When Will I Be Turned Upon?

Saw this on Twitter today:

(“SJW” here is shorthand for “Social Justice Warriors,” a term which is new to me but  which is defined over at the Urban Dictionary, where it is not generally considered a very polite term.)

I actually get this a lot, although usually in even less polite terms than this. I’ve got a healthy stack of e-mails from various dudebros that, once you’ve wiped the spittle from them, say something along the line of “one day all those feminists and gays are going to SET YOU ON FIRE and you’ll come crawling back to us and WE’LL LAUGH AT YOU LIKE THE GAMMA RABBIT YOU ARE.” This is then followed by comparisons to Hugo Schwyzer and/or simply more spittle.

My thoughts on this are as such.

1. Dude, if I ever act like Hugo Schwyzer, feminists screaming for my head is the very least bad thing that should happen to me.

2. There are plenty of people, including feminists, LGBTfolk and minorities, who are already exasperated with me for various reasons, nor are they entirely unjustified for being so. I get a lot of attention for speaking my mind about issues of importance to them, which is nice for me but often means a) that I get spotlighted for piggybacking on work other people have done, to which I’ve added minimal additional work, b) these other folks are frustrated because my understanding of issues they feel are important is often superficial or tangential to what they see as more critical.

Have these folks turned on me? “Turn” is probably too strong a word — but that doesn’t mean some of these folks are always thrilled to see me wade in on a subject they believe (not always incorrectly) I am a dilettante of, or a tourist in.

To that respect, not that they need me to say this, but: I get that. I don’t have an urge to be a white knight, and I don’t need cookies. I do try to have an appreciation of the limitations of my own experience and knowledge, and try to make sure I’m as transparent as I can be about that.  As much as I can, I try to point out the better work others have done.  When I speak, I always speak for me alone. I try to be cognizant of appearing to appropriate the spotlight for my own purposes. Even so, there will still be people who will be annoyed with me, for whatever reason (including me doing a bad job at all of the above). It happens, and it doesn’t mean they’re being unreasonable in their exasperation. I miss a lot because I don’t have to deal with a lot of things other people have to deal with.

3. And, you know what, one day I’ll opine about something regarding some marginalized group, make an ass of myself doing so, and then the Internet will fall on my head for it. Why do I know this? Because it’s happened before, and as much as I like to think I learn and grow from making an ass of myself, sometimes despite your best intentions you find new and exciting ways to make to put your head into your rectum, previously unknown to human kind. I’m going to try to avoid doing it. But I don’t imagine I’ll be perfect on that score.

And what happens when I fuck up and the Internet drops on my head? Well, for a start I will try to remember that having a monstrous ego (as I do) doesn’t mean you’re immune to being wrong. I’ve noted before that if one invests one ego in doing the correct thing rather than never being wrong, things become, if not simpler, at least more amenable to positive resolution. Sometimes the correct thing to do is to apologize and accept criticism. I do understand that some people think apologies and acceptance of criticism means you’ve lost, and your gonads shrink and that children will throw rocks at you, or whatever. But these people are, to put it politely, stupid.

And again, sometimes even that won’t be enough for some folks (or, alternately, I will decide I don’t need to apologize and/or that at a certain point any additional apology will be insincere), and their unhappiness with me will continue forward. That’s part of life too. I’m already well aware I don’t make everyone happy. What I do try to do is follow a path of correct action. If that path is not 100% to other people’s liking, they will have to accept it, and I will have to accept they will occasionally be loud about about their unhappiness with me.

4. Aside from anything else, this fellow seems to be making the assumption that all the people he’d classify as “Social Justice Warriors” are a hive mind, and will one day turn on me en masse, because, I guess, it was just my time. Allow me to suggest I am skeptical of this formulation, on several levels.

But, on the other hand, if every “Social Justice Warrior” out there on the Internet dropped on my head all at the same time, might it not be possible that they are doing it for an actual reason, and not just because they all got a message from SJW Headquarters that now it was time to devour my soul? I do know a lot of people I’m guessing this fellow would consider “SJW.” Strangely enough, in experience of them, they are not all walking in reflexively angry lockstep. They actually have their own brains and interests and motivations. So if they all suddenly aligned against me, it might be — might be, mind you — that I have indeed done some monumental fuck up. And that maybe I ought to pay attention to why they’ve all suddenly turned on me.

5. And aside from all that, it occurs to me that I could totally game this betting pool and make a ton of money. All I would have to do is be a genuinely terrible person to a whole bunch of people at a specific date and time. Fortunately, I don’t need the cash. And, you know. There are enough folks working really hard at being genuinely terrible people, even without the cash incentive. I’m going to keep trying to go in the other direction. We’ll see how it goes from here.

117 thoughts on “When Will I Be Turned Upon?

  1. Hmm. How can we leverage (5) for social justice?

    Turning on some group (Whatever commenters?) on schedule, to win the betting pool, donating the proceeds to the American Secret Society for the Prevention of Aggressive Dudebros?

  2. one day I’ll opine about something regarding some marginalized group, make an ass of myself doing so, and then the Internet will fall on my head for it.

    Yep. Like you did during Racefail ’09 and it did.

    And you managed to turn it around into a learning experience, you apologised, and you grew in knowledge and as a person.

    So much as I get aggravated when you talk about feminisim without, ya know, inviting any of your very smart female friends to do the opining in your highly visible space, or fail to come down hard on asshat authors who you either admire or like as friends, I cut you slack because during Racefail, you were the only bigname author to show your arse and then apologise without backtracking. And more than that, you went out of your way to repair any harm you did, and you gave the mike to people who knew more and could speak better. There are people who comment here who never even acknowledged they might have fucked up at that time, let alone apologised or learned from it. (And every time I see them comment, I want to yell at them over it.)

    So that’s why I keep coming back, Scalzi. Because you’re capable of learning, and growing, and that makes you an decent person. Certainly not perfect, and not always likeable, but decent. That counts for a lot.

  3. *checks feminist day planner* Hmm… looks like your good until July 13, 2112 at 1:32 pm edt.

    Sorry we couldn’t fit you in sooner, too many misogynist a-holes to get to.

  4. We all have things that are reasonable and right to us and other things that we do not agree with or don’t feel to strongly about. Our own views would rarely match with others exactly. There are things I feel very strongly about that other don’t seem to care about and things other get very excited about that I do not see the issue. I feel that culturally there is a central norm of what is generally excepted as right. That shifts over time. Some of what is generally accepted as the norm now would be totally unacceptable 50 years ago and 50 years into the future. In my view sometimes the changes are not for the better. As an individual I need to continually assess my beliefs and shift, or not shift, as knowledge and understanding changes. I personally enjoy the learning. Others seem to think they have learned enough.

  5. Many of the SJW [if we lump them into a very general sense] would get huffy with me as I follow different approaches than they often do, e.g. I am gay & out but not so vocal, until you hassle me. I just decided a long time ago to act like it does not matter, and if it does, you are the one with a problem. And I have always found that all sides of each debate respond well if you are polite initially. The minority who are not polite should have someone yell at them to be polite – or at least provide a mallet of loving correction.

    And I will also turn on John Scalzi if he ever stops writing SF books!!!!!

  6. Rob Wynne:

    Have you tried moving every zig? Moving every zig often works.

    Rob Wynne set up us the bomb.

  7. I hereby call for John Scalzi’s head!

    …of cabbage.
    I’m planning to make some spring rolls. Which I will then serve on a platter.

  8. The fatal error most people make is refusing to admit when they fuck up. There are some obvious things that can’t ever be counted as mere lapses, and some people who judge every lapse as a hanging offense, but generally, honest humility is accepted at face value. If you can recognize where you went wrong, and learn how to do better, you’re already miles ahead of most would-be allies. Unfortunately, some people see apologizing and acknowledging mistakes as signs of weakness and thus avoid them at all costs. Of course, it’s true that some assgaskets DO see such things as weakness, and will target people for abuse based on that, but the rest of us outnumber them anyway. May as well admit fault when necessary.

  9. I think there is some merit to acknowledging the dogpile effect that sometimes happens when a high-profile figure says something ignorant, problematic, or bigoted. When many people who are passionate about social justice are directed toward one particularly notable example, and everyone is talking about that example and the issues of privilege and discrimination that surround it, it can become more about the person than the issue. The person becomes a symbol representing the issue, toward which people who have to deal with real discrimination and abuse direct their full outrage. The focus is lost amidst (totally understandable) feelings of disgust and frustration for the person, and it can alienate fans of the person who are otherwise teachable.

    All that said, the idea that it’s some monolithic bloc of outrage police just looking for a new person to bully and blacklist for being insufficiently progressive or whatever is a dudebro fantasy. People get frustrated because there are things to be frustrated about, things that are thoughtlessly perpetuated and reinforced by people who should know better, and would know better if they had to deal with them.

    I also want to clarify when I say there is “some merit”, I don’t believe for a second the arguments of the dudebros in question share in any of it. I mention it only because I think every flashpoint is an incredible opportunity to teach and empower people about the underlying issue, and how casual ignorance and bigotry serves to reinforce the wider effect of hurting a marginalized group.

    I hope I’m not giving the impression that I think it’s entirely the marginalized group’s responsibility to teach, rather than the privileged group’s responsibility to learn, btw. I’m just attempting to identify something I’ve personally noticed with how large responses to ignorant comments play out sometimes.

  10. Oh, dear, are the sad little dudebros waving their little penises around again? How quaint.

    Also, Hugo Schwyzer is a raving douchebag. I’m off to go read some of George Takei’s Amazon.com reviews to cleanse my brain.

  11. Does John get cookies for making political or social stances? Maybe I should take a stance the next time I’m hungry.

  12. Not so sure about your continued use of dudebro as negative term. I’ve known some perfectly lovely and open-minded dudebros!

  13. The thing I never get is this, this very human tendency to attack not the person who did the wrong, but the object. Attack the mistress, not the cheating husband. Lash out at the guys named as who to talk to, rather than the person who recommended them. It’s wrong. (Those two things aren’t all alike except for being the object rather than the perpetrator.)

    You do good work. Some of it isn’t stuff you are personally perfect for. But this is your site, so it is where you say what you think. People read your opinions and ideas and there are a lot of us. You have a wide appeal. For me a LARGE chunk of the appeal is your integrity. Integrity is a trait the dudebros lack – glaringly lack. And they are not self-aware enough to notice it. And they do not want to be self aware because that might mean THEY change and that’s just crazy-talk.

    So. From my point of view, you have done nothing wrong, at all. I see value in men joining their voices with us toward a more equal and just world, and I see value in the good voices, regardless of gender, being remembered. It may not be the ideal, but it is not bad. It is good.

  14. John, I will always support your right to make an ass of yourself! It is one few rights that I feel I can excersize without worry. I’m good at it. I feel anyone can join the club!

  15. Of course the SJW Hive Mind is a well known and scientifically documented phenomenon. It is usually triggered when SJWHM senses weakness–as soon as you are older, slower, when it becomes obvious you can no longer defend your position as the Alpha Gamma Rabbit, then they will swarm you, methodically stripping the flesh from your bones leaving only a bleached white skeleton.

    I think I read it on Wikipedia.

  16. A Mediated Life The fatal error most people make is refusing to admit when they fuck up.

    This is true. And after really listening to the complaint, if one really doesn’t believe they fucked up, the best thing to do is to simply say, “we see things differently” and drop the subject.

    I was disappointed with somebody recently who I thought was actually right in the beginning, but had to go on to make an ass of himself because somebody dared question him. He didn’t have to say he fucked up, but purposefully antagonizing people because of it was stupid and made him look petty.

  17. To be fair.

    A friend of mine is trans. Pretty open about it. Like, came out in a major regional newspaper’s Sunday paper, in support of a campaign to legalize marriage equality.

    This friend of mine is in the closet on tumblr, because he does not want to deal with the hassle of the SJWs thinking he ought to be trans in ways that meet their political objectives.

  18. Yep. Like you did during Racefail ’09 and it did.

    And you managed to turn it around into a learning experience, you apologised, and you grew in knowledge and as a person.

    Hah. I didn’t know that, because I came in at the tail end of it. Thought Scalzi was on the side of angels all the time.

    Wonder what that says. Hm…….

  19. Well, you can’t always be right. You do try harder than most of the folks I know peripherally, but you can’t always do it. That’s OK, we don’t pay you to be perfect. In fact, for Whatever, we don’t pay you at all. But we do pay you for your books. And while they also aren’t perfect, they tend to come closer to it than any other author I read. So keep up the good work, and I am already looking forward to next years novel.

    Let the dudebros fall where they may.

  20. I come from a culture, group, setting, where if you apologize, you’ve lost; you’re gone, you might as well have never been born because you’ve shamed your family, your company and your country.

    Now, in the sense that I should probably not have messed up in the first place, I will buy into this mind set; you’re right, I should not have done…[moronic act #2 gazillion in the series] and I am really sorry (See!, I have apologized …. and I am lost!) but, there you have it. Look, people are meat puppets, we are not intelligently designed and we screw up. So why, oh why, not fess up to your shit and try to make better next time? I’m good with that, I hope my kid is too.

    BTW and not part of this string; @ Floored – I saw you get called on the carpet, so to speak, on another string so I want to be sure to put on the record this; 1) you do jump before you look – maybe too much; 2) and, so fuckin’ what!; 3) you also have more intelligent things to say than most people living of any age group, more impressive to me that you are under college age. I think that’s fucking awesome….. Now, take 15 minutes before responding [lolz].

    John, for what it’s worth. This is the only blog that I feel is worth my time to follow. You and your readers speak to me and I’m grateful.

  21. Your willingness to listen and consider during those moments when you have shown your ass are a big reason I keep reading Whatever. That and the Grade A snarkitude (I learned the hard way not to read anything here while drinking unless I want a painful snort-up-nose experience). Sometimes it admittedly riles me that people are more likely to listen to you when you speak about things like white privilege or sexism & misogyny than they would to PoC or women, but on the other hand, it is reassuring and heartening to know that someone with your social clout gets it and is doing his best to speak out in support, and your clarity and passion is always good to read.

    PS – please remember to pay your membership dues to the Gamma Rabbit Chapter of the Minions of the SJM Hive Mind, failure to renew on time will result in automatic expulsion and public humiliations galore as you will have no choice but to beg assistance from the Dudebro Alphas, and you don’t want that, now do you?

  22. “as much as I like to think I learn and grow from making an ass of myself, sometimes despite your best intentions you find new and exciting ways to make to put your head into your rectum, previously unknown to human kind. ”

    Well there’s no point in repeating either your own or other people’s mistakes, is there? At least be creative and original in your screw-ups. That’s the only way to learn and grow, turning the problem of “everybody makes mistakes sometimes” into an aid to improving yourself.

    Works for me, anyway. The “screwing-up in original ways” anyway. The “learning from it” part I’m working on.

  23. Well of course they say that. The caveman philosophy, as I understand it, is that SJWs and most women and minorities in general hate straight white men. They may tolerate them as allies for awhile, if those Gamma Rabbits appropriately suck up. But because they hate them and want all the goodies for themselves, etc., the straight white male gammas simply can’t do everything perfectly and eventually the SJWs will turn on the gammas with some excuse but mainly because they hate them and want to hurt them and tear them down and steal their gonads, etc. So all your sucking up to the SJWs buys you nothing, nothing, ha ha, because it’s all a big con and we’re out to destroy you and nothing you do will ever be enough. One day the scales will be lifted from your eyes and you’ll be a pariah and you’ll see that they were right all along. You’ll start subjugating your wife and everything.

    There are quite a few guys who went in as allies and then found out that they didn’t get to be in charge, or get lots of gratitude for acknowledging that equality is a good thing, and their every word was not considered golden by all, and then said well then equality is a bad investment and flounced off. And there are an awful lot of nice guys, as we’ve seen, who believe in equality but only are willing to deal with “social justice” issues if the people in the repressed groups talk nicely to them, and they don’t understand this as a power play that reflects the social justice issue at hand. And this plays well with the really paranoid folks’ belief that people advocating for equality are really rabid dogs who will bite all who come near them. Discomfort then becomes inevitable doom. Even if the SJWs don’t turn on you specifically, they will so alter your world that you will find yourself with nothing — no power, no respect, etc. because you helped them cause your own destruction. And then you will regret.

    Zero sum beliefs are sad. It’s a shame they still rule the world. I kind of like the idea of a fundraiser where we turn on you, though. Kind of like a dunking booth.

  24. There are quite a few guys who went in as allies and then found out that they didn’t get to be in charge, or get lots of gratitude for acknowledging that equality is a good thing, and their every word was not considered golden by all, and then said well then equality is a bad investment and flounced off. And there are an awful lot of nice guys, as we’ve seen, who believe in equality but only are willing to deal with “social justice” issues if the people in the repressed groups talk nicely to them, and they don’t understand this as a power play that reflects the social justice issue at hand.

    Ah! So much win here!

    Seen it so many times myself….

  25. terri jones:

    The thing I never get is this, this very human tendency to attack not the person who did the wrong, but the object. Attack the mistress, not the cheating husband.

    In the case of a cheating spouse there’s fault on both sides. It’s not really equivalent to the situation John is talking about.

  26. And there are an awful lot of nice guys, as we’ve seen, who believe in equality but only are willing to deal with “social justice” issues if the people in the repressed groups talk nicely to them, and they don’t understand this as a power play that reflects the social justice issue at hand.

    Can’t imagine anyone behaving like that cough::popehat::cough

    What I really appreciate now is the comments here. Twas not always the case, as Scalzi was once nowhere near as handy with his malletting as he could and should have been. Good moderation is the key to making sure that not only the dudebros get to speak, and that they don’t dominate the conversation to the point where the rest of us throw up our hands and leave the echo chamber to it.

    It’s now *safe* to comment here, even if one is vehemently disagreed with. And that’s incredibly rare in the blogosphere.

    Too many blogs that like to pretend they support progressive ideas refuse to moderate at all, so the conversation is nothing but white male libertarian bukkake cough::popehat::cough It makes for a hostile space for anyone else and the value of the discussion is zero.

  27. I remember once reading a blog’s comment policy, which said that they did not tolerate the use of slurs against members of marginalized groups, so I asked whether that meant they were okay towards other people. And got no response. Of course, people always tell me it’s obvious that the question is insincere, because the answer is so obvious. But since it wasn’t obvious to me, I actually asked people: Well, granted that maybe it’s obvious to everyone else, but it’s not to me, so what is that obvious answer, exactly?

    So far, people are about evenly split on whether the answer is yes or no, but they’re about 90% consistent in saying that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to genuinely not know which it is.

  28. And there are an awful lot of nice guys, as we’ve seen, who believe in equality but only are willing to deal with “social justice” issues if the people in the repressed groups talk nicely to them, and they don’t understand this as a power play that reflects the social justice issue at hand.

    Is this really the same as the other things? As a general rule of thumb I don’t work with people who aren’t nice to me unless they’re actually paying me money to do so. If you mean they expect to be coddled then yeah, I see your point. Dealing with social justice issues doesn’t make you a special snowflake, and I could totally see certain people getting their feelings hurt for not being immediately recognized as a special, more evolved kind of person right off the bat. Thing is, you don’t automatically get a halo for doing the right thing. It’s the right thing, after all. “The right thing” ought to be your default setting, and you don’t get special prizes for that just like you don’t get special prizes for not murdering people. (“Congratulations! You didn’t murder anyone today! Here, have a sticker.”)

  29. >This friend of mine is in the closet on tumblr, because he does not want to deal with the hassle of the SJWs thinking he ought to be trans in ways that meet their political objectives.

    The dudebro fantasy of a monolithic block is just that, but what feminism – at least in the UK – has had to deal with over the last 30 years is an increasing factionalism, mirroring the factionalism of the left (I am a left wing feminist, btw). It is intensely frustrating to anyone whose aim is actual change rather than point scoring, though unsurprising to anyone who is used to group dynamics. The gentleman, and I use the term loosely, who has recently suffered a reversal in fortune at the hands of the SFWA, has undergone very little criticism from SJWs online: their primary ire has been reserved for those who are closest to them in ideology. It is the tragedy of the left, and I can’t see much headway being made in left wing politics in the UK unless we sort it out.

    In the meantime, the recent blog post (Kameron Hurley) in which someone asked who they should speak to about sexism in SF, and was told ‘John Scalzi or Jim Hines’ has rightly infuriated people, for reasons which I hope are obvious. However, that’s not John or Jim’s fault and I haven’t seen anyone ‘turn’ on either of them.

  30. I would take the guy’s bet. Define some terms for who “SJW” is to get a clear boundary condition for the wager. Use it as a fundraiser, as you have done before. Take their money and channel it to good causes. Then you can laugh at them, again, for their delusions, because that is one of the things you excel at. ;)

  31. Seebs: I remember once reading a blog’s comment policy, which said that they did not tolerate the use of slurs against members of marginalized groups, so I asked whether that meant they were okay towards other people.

    The problem with your question isn’t that the answer is obvious; it’s that the question itself sets up a false equivalence of epic proportions. It suggests that calling a white person whitey or a man–what? dudebro?– is even a little bit like calling a black person the N word, or calling a woman a bitch (or the c word). There is a power differential that comes with privilege that makes these things not even remotely the same.

    The reason most people won’t take the time to answer, or will tell you the question is ridiculous, is because the question itself indicates that the asker has a lot of homework to do about how oppression and power structures work. And most people who work on these issues–especially those who live under the heel of those power structures–are not interested in doing other people’s homework for them.

    There are a lot of people who come into discussions of privilege brandishing what they believe to be a witty comeback or epic takedown. A lot of times, they come in with the attitude that these issues are a debate, and that they are owed a response to their challenge. That, failing a response, or failing a response they find acceptable, marginalized people have ceded the point in question.

    But treating the difficulties we live with every day of our lives as an intellectual exercise to debate is itself a privilege. It’s a luxury reserved for those who can walk away from the reality of oppression at any time. Those of us who live with it every day don’t tend to have the energy left over to ‘debate’ our lived experiences with someone who is at worst trolling us, and at best not invested enough in our equality to do some basic homework before attempting to lay the burden of their ignorance on our shoulders.

  32. Yes, the expectation that someone is going to do their homework for them is one of the profoundly irritating constants in exchanges between people on the lowest difficulty setting and the rest of the world.

    What is perhaps less obvious is that people within marginalised groups have so many problems on their hands that they may not have the time and/or energy to do their homework on other marginalised groups; there is no automatic understanding of the difficulties others encounter.

    That is one of the reasons I value whatever; I get Scalzi’s take and I get people’s take on Scalzi’s take. I learn from both of them…

  33. Stevie: What is perhaps less obvious is that people within marginalised groups have so many problems on their hands that they may not have the time and/or energy to do their homework on other marginalised groups; there is no automatic understanding of the difficulties others encounter.

    A whole lotta “this.”

    I sometimes call this “Oppression Tunnel Vision” or something to that effect: When one is suffering greatly under the burden of oppression, it can be very hard to recognize the privileges one has in other areas–and not to abuse them. You see this all the time with, say, misogynist gay men, racist white women, etc. It’s epic among poor and working-class straight, white guys. They’re suffering economically, and think that alone cancels out any other privileges they might have.

    Conversely, a lot of people who are suffering see one area of privilege someone has that they don’t and assume that cancels out any other disadvantages that person might have. Case in point: cisgender feminists who argue that trans* women grew up under male privilege and therefore that means they’re still counted as men for privilege purposes. (Ehm. No! Plus, femme boys don’t get male privilege in the first place, folks. They’re counted as girls for the purposes of sexism.)

    Also, people who are suffering may abuse what advantages they do have as a way of trying to even out their individual overall balance of power. Bully syndrome, basically: kid gets beaten up at home and tries to make himself feel stronger by picking on weaker kids. When you can’t fight back against the powerful people who are actually hurting you, beating up someone else is awfully tempting.

    Making this all far more complicated is that the people who do have the majority of the power keep it by playing divide and conquer. It’s in their best interests to keep the rest of us focused on the myth that justice is a limited commodity. We see people in one group finally getting a little more attention and justice, and we automatically assume that means we’re getting less. If those people happen to resemble, on some level, a group that has a privilege we don’t, then it’s even worse. We start playing more oppressed than thou, instead of working together and spending that energy fighting the power structures that keep all of us down.

  34. @rabbiadar: Absolutely. As a high school teacher I found my most powerful classroom management tool was the phrase “my bad.” As in, “oops, that was my mistake, thank you for correcting me.”

    When we teach children that there is only one right answer, and that they will be punished and shamed for getting it wrong, we don’t encourage problem-solving skills. We encourage them to hide their work, and hide from the very people who could help them figure out the problem. Instead, if we model finding errors and learning from them, we teach them to be powerful thinkers. And for those of use who went through the “errors are sinful” education system, it’s still not too late to learn to think like scientists instead.

  35. If I ever turn on you, it will be because you’re standing behind me. “Hi, John! So-and-so, this is John Scalzi, who wrote those books I’ve been telling you about.”

  36. Dudebro culture seems to center on the idea that being told one is wrong is the worst possible fate ever OMG waterboarding and crucifixtion GAH! Especially if the teller is POC or female or gay or whatever.

    I don’t get. The rational response is to ask why, I think. One may or may not ultimately agree, but it doesn’t cost anything to explore the possibility that one is wearing one’s ass as a hat.

  37. @ mintwitch – “One may or may not ultimately agree, but it doesn’t cost anything to explore the possibility that one is wearing one’s ass as a hat.”

    For some of those dudebros, wearing one’s ass as a hat seems to be something worth bragging about, ie: “I’m not ‘PC’, I’m a REBEL telling TRUTHS, man!” and they’re rather adverse to explore the possibility that they haven’t made the most flattering of accessory choices. It’d be more amusing if it weren’t for the fact that wearing one’s ass for a hat ends up hurting more than the hat wearer, sadly.

  38. So – hoiw exactly does one go about becoming an SJW? And how does one earn enough credential as one to be able to influence when to turn on John Scalzi?

  39. We need intersectional {feminism, anti-racism, LGBT rights}, that’s for sure. But the smarter dudebros know divide and conquer is always the best strategy, and so here we are.

    And power differential is everything. If someone calls me The C Word, that’s hurtful. If they call me “honky”, well… so what? I don’t get stop and frisk, people don’t think I’m going to rob them, people with my skin tone don’t get called on to show their papers to prove they’re here legally. By the same token (heh), my large black male friends don’t get groped on public transit — but there may be The N Word muttered.

    Why dudebros are so status-conscious, afraid of being told they’re wrong about something, and generally so worried about power and ranking is truly puzzling.

    I plan to turn on John when he writes a really shitty book. Or stops writing. Ditto Jim Hines, who delightfully Tweeted “Mansplaining is obnoxious enough, but I just watched someone take it all the way into full-on, two-handed mansplurbation.”

  40. The reason most people won’t take the time to answer, or will tell you the question is ridiculous, is because the question itself indicates that the asker has a lot of homework to do about how oppression and power structures work.

    @Annalee: THIS, and “It is too your job to educate me” is a bog-standard derailing tactic from dudebros who have zero interest in learning a damn thing. So yeah, after a bullshit day in Suck City don’t be terribly surprised if a lot of “SJW’s” might not have much interest in parsing your intent as a prelude to doing all your homework.

  41. THIS, and “It is too your job to educate me” is a bog-standard derailing tactic from dudebros who have zero interest in learning a damn thing. So yeah, after a bullshit day in Suck City don’t be terribly surprised if a lot of “SJW’s” might not have much interest in parsing your intent as a prelude to doing all your homework.

    I see this response (“It TOO is your job to educate me.”)a lot on Coates blog.

    And this is after Coates links to a series of blog posts and says, “I’m not interested in going over old ground again. Go read this to get up to speed.”

  42. @gwangung:

    And this is after Coates links to a series of blog posts and says, “I’m not interested in going over old ground again. Go read this to get up to speed.”

    Yup, seen that about umpty billion times. Not Being A Flying Arse-Monkey On The Internet Pro-Tip: If you can’t be bothered clicking on a link that’s been laid out for you, don’t be surprised if the sincerity of your desire to be educated by anyone comes into question. Ditto for people who think commenting/moderation policies are an optional extra rather than a baseline for participation in any on-line community. (A self-described “progressive feminist” blog is NOT somewhere to whine about the fascist suppression of your First Amendment right to make “jokes” about Chelsea Manning getting raped in prison. True story. Don’t ask.)

  43. @ cranapia: Cthulhu, but people make rape jokes still? What kind of flaming asshat…unbelievable…wow, I can’t express my desire to throttle anyone who does that.

  44. Christopher Wright:

    Is this really the same as the other things?

    It’s related in philosophy, although quite often it’s just automatic, unconscious not thinking it through. If I can’t have a conversation with a guy about social justice issues or work towards improvement thereof without him feeling that if I don’t do the “kneel before Zod” bit, I am therefore “turning” on him and making him the villain, it’s a similar philosophy and it does not involve doing “what’s right as the default.” It’s the person in the power group saying to the person in the repressed group, do proper homage to me as someone in power willing to listen (not the default,) and then I’ll allow you to tell me about how you’re being repressed and how you experience life. It’s a permission thing, the person in the power group tries to control the terms of the discussion — because that person is used to being able to control the terms of the discussion.

    When the other person refuses to go along with that, with the expected default, then you get the unreasonable, over-sensitive, turning on me for no good reason stance that refuses to accept the social dynamics of the people speaking and how that relates to the social justice issue involved. It feeds into the idea that people in repressed groups are treacherous, rude, impossible to please, etc., which allows ignoring all but the most egregious and open examples of social justice issues or of hearing particular people who say things that make us uncomfortable. It’s an opt out strategy, and it’s very easy to fall into; I’ve done it, most of us have. But we aren’t separate from the social systems we live and grew up in. If you are in a power group/axis, you get to ignore the bad social stuff on that axis or pretend it has little to do with you, even though it does; the people in the repressed group don’t have that option.

    As a general rule of thumb I don’t work with people who aren’t nice to me unless they’re actually paying me money to do so. If you mean they expect to be coddled then yeah, I see your point.

    Work assignments and social justice issues are not synonyms, though they may overlap. It’s nice that you can opt out of working with people who aren’t nice to you. People in repressed groups seldom have that option. They are dealing with people being “not nice” to them because of their group membership on a daily basis. A lot of social justice issue discussion involves people who are not working together, which is why the demand from the person in the power group that the person in the repressed group be nice is often odd. They simply appoint themselves instructor because society gives them that role. It takes some stepping back mentally not to do it.

    Nobody likes being criticized, especially regarding the social biases over which we so often have little control. So that issue comes up in discussions of social justice issues. The cavemen philosophers, though, (who are not always men,) advocate the continuance or rebuilding of a social system where groups are in power and immune from criticism. Since Scalzi is willing to be criticized, he’s considered by them a gamma, weak, and will eventually be torn down.

    (“Congratulations! You didn’t murder anyone today! Here, have a sticker.”)

    LOL. It’s hard to look at systems. “I’m a nice guy” is better than the alternative, but it doesn’t mean much when the social bias is towards guys in all areas, etc., and that’s what the person in the repressed group has to deal with. Supporting equality is a first step. Shifting the social system towards actual equality is way more complicated for everybody.

    Lurkertype:

    Why dudebros are so status-conscious, afraid of being told they’re wrong about something, and generally so worried about power and ranking is truly puzzling.

    They get taught it, usually early on. Authoritarianism depends on status, and status depends on artificially constructed group norms.

  45. Annalee: I have a couple of objections to your response. The first, and most important, is that it is not merely a question about what people think is appropriate. It’s a question about their posted policy for participants in a discussion forum, which means that there does need to be a way for people to find out which of those two ways they want to run it. So purely as a matter of “can we even possibly function under this policy”, if you’re gonna post a discussion policy and demand that people agree to adhere to it, you have to be willing to answer questions about what your specific policy is.

    Secondly… Did you notice what you did there? I’ll give you a hint: You just did exactly The Thing. You did the thing where you assumed that, since you don’t have a problem, no one has that problem, and that there’s nothing wrong with people adopting a policy that assumes that no one who matters could ever have the problem. The word we’re looking for here is “ableist”. See, some of us can spend years doing our homework, researching things, talking to people, and still have no clue at all how to determine whether a given set of people will think it is obvious that their policy prohibits all use of slurs and epithets, or whether they will think it is obvious that it prohibits only the use of slurs and epithets directed at “marginalized groups”.

    See, I know lots of things about how oppression works, and how power structures work, and I am in fact (depending on whom you ask) in at least two, and possibly three or four, marginalized groups. And I already did the homework.

    So what’d you do?
    First, you assumed that I was not in any way oppressed, and had never experienced oppression, and could not possibly understand that oppressed people are tired and worn out.
    Second, you ranted about how my question showed a lack of understanding… But without considering the implications of my post. If it’s such a stupid question, *why do people who say it is a stupid question disagree on what the obvious answer is*? If all these people, who can totally stomp me at Privilege Bingo, and have been activists in the field for years, *still* can’t agree on whether the answer is “yes” or “no”, I think maybe that suggests that the question is not nearly as ridiculous as you seem to think it is.

    There’s a real question there, and it gets to a philosophical difference between different groups of activists, and there really are people who would definitely answer “yes”, and there really are people who would definitely answer “no”, and each of them would do it for reasons to do with their conclusions about how oppression and power systems work.

    Me, I’m on the side that would just ban bigoted slurs in general, because I just plain don’t see any benefit to allowing them, and I’ve seen a lot of harm done to real activism from getting people bogged down in fights over which oppressions do and don’t “count”.

    In short, when the bad guys want to play divide-and-conquer, what they are looking for is responses like yours. All the people with the comment policy would have to do would be to say “yes” or “no”, and either way, it would tell me what they intended, and I could post comments on their site or not, and I could comply with their policy. All you’d have to do is consider that I have in fact asked a number of people about this, and that the responses I’ve gotten are incompatible with the assumption that there is a single answer which is so obviously correct that the question is ridiculous. (In fact, this is one of the occasionally useful societal roles autistics perform; asking questions to which the answer is so obvious that people haven’t realized that they don’t agree on it.)

  46. @cranapia: So, is the answer “yes” or “no”? Can you answer that definitively without having to know which specific commenting policy I’m talking about, and who made it? Because I can’t.

  47. This subject comes up from time to time. Another popular author of some while back advised,

    Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

    Which IMHO was one of his rare lapses from cynicism; he should have included “Drive some frothing furious,” although I’m sure he would have worded it better.

  48. @Seebs, I can’t help but wonder if your question sets up a false dichotomy…

    I believe a possible answer is:

    “Slurs against privileged groups are not the focus of this policy.”
    Or, more informally: “That’s not the point!”

    Why?

    Because these kinds of policies are usually designed to create a safe place for people to comment, with a focus on welcoming the voices of those who are otherwise marginalised and / or excluded. Slurs against privileged groups are only weakly correlated with this purpose.

    Does this make sense to you?

    (I understand that it probably isn’t the answer you wanted, and may raise more questions. If so, I’d recommend taking some time to digest a primer on privilege and power dynamics. This may help with vocabulary and context for your questions.)

  49. Oh dear, @Seebs, I apologise for my last few sentences.

    I, too, wondered how much context and experience you had.
    After reading your previous post, I understand that you don’t need my advice about primers, and that my assumptions may be offensive.
    Again, I’m sorry.

  50. @Seebs, as a clarification on “slurs against privileged groups are only weakly correlated with providing a safe place for marginalised groups”:

    The benefit of banning all slurs is that it is seen as “fair” and “balanced”.

    The drawback is that a large privileged group can use the accidental or deliberate use of slurs by marginalised individuals to further oppress them. (By demanding moderator intervention.)

    Personally, if I were the owner, I’d discuss this tradeoff with the site’s moderators, and give them discretion on slurs aimed at privileged groups, depending on the context.

    But that’s just me…

    I also wonder if rephrasing the question would elicit a (better) response:

    “Do moderators have discretion when dealing with slurs against privileged groups?”

    “Are slurs against privileged groups a frequent issue on your site?”

    Of course, I can’t help but wonder if you could resolve this issue by avoiding all slurs.
    Then, if slurs against all groups were banned, you’d comply, because you don’t use any slurs.
    If moderators had discretion, you’d comply, because you don’t invoke this discretion.
    If they’re permitted against privileged groups, you’d comply, because you choose not to use that freedom.

    Given this solution, I do have to ask:

    Is slurring privileged groups really that important to you, that it’s worth preemptively annoying the moderators of most sites you intend to comment on?

    Why do you want to slur privileged groups?
    Or are you concerned you’d do it accidentally?

  51. ::4. Aside from anything else, this fellow seems to be making the assumption that all the people he’d classify as “Social Justice Warriors” are a hive mind::

    I assume said person was a “supposedly moderate” guy speaking for DudeBros everywhere, Scalzi?

    That #4 kind of gives their game away, doesn’t it…?

  52. Heh, I’ve had the internet fall on my head. You live and learn. If you don’t learn, it falls on your head against.

    So… someone is concerned that the SJWs will attack you. How considerate they are of your well being, I mean those SJWs are so very scary. Don’t you want to disassociate yourself from those evil scary SJWs. Really. Repudiate them right now!

    If you don’t, then you’re just a victim waiting to happen.

    It’s not like people getting called SJWs have a point about the people using the term SJW.

    Because evil scary SJWs.

  53. Tim, no offense taken. I’m aware by now that this is a case where there’s an obvious way for someone to ask this question because they don’t know or care, but I’m coming at it from the far other end. But I know that’s unusual, and I don’t expect people to always spot that right away.

    As to whether using slurs is important to me: it’s actually rather the opposite: I feel that if a site is going to allow slurs against privileged groups, that this will create a deeply toxic environment. I’ve mentioned in comments here and elsewhere before that I know a trans person who’s in the closet on tumblr because of the social justice warriors. I think that an environment in which there are groups of people you are allowed to use slurs towards is doomed to toxicity, especially once people start arguing over which groups exactly those are.

    Frankly, I don’t care about the “problem” of a privileged person being able to get a slur removed by moderators, for the same reason I don’t care about the “problem” of a privileged person being able to enjoy any other basic legal protection or civil right. (I do care about the problem we get if *only* the privileged folks are enjoying those protections, though.) Basically, I don’t think it’s particularly oppressive to have a couple of offensive words removed from a post now and then. And yes, this does apply when I’m in the oppressed group. I have had people edit my posts on various forums for being rude, and I am cool with that, because generally when it happens, the resulting posts are more constructive and less reflective of my failure to find a nutritious breakfast that morning.

    Also, consider this: I can simultaneously be a member of some oppressed groups, and some privileged groups. So if a place is safe for me only insofar as I’m not privileged, that’s not actually safe at all! So I want to know what their policy really is, because if it really means “open season on whitey” or “die cis scum”, well, I’d rather not participate. But if they really mean “no slurs, we don’t tolerate abusive language”, then I’d probably feel welcome there. But I don’t want to spend a lot of time getting to know people in a community if I’m just gonna have to leave because it turns out that they are only open and accepting towards some of the things I am.

  54. Seebs: I switched from the second person to the third part way through my response specifically because I was trying to explain why people react badly to that question *without* making assumptions about you or your motives.

    But here you’re saying you’ve already done your homework, and yet you’re still referring to ‘slurs’ against people based on an axis of privilege they hold. I can say insulting things about straight white men, but that is not the same thing as a slur, which carries behind it the force of institutional power. So it isn’t that I think spelling out the answer would introduce a false equivalence into a moderation policy, and should therefore be left out even though it introduces ambiguity. The false equivalence is baked into the actual words you are using.

    And as Tim points out above, policies that forbid rude references to a person’s privilege can be–and often are–used to silence and tone-police marginalized groups. You say you don’t have a problem with people editing rude words out of your posts, but the definition of ‘rude’ almost always favors the privileged in ways that place their comforts before other people’s safety. White folks and men routinely demand that people of color and women apologize for ‘insulting them’ by pointing out they’re being racist or sexist.

    Most policies already have a blanket ‘respect your fellow commenters’ or ‘don’t be an ass’ rule, which would cover someone calling you scum and telling you to die. Trying to elevate that to the same thing as a slur erases the drastic difference in context between ‘die cis scum’ and ‘die t****y scum.’

  55. @Annalee: you say it much gooder than me, always. Can I start running my thoughts past you and hire you to write comments for me instead? :)

    I turned on Scalzi once this year. He was sitting at the bar and I got my drink and turned my back right away from him and … went over to an open table and sat down. And then later he was still perfectly polite to me anyway!!! How gamma is that?!

  56. I feel that if a site is going to allow slurs against privileged groups, that this will create a deeply toxic environment.

    I actually agree with this. I can’t think of any genuine slurs that don’t have their basis in some kind of bigotry (things like ‘cracker’ don’t count). Floored was shocked that rape jokes are still being made about Chelsea Manning – just over this weekend I’ve encountered half a dozen occasions when someone on a blog or commenting on a news item has hoped that such and such an offender would ‘Meet Bubba in prison’ or the like. If a site permits homophobic/rape remarks against even people like sex offenders, then they are creating an environment where rape is considered a just punishment for bad people, and from that, it is but a short step to considering rape to be something bad girls deserve, and that rape only happens to people who asked for it in some way.

    Same with remarks about ‘grow some balls’ or ‘what a pussy’ etc. These kind of things are actually homophobic/sexist, but are so common amongst straight men, that they go almost always unchallenged.

    Years ago, I was accused on this very blog of being a homophobe/racist by cranapia because I don’t allow homophobic/racist comments on my websites. (I will say it was in the context of a heated discussion, when Scalzi was less vigorous in moderating things, and it all got rather stupid.) I’ll take the risk again and say I don’t let people use slurs on my site for the reason you said – it creates a toxic environment. I don’t always succeed in avoiding them myself because I frequently refer to someone as crazy or deluded, when I should say their behaviour is. But since I’m mentally ill myself, I know what I mean. It’s something I should work on though.

  57. Ann:

    I can’t think of any genuine slurs that don’t have their basis in some kind of bigotry (things like ‘cracker’ don’t count).

    Wait, are you saying ‘cracker’ doesn’t have its basis in some kind of bigotry? Because it certainly does.

    It’s a reference to poor whites (aka “white trash”) who drove teams of oxen using bullwhips. The person who cracked the whip was a “cracker.” It’s an offensive classist term for a poor white southerner. You can see why it came into use as a response to the even more offensive racist N word, but it has its roots in class prejudice.

    It has no relationship to the Saltine™ type as far as I know.

    This doesn’t in any way invalidate the rest of what you’re saying, but I don’t think you’ll find a genuine slur that doesn’t have its basis in some kind of bigotry or other, and certainly ‘cracker’ isn’t such an example.

  58. All that said, the idea that it’s some monolithic bloc of outrage police just looking for a new person to bully and blacklist for being insufficiently progressive or whatever is a dudebro fantasy.

    Of course not.

    A herd of lemmings is not a monolithic bloc.

  59. And thus, Phoenician, you come full circle with the “someday you will reap the seeds of your own destruction!!!!” dudebro metaphor, albeit in a more pedantic fashion.

    Usually the aggrieved dudebros use terms like “witch hunt” or “lynch mob”, of course, to emphasize the fact that a bunch of Internet posters calling you an asshole is exactly like a bunch of state-sanctioned vigilantes murdering social outcasts or people deemed insufficiently human.

  60. Xopher: Cracker probably has nothing to do with the sound a whip makes. It’s more likely to relate to crack/craic (Middle English crak) and suggests one who talks or boasts too much.

    It’s still derogatory.

  61. And thus, Phoenician, you come full circle with the “someday you will reap the seeds of your own destruction!!!!” [...] to emphasize the fact that a bunch of Internet posters calling you an asshole is exactly like a bunch of state-sanctioned vigilantes murdering social outcasts or people deemed insufficiently human.

    I’m confused – do herds of Norwegian rodents actually reap seeds? Are they often used as murdering state-sanctioned vigilantes?

    (‘Cos, now that I think about it, that last mixed metaphor could be AWESOME in the hands of a good writer – “Little did Sven realise the power of the fascist Norwegian government until he heard the tiny paws following him over the snow…”)

  62. certainly ‘cracker’ isn’t such an example.

    I stand corrected. I had no idea of the background. Kind of makes my point though, or rather Seebs’s point about the toxic environment.

  63. @John, my apologies – I tried to find an edit button, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

    In future, I’ll do my best to think through what I want to say, then post it all at once.
    (Or, if I do think of a follow-up, I’ll wait for someone else to post first…)

  64. @ Tim: I usually use the last method, myself. It’s good to let everyone chip in.

  65. Taking bets? What odds is he paying out? This whole thing seems a bit loosey goosey.

    Regarding the subthread about slurs, I am all for equality. But I dont define equality in terms of institutional power only. Any asshole can be a flaming, raging bigot. And anyone saying that “institutional power” scales thaat bigotry as irrelevant is deluding themselves.

    Bigotry always starts on the personal level. It only gets institutional

  66. No idea what happened to my post. The gist of the chunk that didnt get posted is this: there are two ways to look at bias: individual and systemic. There cant be systemic bias without individual bias. But just because i there isnt systemic bias doesnt mean there isnt individual bias.

  67. Lemmings don’t actually throw themselves off cliffs en masse, unless forced to do so by The Walt Disney Company for dramatic effect.

    The twentieth repetition of “it’s a Small World After All” apparently has the same effect on their employees.

  68. Greg, I understand your point about systemic and individual bias. Comment policies are mainly intended to address systematic bias, by discouraging some individuals from expressing it.

    But I don’t think anyone is claiming that bigotry against those with institutional power is “irrelevant”. But several of us claim that it isn’t directly connected with “creating a safe place for those who are commonly marginalised”. It’s a subtle difference.

    My take on comment policies on minority slurs was:

    “[T]hese kinds of policies are usually designed to create a safe place for people to comment, with a focus on welcoming the voices of those who are otherwise marginalised and / or excluded. Slurs against privileged groups are only weakly correlated with this purpose.”

    I didn’t say that slurs against privileged groups were irrelevant – I said that they have a different (and indirect) impact. And banning them can have drawbacks:

    “a large privileged group can use the accidental or deliberate use of slurs by marginalised individuals to further oppress them. (By demanding moderator intervention.)”

    Or, as Annalee put it:

    “policies that forbid rude references to a person’s privilege can be–and often are–used to silence and tone-police marginalized groups. You say you don’t have a problem with people editing rude words out of your posts, but the definition of ‘rude’ almost always favors the privileged in ways that place their comforts before other people’s safety. White folks and men routinely demand that people of color and women apologize for ‘insulting them’ by pointing out they’re being racist or sexist.”

    What do you think about the difference between the impact of privileged and minority slurs?

    Or, in your terms: does it matter if the systemic bias is being expressed by a minority group at a privileged group?
    Or is that equivalent to systemic bias of a privileged group against a minority group?

  69. What do you think about the difference between the impact of privileged and minority slurs?

    I’m confused. What slurs could be acceptable against anyone?

    As opposed to plain criticism?

    Example: Discussing Mitt and Ann Romney’s disgustingly extravagant car elevator and house. They’re about as privileged as it gets (him more than her, because she has MS and is female in a religion which oppresses them). Is it acceptable to call her a stupid rich bitch because of that privilege? (Sorry, I can’t think of what he might be called that would count as a slur.) When does the use of slurs – not just insults, but nasty descriptors – become okay for anyone, if a blog says it’s not okay for some groups? (Calling someone a racist is not, in my book, a slur, unless it’s ridiculous – “You’re racist against white people” is what I call ridiculous.)

    It comes back to Seebs’ point about people being privileged on some axes and not on others. How can you know? And even they are privileged on every possible axis (as Mitt Romney is), is it okay to call him a pussy, for instance? Just because he’s not actually gay?

    The point about slurs is that they affect more than the people they’re aimed at.

    I guess I don’t understand the point you’re making. Using tone policing is definitely a problem but I can’t see how ‘accidental’ use of genuinely offensive terms by a disprivileged person should get a pass, when use by someone you think is privileged, does not.

  70. My take on comment policies on minority slurs was:

    “[T]hese kinds of policies are usually designed to create a safe place for people to comment, with a focus on welcoming the voices of those who are otherwise marginalised and / or excluded. Slurs against privileged groups are only weakly correlated with this purpose.”

    Problem here – why create a safe space for these groups? After all, you’re not creating safe spaces for pedophiles or animal abusers, who are also marginalised and excluded minorities.

    The answer to that “why” is simple – it’s the ethical thing to do.

    But if the desire to encourage the voices of the marginalised into the conversations is based on ethics, then it has to operate on ethical rather than operational principles. That is, the principles that determine what is acceptable based on reducing marginalisation need to be applied to all rather than one group at the expense of others, or you have swapped one marginalisation for another in search of some mythical “balance” – while claiming to be acting against marginalisation.

    You are fighting privilege by swapping one privilege for another.

    Consider your comment:

    ““a large privileged group can use the accidental or deliberate use of slurs by marginalised individuals to further oppress them. (By demanding moderator intervention.)”

    A good comment policy could protect against attempts to call for intervention on accusations of racism or sexism by simply requiring anybody who makes these accusations – or any such personal accusation, minority or majority – to show their proof in their post, or by allowing such proof as a defense to moderation.

    “I believe your remark was sexist because…”

    “I believe you are sexist because you have shown a pattern of sexism in…”

    “I believe you are blinded by your position as X because…”

    I don’t like people dismissing others because they’re black, or because they’re women, or whatever. I don’t see why this means I have to condone anyone dismissing people because they’re white, or male, or whatever. And I don’t see why it’s ethical to discriminate against one person’s personal characteristics if those characteristics happen to be shared by powerful groups.

  71. Quite simply: I don’t accept the premise that the term “slur” refers exclusively, and always, to things backed by “institutional power”. There’s a lot of redefining-of-terms that gets done to allow people to do things which are unambiguously in a category regarded as toxic or abusive, but then say “oh, but what I did isn’t that, it’s this other thing which is different because it doesn’t meet this new definition”. It’s not that I’m not aware of this line of thought; it’s that I don’t consider it a viable model for thinking about discourse that can lead to rules which produce a viable basis for a society.

    In short, it’s not that I’m unaware of it. I’m aware of it. And I don’t buy it.

    Having been on both sides of the line plenty of times, I really don’t think the difference in institutional power matters anywhere near as much as the difference between behavior which is abusive and contemptuous and behavior which is basically recognizing that the other party is a fellow sentient life form.

    So, to respond to Tim’s point, more clearly: I think that the nominal risk of tone policing is probably purely illusory; I don’t think it is an actual problem that can’t be solved better. I think the toxicity and harm that result from needing to hash out which groups are and aren’t protected can be devastating to a community. And I think that the overlapping of categories means that you can’t actually make a workable safe space for more than one marginalized group without having to have a policy that covers all the epithets, not just the ones directed at marginalized groups.

    It really feels like a stretch to me. It’s appealing to “but what if suddenly our entire moderating staff became gullible, credulous, fools and spent a ton of time enforcing a thing that was not in any way like any of our rules?” Because a rule that just prohibited slurs and epithets without regard to institutional power would in no way imply that suddenly you have to apologize for calling someone sexist, because while that may be an insult, it’s definitely not a slur or epithet. None of the alleged tactics for silencing people are relevant, unless the moderators adopt a policy of, say, instantly permanently banning people who ever screw up and snap at someone. Otherwise, all that happens is that if someone does slip up and use a word that’s on The List, the post gets edited or something. No real silencing going on, except of people who genuinely can’t communicate without using abusive language.

    It may well be that “die cis scum” is somehow less offensive or hostile than “die t****y scum”. It’s certainly less likely to be associated with ensuing violence. But the fact is, if I want to join a community that promises to be a safe space for marginalized people, and I go there because I’m autistic and therefore marginalized, and I get subjected to “die cis scum!”, I am in fact *not in a safe place after all*. (Nevermind that it is not entirely obvious that I am, in fact, cis.) If you really want a space that’s exclusive to one specific group, you can at least roughly consistently use such a rule. Unless, say, anyone in the marginalized group you choose has friends or family who aren’t in that group, and they find it hurtful to see things like that said about those other people…

    (And I should probably bow out here, because this is really not a topic Mr. Scalzi needs more of. I’m super easy to find if people want to pursue this further.)

  72. “this fellow seems to be making the assumption that all the people
    he’d classify as “Social Justice Warriors” are a hive mind”

    This might be because there seems to be a considerable amount of message coordination on the Right, with Fox News, Limbaugh, and various newsletters broadcasting the same talking points, and being quick to turn on people identified as deviationists. So for somebody usually moving in those circles, it might seem natural to assume a similar amount of coordination on the Left.

  73. “they are privileged on every possible axis (as Mitt Romney is)”

    Even as loathsome a creature as Romney is suffering some amount of oppression on account of his membership in a non-canonical Christian church.

  74. on account of his membership in a non-canonical Christian church

    Considering the wealth and power Romney has accrued on account of being a Mormon bishop, not so much, actually. You could make the same argument for Scientologists, and they’re not really a good example of the oppressed either.

  75. I see an interesting thing happening here: Some people are going for absolute rules as opposed to reducing harm.

    The power things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc have is that they decontexualize the experience of the less privileged. Being “color-blind” doesn’t solve racism. Ignoring gender doesn’t fix misogyny. Etc. The point of ending oppression isn’t to find a simple absolute rule that fixes everything, but to attend the context of each group – there’s a reason black people can use the N-word and white people can’t: context. Affirmative action carried beyond the point of when it is needed would be wrong, but right now in our current context it is not wrong.

    Saying who uses a word doesn’t matter in the use of a word is to ignore the context of what is happening. In a harm reduction model, not allowing an outlet for anger, rage, and pain that is less harmful than say self-mutilation, suicide, or rioting is very problematic. This is not to say language that is less than respectful of privileged groups is not problematic, but it is too simple and too hard to say one harm is better/worse than another. Nor is that to say there aren’t other outlets, but if they are not available, accessible, or understood, then those outlets don’t count at the moment, until someone provides them.

  76. @Ann Sommerville Being a privileged asshat in one area does not erase one’s other dispriivleges. Being disprivileged in one area does not erase one’s other privileges.

  77. Sneebs, I think you’re right – I’m bowing out of the slur moderation conversation here as well.

    And Sneebs, Ann, and others – I don’t believe there are any easy or obvious answers on moderation any more – what seemed obvious to me is far less so now. You have made some really good points, and I’m not sure what I’d say if I had this discussion again. I’ll have to mull over it all for a while.

    Thank you for an excellent conversation!

  78. Considering the wealth and power Romney has accrued on account of being a Mormon bishop

    I’m not aware that his religion helped him much to accrue that wealth and power—surely having a wealthy and powerful father, and landing a vulture capitalist job, counted for considerably more (and being a “bishop” does not seem to be a particularly rare or prestigious title in Mormonism).

    My impression is that Romney’s religion definitely hurt him in the 2008 primaries, c.f. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2007/12/jesus-and-the-d/; even in 2012, considering the overwhelming advantage he had in money and endorsements, he had considerable difficulties winning the primary votes of certain segments of the GOP base, and it seems to me that his religion was the cause there.

    You could make the same argument for Scientologists

    I certainly would, except that I don’t recall a single Scientologist ever being elected to major public office, let alone on a platform promoting their faith.

  79. [Deleted because this dude's ridiculous, and also very likely an asshole. As he refuses to buy my work now, my purchasing audience has become marginally more decent as humans. Hooray! -- JS]

  80. *resists urge to mock troll, knowing that Mr. Scalzi and the glorious Mallet can do a far, far better job*

  81. Matthias, you’re conflating ‘dislike’ with disprivilege. The LDS has enormous power in the states where it’s a dominant religion or a large minority. They are also prominently represented politically (eg Senator Harry Reid is a Mormon too)

    Seven of the one hundred members of the United States Senate and ten of the 440 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be Church members. At the end of the current Congress, there were six Senators and nine Representatives. In percentage terms, 7% of the Senate and 3% of the House will be Latter-day Saints, while the percentage of Mormons in the country as a whole is just less than 2%

    Source: http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/11/09/mormons-in-congress-2012-final-results-2/

    As a Mormon bishop, Romney had real power and influence over the people in his ‘care, eg
    http://www.metroactive.com/features/Mitt-Romney-Mormon-pregnancy-counselor3.html

    And Mormons also wield significant economic muscle:
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/37872991

    There is no evidence that Christian distrust of Romney actually did him any more harm when it came to the final vote than being a Catholic did the Zombie Eyed Grannie Starver VP candidate.

    Yes, people may distrust and dislike Mormons either out of sectarianism, or because of Church or individual actions (as they did with Romney, or with the LDS impact on the Californian Prop 8 vote). You haven’t demonstrated any kind of institutional, social or economic *disadvantage* that Mormons suffer. Are they denied housing? Access to benefits? Are they treated worse by the law? Disprivilege means that someone with the same skills and ambitions as another not in that group, suffers a hindrance to their hopes and acquisition of necessities compared to a non-member of that group, as a result of being a member of the disprivileged group. Mormons do not, and in fact use their privilege to actively oppress other groups (women, gay people, black people etc.)

    You could have argued that Romney was potentially a victim of ageism, but sine age is considered a plus for male political candidates (not for women), he didn’t suffer on that axis either.

  82. Tim: Comment policies are mainly intended to address systematic bias, by discouraging some individuals from expressing it.

    Nonsense.

    Comment policies are meant to encourage commenting. Or rather, comment policies are meant to prevent monopolization of a comment thread by a vocal group prepared to use insults and personal attacks in an attempt to drive off people who disagree with them.

    Scalzi lets far, far, far, far right wingers like Scorpius comment on this blog, and Scalzi lets far, far, far, far left wingers like me comment on this blog. He doesn’t use the mallet to squash out opinions he disagrees with. But one thing he clearly uses the mallet for is when someone tries to monopolize the opinion on a thread by insulting and attacking someone who has a different opinion.

    A comment policy that says “you can insult/attack whites, straights, and men for their whiteness, straightness, and maleness” is specifically looking to discourage views from whites, straights, and men from being expressed on that thread.

    The drawback is that a large privileged group can use the accidental or deliberate use of slurs by marginalised individuals to further oppress them. (By demanding moderator intervention.)

    If you post a racial or sexual slur, being told by the moderator to knock it the fuck off isn’t “oppressing” anyone.

    Look, if a black person is pulled over by a racist cop, that’s racism. You don’t get rid of racism against blacks by encouraging racism against whites. Using racism to counter racism is tit-for-tat. If you actually want justice, then you want a world without racism, and that means all racism.

  83. You take a very narrow slice and you can say anything to dismiss a disprivilege because of a privilege or perceived privilege.

    e.g.
    Gay men can’t be oppressed because men have the most power in the world.
    White women can’t be oppressed because they are white.

    e.g.
    Gays aren’t oppressed because there is a gay mafia in Hollywood.
    Jews aren’t oppressed because they are all rich.

    Being Mormon is not a privileged position in the USA. It may be moving to a more normalized position, but it’s not in a privileged position. This shift in acceptance is not unlike how Irish became white and Jews are mostly consider white in the USA. (No, being white is not a clear bright line, people who are white in other countries are considered POC in the USA.)

  84. Guys, this conversation is wandering off from the main topic of the entry. Let’s wrap it up, please. If you want to discuss it further with each other, I suggest taking it into e-mail.

  85. coordination on the Left

    *snicker* Yeah, right…

    My sister has been heavily involved in the Rainbow Girls, a youth group sponsored by the Freemasons, since she was a teen. I am reminded of the old saw (the truth of which I have experienced first hand) about the conspiracies surrounding Freemasonry: “You think the world is secretly controled by a bunch of middle-aged men who can’t even put on a beef dinner?”

  86. “Being Mormon is not a privileged position in the USA”

    Last comment, because of Scalzi’s request.

    I never said it was privileged. I maintain it is not *disprivileged*. Being Mormon does not bring any disadvantages remotely equivalent to being black, female, disabled, LGBT, old, or even fat.

    Being Mormon is a neutral characteristic at worst, and at best, certainly for many male Mormons, a significant social and economic plus.

    Seriously, the argument that being Mormon is a disadvantage comes perilously close to the argument that white Christians are the most discriminated against group in America. Practicising a religion which in its corporate form, does a lot of heinous shit, doesn’t mean criticism of that religion is discriminatory.

    “You think the world is secretly controled by a bunch of middle-aged men who can’t even put on a beef dinner?”

    They don’t want to put on a beef dinner. They have the little women to do trivial shit like that. They just want to run the judiciary, police force, military and political power structures to benefit people like themselves ie white Christian (or at least deist) men. At that, they are alarmingly successful, at least here in Australia. I used to date a Freemason. The many ways that being a Mason eases their path through life would astound you – and don’t forget, women are not allowed to be Freemasons, so all those little (and not so little) bits of assistance are denied them (unless they’re lucky enough to have a Masonic husband.)

  87. Ann, your experience with Australian Freemasons differs significantly from my experience with American ones. For instance, though it’s true only men can be Masons, it was always pretty clear that the Eastern Star ladies were running the show if anyone wanted anything to get done.

    Unless, that’s just what they want me to think… *dun dun duuuuuuuuuuunnnn*

  88. I gather that Commonwealth Freemasons are quite different from US Masons, who are a pretty mellow lot who aren’t out there running things. The Masonic Conspiracy Theories make no darn sense to Americans who actually know US Masons in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    Yeah, they’re male and mostly white, but they’re no more intrinsically dangerous or powerful than the Moose or Elk or Optimists, and probably much less powerful in many places than the Knights of Columbus (which were founded explicitly b/c Catholics aren’t supposed to be Masons). The KoC have a LOT of pull in heavily Catholic areas. Heck, they’re why there wasn’t any mail on Monday in the US!

    —————————————————————————-

    I thank OGH from saving us from anything containing the word “Galt” used in a non-joking manner, as well as slurs against anyone. It’s good to have a safe space to discuss science fiction, bacon, cats, giant lawns, cool new books and stuff like that.

  89. Hi John, I’m a long-time lurker but first-time commenter, as far as I recall. (Waves to GeekMelange/The Pint!)

    I might be able to shed a little bit of light on the tweet by @toxicpath, who is well-known to members of the progressive/feminist wing of the online atheist-skeptic community, since ze is one of the feral Twitterers who have been harassing people like Rebecca Watson for the last two years since she was brazen enough to have a controversial opinion on the Internet while being female. There’s a widespread meme believed by these guys that supporters of people like Watson (or other feminists like her) regularly play SocialJusticeWarrior games for the purpose of creating Internet drama, so it’s usually a huge disappointment to them when people who’ve been called out for doing something wrong, respond appropriately by admitting they’re in the wrong, apologise, and try to do better by learning.

    There’s in fact a whole Internet forum of people just like @toxicpath (I won’t identify it by name), which is somewhat depressing as it reveals the lie in the idea that people without religion leave behind all of the toxic social ideas that are inculcated by religions. It’s a reasonable bet that few of them would be following you on Twitter, though.

  90. Catherine Asaro:

    Yeah, from time to time a troll with pop in with a name like “Big Black Beautiful Lesbian” (no, really) and then attempt to spew. I think they’re always surprised at how poorly that camouflage works.

  91. @Tim, Ann, and others: I would like to thank you all for having a courteous and interesting discussion on the topic. I actually feel noticably better now just because I feel like someone actually listened to and thought about what I had to say, whether or not they agreed with me. Thanks. (And of course, thanks to Mr. Scalzi for building a community where that happens.)

    I think I have encountered Fake Minorities before, and it has been a source of some confusion at first. But they do tend to be pretty revealing after only a little while. It’s a tactic that says a whole lot about the state of the argument as a whole.

    (BTW: Through a fascinating combination of contrast settings and other things, the backdrop watermark picture is visible only behind John’s green-tinted posts, possibly intentionally, and is really faint, so I tried for about three minutes to clean my monitor before figuring out what was wrong.)

  92. ” I tried for about three minutes to clean my monitor before figuring out what was wrong.”

    I’ve been caught by that numerous times, usually when I’m trying to get my eyes to focus on the morning. Damn you Scalzi :)

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