Wow, it’s been a while since I sat down to write a blog post on Simple Programmer, but it’s about time I addressed a very important issue in the tech industry, a very important issue that is not only dividing the tech world as we know it, but conquering it.
You may or may not have heard the story of how I became the most hated man in tech—for at least a few days—so, I’ll tell it here. Not because I am a spotless shining example of civility and rational behavior, but because the story is about the real evil that is being spread amongst people who are claiming to spread the message of diversity and inclusiveness.
Where to begin … where to begin. Ah, let’s see, how about at the point I first got involved.
It was a dark and stormy night. I was sitting at my keyboard carefully pondering how I could unleash more sexism and racism into the tech community—as I usually do every night when I am in front of my computer.
A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook to ask me if I had seen what was happening to a mutual acquaintance of ours, Aimee.
No, of course I hadn’t seen it because, as a rule—much like the humans in the Matrix avoiding the freeway—I avoid Twitter. Twitter is a cesspool of all the most vile and spurious things wrong with society today. It's the birthplace, cradle, day care, and boarding school of neo-Marxist postmodern drivel. (Am I showing my hand a little too much?)
Anyway, he told me that the same group who were mobbing and attacking people to cancel them were now attacking Aimee and trying to destroy her career and reputation.
I thought about shrugging and closing my browser, but I decided to take a quick gander at the thread. I mean really, what could it hurt?
Ouch. I didn’t like what I saw. Aimee had said something to rile up the herd. This is her exact quote:
“Grateful I didn't start my programing journey in 2019.
All these people pissed off, cussing, looking to start arguments in the name of empathy and diversity … you're literally scaring people from wanting to enter this industry by your behavior.”
Oh shitballs! Isn’t that such an insensitively racist and sexist thing to say? Wow, Aimee must be a HORRIBLE bigot, right? I mean how dare she make a statement about “marginalized” people? How DARE she have an opinion?
Of course there was a pile on. She was publicly shamed. Threats were made about her job and livelihood. Attempts were made to reeducate her. All of what I expected to see. But what I didn’t expect to see was her APOLOGIZING to them.
I suppose out of fear—I can’t really blame her—she decided to cave. But is that enough to appease the blood-thirsty masses? Clearly no. The attacks continued and with even more fervor.
At this point I knew that I had gone too far. I could not come back. I could not simply close my browser and ignore this.
So, I did what any decent human would do, and I cracked my knuckles, logged in to LastPass to look up that old, dusty Twitter password for the Simple Programmer Twitter account I had long stored away and vowed never to use again, and I signed in.
My plan was simple: Throw grenades at everyone attacking Aimee until the pack of wild animals turned on me instead. I figured, hey I’ve got nothing to lose, but … I was kind of oh so slightly WRONG about that—more later.
Anyway, I shot out comments calling guys who were ganging up on her pussies. I tweeted out a call to arms to my followers, also … well … calling them pussies. (I seemed to have been attached to that word.) I fired at anyone and everyone attacking Aimee, and it worked … oh, did it work.
Pretty soon the fire was going straight up my nose. People I never heard of before were retweeting my insults and firing right back at me. I learned about all kinds of new memes I had never heard of before, and I had hundreds of people tweeting at me what an asshole I was.
Then, just as the smoke was clearing, after being told to shut up, I tweeted at a person (who just happened to be a black woman) that she should shut her mouth. I actually said:
“Yes, you should. And you should shut your mouth. We should all be happy to be here. Not try and tear down anyone who points out truth.”
Oh, what an evil, sexist, racist thing I had done. God forbid I tell a black woman to shut her mouth. But here’s where it really blew up. Another woman told me:
“This is an unacceptable way to speak to anyone. I am disgusted by your behavior and your gall to tell a woman to shut her mouth.”
Now, I don’t know what you consider equality, but in my mind it’s to treat all people exactly the same regardless of their skin color, sex, etc. So when I see something talking about me having the gall to tell a woman to shut her mouth, I think “what? I should treat a person different because she’s a woman?”
So, of course, I replied:
“Shut your mouth.”
And the moment I said that you could virtually hear all the people screen-shotting those 3 Tweets—completely out of context, but it doesn’t really matter does it?
There you go. PROOF. Absolute PROOF that John Sonmez is a sexist, racist PIG. Here he is jumping on Twitter telling women to shut their mouths (forget that they also told me to shut my mouth and then deleted the tweets afterward).
Now, let’s be honest here. Did I say mean things on Twitter? Yes. Absolutely. Is it civil? No. Did I handle it the best and most professional way I could? No, not really. I’ll fully admit to being somewhat of an asshole, and saying not nice things on Twitter.
But, is this really a surprise? I mean if you’ve followed me for any amount of time you know that most of the time I’m very civil. To put it bluntly, if you fuck with me or someone I know, you better be ready to roll around in the grass.
Does that mean I’m a sexist, racist bigot? No. Not at all. I literally have hired and employed people of all different races, male and female, and my only interest is who will do the best job.
So, yes, accuse me of assholeness and defending a friend too aggressively, but I’m not sure what followed was a proportionate response.
Pretty much after I tweeted that last tweet, Twitter exploded. Retweet, retweet, retweet. Condemnation, death threat, call for violence against me. This is some pretty insane stuff. (Some of it is still there, but a lot has been deleted by now.)
But, you see, this is not just an unorganized mob that emerges from groupthink behavior; no, it’s organized and experienced. There are a few people pulling the strings, and they are strategic in what they are doing.
Pretty soon the direction turned toward trying to destroy my career and income sources. People started tweeting at Pluralsight and Manning to remove my books and courses, asking how they could associate with a racist and sexist like myself.
Then they started calling on anyone who was associated with me, telling them to unfollow me and denounce me. Pretty soon many friends who didn’t even take a moment to text me, shoot me an email, or call me made public statements distancing themselves from me.
Especially cowardly was Quincy Larson of Free Code Camp who deleted my interviews and denounced me publicly. (It’s still a pretty good resource and it’s free, BTW.)
Grady Booch, the founder of UML, threw in some digs. As did many prominent tech figures and former friends.
I got calls from Pluralsight and Manning, both accusing me of violating their codes of conduct and “guiding principles.” Never asking me if it was even me tweeting or if my account got hacked, and pretty much making up their mind to pull my content before even hearing my side of the story.
To be fair, Pluralsight called me to tell me of their unilateral decision, but Manning at least had a representative hear my side of the story before unpublishing my book, Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual.
Pluralsight pulled all my remaining courses from their platform and rescinded my affiliate partnership with them, no consideration given to the many years of support I gave them and the majority of people there who PERSONALLY KNEW ME and knew that I was not racist or sexist in the least.
They cowered to the mob. They chose not to base their decision on the technical merit of my courses or even on any evidence. In fact, I specifically said “Can you give me an exact tweet or statement that I made that you consider to be in violation of your code of conduct or principles or anything that shows clear racism or sexism.” Of course, they did not provide even one statement. Instead, they completely caved to the pressure by this angry mob.
Similar with Manning. They declared my book out of print and canceled my contract. (Fortunately, in this case the rights of the book revert back to me, and I will be self-publishing it through Simple Programmer.)
Likewise, O'Reilly Media, who I just inked a deal with, pulled my books from their online platform as well.
Podcast interviews I had done on some of the major tech podcasts were removed, as this mob tried to cancel me by erasing me from history.
Now, agree or not with my politics and political views, or even the way I handled myself and spoke to people on Twitter, I would ask you, is this a fair and equitable response?
Is it OK to try and financially destroy and ruin the reputation of someone you don’t like with slander and libel about him being a racist and sexist? Is it OK to promote and call for violence against that person? Is this the kind of tolerance the “tolerant” are advocating for—and please don’t quote the paradox of intolerance, that is quite a bit of Marxist propaganda to justify hating people who you perceive as “bad.”
As far as I’m concerned, I’m OK. They may have done several hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial damage to me, but I’m not bowing; I’m not apologizing and my only response is the same response I gave them the first time, a defiant middle finger.
But, unfortunately, the fallout did not stop there.
Remember, in a witch hunt you need to get other people to name names, denounce the witches, and cower in fear; otherwise, the whole thing unravels.
One of the people named was a friend of mine Charles Max Wood. Now Charles is not like me. He’s got about 0% asshole in him. He’s a straight-laced Mormon guy who is pretty much the kindest and nicest guy you’ll ever meet.
But does the social justice mob care? No. What they care about is causing as much pain and destruction as possible, so they turned on him.
The request was simple: Denounce John. Stop being friends with John; don’t associate with him anymore, and publicly denounce him … OR ELSE.
Chuck, being the standup guy that he is, did not denounce me. But what he did do was make a video saying that they have no right to say who he can and cannot be friends with, and that he didn’t approve or agree with many of the things I said, but that a civil discussion should be had about the topic.
He went on Twitter to invite some of the people involved to have a civil discussion on one of his podcasts, and he offered to get me to come on there to present my point of view as well.
What do you think the response to asking for a civil discussion was?
Yes. You guessed it.
In fact, here is the exact correspondence:
Now the pile on was on poor Chuck. All the rage turned on him, and he got all manner of nasty tweets directed at him.
Pretty soon there were calls to cancel him, and it didn’t take long before he lost sponsors from his podcasts, lost entire panels from his shows, had podcast interviews canceled, and finally was banned from a conference he was already registered for, Kubecon.
The person who told him FUCK YOU, above, tweeted at the organizers of Kubecon, the Linux Foundation, and egged them onto banning Chuck from the conference. Oh, she also tweeted a picture of him in a MAGA hat in front of Trump Tower.
This writeup has some good coverage of what happened.
The Linux Foundation also banned Chuck from any future events. Why? Well, they said he violated their code of conduct. When asked how and what part of it, crickets.
Word got around that his “violation” was for tone policing by calling people to be civil. Wow, here is a nonprofit organization taking extremely politically-induced action against an individual, and doing so publicly, further damaging his reputation.
I could go on and on about what is happening here and why this is so dangerous for the tech industry, but I’d encourage you to watch this video series about the liberal arts college Evergreen to get a better understanding than what I can explain of what is really going on.
The short of it is that free speech is under attack. Right now, today, in society, you only truly have free speech if you also have financial independence. This is a shame. And yes, I know the argument that free speech only applies to the government censoring you, and private companies and individuals can do what they want.
Yes, that is a valid and fair argument, but it doesn’t change the fact that a monoculture of censorship is evolving right under our noses. It doesn’t change the fact that people are afraid to speak about any controversial topic or to have an opinion that doesn’t fit the popular mainstream narrative or a small, but vocal group of people who are hiding behind the veil of claiming they are promoting diversity in tech.
There are a lot of lies being put forth as the truth, and there are heavy handed consequences for disagreeing with the thought police, as you can see from my story and Chuck’s story, and this is no isolated incident. It seems that every couple of weeks the same story is playing out again and again.
The only reason you are hearing about this one and not some of the others is that both Chuck and I happen to have the financial strength to withstand the attacks without bowing and can still speak up without being completely silenced.
Most of the victims of these angry mobs are not so fortunate. I wonder how many people would be driven to suicide or worse seeing their whole career and future destroyed because of a few unfortunate words they said on Twitter.
Is this really the society we want to live in? Is this really the tech community we want to support and be a part of? Is this really the way to change hearts and minds and to promote diversity?
It seems that perhaps diversity of skin color and genitals is being marginally achieved at the cost of the most important kind of diversity of all: diversity of thought.
Anyway, there is a lot more that I could say on this subject, but I’ll end this post now. But before I go, I want to say a few more things.
First, I do not care if you agree with my political beliefs or not. I welcome you to have a different opinion than I do, and I value it. What I value more than anything is free speech and the environment in which people of different viewpoints can express their thoughts freely without the fear of ridicule, “being canceled,” or verbal or physical abuse.
So, if you don’t agree with me and even if you think I’m an asshole, I would ask you for a second to put aside our differences and at least look at what has transpired here and whether or not you support this kind of response to what mostly equates to differing political views and some name calling?
You don’t hear much from the other side, because people are afraid. I’ve gotten many phone calls, emails, and messages from people saying “I would love to support you publicly, but I’ve got a job and family to worry about. I’m even afraid to like one of your Tweets.”
Second, if you want to support me and the battle I’m fighting against this intolerant group of people who are ruining tech, here’s what you can do:
- Email Pluralsight, and let them know how you feel about what has transpired. (email@example.com, cc: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Buy The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide, or buy a copy or two for a friend if you already have one. This book is self published by Simple Programmer and no proceeds go to Manning.
- Make this public. Reach out to mainstream media channels that would be willing to have me on their platform to discuss this and make people aware. Share this blog post, and spread the news. Let’s not let this happen in the dark.
I thank you and appreciate all of you who are fighting the good fight.
We may not all agree, but we can treat each other decently and learn to see the humanity in everyone.
P.S. – Here’s a video I recorded of the drama shortly after it happened, for more context.