(Reminder that this post was written back in February and is about a specific action directed at DC comics; it isn’t about boycotting the Ender’s Game movie. If folks coming over from boingboing could please try to grasp all that before posting their comments, we’ll all be a little happier. –jenphalian)
I like having this blog, because it permits me to figure out what I believe. The recent issue with Scott Card is a good case in point; I found myself saying things that, before I’d written them, I wasn’t aware that I thought. I like that. It’s valuable to me. That’s why I’m continuing it over on this rock. What I want to try to work out is the more general attitude about the right of free speech, what it means, and how a revolutionary ought to apply it to a reactionary. In this post, I am going to be thinking aloud, and I’ll be talking less about the Scott Card issue, and more about trying to understand, for myself, how to look at such questions. If, by the time I get done with this, I find I’ve reversed my position, I’m going to be very embarrassed.
All right, let’s see what happens.
Some people seem to have it pretty clear. If I’m understanding the positions correctly, among those who do not see much or any ambiguity, I’m hearing a couple of different approaches:
Pro-Boycott: The guy’s a homophobic douche, and he’s actively working to deny human rights to a section of the population, and I’m not the government for heaven’s sake, I’m a consumer talking to other consumers; so if we can pressure DC Comics into not hiring this guy, we’ve done no harm (he can afford it) and maybe some good if DC starts paying more attention to the message they’re sending by employing such people.
Anti-Boycott: Anything anyone ever does that interferes with anyone’s right to express himself is wrong, or at least highly suspect.
I hope I’ve expressed both of those position accurately.
All of my inclinations and instincts incline more to the anti-Boycott than the pro: it seems to me that, the more I hate what he’s saying, the more I ought to defend his right to say it. The problems with such a simple formulation are: 1) No one is attempting to interfere with his right to express his ideas; the effort is to deny him one particular bit of work, and there the effort is far more symbolic than practical: shouldn’t comics companies give some thought to who they’re hiring, and what that says? 2) He’s not just talking, he is actively working and engaged in attempting to have laws passed that would deny human rights.
My answer to 1 is that this amounts to–no is–demanding that DC create a blacklist–a list of people who should not be employed because of political activity. Do you favor that method of fighting? Do you really want to say, “Let us use the threat of denial of employment as a method of attack against our political opponents”? That isn’t like what McCarthy did–it is exactly what McCarthy did. Yes, there was also, at a certain point, the use of the State, and that is an important difference; but most of what McCarthism was, was blacklisting–“We are not saying you cannot hire Herbert Biberman because of his beliefs; that would be unconstitutional, and besides, we’re just ordinary citizens like yourself. We’re just making sure you know that he’s a communist, and if you hire him we’ll mail letters to all of your sponsors letting them know that that you are hiring a communist, and if they don’t have a problem with that, we’ll use the internet, uh, I mean the press to make sure that everyone knows that those sponsors don’t have a problem supporting communism. Besides, he’s made a lot of money writing for TV, so where’s the harm?” So, to this I say, folks, give some really serious thought to whether you want to go there. Is sending DC a petition going down that road? I believe it is at least the first few steps.
Point 2 is rather more problematic for me. This bastard really is conspiring to deny human rights, and that is wrong; To limit one’s self to the most passive form of speech, when he is using the law, seems like fighting with one foot in a bucket. And yet–well, it’s never “just speech.” If one is speaking of one’s political opinions, whether from a podium during an election campaign, or standing up at a City Council meeting, or just blathering on the internet, one is trying to do something. One is trying to change minds, in order to change actions, in order to change the world. So if none of it is “just speech” then I think that efforts to change the law have to be looked at as part of that.
There is a third point, that isn’t mentioned much. It can be expressed as follows: But we’re right, and they’re wrong. That one is easy to dismiss, but I can’t dismiss it. It’s true. Efforts to defend human rights just aren’t the same as efforts to restrict human rights. Defending human rights is important–it’s vital, especially right now, when Bush and then Obama have done so much to take away our basic rights, and to threaten even more. So, is it okay to do things in defense of human rights that it isn’t okay to do attacking them? I can’t just throw that one away with platitudes about “fairness.” In a comment a while ago I spoke of morality as a product of society, rather than something descending from On High with the Power of Timeless Truth. We live in a society of oppressed and oppressors. For the most part, we are handed our morality by the oppressors. They believe, for example, that violence to end oppression is immoral. Go figure. I believe violence by the oppressor to maintain that oppression is immoral; I believe violence by the oppressed in order to end oppression needs to be evaluated based on how effective a tactic it is. I don’t go for “fair” as some abstraction; I am partisan. This isn’t football; it isn’t even poker. This is life. Welcome to the game.
So, then, the question immediately stops being, “is it morally wrong to try to convince DC to blacklist Scott Card.” It becomes, “Is it a good tactic to try to convince DC to blacklist Scott Card.” In the previous discussion, Emma pointed out, quite correctly, that it’s an ineffective way to create change. I agree, but there’s more. Just like in a good work of fiction, what we need to examine are consequences. And the consequences of creating a blacklist are simple: it opens the door for it’s use against us. And, frankly, we’re a lot more vulnerable than they are; they have the entire power of the massive machine of capital and the State; we have only what we can pull in with our voices.
The fight to defend human rights is, I believe, a part of the war to reconstruct society on a rational basis–because I am convinced that human rights cannot be defended otherwise than with the socialist reconstruction of society. To win that war requires (among other things) changing minds on a massive scale. Those who attempt to restrict, confine, or interfere with my ability to change minds by controlling communications media, or by economic pressure, or by physical threats, or by passing laws, or by increasing the power of the police, are enemies of freedom.
And here’s the thing: Those who would use those tactics against the enemy at this stage of the conflict, are providing them cover and justification, and thus hurting the fight for equality. At least until the balance of forces changes, I believe we need to avoid doing anything that could give the enemy the least pretext or justification for further assaults on our freedom.
So, after all of this, my conclusions have changed: I now oppose the action, not for moral reasons, but strictly for practical ones.
If anyone has stayed with me on this long, self-indulgent journey into my belly-button, you have my thanks.
181 thoughts on “Free Speech, Blacklisting, and Tactics”
I really like seeing you work out your reasoning like this. Even when I’m not coming to the same conclusions, there’s a lot of nuance that shows up in here that isn’t going to come through in 140-character comments, or on posts elsewhere that are more about the conclusion than the process of reaching it.
I’m finding all this very interesting. Thanks for publishing your evolving thoughts.
One I reason I don’t support a boycott of DC is that innocent victims are hurt; it’s not the fault of other writers/artists/staff that Card is a bigot. Most of them had no vote or say in hiring or not hiring him; I don’t see why they should be punished.
Card is the problem. Even there, I’m not sure it’s fair to the other writers of the volume in question.
I won’t be buying it—but I likely wouldn’t anyway.
I am trying to take an effective middle road. I detest Card and what he has done (yes, he has written one fairly good novel, and a boatload of marginal ones, but so what?), but detest as much behaving as he does.
So I am not joining any blacklist. But I am also not buying anything he writes, and I am telling he people I know at DC that this book will not be bought by me. They can hire who they will, but it will affect their sales.
I hope that is a method that works. Only time will tell.
I’m not unsympathetic to your concerns, but I guess for me where it doesn’t track is this: Card uses his prominence and his funds to forward an anti-equality agenda. Put aside the prominence and address only the funds and we have a Chick-fil-a situation.
Meaning, when Chick-fil-a was using corporate funds to forward anti-equality measures (through the charity they sent a lot of money into) I personally found it highly reasonable for people to say “I’m not going to spend any money there because I do not wish to contribute in any way towards this cause I find loathsome.” That seems fair to me and it seems reasonable to me for people to put that up as a public position with the hope that the company will stop doing that.
I guess not everyone draws the line there; Lisa Spangenberg above expresses concern about innocent victims being made of the other folks along the way. I’m not sure I’m prepared to think of people who I don’t support with my purchases as victims; taking that to extremes I’m victimizing the workers at Giant when I shop at Safeway. But so long as people are free to stop working for folks that are loathsome I’m just going to shrug that off as the way of working for for-profit companies. There’s a lot of problems I have with the way our economy is structured but I don’t think I can take that level of responsibility on.
I draw the line on this sort of thing such that I’m okay with saying “DC, I’m not going to buy one of your corporate properties if you employ this crappy person in a prominent role on it.” For me that’s very different from pressuring Diamond to not distribute books written by him, a much closer parallel to McCarthyism in modern distribution age.
Carl: Uh, so you will simply make sure the studio knows you aren’t watching the show or buying the sponsors’ products on account of Biberman is a communist. Okay, but how is that a “middle road”?
“And the consequences of creating a blacklist are simple: it opens the door for it’s use against us”
But that door’s already open. It’s been open. Even if we argue that McCarthy’s over, ask the Dixie Chicks if that door’s open or closed.
I believe it’s a middle road compared to “I won’t buy anything at all that DC produces,” if I am understanding the boycott issue properly. Which I might not be! I just now discovered that when people were saying “boycott” some of them meant “I won’t buy what OSC writes” and some of them meant “I won’t buy anything by a company who publishes things OSC writes.”
Which seem like rather different approaches, to me. OSC writes hateful things; I am not going to buy the hateful things he writes; I think it is fair to tell the company publishing them “Hey, you might not be aware, but this person is a horrible person doing horrible things,” the same way I would tell them, “Hey, this person is a terrible writer, I will not be buying your comics by them, can you find a writer who is less incompetent?”
But then, I think that DC publishes an awful lot of horrible things, some of them probably written by horrible people. Most publishers do. Boycotting the entire company–as opposed to the specific product with that person’s name on it–seems like a different scale of approach. And I suspect that some of the boycott/no boycott arguments, especially in more condensed media, are coming out of disagreements between people who don’t mean the same thing when they say “boycott” in this instance.
I won’t be buying anything that gives OSC money in the foreseeable future, but I don’t see any justification for boycotting DC Comics in general. I see good reasons not to buy anything they publish–it’s mostly terrible–but that’s a different issue entirely.
Daniel B. Holzman-Tweed, so you’ll proudly use the tactics that were employed against the Dixie Chicks? Why not try to be better than your opponents?
Some people also used polite, angry text against the Dixie Chicks. I reserve the right to use polite, angry text once in a while when discussing things I oppose. “It was once used in opposition to causes I support” isn’t a reason to drop a tactic, or there’d be no tactics left at all.
And for what it’s worth, I occasionally think it’s okay to kick someone in the knee, too, even though I don’t think people should run around doing so without damn good reason. There are all sorts of things which I believe are valid defensive methods which I would also decry when they were deployed against innocent targets.
I also think there’s room for disagreement on whether or not a particular reason is one of those Damn Good Reasons. “Someone is trying to murder me” is a better reason for kicking them in the knee than “Someone spit on me.” And I do think that with OSC, some people are looking at his actions and saying, “Well, that was very rude spitting,” and other people are looking at his actions and saying, “This person wants me murdered and is trying to convince others to do so.” Which is, yes, going to lead to some disagreement on when to break out more extreme tactics.
But I think a boycott of DC–which I am not engaging in, do not actively support, and do not oppose–is a long way short of some wild extreme action that requires more provocation than “This person really, seriously is trying to have me arrested and possibly murdered.”
Something I’ve been wondering: If DC should be boycotted because of Orson Scott Card, shouldn’t Tor also be boycotted? And since Card’s been a GoH at a number of cons, shouldn’t fandom be boycotted? Just how far does the logic of boycotting go when the goal is to silence someone whose ideas you oppose?
As for contacting people’s employers because of their beliefs, see the discussion at Steve’s previous post, Orson Scott Card, DC Comics, and Censorship | The Dream Café.
I won’t buy OSC’s products because I dislike him intensely, and don’t want to give him my money. That’s always a personal decision, and I have a right to make it. I tell other people about this decision, and why I made it. That’s freedom of expression. If other people, upon learning about OSC’s opinions/actions then each independently make the decision not to buy his products–it’s effectively a boycott. But the only ways to stop this from happening are 1. OSC stops being a horrible person (not gonna happen) 2. people stop talking about OSC being a horrible person (this seems suboptimal) 3. people like me, who dislike OSC for being a horrible person, decide to buy his products anyway.
I suspect that most of the reason this is getting so much attention is the introduction of the “petition” aspect.
Daniel: That is a valid point. I don’t think it changes the thrust of my argument, but you’re right.
I am a gay person. I am also a Scott Card fan in that I have bought a few of his books and liked them. I wouldn’t buy any of his future work as his behavior/views offend me. However, I also will defend his right to have them. If he were to commit a CRIME, he should be punished. Short of a criminal act, he is merely one of several reprehensible bigots I have to navigate around daily. I promise avoiding Scott Card is way easier than the 5-10 bigots I come face to face with daily. I don’t agree with silencing bigots, they help me in that they show society the far end of the stick in regards to opinion. I honestly feel we gain more freedom by standing up to oppression with dignity and a well thought civic mind than by any other method. When a bystander sees how it affects me to be on the receiving end of hate speech they see why they DON’T agree with that kind of thing.
Fade Manley, I sometimes wish my opponents would stop using the English language because they hate the fact that I do. Alas, I can’t convince them to give it a shot.
But what we’re talking about now are tactics that the left has objected to when the right employed them. Historically, freedom of speech was a liberal concern. Yet now many people who call themselves liberals are much more interesting in silencing their opponents than providing better alternatives to their ideas. Are your beliefs so weak that you must silence anyone who rejects them?
Without creating a blacklist, it’s still entirely fair to ask D.C. Comics if it really intends handing over its characters to someone with a track record of politicizing its valuable characters’ sexuality. Enough invitations to discuss its intent will ensure D.C. knows full well that some authors have political views they are willing to leverage bystanders like D.C. into amplifying to the public, and that its customers who care enough to notice who’s been hired have taken adverse notice.
This raises the possibility that D.C. talks to Card about his plans. Assuming D.C. takes the mild step of talking to Card about his intended treatment of political topics in his work for D.C., so that if his project goes forward, it does so with understood limits with respect to its political content. This may not make people happy who want Card punished for his political objectives, but it may go a way toward ensuring that Card’s platform for reaching the public with his views is limited at least to the extent D.C. is willing to limit it.
And still nobody has to buy the thing. But the risk nobody buys the thing may itself have an impact: D.C. has reportedly dumped artists over their public statements about controversial views…
The question is: does D.C. think there’s a homophobe audience that is _dying_ to buy a Superman comic written by and for homophobes? Maybe it does. Maybe the brouhaha advances its interest in selling to this market.
More information is needed to formulate an effective tactic.
For me, the issue isn’t so simple. Mr. Card is following the dictates of his church (What they believe, not that they’ve told him personally to go out take care of this.) Does this mean that every person that belongs to the same organization also needs to be boycotted? Are we focussing on Mr. Card because he happens to have a public voice, as opposed to focussing on the organization?
For the record, I’m not a homophobe, neither am I a homosexual. I am a human being, with all that entails. I simply wanted to put the question out there about where the focus was.
*head-tilts at Will Shetterly*
Good lord, since when is this a freedom of speech issue? Orson Scott Card can freely spew his lies about me and the people I love. He can call for the deaths of my friends all over the place! He does so regularly! I have made no move to remove his ability to post things online, to shout them on the streets–well, I might deploy noise ordinances if he did that in the wrong streets–or to print out pamphlets and shove them at people on street corners.
I am occasionally afraid of what he says, yes, but it’s in the sense of “This type of view has often been deployed to stir people to literal violence.” That is rather scary.
Your “liberal concern” thing is just…silly. Do you think I object to the Dixie Chicks being boycotted by people who disagreed with what they said? Because I didn’t. That was a valid tactic for people who are frothing jingoists to take. I did object to the death threats they sent, and their attempts to bully non-jingoists into supporting the boycott.
If anyone is sending death threats to OSC over his writing Superman issues, then I will be almost as disapproving.
Almost, because the Dixie Chicks didn’t start the “I think you should be murdered!” parade the way OSC did in his case. So I won’t disapprove quite as much. No.
But then, given I’m a “liberal” who is all for the “liberal concern” of “freedom of speech,” perhaps it is terribly intolerant of me to think that death threats are a bad idea. If so, I will cop to the hypocrisy there.
“Death threats over what people said: I think they’re a bad idea.” You can put my name on that one.
Hi Steve… as repugnant as I find it, DC can hire whomever they like. I am not constrained to buy it, or look at it. I am also not constrained to arguing to my friends, aquaintances and anyone who will hold still to listen to me, that I think it would be a good idea if they also don’t patronize the company, or the person they’ve hired who offends me.
I don’t like it. But the limit of my involvement is to let the company know I am willing to let my collection lapse for the period of time involving this writer… and letting my friends know why. I’m not going to try and shut anybody up, but nobody can force me to put money in his pocket.
I’m still boycotting Nestle, as futile as that may seem. I am voting the only way I can against ugly corporate practice. I will not shop at Walmart.
I will not collect the DC comix wrtten by Mr. Card. And I won’t be silenced if asked why.
I can’t, no matter how offended I am at someone else’s opinions and values, condone blacklisting them. Look, I don’t like Superman and don’t care about it as a product, but I do get that Scott Card promotes an agenda that is hateful and that bothers me and most of the people reading this. I think there is a difference between not buying something and telling a company to fire/not hire someone because of their beliefs.
When might I support a boycott? Well, Chick-Fil-A as a corporation supported and gave large sums of money to causes I find abhorrent, so I had no trouble letting them know that they wouldn’t see any of my money. If DC were to do the same then likely I’d feel fine about boycotting them. However, as someone above mentioned, for all I know DC has many writers and artists who’s values I detest? Should I get a score card?
I believe change comes from hard work, not from stifling the opinions of others, even those that I find offensive. I want to work for a world that will move beyond our current system of economic injustice, social injustice and lack of respect for civil rights. I can’t do that if I’m a hypocrit.
Fade Manley, since when is trying to get someone fired for expressing their beliefs not a free speech issue? Either workers, including freelance workers, have a right to say what they believe when they’re not on the job, or they don’t.
And out of curiosity, do you really think DC has hired Card to write a homophobic Superman? Want to bet a hundred dollars there’s nothing about gay marriage or gay rights in the story? Even if Card wrote a gay-hating Superman, would that somehow make DC’s gay characters straight? Must each publisher announce a political position and then only hire writers who sign a sheet declaring what they do and do not believe?
Now, that you’re cool with McCarthy’s tactics does mean you’re being intellectually consistent, and I respect that. I reject those tactics when they’re done by the right, so to be intellectually consistent, I have to reject them when they’re done by the left.
Oh, for the record, I’m not objecting to all boycotts. I supported the boycotts that Cesar Chavez called because they targeted business practices, not political thought. Their intention was to make bosses treat workers better–they were not intended to get bosses to stop providing people with work because of their ideas.
I still think it’s silly to call a privately organized boycott McCarthyism. If the government of the United States starts pressuring people not to hire OSC for anything, I am quite willing to go ahead and say that would be a Bad Thing.
Hmm. I tried to make that clear in the post, but perhaps I failed. The essence of McCarthyism was not the State involvement, it was blacklisting. At no point was it the government saying studios couldn’t hire who they wanted; it was “citizen groups” threatening economic retaliation.
Fade, you missed a lot of discussion at Steve’s previous post. Here’s the ACLU on censorship: “Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.”
So, sure, private attempts to silence people are perfectly legal–and I think that’s as it should be. But what’s legal is not necessarily what’s right.
Here’s the John Birch Society approving a boycott:
So if you don’t want to call it McCarthyism, you can call it Bircherism. Heck, call it Maoism if you like. The desire to silence folks seems to be more temperamental than ideological.
I cry foul, Will. The “desire to silence people” in this discussion, is what is to be proved, not the given to start from. That is, an effort to convince those who support the boycott that, in effect, they are working to silence someone is entirely legit. Starting from the point of view that everyone supporting it wants to silence him and they all know it is counter-productive. Uh, did that make sense?
A case that’s more analogous: the KKK boycotting Hallmark:
And here’s an earlier call to boycott DC by the (much fewer than) One Million Moms:
Is that really the company you want to be in?
Steve, interesting. If they’re not trying to silence him, why are they trying to get DC to stop giving him work? Are they after punishment, but not silence? I would’ve guessed it was both, but if it’s a third thing, I’d love to hear it.
Also, don’t their arguments apply to the Hollywood 10? You could claim that Salt of the Earth proved blacklisted artists could still make movies.
I’m having too much fun with this. One more example, and then I’ll try to stop.
Organized Boycotts – Women of the Ku Klux Klan: “Klanswomen also used the ability to spread gossip to organize boycotts of Jewish-owned or Catholic-owned businesses and newspapers that were opposed to the Klan.”
If you accept the existing system, then there’s nothing wrong with boycotts and blacklists provided you have the power to enforce them. That’s how the game gets played.
But if you want to create a better society that has free speech, then when will you start? Will there be enemies and reactionaries etc in the new system? Probably. When will you be secure enough to allow free speech? What about punishing people for nonviolent opposition to your rule — when will you be strong enough to stop doing that?
If you’re ever going to allow free speech you’d better start now. Because if it isn’t practical now, it will probably never be practical. Also, people are more likely to believe you really intend to do it if you actually do it. If you talk about your ideals for the ideal future that you can’t start doing yet, a lot of people will be cynical.
You don’t have to promote free speech. In China, the democracy advocate Sun Yat Sen included the censor as an essential government position. China has never had free speech and they’ve done OK down the centuries. They have had an emperor most of the time, except during short periods of chaos. They don’t seem to mind that much. If you’re right, it only causes trouble to let a lot of wrong opinions spread. But if you do want to allow people to disagree, it’s a lot harder to loosen up on that after you’ve kept them silent.
Morality aside, blacklists and boycotts don’t work until you have a whole lot of people on your side. Then you can boycott the ones that sell to your people, and not the ones that mostly support the other side. You can force the ones who’re sitting on the fence to take sides. They would support you better if they decided for themselves it was what they wanted, but that would take longer.
Premature boycotts make people on your side feel stronger. They are doing something active, and they can tell each other how important it is. They get publicity. They count their numbers and feel good. It’s hard to be sure how effective it is when it does not work — the businesses being boycotted might reverse course at any time, so you can hope. Then if they randomly do something that can be interpreted as a partial tilt in your direction you can announce that they’re bending.
So if you can’t think of anything useful for your followers to do, a boycott can help keep them from drifting away bored even if it does no other good.
I think the long-term moral question is clear. If you want a liberal society, create one while living the kind of life you want to live. If you have to sacrifice your ideals for short-run tactics, you will never get them back.
The tactical question is murkier and depends on circumstance. Horses for courses. The devil is in the details. If you let your ideals constrict your tactics, you might discover successful tactics that fit your ideals. If you can’t do that, then change your ideals because if you can’t create the new society without violating your morals, you probably also can’t maintain it without violating them.
I would say they express it in different terms, and that the task is to convince them that, at the end of the day, it IS attempting to silence him; and that’s more difficult to do if you are starting with a premise they don’t accept. Have you ever heard a supporter of the boycott say, “It is my wish to silence Orson Scott Card,” or, “I wish to deprive him of the right to speak?” I think we can conclude that many people see it and understand it differently. Drawing those connections convincingly is what this conversation is about.
Dude, that’s too easy. I googled this:
And I had a hit on the first page:
Opinions and Assholes | Dave Ex Machina: “Do I want to silence Orson Scott Card? You bet I do, and no, I don’t feel even the slightest twinge of guilt or hypocrisy for doing so.”
So I stopped looking.
Okay you win this round.
And end the discussion so soon? No way!
I’ll grant that many of the boycotters see it differently. But I don’t grasp how they do. I think they’re failing to connect means and ends, but maybe there’s a connection I’m not making.
I don’t know; I think there is confusion at several levels–some of it almost certainly mine.
While we’re pondering the imprecision in our thought, here’s a digression: I’ve been reading a little of Card’s online writing, and what fascinates me is he combines a strongly bigoted and militaristic worldview with something he claims is communitarian:
“But on economic matters, I’m a committed communitarian. I regard the Soviet Union as simply state monopoly capitalism. It was run the way the United States would be if Microsoft owned everything. Real communism has never been tried! I would like to see government controls expanded, laws that allow capitalism to not reward the most rapacious, exploitative behavior. I believe government has a strong role to protect us from capitalism. I’m ashamed of our society for how it treats the poor. One of the deep problems in Mormon society is that really for the last 75 years Mormons have embraced capitalism to a shocking degree.”
It seems his community is defined very narrowly. It reminds me of the contradiction expressed in “national socialism”. I don’t think I know enough to say for sure that Card’s a fascist, but his concept of communitarian sure isn’t mine.
I’m not actually familiar withe word “communitarian.” I could look it up, I suppose. But that smacks of effort.
http://www.towleroad.com/2012/05/omm-boycotting-marvel-and-dc-comics-over-gay-characters.html (et al.)
Yeah. I don’t mind being in that company in terms of WHAT they did (stripped of motivation). I don’t disagree with their *tactic* of expressing their (stupid, hateful) opinions, nor their open, organized (…maybe) expression of group (maybe) disapproval (of perfectly okay things).
Just because OMM and the KKK did something doesn’t mean the act, stripped of motivation, is necessarily bad (certainly, plenty of KKK ones are, but they aren’t the ones we’re talking about *here*). If you think it does, please write about every march or protest that occurs, and how no one should do those things, because the KKK and OMM have done those as well. And, after all, “Is that really the company you want to be in?”
Actually, I’m pretty sure they’ve also used the association fallacy to try to convince people of things.
Are you sure that’s the company you want to be in, Will? Saying “Do you want to be associated with THESE PEOPLE? No? Then change your actions.”?
Seriously, not a useful argument. Not even an argument, really. Just knee-jerk “Reductio ad Hitlerum”. It’s meaningless, irrational and a nasty attempt to persuade by irrelevance association.
“I believe change comes from hard work, not from stifling the opinions of others, even those that I find offensive. I want to work for a world that will move beyond our current system of economic injustice, social injustice and lack of respect for civil rights. I can’t do that if I’m a hypocrit[e].”
This pretty neatly sums up my view.
If he were to use his position at DC to publish blatantly hateful material, then I could get on board with a boycott and letters to DC, but as far as, “This despicable person is employed! Get him!” goes, I find it a little over the top.
Furthermore, if we respond to hate with more hate, we’re going to lose sight of what we actually want. Not to espouse “love thy enemy” but if we all start jumping on the crazy train, I think we lose a bit of the moral high ground in the struggle for social justice.
The best tactic for us is to denounce the hateful, bigoted speech when it happens, not to prevent people from finding their soap box. Besides, it’s easier to argue for your cause when your opponent has previously belted out their illogical arguments for anyone with an ear to hear.
Nicky: Just on the last paragraph: Yeah, there is a lot to be said for the “give ’em enough rope” approach, isn’t there?
Steve, “communitarian” gets used in so many ways I’m not sure it’s worth spending time on. The word does go back to the 1840s, but I usually see it used by people who either don’t want to say “socialist” or “communist”, or by people who’re basically arguing, “we’ll look out for our own–period.”
fangsfirst, marches are rarely designed to silence people. I’ve been marching since I was a kid, for integration, against the Vietnam War and pretty much every war since then–I think my last march was against Arizona’s awful stop-and-search laws. I’ve never marched to silence anyone. You have to look closely at the implications of each tactic rather than assume they’re all the same. Otherwise, you’re just supporting the victory of the people with the strongest means, not the strongest argument.
That doesn’t change the fact that every one of those links you posted is intended to say, “Look, bad groups do it! So you clearly wouldn’t want to do it either!”
That isn’t an argument at all–good, bad, strong, weak, it’s just an appeal to people’s emotions. That was my point. It doesn’t matter if the Birchers DID it, or if the KKK DID it, or if OMM DID it. What matters is the tactic itself. Horrible people can use reasonable tactics, in other words, which we’ve just established by your own agreement with marches, and the fact that the KKK have definitely done that. So it doesn’t matter that any of those groups have used the tactics.
Ironically, using that kind of tactic is a definitively despicable one that those groups are also guilty of–despicable AS a tactic, not because they did it. Ironic, because you use it in the exact same context of arguing about a tactic you see as definitively despicable, while talking about the objective despicable nature of some tactics.
That said: this is still really weird territory. Sometimes it seems like we’re arguing against boycotting period. Referencing the KKK boycotting Hallmark is like saying boycotting Chick-Fil-A–where it was a company level decision–is wrong. I don’t agree. At all.
Their reasons were crap, but if Hallmark put out some kind of “Celebrate Grand Wizards” cards, I’d sure as hell advocate a boycott–and in their tiny, bigoted brains, this was equivalent.
I disagree with boycotting D.C. as a *whole* on a personal level, but I understand why some people would see it as needing to be extended that far. It’s really, really fuzzy territory in terms of “taking away soapboxes” here. This is a single gig for a single company. And it’s about taking “livelihood” away through one of two methods:
1) D.C. caves, deciding it is morally wrong to employ a homophobe and give him recognition.
2) D.C. caves, deciding the volume of lost sales will outweigh the cost of paying Card and the sales they would still reap.
“2” is not a blacklist. “2” is a consequence of capitalism, and a possible result of people being morally opposed to personally supporting Card. If there’s no collective “petition” but a ton of people refuse to buy Card’s Superman, 2 can still prevent him from working there again (“Your work doesn’t sell.”). If there’s no collective “petition” but sales drop *across the board* for D.C., 2 can still prevent him from working there again (“Sorry, it looks like people don’t like us employing you, and we can’t afford to waste money proving a point no one seems to care about.”). The only way to prevent that would be to suggest denying people that choice to not buy, or saying that the moral thing to do is “buy it anyway, to prove you believe he should have the right to be published.” That’s ridiculous Or, I guess, D.C. should hire and pump out his stuff to go right into recycling bins. Also ridiculous
“1”, on the other hand, is purely D.C.’s discretion. It would require the irrelevance of lost sales, or it would just be “2” in disguise. It would have to mean someone, or some someones, at D.C. don’t want to employ a homophobe. Then, of course, the issue isn’t anyone writing petitions or organizing boycotts, it’s with D.C. for deciding that’s grounds for termination.
The closest “force” that’s present is a group refusing to buy from D.C. or refusing to buy this book. If we don’t all “collect” and make our voice heard as one…but still don’t buy, what, exactly, makes this force different? We’re just “silently” saying “We won’t support the releases of an open homophobe” and/or “We won’t support the releases of a company that employs an open open homophobe”.
So either there really isn’t an acceptability to boycotting D.C./boycotting the book for you (I think the first could be argued, as it creates a pressure external to the actual person in question, and expands the refusal to support him to refusing to support issue-unrelated networks around him, though some may feel that the voice isn’t strong or clear enough otherwise), or we’re just splitting hairs about whether everybody admits their (already/still existing) stance together or not.
I guess we just let D.C. flounder and never “admit” the reason we’re not buying? Which seems stupid and pointless, as we’re still doing this over Card’s beliefs, and not admitting that isn’t going to do anyone any good.
The absence of a threat that does not relate to sales makes it REALLY hard to call this “censorship” or “blacklisting”. It’s not as if the people declining purchases weren’t going to decline a purchase without a central petition or “organized boycott”–I mean, barring the people who weren’t *aware* of any of this (should we not inform people who would not want to make this decision?). Who jumps on to a petition or boycott that wasn’t going to not purchase anyway, if they knew? Or if they were told outside a petition/boycott?
It’s not like they’d see lost sales of the same magnitude for other reasons and go, “Oh, what the heck, we’ll publish a bunch of future recycled paper anyway, just for fun.” I mean–they might. But if they saw it as guaranteed lost sales, I doubt it. And, hell, if they DID think sales didn’t matter–well, a boycott or petition isn’t going to have an effect anyway, because they don’t care about the lost sales, so where is the problem *there*?
I just don’t see how this comes down to anything but “You need to go buy his stuff anyway, to prove that we don’t want it to go away.” It’s silly.
If you want to say it’s wrong to use the brute force of boycotting everything the company does to force a single thing they do out of existence, there’s something to be said there, maybe. Maybe losing 40,000 sales across the board isn’t fair compared to losing 10,000 sales on a single title, which might still generate another 12,000 sales and justify its publication. But that means telling people they are wrong to see a network supporting Card as something to not support themselves.
If everyone’s work was “automatically” published, then removing his would be specifically discriminatory. “Removing” it because no one wants to buy it isn’t blacklisting, unless you think someone should sacrifice the printing costs to prove we’ll print stupid crap no one wants to read (okay, we already do that–but prove we’ll do it KNOWINGLY). If all of the comic companies, or all the publishing companies, or all of anything got together and agreed (as Hollywood did in the ’50s) that Card could not be hired *of their own accord, not as a response to the cost effectiveness of hiring him* you’d have a real blacklist, a real issue of censorship.
A bunch of people not buying it, admitting it and then saying it together isn’t censorship or a blacklist. Again, maybe if we make it “all of D.C.”, you could argue the morality.
“Have you ever heard a supporter of the boycott say, “It is my wish to silence Orson Scott Card,” or, “I wish to deprive him of the right to speak?” I think we can conclude that many people see it and understand it differently.”
We have heard a different interpretation right here. I won’t go back and provide exact quotes now, but the argument went like this:
Card takes money he earns and donates it to hateful causes, causes that actually try to do terrible things. (I didn’t get it straight exactly what the terrible things were, but there was an implication that they could result in people posting here getting killed. He wasn’t just trying to silence gays but doing worse to them.)
Card uses his money to do evil. I want him to have less money to do evil with.
He can still get on the Internet and spread his filthy opinions. That’s free speech. But the less money the evil people have, the better.
By that reasoning it is only an accident that Card is the one they are going after. Ideally they should try to impoverish the person or corporation who donates the most money to evil causes. Card gets the attention because a lot of people have heard of him, and he got a contract with DC that a lot of people have heard of. Imagine that (picking an entirely hypothetical example) the CEO of Alcoa Aluminum gave even more money to evil causes. We could start a boycott of Alcoa trying to get him replaced. But who really cares about aluminum? When you buy something, do you even notice how much aluminum is in it? How would you find out where the aluminum came from? That would be a hard boycott to manage. Card and DC are easy.
I have never been much fond of his work, so a boycott from me would be just a continuation of not buying it. That’s not really enough. In cases like this I am generally in favor of just letting the person say as much as and whatever they want for a couple of reasons – one, which you’ve gone into, is that it is a slippery slope. Silencing one person can very quickly lead to silencing many – it sets a dangerous precedent. Another reason is that silencing someone, forcing them out of the light, gives a certain cachet to the ideas involved, aids in the persecution complex certain elements on the right (and yes, left, but this time we’re talking about a rather rightwing outlook) have already.
Just hushing up an idea does not extinguish it – it drives it underground. Taking on the ideas put forth and discrediting them is a much more powerful and effective thing to do.
Will his exposure lead to some people following him (a counter-boycott sort of thing) – yes, probably, there are people who agree with reprehensible things. However, it will also lead to a lot of other people who might not have known about his position (which, frankly, also informs his work, and which is part of why I just never took to him) becoming aware, and acting in opposition to it.
I have to admit I skimmed a bit in this long thread, but here are two points I didn’t see anyone raising: (1) if you suppress speech, it doesn’t kill the idea; merely drives it underground and gives it added credibility among its adherents. (2) Serious discrimination against homosexuals is on its way out anyway. Not as fast as we might like, but young people overwhelmingly don’t have a problem with gays, so the percentage creeps up every year as old bigots die off (or, I suppose, learn better).
On good days most people tend to behave in ways that support their highest level of moral reasoning and because we do not all operate at the same level of moral reasoning we have this sort of debacle. Along the spectrum of morality blacklisting or punishing someone for their behavior as a way to teach them that they are wrong is of the most base moral reasoning. Ignoring them in cases like this is often far more effective (AKA Westboro would have no power if we ignored their existence). Making an individual choice to not purchase or support the work of a man known to be pushing for the constriction of human rights would be a moral choice. Convincing others to punish him further doesn’t become more morally correct.
Naturally we think we’re always making the most moral of choices so if we chose to abstain from purchasing his work we’d be acting morally to convince others not to, etc. Obviously that’s the flaw here.
At the root someone wishing you to boycott a company or a person really just wants your support for the cause at hand and there are countless more effective ways to positively support a movement. It’s almost always a better use of resources to take all that attention and energy and push it towards positive change then stopping one negative change, voice, or person. I think it becomes a point of utility. What is the utility in denying this man this job? All kinds of bigots will get all kinds of jobs you would not want them to have this year and you won’t and can’t do anything about it. What you can do is get up and fight for equality directly at the source. If tomorrow morning a majority of people made up their mind to demand marriage equality we’d have it. We know it doesn’t usually manifest that way though, it’s not a sudden ‘waking up’ it’s a gradual shift a few voices at a time, a few people more until the scale is balanced so far in the new direction that no matter how much the other side jumps up and down we’re not moveable and progress is made.
Fangsfirst: A number of interesting and thoughtful points there. Some I’m still thinking about, there are a couple I want to address.
No, I don’t think Will’s point was an appeal to emotion; it is argument, albeit one I feel is weak. As you note, because the enemy uses a certain tactic does not, ipso facto, make it wrong. Armies face each other with similar weapons, otherwise there would be no conflict. A blog post against equality uses the same software, hardware, and 26 letters as a blog post in favor of equality, and often uses the same rhetorical devices (links to supporting data, thought experiments, &c). So I’m agreeing with you on this point, but I submit that you ought not to say it is simply an appeal to emotion. And I will go this far with Will: when you find yourself using the same tactics as your enemy, you need to at least take a good look at those tactics.
Further we come to the following:
‘2) D.C. caves, deciding the volume of lost sales will outweigh the cost of paying Card and the sales they would still reap.
“2″ is not a blacklist. “2″ is a consequence of capitalism, and a possible result of people being morally opposed to personally supporting Card.’
I beg to submit that you have not thought this through sufficiently. Any blacklist, ever, is a consequence of capitalism, and a possible result of people being morally opposed to something. What a blacklist is, is a list of people who will not be employed because of political beliefs or activities. Absent capitalism, a blacklist is pointless. DC saying, “We won’t hire him because he’s homophobic” or “we won’t hire him because we can’t afford to because of the organized campaign to boycott him” are not fundamentally different cases. I would submit the difference between your case 1 and case 2 is not spacious; certainly not essential.
A more ambiguous case would be if you simply didn’t buy his books (I don’t), and, when speaking to acquaintances, should his name come up, say something like, “I don’t buy his books because he’s a reactionary, homophobic douche.” That does have an economic consequence, but what it does not do is set a victory condition whereby an individual is denied his livelihood as a result of beliefs or activities. I am concerned with doing that, because it can be turned against us, and because, quite frankly, I want the moral high ground when that happens.
Have I clarified matters, or muddied the waters further?
fangsfirst, my apology for the grabbag approach to illustrating repressive people’s love of boycotts. You’re very right that boycotting Chick-fil-A over their political donations isn’t the same as boycotting Hallmark for what they publish. I approve of the first and oppose the second.
That said, your argument boils down to “My tactics are good because my motives are pure.” Every would-be censor accepts that logic.
You’re very right that sometimes, bad people use tactics I like, such as diplomacy. I didn’t think I had to say that I’m talking about a specific tactic, the tactic of silencing your opponents. But that’s the tactic I reject. I’ve never been one to say that the bad people are all bad and the good, all good. Manichaeism has always seemed silly to me, though I realize it’s awfully comforting for some folks.
Stepping away from the free speech side of things a little…
The problem *I* have with this is more from an employment relations side of things. Do we really want it to be legal / acceptable for companies to fire individuals for their political beliefs and/or actions outside of company time? Are we willing to provide legal precedent for it? Because the thing about law is that it’s generally blind as to motivation in issues of politics / speech.
Most of the boycotters seem to want to say “yes, it is, and it’s appropriate for us to try and force companies to do so.”
Think about the companies that employ you. Think about your political views (including those expressed here on the internet). Are there people who disagree with your politics? Should your company be able to fire you tomorrow if enough of those people threaten to boycot them if you continue working there?
Would you like to live in a society where that’s ok?
Will’s argument was kind of shorthand. Expanded, the conversation would go something like this:
Opponent: We should do a blacklist and show the enemy what’s what.
Will: But blacklists are evil.
Opponent: The enemy does it. Sauce for the goose and all that.
Will: We need to find a way to spread our way of life without doing evil things. Just because the enemy is evil doesn’t mean we should be evil.
Then Fangsfirst says “But it isn’t evil in the first place.”
Can we make an argument that blacklists are not evil?
First off a blacklist is separate from suppressing free speech. One person who can’t get a job has just as much freedom of speech as anybody else who can’t get a job. He can write a letter to a newspaper and the newspaper might choose to print it in their letters section. He can post on any blog that accepts his ID. Etc. A blacklist just keeps its victims from getting jobs.
Can we find justification for keeping people from getting jobs? Sure!
We live in a capitalist society where there are not enough jobs to go around. Somebody has to be poor. Some people get to have good jobs where they work very long hours for high pay. (A few people get jobs that pay well and leave them spare time. They are exceptions.) Lots of people have mediocre jobs which take most of their time for low pay. Some people can’t get jobs at all. They have a lot of time but not much money. There’s a big lump of people who want to have more money and less time, who don’t get to make that choice because they can’t find jobs.
If we can get any say into who gets to work and get paid, why would we choose for our enemies to get the jobs? If somebody has to be unemployed, they are the obvious choices. Jobs for our friends! Poverty for our enemies!
There’s no point being fair about that. If you don’t treat your friends better than your enemies, what kind of friend are you?
You have omitted gender and sexual orientation from your definition of a blacklist; neither of those things is ‘political beliefs or activities’ and yet people are continually not hired, or fired, because of their gender and/or their sexual orientation.
That in turn makes it look as if you are ignoring the realities in the lives of people who daily face discrimination because of their gender and/or sexual orientation; putting it bluntly, straight white males do tend to overlook these realities because it isn’t happening to them…
J Thomas, thanks for the unpacking, but I don’t know of a case where blacklisting artists hasn’t been done to silence or punish them. The spirit of blacklisting people for their thoughts is profoundly at odds with free speech.
Stevie, you keep bring up orientation, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the freedom to support things like gay marriage without fear of losing your job. With speech issues, it doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re forced to be silent, no one knows, and the censors win.
To compare this to the civil rights era, supporting civil rights resulted in many businesses being boycotted, regardless of their owners’ skin color. Or to look at the Hollywood 10, straight white male privilege wasn’t worth a goddamn for them.
Oh, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, so if I’m being a bit curt, my bad. Or the no-coffee’s bad.
Stevie, to illustrate my point, the Not-A-Million Moms didn’t care whether DC’s higher-ups were gay when they announced their boycott. They cared that DC was supporting gay rights by showing gay characters in a positive light.
I don’t at the moment have time to get really involved in this discussion, so I am not reading the comments, and I think this is all I will say.
I do not see much if any ambiguity, and I don’t hold either the pro- or the anti- position you outlined. I hold something more like the position you described here: “Those who would use those tactics against the enemy at this stage of the conflict, are providing them cover and justification, and thus hurting the fight for equality. At least until the balance of forces changes, I believe we need to avoid doing anything that could give the enemy the least pretext or justification for further assaults on our freedom.”
The precedent we set can always be turned against us tomorrow, next week, next year, next century. As you may know, I have been editing philosophy and theology for many years, and after exposure to Aquinas, Heidegger, Socrates, Derrida, ad infinitum, I land where I always was, long before I ever read any of them, or about them: with a basic version of Kant’s categorical imperative. Mine: If I want the world to be (or not be) some way, there is one thing and only one thing I can do that guarantees to make it more as I want (in however small an area)–be/do that myself. In other words, hold–and especially, practice–only those values that I can will to be universal.
I think there needs to be some acknowledgement that there’s at least some difference between blacklisting and boycotting. If we stick with looking at the McCarthyite blacklists this was a situation where an effort was made to use a choke-point in movie making – the Hollywood system – as a weapon against individuals looking to ply their trade in the film business. An individual and a group in government used government power to impede people’s ability to make a living.
Boycotting, on the other hand, represents a collective of people using their purchasing power to exert influence. In some ways it’s a lot like the way a union exerts its power – only by keeping a group of individuals focused on a goal and it’s only as effective as the power wielded by that group through their efforts, actions, and voice. The union and the boycot also represent a focused use of actions the group is going to take anyway – making a choice about whether to work or spend and choosing from the finite choices open to them. They only have as much pull as the totality of their actions amount up to.
It’s why a government blacklist is more powerful, for good or ill: they have powers beyond just spending, though that may well be the greatest of their powers. A government enforcing a blacklist has a multitude of other ways to crack down on someone defying their will.
I also think there’s a pretty important distinction here with regards to this Card & Superman situation when it comes to artistic freedom. We’re not talking about people (at least in this case) trying to keep Card from being able to write at all. We’re seeing them use their buying power against a corporate property that’s already pretty carefully managed. The only reason this has any chance of working is because of a combination of a shifting cultural position on gay rights combined with DC’s focus on keeping their star property as milktoast and middle-of-the-road as possible so that their 36.8765% approval and sell-through rating doesn’t slip 0.0002% and cost them a half-million bucks.
If you’re not okay with folks ever using this power then I don’t think this is going to convince you. But personally I accept that there as some positions that are too outside the mainstream to ever be publicly tied to the corporate mass-produced entertainment properties. I think that’s very different from the idea of pushing someone entirely outside an industry.
“J Thomas, thanks for the unpacking, but I don’t know of a case where blacklisting artists hasn’t been done to silence or punish them.”
Sure, but look at the details. First, of course it’s intended to punish them. People try to reward their friends and punish their enemies, it’s part of what it means to have friends and enemies.
But about silencing them, not exactly. Suppose that a group of concerned citizens managed to arrange that Orson Card lost his income and was never allowed to work again. He lost his home and had to make the sort of arrangements that other homeless people did.
Still he could find a way to get to a library, and get online for 30 minutes at a time and post anywhere that would accept his ID. He would have all the right of free speech granted to other homeless people.
Imagine you are a TV announcer. Your job is to present news in a way that gets more people to watch the ads. You might find ways to subtly put your own messages into your performances. Then when a million viewers watch you, you get something like a million times the influence of an ordinary citizen. But for some reason many of your viewers don’t want to listen to you. They want you replaced. Do you have a free-speech right to have ten million times as much influence as the next guy?
I don’t see it. If you are a Fox News announcer and you say that some people who have 500 million dollars don’t deserve their money, that it should be taken from them and given to the poor, Fox News will fire you. If you are a NBC announcer and you say that anybody who can’t support himself without government assistance should be euthanized and ground up for dog food, NBC will fire you. If you do something that the audience finds out about, that gets them too upset at you, you will be fired. It doesn’t really affect your free speech. You were getting paid to say what your boss wanted. It wasn’t free speech, it was paid speech. If you put your special sauce into the mix, that’s only OK while your boss likes it.
Not a free speech issue! It is an employment issue. If you belong to a union and the boss suddenly wants to fire you for something that isn’t connected to your job performance, then the union should have something to say about it. If you signed a contract and the boss wants to break the contract that may give you some rights.
Should you have more rights against employers? I think I’d like a society where employees had more rights relative to employers. But if we had that, chances are employers would try to do more with temp agencies and contract labor etc. When there are 20 hopeful candidates eager for each job, it’s hard to get much leverage.
So the Hollywood 10 faced an employment issue? Clever, but I can’t buy it.
You acknowledge the punishing. Why punish, if not to silence? Is it punishment for its own sake?
I might have more sympathy for the argument if everyone had unions that would stand up for the right to say what you believe away from the workplace.
It sounds like you’re supporting the idea of graylists. (From Wikipedia: “The graylist also refers more specifically to those who were denied work by the major studios but could still find jobs on Poverty Row: Composer Elmer Bernstein, for instance, was called by HUAC when it was discovered that he had written some music reviews for a Communist newspaper. After he refused to name names, pointing out that he had never attended a Communist Party meeting, he found himself composing music for movies such as Cat Women of the Moon.”)
Stevie: You have omitted gender and sexual orientation from your definition of a blacklist
Uh, yes. I also omit “video” from my definition of “audio.” That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; just that it falls into a different category, and so isn’t part of what I am defining. There are terms for denying someone work because of sex or sexual orientation; blacklist is a term for something else.
Don: I think there needs to be some acknowledgement that there’s at least some difference between blacklisting and boycotting.
Quite right. Sorry if I was confusing on that point. Here the issue is some form of boycott. However, I contend that if the boycott is successful, it will produce a blacklist; and that’s my problem with it. Does that clarify things at all?
Stevie, yet another example of the difference between who you are and what you may say: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a classic case of censorship: if you said you were gay, you were kicked out; if you kept silent, you could stay in the military. (Yes, there was a silent third aspect of DADT, “Don’t Get Caught Having Sex With Someone Of Your Sex”, but that wasn’t the framing of the policy.)
Steve and Don: That’s a very helpful clarification for me. The purpose of the Superman petition is to blacklist Card: “…drop Orson Scott Card now.”
“You acknowledge the punishing. Why punish, if not to silence? Is it punishment for its own sake?”
As far as I have heard, Card will probably not publish anything that particularly promotes his agenda as part of his job with DC. If it was possible to get DC to blacklist him, he would almost certainly continue to publish all the same political stands that he now publishes, in the same places he now publishes them.
So it looks to me like the intention is to punish, but not particularly to silence. On the other hand, we’re looking at the intentions of a big group of people, and groups of people have no obligation to make sense. The actual intention could be to increase the status of activists A B C at the expense of activists D E F.
Boycott supporters have suggested that they care not just about what he says, but also that he donates his money to evil causes. The obvious way to keep him from donating to evil causes is to keep him from having money to donate.
I think it’s true that they would not have noticed how he uses his money if he didn’t speak up. But they claim the issue is the money.
If you were running a government — a good government — and you found that a rich citizen was devoting his wealth to an attempt to violently overthrow you, wouldn’t it simply make sense to take away his money?
So long as his bigoted views are kept out of the fiction DC produces, I don’t see a reason to boycott the company. A bigger stage to potentially embarrass himself on is like a rope to hang himself with.
I’m already severely neglecting my blog trying to phrase and rephrase this, so let me just try and keep this short and sweet (a serious problem for me as it is):
“but I submit that you ought not to say it is simply an appeal to emotion.”
I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to say a linkdump of “look who else boycotts” is nothing but an appeal to emotion–it in no way analyzes the tactic at all. “Hitler was a vegetarian!” and all that.
“What a blacklist is, is a list of people who will not be employed because of political beliefs or activities.”
Yes, and regardless of what people say/want, the result of this would not be lack of employment, it would be lack of sales. If that *leads* to lack of employment, that is the result of the people not buying it, not people saying as a group they won’t. People saying so might tinge it with more risk before it publishes than failed sales would afterward, but people saying so also helps to establish, “Hey, this is the reason it didn’t sell.”
In Hollywood, Trumbo couldn’t produce because he wasn’t allowed, as a DIRECT result of his beliefs. If the public had said, specifically, “We don’t want to watch his movies”, it would be financial suicide for the studio to do it *anyway*, and unless you want studios/publishers to be required to produce all work submitted or some people to *have* to buy it to keep it afloat, that’s just going to lead to it not being produced. Functionally, THAT is no different from someone failing because no one *likes* their writing.
“Then Fangsfirst says “But it isn’t evil in the first place.””
I agree with a good chunk of what you said, but that’s becuase I am arguing against boycotts being immoral, not against blacklists being immoral–from this, I’m arguing this *isn’t* a blacklist, so that’s not quite the place to quote me.
“That said, your argument boils down to “My tactics are good because my motives are pure.” Every would-be censor accepts that logic.”
In the kindest way possible: please re-read my post. Motives are irrelevant to my entire argument.
I would see 10,000 people refusing to buy a homosexual author’s work as douches, but not censorious douches.
I would not blame a publisher for not publishing a book if a huge percentage of the audience said “We don’t like homosexual authors”, because it would be nice and brave of them to publish it anyway, but monstrously stupid, because they’d just sit in a warehouse or on bookshelves, because no one wants them.
I would blame that huge percentage for being douches, for deciding that was CAUSE for boycott or refusal to read something, but how could I argue their organized refusal to purchase? “No, you really should purchase it”?
I think a boycott of Hallmark for printing “Grand Wizard’s Day” cards would be perfectly reasonable. I DON’T want to support a company that would find that a reasonable thing to publish, and I will not give them money. I would encourage others to do the same. It would likely end up a large group of people saying it. Opposing a boycott means opposing not buying it. Really, Don’s post here is important. We CANNOT confuse boycotts and blacklists, as they are NOT the same thing. I am not going to buy birthday cards from Hallmark to prove I think it’s okay for them to print Grand Wizard’s Day cards, because I don’t think it’s (morally) okay. I think it’s legally okay, and that it means I no longer want to give them my business, but will stop anyone from enacting legislature or tying up presses to stop those cards from being printed, or otherwise stopping them from doing something people actually (god forbid) want.
Hollywood was different because it didn’t matter if anyone wanted Dalton Trumbo movies or not. They couldn’t get them. It didn’t matter if everyone but the execs wanted them, it wasn’t happening. If eight people wanted Dalton Trumbo movies and no one else did, the studios aren’t going to produce a movie for eight people, even if they didn’t take issue with his politics. And that’s the scenario we’re talking about.
If the public doesn’t want something why should it BE produced? Not why should it be POSSIBLE to produce (because we aren’t talking about changing the possibility, just the actuality)
And if the public doesn’t want something for stupid, bigoted reasons..that’s depressing as hell, but I’m not going to fault major companies for not producing it as a result, because it would make no sense to do it. And the fact that “The Public” (assuming supermajority) doesn’t is not “censorship” any more than public disinterest in an author almost no one likes (haven’t got an example handy) is. Because the difference lies in the motivation for not purchasing on an individual level, and you agree that on an individual level not purchasing on moral grounds is acceptable.
I honestly don’t know how my point got lost above, but hopefully I clarified it. But, this is me, so I probably didn’t.
Actually, quick boil down:
If you are a commercial writer, and *no one* wants to buy your work, you have, in essence, failed as a commercial writer.
Employment decisions, then, stem from this failure–regardless of whether that failure is because of your beliefs, your choice of pet, your favourite breakfast food, or, you know, your actual writing.
If we allow that your beliefs are a valid reason to not purchase, enough people not purchasing for that reason could easily lead to failure as a commercial writer.
This is why, for all that I understand the “fire him is too far” elements, it seems moot to me. The threat of a boycott or petition is lost sales (largely, lost sales that will already occur). Lost sales are a commercial failure at a certain level. More than likely, the “drop him” will only be enacted if the sales are perceived as significant enough to justify it.
The only weight a petition/boycott carries is lost sales. If lost sales aren’t the motivator for the decision, neither is the petition/boycott. So, to effect change in the efficacy of the petition/boycott, you must effect change in the volume of lost sales and/or the cost that offsets it. So either you tell people it isn’t okay for them to decide not to purchase, you tell some of them they have to purchase anyway (artificially supporting something to prove a point), or you suggest the publisher (or a third party) donates the resources to waste them on an unsaleable item.
All of this adds up to the perception that “people don’t want a thing=censorship.” Which it isn’t.
(and yes, I AM comfortable with this applying to people who think/write things I DO support, because otherwise I’m dictating the usage of printing resources, the personal morals of others, or the purchasing habits of those opposed)
Fangsfirst: “Yes, and regardless of what people say/want, the result of this would not be lack of employment, it would be lack of sales. If that *leads* to lack of employment, that is the result of the people not buying it, not people saying as a group they won’t”
That is an excellent statement of how a blacklist works. It isn’t against employment, it’s about lost sales (or the threat of lost sales) *leading* to lack of employment. It isn’t, “You must fire people on this list,” it is, “if you employee people on this list, your business will be damaged.”
And it sounds like you may have missed what I said before, so I’ll repeat it: The petition and boycott are not a blacklist; the petition and boycott are a demand for a blacklist.
I think that if you are specifically addressing yourself to the question of which tactics are more likely to achieve specific goals then you do need to get the language nailed down very precisely because a straight white male apparently lecturing people who are not straight white males about how they should respond to discrimination is always going to be viewed with scepticism, at the very least.
I do think that change for the better in the short term is possible, and that asserting that only the total destruction of capitalism will bring change for the better is exactly what Goldman Sachs loves to hear; you are perfectly entitled to believe it and say it, just as I am perfectly entitled to conclude that if Goldman Sachs are for it then I’m against it.
And on that happy thought I had better get back to waging biological warfare on the bugs in my lungs…
” a straight white male apparently lecturing people who are not straight white males about how they should respond to discrimination is always going to be viewed with scepticism”
Let me try to say this clearly enough so there can be no confusion, and make it something I can hold to in case others dispute it:
Solving problems of oppression and inequality requires, above all, a scientific understanding of the workings of the society that produces oppression and inequality. Someone putting more or less weight on an argument because of the race, sex, or sexual preference of the person making the argument is being unscientific, and is thus interfering with our ability to understand society and, therefore, our ability to change it. Such a person is, in the last analysis, supporting oppression and inequality. I oppose those who support oppression and inequality, and I don’t give a shit what the race, sex, or sexual preference of such a person is.
I might make this it’s own post.
“And here’s the thing: Those who would use those tactics against the enemy *at this stage of the conflict*, are providing them cover and justification, and thus hurting the fight for equality. At least until the balance of forces changes, I believe we need to avoid doing anything that could give the enemy the least pretext or justification for further assaults on our freedom.”
I might have missed it amid the previous posts, but this seems to be saying that once has power to effectively enforce a boycott/blacklist, then as a practical option, it should do it.
It doesn’t seem like a tongue-in-cheek statement, so could you take a moment to clarify?
What I’m refusing to do is say, “This is a tactic that should never be employed under any circumstances.” Under what circumstances should it be employed? I don’t know, because not everything that could happen has happened. But I won’t tie myself to absolutes on a tactical matter; I save absolutes for questions of principle. This ain’t one.
Skzb i was wondering if you could put a numbering system on the comments on a post when you update/ change the site next because when you get this many comments it can be hard to find your place if you need to close the page.
“That is an excellent statement of how a blacklist works. It isn’t against employment, it’s about lost sales (or the threat of lost sales) *leading* to lack of employment. It isn’t, “You must fire people on this list,” it is, “if you employee people on this list, your business will be damaged.””
You can’t make “if you employee people on this list, your business will be damaged,” not true. At least, not without forcing people to purchase or supplanting their lost purchases with new ones. It’s not possible. You can leave it unstated, or state it differently, or more politely, or less politely, but nothing you do will change the *fact* of it. And the fact of it is the part that is most likely to matter to D.C. or have an effect.
If I say, “I will not purchase the works of that homophobic douche,” I have explicitly laid out that I will personally ‘damage’ any business that publishes the homophobic douche’s work: I will take my one sale away from them. Unless you want to say I don’t get to say “Nope, not buying the work of a homophobic douche”…
A petition takes all of those statements and consolidates them. It doesn’t multiply them or even add them. It just sticks them in one place. A boycott does the same.
“The petition and boycott are not a blacklist; the petition and boycott are a demand for a blacklist.”
You’re right though, I did miss that. And I’d say that, “drop him” IS a call for D.C. to blacklist him, which is why I’ve said before that that language is inappropriate, but seems moot to me in actual *effect* (other than perception of those asking for it)–it’s the lost sales/threat thereof, which the boycott neither adds nor empowers, that have the actual effect. That, and you have also stated that individuals can reasonably conclude that supporting D.C. is morally incorrect to them and choose to boycott D.C. on a personal level as a result of this, so it’s really just a simplification of that notion: “I’m not going to buy from you so long as you support this guy by employing him,” it’s just made plural. It’s all phrasing–and maybe that’s important, but it sure doesn’t seem like it to me.
(and phrasing isn’t desire, anyway, and you seem more disappointed that people desire to silence him, which none of this will change)
“You can’t make “if you employee people on this list, your business will be damaged,” not true. ”
Of course not. But you can refrain from launching campaigns to exploit it in furtherance of the deliberate creation of a blacklist.
James: Yeah, Felix is working on that. See the “Site Suggestions.”
“You can’t make “if you employee people on this list, your business will be damaged,” not true. At least, not without forcing people to purchase or supplanting their lost purchases with new ones. It’s not possible. You can leave it unstated, or state it differently, or more politely, or less politely, but nothing you do will change the *fact* of it. And the fact of it is the part that is most likely to matter to D.C. or have an effect.”
In theory that’s true. In practice maybe not, for a variety of reasons.
If you just do it and don’t tell them why you’re doing it, they might come up with any of a hundred possible reasons why sales are down. The art department may blame the shade of blue they were forced to use. Sales may blame the changed rebate program. Etc etc etc.
But if you tell them why you’re blacklisting them, the more publicity you give to the blacklist the more likely they will decide it was because of you.
And yet, there’s a saying that goes “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. This is clearly an overstatement, but…. The boycott may get the news of the new DC Superman to people who would not have heard of it otherwise. Sales may in fact go up.
But they might still blame the boycott. They might decide that sales would have been even higher without it. Even though that is in fact not true.
People mostly don’t know what’s going on. But they guess. And if you don’t carefully tell them what is going on, there’s no telling what kind of guesses they will make.
A boycott petition that gets a lot of signatures can have a big effect even if every single person who signs breaks down and buys anyway. People will think there’s a real boycott going on even when in fact there is not.
I no longer think I understand the tactical side of a boycott. At first it looked simple and clear, but now it does not.
And I also no longer understand the moral side of it. I’m clear that if you want a world where blacklists are not needed, perhaps a meritocracy where people keep their jobs based only on how well they do their jobs, then you probably do better not to depend on them now. The more your current tactics depend on methods that you want to get rid of, the harder it will be to get rid of them.
Beyond that, I think it’s good if you can create a system where there is a perpetual labor shortage. If everybody knows that there is important work waiting for them to do it, likely we won’t have so much competition for jobs. It might not seem absurd to blacklist somebody from one particular job, but there will be other valuable work he can do.
But given a system with a labor surplus, nobody is owed a job. If you have chosen somebody for an enemy, and you can get him fired, why not do that? He’ll do the same to you if he can.
I suspect blacklists and boycotts based on what people believe are the natural outgrowth of slacktivism. If your activism is limited to words on the net. trying to stop the words of “bad” people makes sense.
“If you just do it and don’t tell them why you’re doing it, they might come up with any of a hundred possible reasons why sales are down. The art department may blame the shade of blue they were forced to use. Sales may blame the changed rebate program. Etc etc etc.”
Those would still be lost sales and thus damage–the fact that people are acting on “you employed this person” is still what did the damage, even if unstated.
All your other points about possible random effects–also true, it could increase sales, it could do nothing, it could lower them, but if people actually act on a boycott, damage is done, and that’s the reason the damage is actually done.
Of course, if it is decided it’s the shade of blue or the rebate program, someone completely unrelated to your unstated cause could go down for no good reason. That’s why not stating it seems dangerous to me: “CERULEAN!? YOU IDIOT! FIRED!”
” Sales may in fact go up.”
Yep, see Chick-Fil-A! (sigh.)
“But you can refrain from launching campaigns to exploit it in furtherance of the deliberate creation of a blacklist.”
But does it further it in any sense other than the possibility that it’s acted on “incorrectly”–ie, “We thought sales would drop” and it turns out they were wrong? And, as noted, if sales are murdered by lack of interest, couldn’t the artist be fired for no good reason or something? Wouldn’t it be better that the blame is placed on the shoulders of the person who IS responsible? I mean, since we’re talking about inevitable kinds of blame.
As a sidebar: thank you for the civility, Messrs Brust and Shetterly. I have ended up an anxious wreck over internet writings in the past, and fear constantly I’ve failed the civility game on my own end. Your responses are much appreciated in the forms they have taken. I’m still an anxious wreck and dread coming back here, but have never had that dread justified.
FangsFirst: “As a sidebar: thank you for the civility, Messrs Brust and Shetterly.”
Same back at you.
“But does it further it in any sense other than the possibility that it’s acted on “incorrectly”–ie, “We thought sales would drop” and it turns out they were wrong? And, as noted, if sales are murdered by lack of interest, couldn’t the artist be fired for no good reason or something? Wouldn’t it be better that the blame is placed on the shoulders of the person who IS responsible?”
Yes, but you know even less about their business than they do. You can find out whether their profits are up or down when they publish their quarterly report, if you believe it. That would reflect people who boycott everything DC makes. Unless they break the numbers down to individual comic sales you won’t know about the ones Card worked on.
You don’t know the effects of your action. If you get 100,000 signatures on a petition, you don’t know how many of them are people who wouldn’t have bought any comics anyway. You don’t know how many of them will break down and buy anyway, because they really want it. “Boycott? Let’s don’t and say we did.” You don’t know how much your free publicity will help DC.
But you want DC to think you will have an effect, so you make as much noise as you can to persuade them. If they believe you, that’s the important thing. Not whether you actually do have an effect on them.
That is true. I have a horrible combination of cynicism and naïve idealism (see also: belief that people would naturally just boycott OSC himself, and what other boycott would there be? D.C. didn’t do anything!) that can make this kind of thing difficult for me to analyze properly.
In my head, I think somewhat rationally, D.C. would be aware that people who never read ANY comics would sign, and would hazard some kind of reasonable guess as to how many signatures are actually “relevant”.
I suppose the importance, then, which I could understand is: petitions can artificially inflate numbers and create a larger number than would actually have an effect, thus meaning that, if they react pre-emptively, they’ve done so without *real* numeric justification.
There may be some hard-headedness when I say “boycott” though: one is not boycotting if one does accept their products/services, after all. Collectivized (so to speak) “boycotts” would almost inevitably involve at least a small percentage of faux-boycotters, intentional or not. And then participants in the Boycott™ would not actually be boycotting, per se.
Perhaps the best thing is to, in announcing the news of his getting the nod, mention only one’s own personal decision–even if from a soap box–and suggest that there’s too great a risk of misrepresentation that could have unfair deleterious effects in grouping up, and to act only as individuals?
I *definitely* think it’s wrong to use faked force to get your way. If your way, in this sense, is the natural tide, okay, but gathering comic-unrelateds to pretend you have greater numbers than you *actually* do, and having an effect–it’s the “having an effect” where my cynicism comes in–that would be wrong for certain.
(and yeah, I’m alone in screennaming here, and my name is on the blog my name here links to, so I may as well join the party!)
From J Thomas
“If you just do it and don’t tell them why you’re doing it, they might come up with any of a hundred possible reasons why sales are down. The art department may blame the shade of blue they were forced to use. Sales may blame the changed rebate program. Etc etc etc.”
As an aside: doesn’t this mean that you almost have a moral obligation to state /why/ you’re not buying from them? What if you don’t like the writer, and they blame and sack the illustrator? If you don’t like (and don’t buy) something with more than one creator, because of only one of the creators in the project, people could misinterpret your actions, and consequences may follow that negatively impact someone you have no objection to.
Ethyl, publishers often fall in love with theories like “green covers don’t sell,” but as a general rule, they blame authors. More importantly, so do bookstores. That’s why lots of good writers have to change their names and start over.
“… doesn’t this mean that you almost have a moral obligation to state /why/ you’re not buying from them? What if you don’t like the writer, and they blame and sack the illustrator?”
Let’s review the bidding. Originally we had people who had felt how evil it was that the bad guys made blacklists against the good guys. Actors, illustrators etc — people who had no chance to spread their political opinions through their work — becoming unemployable merely because they failed to hide their beliefs well enough.
And the natural thought was, if it’s evil when the bad guys do it, it’s also evil when the good guys do it.
But then there were second thoughts. What if it is a useful tactic sometimes? What if it is a necessary tactic?
And other people said they had the right to get bad people blacklisted. It’s bad when good people get blacklisted, but when it happens to bad people it’s perfectly fine.
Then it went to salami slicing arguments. You have no obligation to buy something you don’t want to buy. So you will in practice boycott things you don’t want. Your motives might be
“I won’t buy this because Card helped make it so I just don’t want it”
“I won’t buy this because I want DC to suffer enough that they blacklist Card”.
If the difference is only in your intention, what’s wrong with doing it? You could have good intentions or bad intentions, but the result will be the same. DC will lose sales, and they will blacklist Card, and that’s just how the world works. Not your fault.
Opposed to that there is the argument that you shouldn’t do things with bad intentions.
The next salami slice is, since DC will blacklist Card anyway, why not tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You have a right to reject products because Card helped make them. You have a right to tell your friends to reject products because Card helped make them. You can start a national campaign to reject Card products. Why should you have to try to keep it secret from DC?
I reject these slices though I’m not sure when blacklists are wrong. I say we are all walking around in the dark. This boycott will attract people who hate homophobes; many of them will be people who did not particularly like Superman comics in the first place. Many people who sign a petition may forget it when they have the chance to buy the comic book they like. The publicity the boycott generates may get a lot of people to not buy who otherwise would, who don’t sign the petition. But it could also get a lot of people to buy who otherwise wouldn’t. Either because they like homophobes, or because they just wouldn’t have paid attention to the comic otherwise. You don’t know what’s going on. DC doesn’t know what’s going on. When you tell DC to blacklist Card, you are not invoking the Iron Laws of Economics. You are bluffing.
And then you take it full circle. Since your intention is to get Card blacklisted, the very intention some of us started out saying was evil, you feel obligated to tell DC about it so they will assume any drop in sales is due to you and not to some other blind guess.
I don’t feel like we have all the contradictions resolved yet.
Nice summarizationing. :)
I cannot believe that I am in the middle of a discussion of a bunch of writers and readers who have somehow failed to take into account the very power that writing can have in changing pervading attitudes, and how subtlety and innocently persuasive ideas can be interjected into the art.
Do we not all know that ideological arguments can be incorporated into a good story without the conscious knowledge of the reader? That sometimes persuasive writing can change the attitude of the reader to a point where the reader is more likely to accept or reject an ideological stance?
With that in mind, who here feels just dandy about letting their impressionable child or grandchild get a hold of a innocent looking and sounding Superman comic written by OSC? Anyone? Show of hands please? Hello?
How many organizations have used *comics* to create followers to their belief systems out of children? I have seen some BEAUTIFUL propaganda disguised as many things, with an almost artistic subtlety, that worked just fine on *adults* who supposedly have a well defined sense of self, complete with morals and ethical code. Children are easy prey to such tactics.
Does the idea of “boycott” seem a wee bit different if what the boycott is saying is, “I do not wish to buy products from a company who will employ such an offensive individual to write products that are, technically, intended for impressionable children. After all, if they willing and openly employ THIS individual to write for them, what OTHER things are they okay with getting slipped into their products?”
Why on Earth would it be deemed unethical to blacklist an individual known for nasty and offensive beliefs from writing items intended for children? Isn’t that like saying that it is wrong to blacklist a known misogynist and convicted rapist from writing advice columns intended for women? I promise you that I would boycott Hearst Magazines in its entirety if I discovered they hired such a person to write for Cosmo….and I don’t even read Cosmo.
Now, as to Freedom of Speech, I have always considered it an illusion anyway. The ink wasn’t even dry on the Bill of Rights before the Sedition Acts were passed by the same people who wrote the Bill of Rights. However, even in the modern sense, it has always ONLY applied to government interference…as spotty as that application has been. At any rate, society, for good or for ill, tends to decide what is or is not socially acceptable….sometimes gently and sometime forcefully.
I disagree that as a tactic for The Good of the Socialist Movement that boycotting and blacklisting should not be used. Some opinions and ideals NEED to be squashed before they are heard, and taken on as a banner, by the impressionable idio…errr, I mean voters. You’d think that some folks making absolute fools of themselves in public would be enough to sway the public into believing these people ARE fools and their ideas should not be embraced. You might also think that the public would recognize hypocrisy if it bit them right on the nose. If you believe that of the public, then you have not seen as many “Palin 2016!” bumper stickers as I have.
Boycotting and blacklisting is a tool and a tactic. It can be used for good or for evil. The ethical question is not in if it can or should be used, but whether you are truly on the side of the angels.
People of the McCarthy era believed that they were protecting America from the Evil of Communism, after all. When it comes to political, economic, or social movements, both sides tend to *believe* that they are doing the right thing, whether they are or not. At least, those that are the actual workers of a movement believe so (leaders are another story). Swaying the masses through propaganda, censorship, and blacklisting is an art form which your enemy will use; if you are not willing to do the same thing, then you will lose. I am sorry that this is true, but in human consciousness, emotion trumps logic every time.
“Do we not all know that ideological arguments can be incorporated into a good story without the conscious knowledge of the reader? That sometimes persuasive writing can change the attitude of the reader to a point where the reader is more likely to accept or reject an ideological stance?”
Good! Thank you!
“With that in mind, who here feels just dandy about letting their impressionable child or grandchild get a hold of a innocent looking and sounding Superman comic written by OSC?”
Me. I feel just dandy about that.
I looked up a collection of Card’s political essays. I read a sort-of-random sample of them. In most cases, Card took the straight GOP party line. When I noticed deviations from the party line, they were always in the direction of common sense.
I can’t keep my children from being exposed to this. No matter how disgusting it may be, this is the stand taken by a large minority of Americans. If it isn’t Card, it will likely be somebody else with the same ideas. Card might easily be replaced by some gay Republican, and is that likely to be much improvement at all?
I want my children to get exposed to enough diverse ideas that they don’t fall for any one simple ideology too quick.
I’m interested in the tactic of blacklist and the morality of using that tactic, but this particular case is ridiculous.
I can vaguely imagine going to a comics convention and meeting Paul Levitz face to face, and having the following conversation:
Me: Say, you guys put Orson Scott Card on contract. Please don’t do that again. His politics are disgusting and widely known, and you don’t want him representing your company. He makes you look bad.
Levitz: Oh. This sounds like something I need to know about. I’ll make a note of it. Orsun — how do you spell that? … scribbles … OK. And what is it he says that’s so bad?”
Me: He’s a mainstream Republican.
“Some opinions and ideals NEED to be squashed before they are heard, and taken on as a banner, by the impressionable idio…errr, I mean voters.”
We are in no shape to do that. It simply is not in the cards. At least this year.
OK, suppose that “we” actually gain political power etc. Should we have an ideology? If so, we should have versions of various complexity that all sound very good. People who want simple slogans would have simple slogans to be satisfied with. People who want JustSo stories could have JustSo stories. Etc. Ideally it would include a lot of control theory at the more complex levels. How to design feedback loops etc.
Currently, one of the stands of conservative ideology goes:
Free markets provide feedback loops.
No other system provides feedback loops.
Free market feedback loops are best feedback loops.
So unexamined unregulated free markets are the best way to manage anything.
To me, the obvious alternative is to have some people who study control theory in depth, and then the version that’s half a step up from the above argument would go:
Yes, feedback loops are good.
We design free markets for particular needs.
They have the following advantages … and the following disadvantages … and they fail these ways … sometimes we get warning signs quick enough to switch to backup plans. When things like this … happen, all we can do is clean up the mess afterward.
Or a step down:
Carefully designed free markets have an important place, and you need to plan carefully for market failures.
Sorry for the level of detail. My point is that if you have stories that can outcompete alternate stories, you don’t need to suppress the inferior alternatives. When you feel the need to suppress them, probably you have a problem that needs to be fixed another way.
“Boycotting and blacklisting is a tool and a tactic. It can be used for good or for evil. The ethical question is not in if it can or should be used, but whether you are truly on the side of the angels.”
The same can be said for genocide. If you are the good guys, maybe there’s no alternative but to kill all the bad guys. But I say that if you need to kill off a lot of people that’s a sign that probably you are not the good guys. Maybe there aren’t any good guys.
“Swaying the masses through propaganda, censorship, and blacklisting is an art form which your enemy will use; if you are not willing to do the same thing, then you will lose.”
Propaganda, yes. Censorship and blacklisting, maybe. Those only work after you have won. The enemy uses them because they are in control and their ideas can’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. If you win and then your ideas are no better, you will need the same tools.
I guess it depends. Gandhi did not need to use the same tools the British Empire used, to get independence. He might likely have needed the same tools if he had wanted to build an Indian Empire that was like the British Empire.
But Gandhi’s tools did not work for Tibetans who did not want the Chinese Empire to take their food from them. Nothing worked, and half of them died. Horses for courses. You look for the tools that work for your goals in your circumstances.
I haven’t heard of one person who Became Bad after reading Ender’s Game. I haven’t even heard of one Bad person who cites it to justify their Badness, as happens with Ayn Rand. I don’t think it’s a great book, but I wouldn’t try to keep it out of anyone’s hands.
J Thomas, this is a digression, but you should do a little more reading about the claims of the Dalai Lama’s factions, especially regarding the numbers of people who died. They’ve generally been discredited. Keep in mind that the Tibetans who fled tended to be the slaveowners; they’ve got a bit of an agenda.
Highly recommended: http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html And to people who claim Parente’s an apologist, note that he says scathing things about China.
“Maybe there aren’t any good guys.”
Unfortunately, this is true.
There is not, at this time, any government, political system, or economic system that has NOT engaged in crimes against humanity at some level. From genocide, at one extreme, to oppression of a class that is generally overlooked at the other other. It seems that greed is an inherent trait, for all that I despise it for the evil that it engenders.
THIS country, in which I live, is *currently* engaged in genocide.U.S citizens like to think of themselves as the “good guys”; we are not. We are not anywhere close. Tibet, for all that it is looked upon as once being the haven of Buddhism and peacefulness, was not either.
While I fervently idolize Ghandi, I am also aware that India would not have achieved independence without the INA. Their freedom was not won without bloodshed and violence.
I *hope* that the human race is capable of achieving, accepting, and proliferating a system of government and economics which is just and fair to all. I know, however, that we are no where close to that and I will not see it, nor will my grandchildren. While many believe that Socialism is the answer to the ills of humanity, I do not believe that to be the case. I do, however, believe that it is better than anything we currently HAVE in operation.
As far as OSC and writing for children, however, I must disagree with you. YOU may feel fine and dandy in exposing all children to such vileness, but I am not. That is for the simple reason that children are more susceptible to absorbing propaganda as a belief system. I would rather expose children to only wholesome, compassionate things, and leave the explaining of the modes of propaganda, and the different ways it is used to control the thoughts and ideals of the masses, to when they are teenagers and are better able to think critically (and, of course, reject everything said by adults out-of-hand without proof to the contrary….a handy phase in which to introduce them to the evils of the PTB).
Therefore, I have no guilt whatsoever in boycotting D.C., and telling my like-minded friends to consider boycotting them as well, until they start exhibiting better taste in their writers. The threat of filling children’s minds with bigoted propaganda is enough for me to consider ALL of their products suspect. I know other people who would respond the same way.
The are other companies and corporations that I avoid purchasing from when possible because I disapprove of their practices. As a consumer in a Capitalist society, one of the few votes I have available to me is voting with my wallet. I can chose to buy products from unionized companies, and avoid those that are not unionized. I can choose to tell my friends that they should support unionized companies over non-unionized ones. I can avoid companies that have practices or policies that I believe are harmful, either physically or mentally, to others, and I feel no guilt in telling others to avoid these companies as well.
Governor George Wallace, when near death, admitted that he engaged in racism for political and social gain, due to the fact that it was politically and socially acceptable at that time period to support racism. If depriving a person of his or her livelihood drives home to society that bigotry on any scale is politically and socially UNacceptable, and helps push the drift towards that attitude a little more, then I will cheerfully and happily do so, as many times as it takes.And I will sleep soundly at night afterwards.
Will, thank you for the link. I tended to believe things which were in fact cold-war propaganda. Now it looks to me like the chinese government provides statistics that should not be believed without independent verification, and there is no one who can check those figures.
Western sources claimed the tibetan population went from around 2 million pre-invasion to 1 million later, and there were more than 1 million chinese immigrants. Chinese sources claim the tibetan population went up from around 1 million to more than 2 million, and there are about 50,000 chinese living there. But there were also around 4 million tibetans living outside the area that China calls tibet, and China now says there are 3.5 million of those. Those areas have indeed been filled with Chinese since the revolution.
Western tourists who see mostly chinese in Tibetan towns and cities don’t count. The claim is that the chinese who settle in Tibet are mostly urban, so that’s where they would be seen. Tourists don’t meet rural tibetans.
I wouldn’t say those claims are discredited, but they are certainly disputed and I see no way to get adequate estimates of the current or previous tibetan populations, while the current Chinese government remains in power.
Your link pointed out that the old Tibet was a dreary feudal society with a lot of serfs. Yes. That doesn’t say how much Chinese racist etc oppression sparked uprisings, or how brutally they were beaten down. I see no trustworthy data.
CaliannG, Wallace is an interesting case. This bit from Wikipedia has long fascinated me:
In 1958, Wallace was defeated by John Malcolm Patterson in Alabama’s Democratic gubernatorial primary election. At the time the primary was the decisive election; the general election was then a mere formality. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. Patterson ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP. After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, “Seymore, you know why I lost that governor’s race?… I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.”[note 2]
In the wake of his defeat, Wallace “made a Faustian bargain,” said Emory University professor Dan Carter. “In order to survive and get ahead politically in the 1960s, he sold his soul to the devil on race.” He adopted a hard-line segregationist stance and used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election in 1962. When a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”
J Thomas, agreed that it’s just hard to know the truth. I spent a while obsessed with trying to track it down:
My conclusion is that China is a little more reliable than the CIA and the Dalai Lama, but it also has its agenda, of course. (I concluded that after looking at older sources, like the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, and Time Magazine in 1959, which was very forthright about the feudal nature of Tibet under the Dalai Lama: “About four-fifths of them work to support one-fifth, who are shut up in lamaseries. What little land is not owned by the monks belongs either to the Dalai Lama or to about 150 noble families.”
As for claims that the Tibetans have been oppressed under the Chinese, China’s spent a lot of money on Tibet’s infrastructure, and Tibetans have favored status in some areas: as a recognized minority, they were not subject to the 1-child policy that applied to larger groups like the Han Chinese.
Well, enough digression!
“While I fervently idolize Ghandi, I am also aware that India would not have achieved independence without the INA. Their freedom was not won without bloodshed and violence.”
The INA had a place in India sort of like the Easter Rising in Ireland. A lot of Indians didn’t want the british to hang them. It goes too far to say it couldn’t have happened without them. If they hadn’t turned up it would have been something else. India was ripe for it.
“I would rather expose children to only wholesome, compassionate things, and leave the explaining of the modes of propaganda, and the different ways it is used to control the thoughts and ideals of the masses, to when they are teenagers and are better able to think critically….”
Your choice. I find I don’t actually get that much control over what my children see. I try to get them interested in things I want them to see, and I have some success at that. Meanwhile, my 9-year-old is obsessed with Warrior Clans, an absurdly long series by four authors named Erin Hunter. It’s about cats who think like militaristic humans. They live in tribes that try to kill each other. She holds complicated genealogies in her head and argues about who was really evil.
Also she is intent on Pokemon. Ten-year-old heroes leave home and travel randomly. They find wild animals and train them to do ritual combat. Tactical excellence is regarded as moral virtue. Comic relief from a team of liars and cheats who by a combination of extreme bad luck and their own actions, never win.
It bothers me that all this stuff seems designed to funnel kids into sports. Kids will play games with arbitrary rules and care deeply about winning, and after they have won or lost they have their empty lives to go back to….
“The threat of filling children’s minds with bigoted propaganda is enough for me to consider ALL of their products suspect.”
They have been hiring some Republicans for a long time. I don’t see that Card is much different.
“If depriving a person of his or her livelihood drives home to society that bigotry on any scale is politically and socially UNacceptable….”
It makes some sense to be bigoted against bigots. After all, they deserve it. Not like innocent victims.
“It makes some sense to be bigoted against bigots. After all, they deserve it. Not like innocent victims.”
The internet being what it is, I am not sure if my “sarcasm-o-meter” is working properly. :D If it is not sarcasm I am detecting, then I apologize in advance.
I do have acquaintances who identify as Republicans. These people wail, rant and gnash their teeth at me about how not ALL Republicans are bigots, and WHY are they being painted with that brush? THEIR support of the Republican platform is due to this or that issue that has *nothing to do with race or bigotry, dang it*!
I feel for them. There are, after all, a couple of issues that I *agree* with the Republican platform. 2nd Amendment issues comes to mind, as I am, after all, a Texan.
And I soothingly tell these people, in comforting tones, “There there, there there. Darling, I am sorry that you are being perceived in such a way, but the truth of the matter is that while all Conservatives are NOT bigoted, nearly all bigots identify as Conservatives.”
I am not against all Republicans, as I have some very good friends that, for reasons and issues that are important to them, are Republicans. Therefore, it does not bother me that D.C. hires some Republicans.
I am, however, against all bigots, no matter what party they claim to support.
So many comments on this one, so of course I have to add to the mess! First, the constitution only provides protection from the government on the issue of self expression, not from the free market. What McCarthy did violated that because acting for the government he applied pressure on studios and publishers, etc. to not grant work to certain persons.who had been tagged as communists. No amendment has ever been adopted into the constitution, nor even proposed, that grants the right of an American citizen to be an asshole. If you argue that boycotting a person or the company that employs him because he is an anti-gay activist is not ethical, than why would not voting for him for public office be any different. There is a free market of thought in this country and if you rely on public sentiment for livelyhood or ambition then you are best advised not to alienate any large segment of people.
True, it is a consumer issue, not a Constitutional issue. During the McCarthy Era, McCarthy USED the State to blacklist people. At this time, that is not the case.
LGBT’s have been blacklisted for a loooooonnnggg time. To say that this would give the opposition the justification and the right to use such tactics against the oppressed is rather silly, since the opposition has been using just this tactics for a long time without ANY justification or cover. It has just been recently that coming out of the closet has NOT nearly automatically meant the end of your career if you were in any professional field.
I see not harm, morally, ethically, or tactically, in using the boycott or blacklist against an asshole. While the Constitution grants us the right to free speech without governmental interference, no one ever promised that opening your mouth and pouring out stupidity without consequences was guaranteed.
Oh, for god’s sake. People who refer to free speech AREN’T ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT THE LAW. Sometimes they’re talking about how people ought to treat each other. Why is that so hard to grasp?
Other than that, Doug, you say, ” If you argue that boycotting a person or the company that employs him because he is an anti-gay activist is not ethical, than why would not voting for him for public office be any different.”
I guess I should no longer be surprised by this sort of thing. For those who trumpet the “free market” as the ultimate good, this just follows naturally. According to this thinking, there are those who believe what is popular, and we both elect and employ them; everyone else can live on the street. That’s the free market at work. Glory to the free market.
But Steve, Doug is right on that. There is NOTHING, no law, no moral imperative, that says or infers that assholes should be treated with velvet gloves and protected from the consequences of their actions. If one is going to take an unpopular stance or forcefully tout a negative opinion, one should be prepared that not everyone is going to agree….and if enough people do not agree, they will do things like boycott the company you work for or blacklist you.
Those are consequences to one’s actions. Just like if you are a bore at a party, you might not be invited to the next one.
In McCarthyism, the State was used to influence or outright demand blacklisting of people with opposing viewpoints. That was, of course, wrong.
But it is not wrong for PEOPLE to say, “That guy is a jerk and I won’t financially support him or anyone associated with him.”
Besides, your argument that it is a tactical error due to the fact that the opposition will consider it justification to use it against us does not hold water. LGBTs have been blacklisted for a LONG time. It was only recently that being a professional and coming out of the closet didn’t *automatically* mean an end to your career. It is rather silly to refrain from using a tactic that the enemy never stopped using for fear the enemy might use it a bit more. :D
“In McCarthyism, the State was used to influence or outright demand blacklisting of people with opposing viewpoints. That was, of course, wrong.”
The power of the state was used much later in the process.
“It was only recently that being a professional and coming out of the closet didn’t *automatically* mean an end to your career.”
Yeah, so, heavens yes, let’s give them every justification to take us back there.
But, okay. You’re saying that, given how passionately I disagree with Doug, I should be finding out where he works and trying to get him fired. Okay. You’ll just have to accept that I would find that repugnant, and I won’t do it.
“But, okay. You’re saying that, given how passionately I disagree with Doug, I should be finding out where he works and trying to get him fired. Okay. You’ll just have to accept that I would find that repugnant, and I won’t do it.”
I think you are oversimplifying it and getting a bit emotional.
Telling Doug’s boss, “I will no longer do business with you because you employ that jerk that I disagree with” is a perfectly valid thing to do. Even saying, “I am also going to tell all of my friends not to do business with you because you employ him” is also perfectly honest and valid, because in all honestly, if you find his views SO repugnant, you lilely *will avoid his company’s products, and if asked about them, unless you consciously attempt to do otherwise, you will shy away from giving good reviews about that company. It is human nature.
Now, calling up the boss and saying, “That guy you have working for you is a pedophile and a rapist, and you should fire him” WOULD be unethical and repugnant.
So it’s all right to try to get someone fired because of his political activities, provided you don’t lie about it.
We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Fortunately for Doug.
P.S.: Is that YOUR Doug? If I’d known that, I’d have been nicer. :-)
“There is a free market of thought in this country and if you rely on public sentiment for livelyhood or ambition then you are best advised not to alienate any large segment of people.”
Well, no. In a free market you only need *enough* customers who like what you do. You don’t have to sell to 100% of the market.
So for example Rush Limbaugh disgusts a whole lot of people, but he is successful because there are *enough* dittoheads to keep him in cocaine.
Blacklists make a market less free. A producer and a consumer are all ready to make their deal, and you step in and tell them they can’t. You think that one of them is eeevil, so you insist that the free market has to make an exception and freeze him out.
To my way of thinking, all the arguments about why people are better off if the government doesn’t step in and interfere with free markets “for their own good” apply just as well when it’s YOU stepping in and interfering with free markets. When it’s a bunch of private individuals using their marketing clout instead of the government, doesn’t make it any better. The government at least is responsible to its citizens. You aren’t responsible to anybody except your own conscience.
~laughs~ Okay, real example:
I don’t go to see Mel Gibson movies because I think he is an anti-Semite asshole. If anyone *asks* me why I won’t go see the latest Mel Gibson movie with them, I will tell them it is because I think he is an anti-Semite asshole. If Mel Gibson is brought up in conversation, I will say that I think he is an anti-Semite asshole and I don’t want to support him with MY money.
If enough of my friends hear that, go look up Mel Gibson and his positions, they also might decide he is an anti-Semite asshole and they don’t want to support him with their money.
If that idea spreads, then Mel might be out of work. Therefore seriously affecting his livelihood.
So, should I have just bought the movie ticket, supporting Mel, even though I think he is an asshole? Should I just shut my mouth when the subject comes up, thereby oppressing MY freedom of speech, so that other people won’t think he is an asshole and decide to discontinue financial support of him?
Where does his right to have his career and my right to spend my money as I please and say that I think he is an asshole collide? .
In your Mel Gibson example (with which I agree, by the way, right down to and including the line about affecting his livelihood), what you are NOT doing is organizing a group and getting up a petition. Yes, I concede that if someone who lives by public approval is being an asshole, it is liable to affect him. I’ve never questioned that. Where I draw the line is at making a deliberate effort in that direction: to organize a drive that has a blacklist as it’s victory condition.
Steve, don’t you DARE put on kid gloves because it is *my* Doug…you’ll offend him!
J Thomas, I don’t consider boycotts and *public* blacklisting the same as the State doing the same. Because the individual chooses whether or not they wish to participate. Unless the *individual* also decides that they do not wish to support this person/company/etc., then the individual simply continues supporting it financially.
PEOPLE have a right to decide what they will spend their money on and why. People ALSO have a right to *collectively* decide they will not spend their money on XYZ because of this or that action/inaction.
Just like people have a right to *collectively* decide who they will work for and for what wages.
If you start saying that people forming an economic collective AGAINST something they find ethically or morally reprehensible is wrong and they shouldn’t do that, then you are chipping away at the moral and ethical issues concerning OTHER collectives.
“Now, calling up the boss and saying, “That guy you have working for you is a pedophile and a rapist, and you should fire him” WOULD be unethical and repugnant.”
How come? The employer doesn’t want bad publicity for employing a pedophile and rapist. If his employee is about to be arrested for that, why shouldn’t he get the chance to fire him first?
If you lie about it, that’s different of course.
Or how about this — you go to somebody’s employer and you say “Doug here has some mannerisms that look kind of effeminate. Kind of gay. Maybe you ought to move him to some position where he doesn’t meet the public, because some of your customers might think he’s gay and feel uncomfortable.” See, you haven’t said he’s gay, and you haven’t said you are uncomfortable around him or anything like that. You’ve just helped a businessman deal with an issue that might get in his customers’ way.
“Steve, don’t you DARE put on kid gloves because it is *my* Doug…you’ll offend him!”
“If you start saying that people forming an economic collective AGAINST something they find ethically or morally reprehensible is wrong and they shouldn’t do that, then you are chipping away at the moral and ethical issues concerning OTHER collectives.”
You see, here the problem is that vague term “something.” This isn’t a something; it is a particular individual’s employment. Perhaps you consider it hair-splitting to go, “If you boycott Chic-fil-a and it works a lot of people will lose their jobs and that’s okay, but if you convince DC to create a blacklist of one, that’s not okay.” I do not consider it hair-splitting; I consider it a matter of principle.
You do not organize to force a company to create a blacklist.
~chuckles~ I am allowed to dislike Mel Gibson because he is an asshole. I am allowed not to spend my money on supporting him. I am allowed to tell all of my friends not support him, either.
I am also allowed to hit my friends up to go door-to-door with petitions for random people to sign that I can then present to the studios that say that if they produce another movie by that jerk, none of use are going to see ANY of their movies.
That is perfectly legal, moral, and ethical.
And perfectly useless, because petitions don’t do ANYTHING nowadays but get ignored.
“See, you haven’t said he’s gay, and you haven’t said you are uncomfortable around him or anything like that. You’ve just helped a businessman deal with an issue that might get in his customers’ way.”
You are GOOD at this, J Thomas! Have you thought about entering politics?
As it is, you know very well that purposefully misleading someone to believe things that are untrue is the same as lying. Period.
I don’t have to lie about Mel Gibson being an anti-Semite asshole, as he has come out of the closet with a chainsaw on that one!
I don’t have to lie about OSC being a bigoted jerk; he has done a GREAT job of proclaiming it to the world all on his own!
This is about the ethics of saying that, not only will *I* not support these people with my hard earned cash, but I will encourage OTHER people not to support them as well, and I will let the companies that contract with these people that a BUNCH of us don’t want to financially support assholes.
The companies don’t need to be told these people are bigoted assholes…oh, they know! They know! They are NOT blind. Or deaf. They know the possible repercussions that they have taken on with the contracts.
But PEOPLE, in a collective, can tell them that public opinion IS swaying, and through their economics, let companies know that such things are no longer considered “acceptable”.
Who has the money? Okay, if people say that they will no longer give money to entities that support bigotry or bigoted individuals, then what happens?
Things CHANGE, that is what happens…because in a capitalist economy, money is what talks. When people vote with their wallets, things change…commercials have different slants, minorities start showing up as star figures in bad sitcoms….
Okay, ignore that last bit, as I don’t want you to get discouraged.
I’m trying to come up with the simplest way to express this, and don’t think I’m there yet, but I’ll try this:
Is it morally correct to try to deprive people of work because they express their beliefs in their free time?
“If you start saying that people forming an economic collective AGAINST something they find ethically or morally reprehensible is wrong and they shouldn’t do that, then you are chipping away at the moral and ethical issues concerning OTHER collectives.”
Speaking for myself, I’m undecided about all this. I like the idea of living in a pluralist society where lots of cultures try to get along. I in fact almost live in such a society. People from a tremendous variety of backgrounds get along — they live in houses with US wall-to-wall carpet and watch US cable TV, and eat US frozen dinners, and drive Japanese cars. They are careful not to say anything controversial.
I prefer that my neighbors not form economic collectives AGAINST gays or hispanics or asians or libertarians or anybody. If somebody is breaking the laws then punish him for that. Otherwise let’s try to get along.
If some of my friends try to do economic warfare against gays for being gay, I will try to talk them out of it. They can buy what they want, and they will miss out on some good deals if they restrict their choices. If they don’t want to go to the korean grocery because asian people work there, I will try to persuade them to try out the great prices and large selections. If they just don’t like it, OK. They don’t have to like everything I like.
If they want to get my friends deported, or not allowed to marry, or not allowed to buy perfectly good houses they can afford, then I want to persuade them otherwise.
Right now I’m taking a quick turn at trying to persuade you otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we need a sort of internal war. I hope not.
“Is it morally correct to try to deprive people of work because they express their beliefs in their free time?”
This is a deep, complex, and controversial question, Will, and it does not have a simple answer, unless that answer is:
Societies use many, many means of policing their own members and instilling what is considered proper behavior for that culture. As a social species, we HAVE to come to a consensus of what is proper behavior and enforce that behavior to even be able to interact at all. Social interaction cannot happen without that group understanding of “The Rules”. I am not going to go on for pages on that, because anyone can look up the studies of behavioral psychology and sociology and find it to be true. It is true of all social animals.
Therefore, among humans, there have been MANY different form of enforcing societal standards in interaction. They go from violent (No one EXPECTS the Inquisition!) to non-violent (banishing, shunning, etc.) In larger societal structures, these have extended to groups of people as well.
So when you ask that question, it really does depend. Does a group of people, or a society, have the right to decide what attitudes and beliefs it will or will not accept among its members? Are there some attitudes and beliefs that a society should/must accept, and others that that it can decide to accept/not accept?
And isn’t putting social pressure to deprive a person or group of their livelihood a type of shunning/banishing?
So where is the line drawn? If it is NOT okay to shun/banish through societal pressure a person/group who proclaims bigotry and attempts to convert others to the practice of bigotry, when IS it okay to exert collective pressure to a person/group?
We can SAY that it is NEVER okay to exert such pressure on a person/group as long as they are breaking no laws and not physically harming anyone, but that leaves a LOT of WIDE open ground that we may not wish to tolerate. What about fundamentalist groups that emotionally and economically demoralize women, turning them into little better than chattel starting from when they are children. Should we tolerate that as a society? Should we accept that “culture” within our own? What about when they start recruiting women that were NOT brought up in that fashion? Should we allow that, even though we know the profoundly psychological conditioning that these women are going through to accept such a fate?
When does it become “NOT okay”? When do we say, “Okay, that’s not TECHNICALLY breaking any laws, but we don’t want those kind of people in our society, and we sure as heck don’t want them to sway others to their mode of thinking!”
And isn’t ALL progressive change just slow increments of society moving away from things it once accepted and/or tolerated?
Think about it.
“See, you haven’t said he’s gay, and you haven’t said you are uncomfortable around him or anything like that. You’ve just helped a businessman deal with an issue that might get in his customers’ way.”
‘As it is, you know very well that purposefully misleading someone to believe things that are untrue is the same as lying. Period.’
Suppose it’s true. Say he does have some mannerisms that somebody could assume look kind of effeminate or something. Shouldn’t you warn his employer?
One thing about boycotts and blacklists like this — the easiest targets are loners. People who have no in-group to counterattack with, and to support them.
And the second easiest targets are your friends. The people who get along well with your kind, who have arranged their lives around selling to people like you. The assholes on some other side usually don’t expect to sell to you anyway.
So here’s somebody who’s one of you, who has been trying to communicate with people you don’t get along with. Maybe there can be some sort of reconciliation. Maybe there can be an agreement about a few important issues that would help both sides. But you say, “He associates with the enemy! We have to boycott him until he quits this shameful behavior!”. And then likely he apologizes and cuts off the communication. Because you have his hostages. And very likely he isn’t going to be as good a friend to your side after that. He’s kind of stuck with you, but he can drift away as he gets the chance.
“If a man can resist the influences of his townsfolk, if he can cut free
from the tyranny of neighborhood gossip, the world has no terrors for
him; there is no second inquisition.”
-John Jay Chapman
(Russ joined a lesbian community. They provided her with the acceptance she had not had before. They started to decide together what behaviors were acceptable for a lesbian. One kind of car was OK, another was not. One brand of cigarette yes, another no. Eventually they criticized her writing. She had written stories that were not good lesbian material. She cried and apologized, and promised to never do it again.)
“Is it morally correct to try to deprive people of work because they express their beliefs in their free time?”
Imagine this scenario. You are an industrialist, running a factory during a recession. Your factory is the only one in your town that is running. For every job, you have 50 applicants on file that by all accounts would do the job perfectly. They are on the edge of malnutrition.
What is your obligation to your current employees?
If one worker starts making stupid mistakes, like he’s on drugs or just does not get enough sleep, should you keep him? Of course not! Doesn’t the next candidate deserve a chance? Like the song goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”.
And if he’s 5 minutes late to work three different times?
If he’s surly?
If he starts organizing for a union?
If you don’t like his politics?
What right does he have to that job when others haven’t even had a chance at it?
Suppose you are not the industrialist but you can influence him. If you are a union leader then you naturally want your fellow union members to have the jobs, and not the starving unemployed. It would be nice if they could be union members too but there are only so many jobs to go around.
If you are a customer who can influence the owner, why shouldn’t you? 2% of the people get to have jobs, most people don’t. Why should anybody you don’t like get to have one, when you can just speed-dial it away?
Some asshole disagrees with you on the Internet. If you can get him fired, why not do it? He shouldn’t have been such an asshole.
~smiles~ J Thomas, you are discussing social policing, which I addressed in my answer to Will.
In your other part, in shouldn’t I warn his employer that he might be gay, again, that is a COMPLETELY different situation entirely.
The situations we have been discussing have been VERY public figures whose controversial views are no secret. Their “employers” know full and well the sort of personage that they have hired. In fact, BECAUSE these people are fully involved, famous people, it is kind of hard NOT to know their rather sick views….they have been so out there with them.
The question is whether or not it is ethical to organize and say that a *group* of people have decided not to financially support those companies who have chosen to align themselves with these public figures of questionable intent, and therefore blacklist said individual.
I say it is perfectly ethical to do so. These people views are no secret, and by contracting/hiring these very public personas, the companies themselves are making a statement, and I believe they should be told that supporting such harmful ideals is not acceptable.
But in your example, it has nothing to do with the spoken or unspoken statements of a company aligning themselves with a public figure who is an activist for a questionable political philosophy….it is about quietly and delicately warning a common employer that a common, NON-famous person might be a “little bit odd, yanno?”
Were people being unethical in boycotting Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors, which could have possibly deprived him of his livelihood, when he pulled that crap on Ms. Fluke?
Okay, that didn’t work. So, rather than a general question, let’s try the issue that triggered the general principle:
Is it morally correct to try to deprive people of work because they support gay marriage in their free time?
It seems that everyone agrees that when it’s done as an individual decision, there’s no problem.
So to further clarify:
Is it morally correct to try to *organize people into a group, with the intent to* deprive people of work because they support gay marriage in their free time?
Hmm. I’m cool with Scot’s elaboration. And I would offer this case to consider, from Wikipedia:
The Salvation Army Western Territory approved a plan in October 2001 to start offering domestic-partnership benefits to gay employees. Members of various evangelical Christian interest groups protested the decision. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson excoriated the Salvation Army for abandoning its “moral integrity” and urged his radio listeners to bombard the organization’s offices with phone calls and letters. The American Family Association also accused the Salvation Army of a “monstrous … appeasement of sin” that resulted in a “betrayal of the church.” In November 2001 The Salvation Army nation wide rescinded the Western Territory’s decision with an announcement that it would only provide benefits coverage for different-sex spouses and dependent children of its employees.
When one is an activist, is it supporting a cause in one’s free time, or is it more like a second job?
I think I know where you are going with this, Will. If it is not okay to attempt to deprive someone of work if they support gay marriage, then how can it be okay to attempt to deprive someone of work if they DON’T support gay marriage?
It is an attempt to make the issue black and white…and there are very few things in life that are truly black and white.
Let’s take it on a different route. There ARE people whose activism and cause are towards decriminalizing pedophilia. So, is it okay to organize with the intent to deprive someone of work because they support the decriminalization of pedophilia in their free time?
Yeah, I am not playing fair, because that is a hot button issue. I would not, however, have used it if there were not people actually DOING it. There are also people whose activism involves the attempt to get the 19th Amendment repealed. What about them?
The question also does not take into account the possibility of success. Folks would be far more worried about the decriminalization of pedophilia, or the repeal of the 19th Amendment, if those folks had a snowball’s chance of actually *succeeding* in their goals. Since they do not in our current social climate, it seems safe to ignore them. There are other, more pressing issues.
However, activism whose goal is to keep gay people from gaining equal rights? THAT is far more likely, as they don’t have those rights yet.
Morally, the most basic issues are black and white–the grey comes when you look for the necessary exceptions. Trying to get someone fired for their beliefs is like deliberately insulting people–it’s legal, and it should stay legal, but it’s wrong. If you win, you’ve put someone out of work and validated the notion that it’s fine to fire people for what they believe. Like Steve, I’ll grant that there may be a time when it’s necessary to get someone blacklisted, but I can’t imagine it.
I think NAMBLA is pure creepiness, but I don’t think anyone should be fired for supporting them.
As for gay folks getting equal rights, what’s interesting to me is the attempts at getting homophobes blacklisted have only come up now that our side is winning. It looks like the mob is attacking him because they are. I hate it when my side chooses bad tactics, whether those tactics are black lists or black blocs.
~ponders~ This is probably a bad time to discuss this. I am emotional and angry.
I had a little dog, sweet as can be, show up at my door a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of those things where, if you live in the country, you never have to buy pets…people dump them off all the time.
I put up the normal found ads, and lo and behold, an owner showed up…seems she belonged to someone down the road.
Follow a week of every day, little dog shows back up, and every day, angry owner comes and gets her. Except for today. Today she waited outside the gate.
Because, as I found out after I took her to the vet, her hips were crushed and she couldn’t walk. I paid the money to have her put down. She had been hit by a car because her irresponsible owners wouldn’t keep her contained.
That is a part of the same mentality which allows people like OSC to deprive people of simple, basic rights. That mentality that sees others who aren’t just like you as objects, to be used, or discarded. Not as living, thinking, feeling *beings*
I am *angry* at that mentality, whether it is people depriving others of rights, of basic liberty, or just that mindset that sees everyone and everything as something to be used or ignored.
It is my definition of evil, and those sorts of people embody it. How much pain have they caused? How much suffering? How much has their evangelizing set back the march to true equality? How many people will be in anguish when they could not comfort their loved one as that loved one passed on because this guy, and others like him, have organized THEIR efforts to prevent it? How many children are not getting medical care because their parents happen to be the same sex, and this guy has convinced enough people that because of that, they don’t DESERVE medical care? And while I am sure the number is small, how many children have died due to that lack who could have been saved?
Yet no one is suggesting that the mob go after him, attack him physically, torture, or kill him. All they are suggesting is that people boycott his products and those companies who chose to support him. Even then, it is well known he will not go hungry. He is one of the darlings of the extreme right wing, and he will still have his books bought and get paid for his speaking engagements. . His “livelihood”, so to speak, is in his activism, and it is still paying him.
No, all people are suggesting is that he , and those who support him, are commercially ostracized. Which is an entirely ethical, and gentle, way to treat people who support causes which cause suffering.
I am completely nonplussed that there are people who are agonizing over the ethics of this completely non-violent form of protesting a political and social activist’s stance.
CaliannG, I hear what you’re saying. I love animals, and i get so frustrated with irresponsible owners.
But for me, the “basic liberty” we’re talking about is the liberty to say what you believe without fear the bosses will blacklist you. As Steve says near his header, sometimes reality is counter-intuitive. We don’t win by silencing the people who are wrong. We win by convincing the majority that we’re right. And that’s the direction the struggle for gay marriage is going. Even if you argue that sometimes blacklists are necessary, in this case, it isn’t. The majority is already on our side.
Arriving somewhat belatedly to the Tibet thing, courtesy of rather a lot of fascinating medical technology attached to various bits of me, I should point out that to scholars in England the notion of ascribing European social structures such as feudalism to wholly different non-european cultures is recognised fairly and squarely for what is is: imperialism.
It never ceases to amaze me, and depress me, that people like Parenti are so ignorant that they don’t even know they are imperialists…
“If it is not okay to attempt to deprive someone of work if they support gay marriage, then how can it be okay to attempt to deprive someone of work if they DON’T support gay marriage?”
The obvious answer is: We are good, and they are evil. So it’s good when we do it and evil when they do it.
I believe this answer is wrong, but it is very popular.
The next approach is to figure that morality is a product of the particular culture. If the current culture says that it’s fine to ruin people who’re less powerful than you, why should we change the rules to benefit somebody else?
So, there’s a bar maybe 15 miles from here where I could go, and say hello to a lot of US Marines, and then I could shoot my mouth off. I could expect to get knocked around by 6 to 12 pool cues, and maybe at some point somebody would call the paramedics to drag me away. Almost certainly there would be no police charges filed. Since that’s how the system works, shouldn’t we lure Card into our own similar place and beat on him? Well, it depends. He might have the clout to get the police interested. He might have the clout to get a lot of propaganda out of it, that favors him. Tactically it might be a bad move.
Should we let our enemy decide our morals?
When we don’t yet know what it takes to win….
Will: This may interest you. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2008/04/tibe-a15.html
Stevie, yes, the same argument can be made that the Union was being imperialist when it freed the slaves in the states of the South. You may think that slavery should be respected in the cultures that practice it. I’m on the side of Tibetans like Wangchuk, who said, “I may not be free under Chinese Communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave.”
Do you also oppose “imperialist” attempts to end sexism, racism, and homophobia?
Incidentally, the imperialists interfering in Tibet were the British, not the Chinese. Tibet has been recognized as part of China for centuries by every major nation in the world.
Steve, I often like WSWS articles, and that’s no exception. They do have one thing wrong, though, from what I’ve read: Tibetan is taught in the schools. It also misses the fact that the Dalai Lama’s modified stance still calls for a state within a state, something the US would never consider if, say, the Pope wanted to create a semi-autonomous Catholic state in California, New Mexico, and Arizona. But still, good article.
“You may think that slavery should be respected in the cultures that practice it. I’m on the side of Tibetans like Wangchuk, who said, “I may not be free under Chinese Communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave.””
I am not an authority on old Tibet, but I will say how it looks to me.
They produced barely enough food and had occasional famines. They did a lot to regulate reproduction. First, many Tibetans became religious beggars. They were supposed to live good lives, and they ate only what people chose to give them. When food was scarce they went without. When they died honorably they would be reborn to continue their studies, so no great loss.
Some people had enough of everything, and some were desperately poor. They all played the birth lottery. There was a chance their child would be declared an important monk and he would give them gifts.
It was carefully designed to reduce the amount of grumbling. A materialist might say it was all a lie — people don’t have souls and their souls are not reborn — but how could we test the idea? Regardless, it was stable. Lots of misery, but people put up with it.
Now we have new technology. Tibetans might grow more food, and the railroad can bring in food provided they have something to sell for it. They don’t need the old ways. If the new technology is sustainable then Tibetans can live much better, provided the racist Chinese let them. If it isn’t sustainable then Tibetans might revert to something like their old ways during and after the population crash.
“Do you also oppose “imperialist” attempts to end sexism, racism, and homophobia?”
It depends. If it’s an imperialist divide-and-conquer scheme, probably. Real progress comes when people think different. (Or maybe there’s something real about progress which lets them cooperate despite their opinions.) When you treat racists etc as a conquered people who have to do what you say or you will punish them, that may delay change in their thinking.
In Yugoslavia, Titov suppressed ethnic conflict for a long time. They had to work together or the USSR would gobble them up. Then he died and the USSR changed, and the conflict started up like it had never stopped. Maybe his suppression was a good thing — it got them peaceful decades — but it didn’t achieve much in the long run. I don’t know that anything else could have worked better, but I hope so.
J Thomas, your comments about Chinese racism reminded me of this, which may be the most objective useful article that I found about Tibet:
Most of the other articles were written by people with strong agendas, which is to be expected in anything involving the Great Game that the US and China have been playing since WW2.
Nothing that I have ever written here or elsewhere could be construed as a statement that I believe that slavery should be respected in the cultures that practise it; quite the reverse.
I have written here and elsewhere that my father was a slave on the Death Railway, that he survived when vast numbers did not, and that he carried the scars both mental and physical for the rest of his life.
The fact that you resort to such an offensive straw man argument suggests that you are simply incapable of mustering anything better…
Stevie, it indicates that I am appalled by your attempt to defend slavery as it was practiced by the Tibetans up until 1959. Nothing more, and nothing less. I hadn’t thought there was anything to argue about in opposing slavery in the 21st century. Then I met apologists for the Dalai Lama. Slavery is an abomination in its Eastern and Western forms, and while I have no love for any non-democratic country, whether it calls itself communist or capitalist, it takes a cold-hearted person not to admit that freeing Tibet’s slaves was a good thing.
Stevie: Will is drawing conclusions from your positions; the conclusions may or may not be justified.
Will: Stevie does not consider herself as defending slavery, and you ought not to say she is before proving your case.
Both of you: This conversation needs to take place somewhere else.
“This conversation needs to take place somewhere else.”
Actually, it does not, but if Stevie wants to, it can happen on any of my Tibet posts at my blog. Though if she really thinks criticizing Tibet’s serf system is “imperialism”, I doubt there’s any point to it.
You are right to conclude that this particular child of a slave is revolted by the way in which the people who suffered the brutal reality of torture, starvation and forced labour are being used as fodder for mere rhetorical device.
Thank you for your kindness. I’m folding.
Parting Shot is the name of my next band.
Y’know, that’s a seriously good name for something.
Stevie, I wrote a post for you soon after this conversation, then left it in draft until today: http://sjwar.blogspot.com/2013/05/identitarian-rhetoric-case-study-stevie.html
Following this post of Cory Doctorow’s on boingboing (http://boingboing.net/2013/07/09/why-im-not-boycotting-ender.html), I have a quick comment to make about the Ender’s Game movie boycott.
The DC Superman boycott was pointed at the comic company, telling them not to hire Card to write because of his horrible views and deeds. That’s different from calls to not to see a movie (unless someone shows me a petition aimed at a movie studio or whatever telling them not to option Card’s stuff or hire him to work on scripts).
I’m perfectly fine with people boycotting Ender’s Game (either on the basis of Card himself or because they find the text deeply problematic) and I’m just as fine with people deciding not to boycott it. I don’t plan to buy a ticket or a dvd, myself.
A boycott is not a blacklist. A boycott is not a prohibition. The boycotters do not have the power of the state that McCarthy had. They do not have the power to send armed thugs to imprison you. Boycotting is not oppression. Boycotting is protest. It is speech, just as this movie is speech.
Boycotting is voting with dollars. You called him a bastard. Do you want to pay him so he can fund his legislative efforts? I’m guessing no. Should you not then encourage people not to see it? This boycott is educational. Many people do not know what scum he is. Now they can learn.
If the government prohibited this movie, I would promote it. But there is nothing in the way of his speech. The movie has been made.
Now let’s go off on a tangent. You may, in your lifetime, see the tipping point where most children are bastards. What kind of asshole are you for using that word disparagingly? I’m not going to read any more of your stuff until you admit that out-of-wedlock children are as valuable as those born in wedlock.
“A boycott is not a blacklist.” Oh, my. Really? *faints with shock* Where you got the idiotic idea that a blacklist requires governmental intervention I have no idea. Have you a dictionary?
Organizing to refuse to see a movie is boycotting. Organizing to get someone fired is blacklisting. This isn’t rocket surgery.
Also, I’m not sure why you’re bringing movies into this in the first place. The post concerned Card’s being hired by DC to write a Superman script.
Now let’s go off on a tangent. The asshole is a part of human body necessary for the digestive process. Do you think those who have had colon cancer, and suffer every day from painful and humiliating disabilities, want to hear it spoken of as if it were an insult? What kind of bastard are you for using that word disparagingly? I’m not going to read any more of your comments until you admit that the asshole is as worthy of respect as any other body part.
There’s a common myth that McCarthy was using the power of the state. As the ACLU notes, “Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period. But these private censorship campaigns are best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression.”
This short page is very useful for understanding the issues involved: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/what-censorship
“Organizing to get someone fired is blacklisting.”
Is it? That doesn’t correspond at all to the way I have seen the word used over the years, or to my understanding of it. Merriam-Webster’s says that the verb “blacklist” means “to put on a blacklist,” which in turn means “a list of persons who are disapproved of or are to be punished or boycotted” (note that last word!). I don’t see how organizing to get one person fired fits at all. At the very least, it seems to me, “blacklisting” would have to mean one was trying to keep the person from being hired anywhere in the future, with the implication that others might be added to the list. Also, such a list would mean nothing at all unless it was created or at least agreed to by people who actually had the power to not hire those on the blacklist.
Cakmpls, if getting someone fired for their beliefs isn’t punishment or an attempt to silence that person, what is it?
“At the very least, it seems to me, “blacklisting” would have to mean one was trying to keep the person from being hired anywhere in the future, with the implication that others might be added to the list.”
That’s exactly the situation people faced during the McCarthy period. You have read about the Hollywood blacklist? People who were blacklisted had to seek work in Europe or in the few minor–as in, low-paying–outfits that were so small no one paid attention to them.
Will, did I somehow convey the idea that I did not think the Hollywood blacklist was a “blacklist”? But would it have been a “blacklist” if the studios had paid no attention to it? Not to my mind.
Those who are “organizing to get someone fired” obviously do not have the power to get the person fired, or they would just do it. A studio that had a person on their payroll didn’t have to “organize to get” the person fired; they just did it.
And if the action is directed at one person, how can there be a “list”?
Here’s the situation with the Hollywood blacklist: Private groups used the threat of a boycott to get studios to blacklist artists.
What you don’t seem to get is that the people also have power. When they use that power to get businesses to create blacklists based on individuals saying what they believe, I disapprove, whether the speaker’s a Nazi, a Commie, or something in-between. When the people use that power to get better conditions for workers, I approve 100%.
Oh, and you can have a list of one, so long as there’s the implication that anyone who does something similar will be next on the list.
Will, what did I ever say or write that gave you the idea that I don’t “get” that the people also have power? Seriously, how could you ever take that away from my words?
“Private groups used the threat of a boycott to get studios to blacklist artists.” Your very words seem to support my point about the meaning of “blacklist” NOT being what Steve said. To me, “blacklisting” and “boycotting” are both done by the people with the power. The “boycott” in the Hollywood case is market power and the “blacklist” is employment (or contract, etc.) power. A boycott tries to force someone else to use their power; a blacklist uses the power.
I suppose one could make an argument that if those boycotting choose to boycott a group of, say, companies, they are creating a “blacklist” of companies, because they have the market power not to patronize those companies on the list. Or for that matter, one could make an argument that the studios were “boycotting” the artists on their blacklist.
But organizing to get someone else to take an action? I see no way to apply “blacklisting” to that. YMMV.
Cakmpls, I’m sorry. I may be conflating what you’ve said with what I’ve read other folks saying, so I’m misunderstanding you. I hate it when people do that to me, so really, apologies for doing it here.
Your quibble seems to be an attempt to use “blacklist” very precisely, but we use words colloquially. The Hollywood Blacklist was misnamed if you want to be very precise. To use the ACLU terminology, it was the Hollywood Private Censorship Campaign. But colloquially, we cut to the chase: It was a blacklist driven by a boycott. It was a blacklist powered by a mob, no different in kind than the KKK actions again civil rights supporters.
A boycott is not a blacklist. A boycott *is* free speech. Make arguments others disagree with, they will argue people shouldn’t give money to you. That both sides can use a tactic doesn’t make it wrong. Is filling the audience with advocates against a specific legislation wrong because “they” do it too? You can debate the reasons, which in this case would mean giving money to a rich bigot, but don’t try to evade that by pretending the tactic itself is evil.
More importantly, the statement: ” they have the entire power of the massive machine of capital and the State; we have only what we can pull in with our voices” is an argument FOR boycotts. Because “we” are using “our voices” to pull power – i.e. money and business – away from “them” by argument. If a minority group can successfully persuade others to participate, there’s little anti-democratic about it.
Here’s a little thought experiment: pretend Card had written many essays against interracial marriage and supported anti-race mixing groups. Would you then be arguing it’s wrong to boycott his work because it doesn’t specifically address race?
Who is this “we”? Does it include all the people forced to stay in the closet – completely suppressing their speech – by laws Card supports?
The historical blacklist was backed by the threat of law – criminal charges and forced testimony by a Senate subcommittee. Card can say whatever he likes, but if what he likes to say means people don’t give him money, that’s not a blacklist, that’s not anti-democratic. Free speech involves the law – it doesn’t mean being free of unwanted consequences like people not giving you money.
Oh please:Thank you for your comment. One question: did you actually read the original post? It concerned a petition organized to convince DC to blacklist Card (which, in fact, they did). Boycott does not enter into it, and I’m not sure why you think it does.
Forced testimony was part of the McCarthyite witch-hunt, but was not the blacklist, which was inspired by but not performed by governmental agencies. The notion that if it is only a blacklist if it is carried out by the government is incorrect and dangerous.
Again This “what if boycotts are used against us” is a phoney argument, a red herring. Boycotts are a neutral tactic.
There is bad speech – violent threats, harassment, libel, etc. – but people saying someone is wrong and should be boycotted isn’t bad speech (even when the reasons for making those arguments are bad). It is not a lynching, a blacklist, Stalin or Hitler or fascism or whatever other hyperbolic analogy which is offensive to the actual victims of such things.
I wonder the real reasons one feels compelled to defend Card, a member of powerful groups who actively oppress others, from a rational argument against his power by those he’s oppressing. Perhaps you want to see the film and resent being made to feel guilty about it. Perhaps you fear oppressed people having equal power, even if you don’t agree with Card, because that might mean you have less. Card’s bigotry means he falsely believes letting other people get married will harm him. It won’t and it isn’t. Being held accountable for hateful behavior is not a blacklist, it’s no longer being able to get away with your hate.
Again, not hiring someone because their views are reprehensible is not a blacklist. It’s insulting to the real victims of blacklisting and who understand the meanings of words.
Here’s the thing: if Card were came out against race mixing and people demanded he not be hired by DC, your position would be he’s unfairly blacklisted. Political positions have consequences. People can fire writers when they are driving away their customers. That’s how free speech and commerce works.
I’ve tried to be polite, but–Really? Seriously? That’s what you’re going with? Are you still unaware that the post you are responding to was written last February and was in response to a petition to DC comics demanding Card by fired, and has nothing whatever to do with any movie? Or are you so blinded by willful ignorance that you chose to ignore it?
As for the movie, I dunno. I have no problems with people boycotting it. Me, I’m just not going to see it because it doesn’t interest me.
oh please, your speculations may amuse you, but the answer is simpler:
Free speech supporters simply believe in free speech, both for ourselves and for people whose views we despise–which includes Orson Scott Card, who I’ve been criticising since his 1990 article revealed his bigotry towards homosexuals. You may’ve missed the ACLU link I provided recently: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/what-censorship
As for the idea that there are neutral tactics, I’m not sure that’s so, and I’m very sure some tactics should simply be rejected. Supporters of torture and the death penalty say those are neutral tactics, so long as the right people are being tortured or executed. To say that it’s right to silence the right people is a dangerous thing to support.
So I posted in support of Cory (and by association, Steve) on Boingboing, and they deleted my post and banned my account. Apparently the LGBTs over there are being militant about this, and they will brook no disagreement.
As a queer person who OSC would like to lock away, I just don’t see him as a threat. Yes, he’s working within the political system to outlaw a class of people…but that’s done by both sides, for various categories of people on the fringe. He’s part of the system. If he were advocating violence then I’d say he needed to be stopped by any means necessary — Scientology is a good example of that. But OSC is just pushing his beliefs. Everyone does that, which is why we should tolerate beliefs. By all means fight him, and you want to boycott then go ahead, but don’t shout down people who disagree with that method of fighting. Adding hate onto hate just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Remus, it seems odd that they would ban you for supporting Cory, but the BB mods were always quick with the ban-hammer. I got it for disagreeing with Antinuous about China and Tibet. Much as I agree with “your site, your rules”, the implementation of the rules can tell you a lot about people’s tolerance for diverse thought.
“Boycotts are a neutral tactic.”
Boycotts are designed to influence people who want to sell something. They can sometimes be effective.They can be effective by small minorities when most of the buyers don’t much care. A seller may go along on some issue that is not very important to him, when it means a few percent sales lost one way and no effect the other way.
Free speech is a different matter. Sometimes we wind up arguing from two horns of a dilemma. If we pay careful attention to each other we might put together a solution which is better than either alternative. It is bad to try to shut people up. It’s OK not to listen to them yourself, but don’t try to silence them. If nothing else they can be an observable example of part of the problem.
When you try to get people not to buy a product which is bad, maybe that’s appropriate. The product was made by clubbing baby seals, or killing porpoises, or the blood of pregnant women exposed to industrial pollutants, etc. Or the owners will use the profits to send weapons to terrorists in Chad or Basque Spain. There might be good reasons to avoid buying. But when you look at somebody who’s been talking and you try to stop them from talking by threatening their employers, that is bad. It is not a neutral tactic. It’s something that works for people who have clout, against people who do not have clout.
I want to persuade you not to do it. I don’t want you to get kicked off this blog, and I don’t want to find out who your boss is and try to get them to fire you.
J Thomas, if you have a reasonable expectation that if somebody gets money, a non-trivial portion of that money will be spent to buy political lobbying to make it legal to murder you, where does a boycott of a product that person profits from fall in your “preventing harm” vs. “shutting someone up” schema?
Chaosprime, it depends. I want it to be true that the ideas are important. That understanding the different ideas plus things that neither side has thought of yet can give us some sort of transcendence.
If it has reached the point that the discussion is over and the disputants are ready to genocide each other, then the world I want to live in is gone.
If the other guy is going to spend his money to make it legal to murder you, maybe you shouldn’t try to blacklist him. Maybe you should think about illegally killing him right away.
But … … while there’s nothing like being in a long-term fight to the death to give your life meaning, you might want to think about the long term. You personally might be able to avoid the fight simply by emigrating to some other nation. Consider whether you want that.
If you’re going to be involved, there are 3 long-term outcomes that might be acceptable. Your side can genocide the other side and it’s over. Or you can keep fighting for the indefinite future. Or you can find a way to stop fighting and both survive.
I have a preference for the third outcome if it’s possible. And if you want to try for that, the sooner the better. It may take some controlled violence to persuade the other side that you’re enough of a threat they shouldn’t try to kill you off, and also that you don’t hold enough of a grudge that they have no choice but to try to kill you. Or maybe not — that depends on them.
But back to the original question, if you don’t give the other guy a chance to say why he wants to kill you, then you pretty much give up the chance to persuade him not to want that.
I feel like the root of the DC/Card debacle is more one about consumer choices and branding and less about freedom of speech. DC Comics is a company in the business of selling comics. One of their most popular franchises is Superman. They pull in special authors all the time to do these promo arcs, and they hope that on the name recognition they’ll get some audience crossover and build readership. Given Card’s prominence in writing wildly popular novels, most of which have deep moral conundrums at the heart of them it makes sense that DC would have tapped him for a shot at Superman. The backlash from making that choice, however, spoke to the fact that consumers of the Superman franchise thought it was a bad idea, and the resultant boycott of Card’s run on Superman would have been a sales nightmare for DC.
Superman is a character built on being the ultimate good guy. Card’s political propaganda alienated a vocal chunk of the Superman fan base, and the fans saw it as a disservice to the franchise. This was more an issue of brand loyalty and brand recognition than anything else.
Can OSC do other comics? Sure. He can put out Ender themed comics and anything else based on his own work. He could even get another contract with DC to maybe do something original. Maybe with a lesser story line. But it was the combination of Card and Superman that galled people, because it was such a dissonent choice for the readers. You can’t really actively promote discrimination and then turn around and write a story about the most wholesome super being on Earth and not expect a few people to chafe at that.
“Superman is a character built on being the ultimate good guy. Card’s political propaganda alienated a vocal chunk of the Superman fan base, and the fans saw it as a disservice to the franchise.”
You could be right. But I don’t believe it.
It wasn’t that Superman fans thought Card would put political propaganda into his Superman work.
It was that gays and gay supporters wanted Card gone.
Here’s my reasoning — first, did Card’s opponents look for political propaganda in Card’s work for Superman? No. Did they assume that Card would put anti-gay propaganda into Superman? I doubt it. Why would DC put up with that? Why would Card be that unprofessional? But Card had published things they didn’t like before, in other venues, and they did not want him to publish anything.
Second, is Card primarily anti-gay? No. He is strongly in favor of winning the war against Islam. He is strongly in favor of winning in Iraq and Afghanistan, of doing whatever it takes to win and not to accept defeat. He is strongly against environmentalists, although he likes to conserve oil. He is very much against liberals and Democrats — which to him are the same thing. He is strongly against legalizing drugs, and points out that Prohibition would have worked if we only had the political will to carry it through. He does have compassion on illegal immigrants, though. His anti-gay stuff is a small fraction of his odious writing. And he points out that some of it was kind of liberal when he wrote it.
So, are they against Card for being a war-monger? For preaching for pollution and against climate science? For being a reactionary who uses words like Leftaliban? No, it’s all about gays and only about gays.
Are Card’s opponents primarily fans of Superman or fans of being gay? I’m not sure I’d know a Superman fan if I saw him, but I think they’re in favor of homosexuality first and Superman second. I could be wrong.
“Can OSC do other comics? Sure. He can put out Ender themed comics and anything else based on his own work. He could even get another contract with DC to maybe do something original.”
This is entirely hypothetical on both our parts, but I tend to disagree. If DC offered Card another opportunity, why should gay supporters accept that? How is it any better to let Card do Batman and Robin than Superman? If it isn’t about Card actually putting anti-gay propaganda in his work but it’s about Card the homophobe getting paid by DC, why would it be any different if it wasn’t Superman?
Eric Riley: Not a lot to say; I think I’ve made my position clear. But I do want to thank you for making a polite, thoughtful, and thought-provoking comment.
Not a lot to say here, either, other than that our unwritten constitution does not specifically enable, nor disable, free speech. One of the most famous observations to cross the pond is that no-one has the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, unless, of course, there really is a fire.
A man who made death threats on Facebook has recently been sentenced to 2 years imprisonment; I really do not have a problem with that, but I can see that, if you elevate the right to say whatever you want above the consequences which ensue from saying whatever you want, then that might seem a truly dreadful thing…
Regarding free speech and threats that may be rhetorical or sincere:
You’ll have to forgive me for not rising to your bait; here over the pond there has been the second day of major rioting as the Orange Order protest about being not being allowed to terrorise the Catholics in Belfast to their hearts’ content.
Frankly, I just don’t care that you believe that people have an intrinsic right to terrorise other people, whether those people are young girls or simply people with a religion, or a lack of religion, different to your own.
Stevie, links are bait?
But since you love to put words in other people’s mouths:
No, I do not believe people have a right to terrorize anyone with threats. Remember, I’m the guy whose family got death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. I despise death threats.
But I believe it’s important to subject rhetoric to a “reasonable person” test: would a reasonable person conclude that a threat had been issued or that someone was engaging in hyperbole? Remember that the web is a place where something like “die in a fire” is a mild expression of dissatisfaction–on this side of the pond, it’s an expression that’s especially loved by identitarians.
You may want speech to be simple. Embrace complexity.
At risk of making things just another fluffy kitten tea party around here, I’d like to ask that we all play nice.
It’s difficult to ‘play nice’ in a a medium where ‘die in a fire’ is allegedly a ‘mild expression of dissatisfaction’, but the bait lay in the fact that the Guardian article cited by Will had alongside it the direct link to the Guardian article re the guy who was imprisoned.
Had Will been interested in discussing the issues raised by that case he would have done so; instead he switched to rhetoric. And rhetoric is not, in my view, a moral, or, if you prefer, ethical response to the facts in that case.
I want to suggest that completely free speech is always a good thing.
The world of ideas is different from the material world. We can explore it to our hearts’ content and not suffer physically at all. When we restrict the allowed communication, we cause trouble for ourselves.
Which is not to say that people ought to blurt out whatever they think. Death threats by individuals are not just wrong, they are stupid. A death threat which can be taken seriously is an invitation to kill you first. And it’s an invitation for somebody else to kill him and blame it on you. Just plain stupid. On the other hand, I once worked with a guy from Argentina who continually got upset at people and said “I weeel keeel you!”. I was scandalized and suggested he not say that, and he explained that it didn’t mean anything, it was just something that everybody said all the time.
Shouting fire in a crowded theater. People panic and there may be crushing deaths. But if we set up that situation so it can happen, terrorists will shout fire in crowded theaters. Stage fire drills? Design theaters so they can empty quickly? What if it’s a real fire, won’t they panic then? Telling people not to make false alarms is nothing like an adequate solution to the problem.
Hate speech. It’s better to know what you’re up against than not know. You can’t stop racists etc from communicating with each other. They will invent code words etc that they understand. If you try to keep them from organizing, they will organize in secret. Better if they say what they mean and you can respond as you think appropriate. Then when they actually do something, respond with superior force if you have superior force. Or manage a tactical or strategic retreat if you don’t.
When people actually say what they are thinking and planning, then you have an opportunity to persuade them otherwise. When you punish them for telling the truth, they will lie to you until they think they are strong enough to punish you for trying to punish them.
The idea that we should gag people is left over from the days of moral absolutism. People who are sure they are right and everybody else is wrong, naturally want to stop other people from saying wrong things. We need to grow out of that.
Stevie, I dunno what you think of Skepchick, but they’ve got an article titled “AI: You eat that? DIE IN A FIRE!” that shows how common the phrase is.
And Urban Dictionary has a listing for it; they claim it became popular in 2006.
On youtube, you can learn how to sign it.
During many social justice warrior fails, their targets have been told to die in a fire. But it’s true it’s not the only common violent metaphor of SJWs. Tempest Bradford is fond of “cut a bitch”. A little googling would bring up more for you.
The fact is that free speech is often about rhetoric. As Lenny Bruce said, if you can’t say fuck, you can’t say fuck the government. Death threats are “intersectional” when talking about free speech and threats: some are real and some are metaphorical, and in the case I linked to, it’s seems pretty clear to me that everyone should’ve assumed it was ironic. Alas, some people don’t get irony.
Here’s the bit that struck me most, from the Guardian article that you object to:
“”There are no more threats that are high school pranks,” said police chief Joseph Solomon during a press conference following the arrest. “If they’re thinking that way, they need to get their heads into 2013.””
He’s talking about teenagers talking to each other on the internet, not bomb threats. That there are police chiefs who think this way should terrify everyone.
The consequence? From the first article:
“As TheBlaze previously reported, Carter was apparently having a really rough time behind bars. He was put on suicide watch in Comal County Jail.
“His father, Jack, told NPR his son was “put in solitary confinement, nude, for days on end because he’s depressed.””
That kid’s treatment is what you’re defending if you argue that people should be prosecuted for their speech.
I didn’t object to the Guardian article; I objected to you dodging and running from the Guardian article about the case I had posted about because it doesn’t fit it into your rhetoric.
The reality for all girls and women is that they will perpetually encounter guys who want to terrorise them because that is what the patriarchy is, and, strange as it may seem to you, there is a life beyond the web, rhetoric and dictionaries of US urban slang…
Stevie, you did not provide a link to that article; you only referenced it. It’s “Facebook troll jailed for threatening to kill 200 US schoolchildren”, yes? I just read it a minute ago. It sounds like he needs psychiatric help, not jail. In the US, a year in prison costs from $20,000 to $30,000 a year. An hour of counseling a week would probably do much more and cost much less.
What do you call it when women terrorize men? Threats are a human problem, not a “patriarchy” problem. The CDC notes “more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
Yes, I do know there’s a life beyond the web. When I say I bled for civil rights, I am not being metaphorical.
Will, as you have probably read me to say far too many times over the years, as long as we define “violence” as “what men do to women,” we have no chance of defeating it.
Cakmpls, Steve really needs a button for “liking” comments.
The article in the Guardian is, as I pointed out, directly linked to the article that you cited; it’s one of many in the British media covering this story.
You are not a psychiatrist, nor are you a psychologist, and you are obviously wholly ignorant of the British judicial process; over here we use people who are psychiatrists and psychologists to evaluate people charged with criminal offences to see what effect, if any, their mental state has on their responsibility or otherwise for their actions. Strangely enough the people actually qualified in the field do not agree with your amateur attempts at long distance psychoanalysis; being emotionally immature and impulsive doesn’t justify his actions.
Had you actually bothered to read the article you would have seen that the guy in question started off on a tribute page to a teenage girl killed by a drink driver with:
“Fucking fat cunt deserves to die”
and escalated from there, up to the point where he threatened mass murder on the same tribute page and, by private message, told a girl who is now the ripe old age of 16 that “You have been chosen at school tomorrow to receive one of my bullets”.
With commendable fortitude she responded “Screw off, dude”, and was then informed that “The doctors will have to unscrew the bullet from your head bitch”. She remains, unsurprisingly, freaked out by this.
The guy in question has 17 previous criminal convictions for 28 offences, including one for a robbery at a bookmakers where he was armed with an axe; he was 16 years old at the time and is now 24.
You are, of course, perfectly free to assert that he has an untrammelled right to publicly declare that fucking fat cunts deserve to die, just as he has an untrammelled right to privately tell a young girl that he’s going to kill her, and that this must be defended as his right to free speech.
FYI — I moderated a comment here and emailed a request to the author. I did not delete any comments.
“You are, of course, perfectly free to assert that he has an untrammelled right to publicly declare that fucking fat cunts deserve to die, just as he has an untrammelled right to privately tell a young girl that he’s going to kill her, and that this must be defended as his right to free speech.”
Thank you. In this particular case I doubt it makes much difference. Even when there are laws intended to stop him from doing that, he does it anyway.
And when he threatens to kill people, does it matter whether they go after him because it’s illegal for him to say it, or whether they go after him because they suspect he might intend to do it? Either way he gets a response.
I have the idea that in general, people get habitually violent when they don’t trust society to take care of them. They think they have to take care of themselves, and they know they are weak and alone. So they have to try harder. And then when society uses superior force to attack them, and punishes them for being bad, and never forgives them, that confirms that society will not take care of them and they can depend on no one but themselves.
This particular guy has repeatedly gotten into trouble before and there’s every reason to think he’ll keep getting in trouble for the rest of his life. Society has no obligation to listen to him, notice what he really wants, offer him chances to fit in, forgive him. His actions are not justified. Even if society gave him an honest chance to reform, he might not take it. And he has more value to society as he is than as just another sheep.
As a designated evil person he scares the sheep and shows them how they utterly depend on society to protect them from people like him. If he did not exist society would have to invent him.
Stevie, it’s the internet, nuance is very difficult, and I’m just plain tired of partisanship, so I’ll let this drop. People who think as you do will agree with your interpretation of what I’ve said, but for what it’s worth, if I thought what you think I think, I would disagree with me.
I don’t doubt the British prison system is better than ours. I hope it’s as good as you think it is.