Moon v. Wiscon Follow-up
I’m still sorting through my feelings on Wiscon rescinding Elizabeth Moon’s Guest of Honor invitation.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened. William Sanders’ GoH invitation to ICFA in 2008 was rescinded after his “sheet head” rejection letter, for example. (Thanks to Nick Mamatas for that historical pointer.)
Basically, I think the situation sucks. There’s been a great deal of conflict among the Wiscon decision-makers, among those who attend and love the con, among SF/F fandom in general, and among the wankers who aren’t involved/informed in any way but still want to wave their opinions about.
As far as I’ve seen, the only public follow-up Moon has given since her initial post was in this 10/23 piece for a Texas newspaper: Texas Author Uninvited as Convention Guest of Honor Over Remarks on Islam.
I don’t believe Moon is the devil incarnate. I do believe she screwed up, and based on the follow-up, I don’t get the sense that she understands why people were upset by her words.
Was this the right call on Wiscon’s part? There was going to be backlash either way, and no answer would make everyone happy. In my opinion, their obligation was not to try to make everyone happy, but to first and foremost do what was best for Wiscon and its mission.
Some people I greatly respect have expressed their discomfort and disagreement with Wiscon’s decision. Others I greatly respect have expressed approval. I’m trying to weigh both as I refine my own conclusions.
But as I continue to read responses to Wiscon’s decision, I’ve given myself permission to ignore certain voices. Specifically…
- If you use any of the following terms, I’m not going to bother reading further: feminazi, PC Police, FAIL Fandom, fascist, jihadist, thought police. (I reserve the right to add to this list.)
- If you describe a decision which came after roughly six weeks of intense internal and external debate as “knee jerk,” I’m not going to bother reading further.
- If you dismiss everyone who disagreed with Moon’s post as mean old PC bullies/cowards, I’m not going to bother reading further.
- If you equate the decision to rescind an invitation to be Guest of Honor with burning Moon’s books/burning Moon in effigy, I’m not going to bother reading further.
- If you label everyone who questions Wiscon’s decision “disgusting bigots,” I’m not going to bother reading further.
It’s not about tone. It’s because those responses tell me you’re not interested in participating in a discussion, or even in understanding the discussion. It’s because, like Saladin Ahmed said, not every conversation is worth having. And it’s because there just aren’t enough sporks.
October 27, 2010 @ 10:07 am
I was brought up to respect people who were willing to stand by their words, to have an opinion even when they weren’t popular. Some of those opinions ended up making the world worst and others made it more beautiful. It is a natural progression of things and we evolve because of the good and bad out there.
I love Ms. Moon because she said it, instead of quietly vetting every single thing she said through the popular culture. I may not agree with her entirely just as I don’t disagree with her entirely, but the fact she said it was just as important as what she said.
I’m pretty sure that most famous writers didn’t get where they are by picking the safest route, the bland stories that follow the formula just because people don’t like to be shaken up.
I do put Ms. Moon on a pedestal, because she inspired me. But, like characters in a novel, I’d rather have my heroes flawed than perfect. We are all humans, lovely little bundles of frustration, years of emotional baggage and opinions formed from our experiences. Guess what? As far as I’m concerned, that is what makes us what we are.
I’m sad that WisCon decided to withdraw the guest of honor. One reason I decided to go for the first time was to meet her, because she is right in the top of my list of inspirations to write. And I still remember when I lost the chance to thank another of my inspirations, because of something stupid; that writer died the next year and I realized I lost the one chance I had. I know its being a fanboi, but I want at least a chance to thank her for the years she gave me. And that is more important than a single point and Internet discussion (sorry Internets).
October 27, 2010 @ 10:08 am
All I can say is I think that in a way, it’s the right thing to do. An author is entitled to their opinions, I completely agree, but when one is in a position such as Elizabeth Moon, I think they have to be very careful what they say as it can bite you in the backside. If you look at Terry Goodkind and Orson Scott Card, they can and will come under fire because of things they’ve said – Terry Goodkind for his views on fantasy and his own books, Orson Scott Card for his views on homosexuality.
Of course, WisCon would also have to protect itself and be seen to remain neutral in this debate. It could be construed that by inviting her that they support her views, and on the flip side this withdrawal could be seen to say that they don’t support her views. As a feminist convention in the first place, it could be seen to be quite controversial in its own right, and the less controversy they have within the convention, the better.
But then again, it could be that they revoked it for fears of safety – Ms Moon’s views got her a lot of fire(Not to mention the subject itself is controversial), and it could simply be that they thought it could cause issues for themselves (i.e. WisCon), Ms Moon and possibly others, and perhas even affect future iterations of WisCon.
October 27, 2010 @ 10:49 am
This whole kerfluffle has me confused. While I certainly do not condone bashing anyone because of religion, race, or sexual preference, it does seem like people should be able to express their opinions. And when someone is being honored for a body of work, not their opinions, it seems kind of mean to revoke that honor. From what I have read, it didn’t seem like Ms. Moon was bashing Islam but expressing her opinion in a clear and insightful manner.
Why is this country so polarized these days??? Everyone is tiptoeing around offending someone’s religion but there is no doubt in my mind that over the years people have used their own religious beliefs to do horrendous things. (See: Spanish Inquisition for one.) Condemn the person, or the actions of the person, not the religion, perhaps?
I still can’t get over wanting to stone a woman to death for adultery like the recent case in Iran. (But then again, I am pretty anti-death penalty in general.) Is religion to blame? Politics? Don’t people have an obligation to speak up in the face of so much violence?
And if people do speak up and express their opinions in a clear and well thought-out manner, should we not at least listen instead of trying to cover it up and take the person out of the spotlight? There seems to be a lot of rhetoric being throw about but not enough listening.
Thanks for the post, Jim!
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 10:54 am
I do think one of the negatives of this is that there were people who wanted to go to the con to meet Moon, and that opportunity has been taken away.
I don’t think people should necessarily silence themselves because they’re worried about what others might think; on the other hand, the courage to speak one’s mind should also include the awareness that people will disagree, and will speak out in response.
I don’t expect people to be perfect. But when someone says something I strongly disagree with, I’m also going to challenge them on that.
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 10:56 am
I’m not sure there was a real safety issue. I’m not aware of any threats against Ms. Moon that went beyond boycotting her GoH speech or panels.
I think for most conventions, it wouldn’t have been a major issue. But because of the way WisCon has positioned itself, and its stated goals toward feminism and the intersectionatlity that goes along with it, Moon’s comments created a more serious conflict with the convention’s mission.
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 10:59 am
“Why is this country so polarized these days???”
I’m just waiting for Jon Stewart to weigh in on Moongate…
His “Rally for Sanity” is the best idea I’ve seen in ages.
October 27, 2010 @ 11:19 am
I honestly don’t know if they should have rescinded the invitation or not. I can certainly see both sides of that argument, and there is no way to win. I do feel sorry for those people who were going to the con to see her, and I would hope the con would respect that and give refunds to those effected. I doubt it can financially afford to do so though.
This is really just an extension of a debate on if people can support one side of something while ignoring the other side. Many of my LGBT friends would not eat at Wendy’s while Dave Thomas was alive due to his personal and corporate contributions against gay rights. Then there are things like the boycott nearly called on Target over their donations to a candidate who is hostile to LGBT issues after years of cultivating an accepting image.
So should we be supporting an excellent author whose personal philosophy we disagree with. While this does not seem to color there work, I do understand how some people would not want to give her money by subsidizing her work, or have her comments rub off on them. To me it looks like Wiscon did what they decided they needed to do to make the majority of people happy… and that is really their mission.
October 27, 2010 @ 11:21 am
I think the Rally For Sanity only works so well since you have Colbert’s Rally To Keep Fear Alive to hold a mirror up to everything else.
It is a sad fact they are a better source of news than most news channels…
Be the Change
October 27, 2010 @ 12:42 pm
[…] Jim Hines said, “the situation sucks” all around. It stinks that Moon made some ignorant, bigoted […]
October 27, 2010 @ 1:02 pm
I don’t see it as a case of Wiscon trying to cover up what she said in any way, shape, or form. As a con whose specific goal is to work towards feminism and other progressive causes, and which has a reputation for being particularly inviting to fans of color, I would say that they *have* listened to her, thought about what she had to say, and that they are making a statement in return. It’s a shame that she made her remarks after they’d invited her already, but life sometimes gives us difficult decisions when it comes to standing up for what we believe in.
Wiscon is not under any obligation to provide a forum or a “spotlight” to anyone, let alone someone whose opinions may alienate the very con attendees they need to survive as a con. Nor are they under any obligation to silence their own opinions in deference to those of someone else, even someone previously invited as a guest of honor. (I should probably add that I did see Ms. Moon’s original post as bigoted toward Muslims, so even though you didn’t, I’m going to guess that the Wiscon people and I had similar opinions on her comments.)
October 27, 2010 @ 1:38 pm
I read Ms. Moon’s original post as well and although there may be some phrases that could’ve been worded differently, I still found the piece clear and thoughtful, not intentionally bigoted. It was by no means incendiary or bombastic. She didn’t seem to want to pick a fight but to speak her mind about being a responsible citizen. Yes, Wiscon isn’t under any obligation to keep her as a speaker. But what kind of statement does it make when an organization that is supposed to support women’s voices chooses to uninvite someone who was using her voice? Do we only sponsor those we agree with or do we support everyone’s right to an opinion? I find Wiscon’s decision understandable but not very brave. I hope they are giving refunds to people who want them.
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 1:41 pm
I have no idea on the refunds thing, but if someone had been hoping to come to the con to meet Ms. Moon, asking for a refund seems like a reasonable request to me.
“But what kind of statement does it make when an organization that is supposed to support women’s voices chooses to uninvite someone who was using her voice?”
Wiscon is about more than just suporting women’s voices. Its mission and goal (I’m paraphrasing as I understand it) is to further discussion of feminist issues in SF/F. Personally, I’m not convinced that having Moon attend would have contributed to that goal. I don’t see anything to suggest any positive or useful discussion would have come from her presence.
I do agree with you that I don’t believe there was anything intentionally bigoted about Moon’s post, and I certainly don’t view her the same as I do the idiot who was trying to hold a Koran burning for 9/11. On the other hand, intentional or not, I do have problems with some of the things Moon wrote.
October 27, 2010 @ 1:47 pm
Personally, I don’t think Wiscon acted appropriately. People have kind of forgotten that the term “Guest of Honor” means “Guest that we’d like to Honor”. Perhaps they should have just rescinded the “Honor” part and just made her a “Special Guest” or something? I don’t suppose there’s a “right” answer, but that would have been a carefully considered middle ground.
October 27, 2010 @ 1:57 pm
They will be giving refunds:
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 1:58 pm
October 27, 2010 @ 7:29 pm
I think that those who run and host WisCon are perfectly within their rights to do whatever they wish with their Con. I am not familiar enough with either this convention or this situation to judge whether or not it was the best decision in this particular instance.
That said, it does not strike me, in general, as a good policy to rescind any honor just because the one being honored had the temerity to say what at the very least closely resembles truth. It is worth noting that, in our eagerness to not offend that religion which not includes the most active group of our enemies living today, we permitted (and even encouraged) the building of a mosque near ground zero (as we should; it is private property, they should be able to do what they like with it, however tasteless it may have been), while at the same time the reconstruction of a Greek Orthodox Church which existed before the towers fell has been stalled for a decade on the basis of assorted petty and ludicrous excuses (http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=38462).
I concede that it is not good to recklessly offend people. But Moon did not seem to me to be reckless. She put so many caveats and “-exception-not-the-rules-” in that comment as to rob it of almost any force whatsoever. And sometimes offending people is necessary, or even good, as WisCon clearly acknowledges by virtue of its offending large numbers of her fans. Again, they were clearly within their rights, and I will say nothing against them, but I think it is dangerous that we as a culture are more afraid of offending people than we are of rejecting the truth, and her comments were not objected to primarily on the basis of being untruthful, but of being offensive.
Jim C. Hines
October 27, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
I’m just going to say I strongly disagree with your assessment as to the “truthiness” of Moon’s post. Much of my reasoning is at http://www.jimchines.com/2010/09/open-letter-to-elizabeth-moon/
October 27, 2010 @ 8:30 pm
Ms. Moon is a major figure in SFF and I enjoyed talking with her on SFFWorld. If the convention was a regular one, I would have been more upset about the disinvite. After all, people vehemently disagree with writers like Orson Scott Card, J. Wright and Terry Goodkind about such issues, and they don’t get kicked out. But WisCon is a special con with a special mission. And Ms. Moon’s blog post was hostile towards that mission in certain aspects, towards Muslim women and to a lesser degree, towards immigrant women. I can certainly understand why the committee for the convention was torn over the issue and why the organization for the convention decided it had to step in. I honestly don’t know if they made the right decision or not. But the reasoning seemed to be that a lot of people going to the con did not want to be in a hostile atmosphere where A) they were being judged as not as acceptable as white women by the GOH and those who support her; and B) there would be a lot of fighting over Moon’s views. And I can’t say that’s something that should be ignored over sparing Ms. Moon’s feelings. She created the situation, not WisCon. Yes, some people may be disappointed because they wanted to meet her, but that’s always a risk with any con, as a GOH may become ill or have transportation problems and have to be replaced. Ultimately, I see Ms. Moon’s post as arguing against tribalism by advocating tribalism, and I can’t agree with it. And for a convention that is focused on advocating equality over tribalism, she no longer fit as representative speaker. Doesn’t mean that she’s not a feminist or the issues she brought up can’t be discussed at the con, but it does mean that asking WisCon to essentially endorse her views by having her remain their spokesperson was a problem.
We saw a similar problem this past week with Apex Books. Their publisher blog simply put up blog posts from contributors without editing or selection, and put up a very controversial post that was insulting, deliberately so, to many people. A lot of those people mistakenly believed that Apex was supporting the views of the blog poster because it was their blog. Apex had to change its blog policy and issue a disclaimer statement. WisCon was put in the same position by Ms. Moon’s blog post, over which they had even less say than Apex did.
October 28, 2010 @ 3:26 am
Jim, how about this: I disagree with Moon, but I’m pretty sure she’s not Hitler.
What strikes me about this are not the same things that seem to be striking others. First and foremost, I’ve been bemused by descriptions I’ve seen of Moon’s 9/11 blog as eloquent and well thought out. Whereas I thought it seemed anything -but- that. Regardless of content, I found it incoherent stream-of-consciousness rambling. And because of that, it was also my impression (perhaps =entirely= mistaken, given that other people have indeed described it as eloquent, articulate, etc.) that it was posted on the spur of the moment, without any thought at all given to the probable consequences of making those comments publicly (and that her subsequently deleting people’s comments was based on her indeed not having thought about what would happen).
Everything we say in public has public consequences, and I think anyone who doesn’t take that into account is just behaving foolishly. PARTICULARLY when addressing a subject that’s politically and culturally controversial.
With regard to consequences, I’m also bemused by all the people who seem to regard GoH status at a con as a -right- rather than a privilege. If I invite you to my home to entertain my guests, and then you do something that pisses off me or my guests, it’s well within the realm of possibility that I’ll decide I don’t not, after all, want you as my guest. This is also true of a convention committee. Making public, written statements that offended a number of members of the con she was invited to speak at (regardless of the content of those statements) was not an action NECESSARILY without consequences for Ms. Moon. Sure, the concom culd stand on principle. Equally possible, though, is the prospect of themd deciding that, now that she’s offended a bunch of their members and created a huge stink for them… they really just don’t want her around for a weekend. Regardless of what one thinks of that decision, it’s naive to suppose it wouldn’t happen, or even that it shouldn’t happen. No one’s talking about taking away Ms. Moon’s right to opine in public; they’re stalking about taking away her status as their guest because she’s become a source of embarrassment and agitation for them.
Frankly, when I’m foolish enough to be a source of agitation and embarrassment to anyone who isn’t personally very committed to me, -I- expect to be disinvited or asked to leave. Why don’t others?
Jim C. Hines
October 28, 2010 @ 7:55 am
Love the Stewart paraphrase.
“If I invite you to my home to entertain my guests, and then you do something that pisses off me or my guests, it’s well within the realm of possibility that I’ll decide I don’t not, after all, want you as my guest.”
It surprises me that this is the first time I’ve seen this particular analogy raised.
Would write more, but I really need to get offline and start packing for WFC!
October 28, 2010 @ 12:03 pm
Thank you for writing this comment–you’ve made some great points!
Brad R. Torgersen
October 28, 2010 @ 12:38 pm
One of the more interesting reveals, during this entire debate, has been the breakdown between 2nd and 3rd wave feminism. Getting Moon evicted from the convention — and it was an eviction, no question — was a victory for 3rd wave, whereas many 2nd wave feminists and writers are now left scratching their heads at the whole thing, and wondering at the hostility shown to Moon. All I can say is that those who worked very, very hard to pester, badger, and malign Moon, then get her kicked out, are laying down some poor karma for themselves. Because eventually they too will be older, and then it will be their turn to get tossed by the young turks who think they and they alone own all the bright ideas. And that’s the last thing I’ll say about WisconFail here on Jim’s blog.
October 28, 2010 @ 2:45 pm
I also think most of the outrage I’ve seen (at least among sf/f writers) that no one should DISinvite a con guest seems to be based on the narcissistic notion that being a con guest is an inviolable right rather than a revokable privilege.
And con is too public to claim that its renovations won’t be finished in time to host the unwanted guest or that its just learned it has to go out of town that weekend; so it actually has to step up to the plate and SAY, “We don’t want you to be our guest that weekend, after all.” Whereas private people just tell a polite lie when they change their minds about an invited guest.
October 31, 2010 @ 8:40 pm
If they dropped the invite because they disagreed with her views, that’s one thing. If they dropped it because they were afraid she offended people and they would be guilty by association and attacked for it, well that’s a whole nother kettle of fish entirely. I don’t think people should be allowed to get away with threatening someone to make them keep quiet about their views. Whether it’s our government, or some other group of people. She seems to be taking it philosophically though.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 3, 2010 @ 10:36 pm
My take on it is here:
I see it as a perfectly common event of people reading into a statement what they wanted to hear.
And I speak as someone who’s sat down to break fast during Ramadan with Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews and a Wiccan, in the Middle East.
Of course, it’s also possible I read into it what I wanted to hear…
November 6, 2010 @ 5:19 pm
Jim Hines said:
“I do agree with you that I don’t believe there was anything intentionally bigoted about Moon’s post, and I certainly don’t view her the same as I do the idiot who was trying to hold a Koran burning for 9/11. On the other hand, intentional or not, I do have problems with some of the things Moon wrote.”
I have commented on the affair twice because I believe that Moon’s post contains a specific form of racism. The problem with racism, the way I see it, is that 1. most of it comes unintentional and 2. that doesn’t make it any better. In fact, it makes it worse, because it means that you are following the pattern set by a privileged group (white people) without even thinking about it. The only way to get rid of unintentional racist attitudes is to critically examine your social position as a white person, or to get partially stripped of your privilege.
The latter thing is what happened to Elizabeth Moon. Whatever WisCon’s exact line of argument was, the result is that Moon could not rant about “trouble with immigrants”, the “tribalism” of “the unsuccessful citizen”, the purported inability of muslims/immigrants (in Moon’s worldview muslims are immigrants, period) “to go beyond nature” and, of course, “the forbearance they’ve had”, and still be invited guest of honor on WisCon. She was, to put it simply, stripped of that privilege. And that’s why I think it is a good thing that in the end, Moon wasn’t invited to WisCon.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 6, 2010 @ 5:57 pm
Islam is more insular than most religions, and can be a culture of itself. This, of course, varies across the Muslim world. However, the “God’s law supersedes Earthly law” mentality is MUCH stronger generally than it is among Christians. In this respect, Muslims tend toward the spectrum end of being a different culture. When was the last time a major, relevant Christian leader threatened someone with death? Yet, this happens constantly in Islam. If you talk to Muslims from Arabia or Asia for a few minutes, you’ll find they have trouble grasping the concept of agnosticism or atheism. That someone can NOT have a god they consult throughout the day is alien to them. I don’t know how prevalent that is among immigrants or for how long, and it’s likely not true for American born Muslims, but it’s yet another distinction between cultures.
Which race seems to have been in contention? Did she mention one somewhere? Because neither “Hispanic” nor “Muslim” is a race, as much as they get used as such in debate lately.
Not that I’d ever likely go to WisCon, but this certainly further alienates them from me. The modern far left (I hesitate to call them “liberal”) seems to more and more push an agenda of ideological purity. I have friends who are fundamentalists, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, communists, liberals, conservatives, laissez faire capitalists, and even low level racists (and admit to it). I find the discourse is useful, educational, and strengthens my own philosophy.
I was five minutes off the plane from my last deployment when a “liberal” author friend replied to a completely tangential email with “No further contact please. You are becoming more and more extreme.” I’ve been to Arabia twice. This person has not. One would think my input would be useful for formulating a position.
My own experience the last decade is that far-leftist “tolerance” is anything but. By defining anything outside the perimeter as “extreme,” “racist,” or “hateful,” not deserving of tolerance, debate is avoided. I was even told this a couple of weeks ago, that one doesn’t have to be “tolerant of those who hate.”
As I noted–in several major Muslim nations, women are repressed, suppressed and even mutilated BY LAW. In others, it’s “merely” cultural. This is far less the case culturally, and not at all legally, in any Western nation with Christian roots. Yet certain groups are willing to be “tolerant” of the former while holding the rest to standards of purity that are anything but.
The check on the analysis is their assertion that she’s welcome to attend the convention on her own dime and face a hostile audience, so she hasn’t REALLY been suppressed.
The honest take would seem, to me, to be to say, “We object to her blog post and don’t want to discuss it.”
Because it certainly is not “tolerant.”
If anyone wants another check, find 5 each “liberal” and “conservative” message boards. Post on both promoting the opposing view. The “conservatives” will debate, argue, and even possibly name-call. The “liberals” will very likely delete your account.
This they call “tolerance.”
Jim C. Hines
November 6, 2010 @ 6:10 pm
“If anyone wants another check, find 5 each “liberal” and “conservative” message boards. Post on both promoting the opposing view. The “conservatives” will debate, argue, and even possibly name-call. The “liberals” will very likely delete your account.”
And yet your comment is still here…
Michael Z. Williamson
November 6, 2010 @ 6:17 pm
Try DU and FR. Then go to any anti-gun forum and any firearms forum. Tell me how it works out.:)
Jim C. Hines
November 6, 2010 @ 6:58 pm
I don’t actually know what either of those are.
Part of my reaction is that you’re not the first one to respond to my blog telling me how the liberals are supressing everyone’s speech. The last one left probably 30-40 comments on LJ, all but begging me to delete or ban him so he could go back and tell all his friends how another liberal censored him for daring to voice a different opinion.
I read your blog post about the Moon/Wiscon thing, and how you felt you had to speak out against all the morons who believed that maybe it wasn’t appropriate for her to be Guest of Honor at Wiscon. I talk to a lot of people who disagree with me, and I’ve had some very good conversations that way. But nothing in your blog post suggested that you were interested in actual discussion, or that it would be anything but a waste of my time to talk to you about it.
So I’m not going to.
One of these days it would be nice to move beyond “The liberals are all ______!” and “Oh yeah, well the conservatives are all ______!” though…
November 6, 2010 @ 7:10 pm
If ‘to disagree and not do discuss’ is what you recommend, I’d say you should replace the word ‘tolerance’ with a far more fitting ‘indifference’. Or if your concept of friendship includes that you keep people as friends with whose views you disagree, but never adresses the issue, I’d say this is a rather abusive concept of friendship. BTW: Try and replace “low-level racists” in your list of friends with “people who believe that sexual harrasment of children is perfectly alright” and then tell me if your concept of tolerance really works…
I am a leftist and I am not tolerant in that sense. I am tolerant in the sense that Jim Hines just displayed, in letting you speak your mind (something that Elizabeth Moon didn’t do when she deleted the comments to her post). Apart of that, I really prefer taking people’s opinions serious to merely tolerating them. By taking them seriously I mean, among other things, that I dispute them when I don’t agree. And I expect other people to do the same toward me. The way I see it, taking people’s views seriously is far more respectful than any tolerance that borders indifference. And I honestly wish that I will never have friends who go along thinking something like “These ideas of yours really suck, but I’ll rather tolerate them, because they are so educational and help to sharpen my own philosophy”.
Back to topic. Moon’s post is racist in that she tries to explain group behaviour by naturalizing it: Muslims, according to Moon, are more or less unable to go beyond their own tribalist nature, and thus are unfit for citizenship. I won’t have to explain that it is a longstanding racist discourse to equal white people with intellect and blacks, muslims or any other group with ‘nature’. Furthermore, Moon racialized muslims by linking them to immigrants. In the course of the debate, others then linked immigrants to sexual offenders. They merely went one step further along the path. And if it seems too outspoken to explain the tribalist, women-harrassing behaviour of muslims/immigrants via a naturalistic discourse, then say ‘culture’ instead of ‘nature’, which will make life for you as a racist much more comfortable these days. Not that many people in favor of Moon’s blogpost bothered to do so. It just came to my mind because she tends to mix up culture and nature herself.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 6, 2010 @ 7:22 pm
That’s interesting. While I don’t agree with your interpretation of what Moon said, I don’t see any reason to bear ill will against you over it, nor am I seeking to be banned to prove some point. I’m finding the debate useful, myself. While I think poorly of Wiscon for their response, I don’t think less of you for agreeing with it.
My take, as I commented here, is that people read into her post what they wanted to hear. I saw nothing “racist,” and it seemed to comment on how various groups perceive each other. Now, it’s possible I misread myself. I certainly don’t share much in common with her politically, so I have no reason to endorse her other than I interpret her commentary as useful and worthwhile.
I have no idea of your actual political leanings, and I certainly can’t tell from this thread, because it’s too narrow a focus.
Your last sentence doesn’t fit with what I was trying to say; it seems to be at odds. This indicates a miscommunication somewhere.
So, stepping back a bit…
We have liberals and conservatives on a spectrum. We have right and left wing on a spectrum, which need not, and frequently does not, overlap with liberal or conservative. There is also statist and libertarian, but that’s not relevant to this.
These days, the definitions of the above are significantly different from their origin. Few “right wingers” would endorse monarchy these days, for example.
Now, Wiscon has decided not to allow Moon over comments she made they find offensive. They are will within their rights to do so. To whit, “We don’t like her statements, find them offensive, and don’t wish her presence.” End of issue. The problem comes when they tried to weasel out of it with, “She’s not been banned. She can still attend.” Sure, IF she flies up from rural TX on her own dime, she can then appear in front of what is clearly going to be a hostile audience. They have ended debate on the subject, but are trying to claim they haven’t.
Their two alternatives would have been to either have her as GoH and request that this issue not be discussed, or that it SHOULD be discussed. The latter would lead to an exchange of ideas, and possibly a change of understanding (Which is what I’m trying to do here). The former would probably cause tension, but would still allow some possibility of tangential discussion and resolution.
I do not say that ALL liberals act in bad fashion, nor that conservatives don’t. Being a mix of those, depending on the issue, I’d be silly to attempt to place one morally over the other. It’s a spectrum. On some issues I am conservative, but I am most certainly not right wing on anything.
Ideologues of any stripe stifle discussion. My point was that CERTAIN “liberals” (please note the quotes) claim to be “tolerant” while doing so.
If you wish to try the test, and I’d be interested in your findings if you did–Democratic Underground is one of the largest “democratic” communities. Go on there, pick any three “conservative” issues and see if you last more than 30 minutes before being banned, erased and made not to exist. Then go to Free Republic–the “conservative” equivalent, full of truthers and birthers and others. Pick any three “liberal” issues (gay rights would be a good one). You WILL take flak, and lots of it. But I suspect it unlikely you’ll be banned.
I LIKE liberals. Any healthy country NEEDS liberals. What I don’t like are ideologues stealing the name “liberal” and applying it to themselves.
I think Wiscon is veering toward that particular precipice.
You are more than welcome to reply, or not, as suits you, and to do so in my blog as well. That particular post was written before I saw any of yours, which I found will doing some followup research. It’s also possible I’ll change my position at some future point, after more information becomes available.
Jim C. Hines
November 6, 2010 @ 7:26 pm
Thanks Mike. I appreciate the clarification.
I’m buried at the moment, but may come back to chat further if I can dig out from under a few deadlines.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 6, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
She got dogpiled, and ended posting. This is her right, and, if it’s flooding her inbox, possibly necessary. I have no problem with you objecting to her doing so.
My problem is, that does not justify a “She started it, so Wiscon is allowed to do it to,” attitude.
If I’m misunderstanding that, please elaborate.
I will talk to people who believe that sexual harassment of children is alright. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it. They have the RIGHT to any BELIEFS they want, and if I want to understand them, I need to talk to them. That doesn’t mean I endorse the attitude, nor does it mean I’ll allow the BELIEF to become ACTS.
I’m an immigrant. I have been discriminated against as an immigrant. Certainly not nearly so much as some others, but I do have firsthand experience of the subject in question. My race is Caucasian, though I refuse to list it as such anywhere for reasons you have just demonstrated.
Islam is not a race. Muslims are not a race. Muslims are of many races. If we are to discuss racism, please show me an example. You can claim she’s prejudiced toward immigrants or Muslims, and you could be correct. But it’s not racism. I object strongly to such categorizations, and insist on proper terminology, because it dilutes legitimate charges of racism to cry wolf. I will go so far as to say, if you believe that comments against Muslims are “racist,” then you are probably making the internal mistake of assuming all Muslims are Arabs (Which is NOT a race), and creating you own stereotype.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 6, 2010 @ 7:42 pm
FYI, a Bahraini officer told me the following, in excellent English:
Women for procreation
Boys for recreation
Sheep for desperation.
This is a fairly common meme throughout the Arab world, and in parts of Asia. It happens to girls as young as nine, and to teenage or younger boys on a very common basis.
So a large part (Several tens of million people) of this group you want to be “tolerant” of, do in fact believe that sexual abuse of children (by our standards) is okay.
Jim C. Hines
November 6, 2010 @ 7:50 pm
“Montana, where men are real men and sheep are real scared.” I’ve heard variants of this one tossed around a bit, though the name of the state sometimes changes.
Should we be intolerant of Montanans as well?
November 6, 2010 @ 7:53 pm
The Scottish have a reputation for making their sheep wear rubber boots too. It’s a fairly common slur the world over, it would seem. I wouldn’t give it enough credit to use in argument, let alone use it to besmirch a people.
November 7, 2010 @ 9:10 am
I don’t know if you actually misread my comment, but where did I say that Islam is a race? My point was that Elizabeth Moon assumes that all muslims in the US are immigrants, and (this being the more important part) that muslims display a determined group behaviour that might alternately be explained by their ‘nature’ or their ‘culture’. That is why I said that Moon racializes Islam (‘culture’ being a widely-used stand-in for ‘race’ these days). Note the difference between ‘Islam is racialized’ and ‘Islam is a race’.
Insist on proper terminology, that’s fine. But I believe I already explained why I chose to talk about racism. I also pointed out the difference between intentional and unintentional racism, the latter being the form of racism I am talking about. Unintentional racism happens when the alleged behaviour, character traits or any other attribute (like skin pigmentation) gets discursively or violently naturalized.
On the other hand I never said that all muslims are Arabs. I have family members who are muslims, and they are not Arabs. Neither would I say that comments against muslims are racist per se. Actually I said that the way Moon comments about muslims is racist. Again, note the difference. If you are further interested in the discussion, I would ask you to criticise me on the basis of what I actually wrote, and not based on my assumed knowledge about Islam or Arabs.
November 7, 2010 @ 9:37 am
WisCon has ended debate on the subject? Then what is this thread about? If any, WisCon sparked further debate by its decision.
Honestly, I don’t see the point about this “liberals will silence you; conservatives at least will let you speak your mind” discourse. I don’t object to Moon deleting the comments on her post. It’s her blog, she’s free to with it what she wants. In the same way, WisCon is free to not invite Moon because of her remarks. I am free to welcome people in my house when I want, and I am free to shut the door when I don’t want anyone in. Saladin Ahmed is perfectly right in saying that there are conversations not worth having. I for my part don’t discuss with antisemites or fascists. It’s a basic right for everyone that you don’t need to engage personally with people who endorse crappy ideologies that might hurt you.
To be honest, I’d say that your “feel free to object, but don’t criticise” is much more likely to stifle debates, as it really allows nothing but practical indifference.
BTW: What’s the difference between Elizabeth Moon atteding WisCon as a regular visitor and facing a possibly hostile audience, and taking “flak, and lots of it” on Free Republic (don’t know the site myself)?
November 7, 2010 @ 9:55 am
Nobody here was asking for tolerance of the sexual abuse of children. So basically you are trying to label a large part of the muslim community (“several tens of million people”) as child molesters by using a common stereotype, and then you say that people who demand tolerance of muslims in fact demand tolerance of child abuse. Quite absurd. It might be that your concept of ‘tolerance’ doesn’t allow to see the difference between religous tolerance (i.e., the right to freely and publicly exercise one’s religion without being continuously besmirched and harrassed) and violent practices committed against minors.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 7, 2010 @ 4:25 pm
You brought up sexual abuse of children as some attempt at a trump. It’s not relevant to the debate. So I will not discuss it.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 7, 2010 @ 4:30 pm
I don’t see a difference between “being racialized” and “being a race.” Stereotyping a religion does not constitute racism.
You seem to have fallen for exactly what I think other people have fallen for–assuming that she references all Muslims. I do not get that from the phrasing she used.
As for your comments on immigrants, you seemed to be trying to conflate immigrants with race as well.
In short, you went looking for race and found it in two places where it was not mentioned and not relevant.
Which is exactly what a lot of other people did, and what my post was about.
Michael Z. Williamson
November 7, 2010 @ 5:02 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO5FURgj9zM&feature=player_embedded This is so common in the AOR it’s beyond a joking matter, and not even paid much attention to anymore.
As to the other, this is from Kuwait, one of the more enlightened and modern Arab nations, and a nation I’ve enjoyed visiting myself, twice:
current situation: Kuwait is a destination country for men and women who migrate legally from South and Southeast Asia for domestic or low-skilled labor, but are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by employers in Kuwait including conditions of physical and sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, confinement to the home, and withholding of passports to restrict their freedom of movement; Kuwait is reportedly a transit point for South and East Asian workers recruited for low-skilled work in Iraq; some of these workers are deceived as to the true location and nature of this work, and others are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in Iraq
tier rating: Tier 3 – Kuwaiti government has shown an inability to define trafficking and has demonstrated insufficient political will to address human trafficking adequately; much of the human trafficking found in Kuwait involves domestic workers in private residences and the government is reluctant to prosecute Kuwaiti citizens; the government has not enacted legislation targeting human trafficking nor established a permanent shelter for victims of trafficking (2009)
My only point was Anubis attempted some kind of extreme trump, and it is a fact that both children and animals, and enslaved adults, get abused sexually in significant numbers, and have for a long time, as an accepted cultural practice, in many Arab and Asian nations.
This does not mean Islam endorses it, or that most Muslims do it, but if one knows a number of Arabs, one statistically almost certainly knows someone who engages in or supports the practice.
I thought the subject was a non-sequitur myself.
I will repeat that it is standard moral, and even LEGAL practice among many Arab nations and some Asian Muslim nations, to treat women as second class or worse. If you are “Friends” with Arabs, you are friends with (some) people who are extreme misogynists. I have a friend from Pakistan who has trouble interacting with my daughter on a professional basis. Business is conducted with men, or with adult women in America (though he’s never as comfortable discussing business with my wife). A female youth is still a bit tough for him to place into that context. I recognize this is cultural and not deliberate, so we’ve used it as an opportunity for my daughter to develop strategies for it.
My point was that I know people of several races who are prejudicial towards other races. From my POV, they’re wrong. Shutting off contact with them would not accomplish anything, and would reduce my sources for information and debate.
This was an attempt to address some people’s definition of “tolerance,” by which they mean, “Tolerance of anyone who thinks like me, or who I don’t know well enough to be sure doesn’t think like me.”
Such people call themselves “liberal,” but I don’t believe they are. Yet, they identify as such, and support many actual liberal causes.
This puts other liberals into the quandary of endorsing the same position, denying it, or defending it.
It seems to me that THAT is a quandary for a real liberal to face.
_MY_ position is, “Some of my friends, with whom I agree on many issues, hold positions on a few that I find offensive. However, unless this person crosses a variable line of action regarding such beliefs, we can still be friends.”
The alternative is to live in a world of denial where we are all the same, or have a very small circle to interact with.
For record, I did stop communicating with an online acquaintance who was extremely homophobic, and endlessly repeated tiresome silliness about “Gay marriage would lead to people marrying goats, trees and blowup dolls.” Not because he was homophobic, but because he was an idiot.
I guess that’s my own prejudice–voluntary unrepentant stupidity.
November 7, 2010 @ 5:31 pm
I hate getting drawn into debate with people with extreme biases, but what you are describing also happens in the United States (http://www.catwinternational.org/factbook/usa1.php). I could also point you to several articles about Philipinas being forced to work as maids and nannies for almost no pay both in the US and Canada.
I’ll throw you a bone and say that your prejudice many not be race related, but it is certainly geographically bound.
November 7, 2010 @ 6:03 pm
I tried to explain the difference between intentional and unintentional racism. It is quite obvious that in discourses that are unintentionally racist in one way or another, the word ‘race’ itself usually isn’t mentioned. I conclude that you either choose to ignore this important distinction or that you don’t acknowledge that something like unintentional racism exists. No matter what is the case here, I don’t think that on this basis we can get any further regarding this point. I can see, however, why it is impossible for you to see that I definitely did not categorize muslims or immigrants as ‘races’.
I fear that I am not very good in explaining the theoretical groundings I based my statements on, as English is not my mother tongue. I would recommend, however, that you take a look into the subjects of anti-racist education and critical whiteness studies, as they provide useful knowledge for any discussion of racism and related topics, and help to avoid gross reductionisms, e.g. the assumption that racism is only involved when the word ‘race’ is mentioned explicitly.
November 7, 2010 @ 6:40 pm
In fact, you were the one who started discussing the issue in the first place, although I see that I kind of prompted it. I am not exactly sure what you mean by a “trump”, but I was merely suggesting an example that might serve you as a test, so that you could check on how applicable your concept of tolerance really is. I could have chosen other examples as well, but I believe that sexual abuse came to my mind because I had read Jim’s WFC-related posts only hours before.
Another fact is that your immediate reaction was to link the issue of child abuse to muslims, or to Arab culture (and it doesn’t really matter here whether you mean all muslims, a majority of muslims or some of them). I didn’t force you to come up with this appalling bigotry, neither did anyone else. It was your decision to do so, and I find it quite revealing.
BTW, do we have to keep this along the lines of “been there, done that”? I have been to four different Arab countries for about 10-12 times. My family works in Arab countries for about 30 years now. And yes, I have witnessed conversations among Arab men about how male children are welcome objects of sex to them. But then in Germany you have people freely relating their pedophilic behaviour on the internet. Or take the situation in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, were until ca. 1980 (1985 in the Netherlands) the distribution of child pornography was legal. I could also point at the fact that the USA is one of only two countries that haven’t ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Regarding the inferior status of women, which you also adressed, an especially horrifying example is the fact that in Germany it took until 2004 that marital rape was fully outlawed, and until 1997 it was perfectly legal for a husband in Germany to rape his wife.