HN Strikes Again

I swore off Hacker News comments a few months ago it’s been wonderful. Yesterday, however, I was linked to this post and told to read the comments; I found the experience quite illuminating.

Basically, it’s a startup founder detailing how hard it is for him to close the doors on his failed enterprise. That’s got to suck. Then the first commenter says the author is still super privileged and shouldn’t complain because people elsewhere have it worse off. The next commenters says “Fuck you” and the resulting shitstorm engulfs the entire thread.

OK, fellas, calm down. Let’s take a moment to enumerate some facts about privilege.

  1. We’re all on computers right now so obviously we’re already insanely privileged among the world’s population.
  2. It’s not unreasonable to bring up point 1 because we often forget how lucky we all are. However…
  3. Just because someone is privileged does not mean that their problems aren’t real. No one’s problems should be dismissed as “first world” because they’re still real problems to them.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen people try to bring up the topic of privilege on Hacker News. It’s a tricky subject in general, and I understand why failing to contextualizing a discussion about it would lead to the kind of heated debate we see here.

Privilege is a very touchy subject and relates to a lot of other topics people tend to have strong feelings about: economics, politics, social justice, human rights, the list goes on. It is frustrating that the mere mention of privilege is enough to set off an entire flame war, but we all just need to calm down. Contextualize our statements. Read what someone wrote instead of what we want to hear. And stop arguing on the Internet.


Posted on November 22, 2012