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22 May 2014 @ 03:40 pm
Archon and Tim Bolgeo  
Here's a link to a fairly even discussion of the issue: http://angryastronomer.blogspot.com/2014/05/archon-and-fan-community.html

Full disclosure: I consider Uncle Timmy one of my oldest friends in fandom. In many ways he was the mentor who taught me how to act as a convention staff member, chairman, and guest.

Can I ever understand the feeling of being a member of a marginalized community who sees someone who represents in some way an attack on that community being honored? After all, the closest I come is that, like many members of the SF fandom, was a member of the "nerd" community before such a thing was cool. We were intimidated physically, emotionally, and verbally. We were kept at the fringe of a particular society, often only "redeemed" in story or film by showing ourselves to be unexpectedly good at one of the popular activities - not because of what or who we were. But that can in no way compare to the daily struggles of those who are marginalized due to disability or race or gender or sexual identity. So, the answer is no. I can't understand.

I hope I can at least observe and give thoughts on how these kind of issues can be differentiated so that they become a way to move forward instead of a way to further divide. To me, the question comes down to deciding at what point the views, opinions, or even actions of a flawed human being become the only representation of that person - often so much so as to overshadow all other achievements or actions they may have performed.

In this case, the point of contention is racial and misogynist material. This is rightfully in the forefront of SFF fandom because of a properly renewed emphasis on being the inclusive, welcoming, and safe people we always thought we were but often failed to be. While the cries of "reverse intolerance" can be shrill and defensive, there is still a place for being aware that these kind of decisions are made because a loud group disagrees with an opinion or action of the person in question. What if this is extended? Suppose the person is an author of military SF who is in favor of an unpopular war? Suppose it is a fantasy author who in private life writes or demonstrates on behalf of an extreme political party? At what point do we fall prey what we snobbishly regard as the mundane world's need for only safe, non-controversial public exposure? Speculative fiction was never meant to avoid these issues - the best of it tackles them head on.

One way to differentiate, I think, is to determine whether the use of the individual in question perpetuates or promotes intolerable views. The concern for the London Worldcon in regards to Jonathan Ross was not just because of the content of his stage act, it was because his function at the Worldcon was substantially to perform a similar act. There was a very real concern that many of his offensive views would become associated with the Worldcon, even if they did not appear in the act. There was a very real concern that the people we want to feel safe and welcomed in that environment would not be so.

In the case of Uncle Timmy, I think a different approach could have been taken. His function as a guest of Archon was to be honored for an entire body of work. The fact that one (fairly small) part of the work was controversial could have been used as part of a conversation about that controversy, rather than avoiding it by withdrawing him as guest. While it is unusual for Guests of Honor to participate in a panel regarding negative attitudes toward their work, it is not unheard of. If the people objecting to his presence could have been assured they would be given a chance to engage in a dialog - and I think Uncle Timmy would have been supportive of that - would they have accepted? Would that have been a better way of showing how we intend to handle such things in the future? Ultimately, was the material discovered in his fanzine enough to make those who do not know him feel unsafe or unwelcome in his presence? Having the advantage of knowing him personally I can say that in my opinion he is incapable of making anyone feel unsafe or unwelcome. Others do not have that personal knowledge.

Now, even at that there are lines to be drawn. It is the responsibility of a convention committee to draw such lines, and I do not envy them their task (been there, done that.) By drawing those lines we show that we are giving more than lip service to harassment policies and statements of intent - something that is long overdue. We do not, however, need to adopt the easy path of zero tolerance for anything that could cause people to be uncomfortable. Our fiction is praised when it challenges us. We should be intelligent enough to know when we can safely and responsibly do the same.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 22nd, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC)
I think part of the problem is the offensive "work" was supposedly part of what he was being honored for. Revenge of Hump Day was apparently cited as part of the reason to offer him the honor, and part of what he had to offer the con in return.

Looking at some of the anti-non-Christian stuff? I've got to say it raised my eyebrows and I only looked at a couple of issues.

Would I feel safe being around him? Oh probably. He's not going to kill people at the con; way too many witnesses. Would I feel safe talking to him about how his anti-non-Christian jokes made me, an atheist feel? How I have to deal with that shit all the time in the mundane world? How I don't even get to say anything because if the local Christians find out *I'm* an atheist they might fire my Christian husband? Hell I don't feel safe typing it in to you right this second.

I don't think we'd have a "dialog" because I'm pretty sure the "it's okay Timmy; you didn't do anything wrong and they just need to grow a thicker skin" crowd would feel a whole lot more comfortable speaking up than I would. Or than a Hispanic fan would, or a black fan would, or a gay or trans fan would.

And I would say that the reaction indicates that the path Archon eventually chose cannot reasonably be described as "the easy path."
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on May 22nd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, once one of these things crops up no path is going to be easy. I would say, however, that cutting off the discussion by disinviting the guest makes it easier to ignore the resulting response than keeping the guest and trying to explain why.

For the rest, I definitely see your point. As a non-Christian I don't have a problem with non-Christian jokes, but I don't live in the Bible Belt proper any more and don't depend on any kind of public opinion for my job, so there's another place I don't have the best understanding.

One further question, though, would be whether you would feel that by being honored for all his accomplishments singles out things people are upset with as being overly emphasized? RoHD itself isn't solely about those things - is the amount of objectionable content enough to make you feel uncomfortable with the entire body of work? Say, to the extent you might accept someone as a guest who is personally pretty much a jackass but otherwise is uncontroversial?

I suppose all I'm looking at is that we both address these long-standing issues AND that we acknowledge that real people have real flaws. Are offensive jokes in a fanzine enough to eliminate the rest of his contributions - and I would venture to say only if the actions of the person at the convention (either by participation, plan, or presentations) would violate the anti-harassment process so many people have worked for.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 22nd, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC)
I don't know the rest of his contributions. So I can't speak to that. Maybe he's a lovely warm person who just doesn't think about how it's going to make non-Christians feel when he suggests that the popular and powerful majority religion should be able to have Christian monuments at the State Legeslature and consign the Satanist monument to the sewage treatment plant because majority rule. And also just doesn't think about how it's going to make Hispanics feel when he writes that the government gives illegal aliens free college education.

And the thing is, that's possible. People are complicated.

Am I uncomfortable with all of Revenge of the Hump Day? Most of the couple of issues I've seen, yes. The stuff about how the government gives illegal aliens free college education and welfare and food stamps is just pure lies--ugly lies designed to whip up resentment against Hispanics. The ranting about the Keystone Pipeline doesn't do it for me. His belief that climate change is a liberal plot and that scientists who fail to toe the line are punished by some giant scientific conspiracy doesn't do it for me either. I think there were some jokes in there that were okay I just don't remember them specifically anymore. But there's a difference between "most of it is untrue or at least highly questionable but some parts are not actually objectionable," and "this is a work we should be honoring." You kind of hope that the latter achieves a higher standard than, "only partly objectionable" right?

So it's perfectly possible to have good experiences with this guy, and like him, and for him to still be a choice that makes it plain that some of us are less valued and will have to grow a thicker skin.

Jim Hines had some general observations on the complexity of the issue of racism here. Note that he was speaking in general since he doesn't know that much about this particular situation.
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on May 23rd, 2014 09:27 am (UTC)
The stuff about how the government gives illegal aliens free college education and welfare and food stamps is just pure lies--ugly lies designed to whip up resentment against Hispanics.

Are you sure about that? The last I heard, welfare and food stamps (I don't know about college education) were available to people without proper visas, at least under some circumstances. There were big court battles to get to that point.

Some people are simply concerned about the attractiveness of the American welfare system to people who haven't been paying taxes into it. Their concerns are misplaced, since the numbers show people come to the US to work, in spite of the fact that the system makes it hard for them, but they aren't simply being anti-Hispanic. As you probably know, I'm a very strong open-borders advocate who calls the Border Patrol a rape gang, but it's necessary to understand and answer the opposition's position rather than caricature it.

Getting back to the original topic: I personally dislike the expression "grow a thicker skin." In my experience that usually means "shut up." What I'd like to see is more open debate and criticism without telling anybody to shut up.

Edited at 2014-05-23 09:32 am (UTC)
samwinoljsamwinolj on May 24th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
But Uncle Timmy has been told, effectively, to shut up, has he not?
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on May 22nd, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC)
I've read the article, and it's clearly a messy issue. This case wasn't one of harassment policy as such, but of whether to disinvite a guest. I haven't seen the publication in question, so I can't evaluate the material in it.

I've written on harassment policies myself, and I'm very concerned when they incorporate speech codes, as that of one filk con has (though I don't think those provisions of it have ever been enforced). There's a different line to be drawn for inviting guests and for kicking people out of conventions. There's also a vast difference between not initially inviting someone because of their views and revoking an invitation because of them. The latter is, as you observe, a very serious step. As a con chair, I don't think I'd ever take that step purely for a person's views or misplaced humor, unless they affected how the guest was likely to behave toward people at the con.

There's an attitude which has been spilling from academia into fandom; an attitude, to put it bluntly, of intolerance to differing views. It's the attitude that made Condoleezza Rice find it necessary to withdraw from a speaking engagement at Rutgers, that got Brendan Eich pushed out of Mozilla. It's the attitude that says "anyone who disagrees with me is evil." It mouths inclusiveness and practices the opposite.

Again, I don't know enough about the specifics of this situation to form an opinion, but given the trends we're seeing, I am very wary of any pressure to push people out of guest slots because their ideas aren't sufficiently acceptable. Perhaps a line has been crossed here, perhaps not, but I would want to err on the side of open discussion and acceptance of diversity.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 22nd, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC)
TSOR: links to "Revenge of the Hump Day." I checked out the ones two and three issues back. http://www.libertycon.org/index.php/libertycon-info/the-revenge-zine
madfilkentistmadfilkentist on May 23rd, 2014 09:30 am (UTC)
I looked at it a little. There's a lot of juvenile but harmless humor, and it's hard for me to find the time or inclination to find the really nasty stuff that might be there. Thanks for pointing me at it, though.
Phil Parkertigertoy on May 22nd, 2014 11:46 pm (UTC)
A con throwing someone out for their opinions does a lot more to make me feel unwelcome and uncomfortable than having a person I disagree with at the con.
osewalrusosewalrus on May 23rd, 2014 11:48 am (UTC)
As someone who is rather gafiated these days, I keep running into these things I have zero understanding or context for. Just random stuff blipping along friends pages.

First, I greatly enjoyed the link at the end to the article you linked to, which goes to a previous article on rebutting the "your intolerance of intolerance is intolerance" argument.

Lacking context in this case, cannot say if Archon made the right decision or not. But am seeing a similar phenomena more broadly. Lots of culture shock across demographics, aggravated by a number of things.

What do I mean by culture shock? I mean that our definition of tolerance and racism are changing. I find that a very good thing.

But it comes as a shock, and a huge shock, for people who grew up under one standard, live in a community governed by a particular standard, and then see an evolving national standard at play.

Consider. If you are 55 or older "racism" was defined as a belief in the inherent superiority of the white race, openly stated, and backed by a legal system of desegregation as well as a defacto system of segregation and separation. People went around openly stating that this was the natural order -- and considered this a perfectly reasonable public opinion to state out loud. Many disagreed, of course. But if you grew up 10 years before I did -- particularly in a white mainstream community that was de facto segregated by race, ethnicity and religion -- you grew up in a moral climate so different from that of today it might have well been another planet.

Now let us add to that our natural tendency in real space to remain segregated among like-minded people. This is, sadly, especially true in fandom. You know all that 'welcome home' stuff and 'weekend only world' stuff about how our community is the place where you stopped feeling isolated and alone and found other people like you? That's a *good* thing (if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend Heather Dale's TED Talk on "Find Your Tribe" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7tO-8PIR9s). But the *flip* side of this is we selective chose a community 'like us' along particular lines.
osewalrusosewalrus on May 23rd, 2014 12:08 pm (UTC)
And this creates an unfortunate friction. We have a bunch of people -- primarily middle aged white guys (myself included in that category) -- that grew up with a very different understanding of what constituted 'racism' and 'racist' and a whole set of rules as to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior, based on a sense of intended audience and without much overall deep thinking about it. Cliche of fish not being aware of water holds culturally for what we learn as to proper means of self-expression. We hardly have time to question the jokes or sensibilities of those around us unless we are exposed to something that makes us question them -- even if we pride ourselves on being independent thinkers along other lines.

So here we have a class of people who grow up with a particular set of expectations and definitions of what constitutes proper behavior and proper expressions and modes of belief. It's not stuff they think about very much consciously. Now comes a whole new generation raised when the center of public discourse of what terms like 'racist' mean and what behavior is suitable for what cultural context have shifted dramatically. And again, those born and raised after, say, 1980 likewise have no cause to question their own cultural conditioning and set of expectations on what constitutes natural behavior of right thinking people.

Are we surprised that what passes for harmless jokes judged by the standards of the 1970s or 1980s now seem hateful and based on despicable stereotypes? That what was considered a permissible, even enlightened, position looks to a different generation and different audience as outrageous?

Consider a different evolution. When I was growing up, I got to see a lot of 1950s and 1960s TV in reruns. A common trope was that if you were a boy child you should "stand up" to bullies and it was a maturing, coming of age thing to meet bullying efforts with violence. By the 1970s, we were shifting to an idea that bullying was bad behavior that was dealt with by kids as ignoring it. 'Sticks and stones' etc. In the last ten years, we have been increasingly seeing bullying not as a ritual of childhood to be endured or resisted by the child but as a damaging behavior that must be actively policed against and stopped in the same way we actually police against burglary and assault.

Thats a dramatic shift in attitude, and one that leaves many confused. A parent who was advised by adults to "stand and fight" but who went to school in an era of "it takes two to fight" and required to ignore taunts and insults is now raising children under a theory that verbal bullying should be reported to adults and that adults have an obligation to respond.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 24th, 2014 01:48 pm (UTC)
Re: (con't)
Yes this. So very much this.

The conservatives think these are just "ethnic jokes" and harmless because they were raised in a time when "racism" was siccing the dogs on a black man who wasn't out of town before dark--and they're *obviously* not doing that so what the heck is the problem anyway? They're good people and how dare we claim they have their dogs attack people?

The rest of us have noticed people saying "stop it with the petting my hair shit; you don't get to put your hands on me without asking just because I'm black or just because I'm a woman" and said "you know, that's a good point. That's not like siccing dogs on someone but it is still treating them with less respect--and that's not okay."

They say to us "you're spineless pussies squealing over your delicate fee-fees." We say to them "you are treating people unfairly."

And frankly I think this post on "jokes" and some of the following comments have a good point. It's not about racism or sexism, just about interactions between people--and how you can tell the difference between someone who is clueless and someone who is a bully.
osewalrusosewalrus on May 23rd, 2014 12:11 pm (UTC)
A Final Word
None of this justifies anything one way or another. It simply is. Social engineering, like engineering in the physical world, requires a recognition of what factors work to shape behavior -- not a guide to what behavior should be tolerated. In this, I am firmly utilitarian and all Skinner behaviorist theory. It is critical as a society that we send a message as to what constitutes acceptable behavior and that debate takes place in such things as the debate over Archon. To quote a science fiction source: "The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on May 24th, 2014 09:36 am (UTC)
Re: A Final Word
The issue isn't just proper standards of behavior but also (and yes, I'm talking to a lawyer who already knows this) proper standards of evidence. Racism is so frowned upon (justly) that the charge becomes an easy bludgeon to use without support, to destroy enemies. A member of the Boskone program committee made a veiled threat to pull that stunt on me, which is one of the major reasons I quit as filk head.

The more serious a charge is, the more important it is to back it up with evidence; but for a lot of people, the more serious the charge is, the more important it is not to let "technicalities" like the need for proof get in the way of a conviction. In fandom, people seem reluctant to detail the specifics of the alleged nasty behavior of other fen. This may be an attempt at shielding the victim or at not giving more publicity to offensive statements, but without specifics, including exact quotations, we can't tell a legitimate charge from a character assassination campaign.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 24th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
Re: A Final Word
If you want evidence, the sensible thing to do would be to actually read Revenge of the Hump Day which, I will point out, is very easy to find with Google; not that you need to, because I already found it for you.
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on May 24th, 2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: A Final Word
I don't have time to read through large amounts of material looking for specific material which people don't bother to supply. I already noted that the charge of lying which you presented is erroneous; illegal aliens do receive food stamps and welfare. The claim that there are any cases where they have received free (not just cost-reduced) college education might or might not be true. Other than that, I have seen no specific, verified citations of deceptions or racist ideas.

If you can cite specific racist statements which this person has made, I can evaluate them, but the burden is not on me to substantiate other people's generalities and innuendos.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on May 24th, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
Re: A Final Word
Goddamit I have been searching his archives since 10 oclock this morning and my ENTIRE comment just disappeared.

He has anti-black/anti-woman (a two-fer) stuff--a "joke" in supposedly black vernacular about black women discussing what panties they'll wear in case a plane crashes, depicting blacks and women as both being stupid.

He has anti non-christian stuff; personal comments showing he thinks it's both fair and *clever* to have majority vote on whether to place Christian monuments on goverment land and corresponding Satanist monuments in a sewage treatment plant or on a rifle range. Because having Christians vote on whether to treat non-Christians fairly is just common sense I guess.

He has anti-Muslim stuff--a statire article about Muslims finding the existance of women "non-Islamic" quoted as if it were real with personal comment from him at the bottom saying any women who sympathize with Muslims need to read the article over and over.

And no I am not going to fucking find it all again to meet any standard of "proof" that exceeds this when the doubters can easily do what I have done. It is quite plain I have already spend more time finding out the truth than some people have obscuring it.