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On E. Moon and Wiscon - Zer Netmouse
October 21st, 2010
01:18 pm

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On E. Moon and Wiscon
The group that runs Wiscon has announced that they've rescinded their invitation to Elizabeth Moon to be a Guest of Honor next year.

For those who've missed it, a general outcry for the removal of Moon as guest arose among many Wiscon regulars after she made this post: http://e-moon60.livejournal.com/335480.html and then failed to respond to most of the comments identifying inaccuracies and problematic implications in her statements about the Manhattan community center proposal, Islam, immigrants, and conformity. Many were willing to engage with her about it, however, until she deleted all the comments on her post and froze it with a disparaging coda (see discussion at http://community.livejournal.com/wiscon/284008.html for instance). Meantime, screen captures of many of the comments exist (see http://maevele.livejournal.com/335158.html) though many of the most poignant comments were made on the personal blogs of fans of color - DeepaD did a roundup of some of those at http://deepad.dreamwidth.org/57932.html.

The initial response of the conchairs, http://wiscon.info/downloads/W35eCube3.html, indicated they did not intended to rescind their invitation to Moon, but today a terse announcement indicated that "SF3, the parent organization of WisCon, has withdrawn the invitation to Elizabeth Moon to attend WisCon35 as a guest of honor".

I followed this some as it was happening, though I didn't find time right away to visit the comments thread on Moon's blog. I read Will Shetterly's collection of her responses to him at http://racefail.blogspot.com/2010/09/mixed-feelings-about-elizabeth-moons.html, appreciated Jim Hines' post at http://www.jimchines.com/2010/09/open-letter-to-elizabeth-moon/ and read N.K Jemisin's posts at http://nojojojo.livejournal.com/221241.html, http://nojojojo.livejournal.com/221476.html and http://nojojojo.livejournal.com/223115.html.

On the last post I linked to by Jemisin, vito_excalibur commented, "I am not hearing any real arguments for why to keep Moon as GoH, and so there's this weird effect where it seems like there's a consensus that the right thing to do is uninvite her...and that doesn't happen." That crystallized some thoughts of mine that I put in a comment, which triggered a discussion Nora and others pointed out was off-topic to her post, so I said I would try to post here about it soon. It took me a couple days (newborn baby keeps me off the computer, plus I wanted to catch up reading the captured screenshots), but this is that post - anyone who wants to respond to what I said, or to what others said in response to me, please do it here.

After further reading, I understand more about why Moon's mainly religiously bigoted post has strong racist tendencies - characterizing American Muslims as immigrants, and pushing for the "normalization" of the Different (which many argue could never go far enough, since skin color can not be erased, and Unreasonable people will still be Unreasonable and one should not kowtow to them) as a prudent path of action.

Jane Irwin has also made a good post, with more links, at http://www.vogelein.com/JanerBlog/racefail/
I've not yet found time to read all those links, but encourage those who would comment to go do so first.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:urban_exotic
Date:October 21st, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
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I intensely admire that you willingly linked to a comment you made that a lot of people reacted quite poorly to in order to facilitate discussion on the subject. Not a lot of people would do that. Kudos to you.


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From:the_archfiend
Date:October 22nd, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)

Another example from another convention

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I'll put it like this: I'm not sure how much post-controversy editing Moon may have engaged in, but considering that James P. Hogan was a GoH at Capricon despite his wacko beliefs (beliefs I only found out about after the con), I'll admit that I have somewhat mixed sentiments on this. Granted, what she wrote - and the way she responded - is suspect, but is it any *less* suspect than someone who trumpeted everything from the truth of Velikovsky's woo physics to the actual *lionization* of neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel as a "hero" on his web site?

WisCon had every right to make their decision, but I'll have to look at this more closely before I either agree or disagree with it.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:October 22nd, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)

Re: Another example from another convention

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I think perhaps you meant "is it any *more* suspect"?

re: post-controversy editing, her original post is unchanged, she just deleted the comments and added the note at the very bottom.

I fail to find "some other convention chose to honor someone who espoused even worse beliefs" a convincing argument for why this convention should not do what it is doing. I think there are valid arguments against it, but that is not one of them.

Edited at 2010-10-22 01:14 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:the_archfiend
Date:October 26th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Another example from another convention

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Okay, I'll admit that I wrote that way too quickly ("less" for "more", etc.) for my liking, but you're missing my point.

I *agree* that WisCon had every right to launch Moon from GoH status since they also have every right to reconsider a author's stated opinions and decide whether they would jibe with what how they present themselves as a con (frex, I can't imagine a con emphasizing peace studies inviting, say, Tom Kratman as a GoH). That being said, after looking at the section concerning Muslims a second time I came to the conclusion that Moon is pouring more gas on the fire (intentionally or otherwise) and that my comparison to Hogan is still valid; the point I'm trying to make is that Moon's beliefs on this subject are dubious, but so were Hogan's and they didn't stop *him* from being a Capricon GoH. It's just that Wiscon knew what Moon wrote ahead of time; I'm not sure that Capricon was particularly aware of Hogan's wackier beliefs before they invited him (I certainly wasn't), so I admit that the two situations aren't entirely analogous.

In short, no "some other convention" comparisons need apply; it's just that some cons tend to be more cautious in their GoH invites than others. That's their right.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 27th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Another example from another convention

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It's just that Wiscon knew what Moon wrote ahead of time

Moon wrote her September screed many month after Wiscon invited her to be GoH. Last I knew they could not have known about it ahead of time unless they were possessed of a time machine.

Or was something else she wrote indicative of these attitudes?
[User Picture]
From:the_archfiend
Date:October 28th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Another example from another convention

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You wrote

>Moon wrote her September screed many month after Wiscon >invited her to be GoH.

Ah, but they withdrew GoH status *before the actual convention*, which is what I meant. Sorry if I wasn't clear on that.

>Or was something else she wrote indicative of these >attitudes?

Your guess is as good as mine. I guess I'll have to head over to John Scalzi's page to see what he thinks about this.

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From:the_archfiend
Date:October 28th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)

Another example of Writing Too Damn Fast

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Arrrrrgh. Is this thread actually *causing* me to brain-fart all over the damn place?

Apparently, I half-remember the "racefail" from Jane Irwin's page and drew the false conclusion that it was a link to John Scalzi's page.

My w0rk mak3s m3 bra1n f33l funNy...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 9th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Another example from another convention

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Actually, since I used to be Director, Rule of Law, for the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at Carlisle Barracks, I could see them asking. I just couldn't see me accepting.

best,

Tom Kratman
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From:matt_arnold
Date:October 22nd, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
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Wow. Your comments to that thread are awesome.

There is much to disagree with in Ms. Moon's post, but the over-reaction is staggering. "Grieving"? This is a "wake"?

I suppose it is. Other cons are celebrations. Eery time I hear about Wiscon in the blogosphere it reinforces the impression I had from attending Wiscon, that it is for grieving.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 22nd, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
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The references to grieving and it's being a wake have to do with the greater topic of Nora's post, which has to do with how WisCon is run and whether or not it is or will ever be the convention she (and others) would want it to be. I'm not sure if it ever *was* that convention, so they may be grieving the death of a dream more than of the convention itself.
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From:porcinea
Date:October 22nd, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
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she has absorbed the bigotry and generalizations that prevailed in this country 25 years ago toward Muslims

Um. *What* bigotry and generalizations that prevailed in this country 25 years ago towards Muslims? Before 1985 (after 1960), anti-Muslim prejudice correlated with number of Muslim immigrants in your country. Since then, the western world has been beating the war drums, making a new enemy. After Sept 11, 2001, anti-Muslim prejudice shot up, and since then has grown in all eastern & western European countries, unrelated to population figures.

Our culture is changing fast, in ugly directions.

(Would you like some data to back that up? Cf., http://courses.washington.edu/pbafadv/muslim%20predjudice.pdf )
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From:netmouse
Date:October 23rd, 2010 04:48 am (UTC)
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From your paper (which studies data from 1999 forward in Europe, not the US), analysis of the data indicates (p 12) "For Western Europe, the effects of level-1 predictors are largely in accordance with the usual findings in studies of prejudice in general. The odds of expressing anti-Muslim prejudice [...] increase by around 12% for each additional decade of age." in Eastern Europe the pattern was weaker, but still statistically significant around age.

There is no analysis of the reason for this, so I'm not sure of the prevailing theories, but it seems to support my theory that part of the disparity between Ms Moon's attitudes and those of the rest of the commenters could be linked to her age, and it seems not illogical to posit a connection between that and the historical perception and events of a generation or more ago.

You are aware that when the PLO first formed in the late 1960s, the US was a major target of terrorism as a strong ally to Israel? Muslims were not a large immigrant population here at the time (compared to now), so the predominant generalizations in the news etc were of violent foreigners who wanted to kill us and destroy our country, including the 1985 incident Moon mentioned where the Jewish guy in a wheelchair was murdered and tossed off the boat. You can see that characterization in a number of films also, for instance.

(This is ignoring the domestic trend that was also present of black activists converting to Islam, following after Malcolm X. Not sure how much that was reported at the time.)

Since Europeans were not targeted by Islamic terrorism the way Americans were, I doubt that the generalization of this paper's results to the US is a scientifically valid leap of logic.

The prejudice toward Muslims who are our neighbors is definitely both increasing and ugly right now, and I don't disagree with either of those statements. But as reported by her, Moon's prejudices have much longer roots than just recent events.
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From:porcinea
Date:October 23rd, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
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The paper was illustrative, in case you asked for data.

The information was from lived experience.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 21st, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)

E. Moon's blog post

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I just read the journal/blog post. I found it insightful. I lived through the same history she did and saw truth in her statements.

You will note that she never said the Mosque in New York should not be built. She only said that the planners should have expected criticism and that its existence would be insensitive to the emotional wounds of 9-11. Duh. Of course this is so. But this insensitivity and the emotional upset are also not reasons to deny the right of the planners to build their mosque. She recognizes that fact, too.

Political correctness is another way of social control over the expressions of the populace. In a country of free speech, censors have found a way to still control speech. Take anything you dislike for "moral" reasons and declare it politically incorrect and let the negative public opinion that will result from the crowd of non-free thinking followers create a censorious backlash against someone with an opinion. Voila, America does not need laws to govern speech.

Problem is that anyone who has a different opinion will no longer be heard and society will be ruled by those who bully others into seeing the world their way only. Our government guarantees freedom of speech. Our social ethics limit this freedom. Our willingness to allow a group of vocal bullies to censor our speech in the guise of political correctness and mostly unshared "values" limits this freedom even more.

Of course for a public event, we must remember that often the organizations that pay for the event, the major sponsors, will limit the speech allowed at the event in a very precise manner these days. This censorship tends to go beyond political correctness to actual demands that the speaker shares the philosophical outlook of the paying sponsors that demand such. Event organizers and fund-raisers have this right, too. The public has the right not to attend the event and to speak their opinion of the "values;" or to attend and make objections known there through acceptable means of critical discourse. Hey, speech is free.

One's talent and ability are no longer sufficient for recognition if one's private beliefs are different from the political correct stance. Granted there are limits to how one's belief and speech can be expressed as censored by common social ethics. One should not advocate murder for fun, for example. (I do not understand the appeal of antihero shows on TV and do not prefer to watch them myself.) And drawing the line in a way that allows a democratic, pluralistic society to speak freely will continue to be a public debate, as it should be.

Do remember that we almost all like Alice in Wonderland, even though its author is, I've heard, reputed to be child molester. What do we do in this case? Personally, I do not like the book for this reason and do not want to own a copy. That is my right. Will I insist that my school library not provide this classic tale to the kids? That would be like forbidding kids to read Between Planets because its author wrote Methuselah's Children and The Cat that Walks through Walls, too.

As to the comments Moon made on education, well, the primary role of education is enculturation. Students must become a part of their culture and society. In a multicultural society like ours, enculturation involves teaching the values of the American way, teaching an understanding of how our country and government works, teaching the language and knowledge needed to succeed in this society. Parents, churches and communities teach children the ways of subcultures. Schools teach the ways of the predominant culture. Anything else would splinter this nation into different countries or one country wherein one cultural group bullies another which it sees as inferior.
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[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:April 20th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the invitation. It is a pretty good survey though there were a number of questions where I wanted to say "yes" or "no" but I did not agree with the explanation text that followed that answer. Also the questions that asked me to characterize Americans or Muslims do not give an option to say that many people in that group are very tolerant, good, and kind (to each other and to others), but some are violent, and they are a problem.

In general, it is good to have an additional answer of "none of the above" in addition to "I don't know" to give someone a way to express that they have an opinion but it is not there as an option.

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