Political Expression in the Tech Community

I never could have imagined that I would hesitate to publicly express my views on something that I am passionate about. But until recently, I was hesitant to do so regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas. It seems that I am not alone. While many people voiced support for either side, the tech community remained mostly silent as compared to the masses and to its own outcry over issues such as Ferguson. 

I think there were two reasons for the relative silence:

  1. The conflict is complex. It is rooted in a voluminous history that is difficult and impractical to thoroughly absorb. Reasonable people appreciate this and understand that what they read in the mainstream media is unlikely to make them better informed. The moral questions that the conflict raises also makes it difficult to form a perfectly defensible position. Because of this, I believe that people are simply unable to solidify their own views. If they do, the challenge then becomes crafting a fair message worthy of sharing publicly on Twitter or in a blog post. And if you get to this point, you should ideally be ready to defend your position against criticism, which can be fierce. 
  2. The conflict stirs deep emotions, and people don't want to alienate their professional peers. The tech community, perhaps more than any other professional community, relies heavily on Twitter and other public forums to connect with one another—so stating your views can come with professional consequences. 

Personally, I supported Israel before and throughout the conflict. But I didn't feel that I had a firm enough handle on the conflict to satisfy the first prong above. I spent July reading a lot of history and news from various sources, became more informed, and was ready to publicly support and defend the country. 

The second prong then became the obstacle. Would I come off as too political and risk alienating people by sharing even obvious arguments in support of Israel? Would I hurt my potential to grow in the industry by challenging more senior peers who shared messages that I strongly disagreed with? These risks are real, but they pale in comparison to the notion of staying silent on something that I am passionate about. And it is unacceptable to me to stay quiet while friends are risking their lives to defend Israel and all that it represents. So if people were to look negatively on what is an otherwise fair and responsible show of support, then I rather not work with them in the first place.

Current events have made for a sad, frustrating summer. But choosing to learn about and speak up on the controversial issues that I care about—as minor as these actions are—has given me some solace.