Wednesday, September 5, 2018

On fannish gentrification and ostracism

When I was googling before posting An update on the gentrification of fandom, I came across a comment that I was tempted to share in that post, then decided it was a distraction from the point I was trying to make, partly because I'm used as the example. But it's fodder for a related post about the manners and practices of bourgeois fans, so here it is.

In the comments at Social Gentrification | Status 451, Titanium Dragon claimed that the people who get ostracized are awful human beings. Non Sum Qualis Eram replied,
I don’t know that I agree.

I mean, yes, I’m sure that some dangerous asshats might be kicked out, but I’ve rarely seen that. Mostly, the figure of hate du jour is someone quite, quite harmless who just _will not_ shut up when arguing with someone who has greater social capital. Someone who embodies the fandom value of being pedantic and ornery when it comes to dispute. A good example is Will Shetterly who is as nice a fellow as you could hope to meet but who would not shut up about (in our now painfully distended analogy) the shoddy architecture or substandard building material of the gentrifiers.

Indeed in my history of following fandom drama, the people being castigated are usually people who’ve engaged in crimethink or telling jokes not on the approved list, or like Shetterly ornery interlocutors. Occasionally it is someone with a claim of harassment against them which is sometimes substantiated. But very rarely is it a _legitimately_ terrible person, though of course, occasionally it is: Applebaum comes swiftly to mind.

However, the chief labor of the gentrifiers isn’t concerned with individuals so much, I find, as it is with cleaning up the, ah, architecture and street plan. By doing so, it makes the infrastructure itself hostile to those it wants gone. Just like (as was mentioned on this blog earlier) imposing certain prosocial norms like the necessity of small talk conducted in a society-approved fashion on coding companies helps the newcomers, sure enough, but harms people for whom small talk is difficult.
I can't speak for many of the people who've been demonized by the genre's identitarians, but I've often heard from their friends that they didn't deserve to be driven out. I have no doubt that was true of William Sanders. I assume it's true about Rene Walling, who was defended by Jo Walton, who is quick to condemn people she doesn't know. The charges against other men ostracized for hitting on women seem always to be about uninvited advances, but none that I know of have been about someone forcing himself on anyone—these men all seem to have accepted that no means no, for all that they were persistent in their attentions. I want to think some true "dangerous asshats" have been excluded for good reason, but if that's so, I don't know their names, perhaps because they're excluded more quietly than the safe people declared to be asshats.

Fandom's great virtue was that it was a place where the outcasts could come. Now it's another place for creating them.