On Politics and WordPress

I wish we lived in a world in which we could discuss code each day, not allowing political1 opinions to seep into the discourse. We could talk about the next exciting project around the corner. We could chat about a small startup getting its first big break or new investments into WordPress companies.

However, I also wish we lived in a world where a developer did not have to create a plugin in support of black Americans who have lost their lives to those charged with protecting us.

I wish we lived in a world where we had no unsavory comments to delete on a post about an all-women WordPress release squad.

I wish we lived in a world where WordPress.com had no Sandy Hook conspiracy theory blogs to boot from its platform.

I wish we lived in a world where major restaurant chains complied with accessibility laws without being sued.

I wish we lived in a world where Newspack-run Chilean publication El Soberano had no need to defend citizens’ rights.

I wish we lived in a world where the Women in Tech Salary Transparency Project was unnecessary.

I wish we lived in a world where governments did not block its citizens from viewing websites that support freedom of speech.

Each of these stories may not be important to you as an individual reader. However, they are important to some of our readers. We are a community made up of vastly different opinions, and we must represent this wide array of views as they relate to WordPress.

Sometimes, we will publish stories that do not jive with your personal viewpoint. Sometimes, you will tell us to not post anything political. The answer to that is that we cannot simply separate the code from the politics. As much as many of us would like to, that is not the world we live in today.

WordPress itself is inherently political. From its license to its mission statement, WordPress takes some political stances.

The platform is founded on the bedrock of free software, an idea that is as much political as anything else. It is an idea that has shaped the foundation of the web. The concept that users have the freedom to run, copy, alter, improve, or even distribute software is a political statement. It is a political statement in direct defiance of major corporations and governments controlling software through proprietary licenses.

Politics play a part in how we shape our community. We do not have to agree on all things, and different things brought us together. However, there are some foundational elements that we all must agree on to some extent.

It is a generally accepted principle that all people are born with the inalienable right to free expression. I wager that the majority of our community would agree with this statement. Given that the software we all use is built upon that idea, I would hope so. The idea of democratizing publishing is not just about providing a tool to people who can already freely express themselves. It is also about reaching to the dark corners of the globe and being a beacon of light to those who do not share in our freedom. It is about exposing the horrors of dictators. About newsrooms publishing the wrongdoings of politicians. Citizen bloggers fighting for the oppressed.

No, do not tell me that WordPress is not political.

What you really want to say is to not post political views that you disagree with. You really want us to not share plugins or projects that make you uncomfortable.

While the code itself may not hold political views, the people who use the code do. Politics is woven into the fabric of our lives. It is woven into the licenses of the software we use, the communities we choose to join, and the web we dare to create.

When you tell us to stay away from politics here at the Tavern, the only reasonable answer to provide is that it would be impossible to do so.

We will continue writing about the next companies to receive VC funding, blocked-based WordPress themes, plugins that push the envelope, and every other project that makes WordPress fun. However, at times, we must open the floor to tough discussions. We must be a source for sharing projects in our community that have their own political slant, regardless of whether we agree.

When the day comes that The Show Must Be Paused plugin, the Women in Tech Salary Transparency Project, and a multitude of other important projects no longer need to exist — on that day — we can celebrate. We can discuss code, WordPress, and kittens without politics getting in the way.

  1. The term “political” is being used in this post in the common vernacular, which more broadly encompasses social, human rights, and political issues. It is the terminology used in those comments which prompted this article. I am merely meeting such comments on the same turf.

35 responses to “On Politics and WordPress”

  1. I wish I was part of a community that did not try black list, try to get people fired and so forth because a person employed by a WordPress centered company likes Trump publicly (or rejects feminism, leftist political ideas etc). And that people, at least from the outside perspective, actually succeeded in getting people fired or suppressing the speech of the people affected.

    I also wish I was part of a community that applied the same logic and system analysis to hot topics as it does to code. But perhaps the lacking of the ability of the former is why so much software are full of bloat and hogs computer resources.

    I wish I was part of a community where the public opinion accepted were not always so aligned with the US liberal (in the US sense not the European) political views. The WordPress community is bigger than the US and in practice encompasses more views than the latest US liberal political grandstanding. It’s time parts of the community accepted that.

    This is written under a handle since I know influential WordPress community people endorse blacklisting of people with differing political views. They have written so publicly.

  2. I respectfully disagree Justin.

    There will ALWAYS be something to complain about.

    How about leaving the ills of the World to the bias media who make a living from espousing lies, their politics and dividing people.

    When I visit the Tavern, I’d like the subject material to remain focused on WordPress, not someone’s rants.

    There is plenty of excellent WordPress news that is educational. Thank you for doing such a great job thus far on reporting the significant WordPress enhancements.

    • All of the stories I listed are in fact related to WordPress. Probably one of the least-related stories would be the Dominoes court case on accessibility — it is not specific to WordPress. However, that case reaches into our domain of building websites and is particularly relevant to users who run businesses with WordPress. Regardless of the outcome, I don’t think it is something we should ignore. Many of our readers may not have even been aware of it had we not covered the story.

      If you prefer we just do straight reporting on such stories rather than commentary, that’s mostly what we have done, with some exceptions. But, I don’t think we can completely ignore them.

  3. I respect that you are trying to be all-inclusive, because you did post something for #BlackoutTuesday, and this article, but I also think your claim to represent a “wide array of views” and “vastly different opinions” is false.

    You listed only 7 stories of those who felt something was wrong, but there are so many other stories of others who feel something else is wrong. How do you choose which stories to share on the Tavern?

    They all seem to be of the same flavor and opinion. Not the “vastly different opinions” you claim to want to represent.

    For 1 example, you mention “unsavory comments.” As a woman and a programmer, I think the “all-women WordPress release squad” is silly and degrading to my intellect. It’s more commendable for all genders to work together. Is this an unsavory view? While I may be in the minority, I know of other women who share my view. Are we all of unsavory views? Or just not the right opinion to share.

    “What you really want to say is to not post political views that you disagree with.”

    What I really want to say is that I consider it unfair for certain views to get special treatment, while different views are ignored.

    I believe Black Lives Matter, and I also believe we need a complete overhaul of police academy training and laws in every state, but I also believe so many other issues matter just as much. Other issues get no mention.

    It’s like when someone starts eating a snack in a classroom, and the teacher asks, “Did you bring enough for everyone?”

    • Different opinions are definitely welcome. Those comments that do not follow our comment policy are not.

      I listed only seven stories because I think the point was made that they were important to our community without listing others. If there are other issues that we should be covering related to WordPress, I am happy to look over them. There are many things I am sure I miss on a routine basis. Feel free to shoot over an email any time with a lead on something.

  4. There are a myriad of political opinions in the WordPress community (that is a good thing). Many, like me, don’t share your views on some of these issues.

    We enjoy this place though as we all share an interest in the software. We don’t come here to discuss politics and if you are like me you enjoy the WordPress community as largely it is not political

    Let’s keep politics out of the tavern

    • Absolutely, Peter – we got way off track years ago, thinking we should plague all aspect of our lives with politics. It becomes hateful and delusional. Brands should be apolitical – and YES, that can be done.

  5. Thank you for your comments, Justin. I wished we lived in a world like you described as well. As a Black woman in tech, I appreciate you bringing awareness to our struggle. I used The Show Must Be Paused plugin on my sites and was proud to do it. Much respect.

  6. Although I can understand why you’ve written this post, this is not something I would like to read here. IMO the Tavern is not the right place to read about and to discuss (American) politics and subjects such as the recent protests. There’s much more happening around the world. And the WP-community is much larger than the States alone. So where do you draw the line?

    • Four out of the seven example stories listed are not specific to the U.S.

      Would you rather us have not covered any of those seven stories (and others)? Or, would you rather us not cover those that are specific to the U.S.? If a plugin author releases a plugin in support of a specific movement, do we let it die into obscurity?

  7. Hey Justin you are trying to mix and align your thoughts into a so-called freesource wordpress domain. But if wptavern, and wordpress.com doesnt follow the neutral stand and want to follow a one way route then do so openly not in Mast of being unpolitical, neutral.

    If someone is posting, sharing, sourcing unlawful content then law of Land is there to take care.

    Best course is to follow best suited Laws of Land which are democratically unalinged. Let wordpress.com fix some rules which is not favorable to anyone coz if Black Loves matter then White and Brown or Red too!!

    If still someone has problem with others content let then chase in court.

  8. This is definitely the greatest WP Tavern post by Justin.

    However, in my humble opinion, Justin’s words that «WordPress itself is inherently political» – like as walking on a knife’s edge and it is very dangerous.

    At the same time, such articles, which so powerfully declared the principles of freedom on which WordPress is based, are necessary and important.

  9. He always considered WPtavern as a place to read news.
    We like it more or less, politics is part of our day to day, in many parameters, also in WordPress, because there are people behind and in front of the code. WPtavern does great to share those news and even related opinions.
    I totally agree that we live in a world where, even if it seems a lie even today, there is racism, xenophobia and inequality between people of different sexes, skin color, ideality …
    There is still a long way to go to achieve a better world for everyone and it will not be solved by covering our eyes so as not to read the news and try to make them talk about other things.

  10. First of all, this is one of the few comments where I feel the need to stay anonymous.

    That’s because I strongly disagree with what is being said in large parts of this post. Let me explain to you what I mean and why I think the article misses the goal in a big way.

    To give a few examples:

    Of course black lives matter. But that’s not because black people are subject to racism and are currently still not regarded as equal by many other people (probably mostly white ones). It’s also not because black people have a history of suppression. It’s because ALL LIVES MATTER, which includes black people without the need to mention them explicitly. And the focus on black people again points out the difference between groups of people instead of commonalities, while a focus on the latter could help to unite these groups, despite the things they do not have in common.
    Of course women should be paid equally to men, and in general should have the same basic rights and possibilities in the world regardless of where they are living. But an all-women release squad again does not express this equality. An all-women release squad is not in any way better than an all-men one. In fact, it’s maybe even worse, because the all-woman release squad is as far as I know the first one that explicitly excludes 50% of the population because of their gender, and argues that this explicit gender-based exclusion somehow helps promoting gender equality. Which it doesn’t by any means.
    Although I don’t take illegal drugs (and haven’t done so for a very long time), I am a strong advocate in the legalization of most, if not all, illegal drugs. That’s because the “war on drugs” and the fact that drugs are produced by uncontrolled organizations in a very questionable quality to raise money for organized crime has done far more damage to our society than the drugs ever would have, if they were produced and distributed in the same predictable quality food and legal drugs are. But although this is a point of view that is probably shared by many members of the community (although I would not argue about the exact percentage), I would not EVER want this to be a topic that should be of interest to the WordPress community as a whole.

    I believe that as The WordPress Community, we should concentrate on inclusion and equality. When we have public events, we should celebrate the diversity instead of forcing ourselves to the lowest common denominator. A community that tries to unite people by having them hide anything that could possibly offend other individuals inside of the community is a huge step in the wrong direction. And as a community, we even have a responsibility to not reduce people to something less than they are, as long as people do not harm or attack other people (not only in a physical way).

    Then again, referring to last year’s WCEU after party, condemning naked breasts (from a sexually laden movie) on a screen behind a show with a singer that is widely known for her sexually provocative acts and talking about objectifying women somehow misses the point.

    Exclusion won’t ever lead to more inclusion, just as war will never lead to more freedom in the world.

    WordPress as a software already does an incredible job in keeping its mission statement to democratize publishing. That’s because everyone can use WordPress to publish content and express their views and opinions. Any the comment function invites discussion, which also is an important part of every democracy.

    To also say something positive about the post: Of the topics mentioned in the post, we should indeed care for and promote website accessibility, and how to configure and set up WordPress to help keep websites available in china despite the restrictions the government forces on its people. This is because this helps in the ability of our software’s ability to serve all people with access to the internet, be it as content creators or visitors.

    I want to end by quoting Evelyn Beatrice Hall (illustrating Voltaire’s beliefs, which I share in this regard): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!”

  11. Racism, xenophobia, incitement to violence are not political tendencies. They are dangerous ideas contrary to life and society. In the country where I live they are a crime. No community can remain indifferent. Even less a community that has strived to be more inclusive, that has advocated a more open internet.

    To write about this and the movements that seek to oppose it, is to prevent the normalisation of attitudes that go against people in general, regardless of their political inclinations.

    So thank you for writing about this and making your contribution against normalising injustice.

  12. Great post. You make me think a lot about this world and politics. In reality if we want or don’t want it we are still connected to politics and some events which are happening around the world. It is as it is and we cannot change it.

    But what we can change is to do something good for our local groups. We can do something great for our spouses, partners, our friends, our family members, or simple strangers on the streets. Or we can do tiny tiny things like to smile on someone when we will order a coffee or buy something in the shop and etc. We can simply smile little and be friendly and polite to another person and make her/his life/world little bit better. And then we can hope that that person will spread this small things to another and another ones and in the end whole world could be little better place.

  13. Great post! 👍 Thanks for this. Lately, I’ve seen a bunch of complaining that blogs should just “stick to their niche” and, alternately, people calling out bloggers for continuing to post about those niche topics on social media.

    Should blogs “stay out of politics?” I think that’s a decision each website owner needs to make. In this case, this post is about WordPress on a site about WordPress and, I believe, entirely appropriate.

    WordPress allows people to have a public platform to express diverse ideas; it gives people a voice who wouldn’t have had one thirty years ago. Whether you agree with those ideas or not, that makes WordPress inherently political.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  14. To all of you commenters saying you don’t want to read about politics on a blog about WordPress: what will you say when, God forbid, a Black member of the WordPress community is murdered by a racist police officer and the community has to reel from their death?

    Will that story be too political for you? Would you rather not read or talk about that and pretend that we can continue going about our lives ignoring such issues because it makes us uncomfortable? Because a blog about WordPress is not an appropriate outlet for politics? Where is that line in the sand between politics and, well, anything else, exactly?

  15. To all of those writing in opposition to this article, please take a moment to self reflect.

    You have the privilege to be able to say “I do not want to discuss or read about these topics”. That could be due to your economic situation, the family you were born into, the color of your skin, your identifying gender, or a variety of other aspects that allow you to not be effected by politics discussed here. Your life is fine and happy and doesn’t need to change, which is a great feeling to have. You can choose to shut out the things that make you feel uncomfortable and continue to live as you always have.

    One responsibility of that privilege is to understand that far too many people around the world do not have that same inherent privilege as you, and the reasons why are not in their direct control – be it their economic situation, the family they were born into, the color of their skin, their identifying gender, etc.

    You do not have to be involved in political discussion or read political blog posts if you do not want to. No one is forcing you. But if you don’t want that in your life or on this site, at least understand that posts like this might help someone with less privilege feel more comfortable in our community.

    None of this is to say that your voice or opinion should not be heard, but consider how much a post like this harms or damages you, compared to how much it might help lift others who have been struggling to just live in the world.

    Thanks Justin!

  16. “The Show Must Be Paused” has 0 comments. I wanted to give it some time and see if anyone commented. Not a peep.

    This post is full of comments by people who are uncomfortable with being shown that an unsavory reality exists, a reality that is beyond their comprehension.

    If you think that ALL LIVES MATTER is the appropriate response after millions of people witnessed the murder of a black man in cold blood, then you’re part of the problem. If you believe that the value of a shop is more important than the value of human life, then you are part of the problem.

    “Keep politics out of WordPress” is arrogant, morally bankrupt, cowardly, and intellectually dishonest. WordPress is a political piece of software and always has been.

    Automattic’s website has the phrase, “We don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.” Tell me that’s not a political statement. Ask them how many DDoS attacks they’ve received from communist countries.

    WordPress’s website has the statement: “We believe in democratizing publishing and the freedoms that come with open source.” Tell me that’s not a political statement.

    Spare me with the fake moral outrage and the false equivalencies and the ALL LIVES MATTER gaslighting. It’s disgusting.

    My black hands have contributed to WordPress since Day 1.

    It was co-created by a black man whose name rarely ever gets mentioned. Thank you Mike!

    Underscores was built up by this black man. There are black men and black women whose work has made yours ten thousand times easier during your time with WordPress.

    Show some respect and empathy. Or pick up a book. Or go to YouTube and teach yourself about why blacks are so angry and upset.

    If you cannot stomach the idea that politics and WordPress are intertwined, then you are living in a fantasy world.

  17. Politics is largely hyperbole, smoke and mirrors. There are places for it, and there’s absolutely no reason for every forum and every aspect of our lives to be plagued with it. Brands CAN and should be apolitical.


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