Pressure Tells

It looks as if the long-running “Moongate” saga is coming to an end at last. From today’s World SF News I learned that Wiscon has decided to rescind their invitation to Elizabeth Moon to be one of their Guests of Honor for next year on account of the bizarre Islamophobic blog post she made earlier this year.

From a con-running point of view, this is a highly contentious issue. I don’t think anyone who has been involved in running a convention, or being a Guest of Honor, will be entirely comfortable about this. From one point of view it seems very much like a witchhunt was launched against Moon, and that the convention caved in to pressure. Exactly the same tactics could be used to force another convention to rescind an invitation to a guest because she is lesbian, or a feminist. Indeed, I’m sure someone out there in fandom is just itching to launch such a campaign.

But no decision takes place in a vacuum, and this one has taken a long time to happen. I’m sure that much discussion took place, both in public and in private. At least some people claim to have talked to Moon. Possibly they hoped she would issue some sort of retraction. Obviously she hasn’t done so, or we would have heard about it.

The public reaction has included discussion of the most suitable response, should Moon stay as a GoH. This has, to some extent, had the beneficial effect of putting the issue in the limelight. All sorts of people have written excellent posts challenging what Moon wrote. But at the same time Muslim and PoC fans were unhappy that they were being, as they saw it, required to defend their right to be at Wiscon. And many people simply didn’t want the atmosphere of the convention ruined by demonstrations. I suspect that quite a few people simply decided not to go this year. Membership take-up comparisons with previous years would be interesting.

It is worth noting that the decision to rescind Moon’s GoHship appears to have been taken by Wiscon’s parent organization, not by the convention committee itself. This is exactly the sort of thing that parent organizations are for. A convention committee is almost certainly personally invested in the decisions it has taken. They may see the attacks on Moon as personal attacks against themselves. The parent organization is not so closely involved. Also it is less interested in the current year’s event, and more in the long term health of the convention. You have to assume that they felt the affair was doing Wiscon a lot of damage.

My own feelings on this have been very conflicted. As a Director of an organization that runs conventions I find the whole thing very scary, and I quite understand that many authors feel that a bad precedent has been set.

I’m also generally opposed to the whole “with us or against us” attitude that seems to have driven much of the debate. Moon’s comments might have been abominable, but I’m sure that there are very many Americans, and indeed British people, who think pretty much the same things. They have all been listening to the nonsense pumped out by the popular media over issues like the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”, and now apparently a new panic about Islamic superheroes. Had this turned into an opportunity to get Moon to change her mind, it would have been a good thing. That hasn’t happened, and possibly the ferocity of the original response played a part in that.

Mostly, however, I don’t go in for confrontation on issues like this because I don’t expect to win. I’m so used to being patted on the head and told that the concerns of trans people are not a political priority, and that complaining will only make us more unpopular, that I have internalized that idea. I tend to opt for consciousness raising rather than confrontation. Why jump up and down and yell and get people hating you if you are only going to lose?

Look, for example, at what happened last year when Stonewall chose the rabidly transphobic Julie Bindel as their Journalist of the Year. My friends in London demonstrated outside the award ceremony, but the British LG community closed ranks and thumbed their noses. So much so that they have nominated another transphobic journalist this year: Bill Leckie, who has even drawn criticism from Stonewall Scotland for one of his offensive articles.

Given the way that feminism goes, I’m sure that Wiscon has had transphobic GoHs in the past. I suspect it will in future. One of the reasons I stopped going to Wiscon was that it became clear to me that I was the wrong sort of trans person for them. If I wanted to be more open about myself, Wiscon would not be a safe space for me. So I stopped going, rather than complain.

But you know, strange things happen. Because also in my morning blog feeds today was this article from Pink News. What do you know, Stonewall has caved too! Maybe yelling does work after all.

So where are we? Have we found ourselves in a world of mob rule where anyone with a following on the Internet can hound innocent writers and convention committees into doing their bidding? Or have we found ourselves in a world in which the ignorant expression of hatred for people you have defined as different, and therefore inferior and immoral, has become socially unacceptable?

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59 Responses to Pressure Tells

  1. G says:

    I don’t follow sf “gates” so closely, but what I have seen of “Moongate” is, much as what was done to Diana Gabaldon, just ridiculous. As a Jew and an American living in Germany, I have very strong feelings on unintegrated Muslims and the danger that they- as per quite clear police reports- pose to me and my family. I think pretending this is not true- against the reality- is ridiculous and offensive. And hounding someone who states what they believe is true- unless provably false- seems ridiculous.

    • Elspeth says:

      (For some reason my comments don’t seem to be threading.)

      Off topic but could you post a link concerning what happened to Diana Gabaldon? I seem to have missed this one.

      • Cheryl says:

        The rant that got Gabaldon into trouble was anti-fanfic, not racist or Islamophobic.

      • If you’re willing to brave the “Fandom_Wank” community, there are screencaps.

        The short version? Gabaldon hates fanfic. No, that’s not an exaggeration or unwise choice of words. And while I support an author’s right to manage his or her creations (including “here’s an authorized fanfic environment” and “do what you want, but I don’t want to know about it”) comparing fanfic to baby-rape (ok, that is exaggeration, she only compared fanfic to breaking-and-entering, burglary and selling one’s children into white slavery) is a great way to generate backlash among one’s fans.

        In the end she went farther than Moon. She didn’t just pull down comments and arguments, she pulled down the whole post. In both cases, though, this is the internet and content is forever.

  2. I’m hoping that we’re reaching the point where “the ignorant expression of hatred for people you have defined as different, and therefore inferior and immoral, has become socially unacceptable?”

    Because characterizing the reasonable objections to Moon as GoH as “mob rule” falls under the same sort of fallacies as the infamous statements made by members of the SF establishment over the past two years.

    • Cheryl says:

      Bill: What exactly are you trying to imply here?

      • Nick Mamatas says:

        That by saying “From one point of view it seems very much like a witchhunt was launched against Moon, and that the convention caved in to pressure” without even a nod toward, frankly, the reality-based community point of view that it was nothing at all like a witchhunt, that you’re basically mischaracterizing the events.

        • Cheryl says:

          No, Nick, I am reporting how other people characterize it. If you can’t talk about how other people feel about an issue without being accused of taking their side, how are we going to have any sort of reasonable debate?

          • Nick Mamatas says:

            Well Cheryl, you CAN talk about how other people characterize something, generally by casting a wide net and reporting on what the range of common opinions is. Your choice here instead, was to select a single ghastly perspective and then offer what amounts to a defense of it by noting that you don’t support confrontation and are opposed to some whole “with us or against us” attitude that isn’t in evidence. Then you also note that Moon’s comments might have been abominable (oh, might they?) but they are certainly common (indeed, perhaps even as common as “Blacks are thuggish rapists and fat welfare queens” or “The transgendered are freaks and should be treated as such”) without even a wink toward, you know, reality.

            So you can hardly blame Bill or myself if you chose the extremely poor rhetorical strategy of reporting what some people have said and then reinforcing it with your own opinions.

          • Cheryl says:

            *sigh* I hoped I had written it better than that. Obviously I hadn’t.

          • Tempest says:

            You said below:

            I hoped I had written it better than that. Obviously I hadn’t.

            I agree with this statement.

  3. Terry Frost says:

    There are several writers whose works I boycott because of their publically expressed opinions. I reserve the right to decide whether I give money, or even attention to, authors with whom I strongly disagree.

    Utopian has become a dirty word lately, but I always see conventions as an utopian environment. Would I go to a convention where the guest of honour has been espousing islamophobic speech?

    No.

    But having said that, as an atheist I find all religious beliefs, cultural rituals and patterns of behaviour both silly and restrictive of human potential. I realise people have a right to believe in deities and their strange edicts, but I find it alien to my own experience of the world.

    At the same time, I am deeply suspicious of those who seem to use terrorist attacks as an excuse to espouse a crypto-racist agenda. Some events in history offer an opportunity for us to empower our darker natures. The challenge is not to let fear turn us into our worst selves.

    If an author chooses to let that happen, then there are potential consequences, including the withdrawal of an invitation to be an honoured guest at a convention.

  4. Jonathan M says:

    While I think that Moon’s comments were crass, ill-informed and racist, I agree that there is a danger inherent in politicising the selection of GoHs. In theory, you are quite correct that some con somewhere could un-invite someone for being gay or trans or left-wing and while it is tempting to see this as not a problem the knock-on effect would be greater and greater divisions in fandom with right-wingers refusing to go to left-wing cons and left-wing fans boycotting any convention that attacks its political allies.

    However, as you suggest with your comments about why you don’t go to wiscon, is this not a problem already?

    • Cheryl says:

      Well, Wiscon has always had a political agenda. It is just unusual for them to invite someone whose views don’t mesh well with that agenda. The fear, I think, is that this may spread to all conventions. I think that’s probably overreacting, but I can see why authors, who after all live by expressing opinions, are worried.

      • Nick Mamatas says:

        I haven’t seen too many worried authors, frankly. A few, sure, but not many.

        Honestly, I also object to positions that boil down to, “This sort of behavior is bad because it may stand in the way of me, personally, receiving gifts from some entirely hypothetical section of fandom one day.” The proper test of whether some political action is good or bad is not, “But first, do I get mine? Do I continue to get mine no matter what?”

        • Cheryl says:

          It does lead you to question the value of a GoH invitation. But I’m not going to leap to conclusions as to why people are worried. They may have other reasons.

          • Nick Mamatas says:

            I also haven’t leapt to any conclusions. I’ve drawn them from close observation of and conversations with authors with a variety of opinions, many of whom I’ve known and have been friends or friendly with for five or more years.

  5. V says:

    G, I sympathize with your fear. But who’s to say who’s an “unintegrated Muslim”? I’m not saying we should talk about it here (I think that would be unproductive) but one of the points I think Cheryl is making in this post is that generalizations screw everybody over, in multiple contexts,and multiple ways.

    Going “meta” is useful for seriously considering topics.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Cheryl.

  6. Minz says:

    Thank you for talking the most evenhanded approach to this touchy subject that I’ve yet to see.

  7. Jo Hall says:

    Trying to see this from both sides, as a con-runner and one of those mouthy author types…it’s a tricky one. Yes, Moon is entitled to say what she wants on her own blog, but the runners of Wiscon have the equal right to turn around and say “look, we’re not comfortable with this.” Perhaps if she had clarified her remarks (or apologised for any offence caused) it might be a different matter, but as a con organiser, I’d be very wary of having such a controversial and potentially divisive figure as GoH. It could cause problems that may jepordise the running of the convention. And I think that has to be Wiscon’s priority, not whether or not they agree with her remarks.
    But I think the overall moral of this story is something along the lines of “engage brain before putting finger to keyboard, or you might suffer the consequences”. Should really be a moral for the whole internet, not just Elisabeth Moon’s little corner of it 😉

  8. farah says:

    G.

    I went to a wonderful school. It was and is a Jewish faith school in Birmingham. It is now 50% Muslim, mostly Muslims who prefer to have their children educated by Jews than Christians. Are they assimilated enough for you I wonder? Does it matter that as a faith school the Jews in it would be considered, by Moon, to have resisted assimilation also?

    I now teach at a London university: I have no idea to what degree my Muslim students are “assimilated” or not. I don’t ask. I don’t even know what it means. I just know that they are pretty wonderful people.

  9. I don’t see any reason to believe that ideology hasn’t been part of the GoH selection process for a long time. It’s just that usually the potential guest’s potentially inflammatory beliefs are known before the invitation might ever be issued, and the general public never knows that the name was proposed and rejected.

    • Cheryl says:

      You are absolutely right that ConComs have always been wary of selecting controversial GoHs. I’ve been through the process often enough.

      What I think people are afraid of is that now a precedent has apparently been set (though I’ve been reminded on Twitter – thanks Nick! – that this isn’t the first time an SF convention has rescinded a GoH invitation) that various interest groups will now start attacking the GoHs of other conventions.

      As Cat Valente has said elsewhere that concern ignores the fact that Wiscon is a very particular type of convention, and Moon upset a very large part of its regular constituency.

      What I tried to say here (and obviously failed dismally at) is that this is more than that. We are (I think and hope) getting to a point where a substantial part of society is losing patience with hate-mongering. That seems to me to be a good thing.

      • Wiscon has had controversial guests before. Over a decade ago, Sharyn McCrumb was very controversial at Wiscon because of her authorship of Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool and the perception that she was anti-fan.

        Of course, that was back in the dark times before social networking.

  10. Pingback: SF3 Cancels Elizabeth Moon as WisCon GoH « File 770

  11. Cheryl, I really appreciate this write-up. There’s a deep tension between standing up for shared values and honoring open and difficult (even divisive) conversation that you’ve captured in your reporting. I share your conflicted feelings.

    While I disagree deeply with Elizabeth’s dangerous, shallow and uninformed portrayal of Muslims and immigrants, I feel that the decision to rescind her invitation, while possibly justified in the context of the WisCon community, may help foster a general environment in which people who might otherwise explore and try to understand such issues online or in public discourse will instead bury their questions out of fear of social reprisals. For example, as I’m about to hit submit on this comment, I’m a bit worried that my public introspection will invite strong verbal attacks.

    • I think you’re illustrating things nicely. Not necessarily as you may have intended, but still nicely.

      Free speech is different from speech without consequence. Speech, even free, isn’t without consequence, and shouldn’t be without consequence.

      Here we’ve got Elizabeth Moon, from a relative position of strength (well-known professional in the field, invited guest of the convention) making what you describe (and I think rather charitably) as dangerous, shallow and uninformed portrayals of Muslims and immigrants. Unfortunately, they’re also somewhat popular, not just in America, portrayals of Muslims and immigrants.

      We’ve also got immigrant fans, fans of color, Muslim fans speaking, from a definite position of weakness, against that portrayal and against Wiscon’s endorsement of that portrayal.

      Two groups speaking. Moon’s consequences are having her invitation rescinded. But we’ve also got people who spoke against Moon and Wiscon’s support of her who experienced negative consequences (including at least one who was essentially driven from the concom).

      There’s nothing wrong with weighing consequences. If it’s important enough, say what you need to say and take your lumps, or nothing will ever change.

  12. Daedala says:

    I believe that you have ignored, or missed, a major component of the problem with Moon’s essay:

    She had hundreds comments. She responded to many of the people commenting, clarifying her position. And then she deleted them all:

    NOTE. Time to move the crowd outside and shut the door. All comments will be deleted, the slag recycled for another time, and no further comments made on this post. Whatever’s been said has been said, and answered, and resaid, and reanswered.

    The problem was not just her words. It was how she actually treated people, right there, in her post.

    • Cheryl says:

      Going into your shell when you feel yourself to be under threat is a fairly normal reaction for any animal. I’m not entirely surprised Moon did that in the heat of the moment, and she certainly isn’t the first to have done so. What disappoints me much more is that, given time for reflection, there has been no further response from her, despite attempts by people to mediate. Anyone can make a mistake. It is how you respond to learning that you have made one that matters.

      • Daedala says:

        The way she almost certainly removed the comments from her post is entirely reversible, even now, so heat-of-the-moment doesn’t really work for me.

        The way lj works, you can freeze individual comment threads (preventing further comments in the thread, but not elsewhere on the post), lock the whole post (leaving comments up but preventing further comments), disable comments (hiding all comments and preventing further comments), or delete each comment one by one. She had hundreds of comments, so I’m guessing she took the “disabled” option.

        If you change the setting from “disabled” to “locked,” all the comments come back, with a couple of clicks. Unless she went through and individually deleted them all, which seems unlikely.

        • Cheryl says:

          But that’s exactly my point. She removed the comments are the time because she was frightened, but she has since had plenty of time to reflect on the situation and do something about it. That could have been restoring the comments, which may well be technically feasible, or it could have been many other things. As far as I can make out, she’s done nothing.

          • Daedala says:

            Ah, ok, gotcha. I apologize; many people are arguing that deletion was the only choice, and it’s permanent, and somehow she can’t engage later, and so on. I’m sorry for projecting that argument on you.

          • Cheryl says:

            Glad we got that sorted. Thank you!

  13. Gary Farber says:

    “though I’ve been reminded on Twitter – thanks Nick! – that this isn’t the first time an SF convention has rescinded a GoH invitation”

    Perhaps it might not be too much trouble to mention who you are talking about?

    Thanks!

    “It is worth noting that the decision to rescind Moon’s GoHship appears to have been taken by Wiscon’s parent organization, not by the convention committee itself.”

    This is one way to read this, but another reading is that SF3 very carefully made a recommendation to the convention committee which has technically made its own decision. It’s probably best to get official wording on this if you want the fine detail.

  14. Gary Farber says:

    There are screencaps of at least some of what she deleted, for what it’s worth.

    Another set.

  15. Sean Wallace says:

    Cheryl may be referring to when William Sanders was soon disinvited from ICFA (International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts), back in 2008, for similar racist commentary.

  16. Gary Farber says:

    Thanks. I remember the Sanders thing, although I hadn’t read his retrospective version until now.

    As a scholarly organization, I tend to think of the ICFA as perhaps operating under somewhat different constraints from the normal self-organizing sf committee, but regardless, it’s certainly worth mentioning in the same conversation.

    • Cheryl says:

      While the IAFA is a scholarly organization, there is a large overlap between people who attend ICFA and people who attend other conventions, particularly Wiscon, which has an academic track of programming.

  17. Steve Cooper says:

    My sympathies go out to Wiscon on this in that the decision was going to be a hard one either way. In the end I think I might have come to the same decision.

    Not because Elizabeth Moon’s view are controversial, but from what I have heard about this affair, it’s the way she reacted to and eventually closed down folks attempts to discuss this with her about her views.

    If she had continued to be a GoH at Wiscon, these views would have inevitably been raised significantly with her at the convention and had she (as she I believe had indicated to the ConCom) taken the same approach and just shutdown discussion on this topic it would have resulted in a very disruptive convention.

    I have no problem with an authors or anybody else have controversial views. But if you do, you should be prepared to discuss them and if necessary defend them. Just telling folk who disagree with you that they just don’t understand where you are coming from and that’s the end of the discussion, may work on a blog. But it cannot work at a convention.

    If Elizabeth Moon was not prepared to have this as a major topic of discussion at Wiscon and to participate fully in that discussion then I doubt the Wiscon ConCom had much alternative as it was not an issue their membership would allow them to ignore.

  18. jeff vandermeer says:

    The intent of your post was clear to me, Cheryl, and I think one problem right now in the blogosphere generally–not just genre–is that everyone is seeming to assume ill-intent on everyone else’s part and not displaying much trust. One word wrong and you’re immediately in a whirlwind. But without some measure of trust,we are all lessened, frankly.

    I thought Moon’s post was bizarre, untruthful, stupid, etc, but I still think the Carl Brandon Society had the single most useful and coherent statement about this issue.

    And, in general, one controversy over one person should not result in radical changes to how we view GoH, especially as each con presumably does some research beforehand anyway. No corrective is necessary to deal with an issue that is specific to one person.

    JeffV

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  20. First, there was nothing “racist” in Elizabeth’s post, as has been claimed. That is an outright damned lie. It’s also an example of dangerous linguistic inflation, which eventually robs terms of all meaning.

    There was criticism of Islam (or some schools and interpretations thereof) in her post, which is entirely legitimate.

    Islam is an ideology, not an ethnic group — just like, exemplia gratia, Marxism or Christianity. Muslims, Christians and Marxists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, speak an infinite variety of languages, and so forth.

    All ideologies are fair game for the harshest criticism and nobody has a right to respond to such criticism except by attempted verbal refutation.

    Threats, harassment, exclusion from anything the people concerned would otherwise have had access to, or economic retaliation for speech are attempts at censorship, pure and simple. Public institutions, in particular, are required to show strict content-neutrality under the Constitution.

    Accusing her of racism in any form is rhetorical dirty pool; not an argument, but the discursive equivalent of throwing a punch, intended to demonize, delegitimize and silence.

    Arguments that speech you disapprove of should “have consequences” is simply a claim to ideological hegemony, and should be rejected with the contempt it deserves.

    I know a fair number of science fiction writers, and the overwhelming majority of them who’ve heard about this are unequivocally on Elizabeth’s side. Absolutely irregardless of what they think of her essay, too, by the way.

    “What a bunch of wankers at WisCon” is the consensus. WisCon and anyone involved with its sponsors or ConCom has certainly ensured the enduring hostility of a good many of us… and of anyone we have any influence over. As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Speech need not have consequences, but actions most certainly do.

    • Cheryl says:

      I have approved this comment because had I not done so I would doubtless have been accused of “censorship”. I note, however, that I find it deeply offensive, and I’m sure other people will as well. I don’t see any point in responding further to it, and I hope that other people will refrain from providing Mr. Stirling with any further excuse for the yelling contest he’s obviously fishing for.

      • I now declare this the sovereign state of Mewsignia, so you can actually be guilty of censorship when someone accuses you!

      • “I note, however, that I find it deeply offensive, and I’m sure other people will as well.”

        — noted, but frankly, so what? You’re offended, I’m offended, all God’s chillun is offended, and it doesn’t matter a damn.

        If you let other people’s feelings of “being offended” (or hurt, or alienated, or whatever) govern your speech or actions you’re making yourself the slave of the most easily offended and/or those most ready to claim to be offended.

        This is an obvious passive-aggressive rhetorical strategy much used these days, intended to ju-jitsu others by playing on their sense of courtesy.

        Therefore, alas, it makes courtesy a mug’s game.

        It’s like the little boy crying “wolf”. After a while, nobody cares any more.

        • Cheryl says:

          In which case you probably won’t mind me telling you that I think you are an idiot. If I were John Scalzi I would doubtless apply the loving mallet of correction, but I’m sure this would only lead to more pathetic whining on your part. Kindly grow up or go away.

    • Terry Frost says:

      Should a science fiction writer know that “irregardless” is not a word?

  21. farah says:

    Dear Mr. Stirling,

    I don’t have an issue with saying Muslims are not a race. This is indeed true.

    But as the entire argument can be summed up as: unless they follow my rules of behaviour I don’t want to engage and don’t think they should be in my space, I’m not sure that Ms Moon has a leg to stand on when others apply the same argument to her.

    The thing is, Elizabeth Moon *was* arguing for exclusion: you can argue that her statement was justified or unjustified, but it cannot be argued as unfair if she discovered that people think the same about her.
    Criticising Islam is fine, but that is not what happened.

    • It’s doubly ironic that this was all sparked over complaints of inadequate assimilation by the Muslims building the Park 51 community center.

      The last I looked, the folks organizing that effort were Sufis, part of a large, anti-extremist sect of Islam that tends to assimilate well into the communities in which it exists, those mythical Muslims who speak out against terrorism that the right refuses to admit exist.

      • Cheryl says:

        I don’t see any irony in it. If your intention is to spread discord and hatred then attacking the moderates amongst your victim group is a perfectly logical strategy. By going after Park 51 (not to mention going after The 99, which is a comic that opposes Islamic extremism) the hatemongers are simultaneously trying to convince Americans that all Muslims are a threat, no matter how moderate, and to convince the moderate Muslims that American hatred of Islam is irrational and implacable. That strategy seems to be working rather well, unfortunately.

      • >The last I looked, the folks organizing that effort were Sufis, part of a large, anti-extremist sect of Islam

        — ah, well, that’s a matter of definitions. For example, the guy behind the Cordoba Mosque (or Park 51, or all the crawfishing re-definitions, again) happens to have said on numerous occasions that Israel should become an Arab country.

        And other statements that some would consider quite extremist.

        Is he moderate compared to, shall we say, the average government newspaper in Egypt, where accusations of biological warfare against the US are common and approving quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are common?

        Oh, sure. By that standard. That’s a rather low standard, though.

        >those mythical Muslims who speak out against terrorism

        — some do, though not all that many. Few do so unconditionally, and the guy in question doesn’t; he equivocates, he hedges, he says one thing in English and another when speaking in Muslim countries, and so forth. He’s engaging in “dawa” and “dissimulation”, in other words.

        The reasons for this common phenomenon are complex (whole books are written on the subject) but the phenomenon is a fact.

        In essence, I’d say (and I suspect Elizabeth would too) you’re letting yourself fall into wishful thinking.

        >that the right refuses to admit exist.

        Glyph of irony; Elizabeth is actually a bit of a leftie. Go to her website and read the denunciations of George Bush and his foreign policy choices, for instance.

    • >I don’t have an issue with saying Muslims are not a race. This is indeed true.

      — well, we’re in agreement on that, then.

      >But as the entire argument can be summed up as: unless they follow my rules of behaviour I don’t want to engage and don’t think they should be in my space

      — actually, she was referring to the -national- rules of behavior (formal and informal), and the -national- space.

      Every country belongs to its citizens; they, and they alone (as expressed by their own internal debate and vote), have an unconditional right to determine who’s let in, and on what conditions they are allowed to join the national community.

      This is known as “national self-determination”, and many people think quite highly of it.

      I’m a naturalized immigrant myself, by the way.

      >I’m not sure that Ms Moon has a leg to stand on when others apply the same argument to her.

      — argument is not action. Democracy and free speech rest on a sharp distinction between words (or other symbolic acts) and physical actions.

      Between, for example, saying “I don’t like you” and on the other hand picking up a rock and hitting someone with it.

      >The thing is, Elizabeth Moon *was* arguing for exclusion:

      — no, she was arguing for uniform standards applied to all and no exceptions.

      • S Kennedy says:

        I don’t believe she was asking for universal standards for all – she asked muslims to walk away from purchasing an otherwise abandoned building because of their religion – something that we do not ask of any other faith.

        Moreso, her blog post conflated muslims in general, including the opinions of muslims outside of this country, with the opinions and circumstances of the actual citizens in question who want this center. Who live in the area affected, and who want to go to their “church” of choice like anyone else.

        Assuming they’ve acquired all the proper permits and the owner wants to sell it, they have every right to own that building – condemning them for actions that people have made up in their heads with no proof they are anti-social in any way is pretty antithetical to other deeply-held American beliefs like blind justice and being innocent until proven guilty.

        Since no one has proved that these people have any antisocial bent or interest, we’re saying that solely due to their religion, they are deserving of less rights than anyone else.

        Moon, on the other hand, wrote a blog post just weeks before scheduled to attend a “progressive feminist convention” in which she bestowed original sin on others due to the violence of their psychological forefathers and mixed together muslim immigrants with american muslim citizens.

        No one threw stones at her or otherwise took any illegal action that I am aware of – but a private group that invited her then uninvited her because she wasn’t who they thought she was. They made that determination based on the things she said – not based on her demographics or, specifically, her religion.

        In the United States, we have the freedom to say whatever we want, with few restrictions, without fear of prosecution from our government. We do not, though, have the freedom to say whatever we want and expect no reaction or change of heart from the other private citizens of our country. My boss can fire me for the things I say, people can stop being friends with me, I can find it difficult to get served by a waitress based on what I say.

        I believe firmly in the freedom of speech, but I also believe firmly that WisCon deciding to rescind their invitation is well within their rights, and a reasonable consequence for essentially telling American muslims to go “home” until they can learn to speak, eat, and think like the rest of us. As if any of us speak, eat, and think in some National way.

  22. More generally, Wiscon showed a deeply-rooted sense of entitlement; they also exhibted a bad case of “bubble syndrome” in which associating with the like-minded deludes you into thinking your views are more widely shared than they are.

    The Internet encourages this sort of thing; so does staying in an institutional context where an ideological monoculture exists and you rarely meet sharp disagreement.

    When the bubble pops, the pain of cognitive dissonance reasserts itself. The return of the repressed, to coin a phrase.

    Hence the plaintive anecdote of the lady on the Upper West Side who couldn’t understand how Reagan had been elected. Nobody -she- knew had voted for him.

    • WisCon has every right to say who can and can’t be a guest at *their* con. Elizabeth Moon’s post demonstrated a set of beliefs present in her that are not compatible with their goals and ideals. This has little or nothing to do with the so-called “bubble syndrome” you mention.

      There are a lot of people who aren’t happy about the Elizabeth Moon debacle on many sides, and no single solution after her charming internet display of intolerance can possibly please everyone with an opinion on the matter.

      I really enjoyed the book of yours that I have read, Mr. Stirling, and I appreciate the kindness you have shown to friends of mine in the past. I am disappointed in what you have demonstrated here in Ms. Morgan’s space: disrespect and rudeness. I do not know whether I can in good conscience recommend your writing to anyone right now. I shall have to think upon it more.

  23. Gary Farber says:

    In the interests of correcting a less controversial garble:

    […] Nixon “quote”

    Kael is frequently quoted as having said, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in the 1972 presidential election, that she “couldn’t believe Nixon had won”, since no one she knew had voted for him. The quote is sometimes cited by conservatives (such as Bernard Goldberg, in his book Bias), as an example of the alleged cluelessness and insularity of the liberal elite. There are variations as to the exact wording, the speaker (it has variously been attributed to other liberal female writers, including Katharine Graham, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion),[42][43] and the timing (in addition to Nixon’s victory, it has been claimed to have been uttered after Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.)[44]

    There is, in fact, no record of Kael stating or writing this exact sentiment. The story most likely originated in a December 28, 1972 New York Times article on a lecture Kael gave at the Modern Language Association, in which the newspaper quoted her as saying, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”[45]

  24. Amanda says:

    Goodness, my list of “Do Not Read” authors just keeps getting longer.

    Cheryl, you’re too kind allowing eye twitching rages like that on your personal space.

  25. Pingback: Galactic Suburbia #19: the Greco-Roman issue « Randomly Yours, Alex

  26. Elspeth says:

    I’m coming back to this thread despite it being so old because I am cheered to see a case where opinion going viral has been a good thing. I’d given up on that ever happening.

    It started with one person finding out that Cooks Source had stolen and published something she’d written online. Her LJ post was picked up and in less than a day the story hadn’t only gone viral but spread as far as The Guardian and is still going. Meanwhile finding other plagiarized articles in the magazine — there are many — has become almost a game.

    There is one downside, that the small businesses who advertised in the magazine are pulling ads, certainly won’t get reimbursed, and are having to almost shut down while dealing with this. But steps, also online, have been started so they may be helped out.

    For once the outrage isn’t only deserved, it’s been useful.

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