Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel

New Moon

So Wiscon finally decided to rescind Elizabeth Moon's invitation as GoH to Wiscon.

Let's be straight about it: this was a fucked up, poorly handled situation by just about everyone involved. But really, it all comes down to Moon thinking it was an awesome idea to post a racist screed essay on just who counts as civilized human beings (hint: not brown people!) on her blog during the year when she knew she would be a GoH at the most activist, progressive SFF con currently going. At best, this shows poor cause and effect modeling skills, as it's also the most vocal and organized fanbase when it comes to race, gender, and class issues (and you know, blogging on LJ) that she was tossing her ideas to like so much shit we were meant to mistake for meat. At worst, I'd say it shows someone who didn't particularly want to be GoH at Wiscon, and it's pretty impressive self-sabotage.

How should Wiscon have responded to that?

I said from the first that it made me uncomfortable to just rescind the invitation. And obviously I don't know much about what went on behind the scenes--except that it was bad enough that nojojojo  resigned from the concom and people were clearly enormously upset by the internal reactions to the issue. The first act was to affirm her as GoH, and the assertion of a "teachable moment" was a big part of what upset people so much--that one white woman's personal education (which she would be unlikely to actually want to take part in--dude, no one wants to go to a con and discuss how wrong they are and how much they suck for three days) took precedence over the right of a significant portion of the con attendence to not feel like someone who disqualified them from civilization was the honoree. That bit is on the Wiscon folks, because wow, way to not make it better.

I worried, and worry, about the precedent it sets. Does this mean any con can disinite based on what you post on your blog? I post some loud mouthed shit on here, yo, and if, say, Convergence disinvited me because there were conservative kids on the concom and I came out online or because I said the recent Apex post was a puddle of liquid dramallama shit designed to increase page views and make the author feel like a persecuted maverick (which I'll be saying shortly), then I'd hit the roof of the fucking world. (Convergence would never do that. Just an example.) But there are two issues there:

One, Wiscon is specifically a political and progressive con. In its mission statement is a pledge not only to promote feminism but anti-racism--a con has the right to not invite guests to be honored who align themselves against the mission of the con. Which is what I've always said should have happened in the first place: this isn't the first time Moon has expressed such opinions, and I feel a concom should always Google before inviting. I certainly invite any con to which I go as guest of honor to pre-Google me.

Two, at any point, Moon could have said something along the lines of believing in the exchange of ideas and that a diverse population of ideas is always stronger, so she understood she had hurt people and at least regretted the mass deletion (that is not how we play nice on the internet, kids) if not the content of her post, and since she was being honored by a con that expressly believed the opposite of what she said, she would be open to listening and learning. All she had to do was express some knowledge of the effects of her actions in public and all of this would have taken on a different tone, I think. Her refusal to engage or to allow others to continue to engage with the post has made a lot of my sympathy for her as a GoH losing her position--which might actually be unprecedented--evaporate. Because here on the netz, we don't just shut it all down, refuse to talk to anyone, take our toys home, and expect everything to be ok. You can do all those things, but then no one wants to hang out with you anymore.

Was this the best move? No. The best move would have been for Moon to use her powers of imagination to figure out what a shitstorm this would become--because it was incredibly predictable. It's gone pretty much the way all of these things go, with a lot of yelling and a lot of sensible conversation ignored because people get REALLY UPSET when you call them out on their crap, with poorly thought out responses and poorly worded apologies from everyone except the person who needs to apologize. Once this had all happened, I'm not sure what the concom could have done once people were resigning from the concom and pledging to stay away from the con in droves. In the end, Wiscon is still a small regional con that can't afford to alienate its most vociferous base, and this was taking over the whole con. It was not going to go away, and it would have made the con massively hostile and fractious as a space, and fun would not have been on the table. And so I am grateful for this choice because I love Wiscon and want to keep going and not feel crappy about supporting it and I want to have fun while I'm there, not sit around waiting for the mushroom cloud of drama to rise over the Concourse.

The precedent? Still worrying. Does a con have to have consensus from its GoHs? Again, Wiscon is uniquely political and again, a little research goes a long way. I don't think that if I was going be GoH at PinkElephantCon and I loudly yelled about how pink elephants suck and should all be turned into erasers I really should be welcome afterward if I refused to say anything at all in response to the totally reasonable and utterly inevitable outcry, nor, really, that I wanted to be GoH there in the first place. (The enormous privilege of believing one should be welcomed no matter what one says and that one should not even have to deign to engage boggles me. Just talk it out like, well, a civilized person!) And that's a deliberately ridiculous example--this is a lot more serious. No one argues they have the right to invite people who are on the same page. Disinviting is extreme--but the post was extreme.

I don't know what's right here, if anything is. I see a lot of people saying it's too little too late, though I'm not sure what else is desired. We can't force Moon to apologize, and public flogging is still a no-no. I think Wiscon has aligned itself concretely now as a progressive, not just a feminist con, and we need to support that choice. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, they invite in place of Moon. It's awful that so much damage has been done by one woman's post, but now we have to decide how we move forward, and what this means for the future of Wiscon--and hope it doesn't mean anything alarming for the future of other cons.

It's done. What do we do now?

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