The word has gone out that Wiscon 35 has rescinded its invitation to Elizabeth Moon to be guest of honor. The decision is the result of the uproar over Moon’s essay on citizenship and the rights and responsibilities of immigrants, especially Muslims.

Wiscon’s decision to withdraw the invitation is childish, unprofessional, and wrong. Rather than encouraging discourse, they silence it. Over and over again I am struck by way the blogosphere erupts in these vast tizzies of outrage every time bloggers are confronted with uncomfortable ideas. Rather than engage, livejournals light up with a collective case of the vapors. These people call themselves feminists and humanists, but they can’t even take on and discuss uncomfortable ideas. I don’t call that feminism. I call that hysteria.

When the Wiscon community is ready to engage in civil discourse in which big ideas are debated with light and little heat, maybe then I can take the convention committee seriously. For now, I say to you this — you aren’t feminists. You aren’t humanists.

You are a bunch of weenies.

Additional note to commenters: I welcome all opinions. I ask people to refrain from attacking other commenters but we are all adults here and can take strong opinions. There might be a delay in approving comments by people who’ve never commented before, but rest assured, I will read all the comments and post them.

Thanks for entering this discussion.


19 Comments

Renee B · October 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm

for the most part I agree with you (esp re Wiscon’s decision, which I don’t agree with), but I do feel she brought some of this backlash on herself by shutting down discourse on her post (a lot of people were engaging her ideas very intelligently) and not engaging her critics so much as telling them they were wrong. Granted, it’s “her” space and she has the right to do that, but it just seemed wrong to me for her to do that. By doing that, it felt like she completely devalued everything others had said, and that felt more like entrenchment than open discourse to me. She in effect did the same thing that you are unhappy with wiscon for doing – she shut down discourse on her ideas, not because her ideas themselves were uncomfortable to those outside her, but I think (or at least it looked to me) because she was uncomfortable with an unexpected backlash.

For all that, I do think it in bad form for a con to rescind a GoH invitation, and I’m sure there will be those in the fannish community who will not look kindly on Wiscon for that.

Eva Whitley · October 20, 2010 at 10:04 pm

At the risk of sounding like I’m fresh off AOL: THIS. I think you’re right that a lot of the blogging SF feminists are more interested in being seen as politically correct than trying to debate a controversial issue.

Thank you for this.

romsfuulynn · October 20, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Not feminist or humanist sums it up for me. But the choice to not engage and to not be drawn into the mixer strikes me as the only feasible tactic if you actually have work to do.

Caoimhe · October 21, 2010 at 12:36 am

LOL, wow.

You month have missed all the attempts by those “feminists and humanists” you degrade as “weenies” to actually engage and deal with this over the last month or two, as well as a lot of serious and thoughtful writing about the issue.

Instead you haul out the thinly veiled misogyny (“vast tizzies of outrage” and “hysteria,” really?) and start calling names.

Wow. Terrible showing there.

Alleyne · October 21, 2010 at 2:53 am

Rather than encouraging discourse, they silence it.

Discourse with/between whom, exactly? Between Moon and her detractors? Moon has made it clear that she’s disinterested in that. There was discourse, in the comments to the hate-laden blog post that began all of this — between commenters. Moon would not engage, then dismissed everything that had been said wholesale, and deleted all of the discussion. She had the opportunity for discourse and turned her back on it.

Are you suggesting discourse between Moon and Muslim and immigrant con-goers? Do you think that it is the responsibility of Muslims and immigrants to educate Moon in the many ways in which she has disrespected and insulted them? Do you think that they owe her the opportunity to explain herself (not even holding out hope for a legitimate apology) at the con, when it’s now been weeks and she won’t use the platform she already has — her blog — to say anything about her offense at all, explanation, explication, apology, valediction, anything?

More importantly, do you think that Muslim and immigrant con-goers would have reason to believe that they were safe or valued in the atmosphere of a con that is honoring someone who holds such vicious bias against them — not an “uncomfortable idea” but the same expressions of hatred used to justify acts of violence against them every day? (Did you know that according to the FBI, 60% of reported hate crimes in the U.S. in 2009 were committed against Hispanic and presumed-Hispanic people, immigrants and non-immigrants alike?)

I fail to see any argument here for why Elizabeth Moon be privileged over everyone who she has wronged, just a lot of vaguely tangential ad hominem.

Alexandra Erin · October 21, 2010 at 7:24 am

I have a theory: You shouldn’t be allowed to blog.

Now, let’s have at least twelve hours of serious, in-depth discussion of this big idea I have posited. No juvenile recriminations, please! No silencing. Let’s have light and not heat. Real discourse only.

Tiffany · October 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

This leads me back to one of my favorite sayings. (And I aim this at the feminist Wiscon.) “You’ll never find a more close-minded person than a liberal.”

Freedom of speech is for everyone, not just for people with whom you agree. Regardless of how she treated people who commented on the post, she’s still allowed her opinion. And I’m confused as to how a feminist, sci-fi convention has anything to do with her opinion. Did they invite her for her fiction writing?

I think that “vast tizzies of outrage” is a perfect phrase to use, as they *are* acting like children. Weenies, indeed.

Carl · October 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

Saying “… she’s still allowed her opinion” misses the point. Of course she is. That does not mean WisCon is required to help her spread it, or seem to endorse it by making her GoH. No one has suggested silencing her.

Tiffany · October 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

Except that they invited her for her fiction writing. I’ve never been to a convention where someone tried to “spread” his or her opinions. I seriously doubt she would have even wanted to talk about this subject at the con.

I’m amazed that the idea that a Guest of Honor must share all of the opinions of the convention is even thought. “Endorsing” someone’s opinion? Seriously?

Yonmei · October 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I have seen no indication that Moon is banned from WisCon. She can still go, if she wishes, and join the discourse. She just won’t be going as GoH. She hasn’t been silenced, any more than any other WisCon attendee who isn’t GoH has been silenced.

Alexandra Erin · October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Except that they invited her for her fiction writing.

No. WisCon honors people not just for the quality of their writing. It’s an even bet that if she’d posted her ill-informed diatribe before the selection was made, they would have selected someone else.

I’ve never been to a convention where someone tried to “spread” his or her opinions.

And yet you clearly know that WisCon is a con with a social agenda.

I seriously doubt she would have even wanted to talk about this subject at the con.

I think you’re right, but that’s a big part of why so many people thought continuing to honor her would be a bad thing… because her presence there would guarantee that everybody else would be talking about this, and her refusal to participate in discourse would be ugly and awkward.

Wiscon’s not silencing any discourse. There were (and I’m sure, still are) people planning panels on the subjects that Elizabeth Moon raised. The initial decision to not rescind the invitation was predicated in part on the idea that she’d be a participant at these discussions.

But she showed what she thinks of discourse when she deleted all commentary on her blog and said “It’s time to move the crowd outside.” How can anybody defend her as being unfairly silenced when she erased whole conversations in order to preserve her own viewpoint unopposed?

Patrice Sarath · October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I appreciate all the comments. I am encouraged that people have responded well and thoughtfully, shedding light (not heat!) on the controversy. I learned, for example, that Moon herself shut down conversation, which left people feeling unheard and disrespected.

I had a long post planned in which I responded to comments. Life intervened: real life, in which my family takes precedence over the Internet because of some health and happiness issues. My energy is needed elsewhere.

I wanted to continue the conversation, but I can’t and will have to back out. Thanks to everyone commenting here and on facebook, both in support and in opposition to my post. Please continue to chat if you wish. Comments will remain open. Thanks.

Patrice

Tiffany · October 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm

From their website: “WisCon encourages discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class.”

Nice.

I don’t think that anyone argued that they were silencing Moon. The issue is that it’s silly to revoke a GoH invitation based on someone’s opinion that may not agree with your own.

(I would like it noted that I think her statements about the Mosque are ridiculous, but I still do not think she should have been removed as GoH.)

This all just makes me wonder how far it could go? If a convention is run by people who happen to be vegan, and an invited GoH blogs about a hunting trip, or is photographed wearing fur, would it be reasonable for the convention to revoke the GoH title? Or should pro-choice people not allow pro-lifers as GoH’s? Or vice versa?

I simply think that it’s a slippery slope, especially when we value and need free speech more than ever in this country.

steve schneider · October 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I went and read the whole blog post after reading your comments.
Although I don’t agree with everything in the blog, she brings up a lot of valid points.
I didn’t see anything offensive in the post that would cause Wiscon to withdraw and invitation to speak.
Like you say, discourse is healthy.

romsfuulynn · October 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

The piece that I found frustrating is the assumption that after participating in an over 200 post discussion, she needed to *continue* to engage in the conversation, on her own blog or elsewhere.

Second to that is the belief that she had some obligation to maintain in her own space any of it. Some of it was pretty unpleasant.

Brad R. Torgersen · October 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm

It’s fairly odd seeing people now complain that Moon’s real offense wasn’t “Islamophobia” and “bigotry” as has been touted from the rooftops by the FaceRail crowd, but that she wouldn’t engage her detractors in her comments. And then shut down those comments and wiped them out.

So far as I can tell, Moon did engage her detractors — to a point. Once it became clear that it wasn’t a discussion anymore, just name-calling and self-righteous flaming, she shoved the crowd out the door and locked it.

Now we have people complaining that Moon was not in fact evicted from Wiscon — she was — but that she is free to attend, and that somehow her lack of attendance is yet another sin on her part. Ergo, failure to engage.

Hmmmmm, let’s see. Woman gets trampled by virtual crowd of egg-throwing, insulting web maniacs. Woman is told openly by chief agitators that if she comes to Wiscon she will be harassed, protested, etc. Woman decides she’s better off to forget the whole thing and save herself the trouble. Woman is then accused of failure to engage.

Sounds a lot like, “Shut up and take your medicine,” to me. Only, Moon has the experience of years to realize she doesn’t have to put up with this shit or any of these people. Good on her. She’s been about the only adult in the entire fracas. My opinion of the FaceRailer community was already low. Now it’s lower. My opinion of Wiscon? Eh. Spineless.

S. V. Rowle · October 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

I am saying this without sarcasm and out of genuine curiosity, and I do not expect an answer, as you have stopped replying to the discussion, but I hope you would consider my question anyway.

Would you think it proper to have EM as the Guest of Honor at a progressive convention if she had said about Jews what she said about Muslims?

Moon: “I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, [Jews], that many [Jews] have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways. I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the [Torah] (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I’ve given to other holy books) or throw paint on [temples] or beat up [Jews]. But [Jews] fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had.”

Would it be fair to ask Jewish con attendees to endure the awarding of Moon with this distinction and to “engage in civil discourse in which big ideas are debated with light and little heat?”

Dave Hardy · October 25, 2010 at 11:04 am

I just saw this post today. I had read about the Elizabeth Moon flap earlier, but only now found out Wiscon ditched her.

I get the strong impression the outrage comes from the same bunch that started flame wars over Jay Lake not wanting to go to Wiscon(he wasn’t sure he felt safe there, given the threats of disruption over Moon appearing, maybe he was on to something) and Elizabeth Bear over using blog tags that were insufficiently respectful of the Pacific War (1937-45).

My saying that this only confirms my contempt for Wiscon is a bit like the lactose-intolerant, vegan, Orhodox Jew saying he’s through with cheeseburgers. Still, I can’t help but stare at this PC-train wreck.

I was taught to make a distinction between words and deeds. Even if you disagree with Moon (and I tend too), basically she expressed an opinion. Big deal, it’s what writers do. What did Juan Williams do? Opinion again, a sort of stock-in-trade for pundits, though according to NPR offensively distinct from “analysis.”

Well, Wiscon put its money where its mealy mouth is. Their loss. Go Moon, Lake & Bear!

The anti-ists punish Elizabeth Moon and Juan Williams | Brad R. Torgersen · October 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm

[…] I liked this nicely-put post by Patrice Sarath. I think it’s a good example of how the ‘feminists’ at Wiscon are sort of pouring […]

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