SFWA, hate speech, and standing up for what is right

Just the other day, in response to sexual harassment in the Australian military, Lt. General David Morrison said,

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us. But especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.”

This seems a standard that, so far, the SFWA has not lived up to. If you aren’t aware of the current firestorm surround the SFWA, you can start by reading Foz Meadows. And you should, her (very appropriate) anger rips through the page.

You see, N.K. Jemisin deigned to address racism in the SFF industry. Can you imagine that, a woman and person of color trying to address such an issue. I’ll let Foz summarize,

Last week, author N. K. Jemisin delivered her Guest of Honour speech at Continuum in Melbourne. It’s a powerful, painful, brilliant piece about racism in SFF, and racism elsewhere; about the barbaric treatment suffered by the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, my home, at the hands of white invaders, politicians, and most of the rest of the populace for the past two hundred-odd years. It’s also a call for Reconciliation within the SFF community: capital R, much like the Reconciliation our government has so belatedly and underwhelmingly – yet so significantly – attempted to make itself. She wrote in response to not only the recent strife within SFWA, but all the endless scandals of racefail and sexism and appropriation which have preceded it within reach of our collective memory; a memory she rightly names as short.

And as a result, Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day – a man whose man affronts to humanity, equality and just about every person on Earth who isn’t a straight white American cismale are so well documented as to defy the utility of cataloguing them here, when all you need do is Google him – has responded to Jemisin with a racist screed so vile and unconscionable that the only surprise is that even he, a man with no apparent shame, felt comfortable putting his name to it.

Wow, those are some harsh words. Some people can get heated about others views, misreading them or interpreting them in ways they didn’t mean. What might have sent Foz (and a legion of others) to raise their voices so loud, to scream to the rafters, to engage in twitter conversations that last an entire weekend?

It is vileness like this, (emphasis from Foz, this is her extract of Beale’s hate speech),

“Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious reason that she is not.

She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self defence laws have been put in place to let whites defend themselves by shooting people, like her, who are savages in attacking white people.

Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the law…

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support. Considering that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilised after their first contact with an advanced civilisation, it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do so in less than half the time with even less direct contact. These things take time.

Being an educated, but ignorant savage, with no more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity with SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance…

Reconciliation is not possible between the realistic and the delusional.

Holy Fucking Crap, that is some racist bullshit right there. How can this man continue to be a member of SFWA? He not only wrote this hate filled screed, he then pushed it to the SFWA twitter feed. By pushing it to the twitter feed, he not only violated the SFWA rules, but he made it seem if this was a view promoted by the organization.

In following the many discussion it is disheartening to see that the SFWA has remained mostly silent, Beale has not been removed. It is also disturbing to see the (mostly, if not all, white male) apologists try to defend his actions. They claim that his views are allowed because … uh … FREEDOM! Yes, it seems that a whole swarth of people do not understand what freedom of speech is. They mistakenly believe that we, the public, in our social groupings must allow unfettered speech. This is false. It is ignorance of what free speech is. When we speak of Free Speech (in the U.S. 1st Amendment sense) we speak of the governments ability to suppress speech. We, as individual social groupings, have the right to include those who we feel represent our standards and exclude those who do not.

A group like SFWA is a community of many people. A diversity of views is a positive and dynamic way for us all to learn about others, about those unlike us, about those that have lived different lives, in different bodies. These are interactions that benefit us all, they make us all better people, by understanding that which is not within our own narrow world view.

The use of hate speech (and that is the proper definition of this), trucking in racism, misogyny, and personal attacks is not only disgusting, it is HURTFUL. It is speech that is meant to diminish and denigrate others. It is an attack on other members of the SFWA and the entire community of hard working writers, publishers, editors and readers, and it is up to the leadership of the SFWA to immediately address this.

I am unsure if the leadership actually understands how big an issue this is becoming. It is moving from a single hate filled man, to a belief that the SFWA leadership is somehow afraid to confront him, to kick him to the curb, to say “You are not welcome here.” This soft response enables more hate, it is a tacit approval (through silence and inaction) that alienates new writers of all shapes, colors, sizes and gender. It hurts readers, who won’t see SFF as a place that is welcoming to them. A place where they can find fantastic stories about the wondrous diversity of existence.

Beale diminishes himself with his hate speech. The SFWA diminishes us all with their silence.

To crib from Lt. General Morrison’s comments, applied to SFWA:

the [SFWA] has to be an inclusive organization, in which every [writer], man and woman, is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so. Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in [the SFWA].

Get it done. You can fix this. You can stand up for right! You can stand up and say that Science Fiction and Fantasy are places of amazing vitality and a welcoming place for those who are not white, middle class, male, cisgendered, straight, and of course western.

* and hey, if you claim that YOU are one of those white cismales, guess what … you are already welcome. Hell, you dominate almost everything in the west, including the largest demographic of writers in the SFWA. That means it is YOU who must speak up!


11 Responses to SFWA, hate speech, and standing up for what is right

  1. Sarah says:

    In following the many discussion it is disheartening to see that the SFWA has remained mostly silent, Beale has not been removed.

    I think that the SFWA is waiting until after their new board members take office. Scalzi is stepping down June 30 after three years in the post as president, and a new president who has not been on the board of SFWA for over twenty years is taking office. I think there are other new board members coming in too. I don’t think the current board wants to just drop-kick VD/TB (as tempting as it is) and leave the new board members to deal with the ramifications and clean up the mess, especially since he has threatened legal action if he is expelled. As a woman of color myself, I’d like to see him booted and get whatever other negative consequences he has coming to him, but as a paralegal I can see him making the case that he should not be expelled. I think SFWA should need until the end of July to cycle through the process of getting the new board members in, having board meetings, consulting with attorneys, reviewing the evidence, and taking action. At that time, if he has not been expelled, it will be appropriate to pile on the harsh.

    • Ronnie says:

      The board change certainly makes it more difficult to address quickly. As does legal challenges. But it is up to the rest of us to put pressure on them to kick him out. There are and will be people who pressure them to keep him. You can see it in the many comments on the SFWA Bulletin fiasco. Many people responded to Scalzi’s apology post with shouts of “censorship”.

      We need to keep raising our voices and put the pressure on. I understand that perhaps removal is something that cannot happen so fast, so you are correct that my assumption that he already be removed is perhaps a bit too harsh. But absent some message from the leadership it is hard to understand how they view this issue.

      Until we hear more, and until we are satisfied, I believe we should continue to pressure the organization (and the entire industry) to better reflect the values of its membership. I have confidence they will do the right thing, and will be happy when I can post a great, positive post about the strength the SFWA has shown in addressing the problem. Until then, we can and should keep the pressure on (with the understanding that these issue do take time to resolve).

      • Sarah says:

        Oh yes, absolutely, pressure them to expel him. We the readership are, after all, the consumers of the books that their members are selling. Also, I was being generous with my time frame; I’m betting that he gets his walking papers around the second or third week of July. But as I said on another blog, what I do not want to see happen is that he gets booted and successfully sues to get back in (which could happen, since he says he has evidence of other SFWA members getting a pass for behaving badly on SFWA forums). The big problem with their taking action before Scalzi steps down, aside from creating an incredibly complicated situation which will make it hard for the new president to make the expulsion stick, is that the hateful little troll could make the case that this action was a personal thing on Scalzi’s part (since he’s been carrying on a one-sided “feud” against Scalzi for some months now). Scalzi himself has been trying to take the high road by refusing to acknowledge the “feud” and by raising money for various charities to benefit women and people of color in response to the troll’s poo-flinging. I applaud him for that.

  2. Ronnie says:

    I want to add one point. I wrote the following:

    “Beale diminishes himself with his hate speech. The SFWA diminishes us all with their silence.”

    This all happened about a week ago, and we have heard very little. That said, I am absolutely confident that John Scalzi and many others are taking this very, very seriously. I am sure we will hear something soon, and this silence will not last.

    In the meantime, I feel it is important that we express to the leadership how important we feel this issue is. We challenge them because we love them. We raise these issues because we believe that things can get better, that the SFWA can address this issue appropriately.

    We understand a period of silence as they figure out how to address it, and I don’t want to be too harsh as they go through their own internal processes. That said, I feel it is really important for us to raise our voices and put our views out there. It helps the leadership, it helps the SFWA, it shows that if they, hopefully, kick him out that they wide community have support.

  3. Ronnie says:

    Thanks Sarah, that is a really good point about the feud he has had with Scalzi. I hadn’t considered that.

  4. Sam Gafford says:

    I was only slightly aware of this happening so I appreciate your bringing this to light and also providing some context. I don’t understand why there would be an issue in kicking out this noxious person as it seems certain that he has violated codes of the organization and, unless I am wrong, do organizations not have the right to decide who they want to join or not? With the exception of an organization which receives government funding (which I don’t believe that the SFWA do), I don’t see how anyone would have a case here.

  5. lkeke says:

    Question: Should he not have been sanctioned in some manner for regularly attacking and denigrating the President of the SFWA? Not being a member,I don’t know how that works but he and his followers have been harassing Scalzi for about a year and he regularly posts these types of screeds against other members on his own blog.

    My argument isn’t so much against what he’s saying as who he’s saying it about. These people are members of an organization to which he belongs. So I’m puzzled as to why he’s a member at all.

    • Ronnie says:

      I think this gets to an important question. Has the ongoing silence about his continuous hateful views and personal attacks (at an organizational level) allowed this to fester. Was it the exact mentality that allowed offensive essays in the SFWA bulletin that enables someone like Beale to believe they are free to use hate speech and hate filled personal attacks? If there is never any repercussions, why wouldn’t Beale feel free to attack and hurt others for his own petty gratification.

    • Sarah says:

      I think VD’s membership might actually predate Scalzi’s. Scalzi was still writing newspaper columns and working at AOL at the time VD says he paid for his lifetime membership with SFWA, and he (VD) obviously remembers the “good old days” when the women and brown people were token minorities who were (a) writing like straight white dudes and (b) seen and not heard. Now that the women and brown people are starting to feel like they should have more of a voice–and they want to define their own voice–he feels like this is some sort of attack, e.g. “Harlan Ellison wept.” (Somebody said on their twitter or blog that Harlan Ellison was caught on video sexually harassing someone on a stage in front of a room full of people, as she was going to accept an award. That’s reprehensible, but Ellison being a big name in SF is supposed to make that okay. Yeah, I know.)

      In other news, the SFWA board is fully aware of the issue and they are discussing their options on what action to take. http://www.sfwa.org/2013/06/letter-to-members-on-board-activity/

      • Ronnie says:

        Glad to see that they have acknowledged the issue, we will have to wait and see. Scalzi has always been good on these types of issues (at least in his rhetoric). So lets hope we see some change.

        I think, in the long run, these challenges are good for the SFWA and the industry in general. It is an issue of the good ole’ (white) boys from the “good old days.” It far time that these kind of cretins get some sunlight shown on their hate filled views.

  6. Sarah says:

    It is official. He is expelled.

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