On Contravictions

Posted on Thu 07 October 2021 in talk-submissions • 3 min read

This is a talk I submitted1 to DevOpsDays Tel Aviv 2021, which used a non-anonymized CfP process via PaperCall. This submission was rejected.


On Contravictions

Elevator Pitch

You have 300 characters to sell your talk. This is known as the “elevator pitch”. Make it as exciting and enticing as possible.

A contraviction is when a person firmly believes that two objectively mutually exclusive standpoints are simultaneously true. Being contravinced makes you extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Here’s how to spot a contraviction, and what to do about them.

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Talk (~25-40 minutes)

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The description will be seen by reviewers during the CFP process and may eventually be seen by the attendees of the event. You should make the description of your talk as compelling and exciting as possible. Remember, you’re selling both the organizers of the events to select your talk, as well as trying to convince attendees your talk is the one they should see.

“Contraviction” is a term I use for when a person is firmly convinced of two sides of an obvious contradiction. This may sound like it would be an unusual and rare occasion, and yet, once you start looking, they are all over the place. A few examples:

  • At the core of Nazi ideology in Germany in the 1920s and 30s was the notion that Jews are engaged in a successful global conspiracy to subjugate all nations including the German nation, and that Jews were also, simultaneously, socially, intellectually, economically, and morally inferior to Germans.

  • At the core of religious extremism is the belief that God is all-forgiving and merciful, and also that as long as a portion of humanity (“infidels”) displeases God, all of humanity must suffer God’s wrath. We see this in contemporary Islamic extremism, but Catholicism in the 16th century did no better in the conquest of Latin America, nor did Western Christianity do much differently during the medieval crusades.

  • At the core of Trumpism is the notion that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth and that there is no better nation nor will there ever be, but also that America has been ruined by “the liberals” and has slipped into inferiority, so that it is necessary to “make America great again.”

In all these examples, both statements can logically be false, or one of them could theoretically be true — but if one is true, the other one must be false. And yet, people (millions of people!) hold or held both of these statements to be true, simultaneously.

But being contravinced puts people in a very vulnerable position: if someone gets you to believe both sides of a contradiction, they can logically argue anything to follow from either one side, or the opposite. Which means they can convince you of anything. And that never ends well.

This talk defines contravictions, highlights examples (even devopsy ones!) and provides suggestions on how to uncover and dismantle them. Because contravictions have the potential to poison and destroy discourse, and that’s a cultural issue we all need to deal with — among friends, family, and coworkers.


Notes will only be seen by reviewers during the CFP process. This is where you should explain things such as technical requirements, why you’re the best person to speak on this subject, etc…

Given the fact that the nature of this topic is sensitive and emotional — yes I, an Austrian, will be talking about Nazi ideology, in Israel, consider me terrified — I’ll need to submit this on the condition that I’d only want to deliver this talk in person. If that does not permit itself on account of the Covid-19 situation or of travel restrictions, and I would have to rely on a streamed talk and have no way of reading the room or scanning the audience for body language feedback (some more details on this topic here), then I’d rather not give the talk at all, rather than stream it.

If this disqualifies the talk (or if you just consider it too controversial to begin with), no hard feelings at all.


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Culture, Communications

  1. If you’re curious why this is here, please read this