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Satan's Sysadmin

By Builder in Culture
Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:10:55 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

I'm sure this is true for most people. There is always that one site, sometimes more, that just makes you wish you could crack the box, deface the site, and tell the world how you really feel about it.

But what if you were the admin of that site? Or even worse, of those sites? Your job, your whole world sometimes, revolves around keeping those boxen up, keeping the site live, and making sure that the network thrives.

I work for an ad agency. They used to do print, and then they got into the 'full service house' game. Now they'll run your whole ad campaign, from the cutouts in your store, to the ad on tv, to your virtual store where you can sell your product. Along the way, some projects came on board as small hosting deals for friends of directors, etc.

Now I am the admin. I have been for 9 months. Coincidentally, the network is only now, after a healthy human gestation period, beginning to take shape. The mess I inherited was terrible! Telnet open to the world on 6 month old Debian boxen. NFS complete with exploitable statd globally accessible. It's taken me 9 months to rebuild the network to something remotely resembling secure and stable.

The first site that grated me was for one of the local gun-control groups. I'm a recent arrival (1.5 years) in the UK, and before I arrived here I was very pro-gun. Having had to use one in defence of my life on several occasions might have contributed to that. Now, I'm still pro-gun, but the laws of my new home country forbid me from owning one. Back to the story. One of the sites we were hosting was as a favour to one of the original staff members. It was an anti-gun site. But it was run by people who didn't understand the social issues surrounding problems related to firearm incidents. Their solution was to blame guns for everything. Forget the fact that hundreds of South Africans die every year because they don't know how to defend themselves. If they owned, trained with, and practiced with a firearm on a regular basis, as well as being generally alert, several of my friends would still be alive. I did. I am. I'm not saying that guns are the best answer, but stupid people propagating untruths and popular misconceptions don't help.

I let the site live, because I had to. Its my job, right? But it grated me to be helping something that I disagreed with at such a fundamental level.

Today, I had to setup the virtualhost for a new campaign for a large clothing company. The campaign sickens me. It makes light of and jokes about the problems of impoverished 3rd world people. Just like this company's last campaign, I know this site will come under attack from both script kiddies and hacktivists. Last time, I fought to keep them out. At times, I ran around like a mad thing dealing with DoS attacks, updates to security issues and more.

This time, I have to wonder. If I didn't work here, I would be going after the site myself. Now I have to defend it. I'm a good admin. I've kept some very high profile, high traffic sites alive and kicking through some very bad times; in many cases solo. But here, I just don't know if I can do it. I don't think I have the heart. I want to do my job. I want to be a good admin. But more than that, I want to do the right thing and expose this company for the evil, soul-less entity that it is.

So what now? The money is good. I have two recruitment bonuses coming up in the next couple of months, and with the death of the dotcom industry, work is tight. I can't just walk and say I'm sticking to my principles. The account manager who is running this campaign thinks that my objections and problems with the site are hilarious. My bank manager says I should stay. My heart and soul say that I should at the very least, walk.

I am Satan's sysadmin. Forgive me.


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Satan's Sysadmin | 79 comments (44 topical, 35 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ethical Dilemma? (2.55 / 9) (#1)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 04:56:19 PM EST

Well, it seems that you are in an interesting position. You are the guardian of a position that you find offensive. Now, you must descide if you will give up your loyalty to your position and attack that site.

Once thing to think about is the subjective nature of these situations. Ethics cannot be objectivly measured, though so many have tried in the past. What it really comes down to is how you feel about the situation, and weather you're willing to accept the consquences. If you feel like it is not your place to make an attack, or that the consequences would be too great, then don't. If the situation is so extreme that you are willing to accept the consequences, then I have only one thing to say...

Fuck it. Burn 'Em.

"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
Yeah, and that really raises the profile (3.40 / 5) (#16)
by leviathan on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:29:25 PM EST

While I may admire ethical commitment, I can't think of a single instance where cracking a site has brought positive recognition with anyone outside of your own community. If you're trying to expose the company to the buying public and the traditional media who actually have some clout, then there could hardly be less effective or less legal means. Defacing the site would be silly; especially if this story goes up.

I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]
Well... (2.68 / 16) (#6)
by Signal 11 on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:15:54 PM EST

Well, I don't know what to say. It's good that you think enough about what you're doing to note it, but simply leaving would further no goal. Any attempt would likely be seen as "an attack on our Wonderful Capitalistic System" by those bastard communists. *shrugs* You could also leak the campaign to the press and denounce them. Public relations of that sort might cancel the campaign.. and ironically save your company.. even though you'd be fired for sure if you didn't quit first.

As a system administrator, you already know enough to execute a successful attack. Start with the bulk eraser and their backups. After that, save/replication conflicts should do their customer and order tracking databases in. Then create an evil version of HTML tidy that adds random XML into the html source and bloats them to 400k each. Be sure to put a "<!-- created with frontpage -->" in the header. As a final blow, replace all the .gif and .jpeg files with pictures of natalie portman, naked and petrified of course, and for the grand finale point all their customers to goatse.cx. I'm sure an attack like this would make the national news. It would take a good admin no more than a week to set this up, and another week to code EvilTidy.exe... :)

You'll be the prime suspect because of your post here, of course. Best of luck either way, but if you go the hack route, don't just do a "z3r0 c00l 0\/\/n3z j00!" on their page... do it with style.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

it's things like these (1.80 / 5) (#35)
by spacejack on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:34:07 PM EST

that make Linux so secure.

[ Parent ]
Freedom of speech (3.57 / 14) (#11)
by vectro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:09:19 PM EST

I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.


Your position is essentially equivalent to being the sysadmin of a large ISP who may host some offensive content. The fact of the matter is, though, that no matter how much you disagree with the content your employer is hosting, they still have every right to have it hosted.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
No obligation to publish (4.00 / 6) (#12)
by jasonab on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:17:56 PM EST

Your position is essentially equivalent to being the sysadmin of a large ISP who may host some offensive content. The fact of the matter is, though, that no matter how much you disagree with the content your employer is hosting, they still have every right to have it hosted.
No one has a right to have anything hosted. That company has a right to not have the government stop them from saying things, but they have no right to have a publisher accept their site. If he has an ethical or moral delimma about the material he has to support, leaving is a valid consideration.

America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
[ Parent ]
But that doesn't answer the question (4.50 / 4) (#13)
by SIGFPE on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:20:56 PM EST

Someone having the right to do something isn't the same as it being right to support them saying it. These are quite different concepts. Voltaire probably wouldn't have been that interested in supporting people whose ideas he didn't like - but he may have fought to defend those people if they were being forcibly suppressed.
[ Parent ]
True, but... (5.00 / 2) (#71)
by Robert Gormley on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 03:07:44 AM EST

... he accepted a responsibility to do exactly that. If he doesn't like it, he leaves. He doesn't continue to accept payment for doing so, and then subvert it on the other hand, playing both sides. That's unethical and immoral.

[ Parent ]
Re: Freedom of speech (3.50 / 4) (#18)
by MeanGene on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:41:32 PM EST

I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.

According to this EFF archive, this statement is only popularly attributed to Voltaire, but Voltaire didn't make it.

Anybody cares to confirm?

[ Parent ]

Correct (2.50 / 4) (#40)
by Robert Gormley on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 12:18:14 AM EST

*hunts in his Oxford Dictionary of Quotations*

*can't find it, bah*

But it was an attribution, and also a slight paraphrasing.

[ Parent ]

As Mr. Truman said ... (4.00 / 6) (#17)
by versus on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:30:20 PM EST

"If you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen."

When it comes to work, you either talk the talk and walk the walk or you better walk out, because that is definitely not a place to be if the work you're doing sickens you. We all have our personal preferences, but when it comes to work, especially in IT and marketing, you're either a professional and leave your prejudices/preferences/whatever-bugs-you at home or you're doing a big disfavor to your employer every morning you show up at work.

What I believe would be the best solution is voice your disagreement with the campaign and be over with it. If you can't do that, maybe it's time to do the walk.

And no, you're not satan's sysadmin, you're an average newbie sysadmin.

Le Chef

If you rate it 3 or less, please comment why.
Apologetics (4.28 / 14) (#21)
by Skippy on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 07:00:37 PM EST

There is absolutely nothing worth waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and thinking that you hate what you do. Not money, not love, nothing.

I've never had a really great paying job. I've had good, but not great. I quit that good paying job because I hated getting up in the morning and thinking about how my day was a waste. I got a job working at a printing place for VERY low wages. I ate macaroni and cheese 3 nights a week for a year. I never went out because I couldn't afford it. I went without a lot of things I wanted to have. It was probably the best year of my life.

Until you've been down you don't know that you can live without most of the things you really believe you need. You don't need most of it. This story seems to be a plea for us to tell you that its ok to sell out. Or to gather up the courage to do something. Fuck what we have to say. Look in the mirror, ask yourself what you believe in and what you're willing to compromise on. Then make a decision and stick with it. Integrity is tremendously freeing and makes you feel all warm inside. It also makes waking up in the morning a much more pleasant experience.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

sorry (3.25 / 4) (#31)
by jeanlucpikachu on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:35:13 PM EST

for the offtopic comment: If love isn't worth enduring horrible horrible pain, it isn't love. Check yourself. Other than that, yeah, (enjoyment of job) > (money).

Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
[ Parent ]
Rebuttal (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by Skippy on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:38:30 AM EST

If the person you love enough to endure horrible (avoidable) pain for lets you endure it, they don't love you and don't deserve yours.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
[ Parent ]
Disgusting (4.52 / 21) (#23)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 08:14:52 PM EST

If you had a moral objection to it, you would quit your job and pick up another one. Since you're not quiting your job, you don't really have a point in asking forgiveness because only you can give it to yourself.

You also said you'd be attacking these sites yourself. You've proved that not only do you not care enough to quit your job for your beliefs, you've admitted that you'd go about dealing with people who hold different beliefs than you in an entirely negative way. Why? Probably only because you can. Were it a physical setting, you'd be more civilized.

So it's a maturity thing. You can't handle the heat, but you refuse to leave the kitchen. And you admit you'd be setting fire to the kitchen if you weren't the cook. There's no benefit in this story.

[ イノシロ ]
You aren't the law (4.30 / 10) (#24)
by Fred Nerk on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 08:19:53 PM EST

I have never personally had to deal with this sort of problem, but I have been a sysadmin for quite a while and I can certainly see it from your perspective.

I certainly wouldn't recommend defacing the site, not only would it be easily traceable, I would also consider it not the "right thing".

Taking the law into your own hands is the bane of polite society (and bad drivers too). I can't comment on the site not having read it, but basically I'm going on your word that the site defies what is publicly known to be "good".

Unfortunately I can't trust your word, because I don't know you at all! The only thing I know of you is this article, which has pro-gun sentiments (which I don't happen to agree with, but that's a different topic). You defacing the site is not your right to free speech, it's forcing your opinion on other people!

I doubt that the people that made the site consider it immoral, and it seems your boss doesn't either, so you have no right to destroy their free speech, or even defame them as an "evil, soul-less entity" because you disagree with it.

By all means make the comments if you believe you need to (preferably in some form of diary), give your opinion freely, but leave that right to others as well.

If you really can't handle keeping this site up, quit and leave it to someone who can take pride in the fact that they are doing what they are told to, and doing it well.

</TERSE> I really do need to learn how to stop waffling on.

Ethics of being employed. (3.60 / 5) (#29)
by Seumas on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:34:03 PM EST

In this day and age, your job really has little to do with your ethics or your employer, unfortunately. Quitting because you don't like the way your employer does business or what they support is not realistic, if you want to be employed, continue to be employable elsewhere, and put food on the table and money in your savings account.

There are many things I dislike with some of the attitude statements and practices of the company I work for, but I don't think I'd ever quit my job over it, because I like having a pay check and I like the idea of someone else hiring me in the future. On top of that, your quitting isn't going to mean dick to your employer and won't change a thing.

I'm not intentionally trying to sound cynical -- I just honestly don't see this happening anymore.
I just read K5 for the articles.

Rights (3.20 / 5) (#36)
by Devil Ducky on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:40:59 PM EST

It matters not what you believe.

Your personal ethics must be thrown out the moment you start work. If these minor annoyances are too much for you, quit. Once you quit, complain to the owners, make your own website, etc... You can't crack them. What's the difference between a "Cracker" and a "Hacktivist"? Nothing.

While I may not agree with people yelling that "Guns are bad, ummkay," I also disagree with everything ever said by: the KKK, Pat Buchannan, Florida, my roommate, or Pokemon; but all of these people have a right to speak. I can no more attack their rights as I would want them to attack mine. If you can't stand it; argue with them, or ignore them.

Until you realize this very simple principle, you don't understand what freedom is.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
huh? (3.80 / 5) (#37)
by delmoi on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:54:18 PM EST

Your personal ethics must be thrown out the moment you start work.

That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. I mean, If you believe that your employer is doing something that is morally wrong then why the hell shouldn・t you stop it? I mean really, if you worked for a company that was killing people, and you didn・t think that just .blowing the whistle・ would stop it, then why shouldn・t you sabotage them? Why should morality or ethics be beholden to a pay check. I would never, ever make any guaranties to my employer to subvert my ethics, nor would I ever expect one.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
huh? (3.33 / 3) (#38)
by delmoi on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:54:20 PM EST

Your personal ethics must be thrown out the moment you start work.

That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. I mean, If you believe that your employer is doing something that is morally wrong then why the hell shouldn・t you stop it? I mean really, if you worked for a company that was killing people, and you didn・t think that just .blowing the whistle・ would stop it, then why shouldn・t you sabotage them? Why should morality or ethics be beholden to a pay check. I would never, ever make any guaranties to my employer to subvert my ethics, nor would I ever expect one.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
I guess I goofed... (4.20 / 5) (#46)
by Jin Wicked on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:52:27 AM EST

Your personal ethics must be thrown out the moment you start work.

So, I guess I should still have that telemarketing job I had. You know, the one that calls you with an automated message telling you you've gotten something for free (in this case, a pager) to get you to call back and leave your #, then someone calls you back and tries to sell you something?

In case you've never worked at one of these places, they don't tell you they're lying bastards at the job interview.

While I believe that he should support other people's right to have an opinion, he should not under any circumstances have to do it against his will. Defacing their website would be an extremely immature way of expressing himself, and if he cannot bring himself to support them even on the grounds of free speech, then he should simply quit his position. Note that free speech does not include if the site is stealing in one way or another, or deliberately misleading people for profit, in which case they should be brought out into the light. I agree with you in those respects.

It's the people who do throw out all their ethics for money that work in companies that swindle the elderly and run schemes like I was involved in, which pervert current laws and legislation to get away with it. The author simply needs to decide which ethic is more important to him -- supporting everyone's right to free speech, or the his issues with the site being hosted.

This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.

[ Parent ]
Jobs and Ethics (3.50 / 2) (#53)
by schporto on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:14:11 AM EST

Your personal ethics don't need to be tossed the moment you start a job. Its always within your ability to say "This is not right." and quit. The thing is we all mitigate our ethics to some degree. In today's world and economy things are so intertwined that you can only control what's within one step of yourself. And even that becomes very dificult. For instance (and work with me here these are example not nessecarily true of you)...
Most people consider tobacco companies bad. Yet they'll buy Kraft Mac & Cheese - a division of Philip Morris.
Most people consider 'sweatshops' bad - yet do you research every piece of clothing to find out its exact origin or even find out if that 'sweatshop' was actually better then most of the other working conditions there?
Do you know all of the things you company helps support? The little donations it makes to charities?
What about the charities company X supports? You know company X who you just bought product Y from?
Pollution is bad - yet you're reading this at a monitor that's using electricity that's being made somehow....
My point is that you mitigate you ethics any time you do just about anything. If you didn't you'd be stuck doing nothing and die. You couldn't live in the woods cuz that would distupt the environment there. And the city would offend you. So you say "OK I care about what my company does and I don't think this is right, but its not that bad. That on the other hand is enough to make me quit." And quit you do. Its merely a matter of finding your tolerence level. That tolerence level is something you have to decide for yourself. Not something we could even fairly suggest.
If you're gonna get offended at every little unethical thing that you may accidentally support - I would suggest curling up in a ball and whimpering now.

[ Parent ]
Further (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:24:44 PM EST

I did say that if you can't take what the job is requiring of you to quit.

When referring to "minor annoyances" I was only talking about this particular situation.

If you ever in a job where you feel that what your boss is making you do is immoral or illegal, it is your responsibility to quit. You are not supposed to whine, especially to deaf ears. You also can NOT keep your job while sabotaging or outright attacking, your employer or customer!

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Oh the delimma (3.50 / 6) (#41)
by ebunga on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 01:18:01 AM EST

Follow your heart. Nobody else can decide what is right for you except for you. For me, when I have to do things for a site or individual I don't personally agree with or simply hate, I still do my job as I am expected to. Sure, when the customer is off the phone, I'll be swearing up a storm, but I still act in a professional manner when dealing with the user. I generally try not to let it bother me. It is my duty to do system administration tasks, not judge whether a site should or shouldn't be on the Internet. If you don't do you job properly, and deface a site yourself, or let things be lax so that another can do the same, that is censorship, something I'm sure you don't like.

If it's between this (1.25 / 4) (#42)
by spacejack on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 01:38:05 AM EST

and shooting cow-orkers, then I say go for it.

get another job (3.00 / 4) (#43)
by mattc on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 02:16:13 AM EST

It's pretty easy to get another job... I would just quit.. I've had a previous experience with dealing with a certain scummy company .. I ended up quitting. It was the right thing to do.

but don't forget to (2.50 / 2) (#50)
by axxeman on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 08:04:08 AM EST

put some backdoors in before you go :)

Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest
[ Parent ]

i believe we have a winner (3.66 / 3) (#51)
by axxeman on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 08:15:11 AM EST

*digs around k5 for that "troll scoring system" article or diary*

ladies and gentlemen, we have a high score :)

Altho I must admit I almost voted positively entirely on the basis of the subject line :)

Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest

Passive Resistance is futile. (2.33 / 3) (#52)
by Holloway on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 08:56:01 AM EST

If you leave they'll replace you. Passive resistance to offensive things doesn't achieve much. If you find it offensive others in the public light may have similar opinions - have you considered leaking private information to do damage to these companies?

Photos, recorded conversations, raw copy, office memos, can be useful. Leak it anonymously to sympathising groups. Get a reporter on your side and you don't even have to meet, just on the phone and sending packages.

Recorded conversations are the best. People are rarely careful with their wording and when transcripted they can look more evil than they are. If you can talk to the advertising guy who made the media laughing at 3rd world countries you should be able to get some tasty quotes.

My only advice is to ensure you can't be traced. Get quotes from people when there are a few others around. Wait a week or two until you leak the information unless it's time sensitive. eg, if schtuff keeps appearing in the papers the next day then people will remember their conversations with you - if it's two weeks ago it's considerably more hazzy and you may be masked in similar conversations since then.

== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

Problem is (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by Robert Gormley on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 03:00:30 AM EST

... these companies are doing nothing wrong. He considers them wrong, but that does not make them wrong. His pro-gun rant in the middle is written from the slant that you're a wacko if you're anti-gun and that any sane and rational person would be pro-gun because of the facts.

Whereas what you are advocating is unethical, unprofessional, immoral, and in no way defensible.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

[ Parent ]

Convert the natives to shiny Christianity! (none / 0) (#77)
by Holloway on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 06:43:37 AM EST

He considers them wrong, but that does not make them wrong.

You're kidding right? Of course it does. He considers it wrong therefore it's wrong. There is no higher authority on the matter (except maybe many people's opinion of what's wrong).

... these companies are doing nothing wrong.

Again, a rather empty statement when what's "wrong" is subjective - a matter of opinion. It's not illegal, probably, but it's clearly wrong in his eyes (and also wrong in my eyes when it comes to making fun of 3rd world countries - but not the pro-guns).

Whereas what you are advocating is unethical, unprofessional, immoral, and in no way defensible.

I really hate missionary types and that's how your post comes off. You talk about "immoral" when that's entirely subjective, and "unethical" as if you know the societal background of the guy. "Unprofessional" as if the standards within his profession are broken by giving information (the truth) about his job. He probably hasn't signed a non-disclosure agreement. Talking about what goes on there to a reporter, recording conversations, making copies of documents - this is legal in most countries.

Some call it "whistle blowing", which - in some cases - has been shown to be moral and ethical to the masses. A certain amount of whistle blowing is professional too when the decision makers may not have the greater company's interests at heart and there are bigger fish up the corporate ladder (what a strange sentence). Leaking company information to the media (or sending it to anyone) when it's not copyrighted, when it's not marked private, and when no NDAs have been signed has been defended in the UK and the US.

Not everyone's morals, ethics, or professionalism (bah!) are the same. Immoral my arse. I think.

No wait, forget all that.

== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]

Passive resistance (4.00 / 2) (#73)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 08:55:15 AM EST

Passive resistance to offensive things doesn't achieve much.

Yeah, we all know that those losers Gandhi and ML King achieved almost nothing using passive resistance.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
[ Parent ]

What I meant was... (1.00 / 1) (#76)
by Holloway on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 06:04:33 AM EST

OK, passive resistance mostly doesn't achieve much. If I don't like a phone company then not signing up with them isn't going to do much. You need either numbers (like Ghandi), money, or the media on your side. Similarly, if he quits his job (if most anyone quit their job) it won't affect the company and it won't get them to change their ways.

== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]
Resistance is futile (none / 0) (#79)
by spaceghoti on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 05:50:27 PM EST

I'd like to point out that while the passive resistance favored by Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. was effective, they didn't just quietly go their own way and let their issues blow over. They made a lot of noise, talked to a lot of people and raised public awareness. What they did NOT do and actively lobbied against was violent resistance, which is where the "passive" part of "passive resistance" comes from. Resisting without violence. Public demonstrations and lobbies are considered legal passive resistance so long as no one throws a rock or shoots a gun. MLK did a lot of shouting in his time and was still considered "passive" due to the trend of violence at the time.

Now, of course, how does this relate to the topic on hand? The point is that simply leaving a job that one has a moral/philosophical objection to is passive resistance, but that sort of resistance is futile. No one pays attention because they're no reason for them to question why you've done it. The company most certainly won't put out a bulletin that one of their employees left because of moral obligations. They'll shrug and hire someone else less finicky. So the key is to post your objections online, to call news agencies and advise them of this site and your opinion of it. But beware, you'll be calling publicity and interest to topics you might want to shut down. You really can't buy advertising that good. People cried foul at Victoria Secrets' ads during that one Superbowl, but the website they advertised got well over 3 million hits in a very short time, and the number stayed up because of the controversy created.

Public lobbying is a two-edged sword. You can try to raise awareness about a moral or philosophical issue, but if your views aren't popular or if there are people who didn't know before and are curious about the topic, all you're going to do is draw more attention to the issue and possibly make it even more popular.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Ethical dilemma? (4.87 / 8) (#54)
by Alarmist on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:24:51 AM EST

I had a conversation very much like this with a friend last night. Here's what I told him:

You are a professional. Either you do your job and do it well, or you find something else to do for a living. Your personal feelings do not enter into it, and should not be used as an excuse to sabotage or undermine the company or its clients. If you have ethical or moral concerns about what's going on, then find something else to do for a living and protest against your former company.

That's what I would do.

Perhaps Auzzie's SysAdmin. (3.66 / 3) (#56)
by broody on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:49:22 AM EST

The title of this piece is excellent, grabbed my attention and held it but I cannot help feeling that the article did not live up to title. For some reason I was expecting bomb making instructions, child pornography, or snuff flicks on the servers.

As a first admendment zealot, I would have no problems with any of the sites you mention, nor sites much more extreme. If a company is foolish enough to ridicule developing world poverty in it's ads, let them make travel the road to bankruptcy. If an organization wants to spout fanatical anti-gun rants, the can ramble themselves into obscurity. If people are taken in by line noise of the objectional organization of the week, what does it really matter anyway; we're lost. In short, I would let them make asses of themselves and see what happens.

I get the impression that you have an overdeveloped sense of morality. This is not a judgement, just an observation based on a single essay. The examples seem to be rather mild compared to what is lurking out there. I mention this because finding someplace that meets your ethical requirements may be difficult.

I have been in a similar place myself and the most apt quote describing this time in my life came from John Cusak's character Loyd in "Say Anything":

" A career? I've thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I dont want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I dont want to do that. My father's in the army. He wants me to join, but I can't work for that corporation, so what I've been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new sport...as far as career longevity, I dont really know. I cant figure it all out tonight, sir, so I'm just gonna hang with your daughter."

To some extent I think elements of this worldview are still present in my thinking. Programming seems to be one of the more intangable professions.

Ok back on topic and on to the advice part of this rambling mess. Do what you Whilt. The essay seems to lean strongly towards leaving your company. If this is a regular thought, do it but find another first. Consider posting your reasons for leaving far and wide, make your objections known to world. Lastly if you must hack and deface the site, more power to you, but I think you could find much safer & apporpiate targets.

Speaking as a discordian pope, you are forgiven but probably don't realize it.

~~ Whatever it takes
A tough dilemma (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by Bad Mojo on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:54:37 AM EST

Are you a SysAdmin who's pro-gun, or a pro-gun SysAdmin?

A SysAdmin is a mercenary. You do a job for money. If you were a military merc, you would have to draw your own line about what you will or won't do. At some point, you won't do a job, no matter how much money is involved, and that is your choice. Some people might agree to kill women and children for millions, others might do it for less, some might draw the line there and not do it at all. Some people won't let their morals overlap with their income. Some people will. Neither is right or wrong.

If it's worth the money, and the price is right, do your job. If the job keeps you up at night and the money isn't worth it, quit and find another job.

-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

Excellent! (4.00 / 3) (#63)
by error 404 on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 01:44:22 PM EST

You are asking the hard questions.

But the answers are hard, too.

As I see it, it is a question of moral balance and judgement. You are unlikely to ever find yourself in a position of total agreement with what you are doing. Even in situations where the big goals are completely admirable, you end up with details and internal politics that lead to moral questions. And on the other end of the spectrum, you run into the KKK and Osama Bin Laden sites.

So you have to decide your level of moral opposition. Short of a personal state of war, I would hope that personal integrity would lead you to do the job with dilligence, or quit. My levels:

  1. Enthusiastic support
  2. Approval
  3. Professional detatchment - possibly with expressed concerns
  4. Refusal to participate
  5. Total war
The day-to-day practical decision-consequences of the first three levels are pretty minimal. I'll do my level best for them. I'll probably find more energy and inspiration for the higher levels, but my personal integrity demands that if I do a job, I do it well. I'll give %100 regardless, but if I'm in a great situation, that's %100 of something bigger.

Most bad situations fall somewhere toward the bottom edge of professional detatchment, and involve a strain to integrity because of need for the job. It sounds to me like that's where you are. I might, for example, find myself having to do a web site for the Republican Party because I was short on cash. I'd do a solid, professional job. I probably wouldn't have any particularly creative ideas to add, but if I did, I'd use them. I would give full value for the pay. No back doors. No land mines. No doing a job I can't take technical pride in.

I don't have a level between refusal to participate and total war. That lack of middle ground is a serious moral decision. I won't, for example, do a half-assed job on the KKK web site. I am not currenty (nor have I really ever been - temporarily pissed off doesn't count) in a personal state of war, but it could happen. In a state of war, integrity is suspended. Should I ever do a web site in a state of war (I don't know exactly where my personal line is, but I suspect there would have to be lives on the line) there will be back doors. There will be nasty bits of code. There will be as much badness as I can produce. But there is no middle ground.

A lot of my personal ethics ignores the effectiveness of my actions. I have no illusions that my refusal to produce a web site for the KKK inconveniences them. And perhaps if I offered to do one and did it poorly, that would cause them some well-deserved grief. But it would cost my integrity.

So the moral question is where you draw the line? How much do you hold your nose between professional detatchment and refusal to participate? Or is this bad enough for total war? (Simple heuristic: if you have to think about it, it isn't enough for total war.) Is it bad enough that attacking it is worth sacrificing your integrity, your job, your reputation? The sacrifice of integrity is very serious. If you are at war, every paycheck you cash is a theft. I wouldn't go there just because a trusted position happens to give me an easy shot at a deserving target.

On a less heavy level, if the situation is as ugly as it sounds, it probably isn't great resume-fodder in the long run. Send out those feelers, activate that personal network, and move on when you get the chance.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

It's not black and white. (3.50 / 2) (#64)
by gregf on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 01:55:40 PM EST

My 2 cents.

If you're as good a sysadmin as you say, you can sneeze and get a job, regardless of the economy.

I've received several offers for work in the following:

  • spam generation
  • RIAA contracts
I'll work for neither. You need to draw the line somewhere. Where, and how, is the complicated part.

I think saying 'it's a job' as a rationalle for not following your conscience is a very, very, very dangerous thing. I'm sure several nazis responsible for stoking several furnaces had this attitude.

Separation of church and state: Good.
Separation of business from personal morality: Bad.

It also doesn't mean you need to quit. There are all sorts of constructive ways short of quitting to be a person who is true to their morals. Write a letter. Call a congressman. Make a suggestion, and make it seriously, not as an offhand, cynical, under-the-breath-comment-that-the-marketing-guys-would-expect-from-a-tech-type. Speak up, in some professional way.

There are some companies out there with a moral charter in their business plan (i.e. they wont work for causes they deem morally reprehensible). I would encourage every business owner to think about implementing this.

It's just good kharma.


Oh, and.. (2.50 / 2) (#65)
by gregf on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 02:01:22 PM EST

There are several things you mention:

  • Freedom of expression
  • Gun control rights
How do you personally sort these out?
Do you feel like you can live with other people's views and means of expression, no matter how personally reprehensible?
I'm interested in this question because you are, in some respects, facilitating delivery a message you don't agree with. Does this make you proud from a First Amendment perspective? Sad from a Second Amendment perspective?



amendments... (none / 0) (#74)
by Spin on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 09:01:28 AM EST

Remember... the author is not an American!

[ Parent ]
Peer Review (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by Fred Nerk on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:14:02 PM EST

Another thing I didn't think of before, but reading these comments has reminded me.

The problem (or maybe the benefit) of the IT industry, is that it's so small. Everything you do adds to your name and your reputation. People like Linus Torvalds or RMS are not better people, but they have at least earned my trust due to what they have written or said.

Even if your attack on the above web page is small, people will notice. It may only be one of your co-workers who will do nothing about it, but that co-worker may be in a position to hire you in the future, and believe me they will remember.

I'm confused, and some suggestions. (4.00 / 2) (#72)
by Mr Tom on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 07:30:40 AM EST

You work for an /advertising/ /agency/, and you're troubled over the content of a site you maintain?

You were damned as soon as you started that job, old boy. ;-)

Seriously, though. If you really have trouble with a site that you host, talk it over with whoever makes the business decisions, and raise the question of whether you actually /want/ this client. You might get laughed at for suggesting that you drop a client voluntarily, but there are som good reasons for doing so:

* 80% of profit is made from 20% of customers (generally) - is this company actually making you enough money?

* If they're unethical, should you tar your company's good image (?) by associating with them?

* Are other employees finding that working for this company causes them some personal conflicts of interest? Does this damage their productivity?

But I echo what everyone else has said - do your job well, or not at all. There's no point in making yourself look less talented than you are.

-- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.

How about a career field change ? (1.33 / 3) (#75)
by mami on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 07:14:33 PM EST

So that poor satan systema admin isn't getting confronted with so many "challenging" situations he can't face.

Aaah yes, life is so unfair, just thinking how many little businesses from the impoverished Third World countries get seriously screwed, just because they happen to have their sites hosted on the servers in the U.S. First World country, you are going to crack as soon as your nerves can't handle to look at what some other sites on those servers represent ....

Satan's Sysadmin | 79 comments (44 topical, 35 editorial, 0 hidden)
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