Today’s General Comment, Apropos of Nothing in Particular

 

114 thoughts on “Today’s General Comment, Apropos of Nothing in Particular

  1. I suspect this is especially true for people who imagined that they were progressive by 1975 standards, for having reached “bare minimum of human decency” levels of social consciousness.

  2. Social consciousness is not time dependent. There were people with a good such even at the most depressing times of humanity.

  3. Surely nothing to do with yet more hue and cry over the lack of universal acclaim for sexism. ;)

  4. For context, 1975 was smack in the middle of the 8 year run of “All in the Family”.

    Per Wikipedia, this US TV show “broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence.”

    My dad loved it because he identified with Archie Bunker. (Seriously. I take this as an indication of the genius of Norman Lear.). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had a very different response to the show …

  5. Well, aren’t you captain obvious. Of course 2014 will suck, western society has significantly degraded since 1975. Not that 1975 was any good either. Now, 1875… that was good year. Before commies started ruining everything.

  6. Bearpaw beat me, but yeah. 1975 was in a lot of ways far more socially progressive than 2014. Today’s New Puritans would have an aneurysm were they to go back in time.

    Among other things, that was the year of Rocky Horror and Blazing Saddles. The sitcom Hot L Baltimore featured TV’s first openly gay, nothing-to-see-here couple. Punk rock was a-brewing. We were actually for-really leaving an overlong war. The Equal Rights Amendment was still a thing that was happening that more than 30 states had ratified. Unions were only just starting their slide. Earth Day was taken seriously.

    For progressives, 1975 was actually a golden age and it’s been all downhill ever since.

  7. “1975 was in a lot of ways far more socially progressive than 2014.”

    Meh. I’d might buy in to “in some ways no less socially progressive.” “Far more socially progressive,” I don’t think so. I would agree that there are people today horrified at the world, who would be horrified then for somewhat different reasons.

  8. For an Australian a social consciousness stuck in 1975 might not be a bad thing.

    Well, apart from the stress levels involved in maintaining the rage…

    (For non-Australians the relevant quote to google here is “Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General!”)

  9. What does confuse me about this apropos-about-nothing-nonevent is this: is every time an editor decides not to publish something a violation of the 1st Amendment?

  10. I thought coming in that this dealt with the lovely reaction of some anonymous NFL execs who were suddenly confronted with the possibility that a team might draft a gay player (Michael Sam). Mostly, “you know, he’s not really as good a player as everyone thinks he is” — everyone including the SEC, who named him a top defensive player for the past season.

    But SFWA politics works, too.

  11. 1975 was scary?

    Hugo Award for Best Novel 1975: Ursula K. Le Guin – The Dispossessed.

    Well, I agree. Going with Redshirts against that… scary idea.

  12. As someone who was a young woman in the work world (and the middle-class social world) in 1975, I can say that for women, 1975 was a lot closer to the world depicted in Mad Men than 2014 is–and not just in terms of the number of years separating the eras. The situation for women in 1975 was an improvement on the 1950s and 1960s in many ways, but we had a long way to go, baby, and I don’t agree for a moment that it’s been downhill ever since. I’m going to speculate that a lot of LGBT folk aren’t nostalgic for 1975 either. It seems to me most peculiar that an era in which gay marriage is on the upswing could be considered downhill from 1975. A lot of seeds were sown in 1975 and thereabouts, but they have had a long, long growing season.

  13. Andrew Hackard:

    There are lots of reasons today why I might have posted this general comment. One need not limit it to a specific incident.

    Obi:

    If you’re trying to imply Ms. Le Guin is a better writer than I: DUH. Otherwise, your snark-fu is weak.

  14. I would think that writers, second only to lawyers, would have the best grasp of what the First Ammendment is and is not. And yet, this writer’s rant and ramble about the first ammendment is giving me a queasy feeling one might imagine you’d have if a veteran firefighter of 30 years service started complaining that foam doesn’t come out of a fire hydrant and why did the government change hydrants to dispensing only water?

  15. @Just Good Sense: “1975 was in a lot of ways far more socially progressive than 2014.”

    Um, not really what I was saying. Norman Lear was riding the ragged edge of what was socially acceptable, and mostly getting away with it because the show’s central bigot was portrayed as a relatively sympathetic everyman curmudgeon.

  16. Hugo Award for Best Novel 1975: Ursula K. Le Guin – The Dispossessed.

    That is scary, given that I’m rereading The Dispossessed right now and picking up a lot of the nuance that I missed when I first read it mumbledy-some years ago at the tender age of 13. (For some reason, I didn’t get nuance at 13.)

    One of the scariest things about it is how little some of the situations LeGuin talked about have changed over the past four decades. And one of the most enheartening things about it is how much others have.

  17. It takes a special talent for failure to trot the First Amendment out every time one seeks to make a case for less censored speech. Maybe there is a case for a member-run organization to question the limits of what is verboten. Conversely, there’s certainly a case for a member-run organization to decide when and where it is or is not acceptable to offend who with what. In neither case does the United States Constitution have shit to say about it, unless the member-run organization happens to be the United States government, it which case First Amendment that puppy to the max.

    TL;DR: If you’re going to make an argument for freedom of speech in general or in a particular org other than the USG, stay on topic.

  18. I think you’re giving them too much credit. I remember 1975 being way better than that. Except, as previously mentioned, for All in the Family, which I watched one episode of (and that was one episode too much).

  19. @BW: “I’m going to speculate that a lot of LGBT folk aren’t nostalgic for 1975 either.”

    Amen to that. 1975 was two years *before* Anita Bryant started her campaign to (supposedly) save the children. Speaking as someone who was a (teenage) child at the time, Anita, thanks for nothing you ignorant asshole. There’s nothing that says “safety” like seeing family members calmly agree with someone who thinks I’m a dangerous perverted sinner.

  20. Re: the Sam story I am encouraged at how un-1975 most of the reaction has been.

    I particularly like the comments by the Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Basically he was saying that in an NFL locker room they have to be free to offend people outrageously; so what does he have to do to not offend in the wrong way. To paraphrase Little Big Man, I want to kill you without being a bad person.

  21. To clarify, I am paraphrasing the movie, not the character. The original sentiments were held by an antagonist. Sorry for the double post.

  22. In 1975 I was five years old and didn’t even know what a social consciousness was. I am now 43 going on 44 and I have learned more in the past year about what it means to have one than I have in all the previous years combined.

    Today held another lesson for me.

    Some lessons are more inductive of sorrow than others.

    And that is all I will say about things which are presented without context.

  23. @greg: I think there is a certain class of writer who likes to throw around the First Amendment in much the same way a certain class of gun enthusiast likes to wrap themselves in the Second. The desperate desire to shield oneself from responsibility is a hell of a drug.

  24. Why is everyone talking about the First Amendment? Why not talk about McCarthyism instead? Such a fascinating movement. Furiously scurrying to set up boards and councils to prevent the spread of dangerous ideas. Often times these groups would abandon the cause of their organization because crazed zealots had coopted them for their own ends. They even attempted to prevent people from finding success in their chosen field if they should think a certain way. Why these groups would even flagrantly break their own well documented rules to purge dangerous people. Sometimes a great display would be made by prominent members threatening to quit and labeling the organization as they enemy if a rogue was not expelled. To think they could fear a voice from the people that badly. Its a good thing such people will find little comfort in 2014.

  25. @riccola: I don’t doubt some people see the pushback they’re receiving as akin to some form of oppression, but until the leaders of these organizations wield the litigious power of Joseph McCarthy – including the HUAC’s subpoena power, the ability to jail people as they did with Alger Hiss, or the ability to dispatch police to use fire hoses on their opposition – it’s probably not an apt comparison. Sort of like saying a private institution’s policies violate the First Amendment’s protection against Congress passing laws to limit speech.

  26. riccola, because “First Amendment” sounds so much more wholesome, and people who either mistakenly or disingenuously try to wrap themselves in the Constitution seem to like to use imagery that is both positive and simplistic.

  27. I actually read all of Truesdale’s screed, and OMG WTF TAKE A CHILL PILL. I am embarrassed for him, because that was just lame. Really, really, deeply, truly, lame. Someone give Dave a teddy bear, and put him down for a nap. He’s been up way too many hours and is starting to hallucinate black helicopters.

  28. I thought 1975 was a great year, but I’m not sure I was eating solid food by the end of it.

    The petition linked to in the comments does seem to translate to “Other people’s opinions are finally gaining promenance over mine? Censorship!”

  29. In 1975 I was in grade 12. I was taking computer science and wanted to be an engineer. My (male) career counselor told me that nursing was a more appropriate choice for me and asked why wasn’t I taking typing. I’d wanted to take architectural design but girls weren’t allowed. Really. Female teachers still had to have their “pant suits” inspected for decency by the Principal. I did get to see both Rush and Steppenwolf though.

  30. @mike75 I’m not sure what you mean by “comparison” I was just talking about McCarthyism. However, that does remind me of an error people often make. Did you know some people believe fascism always involves camps and killing a section of the population? Completely untrue, that is actually just a variant of a similar ideology. Italian fascism was still fascism despite lacking aspects of the Nazi version. Similarly, government enforcement was not the sole trait of McCarthyism. So were there to exist a movement that was rather similar to McCarthyism except lacking the power of government I believe it would be rather fair to call it McCarthyism since to my knowledge there is no exact name for such a movement, of which McCarthyism would be a branch of.

  31. @Riccola: Fascism? Really? I have never read a single issue of the SFWA bulletin. If that publication is the entirety of your life, you need to get out more. Go see a movie, or something. Please.

  32. @riccola: Actually, that’s what people think the Holocaust is. And you don’t do your argument much service by evoking those images. Just saying. And I’ll refrain from further context in deference to our host.

  33. I suppose some of this depends on where you were and what you were doing in 1975. I recall my teacher making everyone share, regardless of who had brought what, and spending a fair amount of time focusing on equality regardless of gender or race, the importance of a diverse society, and the value of helping each other out.

    All in all, I’d have to say it was a better view of social consciousness than the social messages and examples I got from the high school teachers and college professors a decade or so later.

  34. @riccola: “So were there to exist a movement that was rather similar to McCarthyism except lacking the power of government I believe it would be rather fair to call it McCarthyism …”

    Because the power of govenment is such a small and trivial distinction?

  35. @mintwhich and whelan

    You do realize that using a reference to something people understand and are familiar with is typically a way people convey knowledge to others? Fascism is an ism, McCarthyism is an ism. Any further assumption on why I used fascism is merely an attempt to blind yourself.

  36. Among other things, that was the year of Rocky Horror and Blazing Saddles.

    Please note that, as per Gould’s doctrine:

    “However, when content alienates portions of our membership it is =not= meeting the
    needs of our members or our organization and this is part of the equation the editor
    will be considering that when they look at articles, illustrations, and ads. ”

    it is likely that any new equivalent to the Rocky Horror Picture Show will not be allowed to grace the SFWA magazine.

    Assuming, that is, that Gould is telling the truth in attempting to avoid alienating portions of the organization, rather than putting the desires of some portions as gatekeepers above the desires of other portions, which I believe is called “privileging”.

    I certainly hope that Mr Gould follows through on his desire to protect all sections of the sf writing community from alienation, whether this be from sexism, reverse sexism, racism, reverse racism, discrimination against alternative sexualities, depiction of alternative sexualities, etc.

    I look forward to seeing the application of this doctrine in a fair and balanced manner.

  37. @Bearpaw

    Part of the environmentalist movement in America was action through government. Would you say then that environmental efforts that do not depend on government shouldn’t be considered environmentalism since the government isn’t a small and trivial thing?

  38. Phoenician:

    “it is likely that any new equivalent to the Rocky Horror Picture Show will not be allowed to grace the SFWA magazine.”

    The old version was unlikely to either, considering it was first a play and then a movie, and not an informational article on the SF/F writing life.

    Let’s not say dubious things to make a point that has little bearing on the discussion at hand, please.

    Riccola:

    You are likewise going far afield. Tighten up the discussion, please.

  39. 1975, you mean when Liberals were still angry about Conservatives de facto censorship by refusing them access to to the institutions They controlled?

  40. @riccola, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I take some small comfort in the fact that it means we have something in common.

  41. I guess I took “social consciousness” to mean some kind of median or norm. Individual outcroppings of humane consciousness have always been where we find them, and maybe they will pan out in the long run, but I can never remember a time in the U.S. when so much power and wealth was invested in destroying the very ideals we used to say we lived by. That seems truly new to me.

  42. I do suspect that it makes more sense to say that the organization is not going to to print things that they find to be offensive rather than saying that they don’t want to alienate any part of their membership.

    It is quite possible (even probable given some of what has been said by some) that there are some rather nasty bigots in the membership and calling a spade a spade in such cases could and should alienate them. Assuming the majority of the organization consists of people who are not assholes of this sort, alienating those who are shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but rather as an opportunity to improve the organization as a whole.

    If some of these creeps happen to be well respected in their field then kudos to that organization for having the spine necessary to move in a direction that is morally right even at the expense of potentially losing some influential members in the process.

  43. The old version was unlikely to either, considering it was first a play and then a movie, and not an informational article on the SF/F writing life.

    Well, I don’t have access to the journal, much as the vast majority of the other people commenting on the Internet about the Malzberg/Resnick affair. But the comparison was not meant too literally – I’m glad that Gould’s new doctrine will also protect all portions of the sf writing community from alienation by informational articles which (for example) might feature transgressive sexual roles as celebrated in the RHPS.

    I mean, I loved the RHPS myself, but my wife hates it. Thank goodness Gould is looking after the interests of all portions of the sf writing community, and will be applying this doctrine equally.

  44. In 1975 I was a high school sophomore (by the end). Guys wore tight pants. Not much else good about that time. Oh, and I found out that there was a gay rights movement.

  45. I do suspect that it makes more sense to say that the organization is not going to to print things that they find to be offensive rather than saying that they don’t want to alienate any part of their membership.

    The important question, and one which is buried deep in the rubbish Truesdale printed, is this:

    Who *exactly* is “they” in your comment above?

    You and I might find sexism offensive. Another person might find treating homosexuality as normal offensive. So either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone.

    Gould’s statement says that the SFWA intends to do the former. It will be interesting to see if, instead, they do the latter.

  46. @Phoenician in a time of Romans: I would expect ‘they’ means the elected leadership of the organization. As leaders they are expected to lead and set the standards that those who elected them to their positions would find appropriate (and sometimes those that their constituency should find appropriate in the case of particularly forward thinking and aggressive leaders). If the majority of the rank and file disagree then the next election can change the leadership and replace them with someone else…

  47. @Andrew Sims was never rated as a great pro prospect – he’s always been considered a tweener (too small to hold up at defensive end, no coverage skills to play linebacker) without crazy athleticism. In general, he was rated as at best a third round pick. The combine would, of course, push that up or down depending on his performance, but he was never going to be picked in the first round.

    All that said, I hope he gets the chance to do whatever he can in the NFL – be that kickoff coverage or Pro-Bowl end.

  48. I think it cuts both ways. In 1975, my father was proned out on a highway outside Columbus, Ohio in the middle of a snowstorm by several highway patrol officers and threatened with physical violence all because they saw a copy of the Koran on his front seat while writing up a speeding ticket.

    My father’s reaction to this was to start making payback plans with some old friends from the Black Panther Party.

    Today, his political consciousness is light-years away from that mindset. With any luck, this is true for those officers as well. Neither side should be stuck in 1975.

  49. Phoenicians:

    “Well, I don’t have access to the journal, much as the vast majority of the other people commenting on the Internet about the Malzberg/Resnick affair.”

    It’s possible that those people entirely lacking context for a discussion might considering acknowledging their lack of context, and also recognize that it means their contribution to any discussion may be less than helpful, and thus perhaps they should instead speak on subjects they have context for.

    If you generally agree with that, Phoenician, I would suggest that you be the change you seek in the world, in the hope that others will follow your laudable example.

  50. Since I’ve never read the SFWA Bulletin, I could be wrong about this, but isn’t it an industry journal with things like news about the SFWA, articles about markets for writing, highlights of members’ work, and that sort of thing?

    I’m confused because people are talking about the Bulletin as if Stephen Gould is trying to muzzle a magazine on the bleeding edge, one that was skilfully spreading bold new ideas no other publication dare whisper and challenging authority at every turn.

    Assuming that’s not the case, I don’t see the big issue here. Gould would like a publication that doesn’t offend large swaths of the membership. This should not be that hard to do when the primary content is informational articles about the writing business.

  51. The petition in question objects to an advisory committee for the magazine representing the organization.

    In fact, advisory committees for such magazines are common place. I am a member of the American Physical Society, which has a membership of 47,000 (roughly 23 x that of SFWA) and its mouthpiece magazine, Physics Today, also has an advisory committee. No one complains about censorship (except crackpots who claim to have proved Einstein wrong).

  52. @Anne – I too was in the class of 75. Yes, it was like that.
    I never thought we’d go backwards in some ways, but we have,
    I was more afraid of going forwards too quickly.
    I didn’t foresee Anita Bryant, and certainly didn’t foresee that race could still be an issue in 2000, let alone 2014. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

    I see myself as a conservative. But a conservative from 1975, expecting that “the moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice”. That if we took it carefully, didn’t rush, it would take 20 years but we’d get the good without the over-reactions of the SLA etc.

    It’s 40 years later, and we’re still not there yet, and have gone backwards, as with Wahabbi Islam. There are more Young Earth Creationists now, some having seats on Science committees. The burqa, rather than being long extinct, is resurgent. The union movement, rather than being the all-powerful tyrant I feared it would become, all but destroyed.

    My 1975 conservative views haven’t changed – but now they’re seen as liberal, even leftist. Or maybe I was just ignorant back then, not knowing the depths of ignorance and bigotry that those not as privileged as myself were subject to.

    “My faith was so much stronger then
    I believed in fellow men
    And I was so much older then
    When I was young”

    So time to get off my backside and do something about it.

  53. In 1974, the Nixon resignation was the high-point for me. Inasmuch as that seems to be the last time a President was held to account for violation of civil liberties, it remains so.

    Since I have no interest in American football,especially the “professional” sort, and even less interest in hearing what cowardly anonymous sources say is the “acceptably manly nature” of the “sport”, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  54. You and I might find sexism slavery offensive. Another person might find treating homosexuality abolitionism as normal offensive. So either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone

    Hmm.

  55. J.D. Locke: No more so than it ever was, I’d say–it’s a never been an exactly monolithic body.

  56. @anne. In 1975 I was informed that I could not enter nursing school because I was a man.Ever get to be an engineer ?

  57. John, I’m sure some of those people marched with Martin Luther King Jr, and Joanna Russ never threw a drink in their face, so I don’t see why you’re calling them sexists and racists. And how dare anyone suggest any sort of standards. After all editing any form of offensiveness out of anywhere, ever, at all, is tantamount to genocide, or at least Mrs Grundyism!

    [/sarcasm][/in case you didn’t notice]

  58. the penultimate samurai: Don’t worry, disco is coming back, baby.

    Rocky Horror? Aw man, I miss that movie.

    Locke: Is it just me, or is SFF authordom fracturing along political lines?

    was it ever NOT?

    Phoenician : I certainly hope that Mr Gould follows through on his desire to protect all sections of the sf writing community from alienation,

    If a SFWA member submits an article for publication in SFWA channels, just how bigoted does it have to be before SFWA can decline publishing the article? Or must it publish any submission, because to decline publication of even the most bigoted screed would “alienate” the bigot?

    No limit whatsoever?

  59. You and I might find sexism slavery offensive. Another person might find treating homosexuality,/strike> abolitionism as normal offensive. So either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone

    Hmm.

    Indeed.

    But I think you’ll find the Union Army was pretty clear as to its objectives, that it made no bones about the fact that it intended imposing them by dint of superior force, and never made the claim to be trying to avoid alienating any particular group of Americans.

  60. There is an argument to be made for reserving final say over what appears in a publication to that publication’s editor. That’s how the professional journals that I read do it, though it’s by no means the only way.

    However, that’s not the argument I’ve seen made. Instead I’ve seen an eleven-page polemic on three lines of text that are themselves taken out of context. I would not be terribly sanguine about attaching my name to such a document.

  61. I read the petition and my brain liquefied and is now leaking out of my ears.

    Then I accidentally stumbled on the blog of a writer that was kicked out of the SFWA and uses a pen name with initials that I find rather embarrassing.

    Then I read the comments section. This was a mistake. John, you were, of course, mentioned.

  62. But I think you’ll find the Union Army was pretty clear as to its objectives, that it made no bones about the fact that it intended imposing them by dint of superior force, and never made the claim to be trying to avoid alienating any particular group of Americans

    I was talking about pre-1861, thanks, when there was quite a lot of discussion about not alienating Southerners by being too harsh on slavery.

    Though the petition, now that I think about, does in fact read rather like the South Carolina Articles of Secession.

  63. Huh. It is.

    Sorry for the double-post, but the comment I left last night vanished without a trace. Weird.

    My thoughts: Good job making humor out of RSHDs, Mr. Scalzi. And…um…the 70s were not a very rosy time. Can you imagine a world without the Internet????? *shock and horror*

  64. Floored:

    You and a couple of other people were shunted into the spam queue after I accidentally deleted a bunch of posts. I’ve been going through trying to free most of them. Sorry about that.

    That said, let’s be careful about labeling people we have disagreements with RSHDs, please. I will note that the fellow I’ve called the RSHD before earned it after miles and miles of written evidence and intent to antagonize.

  65. I suspect the cries of free speech and muzzling editors would be very different if the publication in question decided that the next six issues were going to have cover illustrations along the lines of Tom of Finland Joins the Space Marines.

    Also, it appears that there is a certain segment of the SFF community that will sign an impassioned defense of puppy-strangling if you throw “blah blah censorship something free speech” in the petition somewhere.

  66. Greg: must [SFWA] publish any submission, because to decline publication of even the most bigoted screed would “alienate” the bigot? No limit whatsoever?

    Phoenician: the Union Army was pretty clear as to its objectives, that it made no bones about the fact that it intended imposing them by dint of superior force, and never made the claim to be trying to avoid alienating any particular group of Americans.

    So, if you’re biggest concern about the civil war was that it “alienated” those poor put upon slaver plantation owners, then I’m going to take a leap here and say “no, no limit whatsoever. SFWA must publish a KKK pamplet if someone in the KKK is also a member of SFWA”. Which, is good to know so clearly where you stand.

    And as far as you fighting the “good” fight to defend those poor put upon slaver plantation owners being “alienated” by the big mean imposing forceful Union Army, I’m pretty sure that you just put yourself on the wrongest-wrongity-wrong side of history of any topic of history there ever was. If there isn’t a prize for being on the absolute wrongest-wrongity-wrong side of history, then I seriously think the internet needs to invent one, just to award it to you.

    Just. Wow.

  67. Captain: I thought the Mallet of Loving Correction was best served cold….

    Nah. Scalzi puts it in the warming chamber prior to using it.

    Although, perhaps the reason for that is simply so that the handle is warm and he doesn’t get cold hands.

  68. @ Our Glorious Lord Host, may His name be praisèd:

    Ah, thank you, sir. And understood.

  69. Being aware of yourself as existing in history, knowing that you’ll have successors as well as predecessors and that future people will see all of us as terribly ignorant of things they find to be basic obvious truths, is hard work sometimes. And a certain amount of comfort with where you are now intellectually and morally is appropriate, since sufficient lack of confidence in your own worth is genuinely disabling. But still, sometimes it’s downright depressing to see people who’ve shown themselves capable of better responses show so little sign of ever giving any consideration to questions like “Hey, what if I’m wrong?” or “Huh, could it be that I missed something?” or “Hmm, maybe this time around it’s my role to follow others’ lead instead of being one of the trailblazers?”

  70. I confess that my first reaction to the tweet at the top was, “So, you vass dere, bubbe?” The “social consciousness” of the past was, like Gibson’s future, not evenly distributed, and I am personally acquainted with people who in 1975 (and even farther back in the mists of time) tried to see and understand the world clearly and behave decently in it. So while the social consciousness of many old farts is rooted in 1975 (or 1962), it’s a 1975 (or 1962) which was not socially or morally uniform. Some things are much better now, some are not, and I draw a certain sour comfort from the recognition that the jerks, bigots, greedheads, bullies, nitwits, and self-righteous we have always with us. Which is why the work never ends and you don’t get to take your shoulder from the wheel, your nose from the grindstone, your hand from the plow.

    Better quit now, lest I miss the shuffleboard tournament and early-bird special.

  71. @Greg And as far as you fighting the “good” fight to defend those poor put upon slaver plantation owners being “alienated” by the big mean imposing forceful Union Army, I’m pretty sure that you just put yourself on the wrongest-wrongity-wrong side of history of any topic of history there ever was.

    Complete comprehension fail, Greg.

    Just as a brief clue – observing “the Union Army used force to impose its agenda” is not the same as being pro-slavery.

  72. To amplify Kyle’s comment above, and to bring in some actual data from other places discussing this, The group neither selects or rejects articles, it reviews them and advises on them to the President, who retains the same power that post always held in approving or rejecting inclusion. This from Neil Clarke, who’s a Task Force Member involved in the process of addressing the bulletin issues. You can verify his presence on the Task Force right on the SFWA website. The newly proposed group is likewise not going to be anonymous, so the idea a mysterious “they” will be conspiring behind closed doors is pretty silly. (I’m paraphrasing – hopefully accurately – from multiple comments he posted at http://radishreviews.com/2014/02/10/oh-dear-sfwa-bulletin-petition/#comment-25291)

    There’s nothing about this action that isn’t indicative of a professional group tightening its editorial process to avoid devolving from a useful tool for members into a useless collecting place for sniping at other members. The latter, IMHO is exactly the end result of the proposed solution of publishing anything and then just publishing response letters from offended parties. It probably wouldn’t be good for any organization to allow it’s official publication to more closely resemble a HuffPo comments section.

  73. In 1975 the Democrats were shortly to ‘enjoy’ the rise of Jimmy Carter. In 2014 the Democrats are embracing the not-quite candidacy of Hillary Clinton. So who is stuck?

  74. Mythago: along the lines of Tom of Finland Joins the Space Marines.

    Speaking as a straight male, I would love to see prints of that made available.

  75. Phoenician: Just as a brief clue – observing “the Union Army used force to impose its agenda” is not the same as being pro-slavery.

    No. You’re trying to do legalistic interpretations of Gould’s statement, and you’re making silly arguments. i.e.:

    either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone. Gould’s statement says that the SFWA intends to do the former. It will be interesting to see if, instead, they do the latter.

    Do you really think that when anyone in the civilized world says they don’t want to offend anyone that they mean they wouldn’t want to offend slave owners? Why else would you compare the alternative of “not offend anyone” to the Union Army and say they never made the claim to be trying to avoid alienating any particular group of Americans?

    You’re also the one who said: I certainly hope that Mr Gould follows through on his desire to protect all sections of the sf writing community from alienation, which seems to be implying that sexist people need “protection” from “alienation” too.

    If someone is committed to “not offending anyone”, then they they are making good on that commitment if they do not publish offensive materials from other people. i.e. sexist screeds offensive to others. If someone is committed to “protect all sections” of some group, then they would be fulfilling on that very committment if they refused to publish materials that did not protect some section, i.e. sexist screeds that disempower women.

    Based on this legalistic appraoch, you appear to be trying to frame Mr Gould’s committment as some sort of potential hypocricy: Assuming, that is, that Gould is telling the truth in attempting to avoid alienating portions of the organization, rather than putting the desires of some portions as gatekeepers above the desires of other portions, which I believe is called “privileging”.

    This is nonsense. And it all appears to come down to you don’t like the idea of anyone being put in charge of determining the meaning of words and applying it to a situation. in other words this:

    You and I might find sexism offensive. Another person might find treating homosexuality as normal offensive. So either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone.

    Is really nothing more than the “judicial activism” argument applied to a private organization. That if we make a committment to free speech, then no one may be allowed to apply meaning and intent of free speech to a particular situation, and instead, Mr Gould must be held to his exact words with their most mechanical meaning. That if the constitution says you have the right to “free speech” that you should have the right to yell “fire” in a crowded building that isn’t actually on fire. No common sense, no interpretation of intent is allowed, because you want to fear-monger that “they” who make this might have a diffferent meaning for what is sexism, and therefore we can’t allow anyone to define “sexism”.

    It’s entirely silly.

  76. *sigh*

    Nope, you’re not getting it. Let me be explicit.

    As far as I can see, one faction in the SFWA (which I have broad, but not complete sympathy for) is becoming more and more successful in imposing its ideological agenda on the organisation as a whole. To the irritation of other factions or individuals who might not share that agenda, or who might not wish to see a professional organisation privileging any particular agenda.

    Statements along the lines of

    In compliance with the by-laws and the will of our members, there will be regular oversight of the Bulletin to ensure that it is inclusive of and reflects the diversity of all our members, and that it continues to address the changing needs of professional writers.

    With all of our publications, SFWA will continue to stand strong for the rights of writers. This includes opposition to censorship.

    appear to be mealy-mouthed rubbish, already shown to be untrue by the way two senior writers were handled when a group of other writers started complaining about them. Go talk to them about how “the diversity of all the members” was reflected.

    I’m not commenting on the agenda per se, which is why your comments were ludicrous.

    I’m commenting on the pretence.

  77. @Russell Letson: Well said. And as an approximate contemporary of Our Host (give or take a year and many, many different experiences), I will note that my social conscience – or at least the crude building blocks of it – started forming about, er, 1975. I was born to and raised by pre-Baby Boom parents who, while anything but hippies, had no truck with racism, sexism or “traditional” gender roles. (Homosexuality was more of a sticking point, but not as great a one as I feared for years.)

    There is an old Jesuit maxim, familiar to anyone who’s seen one or more of the brilliant “Seven Up” documentary series: “Show me the child until he is seven…and I will show you the man.”

  78. Phoenician: Nope, you’re not getting it.

    Dude, it’s fine. I totally get it.

    SFWA: ensure that [SFWA] is inclusive of and reflects the diversity of all our members

    Phoenician: [SFWA’s statements] appear to be mealy-mouthed rubbish, already shown to be untrue by the way two senior writers were handled when a group of other writers started complaining about them.

    It’s very simple. SFWA said they’d be words like “inclusive” and “diverse”, and you’re like “Won’t anyone be inclusive of the sexists?” “What about the diversity of the sexists?” “Sexist members of SFWA are writers too ya know!”

    And then you declare them “hypocrites” because you’re doing the equivalent of a young-earth creationist, insisting the most literal interpretation of words possible, void of any context of the words, void of intent, and void of common sense. Certain gun extremists use this same fallacy with the second ammendment and insist that machine guns can’t be regulated in any way because it says right there in the constitution “shall not be infringed”, and regulating a machine gun is infringment, what part of infringment do you not understand!?!

    What you’re doing isn’t complicated. It’s just a linguistic fallacy based on eliminating common sense. And when common sense is eliminated, people start arguing silly stuff like this:

    Who *exactly* is “they” in your comment above? You and I might find sexism offensive. Another person might find treating homosexuality as normal offensive. So either you’re going to operate a doctrine which tries not to offend anyone – or you’re going to allow one group to dictate the standards for everyone.

    And the reason that sort of argument is silly is simply this: the meaning of words can only be understood in a social context, i.e. “rain” means what it means because we agree that it means precipitation that falls from the sky. But social context isn’t the same as unanimous context. And at the basis of your argument is the implication that either a word must have unanimous agreement from everyone or it is too dangerous to leave its definition to any subset.

    You’re arguign that we cannot allow anyone to define “offensive” because not everyone will agree and therefore it’s mob rule.

    Sorry charlie, that doesn’t fly. Murder is illegal but it isn’t unanimously illegal. Not everyone thinks murder is wrong. Thugs, mobsters, and nutjobs don’t have a problem with murder. But we’re not going to go “well, since we can’t allow one group to dictate to everyone else that murder is wrong, then we can’t make murder illegal.” Since mobsters and thugs don’t object to murder, we’re not going to wait until we have complete and total unanimous agreement about murder before we can make a law against it.

    I get what you’re saying just fine. I’m just telling you the multitude of reasons that what you’re saying is completely fallacious.

  79. @Don Hilliard —

    Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …

    Show me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …

  80. @Jon Awbrey: More directly – your point other than pedantry?

    (Yes, I will admit you’re correct in quoting the Seven Up outro verbatim. That quote has also been expressed in the words that I used, and by me the sense is the same in both cases. Problem?)

  81. Thanks to Cory Doctorow, I can no longer read the phrase “political correctness” without mentally converting it to “treating people with respect”. It’s a useful metric.

  82. “As far as I can see, one faction in the SFWA (which I have broad, but not complete sympathy for) is becoming more and more successful in imposing its ideological agenda on the organisation as a whole. To the irritation of other factions or individuals who might not share that agenda, or who might not wish to see a professional organisation privileging any particular agenda.”

    You’re setting up a binary that frankly doesn’t need to exist in this context. Everyone wants the SFWA and by extension its bulletin to not privilege one particular agenda over another, with the marked exceptions being the agenda of advocating for SFF writers, helping them thrive in their careers, and creating a welcoming space for everyone in the SFWA. If someone didn’t want the organization to advocate for SFF, or if they didn’t want to provide valuable tools to advance careers in writing and publishing SFF, they probably shouldn’t be involved with the group, as that’s a stated goal and all. Also, if they don’t want the organization to be welcoming to everyone, they’re probably more interested in having a fan club or mutual admiration society, not a professional organization open to qualified people willing to pay dues to belong.

    The only agenda that seems to be in play here is the SFWA is either experiencing or becoming aware of a growing number of people who’ve previously been marginalized rather than included (qualified as “lady editors,” for example, rather than “editors”), and who’d like the organization they pay dues to to make an effort not to do that, even if the qualification was applied without intending to offend. The opposition position looks a lot more like an attempt to use Censorship as a dog whistle, out of a fear that “more inclusive” is Orwellian code for “being exclusionary”. The intention of the new decision seems to be to make sure everyone in the group is represented at the table. I have my doubts Steve Gould intends to do that by saying straight white men aren’t welcome.

  83. There are all kinds of things that the Bulletin doesn’t and wouldn’t run, and that you would get near-universal agreement on omitting. A Perez Hilton-style gossip column about authors’ personal lives, for example. Or an anonymous piece by a woman who hooked up with a Distinguished Author Dude at a con – full of embarrassing, personal details about his physical appearance and his performance in bed, and designed to make him an object of mockery (and no, opinion and truth are not libel). Would anyone scream censorship or insist that the author of the tell-all piece had an absolute right to express their opinions? Somehow, I’m guessing not.

  84. mike75: The opposition position looks a lot more like an attempt to use Censorship as a dog whistle, out of a fear that “more inclusive” is Orwellian code for “being exclusionary”.

    This.

    It’s like the anti-sexual-harrassment training at work, and then some guy is mad that he has to take down his Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar from his cubicle and cries ‘no fair’. It’s like, dude, you’re not the victim here.

  85. Greg: Yes, and it’s amazing how often “agenda” is code for “My special privilege is being threatened, waaaah!”

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