Elitism in the GNU/Linux community

Just last night on a particular mailing list I caught the reply of a disgruntled subscriber. Having offered his personal advice to someone about a particular problem, he was soon after shut down by who I deem to be an elitist, calling this person ‘stupid’, and having ‘no excuses’ for his suggestion being so ‘dumb’.

Now, this is a serious problem in the GNU/Linux community. On some mailing lists it tends to occur more frequently than on others, but there is no denying that in virtually every GNU/Linux community there will be at least one elitist. But I have never understood their motives to be anything further than self glorification and indulgence in their own knowledge at the humiliating expense of others.

Quite frankly, it’s disgusting. To divulge a personal anecdote, I was recently targeted on an IRC channel, asked never to give advice again by a particular individual. Having asked for a reason why, I was told that my suggestion was ‘presumptious and stupid’. Now, I would have been fine if I had been told where my suggestion went wrong. I would have been fine if I had been told where I was factually inaccurate. The fact of the matter is, however, that I was neither factually inaccurate, nor impolite. The response I received from this individual, however, was extremely rude, insulting and alienating.

Now, before you begin handing me the virtual tissue box I’ll note that I care very little for what others have to say when they offer nothing constructive. And don’t get me wrong; it seems that the majority of the GNU/Linux community is very courteous and helpful, whom without I would not have the technological skills I have today. I truly believe that. My motto when working online — and in wider life — is to say something constructive, or say nothing at all. Of course, if someone were to be intentionally insulting, rude, or just plain false, that response would differ in tone. But for honest mistakes? That attitude is plain rubbish.

Moving back to the mailing list issue, this humiliated and insulted subscriber replied with an email essentially summing up what I have said here in this post. He noted the arrogance of the mailing list and the elitism that was tearing it apart, keeping the elitists in their positions of ‘power’, whilst further demoting the newer additions to the community beyond the depths of the dirt. Shortly after, he left the mailing list in dismay.

There is a mental attitude amongst some individuals that leads them to believe that they are better than others. Wherever this is coming from, it has to stop. I say this not in defence of myself — again, I care very little for unconstructive comments — but in defence of the wider community.

I am calling upon every GNU/Linux community with this elitism problem to get a handle of it. But this never solves the problem; therefore, I am calling upon the individuals, who see or depict themselves as the elite, to reconsider their actions. Alienation is similar to the phrase ‘burning bridges’, only that it breaks the possibility of building bridges in the first place. Be welcoming, be constructive, and be respectful.

And that is all I have to say. Again, standing on the heads of others gets you nowhere; you can be as knowledgeable and elite as you want, but without the people below you, you topple down to the common rabble. And there you will see that you will become the inverse of what you once were; falling from the heights of importance to absolute worthlessness. Remember that.

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4 thoughts on “Elitism in the GNU/Linux community

  1. I agree with you, I mistakenly asked a question concerning documentation on the wrong gnu mailing list, and was very impolitely responded to by the maintainer of the texinfo package. The developer responded derisively, asking me “what the hell” I was talking about. GNU developers need to calm down, it certainly doesn’t help the community to insult confused or mistaken users in this way–particularly new or inexperienced users.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      It’s a real shame that this still happens. A lot of these elitists get so caught up in the rules and regulations and expect every other person on the planet to be as willfully knowledgeable as they are. Weren’t they at all some stage in need of assistance, where posting to the wrong mailing list was an unintentional error?

      Getting pointed in the right direction helps. I’d be happier if they completely ignored the ruder members of our community if only they would have more tolerance for the respectful; but they lose that respect when they lose their cool over a minor “infringement”. It’s both absolutely lazy and deplorable.

      • The interesting thing is that those considered elite by today’s standards were those who were actually assisting each other with ports, hardware issues, etc. etc. We were once a community. Then all these N00bs joined in and started with their attitude and stupid questions. I jest, of course.

        We wanted more people in the community. We were a community. However, somewhere along the way, people who were not interested in our community, our philosophies and values came in and decided they wanted to learn GNU Linux so they could make money. That is so not what we were about. That was not the direction we wanted to go in. Ads started to show up on Slashdot. Suddenly we were being censored because ad sponsors didn’t like what we had to say? It was crazy. Not as crazy as today, when some lame server babysitter has the nerve to call an elitist an average user.

        When did we stop working together? When did we stop helping each other out. I would say it happened about 2003 when freenode really started being a huge gathering place – nothing like back in 1999.

        You would be surprised at some of the elitists I know that have little patience with someone who has opposing views but have so much patience with each other.

        I do contend that it is time to stop working against each other and start working with each other. Developers, system administrators and n00bs. We are a community, are we not? Or did that change too and I not get the memo?

        - aicra

  2. Impossible, end of story.

    They act like spoiled child because they think they are right.

    The only right way to do it is point your finger in their face saying be nice or shut the fuck up. or action like this will breed out of control.

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