Ten Things About Petitions and Freedom of Speech

Because. 

1. In the United States (at least), “Freedom of Speech” is a legal term of art, and means a specific thing. Please be aware of what it means. If you use the term incorrectly, you may be corrected, or thought ignorant and not qualified to argue the point. You probably won’t like that.

2. Replace “Freedom of Speech” with “Censorship” in point one. Proceed forward.

3. If you conflate editorial standards and procedure with issues of freedom of speech and censorship, particularly when you are able to, say, post whatever you like on a web site you control, you may not be taken seriously. You may not like that either.

4. If you conflate the ability to say what you want, how you want, with an immunity from criticism or consequence of the speech, you are likely to be surprised. If you are not aware of, or refuse to seriously consider, that many people who might in times past have not publicly objected to your speech now feel free to do so and in no uncertain terms, you may become unhappy. If you choose not to treat those responses and criticisms seriously, your reputation may ultimately suffer. Your reputation today is highly contingent on what you do now, not what you’ve done in the past.

5. If a petition is created that you are asked to sign on to, it makes sense to do due diligence to make sure the particular issue that the petition is designed to address is, in fact, an actual issue. If it is not, you may eventually regret signing on to the petition.

6. Likewise, if you sign a petition because you believe the petition addresses a high-level issue of concern to you, but the text of the petition itself (including various publicly-accessible drafts) is poorly-written, offensive, and contains several basic errors of fact and logic, you should not be surprised when your name and reputation are attached to the worst parts of the petition, rather than the high-level issue you intended to address.

7. As a basic rule, petitions should be drafted by a competent writer who serves your agenda, not his own. If the job is handled by the person in the group least qualified to write, and with the most to gain by his association with the rest of group, be aware that he will not be elevated by his association with you; rather you will be dragged down by your association with him.

8. “Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. The first is, “I have done no substantial thinking on this topic in at least twenty years and therefore anything I say past this point cannot be treated with any seriousness.” The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.” If in fact you do not intend to convey either of these two things, you should not use, nor sign on to a document which uses, the phrase “political correctness.”

9. If in your rhetoric you deploy the existence of a friend with certain political/social/racial characteristics to shield you from criticism of your rhetoric, you should be aware that a) it doesn’t work the way you intend, b) it makes your rhetoric more offensive, not less, c) your need to deploy this erstwhile friend to deflect criticism, likely without their consent, implicitly signals the weakness of your rhetoric. Others, particularly those with similar political/social/racial characteristics as your shield, will advantage their own personal experience more than your accounting of the alleged experience of your alleged friend, likely to your detriment. Consonantly, if a document you’ve signed onto is written by someone who deploys a “friend” in this way, remember point 7.

10. The ability to express one’s self is ideally tempered with understanding that how one chooses to say a thing — and whether one chooses to say it at all — is often as important as the fact that one can say it. People of good will can and do have varied points of view; people of good will can and do argue and debate, sometimes strongly, about events and topics important to them. Choosing words wisely is not censorship or an impediment to free speech. What it can be is a way to make sure one’s intentions are understood clearly and cleanly. Choosing words poorly, on the other hand, can signal that one has no intention of treating those on the receiving end of those words with respect. One of these has a happier outcome for everyone than the other.

253 thoughts on “Ten Things About Petitions and Freedom of Speech

  1. These are of course general observations, apropos of no particular thing at all.

    Also, Mallet is in the warming chamber. Behave, please, and treat each other with courtesy.

  2. Paging Bob Silverberg!

    I have no idea why I just said that.

    Also note that “Freedom of Speech” exists independently of the Constitution; the First Amendment protects the abridgment of that right, but does not establish it:

    “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech”

  3. Generally speaking, I don’t get all worked up over the particular muse that spawns these types of general observations, but in this instance, I am absolutely *dying* to know what brought this on.

    Also, it is for these diamonds that I continue to read this here blog.

    On “political correctness” -It is more important for me to be continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.-

    That is absolute brilliant stuff.

  4. I would like to see people who use the word “political correctness” or PC sincerely try to define it. (The rest of you may not want to expend the bandwidth.)

    I see the words used a lot, confrontationally and disparagingly, but the specific meaning is murky. The attitude is clear, but can it be translated into concrete words?

    The closest I can come to guessing at a synonym for PC is “a fussy etiquette which insists that slurs are unkind” or “a newfangled attitude that people didn’t editorialize about fifty years ago”.

    I know we can all come up with even more snide interpretations, but I’d like to be able to look this up in the conservative dictionary and find a sincere answer.

  5. David:

    I should note I consider Bob Silverberg a friend, and am pleased to do so. With specific regard to some recent unpleasantness, I suspect he is someone with a high-level concern that probably could have been better served with something other than what’s been offered.

    On a more general note, let’s avoid banging on any particular people, please. You’d be surprised (or maybe you would not be) who I am personally acquainted with, and it’s hard for me to brook thumping on them. Let’s talk concepts when we can.

    smhll:

    Oh, I hope we don’t try to define “political correctness” here in this thread. That will be one long, painful derail.

  6. I would like to see people who use the word “political correctness” or PC sincerely try to define it. (The rest of you may not want to expend the bandwidth.)

    Well, as John implies, it’s used by people who are finding themselves challenged to change their minds regarding a privileged viewpoint they’ve held all their lives, and resisting doing so with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Kind of like a small child who’s just been told it’s bath time.

  7. I once took the phrase “Some of my best friends are____” and broke it down so that I could clearly understand WHY that is an insulting and bigoted phrase. An interesting exercise. I decided to use — some of my best friends are red-haired– as I am myself. At the end, I decided that some of my best friends are human — the rest are cats!

  8. I had no idea what in the world this was about, as the only high profile petition I’m aware of recently is the anti-mass-surveilance EFF one yesterday. But thanks to DAVID for the tip. :)

  9. With specific regard to some recent unpleasantness, I suspect he is someone with a high-level concern that probably could have been better served with something other than what’s been offered.

    Agreed. That applies to a fair number of people in this recent unpleasantness, now that I think about it.

  10. I like the fact that this is almost entirely descriptive rather than prescriptive. In fact, with a few edits…but I love it as it stands.

    As for “political correctness,” rather than define it I prefer Cory Doctorow’s heuristic of simply substituting “treating people with respect” (or maybe it was “treating people decently”), with appropriate grammatical adjustments, of course. It definitely gives a clear perspective on where people are coming from.

    Jerome, the name to conjure with is “Truesdale.” Google “Truesdale petition,” ignore the stuff about the lake, and you’ll soon know what you want to.

  11. Reading and understanding the text of a petition as opposed to its high level goals, is key. People have to do it for contracts, but don’t, I think, seem to do it for petitions.

    But, then, people don’t do it for contracts sometimes either, and pay for it.

  12. #4 is my favorite. It’s tiresome how many people react to their privilege/bigotry/wev finally being publicly called out as if *they’re* being oppressed. Especially when they try to hide behind their (supposed) religious beliefs. Especially when the religious belief they claim is still professed by the vast majority of the people in power.

  13. IMO, “politically correct” is about the same as “in style” or “fashionable” and I have the same opinions about PC as I do for fashion: Everything from ROFL to dumb founded to appreciative.

  14. I’ve always defined “political correctness”, in the manner which it’s typically used, as “pretending that you’re not bigoted in an effort to be polite” with a subtext of “but you’re really just as bad as we are”.

    But I like your definition much better.

  15. The thing I find sort of fascinating is how many people in the last two days or so have found themselves arguing that editing is equivalent to tyranny.

    I wonder what they think about newspaper style guides?

  16. I particularly dislike petitions which are nothing more than something to occupy your attention while the real goal — fundraising — lurks in the background. Nothing wrong with fundraising for causes; I just think being up front about it is better.

  17. It is a crying shame that so many of the signers are people I respect as authors, because this tarnishes their luster, in my opinion. I can’t believe any of them actually READ the petition they signed. You may tell any of those people you know, Mr. Scalzi, as a 52 year old fan who’s avidly read SF since I was 8 years old, I am VERY disappointed in them.

  18. @smhll: How about “The belief that idiots who take offense at things that aren’t actually bigoted should nevertheless be indulged, or otherwise treated as anything other than idiots.” Here’s a good example: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/11/us/new-york-juror-form-negro/ Because gods forbid we should offer an “outdated” word that has never been a slur in addition to the other options, in an attempt to allow as many people as possible to respond to the terms they actually identify with.

  19. The equation of “in style” with “correct” is another good example – the only study that I’m aware of that looked at the issue found that slightly more of the people described preferred “black” to “African-American” than vice-versa . . . and yet “African-American” is the PC term. Why is that? Because it’s in style, and it’s where the euphemism treadmill is at the moment.

  20. My understanding of “PC” is that it is a general purpose computer that used to (barely) fit under your desk, and now resides in your pocket. Popular flavors have included “Windows”, “Mac”, and “Linux” but now are mostly “iOS” and “Android”.

    Speaking of androids, have you seen the dress that has C3PO’s head in some poor model’s crotch?

  21. Christopher Henry:

    You must have missed the point upthread where I said I didn’t want to go down this road of conversation, as it would inevitably become derail-y, as your comment almost certainly is. So, again, let’s just go ahead and snip that off now.

  22. To be fair, I think he already covered the one vaguely-close-to-defensible option, so the thread has naturally come to a close.

  23. I’m used to enjoying work from people whose views I find appalling, one of the corollaries for holding views that don’t tend to find much acceptance in the mainstream.

    So the fact that many authors whom I respect (and several whom I don’t, mind) have signed onto this doesn’t affect my opinion much. I actually predicted a couple of the names signing on based on how well I knew the authors and their work.

  24. naomikritzer:

    The thing I find sort of fascinating is how many people in the last two days or so have found themselves arguing that editing is equivalent to tyranny.

    Some of the authors signatory there (I will not mention them by name per John’s direction) have published novels recently with serious problems that an editor could have helped. One of them was about a third too long, and would have been a much better book at a shorter length. So maybe they really do believe that.

    uleaguehub, *Grin* you’re welcome!

    Jerome, thanks! I try.

    [Xopher rejoices that he has been saved by Refreshing from posting a reply that has become not only moot but sort of obnoxious by comments since he started writing. Xopher will try to remember to Refresh every time from now on.]

  25. Yeah, making these points never gets old. I regularly have to post this…

    “Some people really need to learn the difference between “you need to respect my opinion” and “you need to respect my RIGHT to have an opinion”. The difference is not subtle.”

  26. This thread has become a great example of what it describes. You could argue that having devoted an entire paragraph to the definition of “PC,” John is being “unfair” in cutting off discussion on that subject. However, what you cannnot do (if you want to be taken seriously) is say that you were Censored or had your First Amendment Rights violated. (For the record, I do not personally want to discuss the definiton of PC; it just happens to be the [insert topic here] for this example.)

    The petitioners could have taken the exact opposite tack and tested their collective clout to democratically change SFWA’s policies. They did not do that because 1) it sounds partisan as opposed to loftily idealist and 2) they probably don’t like their chances.

  27. Speaking as an avid reader of some of the people who had the poor sense to attach their names to the petition in question, YES. THIS.
    It’s incredibly unfortunate that people who make their living through the written word display such a poor appreciation of a well thought out and cogently written argument. It’s also unfortunate that they appear to have such poor understanding of editorial guidelines and practices, and of professional standards.
    I would really prefer not to have to find out that people whose work I otherwise admire and appreciate have such damning feet of clay. I would also really prefer that they not go out and show their arses in such a manner.
    As a reader, this entire thing is just depressing. Something I read that really resounded:
    “I’m not worried about censorship. I’m worried we are a joke.”
    I really hope that the organisation in question pulls itself out of this particular cycle, and I wish it all the best. I like what it’s members produce, and I hope that they keep on keeping on. Right now though, it’s trending heavily towards the joke phase, and a poor one at that.

  28. My go to quote for 1st amendment issues is Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s:

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

  29. PrivateIron, I’m not sure I understand the point of your first paragraph. That’s all exactly as it should be, right?

    (If you don’t think so, the Google search is “Editing! Gerunds! Death!”)

  30. ” c) your need to deploy this erstwhile friend to deflect criticism, likely without their consent, implicitly signals the weakness of your rhetoric.”

    Or your friendship!

  31. I occasionally use the term to distinguish between actual considered efforts to avoid offense, and dogmatic application of over-simplified rules. Someone who insists that “black” should be replaced with “African-American” in all cases when referring to skin color is probably being Politically Correct. Someone who says “the word fag is generally sort of offensive in the US” is not being PC. Someone who spends half an hour arguing with me that I’m not allowed to call my spouse a fag is probably being PC; they have failed to consider context and are applying a rule in an inappropriate way.

    If you browse tumblr looking for things tagged “sjw”, you will occasionally see some lovely examples of this sort of thing.

  32. Xopher: I was underscoring John’s point. Not sure what you are objecting to.

    It was actually my second paragraph that’s the problem. I re-read the petition and while it futzes on forever with First Amendment rhetoric, the actual demand is probably something that members of a trade organization can reasonably request. I don’t know enough about SFWA’s inner workings to know if it is appropriate in form, etc.

    My first quick glance at the document caused my eyes to glaze over and I assumed the rhetoric was the actual demand. If I understand it now, they are asking for input on the membership and/or continued existence of an advisory Board. They are doing it in a very unfocused manner and for what may be not very nice motives, but I cannot say the bare request would be wrong per se.

  33. @snowcrash: I really think the people involved didn’t think they’d be showing their asses quite as much as they eventually did. There’s a lot about this that falls into the category of “they way we used to do things,” back when everyone involved knew each other by reputation, if not more intimately, and would understand the actual intentions, however poorly expressed. This might not have caused quite the same stir in a smaller, tighter circle. In a group that’s rapidly expanding and includes people who might not know (or care about) what you “really meant,” this was a poor hill to plant a flag on.

  34. 11. Don’t quote “civil rights activist Charlton Heston” in your petition. Just don’t. Again, a general observation.

    You are probably uninformed. You should mosey on over to Wikipedia and read about his history of political activism. It is not supportable by evidence to put “civil rights activist” in quotes as a snarky criticism when talking about Charlton Heston.

  35. naomikritzer–

    This is clearly not about style, or editing in the sense of mildly correcting formatting, grammar, etc. That should be clear.

    For example, in a newspaper, it would be against custom and tradition for the editor of the paper to give any editorial control about the news content from the publisher (or owner). The expectation of the news reading public is that the news content is under the exclusive and ultimate authority of the editor.

    If there was a super-editor, a board of editor reviewers, etc that supersede the editor, that editor is not really the editor. He or she is actually a line editor, a proof reader, a managing editor, or some other thing other than the editor.

    It’s really literally just a matter of definitions. Traditionally “the editor” has the final say. If he or she does not have the final say, they are not longer what has been traditionally thought of as “the editor” of the publication.

  36. I am deeply disappointed in several female authors at the moment as regards to this issue. I am also deeply tired of the issue.

    I’ll just say this: Alice Sheldon had numerous reasons to write her science fiction stories under the pseudonym of James Tiptree Jr. in the late sixties and seventies, not the least of which was that posing as a man, she could write the stories she wanted to write and get them published. That was because female writers of science fiction, despite having been around as long as the male authors of science fiction, were continually objected to in, discouraged from entering, censored within and actively blocked from the field by male authors, fans and publishing professionals. The stories that she wrote as Tiptree were acclaimed by many others in the field, some of whom announced when rumors circulated that there was no way those stories could have been written by a woman.

    Some of the authors who said that — who were friends with Tiptree by mail and believed her to be unquestionably male — and other authors who were publishing during that time when women had to fight to simply exist in the field of science fiction, may have recently signed a really awful petition, trying to censor free speech in the name of immunity from criticism, particularly the free speech of female authors. Proving that they haven’t learned much in forty years.

    Right now, we have entered another era in which, like the seventies, women are doing interesting things in SFFH and elsewhere. They are participating, they are vocal, they are creating, they refuse to be seen as less than equal, as fans, authors, artists, editors, etc. And just like in the seventies, people — including some women — are fighting wildly to stop them from doing it, to insist that society ignore their concerns and grievances about the obstacles put in their path and how they are treated by the society, that those concerns and grievances aren’t real, or are real but not worth hearing about. They are being told that their art isn’t good enough or invisible, should be off in a corner of female only, or can come out and be seen as long as they are okay with being pawed at a convention. They are being called every variety of names, enduring rape and death threats for having a conversation about, say, books, and they are constantly referred to as if they were children in need of a time out, pretty sex toys who need to be silent, or barbarian hordes destroying everything in their paths (political correctness.)

    Fuck them. They aren’t the future. They can have all the free speech they want. They just have nothing of worth to say.

  37. @mikes75
    Given some of the furious backpedalling and/or doubling down that I’ve seen, I do not doubt that at all. Nonetheless, these are for the most part writers and editors, and as such I still hold them to a far greater duty of care when it comes to things like written petitions and editorial responsibilities.
    BTW, this is without even bringing on the first (and significantly worse) draft of the petition.

  38. People making excuses with 5&6 just tickle me, in a sad, sad way. When you get wound up and indignant over things like this you just invite people to question why you’re so attached and proud over being incompetent. You see it in all sorts of political scandals where people in charge make great hay out of the idea that they had no idea what was going on.

    Seriously, that’s how you want to handle this? You want to attach a lot of words to going on about the ways in which you have no idea what people you’re supposed to be supervising are doing? Or that people in your facility could walk around and torture with impunity and you wouldn’t notice? Or that you’re running an operation where you have simultaneously managed to hire people who would do criminal things AND give them the impression that you’d be cool with them AND not notice it going on?

    Claiming you had no idea what was in a petition you signed is just part and parcel with that. You’re spending time convincing us that you care so little about the people who look to you that you’ll just sign off on anything without reading it. Or perhaps that you’re so sloppy with your attention that you didn’t notice the content of it. To make that sort of assertion without accompanying it with some recognition of having screwed up just makes you look like someone who doesn’t mind people thinking you’re a tool.

    That’s cool, I guess. If you want me to think you’re a tool then I’m not going to fight you on it.I just don’t think these folks who do this realize that’s what happens.

  39. dpmaine:

    For example, in a newspaper, it would be against custom and tradition for the editor of the paper to give any editorial control about the news content from the publisher (or owner). The expectation of the news reading public is that the news content is under the exclusive and ultimate authority of the editor.

    If there was a super-editor, a board of editor reviewers, etc that supersede the editor, that editor is not really the editor. He or she is actually a line editor, a proof reader, a managing editor, or some other thing other than the editor.

    It’s really literally just a matter of definitions. Traditionally “the editor” has the final say. If he or she does not have the final say, they are not longer what has been traditionally thought of as “the editor” of the publication.

    That’s not how it works in magazine publishing and for that matter, newspaper publishing. Editors do not have holy powers. Any magazine has oversight from the publisher/owner, and usually also an editor in chief. The job of the publisher is to supervise what is published. That means the publisher makes sure the editors don’t mess up and put out things that the publication doesn’t want to show as its official voice. It is the job of the publisher to know exactly what is in the publication before it goes out and to have approved all of the material. That may have involved trusting the editor, but usually a publisher gets a run-through on what’s in the magazine and the general content of pieces.

    The editor’s job is to select material, create the composition of the magazine, handle all logistics directly or by supervised delegation, hire writers or buy pieces or use staff writers or write by him or herself the materials for the magazine, make sure those pieces are usable for the magazine’s goals, edit the material, have it fact checked if not fiction, supervise the copyediting and proofing and make sure everything is on schedule. Nothing in there means the editor can’t be overridden by his or her bosses or that an article selected by the editor can’t be tossed for numerous reasons.

    If a magazine is the magazine newsletter of an association, say, having a magazine that publishes material that attacks large numbers of its members is a liability and not serving the needs of the association, which is the purpose of the magazine’s existence. Therefore, publisher oversight is mandated. This does not stop the editor from being an editor. It means that there are people who check that the editor is actually doing his or her job.

  40. PrivateIron, not objecting. Just curious, since I thought you were objecting to something. Makes much more sense now; thanks for clarifying.

    dpmaine, [Deleted for responding to a deleted post - JS]

  41. . It means that there are people who check that the editor is actually doing his or her job.

    I agree totally, but typically the top editor at a publication has the final say over what is published. It is not unheard of to have an editor quit if pressured from a publisher/owner. It does sure seem like this is going the way of the dodo.

    Ultimately, whoever makes the decision of what gets into the final copy has the role that was traditionally labelled “editor”.

  42. When I read John’s post I was thinking that sometimes one might sign a petition which one more or less agrees with because it’s probably better to have one petition than many. Then I read it.

    I just read the version of the petition that is being billed as the final draft. My goodness. Any petition which starts out by referencing the previous eight pages of correspondence is a train wreck.

    I haven’t read everyone who signed it, but I’ve read several, and I’m pretty sure that any of them could do a much better job of drafting the thing.

  43. Xoper– JS did I think change the topic back. I think I missed him earlier saying not to go down that thread.

  44. 8. “Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. .. The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry,

    But the emphasis of the perjorative is in the word “political”. It usually comes from someone who enjoys bottom-up, systemic bias in their favor. “bottom-up” meaning not top-down government mandated segregation or someting like that, but rather, bottom-up such as, for example, a lot of white people in an area individually make every effort to exclude people of color from their transactions. The government isn’t forcing segregation, but plenty of white people in the area are committing racial discrimination on an individual level. And since there are sufficient numbers of people doing this, it occurs as a systemic problem.

    Because these people are operating as bottom-up bigots, because they are operating without any mandate that is top-down, from the government or similar, to commit their bigotry, and any organized(*) effort to combat their bigotry will be “political”, in their perjorative form. They’re attempting to change the topic from “I am a bigot” to “I am merely exercising my individual freedom (to be a bigot) and you are attempting to use “political” force to stop me, you tyrant.”

    I understand Cory Doctorow’s notion that “political correctness” means “treating people with respect” or whatever. But it is missing the source of the perjorative. Invoking the term “political correctness” is ALWAYS trying to change the subject from “I am a bigot” to “I’m exercising my personal freedom and you’re trying to tyrannize me through political (or organizational) means”

    (*) Any individual effort to combat their bigotry will simply be dismissed as indiviudal over-sensitivity and ignored. Any *orgnanized* effort to stop their bigotry can’t be ignored because it actually has enough power to potentially counter the bottom-up, systemic bias they enjoy. Organized efforts to stop bigotry are a threat to bigots, and therefore bigots can’t igonre them, so they attack them by changing the subject from “bigotry” to “tyranny”.

  45. I’m embarrassed for all of SFF, seeing so many luminaries on that list.

    This all reminds me of a Russian (?) saying: Throw a rock into a pack of wolves. The one that yelps is the one you hit.

  46. Kat–

    On additional thought, in your post, the publisher is the editor. All that’s happened is the authority has migrated from the editor up a level. The editor has ceased to be what is traditionally been known as the editor (or the rather new ‘editor in chief’).

    It seems common now (esp. in magazines) that the publisher really is a “editor & publisher”. Especially for smaller publications.

    Traditionally, whomever has the final say on what gets printed on a particular edition is the editor.

  47. *sigh* Xopher (with an h) runs aground again on the rock of early training. Xopher resolves to be more patient in future. Xopher is an old fan, and tired.

  48. Man, I wish there were a cloned Scalzi who was doing this kind of stuff for Science (see: Nature and misogyny) publishing, not just Science Fiction publishing. Science publishing isn’t even at the point where -ists of any kind. feel like they’re being silenced (except maybe feminists…).

  49. Should have said: Invoking the term “political correctness” is ALWAYS trying to change the subject from “I am a bigot” to “you are a tyrant”.

  50. A lot of times, I find myself on the wrong side of an issue. And I look around and I realize that all the people on my side of the isle are people who are not nearly as experienced and smart as the people on the other side.

    Maybe their presentation wasn’t great, but perhaps the petition has merit. JS has posted some interesting thoughts but he hasn’t really addressed the issues of facts and logic that may be assumed to be understood.

  51. Not everything that fails to treat upon the exact point that you highlight (and clearly find very profound) is “derailment”.

    Also, leveling accusations of intellectual laziness against people who (for lack of a more precise term) use the phrase “political correctness” shows that you are intellectually lazy, having not bothered or managed to deconstruct the ideas behind the buzzwords, and may cause you to be thought ignorant and not qualified to argue the point. You probably won’t like that.

  52. I have not read any petitions in a good long while. Yet several above thread commentators seem to be addressing some poorly written recent petition. No fair doing so without providing a link. Otherwise, we readers are left in the dark. We hate the dark! Well, most times we do. Political correctness aside, what many forget is the law of logical consequences. Every human action including exercising one’s right to freedom of expression and speech brings with it logical consequences. Sometimes, when what one expresses is deemed stupid or just plain wrong by others, the logical consequences are bad. Sir Scalzi offers some reasonable suggestions in the ten points to avoiding bad logical consequences. That much I get. But what is this petition in the shadows?

  53. Good points, John.

    It helps to know why things like laws are in place. Why there’s such a thing as societies and communities. At its core it’s all about people wanting to be allowed to pursue their lives and make as much out of it as they can. To do that requires security which tends to work best with numbers. Hence, the desire for communities. We belong to communities. From there it’s a matter of insuring we can live with one another amicably enough to do all that individual pursuing stuff. And that’s where laws come in. To put down on record the means we’ve agreed upon to make life’s pursuit more possible within a group of similarly inclined folk. Essentially, society and the laws we codify for it are in place to either allow us or help us along in finding a bit of happiness on this earth together. Keyword: together. As opposed to wandering the dark forest alone amid the wild things.

    What I’m trying to say is we have all the social/economic/political stuff going so that we can live with one another in relative peace and friendliness, which in turn makes it possible to pursue our own lives and goals. Therefore, it’s essential to society, to community, to be respectful of one another, otherwise the entire point for everything else is lost.

    Maybe I went deeper than needed but I like to going to the core of things.

  54. LPQ:

    Actually, derailment here is what I say it is, so, you are wrong.

    Your other point is also wrong. I don’t care if you (or anyone else) thinks I’m not qualified to argue the point, you random internet flyby person, you.

    Anything else you would like to be wrong about?

  55. dpmaine: Maybe their presentation wasn’t great, but perhaps the petition has merit.

    Not really, no.

    Every job I’ve had for the last number of decades has required every employee to go through mandatory, annual, anti-sexual harrassment training. Way back when it first started, there were guys who would gripe about stuff like not being allowed to keep a swimsuit calendar in their cubicle. The petition in question is approximately the equivalent of a few of these guys getting together and trying to argue that they should be allowed to keep swimsuit calendars in their cublcles, and that to prohibit such is tyrranny.

  56. Is there a legal reason for marking these things as “general observations, apropos of no particular thing at all” when it’s pretty clear that the commenters are nearly all on the same page about exactly what non-particular thing we are talking about?

    This is the third time in the last three months that I have seen a similar assertion about the definition of political correctness. I wonder if there is a common source. Perhaps if it’s not appropriate for this thread that it might be a suitable subject for a different one.

  57. Mike:

    Sometimes I wish to make general points and I don’t necessarily want them tied into a specific incident. Alternately, sometimes an incident will happen and I want to address a topic not directly on point. Or sometimes I am genuinely thinking about a subject without any specific referent.

  58. Not really, no.

    How much have you considered it? If people described as luminaries agreed to sign the petition despite it’s flaws, maybe it’s more important you had imagined?

    It’s not worth derailing for a sexual harassment digression but the same logic applies there. Just because no griped about it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t tyranny (and vice-versa).

    Consider what JS has imputed – the petition is likely to hurt their reputation. It is likely to be harmful to their prospects. Is JS smarter then they are? Maybe, maybe not. But presumably several of the signers are smart.

    So why would they risk their reputations over it?

  59. JS–

    Which is it here? All ten points tie extremely closely to a certain petition that has made waves in the same circle you run in. None of the three options you listed seem to have any bearing on this situation. These 10 maxims would apply to virtually no other situation.

  60. dpmaine:

    The list was not exhaustive. Also, there may be more than one reason, including but not limited to the ones enumerated. Also, I would disagree that the points here might not have general application.

    Also, dpmaine, please do me a favor and aggregate your responses into one comment, rather than posting multiple sequential comments. It’s an OCD thing of mine, not relating to you specifically. Thanks!

  61. My suggestion for #11.

    If you are to petition an organization in an effort to sway said organization to change it’s policy, it might behoove you to actually be a member of that organization to begin with.

    Observe this in action;

    “John Scalzi, I don’t always agree with your moderation policy, so I’mma start a petition to get you to change it.”

    Howzat?

  62. If you are to petition an organization in an effort to sway said organization to change it’s policy, it might behoove you to actually be a member of that organization to begin with.

    Well, to the extant that said organization’s policy is internal. If it’s external policy that can affect other people, I do think it’s OK for non members to speak up

  63. gwangung, but of course in this case that’s so. The publication being petitioned against is an internal publication of the organization.

  64. Jerome O’Neil,
    Yah, that’s gonna work. snicker, snicker.
    I speak from personal experience on the following.
    If your erstwhile friend brings you a petition, or an issue they want your support on, check it closely, no rubber stamping. Otherwise you may get burned by association.
    Which John and others have already spoken too but it was a very hard lesson for me in college all those many years ago…

  65. Oh, good grief. Googled SFWA and found the timeline of the controversy of last year percolating over into this year. I am so glad I missed out on the whole mess as it was ongoing. I do now understand a few of Scalzi’s blogposts, such as this very one, which had been rather murky (at least to me) over the past several months. And I thought Scalzi had enjoyed an easy time of being President. Now, everyone guilty of exploding in ugly polemics on the webspace this past year on either side, go stand in a corner. Now. Just do it. Don’t come out until you can behave when typing on a digital device.

  66. @Greg: Of course they should. And the lesbians should be allowed to do likewise, and the straight women and gay men to put up beefcake. (Actually, everyone should be allowed to put up whatever, but I imagine that relatively few will choose to put up “sexy” pictures that don’t match their own inclinations.) Is it tyranny if they’re forbidden to? do so? Of course not, if the power doing the forbidding is the company rather than the government. It’s just a bit prudish and silly.

  67. “How much have you considered it?”

    Yes, and for one, it doesn’t address what the SFWA is actually doing. It’s addressing a fear of what they think the organization might do. I’m afraid that the burger place I like to go to may stop offering jalapenos, but until they actually announce they’re getting rid of them, a petition to make them continue offering jalapenos is kind of silly.
    Second, it’s arguing from the perspective the intention to change isn’t based on identifying a sensible way to minimize the possibility they’ll step in the same bear trap the SFWA did last year, but an attempt at tyranny. Telling someone they’re behaving like a tyrant by not letting you do exactly what you want to do doesn’t come off as someone trying to debate in good faith, it comes across as childish.
    Third, it buried it’s lede under a pile of logical fallacies, misunderstandings, and offensive digressions somehow involving Chippendale’s dancers.

    None of those three points are the way you enter a discussion if you have a valid point you want people to consider seriously. All three are excellent ways to look like an ass in disservice to your possibly valid point.

  68. uleaguehub @ 2/12 12:26:

    Re-reading John’s lovely Protips with that context adds a shimmering luster to the creature!

    Though the tips are more broadly applicable than that.

    Al the Great and Powerful @ 2/12 12:26:

    I can’t believe any of them actually READ the petition they signed.

    It’s my understanding that it was changed at least once? But I have a feeling that the petition they thought they were signing was misleading described — possibly by someone who didn’t think it was misleading — and they indeed would not have signed if they knew what it said, rather than attempting to deduce it from the description.

    (With thanks to Xopher for the reminder to refresh)

  69. @dpmaine: “Why would they risk their reputations…”

    I’d been wondering that same thing. Someone upstream pointed out that in the past, this would’ve been a matter wholly internal to the organization in question.* There would have been much less reputational risk: signing a petition would’ve been more a matter of internal politics vs making a public statement. I believe most of the signers are on the far side of 50 (as am I, FWIW) and may not have realized the reputational risk they were taking.

    Or they might not have realized that their signatures were to be posted publicly vs. being privately shared. Scalzi mentions “publicly available drafts” but a signer who was privately solicited might not have realized the petition was going to be made public.

    @Scalzi: I realize you have your reasons for not tying this post to specific events. But how much would it bother you if others did? (e.g. would I have been okay to type a 4-letter acronym instead of “the organization in question”?)

    For me, publicly hinting at something that’s clear to insiders but opaque to many readers feels too cute by half. Your house, your rules, my 2 cents.

  70. Does anyone have a pithy way to say, “the state of having been so thoroughly privileged for so long that a level playing field where all are welcome is experienced as oppression”?

    “Entitlement” covers it, but it’s not as specific as I’d like.

  71. (a) No. Do not warm the Mallet. Leave it outside. In the Ohio winter. Take joy in the collateral damage from the icicles.

    (b) I hereby propose rule 12:
    If you want to be taken seriously by anyone with actual experience dealing with {legal concept}, do not cite Wikithingies (of any kind) that are not professionally curated, particularly when citing to supposed “history of {legal concept},” for you will display your own ignorance to the world even more rapidly than violating points 8 and 9. That’s not to say that there’s never anything accurate there; it is only to say that Winston Churchill would admire the efforts made by Wikidenizens-of-preconceived-ideology-for-all-ideologies to provide whatever truth is found there with a truly imposing bodyguard of lies.

    (c) Speaking of which, as an interesting historical exercise, one could compare That Term (rule 8) to the 1920s-40s meme — especially in Europe — of labelling one’s leftist opponents, from within the left, as “objectively fascist.” Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is an excellent starting point/introduction… and it gets a lot uglier (and looks a lot more like what those of us in the federal government lived through from the late 1970s through the mid 1990s than makes one very comfortable).

  72. Jon Marcus:

    People are certainly already talking about a specific incident here. It’s amusing for me for other people to be vague about it too but I’m not going to be too upset if people talk about it directly, with the already noted admonition that thumping on specific people involved is not appreciated. I’m not going to talk about how it affects the organization in question directly, since I’m still under my one year “I’m not talking about what SFWA does” rule. The nice thing here at least is that this really isn’t about what the organization is doing, it’s about what some people who may or may not be involved with the organization think it’s doing, somewhat erroneously.

  73. @iiii: Doug Muder (of The Weekly Sift) calls it “privileged distress”, and has a good article about it besides. (Google “distress of the privileged”.)

  74. Perhaps helpful for guiding some thoughts about free speech as it does or does not apply to the political correctness debate:

    Reporters in the U.S. rely on the First Amendment’s freedom of the press protections to make a living. Free speech protections (theirs and those of the people they quote) are also very key to their jobs.
    However, in spite of the fact that the press has enormous amounts of freedom, most newsrooms voluntarily adopt a code of ethics for doing their work. The code includes very specifically to “minimize harm” and to avoid stereotypes, to be sensitive to the voiceless/inexperienced/marginalized, etc.
    So even when the First Amendment directly applies, the most First Amendment-protected industry in the country voluntarily recognizes that there is and should be a balance between the right of free speech and basic decency.

    I really see no reason basic decency shouldn’t also temper free speech where it doesn’t apply. (Or why someone engaging in a debate should be let off the hook for not knowing the difference)

  75. @iiii: It’s not necessarily just about discomfort about a leveled playing field (though I have no doubt that that’s in play here); it’s also about objections to how the playing field is being leveled.

    If, for example, the Bulletin has a history of publishing cover art that a typical straight man would be likely to find “sexy,” but no comparable history of publishing cover art that a typical straight woman would be likely to find “sexy,” then that’s clearly not a level playing field. Thing is, there are two different ways to make it a level playing field: Everyone gets pinup-worthy cover art, or no one gets pinup-worthy cover art. I think there are likely a lot of people who would be fine with the former, but are bothered by the latter.

    The same principle exists in other areas – the swimsuit calendars mentioned above, talking at work about one’s sexual exploits, feeling comfortable cracking sexually charged jokes without having to worry about whether someone who you weren’t even talking to is going to claim third-party harassment, etc. The playing field absolutely needs to be leveled. But it’s entirely legitimate to ask why it should be leveled down (in terms of acceptable behavior), rather than up.

  76. I agree totally, but typically the top editor at a publication has the final say over what is published. It is not unheard of to have an editor quit if pressured from a publisher/owner. It does sure seem like this is going the way of the dodo.

    Ultimately, whoever makes the decision of what gets into the final copy has the role that was traditionally labelled “editor”.

    This is, again, utterly incorrect. In fact, you contradict yourself: if editors quit because the publisher is having final say, then the editors didn’t have final say. You are painting a vision of the past and the role of editor that has never existed. If you do not know how the various sectors of publishing work, maybe you want to drop this. There is not some new crusade to suppress editors. The job of editors is to find/supply works and edit them. The amount of authority an editor has to control the direction of the publication depends on the publication. A fiction magazine editor will have much more control (especially if the editor is also the owner/publisher,) a news magazine or newspaper editor will have much less. (For instance, during Watergate in the 1970′s, editor Ben Bradlee had to get the support and authority of publisher/owner Katharine Graham.)

    In the particular case that spurred JS to generally talk about hanging your ass out on a petition, the magazine is the trade organ of a trade association. According to the rules of the association, which have always been the rules, the president of the association controls what is published in the magazine and approves it, not the editor, who is hired. The association is now putting in place plans made a year ago after several offensive things were published in the magazine to form a committee that advises the president about the magazine content, with the president having the same powers as before to ensure the magazine is providing content that serves its purpose and the members of the association.

    Instead of following the by-laws to present their grievances to the association or even writing their own petition, these authors allied themselves with a sexist kook who is not a member of the association and who wrote an incoherent screed with total ignorance of the constitutional law, what the SFWA was actually doing, and filled with insults and sexist demands that he gets to oogle women, etc. The ringleaders made him take out some of the really inflammatory, crazy parts, editing inflammatory material in order to protest a committee to advise on inflammatory material, but the original is of course, on the Internet.

    These authors are mainly venerable SFF writers whose reputations are not particularly impacted by this incident. Many are now furiously backtracking that they aren’t sexist kooks, but they chose to let a sexist kook speak for them. And they chose to act against female authors who are members of the association and try to continue making the association a hostile environment for them. And it breaks my heart that one of these authors is C.J. Cherryh, who had to go by C.J. to pretend she was a man. I would love it if more SFF authors saw their “higher calling” issue to be supporting their fellow SFF authors, especially the ones facing greater obstacles. Instead, their “higher calling” ends up defending the right to talk about women oogling in an association newsletter because they don’t trust their fellow authors to form an advisory committee.

    But Scalzi’s right; this is a general problem that fits many similar situations, such as convention harassment policy opposition, etc. If you’re going to ally yourself with people whose views you don’t share and find even inflammatory or reprehensible, and let them speak for you, don’t be surprised if the public believes you hold those views and responds accordingly.

  77. @Jon Marcus: For me, publicly hinting at something that’s clear to insiders but opaque to many readers feels too cute by half. Your house, your rules, my 2 cents.

    I’ll second what Jon Marcus said, and add my own two cents: It’s downright rude.

  78. The same principle exists in other areas – the swimsuit calendars mentioned above, talking at work about one’s sexual exploits, feeling comfortable cracking sexually charged jokes without having to worry about whether someone who you weren’t even talking to is going to claim third-party harassment, etc.

    Heck, just look at the poison that gets poured over Title IX on a daily basis – “It’s killing college sports!” “Those girls don’t want to play sports anyways!” And its only fault lay in righting a long-standing wrong by insisting that co-ed schools spend as much on women’s sports as they do on men’s sports if they want to get federal money.

  79. Kat–

    I have no idea about some inside trade group newsletter you and JS maybe are talking about. If it’s some inside thing maybe it’s different.

    I agree that this is not a new struggle, but in the WP example, Ben Bradlee’s memoir makes it clear that he went to Graham to warn her about the backlash that may come (which was validated by the Attorney General threatening her not obliquely).

    What you are arguing is that there is no such thing as editorial independence because a publisher could override the editor. Yes, it is true that a publisher could override the editor. In which case the publisher has effectively become the editor.

    In the late 1990′s I was the editor a small town newspaper (circ: 35k). I think you are incorrect. There is one person who has the final say about what makes it to print, and that person is the editor. The publisher “can” override the editor in the same way that the press operator can override the publisher. This is the traditional role of the publisher and editor relationship, and it is born out by the definitions themselves and historical practices.

    The influence a publisher has is not to the content level. Telling the editor to pursue a story, or not pursue a story or use this style or hire this person is not a breach of editorial independence. Having a final read over the pre-press content isn’t either. Those are the traditional roles of a publisher.

    The new role where as a publisher is a much more active entity is surely common, but you would not say that this person is only the publisher. You would say that person is the “Editor & Publisher”. Or “Editor in Chief & Publisher”, etc. If they don’t, it’s probably as a kindness to the sub-ordinate editor who doesn’t want to lose a title or a peg.

  80. Greg@February 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm: I love your definition. You cover the issue perfectly. Can I steal it?

  81. Scalzi: It’s still too cute by half. You’re making your statement to insiders (obliquely, so as not to violate your self imposed one year rule) under the cover of some statement of general principle. Meanwhile, the insiders will be able to decode your message, while we outsiders, fully aware that your “apropos of no particular thing at all” is BS, are nevertheless at a disadvantage in following what the conversation is about, and run the risk of malleting if we try to guess. This is much like parents talking about sensitive subjects in front of the kids by whispering, or taking in code, or a foreign language. OK when doing it in front of the kids, but rude when excluding adults in this fashion.

  82. Laura Lis Scott:

    (Hauls out three Hugos, two Seiuns, a Locus and a Campbell award, lays them out in a nice decorative spread)

    I find that argument less than compelling.

    Hugh57:

    Meh. Life is like that sometimes.

  83. It’s almost Pavlovian. I read a vague yet specific piece of snark on Whatever and immediately wonder what the RSHD is up to this week. Please stop making me read that other blog. I lose IQ points every time I go there.

  84. A Different Daniel:

    While it would not surprise me if he attempted to attach himself to the thing, in point of fact not every blind item I post is about him. I have him blocked out of my ego searches at this point, so I actually have no idea what dumbass thing he might be saying about me or anything else these days. It’s nice.

  85. And in that, I agree with you. Finally realizing that the weasels had no power over me was one of the greatest epiphanies of my life. Wish I could’ve learned it about a decade earlier.

  86. dpmaine @5:09: FWIW, it seems to me that as long as the publisher pays the editor’s salary and has the right to fire the editor, the independence of the editor is going to be limited in some sensed. And publishers taking an active role in editing the newspapers that they own, even being editor-publishers, or co-editors, is surely not a new role for either; see Robert McCormick and the Chicago Tribune . . .

  87. @Xopher, some distance upstream:

    I’ve been out of the specific loop for awhile, but it’s not precisely correct to characterize the SFWA Bulletin as an internal publication of SFWA’s. The internal publication is/was the SFWA Forum, which is circulated exclusively among members. The SFWA Bulletin, in its capacity as a literary trade journal and magazine for writers, has long been available by subscription to interested non-members and institutions and at some points in its history could be found on larger magazine newsstands and in better genre-friendly bookstores.

  88. Mercedes Lackey??? I actually have tears in my eyes.

    How is that even possible, the way she writes? Please tell me she realized she was sold a snow job and regrets the signature.

  89. Christopher Henry, I don’t agree. Because we live in sexist society, there’s no symmetry. Gay men and straight women putting up pictures of scantily-clad men doesn’t have the same meaning as, or a symmetrical one to, straight men putting up pictures of scantily-clad women. The straight men would be considered healthily “one of the boys,” whereas the gay men and straight women would be considered threatening and slutty, respectively.

    It’s not prudish and silly at all. It prevents a hostile work environment. And the hostile work environments harm women and benefit men.

    Your “leveling up” idea won’t work. All it will do is serve the existing power structure. If you want to fix all sexism and homophobia FIRST, then we can talk.

    That said, I did once use the imaginary parity to make this point. All the boys at my company (and this company was 1/3 under 21) had pictures of their favorite “babes” on their screensavers. So I put up pictures of hot dudes on mine. There were complaints; HR made everyone take them down.

    …you know, having typed that, I’m not sure that’s how it went down. I may have just TOLD HR (who was a very nice woman – small company here) that I was planning this action, and she laughed and told me no, they’d make me take it down, and all the “babe” pictures vanished within days.

    iiii, how about “the banality of privilege”? It’s a phenomenon I’ve noted for years, and I applaud your effort to name it, even if you don’t like my suggestion. I like Chris Tierney’s (ultimately Doud Muder’s) suggestion too.

    John C. Bunnell, I stand corrected. Thank you.

  90. A point. I don’t agree with the petition, for the reasons outlined here and elsewhere, but I can see where a lot of people are coming from, and it does not have a lot to do with the original issue (which was a storm in a teacup as far as I’m concerned). I also think Steven Gould has handled this very professionally. It’s depressing, however, to once again see comments in a number of places, which verge on the point of suggesting that women writers are, variously, deluded, duped, in denial, 5th columnists for patriarchal mind control (OK, I made that one up) etc. They may be plain wrong, and they may disagree with you, but a lot of the suggestions are pretty condescending.

  91. Thank you Gary Willis for cluing me in! As to another comment upthread, ‘train wrecks’ are gruesomely fascinating, which I guess explains why I’ve continued reading this.

    As to which.

    I would hope an Editor’s Manifesto would emphasize clarifying only author’s intent. Even if the author’s intent is wicked as in, say, Mein Kampf, how can we readers react to something editorially muddied? Book burning, censorship or Political Correctness need to take second seating, next to folks getting the stuff out there and said. I wonder if this is what you mean by freedom if speech. Erm, Let’s get stuff said first; and try not to editorially “ameliorate.”

  92. Cripes, hugh, it took me three comments to gather enough info to figure out what was going on. Three.

  93. @Xopher: Obviously, “leveling up” can’t be limited to saying “everyone is free to say what they please, class dismissed.” Legitimate harassment should still be banned, including harassment that comes in response to someone else’s exercise of their newfound freedoms.

    An “everyone is free to post <cow-product of choice>cake in their cubicles” policy needs to be accompanied by a “treating other coworkers poorly for posting <cow-product>cake and/or for their choice of product will be dealt with firmly” policy. But your argument essentially amounts to “women and sexual minorities are socially repressed as regards public expression of their sexuality, and it’s easier to repress straight men than it is to fight the repression of others, so let’s do that.” And straight men who are now being repressed (though not discriminated against) have a perfectly legitimate complaint about that repression.

    As do, of course, women and sexual minorities – the fact that they were already being repressed does not change that they are still being repressed, after all. I mean, seriously, doesn’t that HR response bug you, even if you found it useful in getting what you wanted? “Better that no one gets cake than that gays get cake” is a pretty goddamn homophobic sentiment, after all.

  94. dpmaine: perhaps the petition has merit.

    Greg: Not really, no.

    dpmaine: How much have you considered it?

    I gave you a paragraph answer, along with all the other posts I made on this thread and the previous thread, which would give you a sense of how much I’ve considered it, which you ignored and attempted to reset the conversation back to “prove to me this doesn’t have merit. Again.”

    If you don’t think i’ve sufficiently “considered” it, feel free to quote something I posted that you think shows that. Otherwise, it occurs like you’re just trying to pull the conversation away from bigotry and make it about whether people have a right to call a bigot a bigot.

    Just because no griped about it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t tyranny (and vice-versa).

    This is a dodge. If you could show that this was “tyranny”, you’d be showing the evidence to prove this was tyranny. But since this isn’t anything remotely resembling tyranny, you have to step back from the actual event and talk about some HYPOTHETICAL event that is vaguely similar but could POSSIBLY turn into tyranny.

    So why would they risk their reputations over it?

    Again, a dodge. If you had any evidence to support a claim, you’d be citing it. Since you don’t, the best you can do is invoke a question that asserts something completely unproven and then ask people to DISPROVE you.

    Christopher: Actually, everyone should be allowed to put up whatever… It’s just a bit prudish and silly.

    Mmm. When it’s hot, do you go to the office in the nude? Or are you prudish and silly?

    Christopher: But it’s entirely legitimate to ask why it should be leveled down (in terms of acceptable behavior), rather than up.

    Rules against sexual harrassment are meant to address systemic sexual harrassment. Therefore behaviour associated with systemic sexual harrassment should be considered a target. And if the behavior is completely irrelevant to the actual day-to-day operations of the workplace (such as you having a cheesecake poster in your cubicle), then the “cost” to prohibit that behavior is small and the “benefit” is it works against systemic harrassment.

    My guess is that if we get to the point where systemic sexual harrassment and discrimination is no longer occuring, then the rules meant to weed out harrassing behavior may very well get a second look. And it would be really cool if that happened while I was still alive. But until that point, you can have all the cheesecake posters you want at your house, the pain you suffer not being able to have cheesecake posters in your cubicle at work is small, and the payoff of stopping workplace harrassment is rather large.

    So, in that vein, I think it would be entirely legitimate to ask why a cheesecake poster in your cubicle is more important to you than weeding out systemic sexual harrassment for women and their careers.

    Mr Teufel: Greg@February 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm: I love your definition. You cover the issue perfectly. Can I steal it?

    Sure, or use the tl;dr; version at 2:01 pm.

    Invoking the term “political correctness” is ALWAYS trying to change the subject from “I am a bigot” to “you are a tyrant”.

  95. Greg: Mmm. When it’s hot, do you go to the office in the nude? Or are you prudish and silly?
    Public nudity (in the workplace or otherwise) has the potential in some circumstances to be unhygienic. In those circumstances where that is not an issue, laws and workplace policies against it are both prudish and silly, and the laws are also tyrannical. My body, my rights.

    And if there were neither laws nor policies against it, and it weren’t a hygienic concern, then yes, I might well come to work naked. But even if I wouldn’t, that would be beside the point: I didn’t say that not hanging pinups in one’s own cubicle was prudish and silly; I said that forbidding other’s from hanging pinups in their own cubicles was.

    So, in that vein, I think it would be entirely legitimate to ask why a cheesecake poster in your cubicle is more important to you than weeding out systemic sexual harrassment for women and their careers.
    It would be, if my having a cheesecake poster in my cubicle (while vocally defending the rights of others (of any sex) to have pinups (likewise of any sex) in their own cubicles) was in any way, shape, or form impeding the weeding out of systematic sexual harassment.

  96. Christopher Henry, no, because my goal was the result I got, not to have beefcake on my screen. There were women in the office and many were (I recall) uncomfortable, but none spoke up.

    I don’t think you fully understand the issues here, but the complexity of cheesecake/beefcake, women’s bodies, expectations, and so on and on…would be a derail here, so I’ll refrain. Also, I’m tired.

  97. Choosing words wisely is not censorship or an impediment to free speech. What it can be is a way to make sure one’s intentions are understood clearly and cleanly. Choosing words poorly, on the other hand, can signal that one has no intention of treating those on the receiving end of those words with respect. One of these has a happier outcome for everyone than the other.

    True enough, but I would add in response something I heard from a friend of mine (a IT engineer): “Be conservative in what you say, but be liberal in what you hear.” Of course, he meant it in the context of computer transmission protocols, to allow different kinds of computer systems to communicate with each other without data being lost, corrupted, or not transmitted at all. I think this applies to human speech as well.

  98. Xopher: I suspect that I understand the issues better than you think; I just have a different perspective on them than you do. Or, to be fair, than most of the rest of society likely does, regardless of sex or sexuality.

    FWIW, I once was invited by an older gay man (I think at least partially as a joke) to join him and two other older gay men on a skinny-dipping expedition to “Sodomy Point.” I said yes, and ended up discussing with him (while sunbathing naked) the problem of how to get more “cute young breeder boys,” as he put it, to come sunbathe there. I suggested that it might require getting a significant number of cute young breeder girls to do so, and we both agreed that this was likely to be the tricky part, society being what it is.

  99. OK, ewww. He was showing his internalized homophobia, or why would he want breeder boys? Sorry if he was your friend, but he sounds like a creep.

  100. Or, you know, there’s a lot more breeder boys than gay boys, and so presumably more breeder boys who would be interested in nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping (if not what goes on in the bushes) than gay boys who would, but for the homophobia aspect. Or the cute young gay boys are already going nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping (albeit, according to him, at a different gay beach – the population at this one was largely older), and so the cute young breeder boys represent a better “outreach opportunity.”

    Or we were drinking and bantering, and the odds that I would have a good sense of what would (theoretically) bring the breeder boys were better than the odds that I would have a good sense of what would bring the gay boys, what with being a breeder and all.

    It might also be worth noting that “young” is relative here – I’m 28.

  101. Christopher: I suggested that it might require getting a significant number of cute young breeder girls to do so, and we both agreed that this was likely to be the tricky part, society being what it is.

    Ah. So, you wouldn’t have problems getting individuals, i.e. cute young breeder girls, if it weren’t for society?

    I just have a different perspective on them than … most of the rest of society likely does

    Society and their social rules, right? Just creates a lot of drama.

    Maybe you should go tell everyone that you’ve solved the problem of drama.

  102. Having examined a rather long PDF purporting to be the final form of the petition, the main problem I can see with it is that it isn’t really a petition — it’s obviously a polemic with a badly-malformed petition attached to it. Petitions need to be designed like precision tools: what do you want to achieve; are the things you’re asking for capable of delivering that outcome? This so-called petition fails on that count as the actual request is so vaguely defined that Steven Gould (JS’ successor as president of SFWA) could simply accept it and ignore it — it doesn’t demand any specific action from him or any organ of the SFWA that would meet Truesdale’s ill-defined goal.

    I don’t know who are the greater dills here – Truesdale for writing such an awful piece of work (and taking nearly ten tedious pages to do it; were you actually an editor once upon a time?), or his well-credentialed co-signatories who loaned part of their reputations to him; I doubt they’ll obtain a good return for that investment.

  103. I’ve already said quite a bit about this specific incident elsewhere – not the least of which being how in the name of any gods one would not be embarrassed, as a writer, to endorse by signature such an unholy mess of a screed. But it really turned the corner from “embarrassing” to “rage-inducing” when I found out a little more about a particular petition’s primary author’s previous works.

    And even if someone is sexist and racist enough to think that petition – particularly the original version – worth supporting by both labour and signature, my gods, wasn’t the damage to SFWA bad enough last year? Did they really think the written speculative fiction community needed another round of this? On mere practical terms alone, weren’t the previous three rounds damaging enough?

    I have a lot of books by a lot of these signers on my shelves, and they have burned a lot of bridges with me and mine. Not out of spite, but out of association to this cause, because now I see those names, and I see this. Not their writings, not their worlds: this.

    What a farce. What a tragedy.

  104. Greg: Ah. So, you wouldn’t have problems getting individuals, i.e. cute young breeder girls, if it weren’t for society?

    No, I don’t imagine that I would. Plenty of cute (and not-so-cute, for that matter) young* breeder boys would be happy to turn out naked for the opportunity to see cute young* breeder girls who were also naked. Given that I don’t believe that women are inherently “chaste” any more than men are, it stands to reason that plenty of cute (and not-so-cute) young* breeder girls would be equally happy to turn out naked for the opportunity to see cute young* breeder boys who were also naked, but for society’s repression of female sexuality and creation of a (sometimes all-too-justified) sense of risk in being naked around naked men.

    Society and their social rules, right? Just creates a lot of drama.

    With regards to the rules in question (roughly “don’t be publicly sexual, or you’re a slut” and “don’t be naked around boys, or you’re asking for it”), do you disagree!?

    Maybe you should go tell everyone that you’ve solved the problem of drama.
    Well, in this limited context, I have**. It’s just that implementing the “rules change” in question is rather challenging, to say the least.

    *In the aforementioned sense of “under 30.”

    **If by “solved the problem” you mean “found a solution.”

  105. The editor/publisher issue may already be sliding off topic, but I wanted to add the additional data point that I worked for various newspapers for 15 years (from the mid-90s to late in the first decade of the 2000s — we really need a name for that decade!), and there were many times that I saw the editor, the advertising director, and other department heads go up the chain of command to the publisher regarding content. Some editors have more of a direct back-and-forth working relationship with the publisher, while others are more inclined to subscribe to the “better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” philosophy. But, in newspapers at least, my experience is that there is always the expectation that the publisher has the final say over the finished version of the product, as well as being the ultimate arbiter of whatever content guidelines the publication uses.

  106. @DAVID: I think he may have misidentified me as an MRA/Nice Guy of the “I would be swimming in desirable pussy, if not for the ways that ugly women have engineered social norms in order to increase their own sexual value” type.

    Mind you, I have no idea why he would have done so, but that’s my best guess as to where that bit of snark came from.

  107. Mind you, I have no idea why he would have done so, but that’s my best guess as to where that bit of snark came from.

    We can expect a 1600 word rebuttal coming soon, fyi.

  108. Some big names on the later draft of that petition. Gene Wolfe, Ellison, Niven and Pournelle, Harry Turtledove, Jack McDevitt. Surely they’re not all as ignorant about the first amendment as point #1 would seek to remedy.

    I wonder (and its not as if they’re necessarily homogeneous about their reasons, either) if they signed because:

    0) they accept an intentional incorrect framing of the issue as a First Amendment issue in order to drum up support
    1) they incorrectly First Amendment freedoms apply where there is no state action, or
    2) because they believe that, while “First Amendment” was the wrong term to use, there is still quality to the argument that this is an improper (if Constitutional) self-censorship (small “c”, there) that should be avoided.

    I sure don’t think any of the men I listed above are dumb, at any rate.

  109. Been reading your books. The “Obin” are quite interesting, in a “mentally reversed” sort of way. Consider not having a Name (an Identity). No one can order you about as how do they refer to a being without a Name. Consciousness is entirely possible without a Name, just as a glass of water is possible without being part of the river from which it was taken. That bit of water is still the same stuff that carved the Grand Canyon, and was quite possibly a participant in that past event. Cheers!

  110. @greg and @Christopher Henry: the reason for policies relating to sexually explicit or exploitative material aren’t there to address systemic sexual harassment, they exist to avoid legal liability. If you’re working in a small office and acquainted with most of your co-workers, a looser policy regarding what you put in your cubicle might be fine, because of how the smaller group relates to each other. If you’re dealing with a larger group from different cultural and social backgrounds, what’s cool with one person may be totally out of bounds for another, who could then decide to sue the company for allowing a hostile work environment. Organizations and businesses have a different standard they need to apply, because not doing so can have severe implications beyond hurt feelings or sore egos.

  111. This is getting to be a rather far-ranging discussion, but oh well:

    dpmaine:

    I have no idea about some inside trade group newsletter you and JS maybe are talking about. If it’s some inside thing maybe it’s different.

    First off, JS isn’t talking about it. He’s talking about issues related to it. Other people in the thread are talking about it. You have been arguing about it without apparently knowing what you are arguing about. So you might want to go and look it up. Type in SFWA and petition and follow the links.

    What you are arguing is that there is no such thing as editorial independence because a publisher could override the editor. Yes, it is true that a publisher could override the editor. In which case the publisher has effectively become the editor.

    Telling the editor to pursue a story, or not pursue a story or use this style or hire this person is not a breach of editorial independence. Having a final read over the pre-press content isn’t either. Those are the traditional roles of a publisher.

    First off, I’m not arguing that there is no such thing as editorial independence. The amount of independence an editor has on final say is related to the type of publication, as I said before. Second, you are contradicting yourself again. Telling the editor to pursue or not pursue a story is overriding the editor and is effecting content and the direction of the publication. Having a final read over pre-press content — and approving or disapproving it — is also overriding the editor and effecting content and the direction of the publication. So no, the publisher isn’t becoming the editor; the publisher is the publisher and how much independence the editor has from the dictates of the publisher depends on the particular publication. In the specific case that inspired the discussion, it is not a typical publisher-editor situation. The magazine is part of the membership of the association and is a service of the association to the members.

    Jon Marcus:

    For me, publicly hinting at something that’s clear to insiders but opaque to many readers feels too cute by half. Your house, your rules, my 2 cents.

    Frequently something will occur that JS doesn’t particularly want to hash out, but involves issues that JS does want to talk about. This is one of those times. We aren’t insiders any more than you. We’re fans and the information about the particular incident that inspired the post is readily available to the public on the Internet. People have spoken about details in the comments more than enough for you to look it up. If you can’t be bothered, then don’t whine about how we aren’t talking to you the way you want. And just my 2 cents, coming on to someone’s blog and telling them how they should run their blog — don’t expect them to suddenly yell, “My goodness, you’re right! How could I have been so annoyingly cute!”

    mikes75:

    Yes, and for one, it doesn’t address what the SFWA is actually doing. It’s addressing a fear of what they think the organization might do.

    Ding, ding, hits the nail on the head. Basically, female authors were dissed for three issues of the newsletter (which you can look up if you like; I doubt JS wants to rehash it.) And a lot of members were really unhappy about it, were told they were overreacting and called names. And these petition authors seem to be concerned that the unhappy authors will take over with some sort of radical political agenda, like not having entire articles in the newsletter that treat female writers like dolls. And so what they are proposing is battle to the death letters in the magazine itself, where people can call each other names and create feuds, which is adorably 1960′s of them. And also incredibly hostile to female members and their ability to have free speech. Because females start from the position that they are being unreasonable and overreacting and should be quiet and have to be brave enough to go against that. The reality is that the majority of members of the association don’t want to spend their time fighting other members; they want a magazine that actually helps them in their careers in the current day, not in bikini tips. A lot of these protests are saying that the disadvantaged group’s complaints may cause an inconvenience up the road, and so must not be borne.

    Christopher Henry:

    Thing is, there are two different ways to make it a level playing field: Everyone gets pinup-worthy cover art, or no one gets pinup-worthy cover art. I think there are likely a lot of people who would be fine with the former, but are bothered by the latter.

    Everyone gets a pinup-worthy cover art is not a level playing field. The female pin-ups are used to sexually harass and intimidate women, and encourage discrimination against them. They create a climate where it is okay to talk about women as if they are simply babes in bikinis, who are there for men to look at, rather than, say, female authors of equal worth to male authors in the field or female co-workers of equal worth to male employees and bosses. And the particular type of pin-ups — sexually twisted body positions, a woman in a snowscape in a bikini, etc., can increase that intimidation, especially when it is coupled with sexist written content in a magazine. Art is art and pin-ups are a part of art. They may be appropriate for some book covers, and certainly for posters, etc. But a professional publication of a professional organization which is supposed to be serving all its members doesn’t need to put outdated sexualized art on its bulletin cover, especially for an issue that was about women’s contributions to the field. The real separation is, nobody gets to shove half-naked pin-ups in each other’s faces in a work or professional situation, as common courtesy, or one group insists that its right to make co-workers feel unwelcome and subservient trumps the right to a non-hostile workplace. Which is simply a power play. A level playing field is one in which women get to operate as equal without the traditional methods used to harass, intimidate or block them — without the attempt to dominate the workplace situation by reducing the women in it to naked pictures.

  112. Even though I think the discussion about pinup pictures may be a bit off topic (although maybe not, given the cover of a somewhat cheesecake cover for a SFWA bulletin and reaction to it seems to be related to the petition that many people are talking about), here goes.

    When I was in college in the late 1970s, I printed off some line printer nudes, and gave one to a friend who’s roommate was gay. When my friend put it up, the roommate volunteered to put up some better quality pictures of his own. Likewise, in the early 80s, I had a coworker who put up another line printer nude behind the door of our office (yes, even programmers had offices with doors back then) until another coworker came into our office, shut the door, turned to him and said “I can’t be your friend if you have stuff like that up on the wall”. His immediate reaction was to get some more line printer nudes to put up until I pointed out that I didn’t want to have to explain ourselves to HR and however strangely worded, it was a request to take it down and should be acommodated. My longwinded point is people can be touchy about what they consider to be sexist images and I’m amazed that 30 years later, there are plenty of people who just don’t get it that it bothers other people even if it doesn’t bother them, the appropriate response is not “Well! If that bothers you, I should see what I can do to rub it in your face”. This goes for racism, religious bigotry and other hot button items.

  113. John: I sure don’t think any of the men I listed above are dumb, at any rate.

    John (Scalzi) has asked us not to slam particular people, so I’ll just say this: No, not dumb. Dumb is not the issue with any of them.

    Kat Goodwin: Everyone gets a pinup-worthy cover art is not a level playing field. The female pin-ups are used to sexually harass and intimidate women, and encourage discrimination against them.

    (And the rest of that paragraph.) Well, he didn’t listen when I said it, but you said it better. Maybe he’ll listen to you.

  114. “With regards to the rules in question (roughly “don’t be publicly sexual, or you’re a slut” and “don’t be naked around boys, or you’re asking for it”), do you disagree!?”

    The solution to “women are blamed for being sexually assaulted and raped, so they tend to be conservative in their interactions with men” is neither to imply society is prudish (society is cruel, punishing, and destructive to women) nor to lament that women can’t overcome society because they’re “somewhat” legitimately afraid. Nor is it, in the context of this discussion, to minimize our legitimate fears, our realistic appraisals of safety, or our entirely logical objections to being continually objectified.

    It would be nice if you would focus less on how everyone should be able to look at the naked bodies of other people, and more on not discussing women as objects with other men simply because a) the women aren’t around and b) your friend wanted something from men and you thought using women would be a good way for him to get it.

  115. I do think the the cheesecake/beefcake discussion has now gone about as far as it will usefully go, so let’s go ahead and put a bow on it and move on, please.

  116. *resists temptation to post a beefcake picture with a bow around the hunk’s neck*

    Seriously, it’s a relief.

  117. [b]Xopher[/b]: [i]John (Scalzi) has asked us not to slam particular people, so I’ll just say this: No, not dumb. Dumb is not the issue with any of them.[/i]

    Which is a bit rich, considering that he’s done that to the signatories, with the sarcastic postscript “These are of course general observations, apropos of no particular thing at all.” Of course.

    I’m curious, since he’s put himself out there on the issue, if he thinks they’re (in order of the listed intentions from my last post), (0) intellectually dishonest, (1) misunderstanding the law, or (2) presenting a valid argument, with the caveat of the wrongly-used “First Amendment” label.

    I’d say solely from what he’s written on the matter he leans towards (0) and/or (1), which is disappointing on both ends, but hey – they did sign off on it, and JS isn’t wrong in his First Amendment analysis. That said: If he thinks they’re assholes, I’d just rather him say he thinks they’re assholes.

    The thing is, though, I don’t think (or at least I would like to think) that JS doesn’t actually think they are – if nothing else because he’s asked us not to flame them in these comments. On the other hand, he’s impeached them through his own OP. And, if the issue is more complicated than (0) or (1), I would like to see him pay more than lip service to that. For instance:

    JS: “I suspect he (they?) is someone with a high-level concern that probably could have been better served with something other than what’s been offered (i.e. the petition).”

    This might’ve been said in the OP, rather than in the comments after prompting.

  118. “This might’ve been said in the OP, rather than in the comments after prompting.”

    Perhaps you’d review points 5-7 of the original post, which make the same point you’re suggesting was only reached when our host was dragged to it after being prompted?

  119. Greg: Maybe you should go tell everyone that you’ve solved the problem of drama.

    Christopher: Well, in this limited context, I have**

    Your “solution” is a world where everyone thinks exactly like you do.

    Folks who offer this solution usually make the mistake of thinking it indicates that their belief system is superior to everyone else. It doesn’t actually indicate anything special about you or your beliefs. Because you could take *most* people’s belief systems, invent a hypothetical world where everyone thought exactly like them, and you could probably remove half the bureacracy in that world.

    Why? Because that sort of world is NOTactually a society. It’s a make believe teenage fantasy most people stop believing in by the time they get to college, and find out that hey, ho, people are different. Society has to deal with a world where everyone thinks differently about things, and how do you come to any sort of agreement. And that sort of solution is complicated.

    i.e. the “limited context” in which your “solution” applies is a nonexistent world of magical thinking where everyone is exactly like you. Not exactly a useful “solution”.

    DAVID: We can expect a 1600 word rebuttal coming soon

    Having fun with that tank?

  120. I’m going to sleep presently, and this is the sort of thread that sprouts trolls in the night, so I’ve closed comments for now and will open them up again in the morning. Have a good night, everyone.

    Update: comments back on. Morning!

  121. Good morning all. There are a lot of valuable comments here. A few thoughts:

    #3 Does one tell members of an association alarmed (justifiably or not) at the possible editorial direction of their publication “you have your own website”?

    #6, #9 An early draft from one author was published on a blog later without the signers’ consent. Yes, the final draft was still terrible. But why hold signers accountable for the early draft? Should every writer be accountable for early drafts?

    #1 – #10 The petition did not do a good job of expressing a shared value: that a writers’ association should exemplify principles of free speech in its publication. For example, having clarity and accountability in editorial review, deference to the professional judgment of the editor, open discussion among members about editorial policy, and a diversity of opinion in its pages. Can we say (if we agree with all or at least most of that), hey, lousy petition, but we have this much common ground?

  122. Jerome O’Neil, Doc RocketScience: It didn’t take me long to figure it out either; that wasn’t my point. My point was that attempting to exclude adults from conversation in this manner was rude, not that it was necessarily effective. I based this on a family member who used to do the same thing, and this thread triggered an unpleasant memory. Having thought about it overnight, John wasn’t really as rude as my family member. My apologies, John, for overreacting.

    I still think, John, that the way you are and aren’t talking about SFWA business is trying to have it both ways in terms of your self-imposed rule, but that, really, is your own business.

  123. Observation about handwringing occurring elsewhere:

    Concerns that some discussions should remain private within an organization seem logically inconsistent, to say the least, after signing a petition initiated by someone who is not a member of the organization in the first place.

    Concerns about privacy likewise seem rather incongruous when said non-member petition includes reprinting a private email exchange.

  124. I’m feeling a bit nitpicky this morning, so I have to point out that in #2 “Censorship” should be replaced with “Government Censorship.” Private individuals and corporations can censor to their little hearts desire, as demonstrated by the journalistic abomination referred to as the soundbite.

  125. Brian, is it your perception that such a petition, sticking strictly to the areas you believe to be common ground, was needed? If so, what is the basis of that perception? If not, the matter is moot.

  126. BW, I’m not well informed or qualified enough to judge whether a petition was needed. I’m noting that some of the finest living writers thought it was needed (whether they are right are wrong). Reactions have ranged from (on the extreme end) “I hope all those old idiots with Alzheimer’s die soon” and “anyone who supports this will never publish in any outlet I control” to (on the mild end) “there’s nothing to see here, move along.”

    And supporters of the petition have been defensive and shrill, too.

    But since there is a middle ground, let’s stand on it.

  127. @Scalzi: You have your reasons for making your points in general terms and have stated at least some of them, but I am a little disappointed that you didn’t at least say that your ruminations had been triggered by a specific event. I imagine that you can live with my disappointment :-) They are of course excellent points.

    @Brian: Reading around a little, at least some of the people involved did indeed sign the first draft, with the intention of getting the wording changed later. I would say that that shows at the very least a lack of judgement which might be barely excusable in novices but which I find stunning in seasoned veterans. If they didn’t agree with the wording, they should have negotiated amendments *before* signing it, not *after*. That they appear to have missed the entire point beggars belief. Also, I too am saddened by some of the names on there :-(

    On the subject of point 9 (which I will roughly paraphrase as the “some of my best friends are black” defence), last night I happened to be listening to a radio comedy show by Shappi Khorsandi (an Iranian-born British comedian) in which she was talking about racism and said that whenever someone justifies a comment by having a black friend she asks for the name of the friend and watches the reaction :-)

  128. These sorts of posts make me very happy that I mostly just read science fiction books and stories and occasional blogs, and stay far away from the fandom side of things. Because I have very little idea what anyone is talking about, and am quite frankly quite happy to stay that way.

  129. I would like to present the opposing viewpoint.

    First, my bonafides: while I’ve never been a member of SFWA (I don’t qualify, largely because what little fiction I’ve written in anger since college hasn’t been sold to anyone) I was briefly a member of STC, when it seemed like it made financial sense to pay dues for that. But everything I own that I’ve had for less than thirteen years — to include my house, my cars, and my truck — has been paid for with money I earned writing and editing. So I call myself a writer. Second: I’ve been on the internet for twenty-five years. In internet time, this is equivalent to ‘mostly dead’. So I’m not just a writer, I’m also a cranky old man.

    And speaking as a cranky old man writer, I would like it if I could say whatever the hell I wanted, and no one would be offended, and no one would say “dude, you’re being a huge dick”, and no editors would refuse to print it. That seems like it would be a pretty cool outcome for me, and would require a lot less consideration for other people on my part.

    I would also like it if people laughed or high-fived me when I farted in elevators, instead of giving me dirty looks like they do now. And I’d also like a hot tub full of assorted swimsuit models, a bartender bringing me French 75s whenever I wave, and a million helicopters and a dollar.

    …no, wait. The other way ’round.

  130. @Brian: “#3 Does one tell members of an association alarmed (justifiably or not) at the possible editorial direction of their publication “you have your own website”?”

    I might agree if, say, the decision came entirely out of the blue, as a declaration “this is the way things are going to be, and if you don’t like it you can all pound sand.” What happened here was a transparent and public process, including soliciting feedback from members of the organization in question, led to a change in policy announced well in advance. Some people either chose to not participate in that process, or weren’t happy their solution wasn’t selected after public, transparent review. They certainly can state publicly they’re not happy with the change, but if they’re expecting an organization to overturn a policy change because they believe the new policy is an attack on their freedom, reminding them other outlets are still available is entirely appropriate.

  131. @Brian –

    Some of the writers in question signed the early draft. So yes, they get to own everything in that draft, because they chose to own it.

    The parties in question are, almost uniformly, excellent writers. If they didn’t want to sign on to everything the petition says, they could have drafted a better one.

  132. Supposedly the RSHD asked to sign the petition but was turned down. I’m sure all of the existing signatories can sleep well knowing what intellectual company they’re in.

  133. If I were a member of the SFWA, I would want a professional magazine as part of my membership. From what I have seen of older issues, the magazine in question seems to have been, at least at times, more like an old style APA-zine, complete with flame wars. It seems the SFWA is now trying to make the magazine more professional. I can understand some members not being happy with HOW that goal is being worked on, but the current petition doesn’t come across as a reasoned, rational explanation of their concerns. Especially as it seems that much of what was winged on about were ideas that were being floated for comment, and no decision had actually been made to implement them yet. Which again reminds me of some of the things I used to see in APA-zines in the past.

    In a word, it seems to be in general much ado about very little, and the over reaction on the part of the petitioners tends to undermine their arguments.

    And I am glad I’m not in SFWA, or have any post where anything I think about the matter has any influence on anyone. Bad enough having to herd cats at my paying jobs…

  134. Brian:

    #3 Does one tell members of an association alarmed (justifiably or not) at the possible editorial direction of their publication “you have your own website”?

    You do, for several reasons. First off, they are being alarmed at the “possible” editorial direction rather than the actual one — they are saying that alarm should be given to imaginations in their heads. They are saying this because Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg — who signed the petition — were allowed by the previous editorial direction to say very sexist things as part of a small galaxy of sexist things over three issues and who, when many members complained that this was unfair and unwanted in what they needed from the professional newsletter, declared such criticism (free speech) to be censorship and fascism, thus doing what often happens to women when women practice free speech — they are told they are instead practicing repression and they have no right to make any criticisms and certainly not to have any effect on the organization in which they are dues paying members. These authors want to stick to the old “editorial direction” (i.e. power dynamics,) and are worried that an advisory committee will result in railroading, i.e. that they don’t get to say whatever they want attacking other members on the platform of the newsletter. And they are presenting a conspiracy theory where this committee, which was agreed upon last year, will supposedly have uber powers, which is not the case. So they’re basically misleading people as well.

    Second off, these members consistently have tried to frame this as a free speech and censorship issue, which it isn’t and they know and have acknowledged that it isn’t. They are insisting that they have a right to publish what they want in the newsletter, which isn’t the case, and that other members can criticize, but that criticism and those members’ needs from the organization can simply be ignored. It is being pointed out to them (you have your own web site,) that they are not in fact being censored. That they are free to say anything they want on the Internet, especially their own space, or to address grievances to the organization itself. But when they are publishing a piece in the newsletter of the organization, that is a publication that represents the organization, not a public square, and speech that ostracizes and attacks fellow members in it is not protected speech and members can reject being subjected to it. So they are again being misleading and declaring special rights for themselves that they don’t in fact have to be under an attack that doesn’t actually exist because they don’t trust their fellow members or like what they say. Which is ironic.

    But why hold signers accountable for the early draft? Should every writer be accountable for early drafts?

    Several of the signers signed the early drafts. The reasons they are being held accountable is that they allied themselves with a non-member and accepted his screed, even though they knew it contained false claims. They made him take out the “inflammatory” bits — again, ironic in protesting that inflammatory material should be allowed freely in the organization’s newsletter. But this writer is known to firmly believe in everything in those early drafts and to have an agenda based on those beliefs. And these writers allowed him to speak for them.The cover-up of this material was thus problematic and the early material was relevant to the issue at hand.This is in fact the general issue JS is looking at — that if you’re going to sign your name to something that you don’t entirely agree with or understand the background for, and that contains falsehoods and material attacking your fellows, don’t be surprised at the blowback you receive. Because you get your say on the Internet, and then the other people get their say too.

    The petition did not do a good job of expressing a shared value: that a writers’ association should exemplify principles of free speech in its publication.

    First off, it’s not a shared value among the membership of the association. The purpose of the publication is to help member authors in their careers by providing information about the industry and the field and treating them all as equal professionals. It is a work space. It is not to be a public forum for free speech (no magazine is.) And if such a publication is allowed to routinely attack members in the association instead of providing that information, the publication is not fulfilling its purpose and instead tells certain members to leave the organization because they are not welcome. Having free for all feuds in the magazine about whether it’s okay to talk about women writers and editors in bikinis is also not the purpose of the magazine, nor is it a workable editorial policy. It creates a hostile environment, and why would authors want to pay dues to an organization that does not help them and demeans them?

    Second, the petition is built on a lie. The lie is that there is a change in editorial policy that creates new forms of editing that were not there before. But there is no change in editorial policy. The by-laws say the president of the organization is in charge of the newsletter and approving its content. The forming of a committee to advise the president — the result of much discussion in the organization — does not change this. If they are insisting that the judgement of an editor must be trusted, the same goes for the president. Either you trust him or her, or you do not. These authors do not trust the current president apparently. So they are protesting what he might do; i.e. not allow material that doesn’t help members professionally and discriminates against women and non-white authors — and they are doing it publicly on the Net, rather than addressing the organization through regular channels. Basically, some among their number may not get to have articles in the newsletter, same as always with a newsletter, and they are declaring this to be a free speech violation — while at the same time acknowledging that it isn’t actually a free speech violation. Free speech has nothing to do with the whole issue at all.

    SFWA managed to stem the tide of authors leaving last year because they felt that their voices had been heard. This petition may well cause a lot of them to leave. It was ill thought out, discriminatory and false. And it simply spreads bad will.

    Alsohuey — Very cute. But it’s important to point out that it’s not only older members that are protesting and many older members are in deep disagreement with them.

  135. Thanks to all for replies especially Kat Goodwin.

    It seems the crucial question is what does the mission statement mean: “inform, support, defend and advocate for our members.” Especially for members who came up during the era Macarthyism and blacklists, the most vital role of a writer’s association might well be to exemplify the defense of free speech, “a liberty both of exposing and opposing tyrannical power by speaking and writing truth.” (Even though the petition borrowing that quote was so crassly written.) When the 2013 Grand Master expresses an opinion that this issue is paramount, it makes sense on a certain level to listen to him.

    For historical reasons (stories anyone?), the power to publish is vested solely in the person of the President. I’ve seen several variants on the comment “So, if you don’t like what he does, vote him out.” But we’ve already seen a situation where the editor flagged something controversial and consulted the President, who took responsibility when it was published yet admitted he might have missed something, and this ended with the editor’s abrupt departure.

    Would this get better or worse with an presidentially-appointed volunteer review board or other type of committee helping? It is a legitimate question, sparked, apparently, by the vague wording of the new job announcement and private emails to a former editor. Can a new system be implemented to the satisfaction of all the members? Speaking as someone outside the association who has a vested interest in seeing it function well, that is what I hope people will focus on.

  136. I dont agree with John politically all that much. I probably agree with some of the people who complain about getting posts deleted more. I also don’t post too often in political posts… since I come here for what John knows best which is writing and the book promotions.

    John cuts liberal trolls too much slack on here. I am mainly referring to the NON-political threads about writing. I really like when we get a good discussion going here. There are alot of professional writers and editors, etc… and I don’t see what any of this has to do with politics. Republicans gotta eat too.

    Id prefer when people start going off on authors because they don’t like their politics have posts deleted. I posted in one thread and said what does so and so’s political views have to do with politics and I got the old ‘well I wouldnt read hitler’ defense. John please delete that crap.

    The book posts are by far the best ones. Even if you agree with John political his expertise is in writing and publishing. So when he has something to say on that its worth paying attention to. Lets face it, John isn’t an economist, so I don’t really care too much what he thinks about tax policy. Plus there are ALOT of people on here who work in the publishing industry.

    Lets keep those threads on topic and out of politics please. I am sure alot of people find them interesting. If we just talk about books, etc, it shouldn’t matter if John Ringo or somebody else posts here on that topic. He may have interesting things to say.

  137. Brian:

    It seems the crucial question is what does the mission statement mean: “inform, support, defend and advocate for our members.”

    It means help them in their careers and issues in their careers, and advocate for the writers in the publishing industry. For instance, SFWA helped negotiate a settlement and logistical arrangement between financially strapped Nightshade Books and its authors. It does not mean letting one male member tell female members that to be successful, they should act like Barbie dolls and not complain about discrimination against them. That’s not advocating for its members, which was the problem. The problem was that the newsletter was not doing its job and the editor wasn’t doing her job.

    the most vital role of a writer’s association might well be to exemplify the defense of free speech,

    It might be, but that isn’t the main goal of this association, nor again, is this an issue of free speech, which the petition authors themselves admit. So free speech is immaterial to the whole thing. The U.S. government is not overseeing the publication of the newsletter and the U.S. government is not suppressing the free speech of SFWA authors. That an author on the list was given an award does not mean that all the female authors have to give his complaint credence without criticism, and make it more important than what they went through. This is a common argument for trying to shut down criticism and claims of discrimination — thou must not be mad at a prominent man. The fact that Resnick and Malzberg signed the petition and early drafts of it too is a serious problem, as it is a conflict of interest. They attacked other members for criticizing them and called them fascists — they were part of the reason the committee was decided on — to advocate for members.

    But we’ve already seen a situation where the editor flagged something controversial and consulted the President, who took responsibility when it was published yet admitted he might have missed something, and this ended with the editor’s abrupt departure.

    She put in the controversial material when she didn’t have to. And she took responsibility for it and stepped down. And it was agreed that because material was missed by the president that should have been caught, a committee to make sure the president had all the information in the future to avoid the mistake again was a good idea. The president has the ability to form committees, and the process of deciding on having a committee involved the whole membership and as was explained, was entirely transparent to the membership. Members can work to change policies through channels in the by-laws, none of which have been violated. The petition misrepresented what had happened with the committee and insisted that it should go away because it might be awful. That’s not a legitimate question. What it is, is a glaring display of distrust of members because they criticized the sexist material in the newsletter — material that didn’t advocate for the author members, nor assist them in their careers. The old system was not working to the satisfaction of all members. The new system may or may not, (and is not really even a new system — it’s still president-editor,) but the petition authors want to go back to the old not working system with the bikinis.

    You can try to dress this up as a free speech issue as much as you like, Brian, but the petition authors admit that it isn’t one. It’s a policy dispute on a not yet implemented internal policy of a private organization that went through the proper channels. And unfortunately, it is also a power struggle, with many of the petition authors demanding that other author members who object to sexist material as unfair and unhelpful to them shut up and not be involved in anything. Because they can’t be trusted you see.

    It is, however, the free speech right of the authors who signed the petition written by the right wing sexist kook to do so. It is also the right of other member authors — and fans, etc. — to exercise their free speech and say that it is not a legitimate petition, that it is a misleading and misguided screed and that they are angry and hurt that these prominent authors signed the thing. And to point out that no, these authors are not having their free speech violated, because they aren’t, as they themselves, again, admit.

  138. Brian: “Would this get better or worse with an presidentially-appointed volunteer review board or other type of committee helping? It is a legitimate question, sparked, apparently, by the vague wording of the new job announcement and private emails to a former editor. Can a new system be implemented to the satisfaction of all the members?”

    The folks writing the petition don’t want to find out the answers to those questions. They want the new system, about which there was ample discussion and debate in the fomulation period, axed before it’s even been tried and haven’t provided any substantive reason not to try it. This isn’t something that was foisted secretly on the membership. Some folks didn’t get their way during the formulation period–and it’s a given that someone isn’t going to get his or her way if there is disagreement about a policy–and they’re taking another swing at it with this “petition.”

  139. Kat, I appreciate concern over appeal to authority. I thought what I wrote was OK in this context since the author I mentioned was honored recently by this organization, but perhaps I didn’t express myself well.

    I’m not saying I believe myself that there is a pressing free speech problem regarding the reforms to the Bulletin. Although if there isn’t, yet a number of members think there is, calling them misguided kooks who just want more bikinis will probably not resolve their misunderstanding.

  140. Um, while we are discussing the issue, it seems to me that some of those who are discussing whether or not SFWA members would or would not be able to get articles published in the Bulletin are kind of (maybe) missing one point: namely, this is a paying market, with both open submission and solicited submissions (or at least it has been in the past; if that’s changed, no one has mentioned it to me). Someone is always going to decide which articles get accepted and which articles don’t; the questions under review are: does the editor decide with no input from the organization/publisher who hired him or her; does the editor decide with input from the organization’s representative (i.e., the president, the previous policy); or does the editor decide with input from a committee appointed to review the material and advise the president? Given how much the president of any professional organization has on his plate–which he/she has to do while keeping his own career going in a positive direction–I kind of think that Door Number 3 makes the most sense, speaking personally. But there was never an official “we print whatever you submit” policy in place, I don’t believe, and any editor hired by SFWA should almost certainly get the limits of his/her authority and responsibility clearly spelled out in his job description before accepting the job. That’s pretty much the way the profession works, isn’t it?

    And while we’re at it–if people object to the members of an advisory committee, who is to say that they won’t also object to the editor’s own standards, when he/she is finally hired?

  141. “I’m not saying I believe myself that there is a pressing free speech problem regarding the reforms to the Bulletin. Although if there isn’t, yet a number of members think there is, calling them misguided kooks who just want more bikinis will probably not resolve their misunderstanding.”

    I’m not entirely convinced this is a misunderstanding, given how many signers have admitted it’s not a free-speech issue, and how disingenuous the initial petition was regarding how it described the policy. It’s difficult to view it as entirely a failure to understand, since over the months since this first blew up the process has been transparent.

    As there is either a willful or misguided attempt to change the issue, from a professional organization refining policy to better serve its members to an assault on free speech by tyrannical leadership, it doesn’t seem helpful to correcting understanding to debate specious claims over actual facts.

  142. Brian:

    Although if there isn’t, yet a number of members think there is, calling them misguided kooks who just want more bikinis will probably not resolve their misunderstanding.

    1) They don’t think there is a free speech issue involved. They have admitted that they know that no free speech issue is involved.

    2) I didn’t call the authors who signed the petition kooks or misguided. I said the man who wrote it is a kook, because in my opinion, he is from what he has said, in the petition and apparently elsewhere. Specifically, he’s a sexist kook who would be at home with the guys who don’t think women should get to vote, in my opinion. I also said the petition’s contents were misguided, not the authors. I also said the petition’s contents were misleading and contained falsehoods, which a number of the authors who signed it admitted were falsehoods, such as bringing up free speech when they know it is not a free speech issue and calling the committee a policy of censorship, which they admit it is not.

    3) The kook who wrote the petition thinks it should be fine for the Bulletin to celebrate the contributions of its female members with pictures of women in bikinis and that no one should criticize or protest this, especially those lousy feminists, who don’t agree with each other anyway, so there. The original problem involved in part Resnick and Malzberg talking about how great female editors they knew were — because they looked good in bikinis, not because of any actual work they did. So my talking about bikinis is entirely accurate in this case. The petition is full of sexist crud and accuses author members of all sorts of things they haven’t actually done.

    4) If I did want to call the authors who signed the petition, several of whose work I love, misguided kooks, it is my free speech right to do so. If I called them kooks, this would not necessarily preclude them from changing their minds and may even help them change their minds by rethinking what they are doing. Nor if I refrain from calling them kooks — which I am because I don’t think they are — would this mean that they will change their minds. My behavior is not responsible for their behavior.

    5) You are making the tone argument. Suggesting that I watch my speech is not a good plan. You’re not coming after me, we’re just talking, but when you tell a female to watch her words in a discussion involving sexism, it’s a power play. It’s such a habitual, unthinking power play in society, we don’t even bet on it any more — too easy. I’m not angry; I’m just saying don’t waste your time in that direction. Instead, here’s the original draft that the award winner signed off on: http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Bulletin-Censorship2.pdf He’s lucky I didn’t call him a kook.

    They could have written their own petition, or continued to try the official channels. They did not, so their actions and alliances will be criticized.

    Guess — In the words of alsohuey, I’d like a pony and a bouncy slide from my roof to my front door and a fortress made of chocolate. But if I want those things, I have to go get them on my own. Your own blog can be anything you want to make it.

    Mary Francis — how dare you try to put sense into this! Don’t you know, Alexander Hamilton, something, something, and my black lesbian friend says it’s okay, etc. :)

  143. Brian: the most vital role of a writer’s association might well be to exemplify the defense of free speech

    You know what? I think that until someone actually proves that there is a real “free speech” issue here, that any reference to “free speech” is in fact nothing but fear mongering about something that isn’t real.

    It’s like, hey, instead of hyping up all this nonsense about weapons of mass destruction, and instead of arguing, well, gosh, MAYBE WMD’S ARE REAL, maybe we need to invade Iraq, instead of all that nonsense, folks ought to argue the facts of what is really happening, not their worst case nightmare that they made up in their dreams last night. The one-percent doctrine is moronic when applied to international politics, and its moronic when applied anywhere else.

    Otherwise, I get to argue the worst case hypothetical I can imagine about sexist sleeper cells trying to overthrow the SFWA. And if that sounds stupid, then just imagine how stupid it sounds when people try to frame this as a “free speech” issue, when every fact of the situation clearly says it isn’t.

  144. This is easily the best thing I’ve read on the topic so far (however indirectly). I am curious if anyone has publicly retracted their signature? I don’t ask in order to single anyone out, but rather assume that at least some of the people who have signed might now regret it.

    There are numerous lessons here, among the most important of which are: be careful what you attach your name to, and if a petition only captures your interests/concerns tangentially, never forget that you can always say no and then sign on to another version that puts them first.

  145. I can’t wait until the moratorium on speaking about SFWA issues is over, and I look forward to signing the petition that demands everyone get a pony made out of kittens.

  146. [Deleted for responding to deleted tweet. Pixlaw, I sent the comment to you in e-mail so you can mine it should it be useful later - JS]

  147. Kat Goodwin

    I was talking to my daughter today about this debacle; she’s a doctor, and was making a flying visit to talk at her old school’s careers seminar, snatch a few zzz here and get back to her hospital for yet another night shift. The point is that when people whitter on about free speech, in defence of their inalienable right to portray Barbie as an admirable role model, they overlook the fact that in real life people die as a result of it.

    One of my daughter’s roles is leading the resuscitation team; when she gives orders they have to be complied with right now, while the patient has a chance to live, and not later because by then the patient will have died. People who regard Barbie as an admirable role model for women have difficulty with following those orders, because, after all, real women don’t give orders, and surely if she expressed it more politely then he would have considered following it. Of couse the patient would have died before he made these difficult decisions about whether he should condescend to accept her orders.

    That’s a very brief taste of the problems caused by the dinosaurs; equally important is the assumption that if there are two doctors together then the male one must be the more senior and the female one must be the junior, who naturally does not speak. This does not help if what you want is the Medical Registrar, and the Med Reg is what all junior doctors want, because it’s the Med Reg who can haul their asses out of the fire. Barbie lovers do not respond well to the discovery that the Med Reg is a woman, see above, so they are still going to risk lives because they cannot accept that a women has a far better idea than them .

    On a more hopeful note, the schools career seminar went well; at the end of one discussion the girl said she had finally realised what the Med Reg did; she’s House. My daughter hastily added that she’s not an addict, and she hopes her interpersonal skills are rather better than his, but yes, she’s House. She hopes she may have encouraged a potential Med Reg to go into medicine; in the meantime she lives, as all women do, having to deal with idiots. Idiots who can kill her patients because they don’t like her tone and expect her to be subservient…

  148. Stevie, and expect her to be flattered when they seem to think they’re complimenting her by saying how great she must look in a bikini, and then they get fussy and oppositional if she doesn’t act flattered.

  149. Stevie — thankfully, writers aren’t in charge of saving or killing people. But what we’re looking at here is a group of people who signed off on a document that is riddled with factual errors, sexist language, and proposes that female authors have to go through debates that belittle and demean them rather than simply be given basic professional respect from an organization which they pay to belong to. Which is part and parcel of trying to retard women’s participation in and right to speak up in the field when people treat them as toys. Which is why the petition is, for me, a lot more heart-breaking than the stuff in the three issues of the Bulletin, which, bad as they were, weren’t planned attacks. This one is, and prominent female authors supported it.

    From Steven Gould, president of SFWA:

    While this petition has not been formally presented to SFWA, I have seen versions and they express concerns for something that does not and will not exist:

    Specifically, the editor of the Bulletin will not have to go to any selection or editorial review board to approve material.

    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.

    All of which was already known and had already been long explained. But again, this petition is riddled with factual inaccuracies and bombastic accusations, some of which even the authors who signed it admit exist in it.

  150. I keep seeing references to the SFWA Bulletin as a “newsletter”, and comments that appear to presume that the Bulletin‘s audience is limited to SFWA’s membership. In fact, neither of these characterizations is correct.

    Of SFWA’s two ongoing publications, it’s the Forum that’s more accurately described as a “newsletter” — a publication reporting on activities within SFWA, one specifically focused at least in part on time-sensitive information and announcements, and circulated only among its participatory members.

    The SFWA Bulletin is a magazine or trade journal, containing a mix of feature articles, columns, and similar material. While some material is nominally time-sensitive (a market-reports column), most is not. Nor is the audience for the Bulletin limited to SFWA members. Prior to the current series of kerfuffles, it was referred to fairly often as the organization’s “public face”. It’s always been available to SFWA’s institutional members (read: libraries) and by extension to their patrons, was at one time distributed to larger newsstands and better genre-friendly bookstores, and is even now (per SFWA’s Web site) available by subscription to anyone who cares to purchase it.

    This is why the Bulletin‘s ongoing physical makeover started to emphasize full-color covers in the first place — to make it more visible to a wider reading audience, as a means of outreach (and in fond if faint hopes of recouping some of its expenses from a larger subscriber base). And, concurrently, the fact that the Bulletin is accessible to non-SFWAns is one of the catalysts for the kerfuffle-stream — when something inappropriate appears in the Bulletin, that affects SFWA’s public image in a way that material more privately circulated in the Forum cannot.

  151. @Brian:

    I’m not saying I believe myself that there is a pressing free speech problem regarding the reforms to the Bulletin.

    That’s odd, given that in earlier comments, you raised the specter of McCarthyism and blacklist, and suggested that “the most vital role of a writer’s association might well be to exemplify the defense of free speech”. Why do so unless you believe, on some level, that there is a pressing free-speech issue looming on the horizon?

    Likewise, your concern for hurting the feelings (and closing the ears) of the petition’s supporters with the use of the word “kook” seems odd, given that you’ve described people critical of the petition as “defensive and shrill”.

  152. Apologies for coming back late (I had to be offline).

    Kat, I appreciate that you called out my “tone argument” in very civil terms. I see that you only called the original author a misguided kook per se, not the other authors who made the later revisions (I think you did imply that some were being disingenuous, and just want to go back to more bikinis, which I suspect is not entirely fair, but no, you didn’t call them kooks). I should have said that I think when the signers are insulted in public fora (in general, not by you specifically, and your comments were relatively mild compared to some others), I fear it might be counterproductive.

    Obviously I can’t speak for the signers, though some have made public comments here and there. I do think that it is important not to impugn the intent of all the signers with the same brush, since their motives (or the motives of some) are clearly in some part altruistic. Nobody is saying that editor job announcement was itself the sign of any act of censorship that has already been committed. They are saying that such an review/advisory board, if created, could have dangerous implications if it were misused. It seems like the president mostly agrees with that point. I expect many members would agree, though others would disagree.

    The chainmail bikini warrior (picking up on the comment from John Bunnell), which was offensive and a disaster, was also part of a larger (more positive) effort to depict colorful sff characters and situations on the covers as opposed to say, a picture of a bunch of books or something equally drab like some trade publications tend to have. (For example, previous issue had I think a female steampunk pirate who I at least found to be a vibrant depiction of genre ideas and not at all offensive. And yes, one would hope bookstores could carry it and people would be encouraged to pick it up when seeing colorful characters on the cover.) SFWA could issue a statement that the editor is encouraged to display original artwork for the cover while avoiding the use of inappropriate misogynist pulp era images. Nearly all the signers (if not all) would surely agree on that. If the president/task force formally encourages the use of the word women in place of ladies, girls, chicks or broads, could anyone really object to that? Even if someone did want to object, they would need to defend their right to use outmoded gender terms in a trade publication in those many words, and that argument would be judged on its merits.

    My own view: I do agree with the general sentiment that SFWA should hire a competent editor and allow that editor to do their job in a professional manner. In an ideal world, you could go the whole nine years with a nominating committee and a publications board that makes regular reports on education policy. But this is a small organization with limited funds. Rather than getting into a volunteer advisory board with powers that are not defined in the by-laws, it might be better to develop a clear statement about the intended new direction of the Bulletin, allow a period of debate among the members on that statement, and then let the new editor get to work without micromanaging. If that won’t work (for example, if too many sf authors have an engineer mentality and think can fix every problem), it would be better (safer) to change the bylaws so that they explicitly address how this should be done. (Whether that is possible in this climate, I don’t know.)

    The petition did remind people of the lurking dangers (even in the United States, even today) of things like publishing review boards without clear accountability, and darker tools like blacklists. (In my view, this is not at all the same thing as accusing the SFWA president or task force of enacting McCarthyism, which I don’t think is what happened.) That’s not a bad thing: already, today, universities are routinely censoring student papers, atheists are having their posters taken down, courts in India are ordering academic books to be pulped because they state that a linga is symbolically a penis which offends Hindus, and so on. I just wish we could say we all agree that the defense of free speech is important, the Bulletin should be mindful of those questions, and that everyone working with the Bulletin should read “How to Suppress Women’s Writing.”

    Mythago – saw your comment before hitting send. 1) thanks for asking about my personal beliefs. In reply, I suspect that free speech concerns might be looming in larger political or cultural contexts in the US and globally (which is a discussion for another thread, and if you can start or point to one I’m glad to join you there!). I can’t say that I really agree that this is the most pressing problem of the SFWA itself, but I guess I feel that in today’s world, I would be happier if people raising the issue of free speech in various forums won’t be dismissed, because of that larger context. 2) re. “kook,” as per my first paragraph above, I should have said that I wish more on both sides would engage politely and constructively with petition framers, supporters and dissenters. I should not have taken issue with one single commentator’s language and I’m sorry that remark was careless.

  153. Small typo (sorry not to catch it): “education policy” should read editorial policy”. I was probably thinking of similar situations in academic settings.

  154. John C. Bunnell:

    I keep seeing references to the SFWA Bulletin as a “newsletter”, and comments that appear to presume that the Bulletin‘s audience is limited to SFWA’s membership.

    It used to be basically a newsletter, so referring to it as such is not out of bounds. While the magazine is not exclusive to the membership, the point of the magazine is to be a trade magazine offering information to member writers of help in their careers, not to discuss their bodies. In any case, the Bulletin is not obliged to publish everything written by their members and pay them for it. As you note, as their public face, having the publication denigrate a large chunk of their members was the problem.

    Brian:

    I think when the signers are insulted in public fora I fear it might be counterproductive.

    1) You are still using the tone argument. :)
    2) The entire point of JS’ post was that when you support a petition, expect reaction and criticism to what it is that you are supporting. This particular petition attacks and insults people and contains admitted falsehoods. So what is in the petition is what they are saying they believe and it will be criticized. You seem very unconcerned with the insults in the petition aimed at female authors who used their free speech to complain about denigrating speech in the Bulletin.

    I do think that it is important not to impugn the intent of all the signers with the same brush, since their motives (or the motives of some) are clearly in some part altruistic.

    They signed the petition — therefore they supported what is in the petition and that is their publicly stated intent. If they didn’t want that to be their intent, then they shouldn’t have signed that petition. That’s exactly what JS is talking about. I also don’t agree that the motives are clearly in some part altruistic. They certainly chose not to be truthful, and that doesn’t incline me to view them as altruistic. Women are accused of repressing free speech in order to try to intimidate them and get them to shut up (discourage their free speech.) That’s not altruism; it’s a power play.

    They are saying that such an review/advisory board, if created, could have dangerous implications if it were misused.

    They are saying we lost the debate in the organization about having an advisory committee to the president and so we are inventing an imaginary threat, is what they are saying. They misrepresented what was decided in SFWA in the petition and elsewhere. And the president did not agree with them — he said that they were wrong.

    The chainmail bikini warrior (picking up on the comment from John Bunnell), which was offensive and a disaster, was also part of a larger (more positive) effort to depict colorful sff characters

    The issue was that the warrior was put on the issue celebrating women’s contributions to the field and was combined with Resnick and Malzberg talking about women editors in terms of their physical attributes. Which was followed by an article recommending women quit complaining and act like Barbie dolls, which was followed by Resnick and Malzberg calling those who dared to criticize them or the Bulletin fascists and other insults. The petition puts forth the idea that women should shut up when the Bulletin has material talking about their bodies instead of their brains or their careers. Also, given the huge involvement of fantasy art over the decades on book covers and elsewhere in fandom, no one has to make an effort to depict colorful sff characters on a trade magazine.

    SFWA could issue a statement that the editor is encouraged to display original artwork for the cover while avoiding the use of inappropriate misogynist pulp era images.

    The petition signers feel that this is censorship. They are firmly against this idea, according to the petition.

    If the president/task force formally encourages the use of the word women in place of ladies, girls, chicks or broads, could anyone really object to that?

    The petition signers feel that this is censorship. They firmly object to it in the petition.

    Even if someone did want to object, they would need to defend their right to use outmoded gender terms in a trade publication in those many words, and that argument would be judged on its merits.

    They did defend their right to use outmoded gender terms by calling other members fascists for not liking them, and they object in the petition and that argument that they make in the petition is being judged on its merits and criticized thereby. Have you actually read the petition?

    Rather than getting into a volunteer advisory board with powers that are not defined in the by-laws,

    They are using the by-laws and followed the by-laws in the discussion among members that lead to the decision to have a volunteer committee. The claim that they are not following the by-laws in the petition is false and misleading. Or are you calling the president of the organization a liar? Because they pretty much are. Basically, they lost the debate in the organization and now are trying to gin up false support by claiming somebody sometime may not buy their articles, which is apparently dystopia.

    that everyone working with the Bulletin should read “How to Suppress Women’s Writing.”

    You do not seem to understand that the petition is arguing against “How to Suppress Women’s Writing.”

    If, as we are all in agreement, the writers had the right to sign/write the petition, that does not then give them the additional right to control how they are criticized about it. Given that the petition contains sexist language, incoherent rants and admitted falsehoods, it’s going to be pretty heavily criticized. Many people find no merit in it, which includes me. SFWA elected staff have violated no by-laws, and no future editor is going to be micromanaged. Nor are the protesters being prevented from going through the usual channels to effect policy. They simply lost the policy debate and now are doing what I’m sorry to say is essentially is pretty much a smear campaign. And one aimed mainly at female authors who dared to object to things. They could have done a petition that didn’t contain such language and admitted falsehoods. They didn’t have to sign the one that did. But they chose to do so and now they get to face the consequences of that decision. That’s free speech.

  155. Mythago, rereading up-thread, I see your concern with “shrill”. I referenced comments on the internet wishing petitioners death or mental incapacitation, but wanted to clarify that some comments on the “pro-” side had been “shrill” too (that is, insults were being thrown in all directions). But I didn’t mean to imply, and don’t believe, that it was in any way wrong to express anger either at the petition or at the different reactions to it. Thanks for the useful comment.

  156. Kat,

    It seems we are talking past each other. Let me try to be brief:

    Tone argument: I apologize if it seems I implied that people have no right to be angry. That is not what I meant. Maybe I can try to make a related point: I was most troubled by the number of ageist remarks directed at the signers, which I thought were counterproductive. Are you more sympathetic to that perspective? We can agree to disagree.

    “They are saying we lost the debate in the organization about having an advisory committee to the president and so we are inventing an imaginary threat”: I don’t think anyone said that the president doesn’t have the power to form committees. As I read it, they are warning that something undesirable might happen under such a committee if it will be formed. As such they are participating in a debate that is ongoing, so they haven’t lost it (yet). Actually in his statement Gould seemed receptive to the concern about an advisory committee having too much power, so there is common ground there.

    “The petition puts forth the idea that women should shut up”: I think you are talking about where the petition says that cover was “seemingly harmless” – I agree that was not the right thing to say. But on the other hand, many people who objected to it say that the problem was the totality of several things coming at once.

    The petition asks, “what exactly are the new standards”, which suggests that what the signers want is in fact a statement of the new direction for the Bulletin which can be considered and discussed by the members. So, why not provide it, thus answering the petition?

  157. “They are saying that such an review/advisory board (as the one they have imagined, as opposed to the one not yet implemented), if created, could have dangerous implications if it were misused.” Parenthetical insert is mine.

    The writer of the petition, and the signers by extension, are expressing a fear that if the worst thing they can imagine happens, it would be bad for them and by extension everyone. They’re doing so by not engaging in facts about what has been or is being done, and applying disingenuous motives to those who’ve acted publicly and, as Kat has said, in accordance with the organization’s bylaws. They’re also applying those motives with no proof, just their supposition. In general it’s not an effective tack for organizations of any kind, public or private, to overturn decisions made in accordance with their rules and following input from members because a subset who chose not to participate now thing something bad could happen.

    To use an alternate scenario, say this process were already in place, and the writer was circulating a petition because he submitted an article which was rejected by the commission. He then included the article in the petition to argue it had merit for the bulletin, and was accompanying it with emails displaying a prejudice towards him. In that imagined scenario a petition might actually have merit. (This assumes, of course, his rambling portion wasn’t the rejected article as the signers requesting it’s removal/alteration would have recognized it as lacking value.) He’d be able to point out to SFWA members that the board was actively censoring material in the furthering of a social or political agenda beyond the scope of the SFWA goals. He might even (again depending on the actual damage caused) get wider support.

    But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s instead fearmongering in advance based on his assumption of an imagined outcome from an imagined board driven by an imagined agenda. He’s doing so to encourage people to fear “what if’s” and “could possibly’s”, rather than looking at tangible evidence. At best he sold authors too busy to research the facts a bill of goods. It’s heartening to have seen so many people actually drill deeper and recognize the fearmongering for what it is.

  158. Brian, here is another way of looking at the advisory committee.

    During the above-mentioned kerfuffle, the then-president of SFWA was the final authority on what was published. He also had numerous other institutional as well as professional and personal responsibilities and was perhaps not well versed in the context and background of the kerfuffle, and could not spend the time to look into the ins and outs of each and every issue of the Bulletin. I’m speculating there, but I am also extrapolating from personal experience on a publication in quite a different field.

    A scholarly journal for which I work as a freelancer recently accepted an article for publication that was based in part on a controversial area of research, and one of the co-authors was someone who is widely considered to be eccentric (on the kinder end of the critical spectrum) or a kook (on the other end). The journal is peer-reviewed but does not get many articles on the topic in question and ended up being reviewed by an academic who focused entirely on the cross-cultural comparison being described and was unaware of the controversy surrounding the other aspect. The editor of the journal had never heard of the co-author and was not aware of the controversy or the co-author’s reputation. By the time I was given the article to work on, it had been accepted for publication and could not easily be un-accepted if the data in it were reasonably sound. As it happens, because of my own nonacademic interest in the controversial topic, I was vaguely aware of the controversy, and the more I researched it and that aspect of the article and the co-author’s public statements, in the process of working on the article, the more alarmed I became at the prospect of our journal becoming a mouthpiece for this person and potentially connected with distasteful and bigoted views that neither the editor nor the journal supports.

    A more thorough peer review would probably have caught this situation earlier in the process and advised the editor, who could then have sought more information and made the decision whether or not to publish with much more knowledge of the controversy and the possible blowback, if any.

    This is more or less how I understand the proposed volunteer committee: a group that can be more in touch with the issues surrounding any given item that may be considered for publication in the SFWA Bulletin. Their role would be to to ensure that the president has enough information and advice, if requested, that something as embarrassing as the slap-fight that occurred in the Bulletin and the horrible cover not make it as far as publication. The president cannot be expected to be up on the ins and outs of every article or topic that might be under consideration. The committee can function as peer reviewers who can, among them, help to determine whether something is appropriate for publication. The kerfuffle was an embarrassment to the organization, and the proposed review committee is a means to try to ensure that sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

  159. To amplify BW’s point, we could also look at the recent controversy around the Grantland article about a transgender woman who committed suicide between the time she was being investigated by the reporter and the article on her was eventually published. Among the many, many problematic areas of that article was the fact they had little to no idea how to discuss trans* issues, and never had anyone with a familiarity read the article, even though in that case they knew they were already on questionable ground. (The subject killed herself shortly after, and possibly as a result of, the investigation.) The issue’s been discussed other places, and doesn’t need to be rehashed in full here, but in that specific case the editor of Grantland recognized they had caused greater harm by not being more thorough in review to avoid some of the language making it seem she was innately deceitful by nature of being transgender.

    Editors don’t catch everything, Presidents or publishers don’t catch everything, and there’s certainly no guarantee a review board will magically mean nothing slips through ever again. It does, however, provide an extra layer of review to help ensure a publication which found itself at the center of an avoidable controversy doesn’t find itself in another.

  160. Kat Goodwin

    I feel that it is unwise to underestimate the sort of damage that words, and indeed, pictures, can do in real world situations. One can argue that this is a small tempest in an even smaller teacup, but at the end of the day it is words, and pictures, which shape our worldview for the better or for the worse; in a genre which prides itself on looking forward it is particularly bizarre that so many people seem to be stuck in an imaginary past.

    Writers and artists shape other people’s experience, and thus have power in the real world; in the real world your life or death may depend on some idiot who can’t wrap his head around the idea that his right to free speech does not include making speeches about whether or not he should follow the instructions issued by someone who does not fall within his personal definition of someone who is entitled to instruct him.

    I will admit that I have been deeply disappointed by the fact that writers I greatly admire have signed up to this drivel; it’s disheartening. But it’s also a painful reminder that so much of what we have tried to achieve is quicksand instead of rock…

  161. Aw, man, this whole ‘censorship’ thing is nothing but the standard Libertarian Dodge applied to a private organization.

    SOCIAL PROBLEM: sexism making its way into SFWA media

    REASONABLE POLITICAL SOLUTION: Have the organization as a whole come up with a way to filter sexism out of its media.

    HYPOTHETICAL HORRENDOUS SIDE EFFECT: CENSORSHIP! WHERE WILL IT STOP! MY GOD!

    To anyone crying “censorship”, two questions:

    (1) do you acknowledge that the sexism in SFWA media was a legitimate problem?
    (2) if so, how do you propose solving the problem of sexism in SFWA media?

  162. Brian:

    No, I don’t think ageism complaints are accurate here. Which is why I said so in one of my posts. However, there is a social generational dynamic going on here in that the social view of the SF community in the sixties and seventies (men can freely talk about and even grab women’s bodies and the women should not object,) is being toted as the way the 2014 SFWA should operate. Which does upset a lot of younger authors and for that matter, older authors who already went through this battle in the 1980′s and 1990′s. I also feel that people who make ageist statements (not in the Bulletin,) have the free speech right to make them, just as the signers have the free speech right (not in the Bulletin,) to be sexist asshats in their petition. Both get to be criticized for it because as JS points out, free speech does not mean you are immune to the free speech criticism of others.

    Basically, the signers are arguing that when it comes to Bulletin content, members should debate and argue their divergent views about it. But when the content of the issues of the Bulletin was debated and argued over last year, when they had the discussion that they say they want to have as operating policy, they called it censorship and fascism. They say that they want the editorial policy to be revamped from a debate and discussion of members with divergent views. But when that debate and discussion over the editorial policy occurred, in a long, transparent process in compliance with the association’s by-laws, they claim it was censorship and illegitimate — because it didn’t resolve the way they wanted it to.

    The petition makes several false and misleading arguments. The claim that this is a constitutional free speech and censorship issue, rather than a matter of editorial policy for a private trade organ, is false and they’ve admitted that it is false but used it anyway. The claim that the voluntary advisory committee — which was decided on after that long and vigorous debate process — will control the magazine’s editor is false. Gould was not receptive to the petitioners’ complaints; Gould was politely refuting their accusation that the organization is doing what they falsely claim it is doing. The claim that the existence of the voluntary advisory committee violates the by-laws of the organization is false, and past presidents have had advisory committees for all sorts of things in compliance with the by-laws.

    Even more problematic, however, is the petition’s claim that male authors should get to talk about women’s bodies in the Bulletin and women authors and others should not be offended because men appear semi-nude somewhere on the planet. (This part includes the false statement that the majority of romance book covers contain semi-nude men, when in fact, it’s a minority of romance book covers and semi-nude men don’t appear on the covers of the RWA’s trade magazine.) They assert that female author members should have to object to, protest and argue repeatedly for the basic respect in the organization as professional authors that is automatically given to male authors. And if the women’s argument involves saying that talking about women’s bodies is not professional or helpful to their careers and is hostile and denigrating to them, they’re wrong and it’s censorship and they should shut up. Which is not a free speech argument. It’s plain old repression. And it’s also basically against the by-laws of the association as well.

    So the petition — to which they signed their names — is being criticized and its false statements are being challenged. The reality is that most female authors don’t have much reason to belong to a trade organization that continually abuses and sexualizes them instead of treating them as professional authors, tells them their arguments for equal treatment are illegitimate and unreasonable, continues to project an outdated, sexist view of the field, and throws a temper tantrum every time that they don’t back down. They get enough of that in the wider world as it is. And to SFWA’s credit — after much debate among members — they are trying to live up to their by-laws and treat female authors as equal professionals — with an equal right to be heard. And the kook they got to write the petition believes that this leads to non-bikini tyranny.

  163. @Greg: I don’t speak for any of the people involved in the petition, but I suspect that several of them, especially some of the older males, probably don’t see sexism in SFWA media as a legitimate problem, and if there is any sexism going on, they think it’s no big deal because there’s always been a little sexism in SF (just like in the rest of society). Some women have the attitude “Yeah, it’s there, and I either ignore it or otherwise deal with it, so why can’t you take it?” For example, there’s been scantily-clad women on SF cover art since the beginning, why are you whining about it on the SFWA Bulletin now? (not my position, but a likely response for someone who doesn’t see it as a problem with sexism)

  164. Also, marriage has always been between opposite-sex partners, so why change it now? And we’ve never allowed different races to marry, so why change that? In fact, we’ve always had African slaves, so why should we free them? These are our precious institutions, without which society will collapse.

    (Do I need a tag? Just in case I do:) </sarcasm>

  165. Brian: “Nobody is saying that editor job announcement was itself the sign of any act of censorship that has already been committed. They are saying that such an review/advisory board, if created, could have dangerous implications if it were misused.”

    Precisely how could such a purely advisory board misuse its powers, and in what way would this be dangerous? Please be specific. It’s not like they will have the ability to prevent the President from reading any articles himself, nor the ability to Star Chamber-like make submitted articles disappear with no recourse. You say it’s not the sign of “any act of censorship that has already been committed” but suggest “dangerous implications” in the future, as if this board will, in the future, commit censorship. After all, you’ve not talked about anything else wrong that hasn’t been done before them but might be done after them. From what I’ve read, it’s impossible for this board to censor anybody, past, present, or future.

    So exactly what “dangerous implications” are you talking about here? Will they change the color of all the stationary in the SFWA Bulletin’s offices to puce or something?

  166. Stevie:

    I feel that it is unwise to underestimate the sort of damage that words, and indeed, pictures, can do in real world situations.

    I agree, but I meant your daughter’s situation is more immediate and individually critical. In the long term, both are very critical.

    But it’s also a painful reminder that so much of what we have tried to achieve is quicksand instead of rock…

    I feel that our inalienable rights are rock, but as in Gulliver’s metaphor, people keep trying to take the rocks from the river, damaging the landscape. Or perhaps they are throwing rocks at our heads. I used the metaphor of fighting in arenas once and trying to knock bricks down to get out of the arena. But our daughters are freaking amazing anyway.

    Xopher:

    Also, marriage has always been between opposite-sex partners, so why change it now? And we’ve never allowed different races to marry, so why change that? In fact, we’ve always had African slaves, so why should we free them? These are our precious institutions, without which society will collapse.

    LOL.

  167. BW – Yes, I think editorial boards can be a good thing too.

    Cally – in the petition, there is concern for opening the door “to censorship of opinions that do not jibe with the personal beliefs of those on the review board, whereas SFWA should be open to the airing of many varieties of opinions.” It suggests that the selection process for such a board should be defined clearly, and also notes there could be advertising revenue lost if book covers are subject to review. The president partly answered those concerns: the editor won’t have to go to a board to approve material.

    As far as I can see, the remaining requests from the petition are: 1) a statement of the new standards/vision of the Bulletin and 2) either not have a review committee (their strong preference) or at least explain how members will be chosen. That all sounds doable to me.

  168. Geez, as a mere reader I find all this confusing. Manifestos (as what is being surreptitiously discussed) should be fun reads, aka Marx..

    Now, SFWA are writers, right? They should write well on the flagship, including such things as they want folks to sign onto. That means concise, readable things — no train wrecks.

    I maintain editors should concern themselves with author’s original intent and making the author’s original intent transparent as possible for readership. Erm, period. I’m not espousing writer’s rights;;see below.

    Problem with what’s said & how said? Save all such by letting writers know parameters before they submit,, period and the end. If shoes don’t fit, don’t wear. If you put a shoe on to wear, try to adjust it maybe, but as per writer’s original intent.

  169. Bruce: some of the older males, probably don’t see sexism in SFWA media as a legitimate problem,

    I wasn’t asking for anyone to answer for anyone else. I was asking for anyone here who is calling this “censorship” to indicate whether they see sexism in the SFF community as a legitimate problem or not. If you think this SFWA thing is censorship, do you think there is sexism in SFF? If you don’t think this SFWA thing is censorship, then the question doesn’t really apply.

  170. @Kat Goodwin:
    (3:34 am) It used to be basically a newsletter, so referring to it as such is not out of bounds.

    Can you be more specific about this? As I type this, I’m looking at the Spring 1992 issue of the SFWA Bulletin — thus, from more than three decades ago — and it looks remarkably magazine-like to me. The contents include the fifth in a series of articles on publishing contracts by Ray Feist, an article on agent-author agreements by David Brin, and an article on “How to Market Your Novel” by T. Jackson King, A display notice in the back also encourages readers to show copies of the Bulletin to fellow writers and local retailers in order to encourage subscriptions or orders.

    As to the current kerfuffle, my purpose in commenting isn’t to take a position on any specific aspect thereof. I simply want to ensure that those who are taking such positions are doing so based on the most accurate possible context.

  171. BW, John C. Bunnell, and Kat Goodwin: Yes, the Bulletin is a trade magazine. Or trade journal, if you prefer that term. I’d say “it may depend on your definition of ‘newsletter,’” but I think it’s more likely that the occasional confusion in this discussion stems from a conflation of the Bulletin with the SFWA Forum, which was a newsletter (as I define the term) and which no longer exists in print form. I don’t know that it matters all that much, so long as we keep clearly in mind what the Bulletin is NOW (and has been for the past several years, as pretty much everyone agrees).

  172. Brian: in the petition, there is concern for opening the door “to censorship of opinions that do not jibe with the personal beliefs of those on the review board, whereas SFWA should be open to the airing of many varieties of opinions.”

    That doesn’t even make any sense. How, exactly, is this board supposed to be able to censor opinions? They can point out stuff to the President of SFWA, but the buck stops at his or her desk, as it always has done. The advisory board has approximately no power. All it can do is alert the President to things it thinks are alert-worthy; what, if anything, the President does is up to him or her. So why is it a petition-worthy threat? You’ve failed to explain exactly HOW this advisory board could “misuse” its so-called powers. Give me an example. Make it as worst-case as you like.

    It suggests that the selection process for such a board should be defined clearly, and also notes there could be advertising revenue lost if book covers are subject to review. The president partly answered those concerns: the editor won’t have to go to a board to approve material.

    I don’t see any problem with the selection process being anything at all the President likes. Their job is just to advise the President.The buck, as I said, stops with him or her. What, exactly, are they afraid this advisory board is going to do? Not vague statements; I want to know precisely how they think this one committee is going to cause the End Of SWFA As We Know It. Are they afraid that some future President will just rubber-stamp everything they send him or her? That’s a problem with the President, not the advisory committee!

  173. Cally @ 3:48: Actually I think part of the problem is that the writer of the petition seems to think that the President (or any publisher?) should just “rubber stamp” anything that the editor sends him–that that was the way things were done in the past, and that that is the only way that “free speech” will be preserved. The idea that seems to be being overlooked or denied in the petition is that maybe past SFWA Presidents just didn’t have time to exercise their by-law compliant editorial oversight/fulfill their by-law specified responsibility to review Bulletin content–and that that’s why they didn’t (to the regret of more than one of them, I suspect). With a little help, maybe future SFWA Presidents will have the time–or at least more of it.

    I honestly can’t see that possibility as all that dangerous–certainly not a new danger. If an advisory board appointed by the duly-elected President and I assume made up of SFWA volunteers (I hate saying things in hypotheticals, but I don’t seem to have much choice here) is going to “open the door to censorship of opinions,” then so is the President himself already such an open door. Isn’t he? So what does this change?

  174. John C. Bunnell: Did it look like this?: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bbj4r_e1pFA/Ub4sS08ZX4I/AAAAAAAAAyE/Y4FgMdS4P-4/s2560/1371417689057.jpeg

    Or was it in the nice stiff vanilla yellow paper? Given that I once had a discussion with someone over whether the number of pages determined whether something was a newsletter or a magazine, I already gave in and refrained from calling it a newsletter any further posts ago. :)

    Brian: Again, you could look up the details of the dispute if you wanted to, you know. Simply put, many members — and folk on the Internet because it was a public dispute — objected to what they saw as material used in a sexist and inappropriate way in several issues of the Bulletin, that denigrated the female members and women in publishing, that played to old discriminations, and did not represent the values of the SWFA by-laws or its diverse group of members to the public. They argued that this material was not of service to them in their careers and instead created hostility towards female authors. They argued that the editor had not done her job by using this material in such a manner, that the president should not have okayed it, and that if this was the kind of thing that Malzberg and Resnick were going to offer in their column that they didn’t want to read it and didn’t think the column should be in the Bulletin anymore, representing the SFWA. They expressed these arguments with varying degrees of anger, but members had the right to express their disagreements with this content in the Bulletin.

    Resnick and Malzberg were maybe a little shocked at this because it had not occurred to them that nostalgia about women’s bodies they had known in a trade journal would bother other members. They argued that the other members didn’t have the right to express their disagreements with the content, that no one should consider the material sexist or problematic, that disagreeing with them was fascism and that saying that they didn’t want to read or have representing them and SFWA the authors’ column was censorship. This really blew up the incident and lost them the argument. The editor resigned, the president apologized, the Bulletin was put on hiatus, and before a new editor was appointed, a task force was formed, and again, a long vigorous and public debate of members about how things would be handled in the future took place. And one result of that process was the decision of the membership to have an advisory committee to the President, whose advice he could consider or not when working with the new editor. This is a very common practice among academic journals and magazines, and was the resolution of the debate of all the diverse members.

    The people who lost both debates and who know very well that it’s an advisory committee only, also know that it is probably going to partly involve people to whom they lost both debates. And since they don’t believe disagreements with their views about material are legitimate, they are trying to claim that the advisory committee has powers it doesn’t have, that it is illegitimate, and won’t be nice to the conservative white male view that conflicts with their PC tyrannical feminazi agenda. The group or part of the group is also, because the Red Sonja cover of the magazine was objected to as inappropriate for a trade journal and an issue dedicated to women’s contributions in publishing, making the false claim that this tyrannical, PC feminazi boogeyman will reject books for review or profiles based on their cover art. Because they’re hysterical facists, you see. That’s pretty much one of the silliest bits of the thing and a total misrepresentation of what was being objected to in the Bulletin.

    The petition signers, as many people have pointed out, had plenty of imput on what’s going on previously; their side simply didn’t prevail in the debate. And what’s going on is still in process. They are demanding vision/standards that they already know they’re going to be getting because they are being worked on. They are implying that the SFWA board is up to no good with no evidence whatsoever. They have a lot of false assertions. So others are going to criticize them because whatever is in the petition is going to be considered their views. And a lot of that petition, even revised, is fairly icky.

  175. @Brian, you seem to be making the argument that because there are potentially legitimate, neutral concerns regarding the committee buried somewhere in this petition, that the majority of the petition – which is extremely problematic in content, and which is being pushed by a non-SFWA member with an axe to grind – should be ignored, minimized, or excused with a sort of Golden Mean fallacy.

    As has been pointed out over and over, this is a non-problem. It was jumped on (and now, apparently, is being jumped off by a number of people who seemingly thought little beyond the issue of ‘free speech’ in some vague manner, or who were actually sympathetic to the author’s concerns about losing his beloved pinups.

  176. @Kat, @ mythago,

    I am hearing: 1) the signers are pretending to care about free speech, and 2) the petition was so problematic and biased that hardly matters. Sorry if I mischaracterize this.

    I drew the opposite conclusion:

    We saw an early draft by one of the authors posted on the internet by a critic. It said columnists were blameless and had a black lesbian friend anecdote, a slavery metaphor, etc.

    To me the takeaway is: those parts were removed. The first few authors said to their colleague, “we’ll support you on free speech, but the rest is irrelevant, distracting, and could be offensive. Take it out.” The first author accepted their rewrite and now it is gone.

    I wouldn’t have gone with those emails copied verbatim, but the conversation did include statements by the president relevant to the speech question. Yes, they included the bits with Truesdale grandstanding (in a sense necessary context to understand the president’s statements in reply). But the part stating what the signers all agree on starts where it says “we, the undersigned, object to the following…”

    So I don’t agree that we should assume the signers are insincere, or feel the (poorly written) petition is completely off message.

    (Though: as noted, I agree that saying that the “Red Sonja” cover was “seemingly harmless” – even though I understand their point about wanting explicit standards – was out of line. Since the Bulletin subsequently published an article about why it is wrong to depict women in demeaning poses, I myself am inclined to assume it wouldn’t happen again. But it is totally clear why many feel differently.)

  177. @Kat Goodwin:
    Good heavens, you found an even older issue than I did. (I may well have that one, too, but the particular box of magazines in question is hiding from me at the moment.) Mine looks generally similar, but the logo/title design has been somewhat modified, and the cover illustration is a photo of one of that year’s award statuettes. This was the period when the magazine was being produced by arrangement with Pulphouse Publishing, overseen by Dean Wesley Smith — who was listed, interestingly, as “publisher” in the masthead appearing on the contents page.

    Anyhow: no stiff yellow paper. That description, actually, does sound rather like it better fits the Forum, which then and for long afterward appeared in pamphlet size and featured cardstock-weight covers in a variety of colors (sometimes pastels, sometimes more in the Astro-Brite palette).

  178. John C. Bubble, minor point: 1992 is just over two decades ago, not three. Doesn’t change your point.

  179. Bunnell! Goddam phone, goddam correction.

    John, I’m so sorry.

    Last comment until I can get on with a real computer.

  180. Well, I already tweeted this post, but I feel that it and the discussion below merits a second mention. Awareness is a powerful tool for change.

  181. [Deleted for pointlessness. If you want to add something useful, try again. But if this comment was about your speed, best you wander off - JS]

    This is the reason free speech is so important. JS does not know what my point is, so he deletes my comment. The person with power gets to decide what is and what is not acceptable, based solely on whatever he thinks. Will he ever know what the point is? Or will anyone else? Nope.

    When we talk about free speech, censorship, and prior restraint, it is often about the government. But clearly, government isn’t the only entity in the world that can control speech and the spread of ideas. Message boards and comment sections are wonderful little places to share information, and it is always interesting to see how the people in control over said little places control said speech, and gives you an idea as to why the First Amendment exists in the first place. If people with moderation power can easily run over free speech, you have to wonder what people with access to guns want to do.

  182. Edward Gemmer:

    “Will he ever know what the point is? Or will anyone else? Nope.”

    I didn’t know the point because you left a pointless comment. Which was why I deleted it.

    However, your suggestion that no one else will ever know is contingent; you could easily post your pointless comment somewhere else, perhaps on a site you control. In which case, my ability to delete your pointless post is negated, and others will have the ability to gauge its pointlessness in full. Which is to say your ability to speak, pointlessly or otherwise, has not been substantially impeded except on this site, where, I will note, I am very clear that neither you nor anyone else except for me enjoys a right to free speech. Which makes any grandstanding about “free speech” here extra ironic.

    That private entities are able to make decisions for themselves about what is appropriate speech within the organs they control is neither sinister nor controversial and to suggest that such “gives you an idea as to why the First Amendment exists in the first place” merely suggests you are either not especially well informed regarding the framers’ reasons for putting it into the Constitution, or are being disingenuous. The nice thing is that anyone who disagrees with the policies of these private entities is more than welcome (in the United States, anyway) to create their own informational organs and get their message out to anyone who will listen.

    “Free speech” does not mean nor has ever meant that one has equal and unimpeded access to every private forum. It does mean one can create one’s own forum — the freedom, as it were, of the press.

  183. @greg: As a guy, I overlook a lot of sexism unless it’s pointed out to me. However, as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the proper response when someone suggests that you are committing acts of sexism, racism, homophobia, religious bigotry and other issues is not to go into denial and step up the activity. On the other hand, I once had a coworker who tended to see sexism or other slights where none was intended, so I don’t think every claim requires an extreme action to make sure it never happens again. Every claim should be seriously considered or investigated, but not every claim needs corrective action taken.

    I don’t read the SFWA bulletin, I’ve just seen some of the commentary, and I think the people complaining had valid points. I’m not sure what sort of corrective action needs to be taken. If the SFWA officers think that the corrective action is a new editor and a review board to point out sexism or any of the above list, it’s their prerogative, and if the SFWA members don’t like it, they should vote in new officers. I don’t even know whether the review board has the final say on the publication or if it’s just an advisory board and the editor can ignore their recommendation. I think some editors are capable of reviewing material on their own for sexist, etc. remarks without a review board, but that’s up to the editor and the SFWA board.

  184. However, your suggestion that no one else will ever know is contingent; you could easily post your pointless comment somewhere else, perhaps on a site you control. In which case, my ability to delete your pointless post is negated, and others will have the ability to gauge its pointlessness in full. Which is to say your ability to speak, pointlessly or otherwise, has not been substantially impeded except on this site, where, I will note, I am very clear that neither you nor anyone else except for me enjoys a right to free speech. Which makes any grandstanding about “free speech” here extra ironic.

    I don’t control any sites, and if I did I doubt anyone would read it. It’s an interesting thought – imagine if the federal government determined free speech meant they could regulate what you say, as long as they give you some out where you could say whatever was on your mind so long as no one actually heard it. In any event, I certainly agree that you have every possible right to say free speech doesn’t exist on your website. My point is that it is easy to see why the framers put the First Amendment in the constitution, because once you get rid of it, allowable speech is relative completely on who is in charge of regulating it.

    The thing about free speech is that it is not just a right but it actually has value, too. People can learn from each other. Two people arguing has been a valuable teaching tool since people learned to communicate. The internet is a wonderful place for this, so long as moderators don’t get too comfortable moderating the points they don’t agree with. (Not at all accusing you of this personally). The internet is almost totally ruled by individual people free from government or even corporate influence, which is a wonderful thing. That said, advocating for free speech on the internet isn’t a bad thing, either.

  185. Edward Gemmer:

    “I don’t control any sites, and if I did I doubt anyone would read it.”

    Well, but — you say you don’t control any sites and yet link to your Facebook profile. I went and looked (you appear to have recently gotten married — congratulations if so). Is Facebook somehow compelling you not to post your words there? Beyond that, of course, you could quite easily get a site, for costs that range from “trivial” to “free.” You can, even if you don’t, and that is a relevant point.

    As for doubting that anyone would read your words on a site you control, that may or may not be true, but that neither obviates the fact you can post them there, nor oblige anyone else with a wider audience to give you a platform.

    I think you and I would not disagree that the Internet allows for a great opportunity to exchange views and opinions, and that so long as people are discussing topics cogently, mere disagreement is usually not a good reason to cut short a discussion. However, even if a host of a site decides that nothing but comments that slavishly agree with the host’s views are allowed, only that site is affected; those who disagree with the host can (and often do) post objections, complaints, line-by-line denunciations, etc on their own sites. “Free speech,” online or elsewhere, doesn’t have to mean “you’re allowed to use my press”; it can also mean “Get your own press!”

  186. I don’t control any sites, and if I did I doubt anyone would read it. It’s an interesting thought – imagine if the federal government determined free speech meant they could regulate what you say, as long as they give you some out where you could say whatever was on your mind so long as no one actually heard it.

    Okay, but first of all, there are plenty of sites (even well-trafficked sites!) in which your views as you’ve expressed them would be welcome. I can think of a few right off the top of my head. So while that might be an interesting thought, I don’t really see how it’s at all relevant here.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “advocating free speech on the internet”, since obviously your definition of the term is completely disconnected from its legal meaning in the US. Is it the freedom to make comments wherever you want? If so, well, why stop there? By that logic, you could make a “free speech” issue out of the fact that you don’t get to make guest posts on this blog. After all, a guest post would get your views much more attention than a comment.

    Which isn’t to say that there aren’t (in my opinion) bad moderators, or people who squash productive discussion in spaces they control. But this doesn’t have anything to do with “free speech”, and whether it is “allowed” or not.

  187. The internet is a wonderful place for this, so long as moderators don’t get too comfortable moderating the points they don’t agree with

    Edward, I’d like to pronounce some political ideas at Carnegie Hall. It would, of course, be censorship for the owners of Carnegie Hall to not let me in during a time when there is a large audience, and give me free reign of the stage to declaim. I mean, I could say these things in my own home, but no one would listen.

    Could you get me the phone number for Carnegie Hall so that I can let them know when I’m coming?

  188. J.C. Bunnell:

    Good heavens, you found an even older issue than I did.

    Oh I’ve inherited older issues of the Bulletin from the 1980′s. And they were printed on yellow ivory paper, no cover art with staples. So newsletter was essentially a valid designation at one time. But you were right to point out that they revamped into much more of a magazine in the 1990′s, so I’m calling it a magazine or a journal instead because as you suggested it’s more accurate.

    Brian:

    I am hearing: 1) the signers are pretending to care about free speech,

    Not exactly. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But the petition itself is not really concerned with free speech. It is actually advocating the suppression of free speech, mainly of a disadvantaged group. I’m not sure the signers of the petition actually get that, however.

    2) the petition was so problematic and biased that hardly matters.

    The petition was written by a sexist. It contains very sexist language and inflammatory language, including in the final draft. It also contains several critical falsehoods, and in the final draft. It raised concerns about scenarios based on those falsehoods, not the facts. The problem is not that this person, who is not a member of the organization, wrote the petition. The problem is that prominent author/members signed it and let it speak for them, while admitting that it is based on falsehoods.

    Here is what happened again, which you keep seeing as unimportant to the whole situation: in three issues, the Bulletin asserted that women writers and editors were not to be respected for their work — the purpose of the trade association and journal — but for their bodies as objects. That women writers (and editors) were not to be given equal respect of their male colleagues but instead to be talked about as objects first, and professional writers dead last. The three first incidents were: in the issue that was supposed to celebrate women’s contributions by their work, the cover was a sexy woman in a bikini — celebrating the women’s bodies, not their work; Resnick and Malzberg talking about how sexy women editors and writers were, not about their contributions in that same issue; and then an article in another issue that exhorted women writers to act like a Barbie doll and not complain about things (i.e. not object to sexism and discrimination,) to succeed. Members, male and female, did object to these things. They did not feel that they belonged in their professional trade journal, that they were not treating women members as equal professionals, that the objectification of women’s bodies over their work was not what the SFWA should stand for and to the public, that this was not what they wanted from a trade association which was supposed to help their careers — and further, it violated the SFWA’s own policies, which it did.

    But what Resnick and Malzberg knew was that they were being called sexist, people were angry and didn’t want their column being part of the journals anymore because of how they’d talked about women professionals. And they freaked out. They declared that it wasn’t sexist because they said so, that the objectors were unreasonable, and further that the other members couldn’t object at all (they have free speech; and women writers have none.) Resnick and Malzberg were claiming that other members couldn’t exercise free speech, couldn’t criticize them, couldn’t call for changes in policy and editorial policy at the Bulletin, couldn’t object to the treatment of the female members in the magazine, and if they did, they were tyrants. But you can’t declare yourself king in a professional writers’ organization. You can’t tell female members that they have to suck up other members waxing lyrical about their sexy bodies in the official magazine and be quiet. And you can’t claim that if you want to publish an article in a trade magazine and get paid for it, you must be allowed to do so. That’s not free speech and it is again violates SFWA policy.

    So there were long debates, and task forces and the staff gathering data and recommendations. And at the end of all that hashing out — which all members could weigh in on and which was made freely available to all members — one of the decisions about the Bulletin was to create an advisory committee to the president. You know, instead of just insisting that the female members be happy about male members talking about how sexy their bodies were and shut up.

    The authors who signed the petition are admittedly older on average, but that means that they come from an era that created a great deal of social change, of making it possible for women to speak up and object to being talked about only in terms of their bodies, not their work or their brains. They were part of that, their work was part of that, the female authors who signed endured a great deal of sexist discrimination to get people to take their work seriously, not just their bodies. And yet, there’s a backlash, a belief that since things are better, women should now shut up and not mind when they are talked about in terms of their sexy bodies rather than their work in a professional organization while men are not, that they are oversensitive, overzealous and so should no longer have free speech or an idea that they are equal, because it is just too annoying or might cause problems for men.

    There is a fear that the women are out to get them and will be power mad tyrants because they complained that the focus was on their bodies, not their work. And that petition expressed that fear — that the advisory committee would instead be a hunting party that would unreasonably call male members sexist, etc., just like they did poor Resnick and Malzberg. There does not seem to be a fear that a woman author having to deal with a trade organization where she cannot object to other members waxing on about sexy female bodies is having her free speech taken away, is facing an increasingly hostile community and publishing field where she’s discriminated against as a second class citizen and valued mostly as a thing, not a professional author. Where she will continually have to argue for her right to talk, be ignored, and have that called a fair discussion.

    And this is the conundrum, that the argument about free speech here is about taking away free speech and equality from the female members, that the free speech that they want to protect is the right to talk about sexy female bodies in a professional journal and they want to suppress the free speech that objects to that. That they are claiming to worry that a diversity of views would be suppressed, when they want to suppress the diverse views and have only the old, sexist view of women as cute bikini wearers without criticism. They want to ignore the objections to what they (or their friends) say, and they’re worried that SFWA — which is trying to adhere to its actual member policies of equal respect with the Bulletin — won’t let them do it, so they’re arguing that the objections should simply be suppressed because maybe the objections will lead to a very vaguely expressed tyranny. They are advocating tearing down the very things that they helped build over the decades because they don’t like other people being mad at them. The petition signers aren’t sexists, they don’t disbelieve in free speech. But in their desire not to be argued with by those touchy females, they’ve decided that the other side are intolerant gestapo and signed a petition that is sexist and suppressionist of free speech rights.

    And also, as pointed out repeatedly, a petition based on falsehoods and vaguely worded accusations. Accusations that the SFWA staff are not doing their jobs, that things are being hidden from them, that the by laws weren’t followed, that other members are out for revenge, etc. It is not a good faith document.

    If you think that there is merit in parts of the petition — if you agree with those parts, point it out. But if the parts you feel have merit are based on falsehoods — falsehoods the signers admitted were there and which we’ve already discussed — then that isn’t merit, it’s just propaganda. But put very simply, most of the female members and many of the male ones are not going to shut up and accept (male) members getting paid to write articles in the Bulletin that talk about how sexy female bodies are instead of treating them as professional writers like the men, which is something that violates SFWA policy about treatment of its members. (And ditto racial, trans, gay, etc. issues of the same.) That’s not a professional association that is doing the services they paid for. So if that’s the main goal of the petition signers — and the petition writer seems to feel it is — they’re going to have to accept that this is an issue that was already debated in SFWA, numerous times, and they lost the debate.

    Edward Gemmer:

    Free speech is not freedom to have access to someone else’s private property, and to do whatever you want on someone else’s private property. Free speech is not the right to force other people to listen and talk with you, especially on their own private property. You are claiming rights that nobody has, rights that violate the basic free rights of others.

  189. @Edward Gemmer, the government can in fact regulate what you say. For example, the government can have me arrested if I show up on the street outside your house at 2 a.m. and start shouting my manifesto through a bullhorn, or if I threaten you with bodily harm. If I say false things about you that I know to be false that ruin your career, the government may provide a means (civil lawsuits) permitting you to seek redress from me. Now, of course all this is way beside the point given that SFWA is not the government.

    @Brian: The petition was a dishonest attempt by a non-SFWA member to use the pretense of concern about a procedural issue (the president delegating information-gathering and reporting to an advisory committee) as a not-very-clever figleaf for a rant about his own pet issues. Given that, I don’t know why you see the petition as worthwhile, let alone of equal weight and consideration to the view that the petition is a bad thing. I’m sure that the signers had different motives, as they are different people, but it appears that they ranged from knee-jerk reactions to the phrase “free speech” to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the advisory committee was supposed to do. And, depressingly, at least one of the more distinguished signatories appears to have made comments in email at odds with his later public statements.

  190. @ Kat: “if the parts you feel have merit are based on falsehoods..then that isn’t merit, it’s just propaganda.” I did suggest that one of the suggestions in that document (articulate any new editorial policies, then let an editor do her job without excessive oversight by committee) might be a good idea for an organisation with the size and budget of SFWA. But remember please that that I’m not signing it or expressing the view that you should, and I also agree some of the language in that final document was out of line.

    @ mythago: “I don’t know why you see the petition as ..of equal weight and consideration to the view that the petition is a bad thing”. The petition was a disaster. Even so, or even if their side “lost” (to paraphrase Kat above), that doesn’t mean we should reject or dismiss the view that a writers’ organisation should strive actively to exemplify defense of free speech, however poorly that message was delivered. That’s all I mean.

    It has been a very interesting discussion. Thanks to all of you.

  191. Brian,

    At this point you – like many of the signatories – look very invested in finding a fleck of gold in a giant pile of shit, and then looking dismayed when everyone else clamps their noses shut. While it may be marginally valuable, no matter how much you try to polish it off, it still smells.

  192. Dear Doc Rocketscience,

    Excuse me. I didn’t grow up in the same era as Wolfe, Ellison, Silverberg, nor Addison, Brahen, Casil, Cherryh, Csernica, Finch, Ian, Kress, Lackey, Shwartz, Turzillo. But I fail to grasp why exactly are their wishes a pile of shit?

  193. Disingenuous, Brian. The PETITION is a pile of shit. I can’t imagine you didn’t know that’s what Doc Rocketscience meant.

  194. I’m totally serious. I read what they had to say (read the part following “we, the undersigned, object….”) and found I could agree with some of it. What’s wrong with moving away from demonizing the individual person initiating the petition (or castigating “the petition” itself as a “bad” document) and asking whether we agree with some of the ideals that those writers were willing to put their names to? Seriously.

  195. Brian:

    I did suggest that one of the suggestions in that document (articulate any new editorial policies, then let an editor do her job without excessive oversight by committee) might be a good idea for an organisation with the size and budget of SFWA.

    And as I pointed out, repeatedly, that particular assertion in the petition was based on a falsehood. The suggestion that the editor do his or her job without excessive oversight by the advisory committee was unnecessary because that was already what had been decided in the SFWA after a long and transparent debate, in which the signers of the petition had every opportunity to give input and suggestions already. The committee was an advisory to the president and would review material to make suggestions to the president, who would conduct oversight on the editor, as the president is obligated by the organization’s policies to do. The advisory committee was not given control over the editor. And frankly, most of the signers of the petition had to have known that. And yet they signed a petition that pretended it was not a fact, that put forward the lie that SFWA was attempting to have a committee to control the editor, in order to generate alarm based on a falsehood.

    So if you are saying that you believe the falsehood — that there was a plan to put the advisory committee in charge of the editor, against the by laws of the organization, when there clearly was not, then your suggestion that the suggestion that SFWA not do that is a good idea then makes sense. You believe the SFWA was up to no good or at least being tyrannical and that these authors should speak up about that with a better plan. Even though you know that it is a falsehood, that it has been explained by innumerable people who had been involved in the member debate and the president of the organization to be false, you’re going to believe that it is true anyway.

    If, however, you don’t believe the falsehood in the petition that the SFWA was up to no good or at least being tyrannical and planning to set a committee to control the editor, then saying that alarm over this non-existent plan is a piece of merit of the petition makes no sense whatsoever. So either you’re saying that you are alarmed by the fake crisis or that you aren’t alarmed but feel that the signers should get praise for making up (signing their names to) a fake crisis.

    Or you could just admit that this particular concern had no merit because it was false and whatever the signers’ motivations for supporting the fake crisis that was clearly fake, they shouldn’t have done it and tried to give a false impression of the SFWA and their fellow members.

  196. Brian, you didn’t answer my questions. What, exactly, do the petition signers think the advisory committee is going to do that’s so very, very terrible? What “dangerous implications” does this committee have if they are “misused”?

    “Dangerous implications” is a scary phrase. It’s meant to be a scary phrase. But you’ve not told us what, exactly, those “implications” are, or in what way and to whom they are “dangerous”.

  197. My last statement: If the petition was so badly formed that it takes guesswork, and reading between the lines, and appeals to just ignore the ranting, and the need to cross out false information to whittle it down to something that might or might not be what the signers thought they were signing, then what’s wrong, to use a variation on Brian’s question, with suggesting that someone who believes that there is a need to do other than what was agreed on write a coherent petition and let the debate be about that? This isn’t an emergency situation. It’s not “this petition right now or no petition ever.” Anyone who is unhappy with the SWFA’s course of action can put together a new and better-expressed petition, and if the folks who signed this one are as concerned as they were before, they can sign the new petition just as easily. The fact that Brian is still talking about it in terms of freedom of speech long past the point when it has been established that this was not the issue suggests that even people sympathetic toward some of its aspects misunderstood what the petition was about. If someone were to write and present a petition that clearly and succinctly says what it means, the SWFA is still not obliged to take any action on it, but at least there could perhaps be a reasoned discussion about it. At this point, no, I can’t agree with some of the ideals the signers may or may not have been concerned about because the petition doesn’t articulate in any lucid way what ideals its signers are so concerned about.

  198. Really, Brian?

    Fleck of gold: those ideals (which, when focused on the facts of the situation, boil down to “censorship is bad”)
    Pile of shit: the rest of the petition, both versions, the first of which was signed by some of the most prominent of the prominent figures who signed the final version, and who therefore still get to own the first version.

    So, yeah, Brian, censorship is bad. On this we can all agree. Now, if there were any indication, whatsoever, that censorship was occurring, or indeed, even likely to occur, then there’d be something to the petition. But absent any such indication, outside the minds of the signees, there isn’t much of an issue here to protest.

    Add to that that the rest of the document, in both forms, is appallingly backward, tone deaf, illogical, and flat out wrong.

  199. Apparently, the situation has gotten worse in the sense that a bunch more people talked their asses off, trying to minimize what happened in the Bulletin. They see more “progressive” author members as viewing themselves as “special snowflakes” who are annoying, get overly offended at everything and don’t realize that they are going down a “slippery slope” towards the suppression of free speech of horny white males, which is deeply more important than letting females and such complain, and that such pendantry will lead SFWA to disaster as they supposedly “outlaw” more and more stuff. They don’t know who is going to be on the committee yet, because the committee hasn’t been formed yet, and so they are deeply suspicious that the committee will do “evil”.

    So essentially, there are authors who annoy them and got upset over stuff their friends perhaps foolishly said, and instead of honestly trying to engage with it, they view them as temperamental children. This brings a lot of the resistance and stupidity in the convention-harassment situations better into focus. It really is a period of transition, much like during the seventies and early eighties and again in the mid nineties. They thought some things were bad and other things were fine, and now that people are saying we have to progress to a bit more equality, they’re nervous and irritated. I don’t think this Old Guard (not all of whom are old,) really realize how much they sound like Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps they want to sound like Rush Limbaugh. But this supposed culture war has got nothing to do with censorship. It does have to do with authors being lazy and instead of really marshaling their concerns themselves, they allied themselves with a, in my opinion, kook, and didn’t question things he said and said for them.

    One thing that has become clearer for me in pieces about this situation is that it was indeed Truesdale who decided to fear monger for the organization he doesn’t belong to, and it was he who approached the authors, talked them into signing, told them falsehoods and created a really horrible and incoherent screed with his own political agenda for them. This is not an ideal situation but it makes me feel a bit better somehow, the knowledge that these signer authors were more dumb and indifferent, talking out of privilege, than malicious. But it is an example of how people like Truesdale can gain a lot of influence by getting less extreme people to ally with them uncritically. And it is a lesson on how when people stand up for their rights, they are accused of repression and censorship, mostly through fear mongering about fake scares and comments about their clothing choices.

    Women authors are not going to stop objecting to not being treated as professional authors by a professional writer’s organization they pay dues to. They’ll be threatened, ridiculed, accused of tyranny, hypocrisy and other fun things, but they are not going to stop objecting to the relentless obsession with their bodies, and the use of that obsession to treat them as lesser than their male colleagues. That is a basic baseline for a professional organization and is indeed already in SFWA’s membership rules and harassment policy — not talking about the female colleagues as babes. The idea that talking about them in this way is a “diversity opinion” that must be in charge of the organization — well, you can try, but again, women authors are not going to stop objecting. If they shut up every time somebody called them irrational, hypocrites, and dictators, they still wouldn’t have the vote and nobody would publish their work — at least not under their female names, as C.J. Cherryh knows only too well.

    I truly hope that, no matter how much grandstanding these signer authors may currently be doing to defend their choice to sign the petition written by the kook, they will have at least taken in the lesson that JS blogged about — that next time, they will think very carefully about the points he raised before they sign something, particularly the accuracy of what they are signing.

  200. Cally, thanks for the question. The potential danger they were concerned about was that some opinions or ads showing book covers might be kept out of the magazine.

    Thanks to all for the great discussion!

  201. Brian: asking whether we agree with some of the ideals that those writers were willing to put their names to? Seriously.

    Seriously? The petition starts with: [SFWA] is about to institute a policy of censorship based on political correctness

    When “political correctness” is invoked, you can bet money that its intended to do nothing but try and take a subject like “there is a real problem with discrimination and/or bigotry” and change it to “any solution you implement is TYRANNY!”

    Third paragraph of the petition completely denies there is a problem in the first place:

    (for the use of an “inappropriate” cover among other alleged offenses), and the brouhaha involving two long-time and well respected Bulletin columnists whose use of the words “lady editors,” “beautiful,” and a few other innocuous descriptive words l

    It is an “inappropriate” cover, in scare quotes. He talks about “alleged” offenses because they’re not real offenses. He calls the reaction to three sexist articles a “brouhaha” to indicate it was an overexcited response to something, blown out of proportion. He refers to the people who wrote the sexist bits as “long-time and well respected” as if that has anything to do with the words they typed. And he concludes by downplaying the sexist labels these people used by calling them “innocuous”.

    There is nothign to agree to in this petition because the entire gist of this petition is to deny the sexism that took place and then change the subject and attack the solutions created to try and fix the problems of sexism. You want to find agreement about free speech? Then you’re just engaging in changign the topic just like the peititon wanted.

    Maybe you could take this drive you have to find some truth in the words other people wrote and ask the same question of the petitioners themselves. Ask them to see some truth in the accusations of sexism. I’m guessing they’ll deny it to their graves. Ask them to see the cover as sexist. Ask them to see the truth in other people’s words that describing an editor based on how she looks in a bikini is sexist. And when they acknowledge that, then and only then would we have something we agree on.

    Until that time, the entire point of the petition is nothing but denial and changing the subject, and as long as they’re in denial, any “truth” you try to find would be nothign but more of the “changing the subject” bullshit.

  202. I’ve found that when someone uses the term “political correctness” it usually means “But I don’t WANNA treat other people like I want to be treated.” It is a way of lumping together and dismissing anything which breaches the comfortable bubble of self-satisfactied privilege.

  203. [Deleted because use of the phrase "political correctness run amok," which signals an even greater level of intellectual laziness than merely using the phrase "political correctness" by itself. I assume, Daniel, that this answers your question - JS]

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