The ‘Pyramid of Hate’ that Brought Down Basecamp
Basecamp bosses banned politics at work over a social justice diagram
Earlier this week, I wrote a response to tech company Basecamp’s decision to ban political speech in the workplace. That same evening, Casey Newton published an article for The Verge that shed some light on the events that apparently prompted this announcement. As Newton’s article explains, the political discussions taking place at Basecamp largely focused on the internal culture of the company itself — not conversations about the outside world brought into work, as many were led to believe by the company’s original statement. Newton writes,
Interviews with a half-dozen Basecamp employees over the past day paint a portrait of a company where workers sought to advance Basecamp’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by having sensitive discussions about the company’s own failures. After months of fraught conversations, Fried and his co-founder, David Heinemeier Hansson moved to shut those conversations down.
Among the sensitive topics of discussion was a list called “Best Names Ever” that had been compiled and maintained by Basecamp workers over the past decade. This was a list of customer names that various workers had found funny for some reason or another. According to Newton, many of these names were American or European in origin, however others were obviously Asian or African. Eventually, employees began to express their discomfort with the list, and the company began holding discussions about how to hold those who had allowed it to circulate for so long accountable.
On April 13, two employees who had contributed to the list in the past issued an apology using Basecamp’s internal employee chat, hosted on the remote workplace collaboration software that Basecamp itself builds and distributes. This apology, Newton explains, included a link to the so-called “Pyramid of Hate”—an illustration produced by the Anti-Defamation League that shows “how the most extreme acts of extremist violence are enabled by a foundation of biased attitudes and acts of bias.”
On the lowest level of the Pyramid of Hate are “acts of bias,” defined as jokes, stereotypes, non-inclusive language, and other comparatively minor insensitivities…