The OF Blog: Politics of Fear in an SF forum

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Politics of Fear in an SF forum

So I'm belatedly discovering the Asimov's Forum debacle regarding a rejection letter that William Sanders wrote. Many comments posted in many places (Tobias Buckell has links to many of them), with yet a second thread emerging on the Asimov's Forums attacking K. Tempest Bradford. Leaving aside the possible improprieties of her questioning of Gardner Dozois's motives (something that she has since addressed), I want to look at at the second Asimov's thread, one started by SF author S.F. Murphy. The quotes below (with highlights by myself) are of his comments, unless noted otherwise, all excerpts:

Tempest thinks she has something on Garnder. I think she is full of shit. So I challenge her, or anyone in her group, right here, right now to come out with the evidence of improper behavior.
Hrmm...could be taken several ways...

Some people want to see an -ism everywhere. They can't imagine that there are good reasons for wanting to keep correspondence private when it's perfectly decent. (RandyBeck)
This is in response to Murphy's first comment. Now for the followup by Murphy:

They have a convention full of such people at Wiscon every year, Randy.
Ah, now "her group" is being defined as I presume a feminist/anti-racist one, with a pejorative connotation to "full of such people" thrown in.

Why Marian she says so many good and wonderful things about us crackers here at the Forum. Why not talk about her? She wants Fame, I say lets give it to her. Everyone should know that K. Tempest Bradford isn't just crusading against racism, sexism and homophobia (lauable causes true) but that she is also prepared to slander, lie and destroy anyone who so much as dares to stand up and say, "Nah, I don't think so." Gardner appears to be her latest target which leads me to ask, Marian, why the fuck you aren't over there stomping her God Damned Guts out!...Someone being a dumbass never has anything to do with their race, gender or fuck buddy preference. If they are a dumbass, just call them that. Don't use the N-Bomb or the other words. Though I gotta wonder why it is still perfectly acceptable for African Americans to use it then complain about others using it. Kinda hypocritical but then I really don't give a shit. I just don't use the word.

Why slander a whole ethnic group because a small number of them are hammerheads? Why, that'd be like calling someone a cracker or something.

Marguerite, do you like it when someone calls you a corn pone cracker? I suspect not.

Now, getting to our "enemy," I think Sanders had some valid points about "worm brained" mentality but everytime I post them Willie trots along, clips them and make them go away. So all I will say is that it isn't racist to question the sanity of a religion that finds it honorable and laudable to blow up a pizza parlor by means of wearing a vest full of C-4 and ball bearings.
A defensive quasi-apology on the surface, followed by more insinuations that Bradford is much like the others. Except, of course, for all of the references to "her group" and "full of such people."

Racism, sexism and the like are a lot like Disrespecting a Non Commissioned Officer. It is all in the eye of the beholder and it is very much one of those, "You're Fucking Guilty no matter what," regardless of whether the accusation is slanderous or not.

Tempest knew full well what she was doing and it is time someone called her on it. She has been doing it for quite some time with sniper shots at other people in the community. But taking a potshot at Gardner was way over the fucking line.

If anyone should be censured, ostracized, boycotted and told to get the hell out, accused of racist, sexist, slanderous behavior, she should be.
More defensiveness and finger-pointing. Sounding more and more like someone shaking with rage and perhaps more than a little fear. Reminds me of a little dog barking when it knows it can't take down the big dog.

Hey, Marguerite. Just between old friends, where umm exactly did you post this comment of yours calling Tempest on her shit? Cuz outside of that "don't want to ruffle no feathers" bit, I ain't seeing it.

I really love this line about Gardner being part of the old guard of science fiction and has a problem with technology. That really fucking takes the cake. If he is such a luddite, then why did he purchase Lobsters from Charles Stross?

Oh, that's right. Stross is just a white guy. Yo, my bad.

But then there is Nancy Kress. Ah, but I guess she doesn't count either, does she?
And now the "white" references start to come in...ah hell, "all those "crackers" and "YTs" are liable to be accused, especially if they're men" argument. Same old shit.

There are some fairly prejudiced things that have been expressed at Asimov's at times. However I could say the same of Night Shade or other places. There's sometimes a game of "our prejudice is just, yours isn't" at work in these things. For example the magazine has certainly run "the rise of Christianity was evil" stories and "liberal" authors have never had problems bashing Christians here, but I doubt that's what she means. Although in some cases it's more about intensity and I do think it makes sense to be more unnerved by an intense prejudice than a mild one. (ThomasR)
Why am I not surprised that "Liberal" would emerge at some point here?

Shelia gets an exemption because she is female. How hard is that to see, man?

Gardner is a bad nasty white male however and thus a legitimate target for an attack. Never mind that Shelia said what Gardner backed up later first. Gardner gets to take the thermonuclear sabot round.
Ah, Murphy is back into trying to redefine this as Bradford being just as bad, insinuating "racist" attitudes. Interesting. "Well, she's doing it too!" sorts of defenses rarely work, except for like-minded people, it seems. Gotta love group forming and trying to place others into self-defined groups as a means of demonizing them.

Thomas, Tempest makes Night Shade look tame by contrast. Better yet, she was one of the ringleaders when Strahan made the mistake of not including enough women in his latest anthology. The PC Nazi Brigades, always on five second hot stand by for deployment, we're rolling in full force almost within a nanosecond after she bitchblogged about it.

Yeah, I said it. So what? Come to KC and try and do something about it.
At this point, I'm becoming convinced that Murphy is just a tool and that I ought not to have any qualms about using his words to highlight just how much of a tool he is.

Tempest isn't crusading for anything. She's got a handy little cause that happens to be trendy but what she is doing is basically emulating the so called enemies, the racists, sexists, and so forth, that she finds under every rock, shadow and corner.

She'll turn and issue another baseless accusation of racism, sexism or something else the next time someone so much as dares to disagree with her. You folks MIGHT want to ponder that.

Which one of you will be next? If Gardner's not safe, no one is.

And now the FEAR element is upfront and center, no?

More to the point with Sanders, using the sheet head bit, not smart. But calling into question the sanity of a religion where it is admirable and laudable to blow yourself up in a Pizza Hut, a religion where the world's participants in it DO NOTHING because they agree with it (regardless of what their ethnic origin is) is not only logical, it is sensible.

Besides, most folks hammering on Sanders haven't even been to the Middle East. Their only experience with Islam is a kebab, a couple of multicultural programs and some humus.
What in the hell is this schmuck on?

People are interested for different reasons, Sparrow. Some (self) are interested in the legal questions. Some are more concerned with the violation of what they see to be an implicit confidentiality agreement. Some think - correctly - that it's box-o-rocks stupid to make enemies unnecessarily. Still others are mostly upset because - horror of horrors - they've been presented with evidence that their thought policing has been less than perfect because - oh, say it isn't so - there are people out there who _still_ use doubleplusungood words. (TomKratman)
I fear I'm about to read things read from an apologist group's manual now.

Ignorance is bliss, Anne. Go read some Orwell. Really. Do it soon.

I will resend my traffic.

If Gardner is not safe from these baseless accusations, then who among us is?

You know, tagging someone as racist isn't just some sort of silly Ha Ha Party Prank. It is a first class nuclear weapon in the legal arsenal and it can destroy a career within seconds. If someone went to my boss and told them, "Mr. Murphy said a racist thing in class," rest assured there'd be a brief inquiry before I was sent out the door into the street so fast my head would spin.

It isn't a joke. There is a reason that particular weapon does exist because there are assholes out there who desperately need it used on them. But just as real nuclear weapons should not be used like so many hand grenades, neither should this out of the side of one's mouth accusation be allowed to stand without taking public note.
Almost reasonable, but the tenor throughout ruins it for me.

Indeed, levying the charge of racism (or pick your -ism of the day / cause du jour) has become a dishonest, intellectually and morally execrable, attempt to shut down free speech, free thought, and free debate. (TomKratman)
And the FEAR reemergences into the sickly light of that thread. And moving on towards the end of the third page out of four (so far):

E Thomas, have you read the comment Tempest made? She isn't just taking a poke at Sanders or someone else, this is Gardner we are talking about.

LOL. But everyone in the community either afraid of her (certainly seems to be some of that and perhaps with good reason) or they don't think anything of it.

Me personally? I see this all as verification of something I suspected back in 2001. Someone convinced me that maybe I was wrong. Maybe the field didn't tilt so far to the left and maybe there was room for other folks.

That person, E Thomas, was Gardner Dozois. And you know what, maybe he made mistake. Maybe he made a mistake when he convinced me that there was room. Maybe he made a mistake when he convinced me that all you had to do was write the best story you could. Maybe he made a terrible mistake in encouraging me to grow as a writer rather than popping off to some other field.

But over the last year, as I look at the Gen X and Y folks who are moving up, the ones who are in my generation, the ones that I don't seem to have anything in common with outside of a birthdate, I've come to realize that Gardner must be the exception.

And more to the point, these same Gen X and Y folks who'll jump in front of trains to defend Hartman or Strange Horizons are going to let Tempest's out of the corner of her mouth accusation slide.

You know what, Elizabeth. Might be the end of my career as a writer. Just might be. Maybe that is for the best. Least it may very well be the end of my career on the short story side. But even if it is terminal across the board, I will say this.

I believe I am right in what I did and said. I believe that someone should have stood up and said something. And if it the destruction of my career is the price, fine.

I'll pay it.

And I'll remember.

Especially since everyone is either too fearful of getting called, to quote Tobias, "a bigot."
More FEAR, more hyperbole, more of a misplaced martyr complex. More of a wish from me that he'd just STFU.

I'll repeat what I said in the other thread. E Thomas, apparently it is perfectly acceptable to use the term redneck, to make derogatory stereotypical statements about europeans. Jeff Carlson's story is a classic example and THAT is when I realized, "Doesn't matter what I do, Asimov's is a totally lost cause."

It gets better. When I or someone else complains, we are labeled, "Angry White Men." Nothing racial about that, is there? No blanket statements there, is there?

See, therein lies the crux of the problem. Fascism works because the people within it are unified by a concentrated hatred of a perceived enemy, regardless of whether that enemy did anything wrong or not. Ask some survivors of the Holocaust about that.

The Politically Correct brand here in the States is just another variation. Folks like Tempest, Tobias and others spend their time looking for the enemy. When they don't find anyone in the open, they start looking under the rocks. But the focus is still there, regardless of whether they find any enemy or not.

And they make blanket statements, Elizabeth. Racist blanket statements. In the worst case scenarios, the other groups argue that they can't possibly be racist because only Europeans are racist.

In fact, that happened where I worked last semester.

At the end of the day, and I said this once at Night Shade, people like me are just a mirror for hypocrites like Tempest, or Tobias, or others.

If you don't like what you see, maybe you ought to tend fix things on your side of the fence.

Now I know this Murphy person is being ridiculous, especially in regards to Buckell, who has always come across as being one of the friendliest and most mellow people I've been blogging in the SF/F blogosphere. As for the rest of it, sounds more and more like David Irving speak to me.

Sue, I learned it from Liberals. Every bit of it. Every tactic I use is straight out of the Liberal playbook.

So I'll ask you, do you hate rednecks?
Gah! People with attitudes like this make it difficult at times for me to find common grounds with Conservatives these days. Acting as though this imagined "other side" is just as bad, then evoking FEAR as a main element of discourse.

Great, Elizabeth. That is one. Hooray. Now, what about the rest of you racist liberals who cheerfully attack "angry white men" and use the term "redneck" among others?
And now, the FEAR is displayed, raw, finally driven from its shell.

I wish I could feel shock over reading such comments. I cannot. I hear it in various forms each and every day. Those who come from a position of privilege at first denying that they have privileges, then getting angry and trying to paint the protesters with similar brushes. Yes, there are bigots of all stripes, but failing to acknowledge that one's own position stands upon a bedrock of fear and misunderstanding (if not outright contempt) of others...I dunno, it seems that people such as S.F. Murphy are pretty much poster children for the accusations that many levy against SF/F for being overly conservative, whitebread, David Duke-friendly in its portrayals of others, whether it be in "discovery" stories or in forum comments such as this.

Yes, people like Murphy are thankfully in a dwindling minority. Yes, that is part of the reason why they hate and they fear. Yes, using "they" so often can distort the picture on occasion and open the door for opportunists such as him and this Tom Kratman to point fingers back (ignoring of course the three fingers that point right back at them). Sadly, little can be said to one in fear. One either convinces the person that his/her fear is ungrounded, or one works toward a day in which such fears have been obliterated and condemned to the dust bins of history.

But it is sad that in my country that such hideous things are tied to political stripes. There are a great many conservatives as well as moderates, liberals, and leftists (my preferred political leaning) who abhor such talk. But the actions and speech of those vocal few unfortunately taint relations, leading to their fear being cast wide and dispersed. It is an unfortunate legacy we have inherited, one that is global and not bound by political/national boundaries. Hopefully, seeing such fear-filled (and occasionally hateful) speech will be instructive to many and will not be swept under a rug.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

This whole thing doesn't get any less nauseating over time.
One thing I (and this may be my very European bias for not letting racists, bigots etc into my living room) absolutely don't understand is, why these people (and I really don't find a better word) are still posting on the Asimov's forum. Even a forum in much less grown-up part of the Internet, for example video-games, has moderators whose job it usually is to ban people like that.
The only conclusion that comes to mind is: Asimov's wants racists and bigots as readers.
Not really the best promotion for a magazine, I'd think.

Gabe said...

I agree; the entire debacle is nauseating. At times, I can barely stand admitting I share something (SF) in common with these people.

I suggest using our own prejudicial epithet for Truesdale, Sanders, SF Murphy and the rest. Let's refer to them as "mullet heads" henceforth.


Lsrry said...

I have wondered why such talk is allowed there as well, but since I rarely frequent their forums unless linked to, I think I'll just continue avoiding it in the future.

As for "mullet heads," that might be an insult to the fine Tennessee Waterfall-sporting people (not myself, of course) who aren't part of the bigotry...although it certainly is a tempting term to use...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this write up with commentary. I've been following this thing with horror. The author Jo Walton referred to posting the letter as whistle-blowing, which I agree with. And the only reason *some* of the people at the forum are splitting hairs over whether its racial bigotry or religious bigotry (which, apparently, is A-OK, according to them) is because they're bigots.

Lsrry said...

I agree, Craig, and unfortunately (as I just elaborated upon in another post), Tempest's comments only threw gas on the fire of those bigot's attitudes and rationale for being so bigoted in the first place. Sadly, this is something that'll only simmer down and not ever really go away for a long time.

Paul said...

Allow me to take the opposite side... I haven't read enough to know all the details about this whole deal - basically I just read the one article detailing the Sanders story and now this one.

That said, as revolting as Sanders' comments were, I don't see why TomKratman, for instance, should be vilified, much less why he should be silenced or banned from a forum. Based on my experience with people with ideas like that, they aren't racist. Sure, their railing against (for instance) positive discrimination or their failure to acknowledge the difficulty of belonging to a minority even nowadays after the most blatant legal discrimination is gone, are not good things. But that doesn't mean they are of bad will, or that they are racist.

And honestly, why should we expect people to be well-informed about muslims and to be well-willing and balanced in their rhetoric about muslims, when few other social/political/religious groups are accorded those privileges?

And in any case, when one hears racist talk, trying to suppress it certainly isn't the most effective way of changing the racist's mind.

~ Legolas

Lsrry said...

You didn't read other comments in other threads on Asimov's Forums, nor heard of the plot synopses of his books, did you? :P I'm more in favor of condemning with words rather than silencing their words.

Paul said...

Whose books? And no, I gave up after about four pages of that Asimov's forums thread.

You say that, but still you want to ban them from forums apparently, or have their posts deleted... and you used some rather strong language in reference to some people. :P Neither of those seem like productive ways of discussing to me.

I guess what I'm talking about is only tangentially related to the matter at hand, but I get so tired of the preaching. Just because conservatives / people flirting with racism have thoughts that progressive people like yourself and the other commenters here find repulsive, doesn't mean they should be looked down upon that way or have generalizing insulting comments made against them (like gabe did here). It really is possible to take a clear and unambiguous stance against racism without resorting to rhetoric that - intentionally or unintentionally - mirrors theirs.

Anonymous said...

For the record, Tempest posted a retraction ONLY after this thread was initiated.

No one else took action to get her to back up.

No one at all.

And that Murphy guy isn't a dwindling minority. He's just the only one dumb enough to speak openly. No one else wants to risk their career.

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