Bigotry and hate speech on the python mailing list

Ben Finney ben+python at
Mon Apr 17 06:38:55 EDT 2017

Rurpy via Python-list <python-list at> writes:

> A couple weeks ago a frequent poster here (Steve D'Aprano
> <steve+python at>) called another participant an "ugly
> american" [*1].

He gave no explicit reference, and so I can see why you would think he
did what you describe.

In fact, though, Steven in the message you link to stated:

    If you think that all these people, and hundreds of millions more,
    will just "quietly change the filename" to ASCII because you're too
    lazy, self-centred and arrogant to move on from 1963, then you truly
    are an example of the Ugly American.

Again, it's not stated explicitly what Steven is referring to, so I can
see why you would initially be confused.

But by now, with plenty of time to look into what was actually being
discussed, surely you have noticed that Steven was *not* using physical
appearance as an insult; nor was he using mere national origin as an

Rather, the message is a reference to the Ugly American. Note the
capitals Steven used; that is how a title is spelled.

The title “Ugly American” is a reference to a stereotypical *attitude
and behaviour*, given that name by the 1958 political novel of the same
name <URL:>.

This is not using ugliness, nor American nationality, as an insult. It
is a reference to objectionable behaviour as Steven described.

Whether you agree that the behaviour described is objectionable, you can
hopefully agree that naming objectionable behaviour to discourage it, is
not in itself something to be discouraged.

I can fault Steven for assuming that the reader would, by the novel's
title alone, know of a mid-20th century novel reference or the
stereotype it describes. That's not a breach of PSF CoC.

I can fault Steven for assuming that those who *don't* get the reference
would not leap to the conclusion you've leapt to: that he was using
national origin as an insult. That assumption on his part is
unfortunate, and perhaps an apology would be good. Regardless of that,
it is not a breach of the PSF CoC.

What I can't fault him for is using national origin as a verbal weapon.
He simply did not do that in the message you link to.

> Further, failure to censure Mr. D'Apano's comments communicates that
> bigotry is acceptable here which understandably would give pause to
> members of other groups often subject to bigotry.

Similarly, my elaboration here – to give it the prominence you rightly
say that the original sub-thread did not achieve – should demonstrate to
you that D'Aprano's comments did not constitute bigotry against any
national origin.

The charge of bigotry is a strong one here, rightly so, and I think you
for taking it seriously. Will you drop that charge now? If you won't, I
think you need to show how this analysis is incorrect.

 \           “Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in |
  `\                                      these.” —Ovid (43 BCE–18 CE) |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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