First of all, this report is going to be organized according to topic, not chronology. Secondly, it won't be comprehensive because several events require more comment than others. (I had fun doing the "Villains Explain Themselves" panel with Joe Crowe and fellow staffer Shawn, for instance, but there's not much more I can share other than: "Shawn and Joe kept the audience in hysterics for the entire hour; I was just along for the ride.") And lastly, I'm going to publish it in multiple parts because my reflections on the con are already turning out to be rather extensive. That being said, let's get started with part one!
Really?! You Said That to John Frelling Ringo?!
This year, our track (the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literature Track) held three panels with a political theme: "Liberals in Space," "Libertarians in Space," and "Conservatives in Space." The latter two evolved into interesting talks upon which I will expand in a later post. The first was a disaster, and it's all because a certain staff member whose name I won't publicly mention couldn't control his impulses.
I did not personally witness what went down at "Liberals in Space" because it was held during my break, and I was over at the Marriott getting sprayed with Joe's Hulk cologne (I guess Joe decided not to use the Goofy cologne this time). The moderator of the panel told me what happened when I came back, however, and other witnesses have verified his version of the story, so I'm going to trust that what I heard is accurate.
Apparently, the panel started off calmly enough with a discussion of the various definitions of "liberal." Unfortunately, after about fifteen minutes, the aforementioned staffer, who is a hardcore third-world-style Marxist (and someone whose posts I eventually had to hide on Facebook because I couldn't stand his radical BS), began to go off on a tangent. He remarked that many people in the developing world deserve credit for the progress they've made in recent years (which is true) -- but then lashed out and accused John Ringo, the professional on the panel, of keeping such people as slaves.
Okay -- after some reflection, I think I understand this guy's twisted, borked up logic. You see, according to current Marxist thinking, people in the third world are still struggling socially and economically (compared to the developed world) solely because of Western imperialism and exploitation. If you're of this frame of mind, I suppose you could conclude that unapologetic American capitalists - like John Ringo - are virtual slavers.
Of course, this idea that people in, say, the Caribbean or in Africa are impoverished because prosperous Western nations like the United States have stolen the developing world's wealth doesn't come even remotely close to the full story. Yes -- the colonial era was not a shining moment in Western history. But to say that we are entirely at fault for third-world squalor is to ignore the fact that, for example, many of these countries are run by thugs who either hoard their countries' wealth in their own mansions or promote Marxist economic schemes that have been proven to be utter failures -- or they do both.
Plus, it shows monumental arrogance on the part of the offending staffer to shoot his mouth off at an invited guest. You may hate John Ringo's guts and find his political opinions and his (voluminous and popular) literary output abhorrent, but as a full-time Dragon*Con volunteer, you have a duty to remain civil. After all, you represent the con.
As you might expect, Ringo wasn't happy to be the target of the above-described slur. Understandably, he stormed out of the panel -- and took half the audience with him. I probably would've done the same, especially if I had Ringo's family history. You see, in the 17th century, one of Ringo's ancestors was captured by Moorish pirates and sold into slavery. This ancestor ultimately led a successful slave revolt and in the process befriended a black man. Ringo's ancestor then took his new buddy to the Americas and fought against the prejudices of the time in order to ensure that said friend would be able to live as a freeman. The upshot? In a sense, Ringo's ancestor was an early proponent of racial equality.
My friend and I ran into Ringo on our way to the MARTA station last night, and we spoke to him for a few minutes about what had happened on Friday. He told us the story I related above and also stated (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I've learned over the years to recognize when a conversation is not going to go anywhere, and when I hit that point, I just end it right there." Indeed. What my fellow staffer did, basically, was play the race card, and he did it - as all leftists do - to shut down Ringo's argument. Personally, I'm glad that our director had the stones to ask for his badge.
(To be continued...)