn’t know which way I vote and I wouldn’t tell you.

      It is nobody else’s business. And personally, I don’t like the hat. I don’t like red most Republicans seem to like. I also don’t like the shade of blue most Democrats seem to like. But that does not have an effect regarding my opinions on issues.

      I’m an American. I vote.

      That’s all anybody needs to know.

      Oh, and I love working with WordPress. I’ve been doing it for a long time.

  35. Many of the attitudes in this post and comments are exactly the reason why I (and many with whom I have candid conversations with) decided never to attend, speak at, and sponsor (all of which I’ve done extensively in the past) WordCamps. The attitude of elevating one experience and denying the experience of another is destructive to a community. And if anyone can’t see that, there is a very good chance you are one of the persons perpetrating the harm on the community. When “groups” get so blinded by false truths they can never comprehend anything different outside their “group bubble”, the logical discourse potential is already gone.

  36. Don’t poop on my carpet! Please understand that I’m not opposed to pooping. I won’t think less of you because you poop. But there is a time and a place for pooping. Don’t do it on my carpet!

    You want to walk around WordCamp wearing a hat. I’m okay with hats. Wearing a hat indoors is a bit odd; I may suspect you are covering a growing bald spot, but I’m okay with your vanity.

    You want to walk around WordCamp wearing a hat or shirt or button or whatever promoting WordPress, your WordPress plug-in, your WordPress theme or even denouncing Gutenberg, that’s okay. Its about WordPress.

    You want to walk around WordCamp wearing your dietary, religious, political, or other non-WordPress beliefs, that is at best annoying, at worst threatening. I’m not opposed to your having beliefs that don’t concern WordPress. It’s a given that people hold a variety of beliefs. However I’m very much opposed to you coming to WordCamp to promote non-WordPress things.

    Appropriate behavior an an event explicitly about WordPress is to learn about WordPress, network about WordPress, socialize about WordPress.

    If you fervently believe that “Morons Are Governing America” that fine. There are places other than WordCamp where you can take your non-WordPress beliefs: go to a Bernie rally. Just don’t poop on WordCamp. WordCamp is not the place for that.

  37. We really should be promoting education and discussion instead of hate. If you truly feel threatened and that your live or anthers life is truly in danger then that’s a point where you would escalate the issue to either proper authorities or WC officials. Apparel is not life threatening. Hating someone because of their ignorance I think is just as bad as hating someone for their racial differences. Banning such things does not solve the underlying problem.

    Promote education. Promote discussion. Promote progress.

  38. The term “minority” can apply in many different ways, with a various levels of consequence. Marginalized communities including POC and the LGTBQIA+ have suffered far greater consequences than the conservative minority in the WordPress community.

    Conservatives in WordPress do not feel the effects of being a minority in the WP community in their daily lives the way marginalized communities do. Regardless of politics, the compassionate thing to do is respect the party who is harmed the most. Not wearing a hat to an event is a very simple thing to do and doesn’t hurt any one in any way.

    Honestly, I would also argue that most people who wear MAGA hats today know that it’s controversial and emotionally charged, and do it for the specific purpose of confrontation and/or disrespect.

    • “Honestly, I would also argue that…”

      I think the real issue in issues like this in current culture is whether each person’s subjective viewpoint of what they’d argue someone really means by this or that slogan/action/shirt/etc. needs to be made absolute. Where is the culture of maximum offence-taking that’s grown so rapidly over the last decade or so taking us? Anywhere good?

      In former times, it was considered the honourable and right thing to do to assume that people you disagreed with intended what they meant for the best. And, entirely uncoincidentally, society worked a lot better then.

  39. WordPress should stick to WordPress. I’d like to see the same level of enthusiasm and fervor over the direction it’s heading, not a piece of clothing.

    Policing what I wear, how I wear it, and how I express myself seems antithetical to everything that WordPress stands for.

    I do find the “big boy and girl pants” line to be quite the embodiment of everything this article stands for, though: privilege, lack of awareness of how triggered people get by words like that, and tone-deaf to the concerns of many, many event attendees.

    In short, you could have expressed this opinion in a way that was a lot less harmful – honey over vinegar.

    Also, WordPress is global. Sometimes a hat is just a hat. Sometimes it’s hate. Context matters. Location matters. Country matters.

    TL;DR: It’s just a hat but yeah you could have said it with more empathy. Rules around policing political views, religion, gender, etc. are a slippery slope and I’d rather just never attend another WordCamp in my life again if it’s going to get that serious.

    This used to be fun.

  40. It is never a fun thing to close down a comment thread. It is not an easy decision to make. However, at times, a discussion becomes toxic and unhealthy for our community. Far too many of the comments we are moderating have delved into personal attacks, sniping, and attempted impersonation. We could all use a break from that.

    We can do better, and I hope we are better in the future.

    The comments have now run their course. People have had ample opportunity to share their thoughts. If you feel like you have more to add of value, please write a blog post (we’re all WordPress users here, right?). Then, share it with the community. I, for one, would love to read it.


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