'Learn to Code': Good Advice, or Hate Speech?
"Learn to code."
It seems like a good piece of career advice, doesn't it? After all, we live in the Information Age, and just about every facet of daily life has been automated. A computer wakes you up, a computer has your coffee ready, a computer gives you the best route to the office, a computer tells you which song is on the radio, you go to work and stare at a computer all day, you go home and a computer gives you movies and TV shows to watch, social media shows you stupid people from all over the world 24 hours a day, you're reading this right now on a computer, a computer delivered all of the above to your door, etc. All this stuff has become commonplace, but it doesn't just happen by magic. Somebody had to code all that software. People who know how to code are crucial to our society, and learning to code is a valuable skill.
Or... is it? Could it be that "learn to code" isn't good advice, but actually hate speech? A Russian plot? The work of alt-right white nationalist Nazis? If you have to ask, then the answer is obvious!
The Fetid, Right-Wing Origins of “Learn to Code”
Last Thursday, I received the news that the HuffPost Opinion section—where I’d been opining on a weekly basis for a few months—had been axed in its entirety... “This business sucks,” I tweeted...
Then the responses started rolling in—some sympathy from fellow journalists and readers, then an irritating gush of near-identical responses: “Learn to code.” “Maybe learn to code?” “BETTER LEARN TO CODE THEN.” “Learn to code you useless bitch...”
On its own, telling a laid-off journalist to “learn to code” is a profoundly annoying bit of “advice,” a nugget of condescension and antipathy... But it was clear from the outset that this “advice” was larded through with real hostility—and the timing and ubiquity of the same phrase made me immediately suspect a brigade attack. My suspicions were confirmed when conservative figures like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. joined the pile-on, revealing the ways in which right-wing hordes have harnessed social media to discredit and harass their opponents.
If the name Talia Lavin sounds familiar, she's the journalist who was fired from her fact-checking job at the New Yorker last year because she accused an ICE agent and disabled veteran of being a Nazi. She mistook one of his tattoos, the symbol of his platoon in Afghanistan, for an Iron Cross. She called it a "small mistake."
Justin Gaertner is a combat wounded U.S. Marine who continues to serve his country as an ICE computer forensics analyst, helping solve criminal cases & rescue abused children. The tattoo shown here is the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/BaOBxaAMHS
— ICE (@ICEgov) June 18, 2018