Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pardon the Interruption: Political Correctness and the Death of Science Fiction Fandom

Fandom used to welcome all points of view. As Isaac Asimov once wrote regarding the Vietnam era:

...Fears were expressed at the time that [two competing statements written on the Vietnam War and signed by opposing blocks of science fiction authors] would create storms and divisions among science fiction writers and would break up our camaraderie in a tempest of controversy. Well, if the statements have done so, I haven't noticed it. Our mutual identification as fellow science fiction writers persists above and beyond lesser divisions.

To be specific, Poul [Anderson] knows that I am a "fuzzy-minded pinko" and I know that he is a "narrow-minded hardhat" (not that either of us would ever use such terms), but we love each other anyway, and our relations with each other in these last couple of years have not suffered at all.

Alas, I must declare that this fellow feeling is now dying a painful death.

Sure, there are some fan gatherings at which a general good will persists. I think, for example, that our little corner of Dragon*Con manages to maintain the old atmosphere of polite disagreement. Neo-pulp author Van Plexico may be a Kool-Aid drinking liberal O-bot (and Van, I say that with all the love in the world), but he is perfectly capable of getting along with radical right-wing Tea Party nutcases such as yours truly. Unfortunately, in recent years, I have observed a disturbing trend in the fandom at large: lately, a vocal group of hard-left fans has been working very hard to purge the fandom of dissenting voices. Of course, these radical fans don't advocate outright censorship, but public shaming campaigns, "shit lists," and boycotts are certainly not beyond their talents. And many of the victims of these periodic pogroms happen to be liberals themselves.

Elizabeth Moon is the most recent target of fandom's self-appointed thought police. Some weeks ago, Moon posted an essay on Live Journal in part in response to the Politics in Science Fiction panel our track hosted at Dragon*Con this year and in part in response to the controversy surrounding the new Muslim community center that is slated to be built a few blocks from Ground Zero. Moon is a liberal; indeed, her essay - entitled "Citizenship" - contains enough prejudicial attacks on conservatives that I could devote this entire post to refuting her scurrilous remarks. I won't, however, because such statements prompted no public outcry - no howling for Moon's scalp. No - Moon attracted the ire of fandom's left-wing enforcers with a passage that begins with the following observation:

The point here is that in order to accept large numbers of immigrants, and maintain any social cohesion, acceptance by the receiving population is not the only requirement: immigrants must be willing and able to change, to merge with the receiving population. The new place isn't the old place; the new customs aren't the old customs. "Acceptance" is a multi-directional communications grid. Groups that self-isolate, that determinedly distinguish themselves by location, by language, by dress, will not be accepted as readily as those that plunge into the mainstream. This is not just an American problem--this is human nature, the tribalism that underlies all societies and must be constantly curtailed if larger groups are to co-exist.

Here, Moon is right. What the squawking anti-ists (I'm borrowing Brad Torgersen's term here) are refusing to accept is our fallen reality. In the real world, the members of a particular human society cannot trust each other unless everyone in that society agrees to at least some pre-defined, universally binding rules. Several politicians in Europe have already realized this. For years, the member states of the European Union have been observing the dictates of multiculturalism to the absolute letter, and what has resulted is an increase in suspicion between groups and the formation of urban immigrant ghettos in which unemployment and cultural disaffection are rampant. It is this situation that recently prompted Germany's chancellor to declare that multiculturalism has "utterly failed."

I'm reasonably sure that ghettoization is not the conscious goal of the hard left. But behaving as if human nature doesn't exist certainly brings about that very result. So I'm left with just one question for the fandom thought police: Why exactly are you so eager to establish a permanent underclass in the U.S.?

Moon then compounded her "sin" by adding:

When an Islamic group decided to build a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack, they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people. Not only were the attackers Islamic--and not only did the Islamic world in general show indecent glee about the attack, but this was only the last of many attacks on citizens and installations of this country which Islamic groups proudly claimed credit for...

I know--I do not dispute--that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could. I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways. I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Koran (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I've given to other holy books) or throw paint on mosques or beat up Muslims. But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack--but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence...

I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom. It would be helpful to have them understand what they're demanding of me and others--how much more they're asking than giving. It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country.

There's a mendacious Venn diagram that Moon's attackers have been wielding that perfectly encapsulates their pie-in-the-sky viewpoint. In this diagram, Muslim terrorists are represented by a tiny red circle in a huge circle that indicates the entire Muslim population of the world. The large Muslim circle overlaps another circle that represents the U.S. population, and the overlap is colored in blue. The diagram acknowledges no overlap between the tiny red circle and the blue region - but of course, reputable polling agencies have indeed found radical Islamist sentiments in the U.S. Muslim population.

Yes, generally speaking, American Muslims are quite well integrated. As the Pew Research Center determined last year, most American Muslims are well-educated members of the middle class, and fewer than 10% believe that suicide bombing is sometimes or often justified. Still, Pew did discover that among Muslims under 30, the percent of the population willing to endorse suicide bombings in some or many circumstances increases from 6% to 15% - and similar trends have been uncovered in other Western nations. That people are concerned about radical Islam's appeal among young Muslims in particular does not indicate that they are bigots. It indicates that they are in touch with reality. 15% percent is not an insignificant minority; it is unbelievably foolish to pretend otherwise.

Islamism is much like Communism. Both movements have a history of establishing seemingly inoffensive front organizations to cover up their more nefarious dealings behind the scenes. It is wholly reasonable now - as it was wholly reasonable during the Cold War - to question whether an "innocuous community center" is in fact as innocent as it seems. That people approach the Park51 project with suspicion does not indicate that they are bigots. Again, it indicates that they are in touch with reality.

And when Moon states that the American response to 9/11 has been one of relative restraint, she is right there as well. Declarations that Islam is a "religion of peace" were orthodox even within the Bush administration. Just days after the 9/11 attack, President Bush visited a mosque and publicly urged Americans not to take out their anger on Muslims in their own communities. Introductions to Islam are ubiquitous in our public schools, and hate crimes against Muslims are still rarer than hate crimes against Jews. Yet our media elites continue to run with the narrative that Americans are bigots. I'm going to have to agree with Brad Torgersen here: I too believe Moon's evident frustration is justified.

But for having the audacity to question left-wing doctrine on immigration and Islam, Moon has been duly spanked by the thought police. The anti-ists have called for a boycott of her books, and Wiscon has revoked her Guest of Honor status after receiving numerous complaints from aspiring fan-fascists that Moon makes them feel "unsafe." I suppose in one way, Wiscon's decision is good for Moon; if I were in her place, the last thing I would want to do is go to a con where a sizable portion of the audience is eager to accomplish my "re-education" by any means necessary. Further, I acknowledge that Wiscon, a private organization, has a legal right to invite the guests it chooses to invite. Still, I firmly stand by my own legal right to heap scorn upon the con's organizers.

Wiscon, you see, is billed as a feminist con -- and Moon seems an excellent candidate for that theme. She's a former Marine who began writing military sci-fi under the Baen imprint at a time when Jim Baen himself didn't believe women were equipped to write in that genre. In short, Moon is every bit the feminist pioneer. But because she failed to adhere to leftist dogma in every particular, Wiscon now refuses to be associated with her name. Congratulations, Wiscon. You have now revealed to the entire sci-fi community that you are not a feminist con; you are instead a radical left-wing feminist con that will tolerate no dissent whatsoever. You have essentially guaranteed that future discussions at your con will be filled with nothing but boring leftist agit-prop forevermore; after all, why should any other independently-minded author risk being raked over the coals by the screeching orthodoxy harpies who seem to control your programming?

Wiscon's defenders would like me to treat this as an isolated incident in the fandom -- but, of course, it isn't. Try Googling "Race Fail 2009." I'll wait...




Are your eyes crossing yet? During the "Race Fail" dust-up, the anti-ists went to such ridiculous lengths to punish supposed evil doers that even avowed leftist and former civil rights activist Will Shetterly became a target.

Over and over again, the same story plays out:

1) Someone posts a story or makes a statement that does not meet lefty approval.
2) While some libs disagree in a civil manner, eventually the screaming hordes descend upon the offender in question, wailing that this individual's "hate speech" has intruded upon their "safe space."
3) When uninvolved fans hear of this incident, they hurry to write their own statements on the controversy in an orgy of naked self-congratulation.
4) Campaigns/boycotts/etc. are then launched to shame the offender for his or her thoughtcrime.

This has to stop, and it has to stop now. Fandom is not a therapy session, and we are not responsible for protecting these ladies' oh so delicate constitutions. Already, others have told me that they self-censor in order to avoid getting bitch-slapped by the enforcers. I don't blame them. In certain contexts, I also keep my mouth shut. But if we science fiction fans continue to allow one tiny and self-righteous group to visit hell upon the rest of us, then our fandom will become very stultifying indeed.


  1. You're already doing the one thing you can really do at a time like this. You are leaving a permanent legacy here at RightFans of your honest and considered beliefs...it is attached to your name. Your lefty friends, if they really wanted to find out what you thought, could dig this place up.

    Most lefty sci-fi fans don't have the courage to attached their beliefs to their names...they post anonymously or only in groups where no disagreement can occur. We have the harder road.

    Just keep doing what you're doing.

  2. When I was a kid, SF&F was about spaceships and sword fights and grand adventures with big vistas, with occasional Vulcan nerve pinches or light saber battles. You know, fun stuff.

    I never realized SF's real purpose was to become a group home for disaffected, maladjusted, bitter and angry activists determined to wall off the "ghetto" and cast out everyone who doesn't fall into ideological lockstep.

    Eff them. I'm for having fun and making a little money. Bring back the accessibility. Bring back the enjoyment. Bring back the adventure and the wonder. Enough with the postmodern deconstructive navel-gazing inquisition.

  3. Brad -

    I agree 100%. I think that's why I'm particularly attracted to juvenile and young adult science fiction and fantasy. There is less navel-gazing and more traditional adventure in books targeted to children and teens.