Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dear middle-class liberals who cite King's letter from a Birmingham jail

This is inspired by Andy Duncan's Facebook post, Many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in the..., but I'm writing here because King is often misused by middle-class anti-racists.

ETA: A day later, the discussion at Facebook is still going on.

Liberal anti-racists like to cite Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It's a great letter, especially for its criticism of white moderates and middle-class blacks, but they miss many of its implications. King was criticizing people who were sympathetic to ending racism, but who offered no solutions other than talk and patience. King always had solutions. In 1963, when he wrote that letter, he supported legal changes to address racism. By '67, his vision had grown. In his last book, he wrote,
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
His solution:
I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.
In the Birmingham letter, King mentions "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security ... have become insensitive to the problems of the masses". That describes too many black anti-racists who happily talk about social privilege and fail to offer any ways to help the 11 million black Americans in poverty, let alone the 20 million non-Hispanic whites or the remaining 16 million who mostly identify as Hispanic white.

Ask self-styled anti-racists for practical solutions, and they'll only tell you they want to debate the problem. They prefer the King of '63 to the King of '67 because the King of '63 does not challenge the privilege they do not want to lose, their class privilege.

I'm especially surprised when young anti-racists quote King and Malcolm X to activists of my generation. That's like telling World War II veterans about Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'm among the hundreds of thousands who marched for civil rights in the '60s and was beaten by racists, and my story is not significantly different than that of many older science fiction writers, I suspect. Harlan Ellison, who has been mocked by fandom's anti-racists, was part of King's 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. He talks about it here:

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when anti-racists quote King or Malcolm X is that they're not his followers. Their ideology comes from Derrick Bell, the father of Critical Race Theory, whose understanding of power never went further than skin-deep.

PS. Since I mentioned Malcolm and Ellison does, too, here's one of my favorite quotes that anti-racists ignore: "I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think that it will be based on the color of the skin." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Friday, May 30, 2014

Slut-shaming has little to do with sex, study finds

Slut-shaming has little to do with sex, study finds | Al Jazeera America. Read the whole thing, but this might be the money quote:
"Surprisingly, women who engaged in less sexual activity were more likely to be publicly labeled a slut than women who engaged in more sexual activity," Armstrong said. "This finding made little sense until we realized that college women also used the term as a way to police class boundaries."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Some readers comment on How to make a Social Justice Warrior

#WorthReading "How to Make a Social Justice Warrior" by @WillShetterly. Great recap, good insights, and always readable. #CivilityMatters
— Wesley Morrison (@weswrit) May 28, 2014

@WillShetterly Your book about SJW's is both spot on and fascinating, I've always wondered where these people got their ideas from.
— EatSleepArooRepeat (@Worthog117) May 23, 2014

Nexus X Humectress: "The antidote to totalitarian humanism (a.k.a. political correctness, identity politics, anti-oppression, social justice, or cultural Marxism) is humanitarian humanism (i.e. consistency of means and ends). This ebook is the best 99 cents I've ever spent. The writer draws on historical struggles for equality to present a nuanced analysis of social inequalities that eschews orthodoxy while exalting critical thinking and kindness in the face of the self-righteous cult of bullying that passes for progress today."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rahul Kanakia responds to Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin

Do writers of color avoid discussing existential problems? « Blotter Paper

The unsurprising privilege of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie

At Reparations should be paid to black Americans, Jamelle Bouie said, "And ultimately, as Coates writes, the money isn’t important. What’s critical is that we reckon with our national crimes against black Americans, to say nothing of Native Americans and other minority groups."

You could only write that if you cared more about "privilege" than poverty. About 47 million Americans are poor, and 11 million of those are black. To them, reparations would matter enormously. And if anyone was talking about reparations for capitalism, it would also matter to the three-fourths of the poor who are white.

Martin Luther King's solution still applies: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King -- Final Advice.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Was N. K. Jemisin the most ignorant f&sf fan ever?

Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech | Epiphany 2.0: "I can’t tell you how many times I was told, with great vehemence and hostility, that there was no chance of me having a career in SFF — by other people of color. Yeine, the protagonist of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, was almost a white man because I listened to some of what these people were saying. (Imagine if I’d listened to all of it."

Were those people saying this because they'd never heard of Delany or Butler? Did Jemisin believe it because she hadn't heard of them? Or did she think she wasn't as good as Delany or Butler? I'd understand the latter, but that has nothing to do with race. And I'm surprised she or the people she mentions weren't aware of Charles Saunders, Walter Mosley, or Steven Barnes, who may have gotten less attention in the field than Delany and Butler, but who anyone with a casual awareness of the genre should've known.

ETA: I'm tempted to adopt "Mr. Civility", not because I've achieved it, but because I aspire to it.

ETA 2: Because identitarians are quick to see isms everywhere, Jemisin has been questioned about antisemitism in her speech. Her reply is here: A note on my Wiscon speech. What strikes me is that she and her commenters are functionally illiterate, because they've misread what Delany was saying: he's complementing the liberal Jewish tradition for acceptance, and saying that when the ethnic balance of writers changes, racism in the genre will probably reflect racism in society at large.

Friday, May 23, 2014

LoneStarCon and Disney's "The Song of the South"

I'm surprised that I missed this kerfuffle last year, but they come so fast and furiously that it's easy to forgive myself. From LoneStarCon Cancels Song of the South Viewing:
LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention to be held in San Antonio, Texas, had planned to present Song of the South as one of several animated films and cartoons for its upcoming 71st annual convention. However, they have since canceled the presentation:

August 21 – Statement re. Song of the South

LoneStarCon 3 had previously announced a presentation of Disney’s Song of the South, to be shown in conjunction with a talk about the period when the film was made, the historical reality of the time, and the changing perspectives of the film in the light of the Civil Rights movement.

We accept that while we fully intended to show the film in context, this was not adequately explained in the text published on our website and in our Pocket Program. Moreover, to continue showing the film in the light of the public concern expressed over the last few hours would send entirely the wrong messages about our event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will therefore no longer be presenting this film as part of our program.

We got this wrong, and we apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been offended, concerned, or in any way been given cause to doubt the welcome that LoneStarCon 3 will extend to all of our members next week.
 Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote at Making Light: Song of the South at Worldcon:
Dear World Science Fiction Convention: It’s fine to show Walt Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South as part of your program of interesting anime and animation not easily found on DVD or Netflix. It’s an interesting piece of work! And we’re grown-ups (and bright young people). We can look at controversial, problematic works and have intelligent conversations about them.
But this is not the smartest way you could be describing it, on your web page and in the printed program set for distribution at the con:
Song of the South is a 1946 American live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney. The film is based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. The live actors provide a sentimental frame story, in which Uncle Remus relates the folk tales of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his friends. These anthropomorphic animal characters appear in animation. The hit song from the film was “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song and is frequently used as part of Disney’s montage themes, has become widely used in popular culture. The film inspired the Disney theme park attraction Splash Mountain. The film has never been released in its entirety on home video in the United States because of the subject matter, which Disney executives thought might be viewed by some as politically incorrect and racist toward black people, and is therefore subject to much controversy.
Let’s be clear about something that this squib oddly fails to note. Song of the South’s racism isn’t some elusive, hard-to-pin-down subtext that Disney executives fret might be “viewed by some.” Song of the South is a blatantly, relentlessly, spectacularly racist piece of work.
It’s true, as Mike Glyer notes, that the film had some defenders among African-American journalists on its first release. It’s also true that it’s a movie replete with scenes full of (as Slate puts it) “embarrassingly racist” live-action portrayals of “smilin’, Massah-servin’ black folk.” Noting the film’s “offensively ‘idyllic’ master-slave relationship,” Time magazine said in 2009 that “there’s no denying the fact that by today’s standards, the film is rather racist.” And with typical bluntness, Cracked observes about the film’s singin’-and-dancin’ former slaves that “it’s as if someone made a children’s musical about Jews in post-WWII Germany that had a number titled ‘Hey! Nothing Bad Has Happened to Us, Ever.’”
This being the case, it would have been wise to plainly acknowledge it, instead of saying only that the film is out of circulation because “Disney executives thought might be viewed by some as politically incorrect.” (Bonus points for deploying our tired old friend “politically incorrect.” Yes, Disney executives are notoriously anxious about being dragged by Maoists into sessions of forced self-criticism. Why, you can barely get down the street in Hollywood for all the Red Guards trying to kidnap you.)
Bottom line: Given recent events in the SF world, for any Worldcon (much less one happening in a state that’s currently actively working to disenfranchise African-Americans) to screen this famously racist film while being disingenuous about its nature…is, to say the least, unwise. Showing it? Sure. Showing it while failing to plainly acknowledge its problems? Not your dumbest decision ever, dear Worldcon, but not exactly your smartest, either.
Next time we wonder why organized science-fiction fandom is so very, very white, even more so than adjacent precincts of the geek world like comics fandom or gaming, maybe we’ll recall this little piece of cluelessness. Which isn’t extraordinary. And that’s the problem.
UPDATE (Wednesday evening, 21 August): LoneStarCon 3 have announced that they won’t be showing the film. “We accept that while we fully intended to show the film in context, this was not adequately explained in the text published on our website and in our Pocket Program. Moreover, to continue showing the film in the light of the public concern expressed over the last few hours would send entirely the wrong messages about our event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will therefore no longer be presenting this film as part of our program. […] We got this wrong, and we apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been offended, concerned, or in any way been given cause to doubt the welcome that LoneStarCon 3 will extend to all of our members next week.”
I think what happened suggests fandom's not "all grown-ups or bright young people". LoneStarCon's failure to put a trigger warning on the announcement made a surprising number of people believe LoneStarCon had been taken over by the Ku Klux Klan, and this showing would brainwash fandom into thinking slavery in the US had been a happy time when animals sang.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

George Orwell on liberal intellectuals

From a letter to Noel Willmett written in 1944:
...the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.
From Wells, Hitler and the World State:
What has kept England on its feet during the past year? In part, no doubt, some vague idea about a better future, but chiefly the atavistic emotion of patriotism, the ingrained feeling of the English-speaking peoples that they are superior to foreigners. For the last twenty years the main object of English left-wing intellectuals has been to break this feeling down, and if they had succeeded, we might be watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets at this moment. Similarly, why are the Russians fighting like tigers against the German invasion? In part, perhaps, for some half-remembered ideal of Utopian Socialism, but chiefly in defence of Holy Russia (the ‘sacred soil of the Fatherland’, etc. etc.), which Stalin has revived in an only slightly altered from. The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
Orwell's use of "racial pride" may be confusing to modern readers. It's more like national pride, sort of the way most of us feel good about the best things about our community. It's not simple nationalism or racism: Orwell hated imperialism in any form. From the '44 letter:
I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil. Similarly I would support the USSR against Germany because I think the USSR cannot altogether escape its past and retains enough of the original ideas of the Revolution to make it a more hopeful phenomenon than Nazi Germany.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Disinvitation season strikes again in fandom: Archon

"Disinvitation season" isn't my term, but I like it well enough. It's being used to describe passive-aggressive silencing at university campuses, but it's been a thang in fandom for years now. This year's example: Uncle Timmy and the Thought Police, from Jason Cordova's Website, where I left this comment:
I should’ve become suspicious of identitarian claims to value diversity back when ICFA disinvited a Cherokee author and editor, William Sanders, but it took me a couple of years to figure it out. They don’t want diversity that’s more than skin deep. Maoists and McCarthyites deserve each other, but I wish they would leave the rest of us alone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ruth J. Simmons speaks at Smith College's 136th commencement

Ruth J. Simmons speaks at Smith College's 136th commencement: audio |
Simmons told of defending a speaker at Brown "whose every assertion was dangerous and deeply offensive to me on a personal level." The speaker believed blacks were better off as slaves, she said. 
Simmons drew applause when she opined that skipping the talk, as college president, would be "to choose personal comfort over a freedom whose value is so great, that the hearing of his unwelcome message could hardly be assessed at too great a cost." 
"Protecting free speech brilliantly insulates us from from being silenced for own unpopular views," she said. 
Simmons holds a Doctorate in Romance Literature from Harvard University. She is the first African-American woman to lead an Ivy League institution.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True?

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True? : The New Yorker

Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me

Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me - Bloomberg View:
Were one to think seriously about the implications of the anti-IMF argument -- and, please, ladies and gentlemen, do nothing of the kind! -- one would also presumably have to bar from the stage Lagarde’s fellow conspirators, particularly leaders of the IMF’s biggest financial supporter, the United States of America. (The Tea Party, happily, opposes the IMF. Perhaps one of its leaders might be invited next year.)

Then there are your fellows at Rutgers University, who rose up to force the estimable Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national security adviser, to withdraw. The protest was worded with unusual care, citing the war in Iraq and the “torture” practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency. Cleverly omitted was the drone war.

Haverford College commencement speaker lambastes students

From Haverford College commencement speaker lambastes students -
Bowen, also the former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, recounted several other instances in which speakers faced protest with a better outcome, including a commencement when he was Princeton's president. George Shultz, a member of President Nixon's cabinet during the Vietnam days in the 1970s, was due to receive an honorary degree. 
"The protestors were respectful (mostly), and chose to express their displeasure, by simply standing and turning their backs when the Secretary was recognized," he said. "Secretary Shultz, in turn, understood that the protestors had every right to express their opinion in a non-disruptive fashion, and he displayed the courage to come and accept his degree, knowing that many of the faculty and staff (a strong majority, I would guess, this person included) thought that the Nixon conduct of the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Being Vulnerable | Elizabeth Stoker

On Being Vulnerable | Elizabeth Stoker: "The stunningly self-abnegating person who can check every single one of their privileges in order and then render problematic every single ideology or system of belief they have even the remotest affiliation to seems to really get it, to see beyond the artifices and constructs."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

This week's problems with rape culture theory

1. In Nigeria, hundreds of girls have been kidnapped. The US and Britain have sent help. If the US and Britain are rape cultures, why would they bother? If Nigeria is a rape culture, why are Nigerians offering rewards and accepting help? It makes sense to say Boko Haram is a rape culture because "rape culture" can be useful in its original sense, to describe places like US prisons of the 1970s where rape is condoned.

2. Monica Lewinsky has said her relationship with Bill Clinton was consensual, despite the power dynamic. I think that's likely. It's even possible she was the pursuer. But according to rape culture theory, Bill Clinton raped her because they were not equals. However, saying that would give Republicans political ammunition to use against Hillary Clinton, so identitarian feminists have been having to do a rather amusing dance lately, simultaneously defending the theory that consent requires perfect equality while maintaining that Lewinsky "had agency".

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

appropriation alert of the day!

"Ghetto" is appropriated from Jews in Italy. If you're not an Italian Jew, don't use it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Strange Fruit of Identity Politics

Strange Fruit of Identity Politics is another fine post from Elizabeth Stoker. I especially liked this: "When we say that data doesn’t count and only individual experiences should have any gravitas in a conversation, we say we do not want to know the overall nature of experiences, but rather the highly idiosyncratic and individual nature of a single experience. Coincidentally this has the exact same effect as a person without any experience of a situation forwarding their (un-grounded) sense of it: that is, it stamps out the reality of the many and general in favor of the singular and anecdotal. The idea of data (and of keeping the argument grounded in what can be known by all participants) is to build workable roads between the general tendency of an experience and all hearers, whether they’ve had it or not; the insistence upon a single idiosyncratic experience is the de-facto destruction of those roads, and the halting of all argument. So this is why arguing about anything remotely social justice related on the internet is often fruitless and weird and zeroes down in many cases to name-calling and demands to shut up."

Hoax hate crimes: cheaters, Munchausen syndrome, and social justice warriors

Some social justice warriors suffer from Münchausen syndrome, "a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves." A few examples:

Why Would A Gay Teenager Commit Hate Crimes Against Herself: "I started a whole fake hate-crime thing with the police so I didn’t have to do my homework.”

Professor Kerri Dunn vandalizes her car with "misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic graffiti", and 2000 students rally in her support before the truth comes out.

N.J. waitress in tip flap leaves restaurant: "Waitress initially said she was denied a tip because she was gay."

Hercules Transgender Teen Admits Making Up Story Of School Bathroom Assault

Something Wicked: The Five Worst Gays of 2013:
Lesbian Sarah Bray attracted national media attention in November when she claimed she was banned from visiting to her partner Jennifer Clemmer’s hospital room. Clemmer was checked into the St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis after an alleged prescription drug overdose. 
“We are in a partnership,” a tearful Bray said at the time. “It’s heart-wrenching. If I were a man and this were my wife, there would be no issue.” 
Turns out, the whole thing was a charade. 
A week later, on November 20, Bray was arrested and charged with battery and criminal confinement. It was alleged that she had beaten Clemmer unconscious, then staged the whole prescription drug overdose in an attempt to cover up the abuse, which had been going on for years. Bray’s own children confirmed the allegations. The hospital staff was on to her, which is why they wouldn’t let her in the room.
NAACP calls Hallmark graduation card racist: "A graduation card sold at local stores has been pulled from shelves after a civil rights group raised concerns about the content. The group claims the card's micro-speaker plays a greeting that's racist."

Jersey City high school candidate for student gov't sent racist texts to himself, school official says

A recent history of hate-crime hoaxes | Conservative Intelligence Briefing: it's a conservative site, but they include a case of a conservative who pretended he was attacked for his political views.

Should Münchausen By Internet be considered a mental illness? | The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti | CBC Radio

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The economics of political correctness

The economics of political correctness | Institute of Economic Affairs: "Moral superiority is a prime example of a positional good, because we cannot all be morally superior to each other. Once you have successfully exorcised a word or an opinion, how do you differentiate yourself from others now? You need new things to be outraged about, new ways of asserting your imagined moral superiority."

The comments reference people whose politics I generally don't like, but the article includes a link to Spiked, a magazine I like even when I disagree, so things seem to be working the way free speech is supposed to work: there's no echo chamber there.