Your analysis of the US tragedy was wholly devoid of human kindness

So the Americans had it coming to them because, as you declare in your editorial, "American values too easily come over as shallow and hypocritical".

And what values are those, exactly? A plural society? Respect for the individual? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion? Equal opportunity? The rule of law? If these concepts have "signally failed to inspire the Third World young", why are these very people, as you also point out, flocking to live in the west? Might it be because only in societies that foster such values do they have any chance of improving themselves?

And even on so terrible an occasion, you cannot resist the regulation cheap dig at Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, suggesting that they and others in America's "small band of disciples" are the only people truly inspired by the US. To them, you might add nearly everyone who has ever visited the country and seen a truly free - if obviously flawed - society in action, as well as the millions who have been expressing their sympathy so genuinely all over the world.

Michael Leapman
London SW8

Had I wished, last week, to buy the Palestine Liberation Organisation fanzine - you know, the one with guest editor David Spart and printed in a cave outside Kabul - then I would have done so. As it was, I was forced, much against my will, to spend far too long in contemplation both of your shame and your lack of it.

Carol Sarler
London N4

I hardly think of myself as a "USA right or wrong" sort of person. And I have long admired the New Statesman for its independence of opinion. But the tone of your latest issue made me sick and ashamed. Not all values are relative. Not all means to ends can be condoned as "understandable".

Professor Catherine Jones Finer
University of Birmingham and St Antony's College, Oxford

Your leader has managed to cross the borderline from merely nauseating to genuinely obscene. The clear implication is that it is entirely justifiable for 5,000 people to be murdered just because there is a Republican in the White House. Most people in New York would not have voted for him anyway - but hey, they still deserved it. How apt that you should end with a drivelling quotation from Bertolt Brecht, Stalinist toady and apologist for mass murderers.

Michael Schachter
London NW6

In the midst of a grim and disturbing week, the NS rose to the occasion. The good sense and vision in your leader and John Lloyd's article were exactly right. The attacks on the innocent in Washington and New York have made the priority of an unremitting global commitment to social, economic and political justice and to effective humanitarianism more essential than ever.

The tragedy at the end of the 20th century was that we were too easily settling for managing what we could materially have, rather than struggling for what we could be. Intellectualism, decency, compassion, reason, service and selflessness were increasingly out of fashion. Quantity had eclipsed quality. Greed, short-termism and soundbites had prevailed.

Those responsible for more than 5,000 terrifying and agonising deaths should be brought to justice. But that has to be done in the context of a transparent and powerful determination on our part to do everything possible to protect the innocent and to root out the injustice and suffering that provide the breeding grounds for extremists and fanatics.

Lord Judd
House of Lords, London SW1

The origins of contemporary world terrorist activities do not lie in the Middle East conflict, nor even in oil power, but in the fact that we now inhabit a world "in which there is only one superpower", as you emphasise.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and communism as a world ideology has left a huge ideological (and even a spiritual) vacuum in global affairs. In the absence of an ideological alternative to market capitalism, now being pushed to its global limits, the impoverished, the deprived and the powerless have been moving increasingly towards a tribal terrorism whose objective is the blind destruction of capitalism.

There is now no superpower able to offer an ideological rationale to this protest. A Gorbachev-era Soviet Union might well have been capable of this; but that is history. China is not yet in that slot. But Europe could be if there was any coherence to the real option: democratic socialism. It is absolutely vital - indeed, even in the interests of the United States - that there be a bipolar ideological choice, so that generations, especially the young, do not continue to cry out in despair and even resort to terrorism.

Geoffrey Goodman
London NW7

As one who deeply loves the best of things that come from America, not least its people, I write in congratulation of the brilliant and courageous perspective you gave to the tragic events in the US on 11 September. Where others blurted words of belligerent inappropriateness in the face of this devastation, you showed an extraordinary determination to set out its causes and a plurality of viewpoints. You signpost an urgent and civilised way forward to ensure that such barbarous acts, on all sides, motivated by hatred and incomprehension, may not happen again. In this, you show yourselves to be the best kind of friend to the American people and to democracy.

Ian Flintoff
London SW6

What a comfort to read your edition "In the name of God". Thank you for such enlightened articles casting a more sane light on events than hitherto. If you can in any way guide events to stop a hysterical response by the US military, I would be glad.

Helene R Perrin-Summers
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

This article first appeared in the 24 September 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The war that Bush cannot win

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.