One Last Thought On The Hugo-Ross Debacle

The more I consider that situation (Jonathan Ross hosts Hugos, then doesn’t host Hugos), the more I think it’s starting to make sense how it moved so quickly. The narrative after has been one citing the “outrage police” and referring to the “lynch mob” and how they “cyber-bullied him” (which is a bit melodramatic to my mind, but so it goes) — but I think this narrative is far too simplistic and altogether a bit dismissive.

It was actually a perfect recipe for disaster. Here, check it:

a) Loncon would seem to go over its own committee’s heads to secure Jonathan Ross as a host.

b) Committee member Farah Mendlesohn resigns somewhat publicly over this. (Her resignation seems to now be private, though I think you can catch a bit of it here.)

c) Loncon decides to announce this over Twitter, which is like telling your mother you’re getting engaged over a text message HEY MOM WE R GETTIN ENGAGED L8R. This is chum splashing chum in the water, man: a good way to get a bad reaction. A public blog announcement at least gets you the room to say, “Here’s this guy, he’s great, here’s a video clip, here are his quotes.” Twitter is a river: fast-moving, gnashing rocks, angry fish.

d) Americans in general do not know who the fuck Jonathan Ross is. Seriously. No farking flarging fjording idea. This is a critical point and speaks to a divide between British fans (who know him and like him) and Americans (who only know him via a quick Google search).

e) That Google search yields controversy, because, HEY, THIS IS THE INTERNET, and we feed off controversy the way termites feed off of wood. Some of those links noting his controversies (which seems to be sexist and other -ists) are apparently born of various UK tabloids, but we aren’t particularly up to speed on which of your rags are tabloids and which are not — and even in this country, we still tend to spread around bullshit stories if we like the way they sound (“OH MY GOD GMO PIGS ARE LOOSE IN FUKUSHIMA AND THEY’RE RADIOACTIVE AND THESE RADIOACTIVE MUTANT MONSANTO HOGS ARE EATING PEOPLE, I read it on natural-GMO-diet-news-dot-com, which is also where I learned that if I shellac my body with okra snot, I will lose 50 lbs in one month guaranteed”). The Internet is the best at demonstrating our worst, and what it put on display for Ross was not his best — again, this is something a more measured and reasonable press release from Loncon might have undercut.

f) Women and minorities have a history of mistreatment within the SFF community. From “fake geek girls” to “SFWA bulletins” and on and on.

g) Women and minorities have a history of mistreatment and worse within SFF conventions. From the threat of creepiness to actual full-on creepiness to straight-up harassment.

h) The SFF community (or “community,” given that we aren’t all given membership cards and keys to the guesthouse) has weathered a series of controversies recently, which one might think makes them feel fatigued but what it does is create a kind of social PTSD as a result of everything. It puts everybody on kind of a hair trigger, looking for controversy not because we necessarily like those controversies but because they seem so goddamn common anymore.

i) When confronted on Twitter — somewhat aggressively, but again to call this insulting or cyberbullying is a bit of a stretch, YMMV, IMHO — Jonathan Ross’ response was to call women “stupid” and “small-minded.” This was not a guy who was like, “Hey, I understand, let me alleviate your concerns,” but rather a guy who reacted and bristled. Maybe he had the right — though one would hope a celebrity of his caliber would be less sensitive to it. But he did himself and the outraged no favors here — no effort to defuse the tension and, instead, made efforts to escalate them. Like winging a cup of gas on the campfire to try to put it out. (Few months ago, a SFF author who I won’t name  tweeted something that I didn’t see as an issue but some other folks there found problematic — and he handled the situation really quite marvelously, with humility and apology and communication rather than bluster and backtracking and anger. Even if he didn’t agree with the reaction, he defused tensions elegantly. Ross made no such efforts and seemed keen to take his ball and just go home.)

The point here isn’t that Ross wouldn’t have been a good fit — he was a fan, he seems like he might actually be a feminist, and a lot of UK folks seem quite keen on him — but instead the hope here is to try to suss out exactly why the shitstorm happened in the first place and also to try to conjure a little bit of empathy for everybody in this conversation. Because in the days that have followed I have seen real cyberbullying happen against the authors who spoke up about this on both sides of this debate. I think it’s better to have the discussion, however, then to resort to the shut-it-down door-closing phrases like “outrage police” and “lynch mobs.” That’s a good way to make somebody feel diminished and dismissed, and will only give oxygen to the fire.

It’s very easy to suggest that only the loudest, noisiest shit-stirrers were angry about this. But I saw a lot of authors and editors raise alarm over this — often in a very measured, non-alarmy way. This wasn’t just some torches-and-pitchforks mob — though certainly some acted that way, and that ugliness multiplied quickly.

This was something of a perfectly stupid storm in terms of how it escalated, is all I’m saying.

So, once more: cleave to empathy rather than insult.

Have the discussion instead of shutting the discussion down.

Otherwise, the genre and its authors and its fans are going to be that snake eating the crocodile: monsters just eating one another in the muck and the slurry.

Comments are open. Play nice, or I’ll shut the doors and lock you inside.

THEN I WILL RELEASE THE FERRETS.

114 comments

  • Fair enough, Liz! I should clarify that I’m told he’s a fairly popular / populist comedian there, akin to some of our talk show hosts (Leno, Fallon, etc.). Correct?

  • Felt the attacks on Ross was uncalled for. He reacted to baseless accusations like anybody would. Really find the whole thing sad.

    • Well, no. If I got accused on things like that, I like to think I wouldn’t immediately jump to “You’re a stupid hater!”

      I like to think–and who knows, until the situation is thrust upon them?–that if the issue on the line was my professionalism, I’d go “Hey, I’m at WORK here,” and say “Okay, I see you’ve got concerns, let me respond like a pro who is at work.”

      • Could someone kindly point me to where Ross said women were stupid and small-minded? The only thing I saw was where he said ‘I’d happily buy the ticket off you and give it someone less stupid’.

        • They can’t because he didn’t. Chuck Wendig wrote:

          “Jonathan Ross’ response was to call women ‘stupid’ and ‘small-minded.'”

          This is based on two twitter exchanges:

          Ale: (who, going by the picture, is a woman): Pay £115 for loncon3 and find out @wossy is hosting the HugoAwards. Good to know women and other minorities need not attend, then.

          Jonathan Ross: absurd. I’ll happily buy the ticket off you and give it [to] someone less stupid.

          2nd exchange:

          fabiofernandes (who, going by the picture, is a man and possibly Ernest Hemingway): BUY ALL OUR TICKETS OFF THEN.

          Jonathan Ross: sure. Happy to. I don’t relish the though[t] of spending an evening with such small minded people.

          Screengrabs at:

          http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/03/01/when-jonathan-ross-was-presenting-the-hugo-awards-until-he-wasnt/

          How this becomes Ross calling women “stupid” and “small-minded” in response to the announcement he’d be hosting the Hugo Awards is something only Wendig and The Improbable Girl can help you out with.

        • Argh, I posted that before I saw the correction downstream. He called one woman stupid and made general comments that his detractors were “small-minded”.

          Which, frankly, I don’t think is much better. It’s still a really graceless way to handle criticism.

  • “Have the discussion instead of shutting the discussion down.”

    And that was my biggest problem with the whole shit-storm – no one was DISCUSSING anything, just shouting and misquoting and managing to be completely vile into the bargain.

    I think we all need to go watch The Croods – “never not be afraid” seems to be our motto at the moment.

    • At one point, after saying my piece all over, I realised that it was a lot wiser if I took 24hr off. I was hard, but I didn’t want to fan the flames, not even in the direction I thought was right. After that, the fact that Somebody On The Internet Is Wrong surprisingly lost a lot of power.

  • Yes, that’s right – but got himself into hot water a couple of years ago with a thoroughly distasteful prank and had to resign from the BBC job. He seems to have regained his place, but he gets switched off in our house.

  • Excellent post. There were some extreme reactions from people that I really didn’t understand. I hope some of them will do their own blog posts to explain them further.

    It felt to me that people were using the ease of Twitter to attack Ross personally when really their problem should have been with the committee that invited him.

    (I wouldn’t put Ross on the same level as Leno or Fallon)

  • Probably should say that we wouldn’t have watched him before. He is one of those people who is always there holding the mic at awards ceremonies and so forth, which is one of the reasons I never watch them. But I’m completely underwhelmed by Twitter shitstorms. Really, haven’t people got better things to do? Read a book, for instance?

  • Good point that the choice itself, and the style of the announcement were what were most problematic. Twitter being Twitter, Ross was tagged into many of the objections, some suggesting, or even outright accusing him of homophobia and misogyny.

    His persona is one of geniality punctuated with crassness and bad-taste jokes. The cheekiness with which he sells it has worn thin with many, but his “come on, we were all thinking it!” style is his schtick.

    Not everyone’s taste, by a long shot, but in no way deserving of the vitriol he got for volunteering his time for nothing.

    My alarm bells ring anytime I’m advised to “check my privilege”, as many of the anti-Ross blog posts suggested I should do before reading. No matter my gender, orientation, race, religion, income, job or shoe size, none of it would alter the fact that I saw something ugly happen this weekend.

  • This is possibly the most even-handed summary I’ve seen, kudos, sir.

    Just two things though, about the section: ‘When confronted on Twitter — somewhat aggressively, but again to call this insulting or cyberbullying is a bit of a stretch, YMMV, IMHO — Jonathan Ross’ response was to call women “stupid” and “small-minded.”’

    First thing, there were a LOT of outright, personal insults, directed to him at his username. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it bullying either, but lots of people were being way more than just “aggressive”.

    Second thing, saying he called women stupid and small-minded is a bit misleading – one “stupid” comment was a reply to a woman (not quite the same as him “calling women stupid”), and the “small-minded” comment was aimed at everyone who had been insulting him, which included men and women.

    Only pointing those out as I’ve been on the receiving end of my own fun shitstorm before, and seen people quoting things that I never actually said.

    • That’s very true, indeed, and a notable correction! Thank you, sir.

      Still, though, he maybe had a better way to, erm, reassure people that he was The Man For The Job as opposed to the Man Everyone Claimed He Was. Certainly has a right to defend himself, but acting *defensive* in the fact of that did him no favors and only served to stir the shit rather than clear the cloudy waters. Put differently, it’s like handing ammo to the people shooting at you.

      Him getting personal insults is sad and gross. I’ve been there, even as what I like to hope is an ally to feminism or even a feminist myself — but it’s also par for the course, and I don’t go rushing to my own defense any time it happens because the juice is never worth the squeeze. And I always try to remember that even at the worst, what I’ll get are insults, but what many women get are threats — sometimes really very scary ones. And there again I see that the hair trigger reaction from some is at least understandable, if not always strictly justified. This is a group that already feels diminished and dismissed and maybe it felt like a man in some power was only continuing that pattern — even if that fear was false.

      — c.

      • Oh, absolutely, he could have handled it better. But it looks like it caught him by surprise, and he didn’t realise why it was all kicking off so suddenly. I’m sure he’d have reacted differently if he’d known the full background, etc. I think it’s a massive own-goal for us all, sadly. Though I completely get why people were worried and angry, at the same time.

        However, you are still a bearded monster, and must be destroyed. Don’t think I’ve abandoned my quest.

        • Your quest is noble, but I shall thwart you. Because, as noted: bearded monster, and thwarting is what I do.

          And yes, Ross is actually something of collateral damage in all this — his reaction was not ideal, but many reactions in this were not. He was mostly victim to a poor arrangement of announcement by the convention itself, which really sort of botched the whole thing mightily.

          • As a couple of parties have pointed out, it was pretty well inexcusable for the con chairs NOT to have said “Oh, by the way, we’ve been doing some housecleaning in SF lately and you can probably expect people to freak the fuck out.” I think he handled it not at all professionally on Twitter, but there’s also some fault on the LonCon3 con chairs for not warning him that he might be on the receiving end.

          • Quite so. And the fact he responded somewhat brashly is… understandable, but regrettable (and points somewhat to the entire reason he got into the controversies he got into in the first place). A lot of levels to this escalated because people at those levels and on their respective sides did not say, “Hey, here’s how we do better and handle this with aplomb and professionalism.”

            Again, sometimes understandable, but in no way ideal. Gas on a fire. Voosh.

  • There was a similar python vs. crocodilian episode in Florida some years ago. As I recall, neither survived that one.

    Overstressed visual metaphors aside: I often stress with my son the difference between true accidents, malicious acts, and the gulf of carelessness filling the space between them.

    I see carelessness–of thought and of action–leading up to this episode, not malice. But as I tell my kid, things end up just as broken whether you meant to break them or just didn’t think about them until they were already in mid-air.

  • Excellent post, always even and classy. I’m still trying to figure out the photo at the top of the piece. What is that?!?!

    (I feel like I’m back in 2nd grade and someone was passing around a negative of a piece of porn and everyone is laughing and I have NO CLUE what I’m looking at.. *So innocent, so pure.*)

  • Then you’ll release the ferrets? What is that supposed to mean? Are you disparaging ferrets, sir? Are you some kind of ferretophobe? I am outraged! OUTRAGED! Sorry, couldn’t resist…

    • Oh, Chuck is no ferretphobe. But to release the ferrets means that you have imprisoned them in the first place. And the Ferret Liberation Front will surely hear of this.

  • Firstr off, that picture is fabulous. I want the story behind that!

    Secondly, I find it kind of amusing that despite the fact I was actually on Twitter when this blowup happened, I’ve seen way more conversation and “outrage” over the reaction than to the event itself.

  • Nicely done, Chuck. It doesn’t surprise me that Mr Ross reacted the way he did; he’s the kind of guy who speaks first and then thinks about what he said later. Partly how he got into the controversies he’s got into in the first place.

    Regarding him being sexist… I’m kind of baffled by that though. Apart from the Russell Brand thing (and from what I remember that was something Brand instigated while he was a guest on Ross’s show, and Ross just went along with it because it was live on air and he decided to let Brand do his ‘comedy’ thing) he’s not the first guy that springs to mind when it comes to doing sexist material in the UK comedy scene. There’s a LOT of sexist – some might even say misogynist – stuff doing the rounds in this country, unfortunately. People like Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, for example, make Jonathon Ross look like a feminists’ champion…

    • In fact Ross was a guest on Brand’s radio show, and rather more amazingly it was pre-recorded. It was Ross himself who shouted the offensive (albeit factually true) remarks to Andrew “Manuel” Sachs about Brand’s relationship with Sachs’ grand-daughter, but Brand who resigned from the BBC.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Russell_Brand_Show_prank_telephone_calls_row

      It wasn’t even a prank call in intention, as it was pre-arranged that Sachs would do a phone-in interview on the show, but the call went to answerphone and Brand-Ross improvised from there. Sachsgate would never have happened if Sachs had been able to pick up his phone, though naturally that’s neither here nor there… more pertinent is that it wouldn’t have happened if Ross hadn’t sounded off. I mean, some radio journalist ringing Ross’s children at home and graphically telling them that their mother had had sex with their father would be true but offensive and I am sure Ross would not approve.

      And on top of that, it being a pre-recorded show meant there was plenty of opportunity for it not to be aired at all and for Sachs alone to be exposed to the diatribe. Of course even that would have been wrong… and I read the other day that the episode has led to an unresolved estrangement between Sachs and his grand-daughter.

  • I do wonder if this storm would have started in the first place had they announced it more formerly and addressed concerns from the start. I also wonder if the same problems would have arisen if they had more than one host. (Jane Goldman would have made a very interesting co-host and changed the dynamic utterly, though I have no idea if she would have wanted to be involved).

    I am very glad I missed the twitter debacle – I don’t think anyone covered themselves in gold during this one. Other substances certainly, but not gold.

  • One of my Facebook friend is keen to point out that he’s not a feminist. I’ve never really considered the fact that he was, or wasn’t one, until today (I managed to miss all this kicking off whilst being away from the internet for a weekend). But I am aware of him, I actually quite like the guy, and I listened to the ‘scandalous’ radio show with Russell brand that got him in trouble. While, yes, it went too far, I didn’t see it as malicious, more a case of someone opening his mouth, saying the first stupid thing that sprung to mind, and being in the unfortunate position of having it broadcast on live radio.

    Was it funny? Well, yes, sort of. Was it inappropriate? Sure. But I’ve never seen anything that either Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand have done as particularly misogynistic. Admittedly, I’ve grown up in Britain where sexual innuendo was the core of a lot of comedy for years, and as a man I’m somewhat in the comfort zone/ideal audience partition of the general public. But I don’t find Jonathan Ross particularly offensive and am amazed to see some people online taking time to deconstruct things he’s said as throwaway punchlines as if they’re indications of something much more disturbing.

    • Didn’t Connie Willis do it one year? Of course, that’s the year Harlan Ellison grabbed her breast. (facepalm).

    • During the twitter-storm, I looked this up and made a list (by the time I’d made the list, the twitter-storm was over). I went back to 1953, but could have saved a lot of time. The first woman to act as toast-master was Connie Willis in L.A. in 1996. Followed by Esther Friesner in Philadelphia in 2001, Willis again in L.A. in 2006, then Julie Czerneda (with Yves Meynard translating) at Montreal in 2009. No one knows who hosted at Aussiecon III in 1999 – unless someone who was there can remember because it’s nowhere on the internet and this was in the days when the internet did exist.

      So, the Hugos have been hosted by women four times, by three women, since they began in 1953 (that’s 59 ceremonies, 4 hosted by women). If you just count since 1996 (the first time a women hosted them) that’s just 4 ceremonies out of 17, which looks better but still not that great. One woman has hosted in a con outside the USA. No women have hosted at a con outside North America.

      • Correction! Because I forgot to go back through my own list. I’m an idiot. Sorry :)

        Chelsea Quinn Yarbro hosted at The Hague in 1990, Marta Randall in Chicago in 1982 and 1991.

        So, that should read 59 ceremonies, 7 hosted by 5 different women. Since 1982, 31 ceremonies with 7 hosted by women (approx. 22 %).

        Two women have hosted at a con outside the USA, one outside North America.

          • Ta! Yep. The lesson from this is to make notes in a program that allows easy formatting – Notebook is not that program :) Maybe I should just copy the whole list in and everyone can analyse it themselves, but it’s kind of long…

        • Thanks for running these numbers. Still a disappointingly small number of women, especially considering the large number of women who rose to prominence in the genre in the 70s and 80s (and the smaller, but still distinguished, number of women who wrote excellent SFF before).

          I went through all the winners of the best novel Hugo since 1953, and women seem to have won 16 times, for a total of 26%. Some have won more than once (Bujold seems to hold the record there, with 4 wins for best novel, followed by Willis, with 3). The first woman to win a best novel Hugo, if I read the list correctly, was Ursual K. Leguin in 1970. Since 1970, women have won 37% of the best novel Hugos.

          I didn’t do the numbers on the Hugos for other lengths and forms of SFF literature, so I don’t know how women stack up there, but it seems like the percentage of the time women have hosted the Hugo awards is lower than the percentages of times women have won the best novel award, at least.

        • Thank you for doing the research! I think more diversity in the presenters would go a long way toward increasing the inclusiveness of the con/Hugo awards.That’s the quickest and least controversial way, surely?

  • A few anti-Ross commentators have highlighted him snapping at detractors on Twitter. Actually, he began by being a perfect gentleman, and was then simply beaten down by the storm of outrage. After being called a misogynist, a sizeist, a wanker and a ‘bell end’ (look it up, America) by the ‘community’ he’s a part off, *that’s* when he snapped. He’s also one of those celebs who actually engages with people on Twitter, and I think he just got annoyed. How I read it, the person he called stupid was *actually* being stupid – whether it was a woman or a man, stupidity and small-mindedness can be called out. They were accusing him of things that he hadn’t done, because some other people on Twitter had said he’d done them (or, in one case at least, imagined that he *might* do them).

    And why were they abusing him at all? Because NEIL GAIMAN had invited him to host the awards; and Ross had agreed to do it FOR FREE because he’s a fan. Anyone up for Tweeting Neil Gaiman about his terrible judgement and choice of friends? Wanna call him a misogynist and sizeist by way of association? Nope. Didn’t think so.

    If you read the tweets to Seanan MacGuire this morning from Ross’s wife and daughter, you’ll see the human cost of the debacle. You’ll see how his family was affected by the abuse, how they were in tears because of the accusations being made against their father. Maybe then it’ll become more understandable that he snapped.

    • Amen, double, double amen. He collects action figures for heaven’s sake, he’s an acknowledge expert on graphic novels, sorry if I said that before.

      Cheers

      MTM

  • Don’t see anyone having mentioned it here (there’s a nod from edfortune a couple of comments ago) but JR is married to Jane Goldman (whose screenplays include X Men: First Class, Kick Ass and Stardust) and is a massive geek, so would potentially have been a decent fit for the event. He’s not particularly well known for his even-tempered responses to criticism though, so I’m not surprised the whole thing blew up.

    • More than just a fan-by-marriage.

      His first TV shows in the UK were dedicated to underground/niche/geek cinema.
      He’s a known comic collector with a substantial Silver Age Marvel collection and the co-owner of a comic shop.
      He hosted the Comicon Eisner Awards, before a crowd of Americans who didn’t know him, without outrage. And was invited back.
      He’s a published SF author.
      He hosted the BBC’s flagship film review show for years, and was notable for being the first host to give knowledgeable and fair reviews to geek-genre films.

      He’s been the host of many major British award shows, like the BAFTAs and British Comedy Awards, something he usually charges a six-figure sum for. He had agreed to host the Hugo’s for free because of his fanhood.

      I’d think all of the above should come before “well his wife’s in the community”.

  • Great summary. As I think I said on twitter- I don’t think anybody came out of it particularly well.

    It looks like looks like Loncon need to take a long hard look at how they do things. Ross needs to take a long hard look at how he responded. A lot of the people who were criticising him need to look at how they talked first and researched later. An the SF community is still in the process of taking a long hard look at the issues that have brought it to the point when something like this seems like the inevitable response.

    (Which can sound like the crime fiction guy laughing at the SF people. Im not. I actually think the crime fiction club is long overdue looking at some of the same issues.)

    Ross cuts his comedy close to the bone. As a comedian he’s not much to my taste. But as a TV presenter he can be very charming and when he wants to he can do great interviews. He was the first person I ever saw that managed to break through the cracks in Stan Lee’s persona on camera. What I would say about his ‘cutting close to the bone’ is that he generally punches up. A lot of the concerns that I saw (and I take the people in good faith and I’m sure they were honest concerns) were from the kind of people who Ross is always nice to. He takes potshots at celebrities and “national treasures,” not at nervous or self-conscious people who have turned up to an SF event to have a good time.

    But that’s not to criticise the people who were worried. I can understand why. I can completely understand. Google searches will paint him as a bully, and who wouldn’t be worried by that?

    One final thing I’d say is that the biggest controversy of his career was a manufactured one. He did something in bad taste, but it wasn’t an issue on it’s own merits. He had a comedian on his show. They left a (extremely poor taste, no doubt) voicemail on an actors phone. It went out on the BBC. And…..nothing. Nobody complained. Then two weeks later it was picked up on as breaking news by the Daily Mail (who are one of the nastiest publications to ever waste a sheet of paper, who demonise women, asylum seekers and immigrants while being owned by a millionaire who doesn’t pay tax) as part of a campaign against the BBC. So, after two weeks of zero complaints, the BBC were suddenly flooded with thousands of complaints -from people who hadn’t listened to the broadcast- and Ross had to resign.

    I’m not defending the voicemail. It was in poor taste. I didn’t find it funny and it’s not my brand of comedy at all. But it was a controversy entirely stoked by a newspaper who criticise the rest of us for being the “PC Brigade” every time we get angry at a racist bigoted comedian. It’s worth thinking that it’s precisely the kind of hatchet job Fox News would pull on Jon Stewart if they could.

    • Oh HELL yeah, regarding the Daily Mail! If you were after an example of a gutter rag from the UK, Chuck, there it is. I believe it was another UK comedian – Russell Howard – who summed it up best: “The Daily Mail – racist in public so you don’t have to be.” He must’ve just forgot they’re sexist and homophobic as well…

      • I’m so depressed by the success that the Mail have had with Mail Online. It’s pretty perfect clickbait, and it seems to be equal parts kitten pictures and faux-outrage from right across the political spectrum. I see people linking to ’50 cutest flowers ever’, ‘Immigrants Will Make Your Son Gay’ and ‘Sexist Pig Oppresses all Women Ever’ and they’re all leading back to Mail Online.

  • It’s a shame. I know nothing about Ross except that he made an “In Search of Steve Ditko” mini-doc a few years ago, wherein Steve Ditko gives Neil Gaiman comics — all off camera. Not even Gaiman was able to get the J.D. Salinger of comics to come forth from the shadows. But at least Ross tried, which at least gives him some cred with the Vishanti and me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfxVO0fLHvA

  • I wish you could have posted this a couple of years ago. The fact that this mess could have gone nuclear so quickly to me indicates that, to use your PTSD example, some people need treatment because they are diving for cover when Twitter farts. My concern is that legitimate concerns are trivialized in the eyes of a lot of people and positions on all sided become less and less flexible. The real losers here are SFF writers and readers alike..

    • “The fact that this mess could have gone nuclear so quickly to me indicates that, to use your PTSD example, some people need treatment because they are diving for cover when Twitter farts”

      I would agree with this. A saw a couple of blog posts by writers I happen to know are good dudes basically saying “I am scared to participate in the SFF community right now because I’m worried that as white, straight guy if I unintentionally say something problematic I’ll be lit into” which is unfortunate. While we should always be mindful of what we say and be ready to take criticism on board and make apologies as necessary, nobody should live in fear that the slightest misstep could end their career. That some people do says to me that the channels of communication have broken down.

  • March 3, 2014 at 12:14 PM // Reply

    Great post. I did find it hard to even get a handle on who Ross was before the whole thing was over. (I’m Canadian.) A respectful nitpick: Women aren’t a “minority.” (Neither are people of colour, for that matter. Unless you mean “minority at WorldCon” which is sadly arguable I suppose, but then referring to “minorities” as a catch-all sort of accidentally entrenches the sense that that situation is normal, and in any case I found that a bit distracting from your point.) *stops picking beard nits*

    • Well, this depends on which people of color you mean, unless you’re speaking of them all as a mass, which… doesn’t work. (e.g.: To generalize: Blacks, of which I am one, for example, are indeed a minority worldwide — there are fewer of us.)

      Women on the other hand — yep, there are more of us.

  • People keep making a meal of the fact that Ross was not getting an appearance fee. I see this as a substantial instance of Not Getting It. It’s the Worldcon, not Comicon, it’s much more of an egalitarian culture. Nobody gets an appearance fee, no matter how big the name. We’re all fans together. So nobody who is actually part of the culture will be much impressed that he wasn’t demanding a fee. If he had, he wouldn’t have gotten the nod in the first place.

  • Classy and on-point as usual, Chuck. I mean that. As a queer woman I always feel a little weird linking to your (as a person on Heteronormative White Dude Mountain) essays when the topics of privilege and discrimination come up, but your ability to cut through the bullshit while still being wise and compassionate is seriously admirable.

    I have mixed feelings about this entire debacle. On one hand, I saw a lot of very intelligent, reasoned critiques of Ross from people who are minorities within the SFF community get labeled as “ugly” and “part of the lynch mob”* by their more privileged peers, and that made me mad/sad. It’s important to remember people in power using the specter of aggression to delegitimize minority concerns is an old tactic, and one that has resulted in a lot of ugly stereotypes and a lot of hurt and feelings of helplessness on the part of minorities. When the mere desire for your gender/racial/sexual identity to not be the butt of a joke is labeled as bullying, it’s hard not see to that as confirmation that you feeling safe and secure in your community isn’t as important to your peers as their not feeling guilty is.

    On the other hand, Twitter can often act as a distorting echo-chamber, twisting and amplifying people’s words. I see this in Twitter feminism a LOT. A few well-known people will raise issue with something a person said, and all of a sudden people who previously didn’t have a dog in the fight and who really don’t know anything at all about the situation will pile on, drowning out the initial, more measured responses. And that’s harmful to the debate as well, both because it makes it easy for people in power to use the “you’re all a bunch of bullies” tactic, and because it makes people scared to participate in the SFF (or feminist) community for fear of accidentally inciting the same rage. It’s a no-win scenario.

    I don’t really have a solution for this problem other than “think before you speak, be kind and respectful even when faced with ugliness, and listen to people when they tell you they’re hurting even if you don’t agree with or fully understand them.” Which is what I try to do. (I am not always 100% successful. But the trying is the important thing.)

    *I’m not even going to go into how problematic the phrase “lynch mob” is. Unless you are describing an actual lynch mob, there are no good reasons for its usage. If you don’t understand why that is, then that’s even more reason not to use it.

  • Count me as one of the Americans who never heard of Ross before the debacle (even though I live in Europoe — but not the UK), and had to google him after the fact. I have to admit, I didn’t find much that was particularly controversial, mostly a bunch of YouTube videos, mostly with Americans, mostly funny.

    Given my general ignorance, I really appreciate your even-handed summary of what went down. Although I blinked a couple of times at the “Women and other minorities.”

  • Here’s my thought, if a comic is going to make part of his professional living on sexist, homophobic humor and fat jokes, as Ross demonstratably has, than that comic had better be prepared for some people being upset about his brand of comedy, especially if he’s going to be hosting an event that is supposed to include honoring women authors. That he was not able to handle the sort of anger he’s spent years courting in his career does not seem to me to make him a victim, even if he offered to do the Hugos for free.

    More to the point, telling women authors who were upset that they would get to go to the Hugos and maybe have to deal with these sorts of jokes that they have to watch their tone and be nice, hug their dissenters and justify yet again their feelings in discussions is pretty much the standard demands made of women every time they say they are pissed about one more round of sexist comments or commentator. You’re making the standard arguments here, Wendig — you have fatigue over the subject, so women should stop being annoying by being upset about it, even though the women don’t get to walk away from the subject, no matter how tiring it is to deal with it yet again. Ross can make all the nasty jokes he likes, but the women should not say anything nasty about him. Women aren’t supposed to be super angry and make anyone feel uncomfortable when discussing how they just got cluelessly victimized again, this time for the Hugos. Feminists are scary and don’t properly behave as demure women, and we mustn’t scare participants in SFF away who would get their feelings hurt by having to possibly encounter an upset female. But women can get their feelings hurt again and again by the community and by angry males, and should forgive their bullies and make nice.

    Look, Ross makes his living in part by being a dick. That’s a brand of comedy, it’s not particularly awful as simply part of the comedy world, but it was clearly inappropriate for an author award banquet at a con that has already not had a great gender track record lately. So why did the folk at LonCon hire him? Because they didn’t care what women were going to think about it. It probably didn’t even occur to them to consider how women were going to react to it at all, because women are supposed to be quiet and suck up verbal attacks. Witness the surprise that there was unhappiness and even rage that this was going on again, as if this was a totally new issue.

    Women are not going to speak nicely about sexism in the professional sphere, because speaking nicely doesn’t and didn’t change anything in that professional sphere. They just get patted on the head. Speaking angrily gets them told they are being unreasonable bullies who should shut up now, but at least Ross isn’t hosting anymore, is he? So you can lecture them about tone all you want and call that even-handiness, but it’s pretty much the argument for the usual status quo. Women don’t want to deal with these issues any more than you do; but they are forced on them by folks like the LonCon organizers who decided women don’t count and should be quiet.

    I sincerely, sincerely ask you to consider to stop telling women that they should be “kind” when that admonishment has been a centuries long tactic used to control women’s speech and justify a society that keeps them at a disadvantage — the disadvantage that men can get angry and speak angrily in conversation about what matters to them and women shouldn’t. I know you didn’t intend it that way, but this still ends up being another instance of women being told to play nice, as if they were errant children.

    • “More to the point, telling women authors who were upset that they would get to go to the Hugos and maybe have to deal with these sorts of jokes that they have to watch their tone and be nice, hug their dissenters and justify yet again their feelings in discussions is pretty much the standard demands made of women every time they say they are pissed about one more round of sexist comments or commentator. You’re making the standard arguments here, Wendig — you have fatigue over the subject, so women should stop being annoying by being upset about it, even though the women don’t get to walk away from the subject, no matter how tiring it is to deal with it yet again. Ross can make all the nasty jokes he likes, but the women should not say anything nasty about him. Women aren’t supposed to be super angry and make anyone feel uncomfortable when discussing how they just got cluelessly victimized again, this time for the Hugos. Feminists are scary and don’t properly behave as demure women, and we mustn’t scare participants in SFF away who would get their feelings hurt by having to possibly encounter an upset female. But women can get their feelings hurt again and again by the community and by angry males, and should forgive their bullies and make nice.”

      I’m feeling like you didn’t read the blog post. I apologize if that’s the message you got, but re-reading my post, at no time does that appear to me the message I’m offering.

      “Women are not going to speak nicely about sexism in the professional sphere, because speaking nicely doesn’t and didn’t change anything in that professional sphere. They just get patted on the head. Speaking angrily gets them told they are being unreasonable bullies who should shut up now, but at least Ross isn’t hosting anymore, is he? So you can lecture them about tone all you want and call that even-handiness, but it’s pretty much the argument for the usual status quo. Women don’t want to deal with these issues any more than you do; but they are forced on them by folks like the LonCon organizers who decided women don’t count and should be quiet.

      I sincerely, sincerely ask you to consider to stop telling women that they should be “kind” when that admonishment has been a centuries long tactic used to control women’s speech and justify a society that keeps them at a disadvantage — the disadvantage that men can get angry and speak angrily in conversation about what matters to them and women shouldn’t. I know you didn’t intend it that way, but this still ends up being another instance of women being told to play nice, as if they were errant children.”

      I didn’t tell women to be kind. I’m asking everyone to be kind. I understand your point, that anger gets things done, but anger also tends to burn fast and just creates more anger. Empathy and even-handed discussion is what’s needed from everyone. That may seem like me trying to treat women like children, but I prefer to think of it as asking everyone to act like an adult.

      — c.

    • “as Ross demonstrably has”

      Actually, this is not true. He’s had a couple of high-profile moments in a long career filled with non-sexist/homophobic or fat-joke material. Plus, most of his worst examples actually resulted in dialogs and apologies — which is surely a positive thing.

      But for you, and apparently a large number of the other folks who agree with you, this qualifies as “demonstrable” — a non-starter, and enough to feel the need to instantly demonize any who seem to be disagreeing with you.

      That’s the biggest problem I’m having with this entire sad affair. A complete disregard for fact in the service of a cause, and the instant classification of any who disagree as “part of the problem” and therefore someone who must be fought.

      • Er….isn’t accusing others of ‘demonizing’ and jumping into a discussion ostensibly meta (‘the problem isn’t the problem, the problem is your approach to the problem’) with ‘oh yeah, and by the way you were wrong in the first place’, contributing to the problem?

        • Facts are facts. If we’ve reached a point where pointing out factually incorrect things are “contributing to the problem”, there’s no hope for any of us. We might as well pack it in.

          • ‘Demonize’ is an opinion, not a fact. But you’re not really responding to the point. Wendig is saying that there is an issue with how both sides are talking about the problem. If your response is the equivalent of “yes, there is, and it’s because those other guys are lying poopyheads”, then you’re not so much acknowledging what Wendig said as doubling down.

  • Hm. If I read the real Ross Twitter exchanges correctly, I don’t see a problem here.

    Are the detractors basing their dislike of Ross on ONLY these two exchanges? Do those people ‘converse’ with people on Twitter? Or with people who, sounding pretty casual and normal as Ross was, in reply to, what to ME, sounded pretty large: like, “can someone buy this ticket cos this GUY is gonna be there”, and he says “hey,” in his best, making the point and dismissing it in the same way, tone, “I’ll buy them, you stupid git.” *grin*

    Or do I get this kind of humor better than most? I dunno. I always liked the British. What’s that stupid guy Neil Gaiman doing bringin’ that kind over here, anyway? *grin* Hi, Amanda!

    Same thing happened when someone directed me to Hugh Howey’s ‘suck this, bitch’ exchange post. I wasn’t around when it happened. So I recently read the post. He, being passionate about his INDUSTRY, said something rather reasonable. And I appreciated his reply. And he wasn’t being … sexist.

    Oh and I’m a girl. And older than all of you, I bet. And I like how both Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov behave and write. Sorry.

    I realize the SFWA, as per your query about joining, the other day, is maybe a tad old boy’s network (and herein lies the joke if that IS the case; this supposed version of Ross would fit right IN–if that version existed.)

    I was wondering who you were talking about when you first mentioned this guy. I only know him from internet youtube talk show videos where he is as funny and ‘off the mark at times’ as ANY comedian.

    Moist toilette, anyone?

    Heather
    wordwan

    • You are fully entitled to your opinion, of course, but:

      “… Do I get this kind of humour better than most?” Comes off incredibly smug and veers awfully close to that ‘it’s just a joke/other people have no sense of humour’ argument which is used again and again to excuse sexist/homophobic/racist ‘jokes’.

      “Oh and I’m a girl. And older than all of you, I bet. [And…] Sorry.” Demonstrates a really common form of internalised misogyny. ‘I’m a woman, but I’m not like those crazy women over there.’

      “Moist toilette, anyone?” Incredibly dismissive comment about an issue that has genuinely upset a lot of people. Even if you don’t agree with the viewpoint, you can understand that it *matters* to people and snide comments are not helpful.

  • Unfortunately, this “controversy” is pretty typical in this day and age (the age of the “Twitterati” as it were) with predictable results.

    Unfortunately, because of the way it was ‘handled’ — on both sides — what people will remember, especially those who probably don’t even know who Ross is — is that he was an alcoholic, wife-beater who was uninvited from Loncon once the convention organizers found out about his stash of kiddie-porn and and gay bunny snuff films.

    Oh, none of those accusations is true? Too late now.

  • “d) Americans in general do not know who the fuck Jonathan Ross is. Seriously. No farking flarging fjording idea. This is a critical point and speaks to a divide between British fans (who know him and like him) and Americans (who only know him via a quick Google search).”

    Which is strange then that I see so many people commenting about this with supposedly well-arrived-at-opinions of the guy. Also I know a handful of people who are aware of who Jonathon Ross is (he played on Extras as well which was HBO) and I live in a podunk town in Arkansas for cryin’ out loud!. This isn’t the small world anymore. We have the internet. I think you sell Americans a bit short on the assumption that we never dare to taste things outside of our own produced entertainment. It’s would be like if you were and Irishmen and said “No Irishman knows who the frak David Letteran is.” We get our entertainment and shows from all over the world these days.

  • CW: “I didn’t tell women to be kind. I’m asking everyone to be kind. I understand your point, that anger gets things done, but anger also tends to burn fast and just creates more anger. Empathy and even-handed discussion is what’s needed from everyone. That may seem like me trying to treat women like children, but I prefer to think of it as asking everyone to act like an adult.”

    Yeah, I know that’s what you think you’re doing. But that’s because you are ignoring in this instance the fact that women have less political, legal and social power than you throughout Western society. Women are constantly told to be kind, especially when they’re upset about sexism. They’re told that their upset is childish (unreasonable, overly emotional, etc.) and they need to act like “an adult,” i.e. talk to the men the way the men feel they should be respectfully talk to. Because women aren’t supposed to talk to men that way. It’s a social stricture that forces women to talk only in certain ways or have what they say mostly ignored because they didn’t say it in the correct tone for females. (And the same for racism, etc.) The fact that you “included” men in your admonishment doesn’t change that it’s an admonishment to women, the disadvantaged group, of the exact same kind used to constantly delegitimize and control their speech and their complaints about sexism by social censure. For the women, you are basically taking the status quo line — they should be respectful towards men and others when they are upset about sexism against them — and hiring Ross was in fact an act against them. They should watch their tone. They should not cause upset. Everyone is tired of hearing about this topic from them, never mind that they can’t escape the topic because it is their lives. They should remember that anger breeds more anger — which is a threat, i.e. if you don’t be quiet, nice and behave the way we want, we won’t help you or listen, sexism be damned.

    Again, these are standard arguments made every time women speak up against sexism against them. Because many people, male and female, feel that other women have no real justification for being upset about anything that doesn’t upset them that much. The argument becomes about the women’s tone and not about the very deeply ingrained sexism of the LonCon folk in hiring Ross to do an event he was totally wrong for. That hiring hurt people. It hurt female authors who felt they were being shut out — again. But if the women don’t speak very carefully, well screw talking about that. Women are automatically at a disadvantage in these situations. They speak up? It’s the downfall of the genre and its fans. Women must have empathy for whoever screws them over or says any stupid sexist thing. Women are told constantly in every corner of the society, in every corner of their writing profession, that they better behave and not get too hyped up when some guy opens his mouth and shit flies out, when some con decides to tell them when they should and should not feel safe, and when well meaning authors encourage women to have to constantly defend and debate their situation and do it nice, ladies, or you get ferrets, ha ha. (Not that you’re not funny.) Women can object, but only in the way men and the social fabric feels it’s okay for them to object. Men, including men like Ross, can act. Women have to get a permission slip first. Men who do outbursts and get push back on it are “victims” who should not have to put up with anyone else’s outbursts.

    Ross has a history. It is not a history of a few incidents. Part of his career has been deliberately courting controversy and saying provocative things — about Margaret Thatcher, Gwyneth Paltrow, hefty women, etc. And that’s his prerogative. And it is women authors and fans’ prerogative to throw a shit storm when he’s made Hugo host and outside the usual channels. Until you are willing to let them have the shit storm, you’re treating women like children who have to be controlled, and supporting one of the main ways society keeps women disadvantaged within it. You can object to anything they say, but they can object to anything too and in the ways that they choose. (Although they risk their necks and rape and death threats to say it.) Because society says that they can’t — they don’t have equal speech. If you really want to have a debate and not shut down the discussion, stop trying to shut down the women and discourage women from speaking their minds. Stop pretending that they have control of the discussion and power in the society, (because they really don’t,) and therefore it’s terribly dangerous if they speak the same way that men have been speaking to them — in anger — for milennia. Because those are the two arguments, again, used to control and silence women’s speech in society when it comes to how society treats them and discriminates against them — that they are being childish and unreasonable and that their anger is dangerous. And you used both of them.

    G. Skarka: “Plus, most of his worst examples actually resulted in dialogs and apologies — which is surely a positive thing.”

    Well no, it’s not a positive thing for women. A positive thing would be that Ross never made the jokes and insults in the first place, because he hurt people with them — and your attempts to minimize that part of his career are par for the course in trying to shut up any complaints. A positive thing would be not to have to have dialogues where they have to argue for being treated as equal human beings instead of party favors as if the party favors view was a legitimate one worth discussion. Forcing women to have to do “dialogues” and deal with and accept after the fact apologies while Ross goes on his merry way and occasionally vomits up a gross joke is a way of making it harder for women to complain when someone like Ross does it — so that they’ll shut up.

    Ross is an entertainer. He chooses how he wants to entertain. He’s got every right to do it — and everybody else has every right to criticize him for what he says. That’s not demonizing him. When you have women authors saying they don’t feel that they can come to the Hugos with him as host because they don’t want to be targets in a hostile environment, you’ve got a problem. And it’s part of a bigger problem of cons getting pretty nasty about women speaking up about the gross jokes, the groping incidents, the slut shaming of cosplayers, the gatekeeping harassment of female fans, the discrimination women authors experience on panels and programming, etc. Having Ross as a host was for a lot of people involved in the Hugos and the field another slap in the face. So they spoke out, as they have every right to do. It’s not free speech for Ross and none for anybody who disagrees with him. He doesn’t get a special protective umbrella.

    • Although I appreciate that having a smooth ride through life is a better experience than having a bumpy road and then later addressing the problems, life rarely works like that. I’d go so far as to say it never works like that. Ross is a product of his environment – that’s not to forgive him any of his faults, but to point out that it’s impossible for people to be pressed out of cookie cutters in a perfect form that will not ruffle anyone’s feathers. Isn’t it therefore better to address problems that do arise rather than to suggest the solution is a point in time that’s impossible to reach back to even with the benefit of hindsight and ‘crystal clarity’ on what will work for everyone? I don’t think there ARE any clearly defined answers; even amongst feminists it sounds like there are numerous opinions on where exactly lines are drawn.

      Just as Ross is a product of his own experiences we’re all products of our own, and we all step up to the argument with our own scars, our own passions, our own agendas. If everyone just shouts and refuses to acknowledge that there ARE other sides to the argument, we don’t resolve problems – we just polarise people’s opinions and ensure people will continue shouting at each other, and people caught in the cross-fire. Endlessly.

      I like the term “special protective umbrellas”. You’re right, no-one deserves one of those. I don’t agree Ross should be vilified as much as he has, but I also don’t believe he should be untouchable, any more than anyone else should be. We’re all accountable for our actions and words.

  • Very good post – thank you. When I broke my thinking on this down to get it out of my head my conclusion was that the issue was one of trust. I have had occasion to tell my kids that trust is easy to lose and hard to regain, and my thinking is that the reaction to Ross came out of a widespread lack of trust that he would not say anything mocking about fandom/to fans while on stage. Also a lack of trust in the message that choosing a person with those issues in their background would send to the people with more entrenched misogynistic opinions in fandom.

    In announcing it the way they did the Loncon Chairs also let Farah set the tone, because all of the detail came from her resignation announcement. Knowing that she was resigning so that she could comment on the subject they desperately needed to have presented a balancing statement.

  • It’s unfortunate that most anti-Ross opinions seem to be based on a cursory Google search at best, where you’ll often find tabloid-edited and sometimes decontextualised examples of jokes and moments taken from his 30-year career.

    Jonathan Ross is a faintly controversial TV figure at best and controversy is in no way a major part of what he does. True, I’ve seen him host awards ceremonies when his humour becomes more risque. But he’s also a professional who would tailor his style to an occasion. To assume otherwise really is to sell him short. He told me on Twitter, shortly after it all went wrong: “I was concerned about getting the tone right. Wanted it to be funny but affectionate/supportive.”

    Anyone who assumed Ross would behave like some raging sexist crazy-guy at the Hugos really was just assuming.

  • I think that’s the crux of the issue for a lot of people: Ross was pilloried for atrocities he had yet to commit. Chuck’s point about a blog post (or a press release) is right on. If they had a paragraph or two to list Ross’ bona fides and note that the sometimes controversial comedian was nevertheless a true fan of the genre who had hosted the Eisners several times, I think it would have mitigated the quantity of the bile that was spewed.

    My genuine concern is that some of the people in this community do not feel safe at these gatherings. I’ve been going to conventions, large and small, since 1986, and I’ve never once seen a situation where a woman was being harassed and the entire room watched in mute approval, their grim, tacit acceptance of the act reinforcing the privileged hegemony. That’s never happened, and I’ve been to shows as large as ComicCon and GenCon as a professional, and as small as SoonerCon and even smaller shows that were no more than a dealer’s room and five pros signing autographs. I’ve never seen that happen. Ever. You’ll have to take my word for it, because you don’t know me, but if I ever encountered a situation where someone was being treated in an insulting or denigrating way, I would step in. I would have done it when I was younger, and I surely would do it now. And I know I’m not the only one, either.

    When these incident happen, the community (our community) closes ranks around the victims. We protect, we support, and we freak the fuck out on whoever did whatever they did. We write blog posts, and sometimes we even get conventions to change their ways–moving the needle in increments, to be sure, but always with some forward progress. I think in the past few years, we’ve made it clear that as a community, we don’t want, nor encourage, nor tolerate that kind of behavior anymore. There’s always going to be the odd fuckhead who squeaks through, but we’ll DEAL with him as soon as he makes himself known, right?

    But we cannot condemn people who have yet to cross the line. We can’t convict people based on what they might do, or haven’t done yet. It’s that simple.

    Since we’re using crystal balls to predict the future now, let me tell you how I think it would have gone down had Ross done what everyone said he was going to do. I think he would have cracked one fat joke, aimed at–hell, let’s go ahead and assume that he’d pick on a woman instead of an overweight man. One insensitive remark, and that room would have turned on him like nest of vipers. People would have walked out of the banquet, and the event would have ended in a shambles. Those that stayed may well have pelted Ross with dinner rolls and booed him off of the stage. They would have had to mail everyone’s award to them. In other words, the room would have leaped the the defense of One Of Our Own. That’s the climate, the culture, we’ve produced over the past five years.

    Of course, it didn’t happen at all. It’s in the future. But the above reaction would at least have been a reaction to something that actually happened. Everything else is (perhaps ironically, given the community) pure speculation.

  • March 4, 2014 at 2:27 PM // Reply

    I don’t have a problem with anyone deciding that Ross was a bad choice, even if it was just in anticipation of what he might say as a host of the event. We’ve seen examples of hosts of awards shows going over the top when it comes to quips about the very people they are hosting for.

    My problem with the response of some in the SF/F community to the Ross announcement was in the way in which the criticisms were presented. There is really no call for hateful rhetoric, particularly among a group of writers who should be able to express themselves better. As a member of fandom in general, and as a fan in particular of some of the authors involved, I was saddened. Cyber-bullying may be a bit melodramatic, but I do think it was a bit of a mob mentality that built on itself as such things often do. Many in the SF/F community have dealt with bullies and with being “the other” throughout their lives, but in this case, at least from a fraction of the community, it looked more to me like they were emulating the behavior that many in the community have spoke out against.

    Yes, Ross could have handled it better, there’s no doubt about that. Neither side looks particularly good here. I hope this sort of thing will stop, and that instead of stampeding to join the throng of outraged individuals on Twitter, people will take some time to be a bit more circumspect.

    I’m disappointed, and mostly I’m sad because I’ve lost respect for authors whose work I really enjoy.

    • Hateful rhetoric remains uncalled for in any of these situations — against Ross and against his detractors. Ugly stuff all around.

      It’s worth noting, however, that sometimes what is getting called “hateful rhetoric” is sometimes just people airing their concerns, and contains no actual hate or insult. It’s important not to equate disagreement with one’s POV as “bullying.”

      If anything, hopefully this is a caution for everybody all around this wide wild Internet to measure their words carefully before they lay them down for everyone to see.

      — c.

      • March 4, 2014 at 4:43 PM // Reply

        I agree. People often look at mere disagreement as hateful or bullying, and I also think it is important not to equate the two. I’ve seen some comments in relation to this issue (mostly on Twitter) that I feel cross that line. Other people will have a different yardstick. I try not to draw any conclusions about the authors themselves based on it – hell, we’ve all been quick on the trigger on social media and put a foot in our mouth (or at least I have). But it is still an unfortunate situation. That said, I have also since seen some olive branches, also on Twitter, and that makes me happy.

        Maybe I ultimately shouldn’t care whether the authors whose works I buy are good people or not, or how they behave (instead, just the art on its merits, etc.), but I haven’t been able to completely divorce myself from those considerations.

  • Simon J. Brake — the product of the environment line is an old one. The protesters did address the problem that had arisen — someone who they felt was inappropriate to host the Hugos was engaged to host them against usual protocols.

    “If everyone just shouts and refuses to acknowledge that there ARE other sides to the argument, we don’t resolve problems – we just polarise people’s opinions and ensure people will continue shouting at each other, and people caught in the cross-fire. Endlessly.”

    So women better watch how they speak or the society will hurt them. Unfortunately, society will hurt them whether the speak nicely or not. But when they don’t speak so nicely, when they challenge the notion that they should be good little girls, when they risk death, rape, dead careers and other crap about how they are unreasonable loudmouths because society is discomfited, they get to vote, own property in their own name, hold political office, make a living wage, not get groped at conventions and write novels under their own names instead of male pseudonyms — but only after a long slog of kicking and screaming that is of course always unjustified and unreasonable. The “other side of the argument” is that women should shut up, never shout, and accept that sometimes a guy is going to make humiliating jokes at them for a living and that this guy is then going to host the award show where the female authors are supposed to be equally professionally respected, and they should just suck it up. The other side of the argument is already polarized. And if Ross loses his shit on Twitter because that side of the argument isn’t universally accepted, then it’s a little unprofessional but understandable — because he’s a guy — but the women are creating endless war and it’s totally unreasonable if they do it too. And that’s the argument that is made to women in every discussion about sexism ever. They’re not allowed to be angry; he is. But they are going to keep shouting until stuff changes — again. I suggest you get used to it.

    Jason Arnopp: “But he’s also a professional who would tailor his style to an occasion.”

    That’s not really the point, is it? The point is that he was engaged, against con protocols, to host the award show in a big fuck you to the female authors who are going to be there. The point is that the con, after all the discussions of treating women authors as equal professionals and stopping harassment and gatekeeping that keep women fans from being involved, decided to bring in someone inappropriate who has humiliated women on air. The problem is the society that supports the idea that Ross’ right to make a risque joke is more important than the right of other people to complain about it and not want him at an event, and not want to have to sit through his performance, however nicely he does his routine there. In the world we live in, Ross told Paltrow on t.v. that he would fuck her and she was gagging for it, and she had to sit there and take it. He gets a light scold from his bosses and she gets to be called a bitch because other people complained about it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ffgMqS-4bM

    That’s because the world women live in is not the world you live in. When women “shout” and get angry, they are sticking their necks out. Farah Mendlesohn didn’t just resign from the con to protest. She risked bodily harm, career harm and a lot of other stuff to protest. Ross has every right to do what comedy he sees fit where he sees fit. And they have every right to dislike his comedy, not want him to host and get angry about it. They have every right not to trust him because of what he’s done in the past, come to that, but the anger is a lot more at the con for engaging him.

    Mark Finn: The world you are describing is entirely different from the one many female authors experience and have talked about. The I don’t see what I consider sexism and discrimination, so it must not exist argument is also an old line. And the notion that women should just go along with it and trust you to protect them from any problems is paternalistic and discriminatory — you deciding whether they’ve undergone sexism or not isn’t equality or debate. It also makes the point — if Ross makes a bad joke, you’ll throw rolls at him, but first the women have to sit through the joke and be humiliated. Women should suck it up, women shouldn’t trouble their pretty heads, and women should sit there while someone whose work they don’t like and don’t trust hosts the award banquet without complaint. Well, they do that a lot. They sit there and be quiet and so you don’t think there’s a problem. This time they didn’t. So they told you, just like you asked. And some of them got really upset and lost their shit, just like Ross at times has lost his shit. Welcome to equality.

    We don’t all agree about anything. And women are going to speak and sometimes shout. As Wendig’s Miriam Black would say: “I’m not nice. And this is not news, dude. I’d rather be a cranky bitch who lets you know what she’s thinking than some passive-aggressive dick-weasel who thinks friendship with a girl is secondary to her putting out.” Wow indeed, Gareth S., wow indeed.

    • Kat, the point I was trying to make without being paternalistic or discriminatory was that the industry at large (not the shitheads in the minority) has your collective backs. I don’t think I want to actually debate any issues, here. If someone was in real fear for their safety in the presence of Mr. Ross, I don’t want to belittle or negate that in any way. My only point was to say what I said above–the community supports inclusion and equality in the majority, if not the vast majority. But there is a trust inherent in your participation already, right? I mean, maybe it’s no more than a Scalzi-esque anti-harassment statement posted on the website, or maybe you’ve been going to the convention for years and know all of the behind the scenes folks and are comfortable there. I feel that you’re being a little disingenuous–or maybe you’re just riffing to make a point. In any case, I’m not the guy who caused the problem, so please don’t paint me with that brush.

      For what it’s worth, I think that Farah should have been heard. The way in which Ross was chosen, without council, smacks of the “Fix” being in. Maybe Farah would have poured water on the campfire before it got out of control. Maybe someone would have told her, “No, it’s going to be fine, Ross understands what we’re doing and he’s going to play ball.” It was botched on that end, no doubt about it. My only real concern was the public trial and execution for thought-crimes…and not even Ross’ thoughts! All under the rubric of “I don’t feel safe anymore,” as if Ross was a werewolf and we were the villagers without a silver bullet among us. If all of the twitter-bile had been turned into emails that were send whinging their way into convention organizers’ emails, perhaps even crashing the server in the process, everyone’s concerns could have been addressed. Would that have been an acceptable resolution? Meaning, with a press release and some words from both Con organizers, Ross, and perhaps an intro sentence from Gaiman have stemmed the tide of bile and ire? I’m seriously asking here. Because if the answer is “Yeah, maybe, probably, I don’t know,” then that’s a lesson we can all take with us. If the answer is “nothing could have kept me from Not going and making my displeasure known throughout the Universe,” then I have to wonder if the pendulum hasn’t swung too far in the other direction. Have a voice? You got it. Equality? Yes, please. Balance the power? God, yes, please, the sooner, the better. But shoot first and ask questions later? No one merits that treatment.

    • “That’s not really the point, is it?”

      Well, it’s the point as far as I’m concerned, or frankly I wouldn’t have made it. And I have to say that presenting a 27-second YouTube video, devoid of context, which doesn’t put Ross’ actual self-deprecating personality across at all, seems to sum up the kangaroo court in which he has been judged during this debacle.

      • Indeed. Given the emphasis on research output in UK higher education, and the fact that she’s now a head of department, I suspect that Anglia Ruskin would be quite pleased if she chose to spend less of her free time on Loncon3, and more on unpaid overtime for them.

        Had Loncon3 been before the submission deadline for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (which has consumed many of the waking moments of us UK academics over the past three years) rather than after, I very much doubt that she’d have been able to find the time for Loncon3 concom in the first place!

    • Well, I suppose you’re within your rights to cherry pick from what I’ve said and re-interpret them to suggest that I advocate no-one ever getting angry and speaking their mind. I actually DO believe there are good reasons to get angry, it’s the only way things get solved. Still, nice to follow that train of interpretation and see what your issues are.

      I’m not entirely sure how you interpret “the other side of the argument” to be a statement about making women shut up, as to me I seem to be saying exactly the opposite. I get the impression (and, sure, it’s just impression, and it could be me getting knee jerky and defensive) that because I disagree with some of the things you say, I must be blind to all those other things, or somehow complicit in them. I get the impression that by my use of the term “the other side of the argument” that you assume I’ve taken a side, that it isn’t your side, and I’m saying “okay, you’ve had your say, but this is my side of things, and actually I’m right.” I’m not. I’m saying that people who support Jonathan Ross should see the other side as much as those who don’t, that those who support Jonathan Ross should appreciate that there are grievances and reasons and rational behind people acting the way they did. But I also feel that people getting TOO angry, on both sides, prevents a conversation taking place. People got hurt. Some people hung around to try to pick up the pieces, which is great, others just hung around to point fingers at who was at fault.

      Anger is good, if it leads to some sort of resolution. If it results in people leaving the conversation altogether, you’ve solved nothing.

  • I’m really not sure what I’ve done to earn your derision, aside from pointing out that you’re factually mistaken about the overall content of Ross’ past work.

    I’m sorry, but disagreement with you does not automatically equal a desire for “women to shut up and take it.” One can agree that sexism and discrimination is a genuine problem that needs addressing, AND think that the Ross debacle was handled badly on all sides. They are not mutually exclusive.

    • March 4, 2014 at 4:46 PM // Reply

      Not only can you think sexism and discrimination are genuine problems and also think the Ross debacle was handled poorly (which it was, by some on both sides), you can even think the choice of Ross to host the awards was completely wrong for all the reasons his detractors state, and STILL think it was handled poorly on both sides.

      I don’t know that anyone could really believe it was handled well from all quarters.

  • G. Skarka: “I’m really not sure what I’ve done to earn your derision,”

    When you’ve actually earned my derision, I’ll let you know.

    “aside from pointing out that you’re factually mistaken about the overall content of Ross’ past work.”

    I’ve never talked about the “overall” content of Ross’ past work so you weren’t pointing out a factual mistake I actually made. What I said was “part” of his comedy has been this sort of stuff. And as the video I linked to shows, he said what he said on his show, recorded, in his own words. Some of the stuff he’s done that has been controversial has been well documented, on his own t.v. show and reprimanded by the BBC. It is by no means all his work. But it’s the part that made him an objectionable host for the awards show for many people and has caused some people real pain. That’s going to happen, there’s nothing wrong with his various forms of comedy. But there’s nothing wrong with people vehemently getting upset about his edgier comedy either and not wanting him to host.

    “I’m sorry, but disagreement with you does not automatically equal a desire for “women to shut up and take it.””

    I never said it did. What I said was, women are regularly told that they need to talk more nicely and not show anger, and this has been regularly used in order to discourage them from talking at all, and to take away the focus on what they are actually complaining about and shift the discussion to whether they have a right to take an angry tone. Tone arguments are not exactly a new idea; I did not invent the term. But women sure hear it a lot. They propose that women are too overwrought, too angry and need to calm down and not offend — which is a very good way to discount any complaints as not valid or worthy of discussion. Whether you agree with what a woman is saying or not, or even how she’s handling it, it is a social stricture placed on women that they aren’t supposed to speak angrily. But even when they don’t speak angrily, they are often told their tone is unreasonable.

    “One can agree that sexism and discrimination is a genuine problem that needs addressing, AND think that the Ross debacle was handled badly on all sides. They are not mutually exclusive.”

    I didn’t say that they were. What I was pointing out to Wendig was that by his blanket admonishment that everybody should calm down and play nice, he was, for women, pushing the stereotype that they aren’t supposed to handle things badly, lose their shit, get very angry at what they feel is an act against them. If men do it, it may not be approved of, but it’s not unexpected and it’s to be forgiven, minimized and moved on from. We expect male anger. When women do it, it will apparently destroy the genre and forever polarize things and drive men away, and is totally out of bounds, etc., etc.

    My comments weren’t about whether the arguments on Twitter were bad or not. Probably they were on all sides; Twitter is like that and people were very angry. (Although the rape threats tend to come to the females.) My comments were about the insistence that women can’t get angry in these situations, and the pretence that women are arguing on a level playing field in these situations. They aren’t and they risk a lot to even bring a complaint up at all. My comments were also about the idea of women’s rights discussion fatigue in SFFH and the idea that if the women would just ease up, it would stop. But it doesn’t stop for women, ever — women don’t get to leave the conversation, because it’s their lives. And sometimes they get really angry about that. Just like the men.

    • “My comments were about the insistence that women can’t get angry in these situations”

      …an insistence which nobody here has made.

      You appear to be going on the offensive because of things that have happened elsewhere, despite the fact that they haven’t happened here, because it REMINDS you of it. I’m not sure how you expect anybody to address that.

  • “an insistence which nobody here has made.”

    In my view, Wendig kind of did in the OP. Women get told to be kind a lot, emphasize with the other side and give hugs — instead of getting angry:

    “So, once more: cleave to empathy rather than insult.

    Have the discussion instead of shutting the discussion down.

    Otherwise, the genre and its authors and its fans are going to be that snake eating the crocodile: monsters just eating one another in the muck and the slurry.”

    When women bring up complaints about sexism, this is the kind of thing that they get told. It’s pretty automatic.

    “You appear to be going on the offensive because of things that have happened elsewhere, despite the fact that they haven’t happened here, because it REMINDS you of it. I’m not sure how you expect anybody to address that.”

    1) I was addressing comments Wendig actually made here. 2) I’m not going on the offensive because Wendig didn’t offend me. I just find the approach he took and some of the other comments here kind of unthinkingly clueless about how women have to operate and are told to operate in society. Saying that women get angry in these situations is a fact. Saying that women usually get told that their anger is unjustified and they should stop it in these situations is also a fact. It’s a standard response to women when some of them express anger at what they see as a discrimination problem or attack. 3) How women are talked to about situations like this is actually relevant to this situation. Social stereotypes of women are relevant to this situation. And pretending that I’m a weird, angry lady with a neurotic big chip on her shoulder from something else — which is another social stereotype — isn’t going to change that. 4) I haven’t actually proposed a problem and asked you to address and solve it. I made a point that what Wendig said about playing nice has other implications for women that he maybe wasn’t thinking about.

  • Really good post, Chuck. Agree on all points.

    I think it was really unfortunate how people reacted on both sides, and I think in particular that the dogpile on Ross was the wrong way to go–especially seeing as how so many of the American commenters seemed unfamiliar with Ross and were reacting to the persona that was more crafted by the tabloids than anything he did. Hopefully we can learn from this debacle and future discussions of this nature will be less impulsive and calmer. Tone is really important for maintaining a community, whether it be a small blog or a genre with tens of thousands of members, and it’s posts like this that make me hopeful our community can understand this. :-)

    It also makes me think a little bit of my own evolution on the issue of tone. I used to be very much on the side of, “Tone is irrelevant; you can be mean and rude and incredibly hostile as long as you’re a justly aggrieved party.” After all, if someone said something offensive, why shouldn’t people go off on them? They deserved it, and maybe then people wouldn’t do the same thing next time. (I was also a younger skeptic, full of heady Rationalism and Logic from some of the louder Internet personalities of the ‘we should emulate Vulcans and care only about logic, and it’s fine to be aggressive, brash, and even mean as long you’re right!’ school. I was a bit naive, basically.)

    But then I realized that not only was bad tone hurting the chances of actually communicating with people–it didn’t actually matter if someone made a good point in paragraph 4 if no one was willing to get through paragraphs 1-3 of vitriol to read it–but I also saw the damage that tone was doing to some of the blog communities I frequented. (I’m thinking particularly of 50books_poc and the Slacktiverse here, both of which were once extremely active and popular, and both of which crashed following tone-related shenanigans–they both limp on, but nowhere near as strong as they once were). These communities had moderators and leaders who said that anything went in response to offense–that if someone said something you felt was offensive, you could unleash rage upon them, that you didn’t need to let up even if they apologized, that you were under no obligation to consider anything except for your own anger if you were offended–and who slowly lost control of their comment sections. Members of the community were permitted to scream at each other and drive each other out, with the mods unwilling to intervene lest they be censoring legitimate anger, and the communities began to shrink. People, it turned out, didn’t want to participate if they had to tiptoe through a flamewar, especially if they risked bringing wrath upon themselves. The mods grew powerless; eventually, if they tried to step in, they got blasted by flames as well, and they began to burn out. They couldn’t do anything anyway; everyone felt they had been offended, and so were permitted to keep ratcheting the anger up, and the community rules specifically permitted that. By the time the smoke cleared, the vast majority of the community had left, and those that remained weren’t enough to carry on. If the anger had been in the ostensible service of making more diverse, more tolerant communities, it failed, because the communities themselves were destroyed.

    (I also noticed that the surviving communities who claimed that tone was irrelevant tended to be the ones that were hypocritical about tone when it came to their own site. “Tone is unimportant; the people you offend have the right to respond however they want, even if it hurts you,” they said, and then added, “By the way, if you comment here, you must be respectful of the staff and the community, you must assume good faith on their parts, etc.” They knew how destructive a hostile tone could be, and kept it away from their own sites… they just didn’t care when it was used against others. That taught me a lot.)

    So I’ve moved to the view that tone is more important, particularly if one is trying to improve or participate in a community, If all one cares about is oneself, in an Objectivist only-I-matter sense, then sure, there’s no real downside to just venting and flaming. But if the goal is to build up a better community, than one’s response should be tempered–not acquiescing to offensive comments, but not turning on the flamethrowers right away either. That makes for healthier communities, and increases the chances of building the SFF community we want–an inclusive environment that accepts all. Most of us are marginalized in some way that the community could probably be more inclusive of (me included), and most of us have probably said at least one thoughtless thing sometime in their lives that we wouldn’t want to be blasted out of or shunned from the community for (me included again). By using less vitriol and more understanding, we can work towards both goals, working towards getting rid of offensive comments and/or conduct while also minimizing the harm done to good people who make a mistake. A community that is tolerant of all, including the imperfect. That’s the kind of SFF I can get behind. :-)

    • “But then I realized that not only was bad tone hurting the chances of actually communicating with people–it didn’t actually matter if someone made a good point in paragraph 4 if no one was willing to get through paragraphs 1-3 of vitriol to read it–but I also saw the damage that tone was doing to some of the blog communities I frequented.”

      That’s a great point. There are people who are clearly intelligent, articulate and passionate, given the amount of writing they’ll get down on the (web) page, but if a reader feels like they have to endure nicks and cuts to find those well considered arguments and ideas, they might not even bother.

  • (Quick note: by ‘Slacktiverse here’ I meant that I was talking here about the blog called ‘Slacktiverse’. I realized this might read as me calling this particular blog a slacktiverse, which wasn’t what I meant. Sorry about that.

  • Wossy used to run a talk show, think JJ Leno except he’s really into graphic novels as opposed to cars and because his career started just after the punk era he’s a little edgy.

    Personally, all I know of him is his image; a Saturday night talk show that ran on prime time TV for a couple of years and a nationwide radio show. He was able to ask celebs the kinds of cheeky questions you’d be desperate to ask but afraid to. Instead of some choeographed act in which the celebs got to carefully display their best side and talk about their books he treated them like real people and talked to them as if the audience wasn’t there. In short he got away with murder. In a good way. I think one of the problems, since, is that he hasn’t clocked that you can get away with way more on TV, where people can see your face and your body language, even on Radio where they can hear the tone of your voice, than in writing. Then again he often stuffed up, which made him seem very human and that flawed humanity was one of the things people liked about him, I suspect. There have always been hints of a bitchier side. He is rumoured to have had the power to make or break careers on his show at one point. He may well have used it, and not always wisely.

    After leaving rude jokey messages on Andre Sach’s (Manuel in Fawlty Towers) answerphone re his granddaughter (who is a burlesque artiste) he got sacked. There were two complaints about it but after the Daily Mail (a rag that makes Fox News look left wing) got hold of it the number of complaints escalated and he left the BBC. He did a dumb thing, it may have been mean – all transcripts and recordings of the escapade were pulled so it’s impossible to tell. However, he was HUGE in the UK at the time and there was very obviously a liberal dose of tall poppy syndrome involved in the response.

    Since then, he’s had a chat show on another channel and done comedy, I haven’t seen it but up to that time, to me, he’s never appeared sexist. He’s married, his wife wrote the script of a huge sci-fi film (Stardust? something like that). I should flag up here before I get jumped on that I’m a GIRL yes, that’s right, the M stands for Mary. I haven’t read his responses. If he was defensive then it was foolish of him.

    However, I’d say the nub of the issue is this:

    There’s been a bust up, or Mr Ross is very different face to face, to his TV persona. Whichever way, there’s a lot of grey in this issue but grey doesn’t make news, so in order for us to be able to take sides over this debate, the various shades of grey have been conveniently airbrushed to black and white. He’s an alternative comedian. A lot of what he says is edgy and cheeky. Here in the UK most of us know who he is and take him with a pinch of salt. But I get the impression that we’re a bit more relaxed about what people say here anyway. It is possible not to be taken at face value by the British public if you make an edgy joke…. just. You can still get away with saying dodgy things here if it’s obvious that you don’t really mean it. There may well be a dash of that.

    I’ve never met the guy, I have no idea what he’s really like but if anything, on his chat show, he came across as someone with a great deal of respect for women.He takes a pop at someone who, basically, titillates people for a living and suddenly he’s the devil incarnate. Am I the only person who sees the irony in that?

    Cheers

    MTM

  • I didn’t like Ross before this, and I don’t like him now, I thought he was a terrible choice and said so. That said, after I had time to calm down and look at my reaction I realised that a lot of my outrage was more about the fact that he was a celeb in light entertainment tv, something I abhor and that has been used to fire-bomb my home country (Italy) politically and culturally, than about him the person. So I apologised, in public, on FB and Twitter. Dunno if he saw it, but hey, short of going round his house with a loudspeaker I can’t do.

    My prejudice aside, I really really don’t like his kind of hosting style, and I really really don’t like the idea of somebody who did the Sachs phone call hosting the Hugo. And yes he’s hated by the Daily Mail, a badge of honor, but unfortunately the things the Daily Mail attacked him for are real and objectionable. Like a stopped clock, even the Daily Mail sometimes gets it right, usually for the wrong reasons.

    I’m sure he’s a nice bloke his friends love. I’m sure he got hurt, and even worse, his family got hurt, and that is really horrible and unfair and I am sorry THAT I contributed to the atmosphere that led to that.

    My problems with him were not with the fact that he’s sexist or mysoginist or whatever PERSONALLY, I can’t tell, nor with anything he might have said on the night, they were with the message that choosing him sent. He is not responsible or guilty of it. Hosting is his job. If his public like him embarrassing people on live tv for a living, go him. TV audience apparently love this sort of thing, though I don’t. To the point that I find myself cringing even when DAvid Cameron is put on the spot, if this is accomplished by talking on tv about his masturbatory habits. Fact is, his public persona is one that gets paid to embarrass people with a bit of a laddish wink wink schtick. But coming after earnest assurances that this convention was not going to tolerate the sort of “grow a thicker skin”, “never been harrassed mself” “PC gone mad” attitude, this was really the wrong message to send.

    This said, I am not keen on anybody, wether they agree with me or not, getting all passive aggressive with each other, snapping at each other, assuming that people disagree with me because they are mad, bad, dangerous to know, bullies, mysoginists, out for celebrity, etc. People can be horrible shits for absolutely genuine reasons with good arguments behind them, and it is perfectly possible to understand where somebody comes from and still be angry at them.

  • # The point here isnt that Ross wouldnt have been a good fit he was a fan, he seems like he
    # might actually be a feminist, and a lot of UK folks seem quite keen on him but instead the
    # hope here is to try to suss out exactly why the shitstorm happened in the first place

    Sir, I totally agree with you on this, but I don’t think anyone is going to like the answers. I’ve only been involved in this community for four years, and in that time I’ve had someone call for my murder for the first time in my life (yes, on twitter) over a comment that was completely misunderstood. We’ve had all kinds of trolls in this community, we’ve had all kinds of nastiness.

    We’ve created a culture of mob anger and accusation, that’s why this happened, that’s why other things keep happening too. It’s going to keep happening, and get worse and worse. We’ve got people in the genre now who feel entitled to accuse anyone of anything, and even make death-threats (and we’ve produced those people, we’ve harmed them, because we’ve encouraged them to be more and more extreme by applauding them when they say shocking things).

    # and also to try to conjure a little bit of empathy for everybody in this conversation.

    Is it a conversation? Does the SF community do conversations? I’ve seen little evidence that it does.

    # Because in the days that have followed I have seen real cyberbullying happen against
    # the authors who spoke up about this on both sides of this debate.

    I’ve not seen this in this case, but I don’t doubt it, I don’t need to see it because I was seeing it (and for a while experiencing it) in the years before this happened. And when I got my experience, lots of other people told me (“let me tell you what happened to me. But don’t tell anyone I told you.”). Things are out of control. This episode is just the latest in an escalting series.

    # I think its better to have the discussion, however, then to resort to the shut-it-down door-closing
    # phrases like outrage police and lynch mobs. Thats a good way to make somebody feel diminished
    # and dismissed, and will only give oxygen to the fire.

    you’re right, but what about door-closing phrases like “you’re racist scum” or “check your privilige”? The genre has permitted, even supported these for years. It has created an ideology of self-righteous accusation that many people will find themselves unable to put aside now. We’ve collectively let ourselves fall into bad habits. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in this community try to understand what the other person was trying to say, normally they just slot them straight into a pre-formed stereotype. And there’s so much radical theory in play that demonizes people before they say anything, that I don’t see how things can get much better.

    Finally, for a lot of critics and bloggers, vicious accusation is the way to get attention, to get noticed and get ahead. Most of the twitterstorms we’ve had previously surely raised the profile of the people involved in them. If you denounce someone one your blog, it’s likely to get you traffic. It’s not that people really think in quite such a mercenary manner (though I’m sure some do) it’s that people don’t think too hard about what they’re doing if the mob keeps cheering them on.

    # Its very easy to suggest that only the loudest, noisiest shit-stirrers were angry about this.

    This is the thing. I don’t think the problem here is individuals. Sometimes it seems to be, because an individual is doing a thing. But that individual is doing that thing because they’re embedded in a culture that has encouraged and conditioned them to do the thing. Nor am I saying that we are not all thinking people, but 90% of the time we’re not, 90% of the time anyone is running on a kind of socially-conditioned autopilot. If a culture sends you signals that it’s okay to do this, or that, then you pick those signals up without realizing.

    I’ve said it elsewhere, and I’ll say it here: SF has the most intollerant, heavy-handed and sometimes hypocritical poltiical culture that I’ve ever seen, and it’s only going to get worse unless we take ownership of that fact (I will admit I’ve no idea what can be done about it, but I think the first thing you have to do in anger management, is admit you have a problem).

    # This wasnt just some torches-and-pitchforks mob though certainly some acted that way,
    # and that ugliness multiplied quickly.
    #This was something of a perfectly stupid storm in terms of how it escalated, is all Im saying.

    Another thing that we have to recognize is in the mix here, is social media. That’s the new thing on the block, and it changes how things work, and we have to change our behavior to match.

    # Have the discussion instead of shutting the discussion down.

    Sir, I don’t know you, and I don’t know where you’ve stood on things in the past, but even if we put my own experiences aside, I’ve now seen a lot of cases where my fellow writers have come under fire, and no-one called for this level of restraint. I agree with what you’re saying here, but it’s just, are we going to apply this level of civility to everything? Because we need to. Or, maybe not to everything, I can think of one or two things that perhaps require (uh, I’ve started to hate that word) a harsh response. But could we at least stop crucifying writers for things they’ve written? If all we’re going to do is apply it now, and then when this latest thing has blown over, go back to business-as-usual, then there’s almost no point to applying it at all.

    # Otherwise, the genre and its authors and its fans are going to be that snake eating the
    # crocodile: monsters just eating one another in the muck and the slurry.

    Perhaps I am overly negative, but I’ve felt this community got there a long time ago. I’m now pretty convinced that the way it will change, if it does, will be by attracting serious outside attention, and then having this image of us (monsters, muck and slurry (and not even cool-looking monsters)) splurged across the media. Sooner or later someone is going to pick a fight with an outside power (this got pretty close) and when that happens, and someone comes in and takes the things that people habitually say in this community, and puts them on the front page of the tabloid press, it’s going to be a bloodbath.

    Colum

    • Yeh, a lot of good points in there. I think one of the problems is that you can say things, in jest, to friends that are un-PC or a bit dodgy and get away with them because they know you and you know them. This is especially true in Britain where we have a whole grey area of withering sarcasm, where we can be mock mean in a way that is tacitly understood not to be serious. You just can’t do that on line because other English speakers will take what you say absolutely at face value.

      Furthermore, if you indulge yourself in either of those methods of expression written down on line, it’s perfectly possible for thousands of people who don’t know you to ‘overhear’. I think this might be a part of how things get extreme. People speak their thoughts, without thinking it through or being aware of how it might be taken by a stranger. Someone reads it totally differently and it escalates. I think that’s where a lot of the shit comes from, people speaking without thinking and reacting without attempting to understand.

      Once it hits a certain point, the eye of the storm becomes dehumanised. We forget they are the, often, innocently spoken words of a human or that the figure of our rage is human.

      Perhaps this is not so much the case with the shit storm about Jonathon Ross but in the case of that girl in Blackpool who couldn’t spell Obama’s name… very much so. By the end of that it was quite clear that people had forgotten that a human, a 21 year old girl, spoke those words in innocence with no malice aforethought.

      It’s a different way of thinking, and we need to evolve it; fast.

      cheers

      MTM

  • The LonCon chairs announced the decision to make Ross the Master of Ceremonies* via a press release Saturday morning. It was literally the first thing in my mailbox when I woke up. So saying “Loncon decides to announce this over Twitter” is not correct.

    I believe that Farah’s letter of resignation from the Committee was sent after the press release.

    Other than that nitpick, I found myself nodding in agreement a lot.

    *Why not “toastmaster”? “MC” has been used precisely twice in the last 30 years of Worldcons and not much more commonly before that.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds