November 29, 2003

Offended Imagination and PC Silliness

If I'd seen it any other place, I would have immediately assumed it was an urban legend (if something can become a legend in less than two weeks). Surely the world hasn't gone this mad. Oh, yes it has. Thanks to the good folks at the Urban Legends Reference Pages for bringing this to my attention.

The County of Los Angeles now insist that all manufacturers who supply them with computer or other eletronic or mechanical components must remove any references to "master" and/or "slave". This universal lingo for the unidirectional control of one device or process by another. That it is universal means that it doesn't apply in the Orwellian alternate universe that is LA.

The memo sent out by the Purchasing and Contract section of the Internal Sevices Department says, "Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label." I can only understand this to mean that the County of Los Angeles doesn't want to offend either masters or slaves. Apparently these exist in LA.

They must, as this is the only reason the memo would continue:

We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment or components thereof that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature before such equipment is sold or otherwise provided to any County department.

Someone who believe themself to be either one or the other must exist, because in May 2003, an employee of the county's Probation Department filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance after spotting "master" and "slave" labels on a videotape machine. The only explanation I can think of is that perhaps they immigrated here from the Sudan or some other place where slavery is openly practiced and don't actually realise that the United States doesn't recognised the legal status of either "master" or "slave".

Obviously I don't believe for a minute that this is true. I honestly think it is instead a idiot who thinks that because he may be a descendant of one or more person who were at one time in a state of involuntary servitude, somehow he can claim ownership of the terms "master" and "slave". He probably doen't even realise that there are more slaves in the world today than were ever transported from Africa across the Atlantic from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Some people need to stop looking for reasons to be offended and stop looking for victimisation by (very tenuous) association.

Posted by david at November 29, 2003 09:09 PM | TrackBack

I used to work with a techie chap who wouldn't use the phrase 'Master and slave' because it was, he said, laviscious. His delicacy cost him more than it was worth when he had to explain to the innocents in his department exactly why it was laviscious :-)

Posted by: Havdala at November 30, 2003 09:57 PM

I was told this story recently in a training class at work.

It is evidently moving through some parts of the geek world and causing problems - becasue, evidently, there are geeks out there who are more PC than their machines.

Posted by: Huw Raphael at December 2, 2003 12:06 AM

Ah, maybe I misunderstood why the bloke in LA felt discriminated against. Perhaps he is either a master or a slave in that other sense of the terms. I never thought of that possibility.

I just assumed he was an idiot.

Posted by: David Holford at December 2, 2003 10:44 PM

Ahhh...the comedy of it all!

Posted by: aaron at December 4, 2003 07:35 PM