Friday, October 22, 2010

Late to the Debate

I never know what's going on. I didn't hear about Elizabeth Moon's 9/11 post on her blog until yesterday, when, in response, Wiscon withdrew its invitation to her to be next year's Guest of Honor. Then I tracked down and read her original blog entry, plus some of the subsequent controversy.

Mine is not a political blog. Seldom do I comment on political events, partly because I can't imagine why anyone might care what I think. But this is not just a political matter, it is also an SF one. As a former GOH at Wiscon myself, I have a strong opinion on this issue.

Wiscon's purpose is stated on its website: "WisCon is the first and foremost feminist science fiction convention in the world. WisCon encourages discussion, debate and extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class." But not, apparently, if those views are unpalatable to the committee.

Elizabeth's blog concerned the building of the Islamic community center in NYC, a few blocks from Ground Zero. I am in favor of building this; I think it is guaranteed by the Constitution, and anyway the building will not be in sight of Ground Zero. Elizabeth argued not that building it should be forbidden, but that Muslims themselves should think twice about the place they are building it, and the impression of cooperation that it gives or does not give to others in their adopted country. Again, I do not agree with her. But that's not the point. Her blog entry is quiet in tone, thoughtful in argument. If you haven't read it, I urge you to do so. Then you can make up your own mind about its statements regarding assimilation, citizenship, and tolerance.

The point IS just that -- reading the blog provides a point of departure for discussion about gender, race, and class -- just what Wiscon is supposed to be about. This discussion could have happened at Wiscon, if Elizabeth were going to be there. It would have been stimulating, and everyone could have had a say. Now that will not happen. In addition, the con will be losing the other thing it is supposed to showcase -- successful female writers of speculative fiction.

I think the Wiscon committee has erred in withdrawing its GOH-ship. This is NOT the equivalent to not inviting a raving racist or virulent anti-feminist. Elizabeth is not those things. Wscon should have honored its commitment to her.


Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Nancy, I have very mixed feelings about the withdrawal of the invitation. However I believe that it was ultimately withdrawn not because of the blog post but because she subsequently demonstrated an unwillingness to engage in conversation.

If you have not read her responses to people's responses to her post, I think it is important to do so. Elizabeth deleted them -- which is a factor to consider when one is talking about a convention that encourages discussion -- but there are screen captures here.

Elizabeth is a smart, articulate writer. I've had enormous respect for her over the years as a writer and a person. The way she responded to criticism distresses me because it shows the cracks.

You suggest that had she been a raving racist or anti-feminist that it would have been appropriate to univite her. She appears to holds strong prejudices against Islam and against immigrants. Why is that form of "ism" more tolerable than the other two?

In some ways I think the title Guest of Honor is a misleading one. The GoH is a job. Had the title been keynote speaker I don't know that anyone would have been surprised.


An excellent post, Ms Kress. I couldn't agree more.

Nancy Kress said...

Mary-- I didn't get to see Elizabeth's responses because, as you point out, they had been deleted by yesterday (I never know what's going on until it's over). But I did not see anything in the original blog of "strong prejudice" against Muslims. My impression was that she would feel any groups in strife should behave carefully toward each other -- and referenced Christians and other groups that have failed to do so.

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Perhaps we have different trigger points. I don't want to argue about the post itself because I believe that her reaction to criticism was the deciding issue.

Also, you can read the comments to her initial posts in screen captures through the links here.

However to your point that the May I ask you to read this post that is in response to her comments about assimilation?

I'd also recommend some of Saladin Ahmed's comments.
On Wiscon
On Elizabeth Moon's initial post
To Wiscon asking about procedures

TheOFloinn said...

Much can be learned by comparing the reaction in NYC to the earlier reaction to the Carmelite nuns opening a convent within sight of Auschwitz.

In a survey taken by Elaph, "the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world," 58% of the respondents objected to the building of the WTC mosque and "saw it as a project of folly." Inter alia, they cannot be accused of anti-Arabic prejudice. Arabs understand the symbolic nature of the act.

Chesterton had it pegged when he said that having a right to do something did not mean that you were right to do it.

Paul Twinz said...

Sadly, Wiscon has become the NPR of SF.

Steven Francis Murphy said...

Blogs, while they are public spaces, are not the property of the public. They are the property of the blog owner and as such Elizabeth has the right to shut down the discussion when she reaches a point where it is more trouble than it is worth.

Further, it was an internet dogpile of the first order. I was there before the comments were deleted. I was at her blog after that discussion was shut down and other comments made in her follow on entries. She has been insulted, threatened and systematically harassed.

Under the circumstances, I think her response was a study of restrain.

Furthermore, how dare any of these people in the Fail Community get on to Elizabeth Moon for deleting comments and shutting down discussions. Shweta Naryan, one of the biggest complainers early on, did that to one of my comments which was neither abusive or angry in tone.

The Fail Nazis frequently waive "the ban hammer" at anyone who doesn't conform to the Rubric of Right Thinking as they see it.

So I think there is a word for that in the dictionary.


When the discussion was moved off her blog the firefight moved out into the Livejournal community and beyond. There were calls for boycotts of her works, public protests at Wiscon of her presence and the like.

All of this was designed to achieve one objective.

Elizabeth Moon had to conform to the Rubric. She had to apologize (grovel is more like it) and admit to the error of her ways. If she didn't, then the Fail Nazis were going to label her (and any of her defenders, I might add) with words that end with ist, ism, and phobia.

This sort of witch hunt has been in progress for years now in the internet community. It is cyclic and usually hits every six to ten months. You can almost set your watch by it. The Fail Nazis do not seem to be content to select targets from the political right, they seem to be perfectly willing to go after ANYONE who doesn't agree with them.

And if they can, they'll try to destroy your career.

It wasn't a reasonable, even toned debate at Moon's blog, but that wasn't Moon's fault. If you get a hundred people on your front porch screaming at you what are you going to do? Stand there and take it or call the police?

Moon did what any private property owner would do. She shoved them out the door.

I can't say I blame her. I'm surprised she put up with it for as long as she did.

As for her actual comments, I've studiously avoided stating whether or not I actually agree with what she said. I really don't think that is the point anymore given that I think the proposed cure is far worse than the perceived disorder.

I do know this. The assumption is that if you are defending Moon then you must agree with her.

So I'd be careful, Nancy.

S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

Steven Francis Murphy said...

I forgot to add one thing.

Mary points out that the comments were deleted. There has been a lot of screaming about that.

What Mary, and no one else for that matter, has pointed out is that Elizabeth is not the only person guilty of deleting comments, or shutting down debates, or shaping the debate by allowing only dittoheads to comment.

Not long after this started I went to Shweta Naryan's blog and left a comment. It was not angry, nor did I attack the blog owner.

It was deleted instantly and I was banned.

There is a word for that in the dictionary.

I agree with the gist of your blog entry, if you haven't noticed already, Nancy. Thanks for writing it.

S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

TheOFloinn said...

In his book A Thread of Years, John Lukacs commented on the Philadelphian "cult of safety," which he compared to the Bostonian "cult of respectability." The essence of the cult of safety is the insulation from threats, and that this includes threats to one's own beliefs and assumptions. Contrary opinions are not allowed, or only under carefully controlled conditions. Or as (IIRC) the philosopher Raymond Chandler put it in one of his noir detective stories:

"Shut up," he explained.

Will Shetterly said...

Mary, Ms. Moon was prepared to go to the con and do all the things a GoH at Wiscon would normally do. That's the definition of engaging in conversation.

Talking about con issues before you actually go to a con? I don't think I've ever done that.

In any case, this is clear: Wiscon refused to engage with Elizabeth Moon. Elizabeth Moon did not refuse to engage with Wiscon.

As for her deleting comments, my comments were among them. I strongly oppose her views on Muslims. But I respect the principle of "your blog, your rules."

And, yes, many of the people complaining about her banning dissent are quite fond of banning dissent on their own blogs.

Martin said...

I must agree with Steven.

When I heard about this whole flap, I posted a quick tweet expressing my dismay at WisCon's choice to disinvite Moon, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her post (and I think her post was misguided and poorly argued).

Someone who doesn't even follow me immediately responded with a tweet branding me a "disgusting bigot," assuming (based on nothing I actually wrote) that I must a raving Islamophobic racist too if I was sticking up for Moon in the least little bit.

These are the kinds of people with whom Moon is supposed to "engage"?

Whether you're a left-wing feminist or a right-wing tea-partier, when ideological purity comes before all other considerations, I cannot see that spelling anything but trouble. You cannot "engage" with someone conditioned to believe that anyone who holds a different point of view is evil incarnate.

Thomas M. Wagner

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

As I've said, I have very mixed feelings about this. In general, I was of the opinion that withdrawing the GoH invitation was not an appropriate action.

Until I read this comment by Saladin Ahmed.
"Are there any statements that WOULD be heinous enough to get a one's GoH status rescinded (NOT the same as 'banning')? If the answer is 'No. On principle, no matter what an upcoming GoH said about women, or gay folks, or Jews, etc, we would never under any circumstances rescind GoH status.' then that's that, IMO.

"If, however, the answer is anything less concise than that it seems to me we have yet another clear case of a phenomenon that Muslims are becoming more and more familiar with -- the reality that unambiguously bigoted statements about us are, to a degree not seen even with other marginalized groups, simply part of acceptable mainstream 'debate,' and we'd damn well better get used to that fact."

Will Shetterly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Shetterly said...

Mary, when I read that, it gave me pause.

But my bar on free speech is much closer to crying fire in a theatre. Ms. Moon's bigotry did not call for silencing Muslims. Maybe that's my bar, though I'am actually quite comfortable discussing issues with people who believe in suppression.

Also, why is Nisi being left out as a factor? Her GoHship clearly says Wiscon has not turned into Fox News.

I don't want to drag this out here, but if anyone wants to discuss it further with me, I do have a post on the subject at my blog: 6 reasons Wiscon should not have uninvited Elizabeth Moon, or The Inconvenient Feminist.

No one is banned there.

Unknown said...

What, where, and when were the comments made by Saladin Ahmed on the days after 9/11? I've googled and can't find them. Seems to me if he has such tender feelings about Elizabeth's remarks, he might understand why people like me did not like his silence or the cheers of many of his fellow believers as the buildings burned. Disinviting Elizabeth destroyed a chance for a dialogue. But that's exactly what WisCon did not want.

Emma Bull said...

Sugar, since Mr. Ahmed was 26 (possibly a grad student) at the time, I doubt his thoughts on the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings would have been archived for posterity.

But if you're still nervous about his intentions, I'm pretty sure he's not the secret mastermind behind WisCon decision-making.

Will Shetterly said...

Sugar, try a little googling if you want Muslims who condemned terrorism. This came up right away:

Muslims Condemn Terrorist Attacks

TheOFloinn said...

a phenomenon that Muslims are becoming more and more familiar with

My son-in-law, a devout Jordanian muslim, has not thought so.

Neil_in_Chicago said...

I sort of followed the whole flap from a very safe distance, since some of the emotional tones expectable is such things don't agree with me.
While I think perhaps the committee&board could have handled it better, my own phrase is that it would take Athena and solomon together to actually have handled it well.

*At this point in time* it seems to me that the most constructive thing which can be done is to encourage people who are thinking of skipping Wiscon because of this not to. I very much want their voices in the mix.

Julia said...

You show integrity and moral courage in this response and it's refreshing to see a sensible response to this issue. When I read how angry so many people were about Moon's comments I re-read her original post. She doesn't strike me as a racist, just rather plain spoken and opinionated.

As for Wiscon, I think that as a small regional convention, this issue was maybe just a little too much for the con to handle. They flinched in the face of a lot of internet noise and finger-pointing when revoking Moon's GOH and, in my opinion, were diminished by that decision.

Frostling said...

I find it's brave of you to revive this particular post by Elizabeth Moon. What she said was sure to annoy a lot of people and it sure did. This so much so that anyone trying to say something positive on behalf of E.M is likely to receive a taste of that collective "boo, how dare you!!?!?"

As a reader, and beyond who is right and who is wrong, I see a massive waste of energy. Why do writers go to the extent of creating an active blog, if not to promote themselves and remain in the public mind? To have a successful blog can be a dangerous thing and its best not to use it to publish controversial material. E.M is not the first writer to fall in 'disgrace'. A few years back, a comment made by Orson C. Card about the gay community exploded in his face. More recently, Margaret Atwood commented on the moon landing and a certain sector of the blogosphere ridiculed her post.

It looks like the public tends to forget that most writers are not politicians or scientists. They write books and stories, full stop. However the fact remains: a writer with a tarnished reputation is likely to put potential readers off.

Here is a personal exemple: Two writers discovered during my teens are renowned racists: Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard and I find it more and more difficult to enjoy their stories. So maybe it's not a good idea to know too many things about the writers we like to read.

On a final note, one of the best way to catch up on everything SF is this: This is how I discovered your blog :).

Saladin Ahmed said...


Actually, I wasn't silent or cheering "while the buildings burned" on 9/11 -- I was desperately trying to make phone calls on an overloaded NYC cell phone system. I was trying to reach the (Muslim) friends who lived a block away from the WTC and with whom I had dinner plans, to make sure they weren't dead, as well as my (Muslim) family in Michigan, to let them know *I* wasn't dead, since my commute took me under the WTC. In the days that followed I was talking to another (Muslim) friend who lost his father in the attacks. In other words, unlike 99.999% of the jerks clamoring for any and all Muslims to condemn attacks we had absolutely nothing to do with, I was actually dealing with what it meant to be personally affected by the attacks rather than watching them on TV.

Ms. Moon's post has contributed to this rancorous discourse of thinly disguised bigotry that claims that while "many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons" we should all be "sensitive" to the preposterous, bigoted notion that we had anything to do with 9/11, and be thankful for the "forbearance" (arson? mosque vandalizations? random detentions? airport interrogations?) we've been shown in American culture.

Again, I can appreciate the position that 'no matter what she said, or about whom, she shouldn't have had this honor rescinded,' even if I don't agree with it (this *is* a matter of an honor being rescinded, BTW, not of speech being suppressed or anyone being 'banned'). But unless one is willing to take the position that WisCon should have stayed the course with her GoH-ship and treated this as an opportunity for reasonable dialogue even if she had made statements, say, denying the holocaust, or arguing for the biological inferiority of Blacks or women, or the inherent depravity of gay people, then there's a pernicious double standard at work.

Nancy Kress said...

Saladin-- I can respect your frustration at this situation, and I want to repeat that I am not in agreement with Elizabeth's views. However, my impression from her original post is that they do not represent a "double standard." Her arguments in favor of assimilation and carefulness would, I think, have been applied by her equally to any immigrant group: Italians, Irish, Buddhists, aliens from Tau Ceti. And, again, I stand in favor of not shutting down the kind of discourse that might have happened at WisCon.

I lived a year in an Arab country, and I loved it. I nearly stayed for good, through a romantic relationship. I also appreciate cultural diversity more than assimilation -- although, if my illiterate Sicilian grandfather had not insisted on assimilation for his children, I doubt I would be an SF writer today (my Italian-American upbringing was extremely restricted, as girls -- but not boys -- were then.) However, none of that is my point. I don't agree with what Elizabeth said, but I defend to the death her right to say it, as was once remarked by someone far more gifted with words than I am.

A.R.Yngve said...

Just a minor observation...

Because the Internet hasn't been around for that long (20 years or so?), I think people tend to get confused about how it works.

Folks, a blog or homepage is NOT a limited-range space in the same way that, say, a photocopied fanzine is.

When you post a statement on your blog, you shout it so loudly that everyone in the world with an Internet connection hears it.

(Now that's a global village.)

And if you shout an incendiary statement to 1 billion people, some of them are going to shout back. That's how the Internet works, and we will all have to learn it -- often through trial and error.

The Internet is not a public space which belongs to any privileged group. Any complaints that some group or other has "taken over" this medium are, simply, mistaken. The technical and physical properties of the Internet promote a free flow of communication.

One effect of this medium is to develop an open mind: one's own opinions, when voiced so that the whole world can hear, will be examined. Every (serious) statement is the potential starting point of a discussion, and one has to bear in this mind.

I have also discovered that when the subject matter is incendiary, one possible approach which causes the least uproar on the Internet is to use humor and satire -- because laughter has a distancing effect.

Saladin Ahmed said...

Hi Nancy

I, too, would defend Ms. Moon's right to make her comments -- just as I'd defend the Klan's right to march, Fred Phelps' right to spew his garbage, etc, etc. But Volatiare's oft-repeated belief (which, as a bit-o-trivia aside, he never expressed in such words, which are those of early 20th c. English interpolator, Evelyn Beatirce Hall) wasn't about people being able to say whatever they want without being lambasted for it. It was about government censorship. No one is censoring Ms. Moon or even banning her from making her points at WisCon as a rank-and-file member or program participant. Rather, a convention that prides itself on its progressive politics is refusing to accord her its highest honor. They are every bit as free to do that as she is to say what she wishes.

Nancy Kress said...

Saladin-- You are right, of course, to say that WisCon has the right to withdraw the GOH-ship. I am arguing not that they aren't entitled to do so, but that it was wrong to do so. My reason is that it does not bill itself as a "con of progressive politics" but rather as a forum for "discussion of race, gender and class." Also -- and this seems to be getting overlooked -- as a place to honor the authorial achievements of female SF writers.

Have we ever met? You seem like you would be an interesting person to talk to.

Saladin Ahmed said...

We haven't, and I apologize for 'introducing' myself via an argument -- ego-google notified me I'd been mentioned here, so I came on over to see what was being said. I have, however, enjoyed some of your short stories and writing on writing!

Will Shetterly said...

Saladin, I wrote a reply to you that is too long to leave as a single comment here, so I made it a blog post: here.

I completely agree that Wiscon has a right to do what it did. But not all things we have rights to do are right.

Frostling, actually, I suspect the majority of writers who blog do not do it as a form of PR. We do it because we like to write, and blogging lets us write about things no one will pay us for.

Meaning, the stuff we're not experts on. The stuff we just have opinions on, like anyone else.

Which is why firestorms sometimes arise, and which is why I advise all would-be writers to blog under pseudonyms if they want to do anything other than PR.

Nancy Kress said...

For those of you going to World Fantasy con next weekend, there is going to be a panel specifically addressing the does-disliking-the-artist's-morals-affect-liking-his-work issue, and I imagine that Robert E. Howard will be discussed. Also Lovecraft. I wish I were on this panel but, alas, am not.

Kathryn Cramer said...

Nancy, I think I'm on that panel.

Panel B20: The Moral Distance Between the Author and the Work.
Kathryn Cramer, Jack Skillingstead, Scott Edelman, Paul Witcover (m)

Kathryn Cramer said...

It's at 4 PM Saturday.

MsGoblinPants said...

“Elizabeth argued...that Muslims themselves should think twice about the place they are building it, and the impression of cooperation that it gives or does not give to others in their adopted country...Her blog entry is quiet in tone, thoughtful in argument. If you haven't read it, I urge you to do so. Then you can make up your own mind about its statements regarding assimilation, citizenship, and tolerance.”
I am disturbed by the idea that unless we give in to bigots, we are at fault for their actions. If two people of different races hold hands in public and get beaten by racists, the people holding hands are not to blame for the beating. Moon's post, which blamed Muslims for the violent reactions of people who hate and fear them, is victim-blaming. Additionally, I don't read her blog post as being particularly quiet or thoughtful, either—to me, it reads like a rant. I mention this just to demonstrate how subjective “tone” can be—what reads as pointless invective to one person can read as something else entirely to someone else. Tone alone can't be used to determine whether what someone said is reasonable or worth listening to.

TheOFloinn said...

even if she had made statements, say, denying the holocaust, or arguing for the biological inferiority of Blacks or women, or the inherent depravity of gay people, then there's a pernicious double standard at work.

But she made no such statements. All she said, boiled down, was that one group of people should be more considerate of the (possibly irrational) emotions of another group, much as the Pope asked the Carmelite Order to close the convent they had built in sight of Auschwitz.

Will Shetterly said...

"From all available data, Moon has no interest in discussing anything further."

Oh? My data says she was planning to attend the convention, do panels, socialize... Wiscon shut that down.

MsGoblinPants said...

"This discussion could have happened at Wiscon, if Elizabeth were going to be there."

The thing is, discussion about assimilation, Nativism, the role race plays in Islamaphobia, feminist responses from both outside of and from within an Islamic belief system, etc. are going on all over the internet, and have been for over a month now. (I've tried to post this comment with links, but I keep getting an error that I have too much html. the wiscon livejournal community or dreamwidth community are possibly good places to start finding discussions) If Moon wants to take part in the public discussions, she certainly can. I'm sure discussions on the issues her post brought up will be talked about at Wiscon, as well, and Moon is also perfectly free to participate there. But suffice it to say, "discussion, debate and extrapolation of ideas" is going on all over, and Moon not being honored has not stopped it. If anything, rescinding the GoH-ship has made the discussion less about debating whether Muslims deserve citizenship, or whether their religious beliefs make them "unfit", or educating Moon (because her post and subsequent comments showed her to be very ill informed about the community center, Islam in general, and Islamaphobic crimes in the US). Instead, the discussion can move on from the question of whether Muslims are bad citizens of the US for being the targets of bigotry. We can shift the focus from bigotry to the useful work that can be done to create a more just society.

Julian said...

I am a longtime fan of Nancy Kress's books, a longtime regular Wiscon attendee, and also have read a lot of the Moon-related posts out there on the Wiscon LJ and in the general blogosphere in the past week or so.

I can't remember which of the many discussions included this very compelling point - but definitely more than a few: Why is it more important for Wiscon to keep its commitment to honor Moon, than it is for Wiscon to rescind that *honor* (NOT un-invite her from the con entirely) and thus take a step to make the con a more safe and welcoming space for fans who are immigrants, Muslims, or other people of color who have felt the affects of Islamophobia? (Since you don't actually have to be a Muslim or an immigrant for someone in a position of power to think you are and assume you might be a terrorist.)

And as pointed out previously in the comments here, the issues brought up in Moon's post will certainly be discussed at Wiscon whether or not Moon chooses to attend as a normal, non-GOH attendee or panelist.

Will Shetterly said...

Julian, Wiscon already has POC-only spaces, which strikes many whites and at least one black attendee of Wiscon as silly, but still, they have them. They could designate some spaces as Muslim-only spaces if they're really that afraid of a 65-year-old woman.

Luke said...

They seem to demand that they be "engaged" whenever they choose to comment on anyone's blog. I had the same experience myself when they flooded my old blog re the Sanders "sheethead" affair. And of course, their "engagement" turns out to be inexhaustible-- it appears that this is what they do for a living based on the free time they apparently have-- so your forced "engagement" will never result in detente but will go on FOREVER unless you bow down, kiss their ring, and acknowledge the truth of all they say. I imagine the situation is much worse when you are a writer of Moon's stature and they believe you have to address each and every "point" raised by these PoC troll hysterics.

T. Kosmatka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Shetterly said...

Hmm. I was asked a question by the person who deleted the post. I think it's worth answering: Yes, Wiscon has "POC only" spaces. I learned about this when I read a comment from a Wiscon true believer who was making fun of a black man who thinks "POC only" spaces are silly.

You can't make this up.

Phy said...

I'd just like to make the oblique comment that this is the single best thread on the overall topic I've found. Thanks, everyone.

TheOFloinn said...

Will, Wiscon has POC-only spaces? Really?

My wife recalls that Oklahoma had such facilities when she was a kid. History repeats itself: tragedy first; then farce.

Unknown said...

Someone posted a link to the deleted comments and to be frank, I see nothing whatsoever that was written by Ms. Moon that should have caused the furor that some people who have commented here and on Ms. Moon's blog.

The vitriol I've seen in the comment section simply illustrate exactly what Moon's original point was regarding civil morality.

There was a time when people believed that the internet would be the "great information superhighway." Alas, it is more about people being able to express hostility without repercussion than it is anything else.

Reading the comments on Elizabeth Moon's original post illustrates my above assertion perfectly. People are angry and overly eager to scream at people, especially since they can do so without any sort of consequence for themselves.

Ms. Moon's blog post was her opinion and I agree with about 99% of what she said. I'd love to have seen real dialogue and discourse on the bits I disagree with but instead, she was slammed, in what I call internet ghetto style.

On top of that, WisCon, showing how pathetic they really are, have disinvited Moon to be Guest of Honor. I'm sorry to see that happen, especially since the WisCon was supposed to be about dialogue and discussion.

The people posting their vitriolic comments didn't care for discussion or discourse, they want to feel they are smarter than someone else. They want to prove they are clever. They don't care what Elizabeth Moon thinks; nor do they want a real discussion with her. They only want to trash her because it's what they love to do. I would be willing to wager a paycheck that the same people who posted their comments to her blog post troll blogs looking for places to make the same trite, angry and thoughtless comments because it's what they love to do.

Unknown said...

I agreed with 99% of what Elizabeth Moon said. I guess you could say that I'm a recovering bigot. My early experiences with Islam were all negative. I lost a cousin, whom I adored growing up, in '76. He worked for Rockwell and was killed by terrorists in Iran. I worked as a secretary in the International STudent at North Texas State (Denton) in the late 70s and the Islamic students were arrogant and abusive with me. I attended a Bahai meeting and it was busted up violently by some Islamic students.

So, of course, I became a bigot. I had nothing positive in my interactions with Muslims to make me anything else.

In reading the Daily Beast, I came across some Islamic Feminist blogs and for the first time I began to thaw.

It takes only a single act of ugliness to brand a group guilty of all kinds of things.

By the same process, an act of kindness -- a single act of kindness and rationality -- can thaw those ice bergs of bigotry.

Unknown said...

As this comment thread has been overrun by undesireables I can only hope that the things Mary and Saladin have pointed out will stick with you. Their thoughts are similar to my own. But if you'll be at World Fantasy this weekend, then I hope you'll have a drink with me and discuss it further. It's been too long since I got the chance to sit and talk with you, anyway :)

Steven Francis Murphy said...


Pardon me while I chuckle at the irony of that little chestnut.

It is my understanding that Elizabeth Moon need not worry about travel plans for that weekend. Kansas City's local convention has extended an invitation as I understand it.

I hope she comes here. I missed her due to work when she was here a few years back to discuss The Speed of Dark. I'd very much like to hear from her.

Besides, I have fond memories of Sassinak.

S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

Gregory Frost... said...

Thank you for quietly opening up this discussion. Late or not, these points need airing. We're not all going to agree. Some of us are going to agree to disagree, and some are going to pick a fight. And some are going to sit and blink and wonder what the hell exactly went down, and how did an opinion get so distorted (heck, we didn't even have Limbaugh here to twist things out of all recognizable shape).

I just hope when the dust settles, you'll still be here to smarten things up.


Terry Bisson said...

What's un-progressive about criticizing Muslims when they do something stupid? Or violent?
I don't get it. Islam''s not a race anyway, it's a religion.

But of course, I do get it. We on the Left have always had a tendency to side with the underdog: a natural and admirable stance for a utopian and humanist movement, even when sometimes it collides with reality. It's one of our strengths.

This time, our stance has been eagerly adopted by the mainstream media and even the military. Islam had nothing to do with 9/11. Only bigots think otherwise.

This progressive-seeming lie is both handy and necessary because the USA is busy occupying and invading several Muslim countries. Petraeus and Clinton are right: any criticism of Islam endangers our troops (and contract mercenaries). Better to pretend or at least shut the fuck up. They have a world to dominate.

That's the official position. Must it be ours? It abandons the truth (another of our traditional strengths) to the enemy. A pompous ass like O'Reilly or a grinning idiot like Palin can acknowledge the simple fact that there is something creepy about erecting a multi-million dollar Islamic Center near Ground Zero, but we look like PC fools. (That's handy too; especially when we punish our own.)

Wiscon, this was badly done.

Medium Dave said...

For the folks who are asserting that the comments to Elizabeth Moon's post were abusive and vitriolic: How about some actual quotes?

I went through maevele's screen captures and read most of the comments, and found the vast majority of them to be thoughtful and respectful. Actually, I saw only one that used abusive language, and that was from a person who had reason to feel personally slighted by Moon's essay.

To Mr. Bisson: "Islam's not a race anyway, it's a religion" is a rhetorical dodge, and "Islam had nothing to do with 9/11" is a straw man. Of course Islam had something to do with 9/11. But it had to do with a radical strain of Islamic thought that most Muslims in the world (let alone in the US) do not subscribe to.

Saladin Ahmed said...

Terry, does it *really* not occur to you that the Petraeus good cop rhetoric of 'We don't hate muslims, we're fighting extremism' AND the O'Reily bad cop 'MUSLIMS [more or less writ large] attacked us' line BOTH further the world-dominating ends that you talk about?

Will Shetterly said...

Terry, before the antriacism theorists descend on you, I suggest they look at your Fire On The Mountain. Though I must add that they don't care about anyone's work; they only care about your personal beliefs expressed on the internet.

That said, a few points I have to make surprisingly often: Al-Qaeda are followers of Salafism, aka Wahhabism; they are not all-purpose Muslims. Blaming Islam for the Taliban is like blaming Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan. Also, there's nothing offensive about building a cultural center near a strip joint. And if there was, you should know that there was a mosque on the 19th floor of the World Trade Tower. Many Muslims died in that attack, and many helped save people, and at least one died saving people. If that's sacred ground, it's sacred ground for Muslims, too.

I recommend this: For families of Muslim 9/11 victims, a new pain -

But I agree with your last line 100%.

Will Shetterly said...

David, the screen caps do not cover the nested comments or the later ones. There were abusive comments to her, and she did attempt to engage with people at her blog for longer than the screen caps make it seem.

Anyone interested in what I said to her that's not in the screen caps, see here.

Medium Dave said...

There were abusive comments to her...

Which I do not deny. But as I said, I saw only one of them. And I'm not just relying on the screencaps; I neglected to mention that I scrolled through the post before EM deleted all of the comments and read as many as I could. So I'll ask again: How about some actual quotes? Without knowing what people said, I can't judge the accuracy of KHarper's allegations about screaming and vitriol. Frankly, I'm inclined to think it's overblown.

Regarding Mr. Bisson, no one (that I know of) has alleged that he's bigoted toward African-Americans, so I'm perplexed by your comment about Fire on the Mountain. How is it relevant? I was commenting on inaccurate statements that he's made right here, not his body of work or his general beliefs.

Will Shetterly said...

David, a little googling will undoubtedly get you all kinds of people being abusive about her. But let's cut to the chase: I called her a bigot. In retrospect, I shouldn't have; nouns are ruder than adjectives, and while she is bigoted in some things, she's not necessarily bigoted in all.

She was called a racist, even though there's no evidence that her prejudice is racial rather than cultural. Yes, antiracism theorists blur those distinctions. But their take on "racist" is bizarre: If you admit you're a racist, it's not big deal, because despite the evidence from tests like Project Implicit, they think everyone is racist. Yet if you deny that you're a racist, they'll damn you as the most evil kind of person there is.

Incidentally, I always assumed I was a little bit racist against black folks, just because that's a common assumption in my community. When I took the test at Project Implicit to see what my implicit assumptions are, it turns out that I am favor of blacks. Which makes sense. I always thought of white men as the enemy, and I've lived most of my live around dark folks--the few times I've been surrounded by whites, like in the Toronto airport in the '80s, I've felt really uncomfortable. It's taken decades for me to work through many of my assumptions about whites, and especially my classist assumptions about working class whites, the sorts that get dismissed as rednecks and trailer trash.

My. I do digress. But I do find it ironic that privileged black women from very expensive private schools are railing against a working class white woman whose accomplishments were hard-earned.

Will Shetterly said...

David, I mentioned Fire on the Mountain because anyone who cares about racism or sexism should admire that book enormously. But antiracism theorists don't care about what work people have done; they only care about what people dare to admit about their beliefs.

Which makes sense to me now. As far as I can tell, the only practical manifestation of antiracism theory is to hound people who do not accept the ideology and its accompanying terminology. If you really cared about working class blacks, you would be working to address the growing wealth divide that disproportionately affects black folks.

At least, that's what I think, but then, I'm an egalitarian and a red.

Brad R. Torgersen said...

Hearty applause for Ms. Kress and her well-worded, thoughtful rejoinder to the disinvitation of Ms. Moon. In hindsight, Moon is incidental to the ongoing perpetration of "fail" within the fantastic and the speculative. if not her, then it's inevitably someone else. Paul Di Filippo. Jagi Lamplighter. Will Shetterly. Left, or Right, or Center. Author or fan, it's not about who you are or what your real history is, it's about chirping back to the mob what the mob wants to hear coming out of your mouth.

Because apparently there are people who are not only content with SF as a ghetto, they also actively work to a) wall off the ghetto from the inside and b) cast out any/all ideological wrong-doers.

Who is an ideological wrong-doer? Why, whoever the self-assigned Correctors determine is a wrong-doer. It's entirely arbitrary. But as has been noted elsewhere, it's Wiscon's loss. Moon has already moved on to better activities, and will experience no shortage of invitations to industry and fan events.

Good for her.

Terry Bisson said...

Al-Qaeda,Taliban, et al, definitely do NOT speak for the majority of Muslims worldwide. Only for a fairly substantial, and very influential, minority that inherits, organizes and exploits the anti-American (anti-imperialist) sentiment in the Arab world. People are pissed and who can blame them? Our boots on their ground.

This makes it tough for American Muslims, who tend to be progressive and peaceful as well. But it doesn't help to pretend that the suicide bombers are just marginal nuts. Folks, they long ago stole the show, in Madrid and London as well as NY. They saw off heads and go apeshit over cartoons. They blow up themselves and others daily.

Their grievances are real. Their strategy is fucked. And Islam owns them, like it or not. To acknowledge this is not to succumb to bigotry, only reality.

Where the search for peace begins.

Terry Bisson said...

Al-Qaeda,Taliban, et al, definitely do NOT speak for the majority of Muslims worldwide. Only for a fairly substantial, and very influential, minority that inherits, organizes and exploits the anti-American (anti-imperialist) sentiment in the Arab world. People are pissed and who can blame them? Our boots on their ground.

This makes it tough for American Muslims, who tend to be progressive and peaceful as well. But it doesn't help to pretend that the suicide bombers are just marginal nuts. Folks, they long ago stole the show, in Madrid and London as well as NY. They saw off heads and go apeshit over cartoons. They blow up themselves and others daily.

Their grievances are real. Their strategy is fucked. And Islam owns them, like it or not. To acknowledge this is not to succumb to bigotry, only reality.

Where the search for peace begins.

Will Shetterly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Shetterly said...

Terry, just to clarify, does Christianity "own" the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusades, Timothy McVeigh, and Adolph Hitler?

I do agree that many of the grievances of Muslim terrorists are real, and their strategy, like Wiscon's, is fucked.

Brad R. Torgersen said...

Well said, Mr. Bisson. Unfortunately, the current super-progressive zeitgeist within certain sectors of the Left prevents any and all honest, forthright discussion of the ideological problems of Islamism and its failure to adjust to Western liberal society; lest both discusser and the discussion be branded 'racist,' 'Islamophobic,' etc. Hence Ms. Moon's primary sin, so far as I can discern.

As Ms. Kress notes, Elizabeth Moon's piece on citizenship could have been a very good jumping off point for just such a discussion: Islam and the liberal West, where they collide, how do the two get along, or not get along, what the future holds, Islam vs. Islamism, etc.

Alas, because Moon's post was automatically deemed "ist" in the eyes of the Correctors in the discussion, no thought was given to anything other than shouting Moon down, and then, evicting her from Wiscon on account of ideological failure.

My opinion is that it's the evictors who suffer ideological failure -- as in, unable to cope with ideological concepts beyond their (very narrow) own.

Terry Bisson said...

The Crusades for sure. Ditto the Inquisition and the dorms of boy-diddling priests. Just as Judaism owns the racist West Bank settlers. It's not been a great decade for the 'desert religions.' Now will somebody tell me how to delete my extra post so I don't look like Rush Limbaugh who says everything at least twice?

Dave Hardy said...

I too am late to this drama and I will check Ms. Kress' blog more often (she was an awesome toastmistress at ArmadilloCon!).

Mr. Bisson offers a very succinct explanation of unease about ideological-Islamism. But I am not commenting to debate Islam. It's a phenomenon a little too big to corral in blog comment.

What I have noticed about the ultra-left PC crowd is their vindictive dedication to flame wars with barely even pretext. A certain commenter was recently baiting a "former friend" for NOT wanting to go to Wiscon and using that as an excuse to sneer at his adoptive daughter. The next daily hate was against a writer for using blog tags that were insufficiently respectful of the Pacific War. And there were the great furies over unprofessional language in private e-mails, book reviews, etc, flooding on waves of bilious sententiousness from generally pseudonymous bloggers.

I guess Wiscon is welcome to that kind of raging self-righteousness. AS for me, I intend to make a point of shaking Ms. Moon's hand the next time I see her.

TheOFloinn said...

Al-Qaeda are followers of Salafism, aka Wahhabism; they are not all-purpose Muslims.

Salafism ≠ Wahabbism.

Wahabbism is a sect of the Hanbali school (the strictest fiqh of the four mahdabs). They are hostile not only to Shi'ites but also to Sufis and Ahmadiyya (cf. the recent violence in Surrey UK). They believe things like God has hands because Holy Qur'an refers to "the hand of God." Musa Furber, a mufti for Dar al Iftaa in Egypt, said of Wahabbis that their fiqh was sound but their aqida was whacky.

Salafi, otoh, are those who wish to live as the companions of the Prophet lived. They say "the Schools divide us!" and the four mahdabs are medieval innovations. In practice, salafis are "cafeteria muslims" who take the most congenial fiqh from each of the schools. Most American muslims are salafi.

IOW, the Salafi have no fiqh at all. As always happens with do-it-yourself theology you get a wide range from easy-going to whackadoodle.

Al-Qaeda are salafi only to the extent that they follow none of the schools. But there are salafis who accept gays, atheists, and agnostics, claim Mohammed as a feminist and permit women to lead prayer. (The Progressive Muslim Movement broke over the last item.) Like most personalist movements, salafis project modern political concerns onto the past.
+ + +
Also, there's nothing offensive about building a cultural center near a strip joint.

Although Feisal Abdur Rauf has objected strenuously to the property owner next to Park 51 putting a gay bar.

there was a mosque on the 19th floor of the World Trade Tower.

Actually, it was a musallah, a "prayer space." The mosque - Masjid Manhattan - is at 20 Warren St., and has been for many years. A minor point, maybe, but Rauf has been demonizing the members of the Warren St. mosque, claiming that they are salafi. But maybe he only wants their members (and those of Masjid Fatah, the other downtown mosque). Which may be why a lot of muslims think the new mosque is a bad idea.

The future problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood has been taking over mosques all over the East Coast (notably in Boston in full view of the media). Boston had the largest masjid on the East Coast, welcoming all regardless of affiliation. But before my informant left the Boston area, the Brotherhood had moved in and took over, just as they did the Cambridge mosque. They sound reasonable in public -- CAIR is a Brotherhood organization -- but they were diverting donations to suspect organizations. Whether Rauf could fight them off is a fine point.
+ + +

Blaming Islam for the Taliban is like blaming Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan.

The Taliban are Deobandi and strict followers of the Hanafi fiqh; i.e., a mainstream Sunni school. A talib is a student, specifically from the Deoband university.
+ + +

Brad R. Torgersen said...

Mr. Flynn, thank you so much for that wonderful expose. Highly informative, and precisely the sort of thing I personally am always looking for when any discussion of Islam in America comes up. From a fellow Analog author, much obliged, sir.

TheOFloinn said...

does Christianity "own" the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusades, Timothy McVeigh, and Adolph Hitler?

Yes on the Crusades; no to the others. The hundred year counterattack in the thousand year siege was instigated by the Christian Byzantine Emperor specifically to recover lands lost to the jihad. And the Latin Pope called on the Men of the West to carry this through. Of course, afterward history was committed.

(The counter-attack actually began a little earlier: the Byzantines re-took Cyprus; the Normans, Sicily; the Pisans attacked Tunis; the Spanish Reconquista. Their boots on our ground, so to speak.)

Neither the Klan nor Timothy McVeigh were motivated by religious dogma or acted under the aegis of a Christian church. Nor was their purpose to impose a new or restore a former religious orthodoxy. Theirs were purely political motions. Hitler and Nazism were explicitly anti-Christian, as the records attest.

A parallel to al-Qaeda would be if some group proclaimed itself the newly revived Knights of the Temple intending to restore the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and reverse 200 years of disgrace and humiliation. Could make a good SF theme.
+ + +

Will Shetterly said...

Terry, with that definition, I think I can agree with you. So I'll note that many Muslims have rejected what that tiny minority has done in the name of Islam.

TheOFloinn, thanks for adding that. I'd heard some people argue otherwise about the names, along these lines:

I'll stick to "Wahabbi" for now. I love the bit about their aqida being wacky!

I don't mean to open a digression, but Hitler did say in '41, "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so." It's easy to find photos of Catholic priests saluting him. Nazis were buried under crosses. The Christian element in Nazi Germany was very, very strong.

As for the Klan, it is very much concerned with "white Christianity."

And there's no Muslim aegis for al-Qaeda to act under.

Still, I agree you could come up with a mighty fine story with your premise.

TheOFloinn said...

I don't mean to open a digression, but Hitler did say in '41, "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so." It's easy to find photos of Catholic priests saluting him. Nazis were buried under crosses. The Christian element in Nazi Germany was very, very strong.

It's not actually a digression, since it touches on how person A is accounted a member of set X.

For your examples, context matters. E.g., it is easy to find photographs of priests using the "German greeting" for the same reason you find scientists. athletes, and others doing so: After 13 July 1933 it was required by law. 'Anyone not wishing to come under suspicion of behaving in a consciously negative fashion will therefore render the Hitler greeting.' Neither am I persuaded by the alleged public remarks of a politician trying to shore up support in the South -- esp. the Rhineland and Bavaria, where support for the Nazi party had been steadily slipping. Certainly, the Church did not find him a member in good standing. Thus, while it is easy to find tendentious websites making these sorts of assertions, it is not so easy to find serious historians who agree.

Two good sources are Richard Evans' The Third Reich in Power and John Lukacs' The Last European War, esp. Part II.

Now, what has this to do with muslims? Simply this: to become a muslim one need only recite the kalima-shahada. There are no sacraments like baptism or confirmation for formal induction into the church; no church structure or hierarchy; one needn't join a parish, or anything like that; there is no doctrine of mortal sin that would automatically excommunicate you. Thus, it is a simple matter to declare oneself a muslim -- and no one can gainsay you. A devout Sunni from Jordan told me once that right after the USSR fell, Party members in Syria and Jordan went out and joined radical Islamist groups. One may doubt their bona fides of ex-communists as religious believers, but there was no mechanism within Islam to examine or excommunicate them.

One time, Basheer was at my house and there was a PBS show on about women in Afghanistan. There was a shot of children in a Taliban madrassa, all davening in unison as they recited their verses. He became red-faced angry. That is not right! They are only memorizing, not understanding. That is a corruption of Islam. But the response could be "who are you to say who is muslim?"

There is a struggle underway for the soul of Islam. It's not all about us.

Will Shetterly said...

Full agreement about the struggle for Islam. That's much of what Reza Aslan's book is about.

But how do you "shore up support" while being "explicitly anti-Christian"? And is this page seriously flawed? (Uh, "yes" would be enough of an answer. I got nothing else to continue this digression, even if I wanted to.)

Gregory said...

"Just as Judaism owns the racist West Bank settlers."

Huh? They're all Caucasians, and Semites.... same race, different cultures. Or does "racist" now mean "bad" only?

Gregory Benford

Saladin Ahmed said...

I'm resisting the urge to engage all of the groan-inducing falsities in this thread that illustrate a little knowledge being a dangerous thing (things like the matter-of-fact claim that CAIR is 'a Brotherhood organization' or use of the word 'madrasa' which just means 'school'.) I'll just say 'don't believe everything Daniel Pipes and other 'counterterrorism experts' (most of whom don't even speak Arabic) tell you.'

Ms. Kress's post was about Ms. Moon's post and WisCon's response.

Terry, it needs to be pointed out that your point that fundamentalists represent "a fairly substantial, and very influential, minority that inherits, organizes and exploits the anti-American (anti-imperialist) sentiment in the Arab world," and your concessions that "People are pissed and who can blame them? Our boots on their ground...Their grievances are real. Their strategy is fucked." are far more nuanced than Ms. Moon's characterizations of Islam were.

I don't find your point bigoted (though given your nuanced post I have trouble understanding how a liberal quasi-sufi center blocks away from the site still strikes you as 'creepy'). But the things Ms. Moon said (her claims that "the Islamic world in general show[ed] indecent glee about the [9/11] attack," and "That some Muslims died in the attacks is immaterial--[and] does not wipe out the long, long chain of Islamic hostility," or her claim that Park 51 would be "a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack" which would "use that site to proselytize for the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent," or her lament at having "lean[ed] over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship," or her begrudging allowance that "many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks"* *were* bigoted.

*Which is, as one respondent put it, a bit like saying "Many British people are not members of the Beatles."

qiihoskeh said...

What else can be said that hasn't been said, but "... nor noise, nor rage, nor sorrow".

Terry Bisson said...

Greg's right, I shoulda said Bad. Saladin's right, O'Reilly and Petraues are partner cops. And Will's
right, the KKK is Christian (see: cross) to the core. And I'm outa here. Thanks to all and esp Nancy for letting us sit and talk on her rug.
Seeya at Wiscon!

Oz said...

I had to come back a couple of times to read the various posts, but for myself, Terry summed it up well. Thanks, Nancy, for letting us sit on your rug.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I live in Manhattan. Here's a lyric I wrote about The Attack.


You have smashed our Towers
And made our Fair Ones cry
And so, you must die
But wait--
The astronomers and magicians wish debate
Their proposal pleases all
This, then, will be your fate

To forever roam the silent void
Of interstellar space

An iron-nickel meteor
With a screaming human face

And Israel-"Palestine", c'mon--

Does anyone really doubt if the terrorists laid down their weapons, there would be peace tomorrow?

And if the Israelis laid down =their= weapons, there would be the Second Holocaust tomorrow?

Let's get real.