Orson Scott Card, DC Comics, and Censorship

First of all, here is Will Shetterly’s take on the matter, with which I pretty much agree.

The issue, for those who don’t know, is that Orson Scott Card, who has consistently expressed homophobic opinions, and supported anti-gay laws, is doing some Superman comics for DC, and some people are trying to get him fired.

I need to be clear: unlike Will, I am not 100% against censorship.  I can easily imagine circumstances where I favor it.  The press (in the broadest sense of the “the press”) is a weapon, and in a war, you use all the weapons you have, and attempt to deny weapons to the enemy*.  My opinion on censorship, therefore, flows from this.  In a revolutionary crisis, I would be delighted to deny the enemy the means to spread his ideas and organize counter-revolution.  In the meantime, I support free speech and oppose censorship because the forces that would prevent the enemy from speaking can easily be turned around on those I support, and, as I am convinced I’m right, I have no fear of battling in the arena of ideas.  It is practical question.

In this case, there are many things that bother me, in various degrees.  For one, what is happening is that people are attempting to deny someone his livelihood on account of his beliefs.  That’s been done before.  And because it was done by the Right before is exactly why the Left ought not to do it now.

Here is another aspect: Card wants to deny Gays the right to marry.  I oppose him on this, because I believe the right to marry is a basic human right.  But there are other human rights as well.  People, are you aware of how many Libertarians and Randites there are in the SF/F community?  Tons.  And it is my sincere opinion that these people, if they get their way, will deny far more rights to far more people than Gays being unable to marry.  Their policies favor the absolute crushing of the working class, and all means whereby the workers can resist attacks on their living standards and basic rights.  To me, that is exactly what those philosophies are: justifications for brutal attacks on the entire working class, in defense of unfettered profit for a tiny minority.

So why is it no one is organizing a boycott of Jerry Pournelle, John Ringo, &c &c?  No one is, including me.  Nor am I in favor of doing so.

Because when you deny someone a living because of his beliefs, you are denying a basic human right.  And we do not defend human rights by sacrificing those of others.

That’s what the enemy does.  Let’s not do it ourselves, all right?


ETA: When I speak of the policies of Libertarians and Randites, I am speaking of where I believe those policies will lead, not necessarily of the desires or intentions of those who subscribe to them.


*Seriously.  I have fantasies of traveling back in time and explaining to W.T. Sherman that, however much he hates the press, by his actions he is simply handing weapons over to the Confederates; that it’s no better than returning cannon to them after capturing them.  Of course, he wouldn’t have listened.


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157 thoughts on “Orson Scott Card, DC Comics, and Censorship”

  1. I dunno. I’m not sure how I feel about firing him now, but I’m pretty sure that DC should’ve paused and gone, “Wait. We’re about to hire someone for a position where his name will be plastered over his products, and this is someone who has repeatedly called a portion of our customers child-molesters, and works for an organization that tries to take rights away from those customers. Do we really want to go through with this?” Because it does, inadvertently or otherwise, give the impression that DC believes its target audience is only straight people who don’t like gay folks anyway.

    I mean, if I went and started working for the KKK, I would expect that various companies would be loath to put my name on the cover of their products if they expect to ever sell anything to people who are not white, or who like people who are not white.

    There’s a certain continuum from “thinking bad things about our customers privately” through “saying them out loud in public” all the way over to “working for an organization that actively attacks our customers” on which I think there is a line past which a company can legitimately go “This…is a bad idea and we should not do this.” And Orson Scott Card certainly seems to be on the far end of this continuum. He’s not being criticized for what he thinks, but for what he’s actively working to do politically.

    I don’t buy books from people I know are working for an organization trying to push the libertarian agenda, either. Or from people who want to disenfranchise women. But I’m a lot less aware of the former, and the latter tend to write books I wouldn’t buy anyway.

  2. Fade: You make valid points, and your position is certainly consistent. I’m going to shut up and see what others say before making any detailed reply.

  3. Card can’t be fired. He’s written the work. He’s been paid. DC needs to be made aware that a significant number of people are unhappy with him as a choice and would prefer he not be hired again in the future.

    No one is trying to suppress Card from speaking his mind or “censor” him. It’s his actions that people have a problem with. He sits on the board for the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay hate group that works diligently to deny rights to homosexuals. He tithes regularly to the Mormon church, a group that pours thousands and thousands of dollars into causes that harm the LGBT community (not to mention the psychological torture they set upon any Mormon who comes out). Yeah, yeah, he’s got freedom of religion. And no one’s saying he shouldn’t be Mormon. He can have a menage with the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all I care.

    But actions have consequences and he needs to own up to that. Would I deny him a living because he acts in a hateful way and seeks to subjugate people? Abso-friggin-lutely. He’s done the same. He’s contributed to causes that have lobbied for laws that make being gay a reason you can be fired. Are you really saying it’s okay for him to act in a way that denies me income but I can’t as others not to buy his works because it denies him a living? That’s absurd.

    I fully believe with all my heart that Mormonism is a cult. There, I’ve spoken my mind using the first Amendment, just as Card has done. The difference between me and him is that I’m not part of any group that’s trying to take the Church down or lobby the government to take aware their tax exempt status. I don’t contribute money to causes that seek to harm the Mormon church.

    Which brings me to the next fundamental difference between Card and me (and, lordy, there are many). I’m gay. I can’t change that. I didn’t choose it. I can’t flick a switch and be straight and it’s psychologically damaging to try to bury the feelings and “act” straight. Beliefs are based on choice. Sexual orientation is not. Card is choosing to be a hatemonger. Plain and simple.

    But that’s fine. Neither of us can tell the other what to believe. That’s part of the freedoms we enjoy. But he is ACTIVELY working to ensure I cannot have other freedoms that HE enjoys. Actions speak louder than words. He can speak all the words he wants. He’s free to do so. But when those beliefs translate into actions, yeah, I’m gonna take a stand.

  4. If DC wants to have Card write for them, that’s fine. But, as there are many, many comics and books I wish to read — far more than I have time and money for — Card’s projects will not be high on my list because of my opinions on his views.

    Now, if many people tell DC that they have no interested in reading a Superman book by Card, DC has the right to shelve the project*: it doesn’t matter why people don’t want to read Card’s writing. Free speech does not obligate DC to let someone use their property as a platform: if Mister Card wants to write a Superman story, but DC does not wish him to, well, there’s always a number of fanfiction websites.

    Basically, I don’t see people saying ‘I wish to boycott Card’s work, and am informing DC of that’ as censorship, since it’s coming from the people who read comic books. Now, you can argue that people shouldn’t refuse to read authors with views they disagree with but… well, like I said, many of us have long reading lists and need some way to prioritize things.

    * Well, assuming a contract does not exist that says DC will face consequences.

  5. The instant his abhorrent beliefs start to creep into his work, a boycott and protest become inevitable and mandatory. Until and unless that happens, there protesting someone’s non-work-related opinions is the worst form of coercion.

    Frustratingly in the case of Card, there is a coloration between his age, the outspoken rightward lilt to his commentary, and the decline of his literary output. His novel “Empire” was the last of his books which I was able to sit through- specifically because his politics overwhelmed his storytelling.

    Given this trend, I’m honestly surprised that he still has a big enough fanbase to be a draw. I do earnestly hope for a return to the skill he demonstrated with Ender’s Game.

  6. “when you deny someone a living because of his beliefs, you are denying a basic human right”

    I would love to see someone argue with that. I agree 100%

    Fade, just because you or I wouldn’t have hired the guy has nothing to do with whether he should be fired now that he has the gig. The issue’s very similar to inviting someone to speak: not offering the position has nothing to do with free speech, but withdrawing it has everything to do with free speech. Should you be able to fire people because they are known homophobes, communists, sex workers, or anything a loud part of the community disapproves of?

  7. “Should you be able to fire people because they are known homophobes, communists, sex workers, or anything a loud part of the community disapproves of?”

    Of course not. Just like you shouldn’t be able to fire people for being gay. But Card supports that. So if he’s working to deny me a basic human right, as you put it, why isn’t turnabout fair play?

    And, again, I’m not even advocating firing him. I’m encouraging people to not buy his books or anything with his name on it. And when he’s no longer a strong seller, publishers will stop publishing him. And, yes, it will be hard for him to earn a living as a writer as a result. BUT, actions have consequences. He can believe anything he wants. He can DO anything he wants to enforce this beliefs (although, can we at least agree that it’s incredibly douchey to try to enforce your beliefs on others?). But he needs to be prepared for the fall-out if/when he can no longer command an income BECAUSE of what he professes/does.

    If you suddenly professed that raping babies should be perfectly legal and suddenly people stopped buying your books, is that censorship? Should you be denied an income because you professed that belief? I think a lot of people would say yes.

    Say what you want. Do what you want. Be prepared for the consequences and don’t try to blame others for what you’ve done. It’s that simple.

  8. I’m just baffled by your position, Steve. I emphatically agree that we shouldn’t, and more to the point cannot, use state power to suppress opinions we despise. If your aside about the Right using censorship in that past refers to that, I couldn’t agree more. And that prohibition should I think flow to all levels, including for example school boards controlling the content of their libraries and the permitted reading lists in their classrooms.

    But that’s not at all what we’re talking about here. If it were–if someone were saying we should fine Card, or jail him, or fine DC, or use the National Guard to stop shipments of its comics–then I would be on the protest line.

    On the contrary though I would say this: I’m a gay man. Card is my enemy. He has sought for most of his life to destroy me. He does this through political action and public advocacy; but suggesting that those are the only ways he does so is nonsense. In the first place his (not good) books are instruments in his war (as they should be for any astute cultural warrior). See, for example, his appalling rewrite of Hamlet. In the second and much more important case, it is his career as a writer of mostly not-good things that has given him a great fortune and a high pulpit, and those are the principal weapons in his campaign to ruin my life.

    I want to deprive him of his weapons. I cannot and would not use the state to do so. How then should I, in your view? Should I shake my finger reprovingly at racks of comics? Should I write him an email?

    More to the point, I want DC to know that I now regard them as just as much an enemy as Card himself. By paying him they are directly funding opponents in a war the stakes of which are whether or not I am a human. And it doesn’t matter to DC whether or not I stop buying DC products. It does however matter to them if many people stop buying DC comics. Am I forbidden, in your view, from opposing this enormous corporate treasury which is now paying to destroy me? So I want to stand up in public and tell lots of people to stop buying DC comics. A straight ally might not immediately think of this issue in these terms; she might not be as attuned to the struggle, or she might not be radicalized enough to act on her beliefs. But if I say in public: when you pay money to DC, you’re paying money to kill me. Then my straight ally might very well say, oh wow, I shouldn’t do that, should I?

    I guess my real problem is that the implication of your position is that I should limit myself to opposing Card in the spheres of advocacy and political action. Doing so, I think, is insane, because it ignores how that advocacy and political action is funded, and I think you’d probably agree that money matters as much or more than rhetoric. If someone on the street was giving out five-dollar bills, and everyone who got one was standing on a barrel shouting to the crowd that you were a witch and should be killed at once; would you just shout back, or would you also try to stop them from getting any more money?

  9. It’s not like the US is choosing a homophobic surgeon general or something like that, this is just a poor business decision to put this guy in place on a crappy media property that was never very good in the first place.

    I’m not a fan at all of Card; and everything I’ve heard about him over the years makes me like him less and less. Based on what I understand of his beliefs, if I cared in the slightest about DC or Time Warner, I’d have preferred they not hire him. But to be honest, I really don’t care at all about this. Superman is a profoundly stupid comic, and has been since it was first conceived (as a gross ripoff of Doc Savage, incidentally). Why should it matter to me if they choose Card to write this stuff? Are there really enough Superman fans in the world right now that this is a serious issue?

    Let’s say that I am a Superman fan, however, or more realistically, that someone else chose to hire Card to write for some publication that I actually care about. If he were placed in creative control, and used his position to tout his insane Mormon beliefs or to promote his personal warped view of human sexuality, I’d probably quit reading whatever it was; but even so, I doubt I’d participate in some kind of mass boycott campaign as a response. However, if as I expect no hint of politics or his sexual morality beliefs emerges in this work, I’d probably just ignore the whole thing and continue reading, assuming as I said that I liked the stuff for other reasons. At least Ender’s Game was a pretty good book, I have to say, even if his later stuff mostly doesn’t appeal.

    Consider this: the majority of CEOs of major companies in the US are republicans. The republican platform is essentially anti-homosexual because it panders (literally) to their religious base. Are the people protesting this irrelevant choice of writer for an increasingly irrelevant media property also boycotting the vast array of consumer goods and media communication in this country that come from these companies?

    Also consider that the majority of classics of literature were written in a climate in which it was almost universally assumed that homosexuality was wrong and sinful. Should you boycott all of our cultural heritage for this reason (well, with the exception of Oscar Wilde)?

    Anyway, the whole thing seems like a tempest in a teapot to me.

  10. I don’t support firing the jackass. But I won’t be supporting him by buying his work. I’ve been on the anti-Card wagon for twenty years; I don’t want my dollars going to support someone who wants to criminalize homosexuality and who thinks my friends should not be allowed to be married. So I don’t buy his stuff. End of story.

    In short, I agree.

  11. “Should you be able to fire people because they are known homophobes, communists, sex workers, or anything a loud part of the community disapproves of?”

    I think it depends.

    Should a guy answering tech support phone calls be fired for being a racist, homophobic asshole? If he can keep his mouth shut about those things while at work, no, probably not. He can think whatever he wants, and rant about the Gay Communist Jews destroying America on his blog. He probably shouldn’t be attaching his company’s name to those rants, though.

    Should a man who’s a sex worker be fired when his employers find out? If he’s writing ad copy for peanut butter, probably not! What he does in his own time is his own business, though there may be issues if what he’s doing is illegal, or if he’s advertising his sex work as Brand Name Peanut Butter Man. But if he’s not writing ad copy for peanut butter, but is instead is the primary editorial-writer for the Magazine for Hating Sex And Advocating Everyone Abstain From Sex Always, y’know, it’s pretty legitimate for the magazine owners to think that this is not a good job fit.

    If you decide to host a conference on Diversity And Tolerance In Romance Novels, and hire a big-name romance author to be your Guest of Honor, and then his next novel comes out and it’s 90% rants about how all those straight white male breeders are destroying America with their hideous penises which ought to be chopped off… Perhaps it is a good time to withdraw the invitation! New information has come out that makes it clear the person you wanted to do that job is entirely unsuitable for the job at hand.

    If you hire someone to write a comic book, and expect their name will be going on the cover and “This person is writing our books!” will be part of your ad campaign, and then people point out that the person in question is in charge of the Society For Disenfranchising Those Filthy Left-Handers, then perhaps it is time to sit back and consider how to handle this. After all, a certain percentage of your readers are left-handers, or know and love those who are. Some percentage of them are aware that this person is in charge of that society. Do you want to imply that your company is endorsing that view? After all, it’s not like you’re donating money to the SFDTFLH, and the story isn’t even about being left-handed. Of course, now you’re wondering if it’s entirely a coincidence that the one left-handed character in the comic is also a filth-drenched villain, but that could just be a coincidence. Maybe it’s best just to not make a big deal about this author being involved…

    So. I think there are times when it’s appropriate, and times when it’s not. And times when it’s hard to tell which. As with most things in life, it’s complicated.

  12. “So if he’s working to deny me a basic human right, as you put it, why isn’t turnabout fair play?”

    Because it isn’t fair play. Turnabout is the foundation of gang warfare. If you live by “They hit us, so we hit them,” the hitting never stops.

  13. Something needs to be cleared up here:

    Orson Scott Card cannot be fired from a job he doesn’t even have.

    Orson Scott Card is not an employee at DC. That means DC can not publish his work and cut ties with him as they please. Firing or not firing Card is not in play here.

    Now, back to my main point. First, I want to say, Miramon, this is 2013 and society has changed. DC has been actively attempting to reach out to the gay community over the past year in it’s work. This in turn has led LGBT persons to believe that DC is the company for us to follow, support, they’re the ones who have our backs. They’re going to support us and we’re going to support them. I think THAT has caused a lot of the sadness and hurt feelings. People feel betrayed by DC. They feel as if DC didn’t think about them before associating with someone like Card. Whether that’s true or not, I can agree that position is valid. Card is much more than a random anti-gay blowtard. He’s someone who was a ring leader in the passage of Proposition 8. He’s provides some of the biggest funding towards NOM, an anti-gay marriage organization whose sole goal is to prevent LGBTQ citizens equality.

    This is about more than beliefs that are abhorrent. This is about a man who has history of homophobia in his work, who is actively homophobia in his real life, and has attacked, alienated and discriminated against the gay community for decades. That simply cannot be wiped away with a “who cares”. Not when Card has the following that he has. When someone has such a following as Card does, he holds influence. And that influence is being used to hurt people.

  14. Something else we need to be clear on: people throw the term “censorship” around WAY too much. If I don’t buy Card’s books, I’m not censoring him. If a bookstore, of its own volition, chooses not to carry Card’s books, that’s not censorship. If the government punishes any publisher who publishes Card’s books and makes it impossible to get access to Card’s work in any form, THAT’S censorship.

    When the GOVERNMENT or those in power legislate the suppression of art, that’s censorship. A bookstore might refuse to carry his work but, hey, it’s still available through other outlets: not censorship.

    Please use this word judiciously. It’s very serious and a very misunderstood concept.

  15. I think people need to separate a few things here. First of all, no-one can force DC to “fire” card, because ultimately, he’s not even employed by DC. Secondly, if you are individually not supporting Card by not buying his work, then you are boycotting Card. So the “I disagree with the organized boycott” belief is based on a belief that you’re somehow different than the individuals who, themselves, are individually boycotting Card. The organized boycott is made up of people like you, who have come together in sending the message—–we cannot and will not support Orson Scott Card and his homophobia.

    I can see what people are saying about basically being the bigger person and rising above Card’s hate, but you’re still making the “this man’s bigotry is unacceptable” statement if you avoid Card’s work. A lot of people are not seeing that. They disagree with the organized boycott yet are boycotting themselves.

  16. There are a number of reasons why attempting to deprive someone (even an enemy) of their livelihood on the basis of ideological sins is stupid and low. The first, and most obvious, is that establishing (or continuing) a precedent whereby those whose ideology is in ascendance may bully and coerce those who find themselves on the unpopular end of an argument is dangerous. No matter how righteous the cause, you’re essentially handing your enemy a gun that they may use on you next time they’re in power, with the simple justification “but they did it to me!”

    One of the basic founding principles of the Enlightenment is the notion that words and persuasion are better weapons than coercion. Persuasion lasts longer–and engaging in argument puts both parties in the position of tacitly acknowledging that they could be wrong. It is through that culture argument that gay rights (and many, many other civil rights) have advanced so far so fast–so what of the issues where one of us may be wrong, or the prejudicial blind spots we may have toward our neighbors. Heaven forbid we pull up the ladder behind us, rather than allowing our progeny–and even our enemies–the same latitude we were afforded through Enlightenment culture’s basic, dogged devotion to argument as the final and ultimate game-changing method. When you destroy or suspend that ethic in the name of expedience, you do so at your own long-term peril.

    Steve and Will — thank you for talking sense on this issue. It’s good to see someone in the community finally doing so. As someone who is libertarian (small “l”) in bent, and positively anti-Rand, please allow me to extend my thanks. Please allow me also to urge you to work on the straw men you’re painting across a vast spectrum of classical liberal thought. It would be every bit as unfair and uncharitable of me to portray the whole of the rich philosophical tradition of the left as “communist.”

    -Dan Sawyer

  17. Emma, fair point. BUT, you still don’t address the idea that Card acts to make sure laws are in place that make it possible to fire someone for being gay. The original point was that denying someone a living is the same as denying them a human right. So why is it OK for Card to do that but not the other way around? Eye for an eye is awful, I agree, but do feel that people should support Card financially by buying things with his name on them, knowing that money goes to suppressing human rights?

  18. Let’s not act as if Card is being deprived a livelihood by people not supporting him and his work. There are going to be millions that do and millions that don’t. It goes both ways. People aren’t in the wrong in not supporting Card’s work.

  19. I am not a patriot.

    There is almost no definition of patriot by which I qualify. The (relatively few) things I love about America are things a self-identified patriot wouldn’t–the overall historical drive toward equality, the pugnacious nature of the working class, and so on.

    But, if I were a patriotic American, here is what I would say to Orson Scott Card:

    Sir: You are un-American. You seek to create a second-class citizenship that goes against everything this country stands for. I intend to fight you in the press, and fight you on the podium, and fight you at the ballot-box. But, because I am an American, I will not lift a finger to interfere in any way with your livelihood. I will not encourage others to deprive you of those rights you seek to deprive your fellow Americans of. I will do absolutely nothing to harm you physically, economically, or socially. I will confine my opposition strictly to the political arena, because that is what Americans do. Unlike you.

    Now, in fact, I’m not a patriot, so my attitude toward Card is rather different: when the time is right, he and I will meet at the barricades, and we’ll see what happens. But, if I were a patriot, that’s what I’d do.

  20. So, Steven, do you believe that all forms of boycott are unjust protestations? Whether or not you believe in the effectiveness, do you feel that refusing to buy a product and advocating that position to others is wrong across the board?

  21. “BUT, you still don’t address the idea that Card acts to make sure laws are in place that make it possible to fire someone for being gay. The original point was that denying someone a living is the same as denying them a human right. So why is it OK for Card to do that but not the other way around?”

    It is not okay for Card, or anyone, to deny others a basic human right.

    As you say, Card has worked to get legislation passed to deny gays the right to employment and marriage. Instead of attempting to deny Card something in retaliation, I mean to work that much harder to get legislation passed that guarantees the rights Card and those like him want to restrict and deny. That seems to me like a proportional response.

    We want to punish individuals who think and talk bigotry; I understand that. But punishing Scott Card isn’t going to get one more gay couple legally married, or save one gay person’s job. Punishing bigots makes us feel as if we’ve done something, but it doesn’t fix the underlying problems.

  22. Emma: Well said. There is often, in my opinion, validity in, “Do not sink to your enemy’s level.” And this is a case for it.

  23. In emails offstage, I went through my arguments about this and am now prepared to totally agree with you.

    Basically, I was struggling with the difference between a grassroots call to action and blacklisting, or how powerful the actors are in the action under scrutiny. The Hollywood blacklist seems very different from a group of disenfranchised people protesting a guy with tons of class privilege.

    But lately, unrelated to this, I’ve been talking with c about how our actions impact other people, and how it is problematic to assign right/wrong to an action based on how much it hurts someone else. So similarly I tried to look at this action (petitioning DC to get rid of OSC) solely as an action, apart from the likely effect it will have (probably not much) and apart from the perpetrators (gay comic fans are good guys, right?), and asked myself if the action itself is a ‘good’ one.

    I eventually answered, no, it isn’t, not unless it were sincerely a protest of the quality of his work. I can’t say if it has declined– I haven’t read his stuff since the Hamlet thing happened. I do think his hate speech makes it into his work, but I hope DC’s editorial staff would take care of that (which may be a laughable hope, but I don’t read many comics). Anyway, if this were about quality of work rather than hating his opinions, I don’t think the issue would have gained any attention or generated any petitions.

    So yeah. My initial reaction of “but eeeeeewww!” has been reasoned with. You’re entirely correct.

  24. In a way I have no dog in this fight because I have never read anything Card has written and I don’t read comic books. (I did as a kid, more than half a century ago, and I certainly have no criticism of their adult fans.) So my joining or not joining a boycott would have no effect at all.

    I’m not a Kantian in any extended sense, but when I first encountered “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law” I thought, “Ah! That’s the philosophy I’ve been trying to live by” (since I was a child). Probably the first version of it I ever heard was “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

    I do not want people to be denied employment because of their views, or their legal activities outside the workplace, that have nothing to do with the job in question. I don’t want it for people I agree with, who support the same values I do, so I can’t want it for those who don’t. But I have no objection to people declining to patronize businesses or buy products when doing so would put money in the pockets of those who work against their interests–whether I favor or oppose those interests.

  25. I think Card is a despicable bigot, and no foolin’. I’m 100% in favor of mocking him, opposing his politics, and most especially not buying his work.

    But I ask myself what I’d think if DC announced that Nicola Griffith had been hired to write a mini-series, or Ellen Kushner, or Samuel Delany, or Poppy Z.Brite/Billy Martin, and a pack of bigots organized a petition to get them fired for their sexuality.

    I’d think they were intrusive, ridiculous authoritarian assholes. And when you’re fighting intrusive authoritarian assholes, refusing to seize their methods is important. Refusing to use their weapons IS a weapon.

  26. Jen: Yeah, that’s sort of how I went through it, too. Well put. As you say, if his work sucks (and I haven’t read any lately) that’s an entirely different kettle of geese.

    Scott: “Refusing to use their weapons IS a weapon” I’m going to use that, and pass it off as my own.

  27. Steven and Emma, first, I really appreciate the civil, thoughtful tone of the dialogue. I fully understand what you’re saying. And I’ll freely admit that what’s keeping me from agreeing with you is that I’m the one Card is hurting. It feels personal because it is personal. I don’t know how I’d feel if Card was seeking to oppress another minority. I might be able to see things your way.

    But I know that a portion of every dollar he makes goes to supporting my own oppression. So I don’t want to give him money. And I would hope that anyone who loves me or at least respects my rights as a human would not give him money as well. I know, the argument here is that the money I pay the government in taxes goes toward things I don’t agree with so how is it any different? But the difference, of course, is that I don’t have a choice with taxes. I do when it comes to supporting Card’s career. And I can’t knowingly give money to a man who would hurt me just as soon as look at me. And, yes, I will continue to ask people not to buy what he puts out.

    I say this knowing he’s a great writer. I loved ENDER’S GAME (read long before his homophobic rants became public knowledge). But I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart when their employment practices came to light and I stopped reading his books when I knew how hateful he was. My buying habits won’t matter much in the big scheme of things. At the very least, though, I can go on knowing I’m not contributing to my own persecution.

    I have to act on my conscience. And, as David Robertson said, let’s not kid ourselves: even if absolutely no one buys that Superman comic, he’s not going to be hurting for money. At all. The ENDER’S GAME movie will net him a gajillion dollars, which he’ll turn around and use to try to make me a second class citizen. But at least I can say I won’t have been part of that.

  28. Ok, a different perspective from this side of the pond; I actively support the right of the charity Relate to fire an employee because of his religious beliefs. The case has been litigated to the European Court of Human Rights, and that right was upheld.

    The individual in question wished to work as a sexual counsellor; in order to do so he is required to obtain qualifications for doing the job. The body granting those qualifications insists, inter alia, that clients be treated equally; he insisted that his religious beliefs required him to advise clients that homosexual behavior is evil.

    Of course, his religious beliefs should also have required him to advise unmarried heterosexual couples that their behavior is evil, but apparently he was untroubled by that point.

    I see no ethical alternative to refusing to employ that particular person to do that particular job…

  29. Stevie: You bring up an interesting point. Aside from the fact that your example has a direct and obvious correlation between belief and performance, what if a petition had been circulated demanding his firing?

  30. “But I know that a portion of every dollar he makes goes to supporting my own oppression. So I don’t want to give him money.”

    Oh, heavens, no, I’m not giving him my money, either. Haven’t for years. But that’s not the same thing as demanding that a company not publish his work.

    Aside from the principle of not using the methods of oppression to fight oppression, there’s the question of effectiveness. I want to focus my energies on what helps solve the problems. Nothing I do to Scott Card, or even DC Comics, will help solve the problem. There are things I can do that WILL help, however, and I’m going to put my energy into those.

  31. So, then, is the issue that this is a petition demanding a specific action of “firing” that causes this to be a problem, despite the fact that D.C. can choose to ignore this petition or not? I don’t mean this as rhetorical, really.

    And doesn’t the fact that his reputation is as a writer, and that he publishes his repellent views from his position as writer-celebrity (whatever that might actually amount to) factor into this? It’s not as if one writing is entirely divorced from the other–his online “non-fiction” writing is doubtless read because people know his fictional writing. I know that’s how I stumbled into that tangle of misogyny and homophobia…

    Is it really just that you think the petition should have just been, “D.C., we’re really disappointed you chose to produce work from Orson Scott Card, because he’s an asshole”? Wouldn’t even that risk economic harm, if people saw it and thought, “Gosh, I don’t want to support THAT guy”? Or is it because he’d be denied the option to sell the work to fellow homophobes and/or the apathetic? But he wouldn’t–he’d be denied the option to sell work based on someone else’s character to fellow homophobes and the apathetic.

    I disagree with the notion that it should not be public (one of the points Will makes), but I suppose I might agree that demanding a firing/removal might be inappropriate.

  32. I won’t speak for anyone else, but for me, if you take an action intending to the harm the person physically, emotionally, or socially you have crossed the line.

  33. Steve, serious question: what “line” is that?

    In addition, it seems to me that “socially” is somewhat different. Someone might be harmed socially by my telling mutual acquaintances about a scam the person pulled, or some other harmful activity, but it seems to me that is not in the same category as taking an action to harm someone physically or emotionally. I think people who purposely do harm to others–especially repeatedly–SHOULD have action taken to harm them socially.

  34. cakmpls: By social harm, I refer to working to ostracize someone. And I wouldn’t say never on that, any more that I would say never on economical or physical harm. I would say they cross the line into the territory of, “you’d better have some awfully good justification for this action.” What exactly constitutes such justification? Well, someone being a member of the Libertarian Party, and speaking and writing on behalf of these ideas, do not count; but when they start organizing Brown Shirts, all bets are off.

  35. Imagine that you are a writer who sometimes publishes with Tor. Imagine that you believe it is right to try to keep Card from publishing.

    Then shouldn’t you tell Tor not to publish him? Shouldn’t you tell Tor that it’s either Card or you, if they publish another book by Card they will never get another book from you?

    It isn’t just DC comics, we also need to show Tor who’s boss.

    When I think about it, boycotts are a tool that works best after you have already won.

    Say there’s a conflict going on and I’m trying to be nice to both sides. It isn’t my fight, I just want to get along. Then people from one side come to me and say “Either you are for us or you’re against us. If you do anything else to provide comfort to our enemy then you will be our enemy.”. If they have 40% support I will let them choose me for an enemy unless I particularly like them. If they have 60% support I’ll think about it. I don’t like to be treated that way.

    If they have 99% support and they’re still at it, they are sore winners. I’ll probably go along because I don’t want to paint a target on my butt for a lost cause.

    So I expect that usually, by the time you can do effective censorship you don’t need to do it to stop the enemy from hurting you. You only need to silence your enemy in case he says something so true that people might notice.

  36. I actually wrote an article about this issue for the website “Nerds Raging”. And to a certain degree, Mr. Brust (fan for years, btw, ever since I found a copy of “Jhereg” in my local used bookstore back when I was 15), I agree with you. I don’t think any person should be denied work or the right to speak based on his or her personal beliefs.

    However, if they’ve demonstrated that those personal beliefs will bleed into their work and would cause them to do said work improperly, that’s where the line should be drawn. Just like the counselor in Stevie’s comment, or like the pharmacists in the US who refuse to dispense birth control. They cannot do their job properly because of their personal beliefs, and so they should not have said job.

    This, I think is the case with Mr. Card, and particularly when it comes to writing a character like Superman, who is meant to stand for all that is decent in humanity. Mr. Card has proven time and time again that he will deliberately write or re-write stories tainted with his own bigoted beliefs (for the best example of this, check out his version of “Hamlet”). To have him writing Superman, a character meant to stand for truth and justice, just seems a perversion to me.

  37. Well, ostracizing someone from anything other than a small and relatively self-contained group is pretty difficult, it seems to me. (Actually, I think it’s difficult to do it successfully, if you mean a true “shunning,” even in such a group. There’s usually someone who keeps up a clandestine contact.) I don’t see how it would apply here.

    Using the categorical imperative (in the basic form I quoted earlier) seems to me to simplify everything. YMMV.

  38. I don’t think I have anything useful to add to why I oppose trying to get people fired for their beliefs, but I’ll try to clarify two things, then ask a question.

    1. Censorship is not limited to government power. I like the ACLU’s definition: “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.”

    2. Freelancers can be “fired” from their gigs. Losing all hope of future employment is being fired, whether you’re on salary, wages, or are paid per job.

    The question:

    Are there any suggestions that Card’s Superman story has any homophobic elements? (If I was arguing for the other side, I would say, “Yes, the byline”–but I disagree with that. As I said on Twitter, it’s okay to like Ender’s Game and hate Card’s opinions about gay folks.)

  39. Will, I do think it’s important for people to establish the definition of the issue they’re discussing (you have probably read me saying that before!), and it usually doesn’t happen. Sure, “censorship” CAN mean something done by entities other than government; it would be best if people discussing it agreed on which they mean.

    I think the ACLU is off-base in including “that are ‘offensive'”–are they saying that suppression is not censorship if done for some reason other than offensiveness? And why just political or moral values? Are those the only values that count? And what do they mean by “succeed in imposing”?

    “Some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others” in most cases where majority rules, don’t they?

  40. I can’t think of an example of censorship that wasn’t inspired by someone’s idea of what was offensive. The examples I grew up with include communism, homosexuality, and racial civil rights, all of which offended the John Birch Society, the KKK, and conservative capitalists in general. Do you have examples of non-political, amoral issues that were censored by people who were not offended by them?

    “Majority rules” covers a great many forms of democracy. The best ones give a lot of protection to minorities.

    On gay marriage, US democracy is in an interesting position: the majority of the population supports it, but the plutocracy does not.

  41. SKZB

    I’m not sure that I would regard a petition calling for someone’s dismissal as innately good or innately bad; circumstances alter cases.

    For what it’s worth the only petition that I have signed in the last couple of decades was to protest against the treatment of Gurkhas who had fought for this country but were denied the right to live here.

    Signing a petition seemed somewhat inadequate so I joined the demonstration outside Parliament which culminated in the presentation of the petition to the then Prime Minister. It was freezing, and I froze along with everyone else because if you are arguing that brown people should have the right to live in a predominantly white country then the presence of white faces in the demonstration makes it harder for racists to dismiss it out of hand.

    And in the end the campaign worked, which was what mattered…

  42. I said it before and I’ll say it again:

    if you’re boycotting Orson Scott Card individually, you’re still saying that this man cannot be supported at least on a personal level, because of his bigotry. That’s a boycott. You’re saying you cannot support DC’s decision hiring him. They’re entitled to it, but you can’t support it.

    That’s exactly what the larger boycott is about. It’s about people power. And taking a stand by saying, no, we cannot support this man and his bigotry. In four days, there has been virtually 10000 signatures on the allout campaign, and you add that on top of those who disagree with the campaign but will not be supporting Orson Scott Card’s work. That’s influence at work, that’s people power. Card isn’t an employee at DC. DC can drop him on their own accord. None of us can force him to do so. But by boycotting and withholding funds then you individually are making the point that, hey, this guy is a bigot. This guy is lame and I can’t get with his work.

    If DC listens, that’s their choice. That’s the free market at work. Virtually everyone here is saying they won’t buy OSC’s work so you’re not much different than those who signed the campaign, because the campaign is simply people who are individually boycotting, as you are, and doing it in an organized fashion to make a statement to DC.

  43. Will, it appears that you, and possibly the ACLU, are defining “offensive” to mean “something someone dislikes/opposes.” That’s OK, as long as it’s clear.

    As for nonpolitical, amoral issues, well, now. Is there anything that isn’t a political or a moral issue to someone, or anything that can’t be subsumed under one of those headings? What I’m trying to get at, I think, is this: the ACLU’s definition seems to be, depending on the definition of the words in it, either so narrow or so broad as to be useless. (I’m leaning toward “broad.”)

    Let me try this. (I have no idea whether it will get across what’s in my mind, but let’s try.) Is it censorship when a group of parents exert sufficient pressure (of whatever kind; let’s not get sidetracked) to have evolution not taught in a public school science class? Is it censorship when a group of parents exert sufficient pressure to have creationism not taught in a public school science class? Is it censorship when a group of parents exert sufficient pressure to have alchemy not taught in a public school chemistry class?

    (Not directly related to preceding examples.) No matter how much protection minorities get, at some level others’ values are imposed on them when the majority rules. I just don’t see any getting around that.

  44. By odd coincidence, a few of my friends were having a conversation last night about the other end of this: people who refuse to read/watch entertainment because of gay characters, gay writers/producers, or the gay-positive attitudes of the story.

    It’s something we all found – at best – baffling.

    And it’s not just because the people in the discussion were either LGBT or allies, but because it was strange to us to refuse to be exposed to entertainment you’d otherwise like because it contains a character or idea(s) that you don’t like. A story should challenge you to see the humanity in the queer, to understand the heart of the bigot, to sympathize with a despot bent on world domination.

    I like work that’s written by a variety of people, some of whom I think have bafflingly silly and backwards ideas, and have loved stories about people who aren’t exactly “nice” people. I’ve cheered for a serial killer and more than one murderous vampire; cried over a tragic, manipulative, and abusive romance; and call a conniving, duplicitous little man who avoids confrontation “heroic.” Being open to stories by people I disagree with and about people I don’t like has enriched my world, and tempered, just a little, the tendency towards letting my views, values, and relationships ossify.

    That isn’t to say that you should read or watch every story that exists – who has the time? But if you love soapy costume dramas and refuse to watch Downton Abbey because of a gay kiss… or you love light-hearted sci-fi and won’t watch Doctor Who because of Captain Jack or Russel T. Davies’ sexuality… or if you’re a Christian who loves space opera and didn’t watch Babylon 5 because JMS is an atheist… that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And neither does not reading Ender’s Game or Card’s Superman comic soley because of Card’s politics.

    Personally, I don’t care for the genre of sci-fi Card is most known for, don’t read much superhero comics, and of the superheroes I find Superman the least interesting. I’d be going out of my to “support” Card to buy the new comic. But I think you can like his work without liking him as a person or liking his politics or liking some of his characters, and you should feel no shame in liking the work if you do, even if you think he’s a nut-case and an ass.

  45. David Robertson: Case 1: “This homophobic douche really pisses me off. I’ll be damned if I’ll give him one cent of my money.” Case 2: “I’m going to make it point to deprive this homophobic douche of my money as a protest against his beliefs and activities.”

    The cases are awfully close, but I think the difference is not hair-splitting; I think it’s real. It is the difference between choosing not to give money to someone you don’t want to give it to, and using economic force in an effort to either force your will on another or punish him for activities you oppose.

    I cannot support the latter.

  46. My poorly sturctured and written rant:

    What I don’t get is why are people raining shit on Card? It’s a massive thoughtless overreaction by a minority.

    What about long time DC comics writer Frank Miller? Maybe TimeWarner should fire him because of his right-wing beliefs. These people who are protesting probably have The Dark Knight Returns on their bookshelf.

    Maybe I should throw away my Tolkien collection because the author was a Catholic (and all the things that go with it).

    Maybe I should throw away my Watchmen graphic novel because it’s written by an Anarchist.

    I’m now reading HP Lovecraft but wait! This guy held people of English decent above other people.

    I also here there is a New York Times best seller fantasy author that who’s a socialist, and defends smoking and gambling. And sometimes actively on his blog! This guy must be a real nut. Don’t read work kids! (where’s my local representative?)

    I enjoyed reading some of Card’s books (not all of them). Ender’s Game is one of my favourite novels I’ve ever read.

    So Card is a Mormon. So what? One of my best mates is a Mormon (with all the things that go with it).

    And he opposes gay marriage. Umm.. don’t around half (or almost half) of Americans and (Australians, where I am) opposes it also? I’m guessing he opposes it on the grounds that in his (and a significant others) mind there is a sacred, non-negotiable definition of marriage – ie between a Man and a Woman in the eyes of God? Nothing to do with the active, conscious suppression of the rights of a section of society. And for the record, I think that consenting adults irrespective genders or whatever should be free to marry with all the rights that go with it,

    If one of my selection criteria of fiction to read and watch was based on the author’s political, economic and social beliefs then my bookshelf would only have a couple items on the middle shelf and my kindle would have 99.9 per cent free space on it. And I would be a sadder person for it.

    But if don’t buy Card’s work because you opposed to his beliefs at the end of the day that’s fine. But if people want to enforce that on others by way of telling DC comics to fire him, well they are as bad as those who want to enforce their conservative beliefs of marriage on gay couples.

  47. ““Majority rules” covers a great many forms of democracy. The best ones give a lot of protection to minorities.”

    I wonder about that. Democracies can give a lot of protection to a few privileged minorities. The US constitution gave special protection to small states and slave states. Later it gave special protection to blacks, and a few special protections to women, who were a majority. Filibuster gives a minor protection to the minority party in the Senate, or to whatever group of senators are willing to filibuster. Homosexuals, Jews, and a few others get some explicit protections. Many gun owners believe they have protections built into the Constitution, because they have the responsibility to overthrow the government if in their opinion the government has gone bad. We will see….

    Suppose you are a stamp-collector and the government is about to do something that hurts you. A karateka. A plumber. An air traffic controller. A diabetic. A professional ecologist. A punk rock musician.

    If you and the people who deeply care about your plight are more than 1% of the population, then you can likely block stuff. Unless a considerably larger minority cares deeply enough on the other side.

    So, if you are an official minority you get special perqs. If you are a large enough unofficial minority then you can stop the wheels of progress before they accidentally crush you, with the side effect that you stop the wheels of progress. If a much larger minority is out to get you then you are probably out of luck.

  48. Steve, in both cases, I’m not giving him the money; the result for the douche is exactly the same. He is no more or less punished by one than the other. So which is the punishment that you are against in the second case–protesting or not giving money? I can’t see any way that it is the not giving money, because that is a component in both cases.

    Also, you make a switch: from “a protest against his beliefs and activities” to “punish him for activities you oppose.” Which am I doing? Do you see a difference between punishing (in whatever way) someone for his beliefs and punishing him for his activities?

  49. skzb: Case 1: “This homophobic douche really pisses me off. I’ll be damned if I’ll give him one cent of my money.”

    So DC notices, ‘This is a niche market. Is it a big enough niche? Yes? OK.’

    Case 2: “I’m going to make it point to deprive this homophobic douche of my money as a protest against his beliefs and activities.”

    So DC notices, ‘This is a niche market. Is it a big enough niche? Yes? OK.’

    Case 3: “I’m going to tell everybody that Card is evil and DC is evil for working with him. I’m going to get everybody I can to boycott these evil entities. Don’t buy anything from DC! They work with Card, an evil homophobes so they are evil homophobes themselves!”

    And DC notices, ‘This guy attracts crazy people who don’t buy. There are disadvantages to working with him.’

    Case 4: “I would never tell people to go to stores in big groups and grab all the DC comics and burn them. But when you think about it, wouldn’t that be a good thing if it happened? Somebody needs to shut DC down, and who will do it if not anonymous big groups of patriots? It would be a bad thing if somebody with a high power rifle shot Card while he was at DC, or barely missed him. Nobody ought to do that. But if it happened wouldn’t you know that a higher power approves? Card does not deserve to work, and anyone who hires him deserves to have his buildings burn to the ground. I don’t say they should get what they deserve, but they do deserve it.”

    DC notices, ‘These guys are scary. I won’t give in to them but if Card does the least thing out of line I’m dropping him. They’re a problem and he’s a problem.’

  50. Cakmpls: Case 2 represents either condition. The difference between the cases is motivation, not final result. If you don’t see that as important, okay. I do.

  51. Cakmpls: When anyone talks, you should look at their deeds. I think the ACLU’s actions are the best clarification of their definition. When they supported the right of Nazis to protest, I was offended and proud. No one ever needs to protect the right to say what’s popular.

    Just today, I got email from the ACLU: Stand With Bayli As She Stands Up To Bullies: “Bayli Silberstein, an 8th grade student in Florida, has been trying for a year to create a Gay-Straight Alliance, a student-led club to combat the name-calling and bullying she and her friends face at school. But in an underhanded attempt to stop Bayli from forming the Gay-Straight Alliance, the school board is considering banning ALL extracurricular clubs.””

    By the logic of the silencers, what the school board is doing is proper. I vehemently disagree.

  52. Sorry this is silly. We have a perfect right to purchase capitalist products (e.g. novels and stories) from whomever we like and we have a right to express our reasons for our choices to others. We aren’t operating on the Marx/AynRand notion of “labor theory of value. Rand and Marx were bickering twins in foisting that silliness. No, we base our choices on what we want and persuading others to want something else is essential to proper markets.

  53. Steve, I can see the difference between the two without a doubt. I still think both are protests, though. The main point is there is a protest being made against Card’s bigotry. The difference is that one is a private, individual protest and the other is a public protest.

    Personally, I see no issue with people power going to work and influencing society/laws/work/etc. That, for me, is freedom of expression. People are expressing their distaste of Card by making it publicly known they will not support Card. Tens of thousands have done the same. They’re using their freedoms to affect change as they see fit.

    If you’re not in favor of such a public action but you’re still individually boycotting, you’re sort of in the middle. Actually, you’re more towards the boycott side with a less black and white context. But when you don’t spend your money on Card’s work, it’s the same as that next person who doesn’t in the purest sense. That’s all going to be felt in the pocketbook. The process may be different but the final result is exactly the same. DC reads these comments and sees it, the lack of support of Card. They see that, whether people agree with the boycott or not, most people are not willing to line Card’s pockets with more cash that he could use to fund more hate against the LGBTQ community. That’s people power. People power is how things get done, it’s the most effective way to create change.

    People power can go too far, of course. I don’t think DC dropping Card for his views is appropriate. However, DC listening to their fans and not wanting to risk alienating thousands and decision on that to make a decision to either go in a different direction from Card is the free market influencing and directing change. I don’t have an issue with that.

  54. I disagree too, Will, for obvious reasons. But that case and other similar cases regarding anti-LGBTQ discrimination in schools are different than this situation regarding Card. The reason for that is because a Gay-Straight Alliance isn’t an attack on the liberties and isn’t a group promoting negativity or hate against any individual group of people. All people are invited to join the GSA. On the other hand, organizations like NOM are effectively heterosexist, homophobic organizations that are intentionally advocating, financially promoting and politically influencing inequality on the basis of orientation. I think it’s dangerous to compare being gay to being anti-gay because being gay in itself isn’t an attack on any group. And it isn’t a choice.

  55. My understanding of socialist doctrine is that all real power (or the potential for it) lies with workers, because all profit comes from exploiting labour. Therefore the only way to effect change is to withdraw that labour, en masse. Which would harm the bosses financially, and prevent them from making their usual living. It would be expected that I, as a worker, wouldn’t just strike on my own, but would explain to all my fellow workers why I was striking, what the boss had done that I found unacceptable, and ask that they strike with me, on the same day/s.

    Withdrawing consumption seems to me to be the same thing?

  56. “Personally, I see no issue with people power going to work and influencing society/laws/work/etc. That, for me, is freedom of expression. People are expressing their distaste of Card by making it publicly known they will not support Card.”

    As far as I know it’s legal to go after Card. We can argue whether it’s immoral to do that. I think it’s a moral gray area and it’s certainly moral not to.

    I want to look at whether it’s expedient to do that. I think it is not.

    Say you have a group of people who have been persecuted. The mass of the public has no firm opinion about that and you want to sway them. You want the public to believe that you are innocent victims who do not deserve to be persecuted. If you get that across you will win. You might win faster by persuading the public that you are a powerful dangerous group who is too strong to be persecuted safely. Be careful with that.

    “We are harmless innocent people who don’t deserve to be persecuted.” Get the mass of the public to agree with that and your opponents have trouble recruiting. That isn’t enough to get large numbers of people to want to actively protect you, but it’s got to be the first step. You are the good guys, and your opponents are the bad guys.

    Good message: I’m a good guy and I don’t deserve to be persecuted.

    Bad message: Card is a bad guy and he deserves to be persecuted.

    That does nothing to get people to support you. It tells them that you and Card don’t get along and you want to persecute each other. Do I want to take sides in that? Maybe. I’ll think about it. Let me do a lot more research when I find the time, and I’ll get back to you.

    Here’s an example. Somebody says “Jews are bad. They do wicked things in secret, and it would be a good thing if they were all killed.” I hear that and it sounds crazy. I know some Jewish people who don’t seem that bad to me. He wants to kill them? Crazy.

    Somebody else says “There’s a zionist conspiracy to control the US government and US public opinion to get us to support Israel in persecuting arabs”. And then a whole bunch of people start saying “He’s bad! He’s antisemitic! He mustn’t be allowed to say that in public! He has to be fired from his job!”. And I go huh? That kind of sounds like a conspiracy to control US public opinion. I’m not sure zionists are good guys who are being unfairly persecuted.

    If you’re a kid on the playground and somebody bullies you, it makes a certain sense to beat him up. If you can. But if you want to influence people, it’s better if they see that he’s trying to bully you and you are standing up for yourself and doing nothing wrong. If all they see is two guys fighting then they might think you both enjoy fighting, and there’s nothing to tell them to pick one side.

  57. J Thomas: You’re looking at this as though it’s only a disagreement between the minority (gay folk) and the persecutors of them (Card). Seen like that your argument makes sense.

    But the people saying “don’t mess with us, we’re dangerous” are the larger group of straight people who are also not cool with homophobia. In your bullying metaphor, they ARE the schoolyard who has been convinced that the kid isn’t doing anything wrong, and are stepping in to intervene.

  58. “But the people saying “don’t mess with us, we’re dangerous” are the larger group of straight people who are also not cool with homophobia. In your bullying metaphor, they ARE the schoolyard who has been convinced that the kid isn’t doing anything wrong, and are stepping in to intervene.”

    If you’re sure that you have reached that point then go ahead. I’m talking strategy and not morals. If you have the backing of the large majority of the population, then you can safely persecute the small minority of homophobes. Go get ’em, Tiger! Keep them out of the media, keep them from having jobs or money, drive them out of the nation, pen them in extermination camps, the sky’s the limit. They can do nothing to resist your wrath.

    But if it happens that you aren’t yet strong enough to safely persecute your enemies, then it might not be quite safe to persecute them yet. You might first do more to persuade any undecideds that you are the good guys, before you start showing them what bad guys you are.

  59. Steve, I’m sorry for being dense, but I don’t know what you mean by “Case 2 represents either condition.”

    You introduced the word “punish” regarding the second case. But from the douche’s POV, the punishment, withdrawal of financial support, is the same in both cases. Are you saying that it matters from your POV whether your motivation is to “punish” him rather than to act out your “hate” of him? I wouldn’t say that motivation doesn’t matter to me at all, but when the results are the same, no, usually it doesn’t. I care much less about what people THINK than what they DO, and that is true regarding myself as well as others.

  60. Will, I think that one problem here is that I do not relate very well to the concept of being “offended.” I won’t make it a universal, but for the most part–the overwhelming most part–I don’t get offended/take offense. Maybe it’s just that I am less susceptible to “what other people think” than some (many? most?) people are. (This is not just me saying it; it has been observed by others.) As I say above to Steve, I care much less about what people THINK than what they DO.

    I too approved of the ACLU’s support of the Nazis’ right to protest, but unlike you, I definitely was not offended, and I truly do not understand the concept of being offended by something one approves of. I dislike Nazism, I dislike it being shoved in possibly vulnerable people’s faces, but I think that Nazis have the same right (no more, no less) to express their ideas that others do, and I approve of the ACLU defending that right.

  61. J Thomas, of course the fact that today one is strong enough to persecute one’s enemies doesn’t mean that next week, or month, or year, or century, the situation won’t have flipped, leaving oneself as the persecuted enemy. (I do not mean to imply that you don’t know this!) That’s why I try to live by, as I quoted above, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” That ol’ pendulum is likely to swing back the other way…

  62. We have a similar issue here in Canada, where Gay marriage is legal. Certain JPs (Justice Of The Peace – a taxpayer supported government position whose duties include performing civil marriage ceremonies) are attempting to refuse to perform marriages for Gay couples. The religious right & others with an anti-Gay axe to grind support this choice & call it by the remarkably disingenuous term “acting with their conscience”. This ignores the fact that the position of JP is taxpayer funded & Gay marriage IS the law of the land. Yes you are totally witin your right to refuse to provide a service to whomever you choose. You are NOT within your right to keep feeding at the public trough while refusing to do the job for which you are being paid (and, incidently, breaking the law as well). If I were to attempt to pick & choose which aspect of my defined job to perform, I can guarantee that I’d be shown the door immediately. Is this censorship? Doubtful. Is it denying someone a living because of his beliefs? Almost certainly. Are those beliefs, in this situation preventing him from perfoming his duties as determined in his job description? Definitely. The solution? Leave the job or toe the line & remember that you CHOSE to take the job for which you are being paid with tax dollars. And I reitterate…IT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND! (& in my opinion, a LONG overdue one). Keep in mind that Churches in Canada are under no obligation to perform religious marriage ceremonies to Gays if it conflicts with their religious tenets (an entirely different can of worms) nor should they be as they are not publicly funded institutions.

    I find it more than a little ironic that I’m reading this thread on Valentine’s day. While I’m not Gay myself, I find myself agreeing more & more with something I read by Dorothy Sayers…”The older I get, the less I care who is sleeping with whom.” to which I add…There is little enough love demonstrated in this beleaguered world. Who are we to dictate who should love whom?

  63. skzb pointed to the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights as protection of minorities.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    The IRS rules that bona fide religions are protected, but cults are not. Basicly, a religion is not a cult if it can put up a great big fight to protect itself. Scientology is a religion because they fought for 26 years and proved they had enough clout.

    “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”

    Unless the national security is involved, etc.You have the right to say anything you want that is not libel, provided you don’t actually know.

    “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Peaceful assembly gets regulated extensively by state and local governments. The government encourages petitions.

    So, for example, there were a lot of petitions to legalize marijuana. The government’s response came from a drug warrior.

    Similarly, people petitioned to repeal the Patriot Act since it repressed them. The response by the lawyer in charge of the Patriot Act was that they need to use it, and they don’t damage anybody’s liberty because they have enhanced standards and oversight.

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    People can have guns provided they are not military-quality, and provided the people are not felons etc. Guns are more harm than good for despised minorities, though. You pull out a gun and somebody shoots you from the side. “He was a (your minority here) and he had a gun and I thought he was going to shoot somebody. He looked dangerous.”

    Etc. In general, Bill of Rights helps you most when you don’t need help.

  64. “…the fact that today one is strong enough to persecute one’s enemies doesn’t mean that next week, or month, or year, or century, the situation won’t have flipped, leaving oneself as the persecuted enemy.”

    Yes. Howabout when you are still to some extent the persecuted enemy, and your persecution is largely symbolic, to show your supporters and your enemies both how you will behave if you get power?

  65. davidbrin: Well, glad that’s cleared up, then.

    Mickey Valentine: Yeah, they’re the same, except one is right and the other is wrong. Seriously, I am not objecting to the tactic, I am objecting to it’s application in this case. If you honestly do not see the difference between a bunch of workers demanding a living wage on the one hand, and a bunch of readers demanding a writer be deprived of his living on the other, then I’m not sure how to communicate it.

    cakmpls: Sorry I’m having so much trouble communicating this. Let’s try it this way: Case 1: The emphasis is me: *I* do not want to give him money. Case two the emphasis is him. I want to punish *him* or I want to force *him* to act differently. Does that make things any clearer? The reason it matters is that one case leads me to say, “I don’t think I’ll buy this book, I’m gonna buy this other book instead;” the other leads me to say, “How many people can I get to help me hurt this guy?”

  66. skzb: Case 1: The emphasis is me: *I* do not want to give him money. Case two the emphasis is him. I want to punish *him* or I want to force *him* to act differently.

    Entirely apart from results, how you think about it affects you. It affects what kind of person you are. If you have a soul, it might affect your soul.

    So when you ask “What kind of person do I want to be?” then you might find you don’t want to use your enemy’s methods because you don’t want to see him when you look in the mirror. This is entirely apart from how effective those methods are at achieving your goals. Your goals which might not be a mirror image of his goals.

    Does that help get it across?

  67. davidbrin: You realize that boils down to “people do stuff”? Can’t argue with that.

    But I’ll still argue it’s wrong to try to deprive someone of employment because of their beliefs. There are better ways to protest.

    Cakmpls, I’m also pretty hard to offend, which offends a surprising number of people. But this doesn’t mean I can’t tell when people are offended. (Unfortunately, it sometimes means I only figure it out too late to be able to do anything to explain that I’m concerned with the issue and not trying to belittle them in any way. But for some people, if you criticize their football team–or say it’s okay for someone else to criticize their football team–you’re criticizing them.)

    That said, “dislike” does not begin to cover my feelings about Nazism. I hate, abhor, despise, and thoroughly reject nazism.

    And I’ll still defend someone’s right to advocate it.

    McKinley Valentine: They aren’t the same thing. The approach currently being taken, the petition to “drop” Orson Scott Card, says, “Boss, you have the right to fire workers at whim, and we want to silence this guy whose ideas offend us, so we’re going to boycot you until you use your power to silence workers in a way the majority likes.”

    I want a world in which the majority doesn’t want to silence anyone. And if I can’t have that, I want a world in which the majority is prevented from silencing anyone.

    Perhaps more pertinently, your situation describes a relationship between consumers and producers. Socialism focuses more on workers and bosses, so if DC’s staff went on strike over this, or if the workers at DC’s usual print shops refused to print Card’s work, you would have a situation that would make me much more sympathetic.

    But I’d still think the workers were wrong to try to silence another worker for wrongthink.

  68. skzb and J Thomas (this somewhat addresses what each of you wrote): Steve, one reason I have been confused is that your original statement of Case 2 was “I’m going to make it point to deprive this homophobic douche of my money as a protest against his beliefs and activities.” It didn’t say anything about “How many people can I get to help me hurt this guy?” Of course I see a difference between (1) not giving him my money and (2) trying to get other people not to give him their money!

    If that’s what you meant by Case 2, I think there is a Case 1.5: “I am going to publicly (for some value of that word) state why I am not giving him any of my money; maybe others will find out something that makes them not want to give him any of their money, but maybe yet others will find out something that makes them want to give him more of their money.” (See, for example, the Chick-Fil-A boycott, which led some who oppose equal marriage rights to patronize the restaurant when they might not otherwise have done.) skzb may recall that my spouse and I tend to the idea that “there’s no such thing as too much information”; what each individual does with that information is their responsibility.

    As for what kind of person any of this makes me: well, it makes me the kind of person that the world would be what I want if everyone were like me (in this aspect). That, at least, is what I strive for. As I said from the beginning (way up there), I do not want people to be denied employment because of their views, or their legal activities outside the workplace, that have nothing to do with the job in question. I also have no objection to people declining to patronize businesses or buy products when doing so would put money in the pockets of those who work against their interests–whether I favor or oppose those interests. I don’t do a lot of the latter, mainly because it’s very difficult to find a business that doesn’t support something I don’t agree with, if I can even find out what causes they support; this is more practicality than principle.

  69. ‘ “I’m going to make it point to deprive this homophobic douche of my money as a protest against his beliefs and activities.” It didn’t say anything about “How many people can I get to help me hurt this guy?”’

    My point is that case 2 easily leads to that, not that it is inherently the same.

  70. Will, of course I too more than “dislike” Nazism (I suspect that you know that), but I was trying for less incendiary language, as my feelings about Nazism were not the point of my comment; I thought that “dislike” was sufficient for the statement.

  71. skzb, I now see that is your point, but (you may recall that I have a very literal mind) I did not read that into your original Case 2, which led to my subsequent comments.

  72. Will no one think of the poor Superman fans?

    I’m serious, actually. I assume that DC retained Card’s services because they thought, probably with some accuracy, that a lot of people would pay to read his Superman. I think my issue with any move to “fire” Card has less to do with subtleties in how it is and isn’t OK to punish people economically and more to do with the fact that, if you don’t buy Card’s comic, or you persuade someone else that they don’t want to buy Card’s comic, you haven’t deprived anyone of something they want to read. Whereas if you prevent DC from publishing Card when they know that he’d please a lot of readers, you have deprived a lot of people of something they want to read.

    On a not unrelated point, I don’t understand what’s special about DC — if the operative principle is “we don’t want Card to sell his writing because he’s a bigot,” shouldn’t we be petitioning Amazon and B&N to stop selling his books, and libraries to stop carrying them? Maybe go after his ISP as well, so he can’t get online? Knock down his lemonade stand?

    It’s unpleasant to defend a bigot with a bully pulpit. It feels gratuitous. And I don’t want to minimize the reactions of the LBGT commenters above who feel they’ve been personally threatened by Card’s actions. But the only reason he makes money is that there are people on the other side of the transaction, who feel they’ve gained more than they’ve lost in paying him. We may not agree, but their wishes matter too.

  73. All of this talk of depriving Card of his livelihood is missing the mark. Card (or anyone else for that matter) does not have any sort of inherent right to be a published author. There’s millions of aspiring writers out there that would love to be told differently, so if I am wrong please let me (and your publishers) know.

    In fact, *nobody* has a right to be employed in any particular profession. Again, if I am wrong, please tell me, because that means I have to put a call in to NASA. I’m sure they won’t mind shipping me to orbit despite the fact that I am neither physically nor technically qualified to be on the ISS.

    What I’m trying to say is, if you can’t do the job—whatever the job under discussion is—then you don’t get to keep the job.

    And to be clear, “the job” in Card’s case is not writing. The job is writing stuff people are willing to buy. If there’s no market for his output, whether that’s based on its quality or the fact that he’s puked his reprehensible views all over the internet, then he can’t do the job. And if he can’t do the job then he’ll have to do the same thing that anyone else would if they got fired from a job: he’ll have to go get a new one that he can do.

    Maybe he can work for Chik-Fil-A.

  74. J: In my opinion, every human being has the right to a decent standard of living, good housing, good health care. At a minimum. All of which is beside the point. You’re saying is that it is all right to get someone fired and use as proof that he wasn’t able to do the job the fact that you succeeded? That’s up there with killing your parents and then asking the court for mercy on the grounds that you’re an orphan.

  75. Steve: I agree 100% with your first two sentences. But many of us who aren’t highly successful published authors manage to get those things, so it’s not like being a writer is the only path for Card.

    When it comes right down to it: I don’t have the power to fire Card. Nobody signing that petition does. That’s the difference between this situation and McCarthyism and censorship and all the other comparisons that have been made. None of us are calling the shots.

    You say it’s OK for me to be so personally disgusted by Card’s opinions that I choose not to give him any money. Great. It’s also OK for me to express that opinion to friends, family, neighbors, and strangers on the internet, because we have freedom of speech and I’m not misrepresenting his views or lying about him. And it’s also OK for them to make their own decisions about whether or not to give their money to him, just like it was OK for me to make that decision.

    So at what point does this turn from individuals acting completely properly on an individual basis to something that’s wrong when acting en masse?

    I think an organized action is actually the fairest way to handle the entire situation, because it clearly communicates to DC Comics *why* these people aren’t going to be buying the Card-authored Superman. There’s a lot of people employed by DC whose jobs are far more on the line than Card’s – if DC folds, they’re out of a job, while Card goes back to writing more Ender books.

  76. J: Have you opinions others might not like? Should those who oppose you sign a petition asking you be fired? Should they organize to pressure your employer and/or customers because, for example, they are members of a different political party than the one you work for?

    I don’t believe you are well acquainted with McCarthyism, by the way. Yes, at a certain point, the power of the State was involved; but most of the damage was done by spreading the word that so-and-so was a communist, or such-and-such a product was advertised on a show where one of the writers was a communist, or this store was owned by a communist. A US Senator led this attack; much as if a US Senator announced that Orson Scott Card was against gay marriage. That would make things worse; but only by degrees, not in kind.

    Why is this so hard to grasp? It isn’t rocket surgery. People who punish others’ politics by attacking their livelihood are bad guys. Near as I can tell, Card is a bad guy. Making yourself a bad guy doesn’t make him any less so, it just makes you bad too.

    I understand you may disagree with me on this. To me, this is a vital, important point. McCarthyism is fucking evil; and in my judgment, you are advocating something that is fucking evil. And you know what I’ll do about it? I will argue with you, and I will argue against you, and I will write about how I think you’re wrong. What I will *not* do is tell my friends to write to your boss to get you fired, or to not buy your product should you sell one, or that they should shun you. I will do nothing to harm you physically, economically, or socially; nor will I encourage others to do so.

  77. Steve, I think this is one of the few times when “intersectional” is useful. To the people who sign the petition, free speech is only relevant to the degree that they’re allowed to sign that particular petition: they want a homophobe rebuked. They’ve disconnected the ends and the means, so they see only a tiny intersection of the issues.

    For anyone who thinks “McCarthyism” is inappropriate in this context, I’m also comfortable calling this instinct Maoism, in the cultural revolution sense that justifies harsh treatment of individuals under the belief that will improve the culture.

  78. Skzb

    Really? You maintain that a charity must employ a counsellor who is unable to obtain a professional qualification because he insists upon his right to discriminate against gay people by telling them that they are evil?

    How do you propose to convince the people being told that they are evil that they are evil not because they are gay but because they don’t want to pay the counsellor who is telling them that they are evil?

  79. An established procedure exists in this country for granting rights. It involves both houses of Congress, all the state legislatures, and results (assuming success) in a new amendment to the Constitution. If gay marriage, a decent standard of living, good housing, and good health care are basic human rights, let’s get them added. If we want freedom of sexual orientation to be protected by the first amendment, we can do that. If the amendment process fails, the issue isn’t as settled as many people would like to believe.

    Meanwhile, however repulsive some of us find them, Card’s religion and speech are both protected by the highest law in the land, just like yours. Let the man talk, and if his opinions are awful, he’ll drive his own audience away far more effectively than any petition you or I might sign. The right to disagree is fundamental, and the right to swing my fist ends at your nose.

  80. “Really? You maintain that a charity must employ a counsellor who is unable to obtain a professional qualification because he insists upon his right to discriminate against gay people by telling them that they are evil?”


  81. Will: I think it’s a bit more complex than that. They’ll say, “He has the right to say what he wants. That’s free speech. And he must take the consequences of what he says if I speak out against him, and he’s hurt thereby. That’s free speech too.” On the surface, a reasonable point. In fact, I dispute it, for the reasons many of us given repeatedly; but we ought not to oversimplify the position of those we are disagreeing with.

  82. James: I meant I’m too lazy to google “Libertarian sf writers.” I know that John (whom I’ve met and like, by the way) is very right-wing; but I have no reason to believe he is a Libertarian or a Randite.

  83. Ok thanks for the clarification. He is also one of my favorite authors so i thought id ask what you meant.

  84. Steve, I don’t mean to oversimplify, but I prob’ly do. Still, my latest insight is that we’re bumping into the tactical issue of repression versus enlightenment. Both can win in the short term, but I think only the latter results in lasting change.

  85. I’m gay. I am a believer in free speech, and I recognize that we are living in a (largely) free market system. If I disagree with the speech or actions of an individual or an organization, it is my choice whether or not to patronize them. Will I purchase the OSC comics? No. But I very firmly believe people have the right to if they want. I don’t eat at Chik-fil-a either, but I would not call for the chain to be shut down (though I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, so that’s got some other associated stuff but let me not digress).

    All of us as free people have the right to free speech. Now, where I start to worry is when speech begins to call for harmful actions. OSC can call me an abomination all day, but if he calls for me to be rounded up and exterminated, that’s where I kinda gotta say “no, that’s not okay”.

  86. I’m posting from a smartphone so please excuse any weirdness in typing.

    I want to confirm something.

    Case 1: I choose not to buy Card’s work because he’s a homophobic rightwing wanker.

    Steve and Will support my decision and right to do so. I agree.

    Case 3 (there’s a reason for this number so bear with me):

    I circulate, sign, and otherwise promulgate a petition with the intent to get fired or prevent hire of Card.

    Steve and Will oppose that act. I agree with their stance.

    Case 2: I refuse to buy Card’s work because he’s a homophobic right wing wanker. I make no secret of why and maybe even post a comment to that effect on the Net. Enough people do the same that DC and other publishers notice an actual or perceived threat to their sales and refuse to hire or rehire Card.

    Will and Steve think I’ve gone too far. I DISagree. Nothing compels me to keep secret my reasons for buying or not buying something. I’ve let numerous people know that VWs are crap cars. I am totally allowed when questioned, to express my opinion. That that expression might, if enough people agree with me, lead to Card receiving no further writing contracts or VW selling no more cars is not my fault. It is VWs for making crappy cars or Card’s for holding and expressing morally reprehensible views. Period.

  87. Doug, typing on a tablet, so this’ll be quick: Case 2 is fine if you’re not calling for a boycott or generally trying to make someone unemployable because of their ideas, I’ve publicly deplored Card’s stance for decades and haven’t bought a book from him since, I think, Ender’s Game, which I didn’t,t much like.

    You do much better without a keyboard than I.

  88. Will: then the line is at the point of solicitation of action. In other words, I say, “I don’t buy his stuff because he’s an ass,” followed by nothing more than a pregnant pause is OK. If I say, “I don’t buy his stuff because he’s an ass, and neither should you,” that’s the point of transgression.

    If so, I can support the position. Information so one can make her/his own choice OK, solicitation of an action not OK is a line I get.

  89. Doug, it’s the nature of the action. Telling people why you won’t buy something for any reason at all is fine. Telling someone’s boss that you want her fired for her beliefs is wrong. Would you sign a petition to get a McDonald’s employee fired for homophobia? Remember, no one has hinted that there’s anything homophobic in Card’s story, and given DC’s recent history with LGBT characters, I’m not expecting there will be in this one.

  90. Skzb


    I’m profoundly relieved to discover that I misinterpreted you. I have enough problems with classifying evil at the best of times, and my present treatment combining Tazocin, Tobramycin and Taurolin is most definitely not the best of times.

    But the triple Ts are keeping people employed in the pharmaceutical industry so that bit’s good…

  91. Will: This is interesting. If I’m understanding your meaning properly its a matter of power relationships. If I encourage others not to buy Card’s work and he’s (undertstandably) encouraging his circle to buy then we’re competing on a (somewhat) level playing field. At the moment I solicit external force to supplement my position, that is the transgressive moment. And for what it’s worth , I’ve never attempted to silence anyone for their beliefs. Been less than polite in some situations yes, but I’m not really inclined to try and use others to make a point I’d prefer to make myself. So your hypothetical about trying to get someone fired for their (non-germane to their job function) beliefs is kinda beside the point.

  92. I think it’s precisely the point: the petition is addressed to DC Comics, asking them to deprive someone of work based on their beliefs and not the work that is being done for DC. People deprive homosexuals and socialists of work because of their beliefs; turnabout may feel good, but a bad tactic is a bad tactic.

  93. I apologize. I was speaking personally, as in the hypothetical was beside the point for me (ive never even contemplated trying to get someone fired even for job specific lapses) whereas you were speaking generally. Where your simile was in fact pertinant. And frankly it’s rather shocking what you can be fired for, especially in a “right to work” state. Political party, outside associations, (non religious) beliefs of any kind. It’s why I only surf any but the most milquetoast of sites on my (personal) smartphone. I’m not about to make the same mistake twice.

  94. Doug, the apology is entirely not needed and entirely appreciated. I need to pay more attention to when my general issue is at odds with someone’s personal one.

    This discussion has helped me clarify my thoughts enormously. My thanks to you, and our host, and everyone who’s taken part.

  95. I don’t read Card because he bores me. So yeah, he parlayed two mildly interesting ideas (namely, Ender and Alvin Maker) into way more books than they deserved. Good for him.

    I do read (early) Brust because he entertains me. I agree with the politics of neither. Nor do I care about said politics when I’m engaged in reading, no more than they care about mine when they cash their residuals from my purchase(s) of their work(s).

    Beeteedubs, I self-identify as a libertarian (note: un-capitalized; a libertarian with a formal party affiliation is a bit of an oxymoron), and to “… deny far more rights to far more people …” is exactly the opposite of what I want. Rather, I regard “live and let live” as a representative motto. Peace out.

  96. Will:
    “Case 2 is fine if you’re not calling for a boycott”

    So is an attempt to encourage others to join in refusal to purchase [to lay out what I specifically mean by boycott–so, NOT including “fire him”] inherently wrong? This is one of a few statements you’ve made that seems to imply this, including some in your initial post.

    That and similar comments from skzb (ie, ones implying boycott=wrong) are the only ones causing me any consternation (and, as I read above, the same would follow for many, I think).

  97. fangsfirst, I completely approve of sharing information, so long as you’re being conscientious about it being accurate, and I completely approve of not buying stuff for any reason at all. So if you want to encourage people not to support a writer, that’s your business.

    But when you try to get their work out of a library or a book store, you’re being a censor, no different than the folks who don’t want books with gay parents in their public libraries.

    And when you try to prevent a publisher from publishing someone because of their beliefs, you’re in the company of some of the worst people who have ever lived, no matter how admirable your intentions. Like you, they were also trying to make what they thought was a better world by suppressing other people’s ability to express their opinions.

    Uh, that’s the rhetorical “you” in the previous paragraphs. I get kinda pompous when I’m talking about general principles that matter enormously to me.

  98. The way it’s clarified for me, is this distinction:

    Are you having an argument or a war?

    If it’s all members of the same society, and you are arguing about how the society ought to change, then it does not make sense to try to shut down the other side. When you do that you are helping to turn it into a war.

    People can disagree. It helps you to see what part of the other guy’s argument resonates with third parties. You might find ways to incorporate the best parts of his message into your message. You might find ways to agree on some stuff, and make the areas of disagreement less critical. If you try to shut the other guy up, is it that he’s saying things you don’t know how to answer?

    While it’s an argument you do better to present your ideas than try to keep the other guy from presenting his ideas.

    But when it turns into a war then depending on how ugly the war has gotten, maybe you should arrange to kill your enemies. That’s hard when you live in a larger society with police who object to murder, so maybe it’s better to find ways to get him imprisoned where the other prisoners are likely to kill him, or maybe render him unable to get money or healthcare so he will die miserably, etc.

    When your side is weaker it is not a good strategy to try to turn it into a war because you will likely suffer more than your enemy.

    Third parties who don’t have a big stake in it will tend to prefer that it be an argument and not a war. But some of them will want the excitement of watching a war. They are probably not your friends.

  99. “I completely approve of sharing information, so long as you’re being conscientious about it being accurate, and I completely approve of not buying stuff for any reason at all. So if you want to encourage people not to support a writer, that’s your business.”

    So, if you tell a bookstore or a publisher, “There are a whole lot of people who will not buy this book” you are spreading information which will be useful to them. If they decide the book will not be successful and drop it, that’s fine.

    But if you tell the bookstore or publisher, “There are probably lots of people who would buy this, but there are lots more who will be so upset at you for letting them buy it that your totals sales will probably be down”, that is bad.

    It looks like a subtle distinction to me. Sharing accurate information. About a reason for not buying stuff. Encouraging people (including publishers and bookstore managers) not to support a writer.

    Both of those are different from “If you sell this some people are likely to be so upset they will burn down your facilities”. That is very bad.

  100. David Rupp: ‘I self-identify as a libertarian (note: un-capitalized; a libertarian with a formal party affiliation is a bit of an oxymoron), and to “… deny far more rights to far more people …” is exactly the opposite of what I want.’

    I do not doubt it. I am speaking of the end result of the policies advocated, not the desires of those advocating them. When South Carolina seceded from the Union, to have a ruined economy and all the slaves free was exactly the opposite of what they wanted. If I made it sound like libertarians are consciously setting out to destroy human rights, I apologize for my sloppiness. I’ll go back and clarify that in the OP, if you wish.

  101. J Thomas , in a capitalist society like ours , no one needs to pass along information to bookstores or publishers in ways that sound like passive-aggressive threats. Sales speak for themselves. Which is why censors use other means to silence people.

    On tablet now. Apologies if my attempt at brevity sounds like curtness.

  102. Hi, Steve. Yes, I took “these people, if they get their way” to mean the “Libertarians and Randites” you referred to a couple of sentences earlier. If that’s the case, then yes, I think it’s worth making the distinction between the ideals of the so-called Libertarian political party and those of actual small-l libertarians. Your response is most gracious, and I appreciate it. Cheers.

  103. “I completely approve of sharing information, so long as you’re being conscientious about it being accurate, and I completely approve of not buying stuff for any reason at all. So if you want to encourage people not to support a writer, that’s your business.”

    Will, if it’s OK to not buy for any reason at all, then it’s OK to not buy anything from DC because they hire Card. If a lot of people choose together to not buy anything from DC because they hire Card, and they tell DC that’s why they are doing it, that is sharing accurate information. They are encouraging DC not to support Card by passing along information in ways that sound like passive-aggressive threats.

    I think you are right to object to what you object to, but you haven’t quite described exactly what it is yet.

  104. Well, this may be one of those worldview things where either you get it or you don’t, but I’ll try again:

    1. Do not try to get anyone fired for what they believe. It is wrong to try to prevent writers from writing.

    2. Do not try to keep anyone from speaking where they’ve been invited to speak or where people are commonly free to speak. It is wrong to try to prevent speakers from speaking.

    Note that I am not saying anyone has the right to say anything anywhere. I’m simply saying that you should give your opponents the same treatment you would want for your side–in this case, if you don’t think gay writers should be silenced, don’t try to silence anti-gay writers.

    3. Protest what speakers say. Use placards, armbands, T-shirts or anything you wish that does not drown them out. Arrange for other speakers to answer the issues of the speakers you may be tempted to silence. The proper response to speech is more speech.

    4. Promote your beliefs with articles, books, blogs, youtube videos, or anything that lets people share information. The proper response to writing is more writing.

    5. The general principle: Respond; don’t repress.

    Does that help?

  105. J Thomas – AllOut’s actual petition reads, “Make sure your brand stands for equality and drop Orson Scott Card now.” It is a demand that OSC be fired, not a passive aggressive threat.

    If there’s some other petition out there with language that doesn’t clearly outline what the petitioners demand from DC, then the writer of that petition is doing a shitty job of grassroots organizing.

    On the other hand, there are a ton of articles, tweets, and blog posts out there where people have said they’re not buying OSC’s Superman title (and some who claim they won’t buy any DC title, which I beg leave to doubt unless they’re like me and don’t buy many comics anyway). That’s speech. Commenting on one of those posts, agreeing with the poster, and stating that you’re not going to buy stuff either, also speech.

    Printing up that post and the comments with a letter to DC telling them that, see, all these people aren’t going to buy stuff because they hired OSC, that would be taking an action to get OSC fired.

  106. In my conversation with Will I’ve come to think of the dividing line as the point one enlists a power relationship to get one’s way.

    Basically, competing (somewhat) equally in the “marketplace” of ideas; by protesting, expressing your opinions, even publishing criticism, for example, is kosher. In a sense you and the person with whom your engaged in an adversarial relationship have the same tools. (I say somewhat and in a sense because, as in this case, there is probably not a symmetrical relationship between antagonists; Card is a published author and I’m a random blowhard on the Net who dislikes his opinions and, from what little I’ve scanned of his post 1990 stuff, his quality of writing).

    Once you circulate petitions to get someone fired or blacklisted, or attempt to influence an employer through threats to them you’ve gone past the pale. Which makes sense to me because in a straight up competition of ideas, actual results are what’s important. Sales figures, negative publicity, etc. An employer might well silence out of fear of those results. In a sense that makes it “cheating” in the sense that your ideas don’t really have to actually prevail, you just have to scare someone in power into doing what you want. Which is wrong.

    And this is a bad idea, on both moral and (from the viewpoint of anyone left of center) practical reasons. Moral I feel I’ve covered. Using power, illegitimately gained, to impose your ideas is just plain wrong. Practically, however, power relationships in this country are skewed to conservative ideology. You are more likely to be able to get someone fired for being gay, or a socialist, or even a liberal, than you are for them being homophobic, libertarian, or reactionary.

    So using the weapon is both wrong AND likely to backfire. So don’t do it.

  107. About bookstores and censoring, there’s a distinction about a comic shop vs. a regular book store, in that a huge section of their business is in their weekly pull lists. Those customers, if they’re not going to buy a Superman title (contrary to their normal pulls), should be telling their store in advance as a matter of courtesy so they can order accurately.

    Telling the shop owner or employees that they shouldn’t carry the title at all would be wrong. Telling them you’re not going to buy it is the right thing to do, whereas I’d never march into my Barnes & Noble and tell them I don’t plan to buy a certain book. So I think there’s a finer line here for whether an action constitutes an attempt at censorship.

    Which is kind of interesting to note as a difference between books and comics, but a moot point in this case because we’re talking about fucking Superman, for god’s sake, and an author with a lot of fans, so no matter how many of us aren’t buying it, plenty of people are. A decision not to carry this title would be based on politics, not potential sales, and if they made that choice about someone I liked, I’d flip out.

  108. Jen and Doug, I very much like your elaborations.

    J Thomas, I wrote my last comment during a sleepless hour last night. In the morning, I think I’d clarify “Respond, don’t repress” to “Reply, don’t repress.”

    As for bookstores, I think there are two legit takes: some carry what the managers like, and some try to offer a range of things that goes far beyond what they like. If a manager doesn’t want to carry a book for any reason, cool. But if people try to prevent a manager from carrying a book, and especially if they try to get a manager to remove a book, that’s not cool.

    As for libraries, there’s only one legit take: try to anticipate what the community might want. If I was making up a short list of what every library should have, Mein Kampf would prob’ly be on that list, even though I hate Nazis, have never read Mein Kampf, and have heard that it meets Oscar Wilde’s definition of the worst kind of book: it’s badly written.

  109. Will, I think I got it. You protest what the bad guy says by showing that he’s wrong.

    You do not demand that he stop saying it because he’s wrong. You do not demand that other people shun him because he’s wrong. You fight back by showing what’s objectively true or morally right.

    You don’t try to get him fired unless his job is one where “Hire the morally handicapped” is inappropriate. Even then, you do better to try to persuade his boss that he is wrong and to notice the moral consequences of that, than to threaten the boss for disobeying you.

    Say it’s someone whose work you liked. But he says awful things on the internet. Should you avoid buying the things you like, which are not awful, because of what he says elsewhere? Yes, if you want to. You’ll miss out on stuff you’d like, and it’s your choice. Should you avoid buying things that you like by other people who use the same publisher? Yes, if you want to. You’ll miss out on more stuff you’d like, by your own choice. If you both live in New York City, should you stop using the subway because he uses it too? If you want.

    If the author, or the publisher, or the subway authorities, notice what’s going on, any of them might choose to change their behavior to accommodate the people who disagree. That’s their right. If they decide to cater to your wishes, fine. But you aren’t doing it because you want them to stop war–criminal Kissinger from riding the subway or Torr to stop publishing homophobe Card. You’re just doing it because you want to.

    If you try to make them do things your way by threatening them with your economic clout, that’s bad.

    You have a right to do stuff, but you don’t have a right to expect or hope for this particular consequence from what you do.

  110. Will, thanks. I’m impressed by how patiently you’ve re-explained stuff on this thread.

    I think, if our theoretical comic manager decides not to carry a title, fine and good. If they publicize that they’re not carrying it because they don’t like what the author stands for, that’s when it turns into a problem.

    I’m only splitting this hair because I’ve heard about several shops doing just that. I don’t know if they’re motivated by customer outcry or personal feelings, or if it’s even possible to separate the two at this point. I guess I’m trying to separate agreeing with the politics from agreeing with the action.

    A library should always have Mein Kampf around just to prove they’re anti-censorship. Good litmus test, that.

  111. Doug, I think your version of Case 2 is generally the same as my Case 1.5, up-thread aways. I put my opinions out there, just as I want others to do–even, or maybe especially, if they disagree with me. As I point out in another comment, using the Chick-Fil-A case as an example, yes, some folks may decide they agree with me and follow my action, but others may find out about a cause they support (the one I disagree with) and do a counteraction. That’s OK; it’s all about the information being out there. (Need I add, the information should be accurate!)

    There’s another reason I put my opinions out there, just as I want others to do: I might just possibly, conceivably, once in a great long while, be WRONG. And I honestly do want to know that (I may not always like it, but I want to know it).

  112. “I’m impressed by how patiently you’ve re-explained stuff on this thread.”

    Aw. That made me laugh, ’cause I drive some people crazy with my willingness to keep trying to explain things.

    I’m not sure what I think about a shop announcing that they’re not carrying something, but if I didn’t carry something, I simply wouldn’t carry it. A list of all the potentially offensive books a store’s not stocking would be mighty long.

  113. Will, I sort of get it but I’m still seeing a sort of contradiction which tells me that I don’t have some of the concepts clear.

    “I completely approve of not buying stuff for any reason at all.”

    It’s fine to not buy anything you prefer not to buy, so if you decide not to buy anything from DC because of one thing they do, it’s OK.

    “I completely approve of sharing information, so long as you’re being conscientious about it being accurate”

    It’s fine to try to persuade other people to go along with you, to — for example — not buy anything from DC because of one decision by DC.

    “I’d say you do have the right to hope your example will spread, and you do have the right to use your personal economic clout: everyone’s free to vote by not supporting something.”

    So it’s fine to hope that your group choices result in DC firing Card.

    “Do not try to get anyone fired for what they believe.”

    It’s OK to stop buying from DC because they bought stuff from Card.

    It’s OK to get other people to stop buying from DC because they bought stuff from Card. So it’s OK to run a boycott.

    It’s OK to vote against Card or against DC by not buying stuff.

    But it isn’t OK to try to get DC to fire Card.

    If you aren’t trying to get DC to fire Card, what is the boycott for?

    “DC is evil, don’t buy from them because they are evil. There’s nothing they can do about being evil and we must not try to get them to be less evil. We must use our economic clout to try to destroy them.”

  114. Does Doug’s point about appealing to authority help?

    I should add that some of the things I say are fine are things I would never do. For example, why refuse to buy a story about one of DC’s gay characters because Orson Scott Card wrote a story that, I’m betting, will have nothing about homosexuality in it? Yet there are people calling for boycotts of DC and of shops that carry Card’s work.

    The line I won’t cross is trying to get someone to lose the ability to share what they think. If someone loses an audience because they decide the work sucks, c’est la vie. If someone loses an audience because a would-be censor tries to silence or punish them by going to their bosses, that’s wrong. While some wrongs may be necessary sometimes–restricting freedom of movement, for example–they should never be resorted to without a great deal of thought about the implications.

    This may be where I’m not being clear: “It’s OK to get other people to stop buying from DC because they bought stuff from Card. So it’s OK to run a boycott.” That’s not how I’d describe my position, though you may be using “boycott” in a much more general way than I do. Telling your readers and friends you wish they wouldn’t buy a writer is fine, though I wouldn’t call that a boycott. The particular boycott we’re talking about is a petition to one of Card’s publishers to try to get them to stop giving him work, regardless of its content. To me, that’s going too far. The difference between spreading the word about Card’s position on gay folks and trying to get him fired may be subtle, but it’s crucial to free thought in a capitalist country.

    Do you think boycotting gay writers and gay presses is cool? Do you think trying to get gay work out of bookstores or libraries is cool? If not, why should the reverse be cool?

  115. This only indirectly relates, but I just read it so I thought I’d share. I’ve been reading Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln, and came across this in the discussion of his time in the Illinois House:

    “When the US Senate denounced [President] Jackson’s course as lawless and unconstitutional, Jackson replied with a fierce protest which the Senate refused to print in its journal. Lincoln heard many hours of hot partisan debate on pro-Jackson [Democrat] and anti-Jackson [Whig] National Bank resolutions. He voted with the Whigs on all such resolutions except once when he indicated he believed the U.S. Senate ought to have allowed Jackson’s answer to the Senate to be printed in its journal.”

  116. “Aw. That made me laugh, ’cause I drive some people crazy with my willingness to keep trying to explain things.”

    Hah! It’s just that I’d have thrown up my hands in despair after maybe the second time answering the same question.

    @ J Thomas — You can do all those things and hope that DC fires Card. If you contact DC directly or via petition, then you’ve tried to get him fired. There’s grey area there.

  117. “Telling your readers and friends you wish they wouldn’t buy a writer is fine, though I wouldn’t call that a boycott.”

    OK, I think that’s clearer.

    So, if Card publishes an anti-gay rant, and you disapprove of the rant, it’s obviously OK to encourage people not to buy his rant.

    And if Card does free anti-gay rants it’s OK to encourage people not to buy his mainstream novels either, because you disapprove of him.

    Maybe it’s crossing the line to encourage people not to buy from his customers like Tor and DC.

    And it’s definitely crossing the line to try to get Tor and DC not to buy from him.

    And on the other hand maybe it’s not crossing the line if buying anti-gay rants is what they do, and they don’t buy anything else. If they provide a platform for open discussion then going after them is shooting the messenger. If they provide a platform only for bad guys then they are helping to impede discussion.

  118. Well, my take is to judge each work on its merits. As I’ve said a few times, it’s okay to like Ender’s Game and hate Card’s politics. But for people who can’t separate stories and authors, sure, disapprove loudly.

    And actually, it’s definitely crossing a line for me to encourage people not to buy from DC and Tor. Why punish Steve Brust and Gail Simone and all sorts of folks who aren’t antigay? Still, if you decide the DC and Tor logos are tainted by Card’s presence, sure, don’t buy the books.

    As for publishers whose work consists exclusively of antigay material, calling for a boycott might be appropriate. Because there, you’re targetting the bosses who have chosen a side. But all of Card’s publishers publish work that’s pro-gay; targetting them is either a waste of time or counter-productive.

  119. Will: I took your “you” absolutely rhetorically, of course. Between that “um,” and the re-re-re-re-explaining (occasionally, you say, to the annoyance of others!) I find myself in all too familiar ground (albeit in a reversed position!).

    I suppose all of my confusion stemmed from the idea that my thought (however silly or naïve) was that the “boycott” would be against the book, and not D.C. Having that in mind, I think your words make waaaay more sense now. I couldn’t fathom why it would be a problem to boycott Card’s Superman book, how that could possibly be censorship, if one removed the “also fire him” aspect of the initial petition. It just seemed obvious that blanketing the entire company would be an absurd demand on these grounds (factoring in the probably-not-controversial CONTENT of his run), and so “of course” the boycott intended would be against that book alone.

    Forgive my goofiness here. I’m with you on that. I do think people should certainly make that decision on a personal level, and also agree with you that I personally find it a bit excessive to stretch it out to its effects on everyone else. (vs. Chick-Fil-A, who, as a *company* were donating profits, where D.C. would not be–and I think it would be an absurd stretch to go after a company for paying a person to do a job when that person could then spend their *income* on something reprehensible–that’s definitely a personal responsibility thing).

    I do certainly believe that calling on others to refuse to buy THIS BOOK (not to avoid D.C., not to tell D.C. to fire him, etc) is a perfectly valid choice, much as I thought it was stupid and obnoxious but a morally acceptable TACTIC for those silly groups to encourage the boycott of JC Penney. (or Campbell’s soup for making halal soup–no, really. It’s true.)

    Whew. Okay. I was so completely lost for a while there. I am actually now terribly glad to have made sense of this. I do think a number of other people above also thought the intention was to boycott Card, and that the opposition was to boycotting “OSC’s Superman”. I was wondering how we’d gotten to bending over backward to *support* someone’s right to be an asshole, rather than just defending it. I couldn’t figure out what the opposite action would be, then, short of intentionally buying the book to say, “See! I support his right to be published, despite being a dick!” I support his right to being published despite being a dick by not buying it, but letting whoever the heck else wants to do so, even if I also encourage lots of people to join me in not buying *that* book.

  120. Will

    You are suggesting that being a socialist and being homosexual are matters of belief; I know of no scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that sexual orientation is a matter of belief…

  121. fangsfirst, thanks, and I really like your last sentence.

    Stevie, that’s not what I was trying to suggest: I’m saying that being out as a socialist and being out as gay are similar. In the ’50s, socialists and homosexuals could always find work if they hid who they were. That’s why we celebrate the ones who spoke out, who refused to let their right to express themselves be repressed by the would-be censors.

  122. Will

    The fact that being out as a gay and out as a socialist in the US in the 50’s had similar consequences is irrelevant to the problems faced by gay people today; the argument that homosexuality is a choice is a core component of rabid homophobia today.

    That is why Dan Savage’s riposte to that claim is to demand that the men making it prove it to be true by sucking his dick; needless to say no-one has taken him up on it.

    If you read the, admittedly very lengthy, transcripts of the California case re gay marriage you will see that over and over again the homophobes asserted that gay people aren’t really gay; they are supposedly making a life style choice and thus do not constitute a group which can be discriminated against.

    The Court heard lengthy scientific evidence which demonstrated this to be false; I fully appreciate that you are not in any way homophobic yourself but I also appreciate that eliding the science because it is inconvenient for the particular argument you are advancing is likely to have grave consequences.

    I can choose whether to be a socialist; I can’t choose to be gay, just as I can’t choose the colour of my skin. Attempting to conflate those issues simply ensures that people who don’t like science will dismiss it as just people peddling their beliefs…

  123. Will

    I should have added one point; if I had been invited to sign the petition I would have refused.

  124. Stevie, I’m not saying a thing about whether homosexuality is a choice. I’m only addressing the right to say what you think, regardless of the reason why you’re saying it. I’ve always liked Savage’s comment.

    That said, I would argue about whether you can choose to be socialist. People constantly say their opponents choose to be racist or socialist or any number of things, or that their opponents are willfully supporting whatever they support. I no longer care why anyone believes what they believe. They believe it, and they should be free to say it.

  125. “If you honestly do not see the difference between a bunch of workers demanding a living wage on the one hand, and a bunch of readers demanding a writer be deprived of his living on the other”

    This is slightly unfair because you’re comparing the desired result of the workers, with the threat used to achieve it by the readers. It would be more fair to say either “workers trying to shut down a factory (deprive their boss of a living) vs readers trying to deprive a writer of a living, OR “workers trying to earn a living wage” vs “readers demanding writers stop saying homophobic things in public” – that is presumably the result wanted.

    But actually making that comparison clearer also shows that it very much is censorship, and in any case the entire rest of the conversation, particularly Will and Doug’s, has completely clarified things for me, so I don’t need any more convincing anyway.

    I also started thinking about how this would apply to Roman Polanski, if such a boycott were called for. His moral failure is far more serious, so in some ways it’s a stronger test of the principle. In that case it would be about trying to apply a punishment where the international legal system has failed to do so. Which makes it basically vigilante justice, also not something I generally think is a good road to go down.

    Chris Brown is another case in pop culture at the moment, where a lot of people are calling for him not be asked to perform at eg. the Grammys.

  126. I think it says something interesting — although I’m not quite sure what — that this question seems to come up more in reference to authors than other artists. We’re much more tolerate of douchebaggery in actors, comedians, musicians etc. What is it about writing, of all forms of art, that has us conflate the creator with the creation?

  127. “… the argument that homosexuality is a choice is a core component of rabid homophobia today.”

    This is entirely a red herring. It should not matter whether it is a choice or not. If people choose it, and the bad consequences for society are mild, then it should be legal.

    If someone says he does not get a choice about raping 8-year-old girls, it will not make me like him any better. He causes damage and I want him stopped. If he instead enjoys consensual sex with other adults I have no complaint.

    “That is why Dan Savage’s riposte to that claim is to demand that the men making it prove it to be true by sucking his dick; needless to say no-one has taken him up on it.”

    They choose not to. They don’t feel the benefit of winning an argument is worth reversing their choice. And yet I expect a few hours persuasion with a cattle prod could get most of them eager to please. That’s of course highly illegal, but it’s generally believed that lots of heterosexual men in prison learn such skills through intense negative reinforcement. Many people who strongly disapprove of homosexuality chuckle over that idea.

    Oh well. Maybe the question whether it’s a choice actually does matter to the Supreme Court etc, and so you are stuck arguing it. But it should not matter.

    Sorry for the digression, but this is not the first time you have put out that bait.

  128. “As I’ve said a few times, it’s okay to like Ender’s Game and hate Card’s politics. But for people who can’t separate stories and authors, sure, disapprove loudly.”

    I think that’s the contradiction right there. You are clear that it’s bad to try to get an employee fired for his beliefs. Is it bad to try to get a freelancer to lose gigs for his beliefs? One way it’s one employer, the other way it’s a lot of temporary employers. I don’t see that this is an important difference. Suppose somebody sells directly to the public. Is it bad to try to get the public to shun him for his beliefs? I don’t see the difference there either. The difference between a whole lot of customers and a whole lot of gigs isn’t very much. But people do try to get webcomics etc shut down for the creators’ beliefs.

    Any way it goes, you’re trying to take bread out of somebody’s mouth for his beliefs.

    “And actually, it’s definitely crossing a line for me to encourage people not to buy from DC and Tor. Why punish Steve Brust and Gail Simone and all sorts of folks who aren’t antigay? Still, if you decide the DC and Tor logos are tainted by Card’s presence, sure, don’t buy the books.”

    This is warfare. The USA says we don’t like Iran so we won’t trade with them. Then we don’t want some middleman to buy stuff from us and sell it to Iran, and we don’t want them to trade their own stuff with Iran, so we tell the world that if they trade with Iran they are on our shitlist too.

    Sometimes it’s a workable form of economic warfare. Sometimes it backfires and we pretend we didn’t say it, or we pretend our friends aren’t doing it. When we had sanctions against Iraq, we set quotas for how much oil they could sell. Pretty much everybody cheated and bought black market oil at cheap prices. That was fine with us, we got cheap oil. We didn’t keep Iraq from selling but making them sell dirt cheap was better.

    In wartime we want the enemy propagandist silenced. We want him fired. We want him to be homeless, to beg in the streets. We want him *dead*, but that’s hard when it’s a polite war inside a civilization that sometimes punishes murder. So settle for him getting his food money by giving 2 dollar blowjobs. Maybe get him into prison where he can be raped every day.

    It’s reasonable to separate the argument from the people who argue. Don’t punch somebody in the jaw for their beliefs. Don’t get them fired. But being reasonable in a war is like bringing an attitude of peaceful conciliation to a gunfight.

    If you say “Don’t buy his tomatoes/software/novel/comic-book because he is a bad person” that is a declaration of war. When you say “Don’t try to get him fired for his beliefs” you are basicly saying “Don’t go to war”.

    Sorry that came out so long.

  129. Will

    It is difficult to see how one might become a socialist without choosing to do so; it is self-evidently not innate to the human condition since it is a theoretical construct which only arose in the early modern period.

    Of course the differences are not just historical. The definition of socialist varies from country to country; for example, few English people think of the NHS as socialist, notwithstanding the fact that it was introduced by a self-avowedly socialist government, and they most certainly would fight tooth and nail against any attempt to withdraw it, whereas the very idea of universal government funded healthcare appears to reduce a substantial number of US citizens to a mouth frothing frenzy.

    This is, in my view, completely irrational, but then I lost count of the number of my hospital admissions years ago so I’m unlikely to be able to comprehend the thought processes of the mouth frothers.

    You could argue that I am obviously predisposed to a socialist worldview since otherwise I would be dead, and I could counter by pointing out that by the time that Galileo went on trial for heresy the Italian city states had been providing free universal health care for centuries, without anything remotely approaching socialist concepts.

    In Britain today right wing politicians have to swear that the NHS will be safe in their hands to have any hope of getting elected; that is completely the reverse in the US. I didn’t choose to have severe bronchiectasis in both lungs, but I did choose political beliefs which are a long way from right wing, even though I could vote Tory and still get the same free medical care.

    I am profoundly aware that the ward clerks, the cleaners, the cooks, the mechanics, the people who bring the meals, and those who wash the dishes, are all just as important as the doctors, the nurses, the physiotherapists, the microbiologists and the pharmacologists in patching me up and returning me to the fray…

  130. Stevie, I’m very glad that you’re returning to the fray.

    But I don’t think anyone can choose to be a socialist. You can be taught to be a socialist, either by people or circumstances, but no one wakes up and says, “Why, today, I think I’ll be a socialist.” Or gay. Or racist. Or anything that’s at odds with their past. If you’ve been a certain type of person, something has to change make you a different person, whether that different person is one who reveals what they’ve been hiding from the world or discovers what they hadn’t known was in themselves. Often, it’s the example of others: when someone speaks up, others often speak up. Where no one speaks up first, the censors win.

    This may be why I have a lot of sympathy for the people I oppose. None of them chose to believe different things than I do. You can’t choose your beliefs.

    But you can choose your tactics. You can choose war or diplomacy, tolerance or intolerance, so that’s what I’ll focus on as I’m trying to promote what I believe.

    Now, I do realize that many people have been taught to be intolerant, to seek victory at all costs, and trying to change that is not much easier than trying to change their underlying belief. But it’s possible. Gandhi did not inspire many people to become Hindus or vegetarians, but he inspired many people to adopt nonviolent resistance.

    So I’m totally not saying being gay is a choice. What’s nature and what’s nurture, I haven’t a clue, but I know there’ve always been two-spirited people in human cultures, and that’s enough for me to say it’s natural, regardless of its source.

    As for socialism, yes, it’s a concept that could be dated from the utopians, but the communitarian instinct has existed throughout history. I think feudalists and capitalists are the ones who’ve been taught to deny their true nature, while socialists have found it.

  131. First of all, I don’t think labeling someone as ‘the enemy’ is particularly helpful. If what we’re aiming for is a compromise between ideology and freedom, then maintaining an us vs. them mentality only hinders that.

    That said, I don’t really care all that much if DC (or any other publisher / company) wants Card’s work. If Card is a raging homophobe shoveling hate dollars into the Mormon church’s maw, it’s none of my business.

    Petitioning to have him fired or barred from being a writer is a little like putting a bucket under a leaking dam and calling the problem fixed, isn’t it? Say it actually (in all unlikeliness) succeeds. Does it change Card’s opinions? Does it make him miraculously start marching in pride parades? I should think that all it would do is reaffirm certain biases Card likely already has. Besides that, the man is going to write regardless. You can’t make a writer not write, especially now when self publishing is as easy as a couple mouse clicks.

    What I believe works better than angry petitions of retaliation is the transparency of the truth. There are going to be people who don’t care what Card’s beliefs are, and will continue reading him regardless. There will also be people like me, who read something like this and feel a great disappointment and loss of respect for an author that will change any future decisions to buy their work.

    Telling opponents of our views to sit down and shut up doesn’t really change anything aside from giving us an arena to pat each other on the back under the loudspeaker of our own opinions. Letting other people know what intolerable douchebags our opponents are and having people come to the decision on their own whether or not to continue to associate with them is the better road to travel, I think.

  132. “First of all, I don’t think labeling someone as ‘the enemy’ is particularly helpful. If what we’re aiming for is a compromise between ideology and freedom, then maintaining an us vs. them mentality only hinders that.”

    I think labeling someone as “the enemy” is a good idea if that person is the enemy. I like calling things by their right names; it saves so much trouble. I’m not sure what “a compromise between ideology and freedom” is, or would look like; but I, myself, am in favor of freedom; and to the best of my understanding and ability, I hold an ideology that helps me comprehend the world and guides my efforts in that direction.

    If the us vs them mentality needs to be manufactured, then one is dealing with the wrong us and the wrong them. That is more or less how I feel about patriotism. If the us vs them mentality flows from an objective understanding of the conflict of social forces–the oppressors versus the oppressed–and from taking a definite stand in that conflict, then to avoid it is to muddle one’s thinking, which is not helpful in the fight for freedom.

  133. “I’m not sure what “a compromise between ideology and freedom” is, or would look like;”

    What I mean by this -and I think we’re in agreement, but correct me if I’m wrong- is that people are perfectly within their rights to hold an opinion and to vocalize that opinion if they so wish. They have the right to their ideology, no matter how repugnant others might find it. Similarly, everyone is entitled to certain freedoms no matter what others’ opinions might be.

    If we are in agreement that free speech is a good thing, and equal rights are also a good thing, then the compromise is in understanding that we don’t have to agree with everything we see or hear, but we do have to respect other people’s right to say or do a thing, generally speaking anyway. In this case, they can keep their opinions against my way of life and vocalize them all they want, and I still get to marry my girlfriend. Compromise!

    As far as labeling people with opposing views as the enemy goes, I can understand where you’re coming from. Within the paradigm of a battle, it makes sense to use as clear a label as possible in the argument, but I can’t take the metaphor through the entire marriage equality movement because in the end, I don’t think we’re trying to change the minds of the vocal bigots. I don’t think we’re fighting them, per se. We’re fighting the status quo. They’re an obstacle, to be sure but I don’t see them as the enemy.

    I don’t think we should be complacent when they blatantly cheat the system to get what they want, but I don’t think that allocating our time and resources to fighting to have every vocal homophobe’s life ruined will get us very far either.

    Understand though, that I’m approaching this as a Canadian. I know that America’s struggle for marriage equality has been a lot different than Canada’s, so perhaps the enemy label is more contextually accurate for our southern neighbours.

  134. Okay, that makes sense. As far as the Marriage Equality Act and “enemy” goes, yeah, I don’t feel qualified to speak.

  135. I like the point that we’re fighting the status quo. I get very frustrated with people who will say that the problem is the system, then lose track of that as they rail at individuals who, in many ways, are also victims of the system.

  136. I love Card’s work. Beautifully written, and moving. However, every dime of money I pay for one of his works, is another bit in his pocket he can use/donate to fight against my own rights and liberties.

    What saddens me the most is that the virtues his characters embody are antithetical to the views he takes outside his writing. One scene he wrote was where Alvin Maker carefully changed the genetics of a runaway slave to help him hide from slave catchers. He didn’t make the runaway white, he didn’t want to change the essence of who he was. Why does Card feel the need to try to change the soul of who I am?

    I pity the man, but I also know that every time someone buys one of his works, it gives him more capital to spend against people like me.

    I support DC and TOR. I’ll continue to buy their products, the ones that don’t contribute to Mr. Card. It’ll be a cold day in hell before he gets another cent of my money to use against me and mine.

  137. I don’t like Card. I also don’t like his books; the didacticism is too close to the surface.

    I won’t buy his books because I don’t like them; I won’t teach them because I don’t want to fund organizations that Card supports, organizations that work to deny same-sex couples basic rights, obligations, and benefits hetero couples have that we do not—though we are taxed for them. (Card is on the Board of Directors of NOM, a group that I can only describe as hateful).

    I won’t support a boycott of DC Comics; Card and others contracted with DC have a right to make a living.

    But I won’t buy Card’s books (or his dinner).

    His assertion that there are no laws left that discriminate against same-sex couples is absurd in the presence of DOMA. Just the amount of paperwork and money it takes to insure that same-sex couples have the basic protections hetero couples have in terms of visiting a loved one in ICU, or making medical decisions when your spouse is ill and can’t, is absurd. Even things like renting an apartment, when hetero married couples pay a single fee for a credit check and married same-sex couples have to pay twice (because of DOMA) are annoying and costly. Making sure jointly owned property is jointly owned is also tricky and expensive—and unlike hetero married couples, you do have to pay inheritance tax.

    A married same-sex couple isn’t like two hetero people who choose not to be married; the state (or rather the Federal government) is choosing for us, irrespective of what our home states declare, and the truths of our relationships.

    I don’t think Orson Scott Card is homophobic; he’s simply a bigot, and a misogynist.

    The fact that he can spout something like this:

    “The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally”

    is indicative of just how messed up he is. It is, in fact, positively bristling with Freudian implications.

  138. I googled “Orson Scott Card rant” and found a collection of his essays.

    Of the last 150 of them, one was primarily about homosexuals, and that one was about homosexual marriage. I sampled some of the others.

    Mostly he follows the Limbaugh/Beck straight party line. Win in Iraq. Win in Afghanistan. Islam is a terrible religion that we cannot tolerate because they don’t tolerate anybody. Global warming is entirely a sham. Israel is always 100% right. Democrats are 100% wrong. All the usual.

    But here and there he thinks. He says that we are going to run out of oil, and we should stop wasting it. He wants to redesign US suburbs so the oil will last longer and we have more time to find alternatives. I can work with that a lot better than most climate change deniers.

    The single article of immediate interest was from 2/15/04. Nine years ago. His argument is that marriage is for raising children, and it’s hard to do. We basicly don’t know how, most of what parents do is not conscious. Parents are role models and that is mostly not conscious on anybody’s part either.

    It’s very hard for heterosexual marriages to last because men and women are so different, and when the marriages fail that’s bad for children.

    Since we don’t know what we’re doing, any change might be disastrous. So don’t experiment.

    He throws in various gratuitous insults about gay culture. He seems to know a lot more about gay culture than I do. From talking with gay friends I have the impression that gay culture is mostly like mainstream culture but some people try to build a separatist culture which is consciously different in specific ways. He is familiar with a monolithic separate gay culture which a lot of gays want to get out of — but can’t.

    He argues that getting rid of traditional families is only the latest step in the destruction of society. He seems to have some big objection to divorce although he agrees that some marriages need to be taken apart. Since heterosexual marriage is so difficult and so many heterosexual marriages fail, the destruction is already far advanced and many children suffer.

    I think his ideas make a certain amount of sense. We should probably come up with at least two different names. One might be “partner”. If you partner with someone you both get some specific legal rights that help you help each other. To become a “family” you start by getting one or more children to raise, and you get specific legal rights that help you raise them. You can get family rights by successful pregnancy or by adoption. And there are a fair number of children currently in foster care who could be adopted, children who have already been failed by heterosexual nuclear families. So let gay couples or whoever adopt, and find out whatever we can about what works.

    Why should heterosexual couples get family status before they have children? They might be infertile together. They might both be fertile with other partners. The time to get legal rights to assist child care is when you actually have a child to care for.

    And how would Card imagine that our ignorance is a reason not to find out? The majority of marriages already fail, and he doesn’t want research? Absurd! Let people try whatever they want and then look for ways to measure what works. For science!

  139. J Thomas:

    I just re-read the article by Card that you’ve summarized. I’d say that his main point is that he wants to keep a meaningful term for the man-woman-children arrangement that is valuable to him. If you asked Card what he felt about civil unions, or whether the inequities that Lisa L. Spangenberg listed should exist for civil unions, I think he’d be okay with equalizing things. My take is that he wants “marriage” to mean something different than just ‘officially recognized partnership’.

    Of course, I could be wrong—I can’t speak for Card anymore than Card can speak for the LDS church.

    I liked your point about “family” status being awarded before or after fertility is proven. One difference, though, is that a man-woman getting married implies, almost by default, an intent to have children. So it’s only a matter of time. In contrast, a same-sex union doesn’t seem to entail child-bearing or child-rearing.

    As for experiments and science, there are always tests that could be run but probably shouldn’t be. PETA is big on preventing the ones they think are wrong. And most folks would prob’ly agree that some / all Nazi experiments (both physical and social) should not have been done. So who’s value set do we use for constraining science? A question that gets even more complicated when the consequences aren’t limited to a lab control group.

  140. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make a guess that the posters on here don’t spend a great deal of time at Chick-Fil-A, or maybe even Domino’s. LOL
    Also, I’ve always been confused by the word homophobe. Is the thinking that there are really people who live in fear of someone in the LGBT community? Wouldn’t anti-homosexual, or whatever, be more appropriate? Or, it is simply used in an attempt to minimize the opposing stance..

  141. Homophobe is a genuine psychological disorder; it includes a complete inability to function in social situations because of the possibility that a homophobe might be there; it’s is a parallel psychosis to, say, arachnophobia. Card is not a homophobe. He’s just an ordinary garden-variety bigot, with possible overtones of internalized self-loathing.

  142. Scot, I missed your response when you made it.

    “I liked your point about “family” status being awarded before or after fertility is proven. One difference, though, is that a man-woman getting married implies, almost by default, an intent to have children. So it’s only a matter of time. In contrast, a same-sex union doesn’t seem to entail child-bearing or child-rearing.”

    Close to 20% of man-woman pairings are infertile. Many do not want children. It is more than a matter of time. Meanwhile, some people in same-sex unions want to adopt and will do so if allowed. Some could get custody of children parented by one of the pair, if allowed.

    I have some sympathy with Card’s position, and my response is to give the privileges needed by long-term roommates to anybody who wants to declare a long-term union, and give the privileges needed for child-raising to anybody who actually raises children. Make it easier for same-sex unions to adopt etc and get those privileges, if they want to.

    “So who’s value set do we use for constraining science? A question that gets even more complicated when the consequences aren’t limited to a lab control group.”

    My thought is to allow anything when we don’t have an obviously better alternative available. So we are mostly agreed that institutional care for orphans etc is mostly bad. We mostly put children into foster care when there is no better alternative available, and that is mostly bad too. Worse when unrelated children share the same foster care — too much child-child rape. So if someone is ready to adopt and there isn’t strong reason to think they’d be worse than foster care, let them. If there are more adopters than children to adopt, choose the ones that look best. If there is not a surplus of adopters, accept most of them.

    Track what happens. Notice which children seem to come out OK by whatever criteria you choose. Try to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work so well. In general, allow anything unless you are reasonably sure you have a better choice available for that particular child. In the USA we have a truly regrettable tendency to prevent science even when the alternative is known bad. This is wrong. For science!

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