Thursday, June 21, 2018

On comics panels within scenes—especially for 3d comics artists

Comic artists can learn a great deal by studying movie-making, but there are things that don't apply. In particular, a shot in a movie scene has different rules than a panel in a comics scene. The shot must convince us that we're still in the same scene, so some continuity is necessary—if nothing else, the lighting should stay consistent, and so should the color of the background.

But in comics, you can often get away with no background at all, or a background that consists of visual effects that aren't meant to be interpreted literally—effects like speed lines are symbolic representations of motion and have nothing to do with where the reader assumes a scene is set. Once a comic artist has established the location of a scene, the reader will assume anything that follows is happening in the same place until something indicates that the story has moved to a new location.

Remembering this is especially useful for 3d artists because the medium makes it too easy to have complex backgrounds in every panel. Study the old masters of comics storytelling, and you'll find they did their best to put no more than necessary in a panel. Additional detail may seem realistic, but it only complicates a panel and slows down the reader.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

On the Hidden Figures movie, and the inadequacy of the white savior/magical Negro distinction

Finally saw Hidden Figures, a movie I meant to see on opening day and just kept running into reasons to put off.

The quick take: Great movie. If you care about space flight or civil rights, see it. The casting is perfect, the directing is solid, the script is quietly competent.

But what I want to talk about is a moment that choked me up for a long minute after I asked Emma to pause the film, the "passing the chalk" shot when the white administrator gives the chalk to the main character so she can show everyone what she can do.

That shot is the moment that every civil rights struggle in the US results in: first rich white men gave the vote to poor white men, then white men gave the vote to black men, then men gave the vote to women, then straight people gave the right to marry to GLBTQ people. There has always come a time when the people who had full rights under the law were convinced to share those rights even though sharing weakened their power. This is the reason I continue to have hope for my species.

Some people say Costner's character is a white savior, but it makes as much sense to say he's a magical Negro: he's a supporting character whose purpose is to help the main characters. Supporting characters never have room to be fully realized: all we know about Costner's is that he claims to have a wife, but we never see him at home, so the wife could be imaginary or his name for a male lover, or anything the viewer cares to assume, because Costner's character's only purpose is to support the star. He does an excellent job, managing to be both gruff and understated simultaneously, but what's noticeable about his performance is no different than what's noticeable about traditional "magical Negro" performances: the actors take simple parts and make them memorable, even though they have less to do than the stars.

Hidden Figures is not a profound movie. It is better than that: it is an honest movie that deserves its success.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The medical form asked if I was being insulted or mocked

I filled out a questionnaire at the doctor's today—I went because I seem to be losing my hearing in one ear—and quickly realized the form was meant to find out if people needed help and were hesitant to ask for it. One of the questions was about whether you get insulted or mocked. There wasn't an option for "Yes, I talk about politics on the internet", so I checked no.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

A little about Warpship Victoria

I'll be posting a web comic, Warpship Victoria, on this blog, starting tomorrow. It launches with the complete first scene in the hope that'll make you return for more. After that, I'll share a page or two a day for several weeks, and then I may commit to a less frequent schedule.

If this sounds familiar, it's because I started the story for my own amusement on another blog. Since it was only for fun, I didn't plan ahead. As usual when I don't plan ahead, I came to a point where I didn't know what happened next and quit.

But I like the characters and the concept, so I sat down recently and wrote the full script. If you saw the earlier version, you may notice that I've revised some things.

Welcome aboard the Warpship Victoria!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Triumphant Return of the Red Marvel, a short story by Will Shetterly

The Triumphant Return of the Red Marvel

by Will Shetterly

“I am sorry,” the woman said, as he expected and feared she would. “The shelter is full.”

He nodded to reassure her. She was a kind woman. She was as much a prisoner in this world as he. “There are other places,” he lied, and he turned, knowing he could not find any place to take him in tonight.

“Wait,” she said, and handed him a card. “Try here.”

“The cathedral?”

“They’ve got cots and blankets. On such a cold night—”

He chuckled, though he was not sure if he did that for her or himself. “You call this cold? In Minnesota, we would cut a hole in the ice and jump in just to cool off on such a pleasant evening.”

She smiled, making him feel young again. He wished he could tell her about the time he had fought the Skyscraper Men, constantly retreating northward until they froze within yards of the North Pole, but he knew she thought he was an addled old man, and he did not want her to worry even more about him.

She said, “I wish someone could drive you—”

“If—” he said, starting to ask if a bed was being held in reserve in case a woman or a child needed it, and whether he could sleep there if he promised to leave it the moment anyone showed.


“No, it’s good.” He smiled despite his weariness and the old pain in his hip. If there was a way he could stay, she would have told him. He was so tired, and the night was so cold, but he would not beg for a place that someone weaker might need. Sometimes he wondered if his nemesis had a way to watch him here. If so, the Ticker Tape Man would know that he might trap him, but he could not crush his spirit.

Stepping back into the night, he thought, Chicago’s ice demons are as formidable as any the Mad Mogul sent against me. The cathedral was two miles away. In the universe where he belonged, he could have flown that far in the time it took a child to cry, “Help!”

The wind was behind him. That was a mercy. He did not know how cold it was. That was another mercy. What more could anyone want than two mercies? He squeezed his fists together in his mittens, plunged them into the pockets of his filthy coat, and began to march. He had once hiked halfway around the Burning Planet to reach a Transdimensional Taxi Stop. Walking a few blocks through a bitter Illinois night should be easy.

With each step, his hands and his feet grew more numb, and his hip hurt more. He could bear that. What hurt most was what his hip reminded him of, the night in the car with his wife and his dog beside him, and his pregnant daughter and her husband in the front seat. He knew what his enemy based the false memory on. When the Comrades of Justice—he and the Blue Amazon and Laika the CosmoDog and Universal Girl and Mr. Sandman—were returning from Jupiter in Mr. Sandman’s Dream Mobile, a comet sent by the Tyrannosaur Tycoon had crashed into them. But in the true world, he and Laika had flown the Dream Mobile home, and then he and the Comrades had defeated the Tycoon once again. In this false world of his foe’s making, the Corolla holding everyone he loved had been hit by a drunken driver, and he alone survived.

He did not count the blocks as he trudged down the cold, empty streets, so he did not know how far he had gone when he slipped and fell. He lay on the icy sidewalk for a long moment, assessing his pain and wondering if he should sleep there. When Queen Kapital froze him solid for a week, he had thawed as easily as waking from a nap.

But without his powers, frostbite was inevitable. Once the Purple Plutocrat had dropped a mountain on top of him, and even he had doubted that he could rise until the sound of a baby crying for aid had made him do what he must. Now he could hear nothing but the wind. Without another person’s need to inspire him, standing was harder, but still he stood and walked on.

He had never thought he was a hero. With great power, who wouldn’t have captured Hitler and destroyed his army on the day he invaded Poland? Who wouldn’t have defended the democracies in Iran and Guatemala in the ‘50s? Who wouldn’t have ended the blockade of Cuba and freed the people of Vietnam in the ‘60s? Who wouldn’t have stopped the massacres of the Timorese in the ‘70s? Who wouldn’t have helped the Afghans defeat religious terrorists or protected the Salvadorans from the Contras in the ‘80s? Who wouldn’t have made a world where wealth was shared and no one suffered?

He heard a siren’s approach and stopped. The RoboThugs of the Iron Imperialist had made that same shrill sound to terrify the people, but this was only a police car on a late-night call. He considered waving and asking if he could ride with them. Even a moment in the back of a warm car would revive him. If he was very lucky, they would let him sleep in a cell. But if he was very unlucky, they would insult him and beat him and laugh as they left him. The cold creeping through his body told him to take the risk.

He waved, but the car did not slow as it raced by. Perhaps they never saw him. He hoped their siren meant someone would get help tonight.

He made himself walk another block. Did the numbness in his legs make the pain in his hip worse? Passing an alley, he saw a dumpster and hesitated. Maybe there would be a tarp or a blanket inside, something he could wrap around himself as he walked.

But when he pushed the top open, he only saw garbage bags and flattened cardboard boxes. He sighed, looked again at the empty street, and knew he needed to rest. How many times had he fought the Martian Meritocrat and won after resting and returning to fight again? There was no shame in resting. Taking time to restore your strength was how you won.

His arms and legs were so weak that he feared they would fail him, but he pushed himself as hard as he had when the whole Earth depended on him, and he tumbled into the dumpster. It did not smell. That was another mercy, his third of the evening. He smiled as he burrowed under the cardboard. He was making a den, a tiny version of his Subsea Retreat, a quiet place surrounded by cold where he could prepare for the next battle to save the people of the planet he loved most.

Was the Ticker Tape Man watching him now? This was not the greatest indignity he had suffered on this cruel mirror Earth. “You will never win,” he whispered. “Never.”

He was close to sleep when he heard voices nearby. He could call for help, but he did not know if he wanted it. He had slept through many cold nights in worse places. He would sleep through another.

Then he heard one voice clearly.

“Red Marvel!” she called. “You are needed!”

His strength returned, filling his body with a warmth that was almost more painful than the cold. He flexed his limbs, and the dumpster exploded away from him, and his filthy clothes fell in tatters as he flew upward in his red and gold uniform, and the Dream Mobile was speeding down from the sky with Mr. Sandman at the wheel, and Universal Girl was beside him, and the Blue Amazon was smiling and crying as she reached out for him, and speeding ahead of the others, flying into his arms to lick his face, came Laika the CosmoDog.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Two socialist implications of "Render unto Caesar" and the odd logic that God thinks you can keep your wealth if you don't want to share

Capitalist Christians say we should not make laws forcing them to share their wealth because God wants sharing to be voluntary. They seem to think being required to do what the Bible recommends means they don't have to do it. By their logic, we should not have laws about murder or theft—we should just wait until murderers and thieves feel like stopping.

The Bible's filled with inconvenient passages for capitalists, like "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." It has two possible interpretations:

1. Pay your taxes—material things belong to the government.

2. Don't pay your taxes—everything belongs to God and the children of God.

Capitalists who think it's the first should pay their taxes without complaint, and then they should give half of what they have to the poor. Call that the Way of John the Baptist. It's what Zacchaeus practiced and Jesus praised.

Capitalists who think it's the second should follow Jesus's advice to sell all they have and give the money to the poor. Call that the Way of Jesus. If you have nothing that belongs to Caesar, you have no need to pay him.

There is a third option, of course. Call that the Way of the Hypocrite.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On Dr. Strange's choice and the paradox at the end of the Avengers: Infinity War

Warning: spoilery AF.

I was annoyed with two things at the end of Infinity War, but I now think the Russo Brothers played fair, though they may have created a paradox they did not see.

1. Dr. Strange choosing to surrender his stone looks like he's choosing to surrender.

2. Killing off franchise characters who we know will return suggests the next movie will undo everything in this one, which is a writing trick that's just as cheap as learning something was a dream sequence, a hallucination, or anything else that creates a story without consequences.

But here's what I think is going on:

Using the Eye of Agamotto, aka the Time Stone, Dr. Strange saw only one way to defeat Thanos: By letting Thanos win. When that happens, Fury will summon Captain Marvel, and with her help, the Avengers will defeat Thanos and undo what he did.

But there's a problem with that: it suggests that no matter what the Avengers do, they will win, because no matter how they lose, Fury will summon Captain Marvel and they'll win.

I see two ways to undo this:

1. Establish that something the Avengers did inspired Fury to call Captain Marvel.

2. Convince us that even with Captain Marvel, the Avengers are sure to lose.

The problem with #2 is it follows Fury's decision to call Captain Marvel—the only way we can be completely convinced that the Avengers might lose will be if they do lose. So long as they win, winning seems to follow inevitably from Thanos's victory. Which is why, artistically, the first choice would be more satisfying.

Ah, well. It's a minor quibble. I'm sure I'll like the sequel, even if it does suffer from the sort of paradox that time travel stories often generate.

ETA: As for making this movie matter when the Avengers finally win, the solution is simple: someone has to die to undo what Thanos did. I think we know who that will be.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

On trolls, free speech, and private censorship

I blocked someone on Facebook today, something I almost never do. I said in the comments at Useful data, but it begs a question:
Like many trolls, he thinks he has a right to say anything he wants anywhere he wants. I'm always a little surprised when believers in property act that way--it at least makes sense when anarchists do, even though they're being bad anarchists who fail to respect their peers.
In this case, the troll was being disrespectful to everyone he disagreed with. When he continued after I shared Respect everyone: the wisdom of St. Peter and Malcolm X, I felt I'd given him fair warning and sent him into the ether.

Free speech gives us the right to speak in public spaces, and in our own spaces, and in spaces where we've been invited to speak. Censors will happily try to limit our right in all three, but it's the third that most often causes problems--censors think invitations can be rescinded at whim. They fail to understand the obligations of a host. Good people do not lightly withdraw invitations. So long as speakers stick to the subjects they've been invited to speak on and behave in the ways speakers in those places are expected to behave, they should be free to speak. People who don't want to listen are free to go elsewhere. If they prefer to protest speakers, they should remember that free speech gives them the right to protest in ways that do not infringe on the speakers' right to speak.

But if invited speakers depart from the subject they were invited to speak on or behave in ways speakers in those places are not expected to behave, they are breaking the terms of their invitations and may be ejected from private spaces if their hosts choose.

Which is why I feel sad but not hypocritical when I block trolls.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Class Trumps Race — Nine examples

Nine facts you will not hear from race reductionists:

9. Black and white women from the same economic background do equally well economically.

From The massive new study on race and economic mobility in America, explained:

...conditional on their parents’ income, black women actually outperform white women in terms of individual earnings. ...the fact that fewer black women grow up in affluent families accounts for the ongoing inequality between white and black women’s wages. Black and white women born into equivalently wealthy families enjoy basically the same economic outcomes.
8. Black and white men from the same economic background do equally well economically when they grow up in neighborhoods with low poverty rates.

From  Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites:

The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. 
“The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.” 
The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.
I italicized the last point because race reductionists miss it: The fact that poor black boys do well in places with low poverty rates says the problem is poverty, not race.

7. Poor white and black Americans are equally likely to be killed by the police, and richer white and black Americans are equally unlikely to be killed by the police.

US police primarily kill poor people, and in the US the ratio of white and black people in poverty and killed by the police is the same: two to one. For more details, see my linkfest at Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics.

If you only want to read two articles on police killings in the US:

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

To end police violence, we have to end poverty

6. Family income is a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

From When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race:

According to a 2011 research study by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon, the test-score gap between the children of the poor (in the 10th percentile of income) and the children of the wealthy (in the 90th percentile) has expanded by as much as 40 percent and is now more than 50 percent larger than the black-white achievement gap--a reversal of the trend 50 years ago.
Also recommended: No Rich Child Left Behind

5. In health, income has greater impact than race:

...even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.

Socioeconomic Factors Trump Race and Geography for Odds of Living to Old Age - Observations - Scientific American Blog Network:

By studying survival beyond 70 on a county-by-county basis, a team of researchers found that a combination of social factors, such as education, marital status and income, were much more predictive than race or geography alone.
The stunning — and expanding — gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor

4. White prisoners share one thing with black and Hispanic prisoners: poverty.

From “The Crime of Being Poor”:

 Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest.
From “The rich get richer and the poor get prison”:
Among those entering prison in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school.
From New Report Finds Class Is a More Potent Predictor of Incarceration Than Race. But Racism Drives It.:
His research found that “while class has a large and statistically significant effect on the first three outcomes, race — once one controls for class — does not.” In the fourth category, whether a man has spent more than a year in jail or prison, he found that race does have a significant impact.
3. In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters:
Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.
and Not here, surely?:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains.... The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
2. Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access

1. Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America:

The class gap over the last 20 years in unmarried births, controlling for race, has doubled, and the racial gap, controlling for class, has been cut in half. Twenty years ago the racial gap was the dominant gap in unmarried births -- and now the class gap is by far.

Race reductionists often say socialists are class reductionists. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor answers that in Race, class and Marxism:

To claim, as Marxists do, that racism is a product of capitalism is not to deny or diminish its importance or impact in American society. It is simply to explain its origins and the reasons for its perpetuation. Many on the left today talk about class as if it is one of many oppressions, often describing it as "classism." What people are really referring to as "classism" is elitism or snobbery, and not the fundamental organization of society under capitalism.
Related: Boots Riley explains why class trumps race, plus some "place not race" links

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The best thing Robert E. Lee ever said, and how he's like modern liberals

"So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I have rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be great for the interests of the south. So fully am I satisfied with this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained." -Robert E. Lee (Statement to John Leyburn (1 May 1870), as quoted in R. E. Lee: A Biography (1934) by Douglas Southall Freeman)

Lee was a typical slaveowner of his day. He was not an extremist for or against slavery. As his famous letter of 1856 makes clear, he believed in gradual emancipation, much like today's liberals who defend capitalism—he wanted changes that would not affect the privileges that come with wealth. But based on this quote, when it was clear change had come, he accepted it.

His 1856 letter includes a sentiment that's shared by capitalists today: "Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others." Every exploiter believes freedom is the freedom to exploit.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Why "intersectionality" is identity reductionism

People who cite "intersectionality" claim socialists are class reductionists. In theory, that makes sense—the names say socialism is only about class, while intersectionality is about every form of social identity.

But if you think names tell the whole truth, you think Delicious Apples are delicious and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic.

KimberlĂ© Crenshaw coined "intersectionality" to connect two reductionist theories that liberals loved, third wave feminism and the antiracism that comes from Derrick Bell, who rejected the anticapitalism of King and Malcolm X. People concerned primarily with other social identities—most notably, sexual orientation and disability—quickly adopted and expanded the intersectional model. The result was identity reductionism. The intersectionalist's goal is social equality, not economic justice. Intersectionalists want people of all identities to be respected. They believe that in a fair system, all levels of society are proportionate in terms of race, gender, and every other social identity.

When intersectionalists realized class could not be ignored, they forced it into their model by treating class as a social rather than an economic identity. But, as others have noted, the goal for the poor is not respect, and they do not dream of a poverty that is perfectly proportionate in terms of social identity. They dream of an end to their identity as poor people.

Two examples of identity reductionism that I've often written about, and then some recent examples from Facebook:

1. If you only consider gender, women make less money than men. If you also consider class, you notice that women do more low-paying work than men, but when men and women do the same work and have the same work experience, they are paid the same. When men and women are paid the same for the same work, the problem is not sexism.

2. If you only consider race, black people are more likely to be killed by the police than white people. If you also consider class, you notice that the racial statistics of poverty and police killing in the US are the same for white and black people because most police victims are poor. When black and white people of the same class are treated the same, the problem is not racism.

Of course neither of these facts means the problems of racism or sexism are over. They only show how identity reductionism hides the role of capitalism in the treatment of women and people of color. Real problems of sexism and racism remain: Though black people are not more likely to be killed than white people of the same class, they are more likely to be beaten by the police, and though women get equal pay for equal work, the US makes life harder for working mothers by doing little to help them with child care. While black and white women from the same economic background do equally well in life, black and white boys only do equally well in neighborhoods with low poverty rates. Racism and sexism are still with us, and socialists, as always, are still concerned with them—after all, feminism got its name from the socialist Charles Fourier, and the most famous opponent of racism was the democratic socialist Martin Luther King.

Intersectionalists love intersectionality because the term makes their simplistic understanding of power sound profound. Kimberlé Crenshaw was far from the first to notice that in a racist and sexist system, life is hardest for black women. Sojourner Truth knew it in 1851. Someone undoubtedly saw it in the 17th century when race was invented.

Because intersectionality is an ideology without a foundation, intersectionalists are especially susceptible to cognitive dissonance. Lashing out in anger keeps them from confronting the contradictions in their beliefs. Though I know that, I'm still surprised when it happens over things that seem trivial to me. The most recent example: I was accused of being a racist after I made a Facebook post linking to Did Black People Own Slaves? by Henry Louis Gates, a black writer who I respect enormously despite his neoliberal politics.

As I often do, I made the post without a note saying why I was sharing it. My identitarian followers found that troubling. I'll focus on two comments they left. Tyler Tork said,
...past experience with Will leads us to expect that he intends some racist point that he’s not actually stating, and people are tired of hearing it.
The idea that linking to a black man writing about historical facts has a "racist point" only makes sense to people who are offended by historical facts. The objection can only be made by people whose ideology requires them to deny facts. My "racist point" was the same as the author's: In the Old South, a few rich black people owned many slaves, just as rich white people did. For identitarians, that fact can only be rationalized as an exception to the rules they understand, as this interchange with Paul Anderson illustrates. He said:
Capitalism, and slavery, and racism, are systems. No insitution is likely to be without exceptions. So what?
I answered,
Institutions do not have exceptions if you understand them. Under Jim Crow, there were no exceptions for black people. Under capitalism, there are no exceptions for poor people. Under slavery, there were no exceptions for slaves.
Paul could not grasp that. The identitarians' reductionist rule is "black people were mostly slaves," and therefore rich black people must be exceptions. But if your understanding includes capitalism, the apparent exceptions disappear. The United States was not created to be a racist nation. It was created to be a capitalist nation that allowed slavery. For a free person of any race to own slaves was not an exception. It was simply how the system worked.

If "intersectionality" meant what its name claims, its believers would never have to talk of exceptions. They would see that when capitalism and racism intersect, the system will not have contradictions: Capitalism allowed for rich black slaveowners, and the racism that grew out of slavery meant freed black people had fewer resources and opportunities than most white people, so there were proportionally fewer rich black slaveowners than rich white ones.

I could say more about the simplistic vision of identity reductionists, but Adolph Reed covered them well when writing of race reductionists, so I'll end with a link to his Antiracism: vague politics about a nearly indescribable thing.

My apologies to identitarians like Tyler who think white people should not link to black writers who disgree with intersectionality.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Move to Hawaii--or any Multicultural Environment--to Become Less Racist

Move to Hawaii, Become Less Racist - Pacific Standard:
New research does just that, taking advantage of the existence of a multicultural American environment: Hawaii. A group of young white adults demonstrated a decline in racist beliefs and enhanced cognitive flexibility after living in the state for nine months. These promising findings, reported by a team led by psychologist Kristin Pauker of the University of Hawaii–Manoa, are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Evidence that ending poverty will end racism

I'm boosting this from an earlier post because I may begin sharing more posts about the ways ending poverty reduces racism.

This bit from Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites - The New York Times is important for those of us who want to end racism:
The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites.

“The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.”

The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.
I italicized the lines that suggest something many of us believe: If you want to end racism, you have to end poverty. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Don't stigmatize the mentally ill—but don't deny the link to mass shootings either

Actually, there is a clear link between mass shootings and mental illness:
According to our research, at least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017 were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack. (We define a mass public shooting as any incident in which four or more victims are killed with a gun within a 24-hour period at a public location in the absence of military conflict, collective violence or other criminal activity, such as robberies, drug deals or gang turf wars.)

...Both rates are considerably higher than those found in the general population — more than three times higher than the rate of mental illness found among American adults, and about 15 times higher than the rate of serious mental illness found among American adults.
Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy – Mother Jones:
Nearly 80 percent of the perpetrators in these 62 cases obtained their weapons legally. Acute paranoia, delusions, and depression were rampant among them, with at least 36 of the killers committing suicide on or near the scene. Seven others died in police shootouts they had little hope of surviving (a.k.a. “suicide by cop”). And according to additional research we completed recently, at least 38 of them displayed signs of possible mental health problems prior to the killings. (That data is now included in the interactive guide linked above.)
Checking Facts and Falsehoods About Gun Violence and Mental Illness After Parkland Shooting:
In an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill.
I believe, as most Americans do, that improving gun regulations will reduce the number of mass shootings. Part of the solution is making it easier for people with mental illness to get help and harder for them to get guns.


'Red flag' laws gain momentum in states:
A week after Florida’s legislation was signed, a Broward County judge in Florida issued the state’s first order to temporarily remove firearms from a man who allegedly believed he was being electrocuted by condominium electrical breakers and targeted by the FBI and a shape-shifting neighbor, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Four firearms and 267 rounds of ammunition were removed, and the man was taken to a hospital for involuntary psychiatric treatment.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Identitarians Don't Do Metaphor, or Why Jim C. Hines Banned Me

I've learned why Jim C. Hines said at File 770,
I blocked WS after he “joked” about punching me in the face.
I was told—yes, fandom is a hive of gossips—about this recent tweet, in which he shared a pic of part of an older interchange:

I googled "@jimchines alt-fistbump" and found more that amuses me. After he blocked me, he shared a more complete screen cap—and now I'm sharing a screen cap that includes the screen cap he shared:

Anyway, Jim C. Hines, I promise I won't alt-fistbump you unless you alt-fistbump me.

I would love anyone who issued a challenge to Richard Spencer to fight. But why anyone would make a hero of an anonymous coward in a mask who hit someone from behind and ran away, I will never understand. Hines' idea of heroism is clearly not mine. I prefer people like Malcolm X, who faced his opponents and only used violence when they did.

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X

ETA: To understand Hines' reference to people trying to convince him that I had not threatened him, see the comments at Pixel Scroll 3/22/18 And The Pixels Were All Kept Equal By Hatchet, Ax And Saw | File 770. You'll also find this revealing quote by Hines:
Shetterly responds by suggesting he should alt-fistbump me, using the phrase I just defined to mean punching someone in the face. You claim this is not a threat of violence. (Even though you think it *was* a threat when I posted my Tweet.) 
Do I seriously think Shetterly would try to punch me in the face? Probably not. His reply to me was more empty bluster than anything.
I now know another thing Hines does not grasp. "Bluster" calls for more than asking if I should greet him in the way he endorses.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Two privileges of attending science fiction conventions, and a little about Jon Del Arroz's law suit

Before conventions began banning people, the fundamental privilege of attending science conventions wasn't discussed because, by capitalist standards, the privilege was fair: anyone who had money could go, and anyone who didn't, well, capitalist fairness is never about people who don't have money.

But now that conventions have begun banning people, it's time to acknowledge the second privilege. Though the genre has grown enormously, it's still a small community at the top. If you hope to become a professional, it can be enormously helpful to attend WorldCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and literary conventions like ReaderCon, WisCon, and Fourth Street Fantasy. Once your career has begun, you need to be able to attend the Nebula Awards too. Obviously, only the very privileged can go to most of those conventions regularly, but anyone who wants to make a career in this field should, every year, pick one from from Column A (WorldCon, World Fantasy, Nebula Awards), one from Column B (ReaderCon, WisCon, Fourth Street Fantasy), and one from Column C (local convention, regional convention, major commercial convention like DragonCon).

Being banned from any convention is an enormous blow to a writer's ability to be a writer, and especially to a new writer's ability to last in the field. It keeps you from meeting fellow professionals and getting useful tips, and it keeps you from making new fans.

I hadn't known anything about Jon Del Arroz until this week. Based on what's in Jim C. Hines' Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing, Del Arroz and I have nothing in common. I'm a socialist who tries to follow the advice of St. Peter and Malcolm X to respect everyone, I want Muslims to enjoy the freedom of and from religion that the First Amendment promises and everyone should have, I think you should refer to people in the ways they would like to be referred to....

But Hines may be mistaken in some of the things he's claiming about Del Arroz. Hines seems like a fundamentally nice guy, but he is an identitarian whose ideological filters give him trouble with metaphor. He said at Shetterly Banned by 4th Street Fantasy Convention: "I blocked WS after he “joked” about punching me in the face." I wish he had quoted me, because I don't remember the incident, but so far as I know, Hines never objects to the violent metaphors his community endorses, like Tempest Bradford's "cut a bitch".

More significantly, in the same comment, Hines said, " I’ve never really understood the whole, “He’s an asshole online, but he’s a nice guy in real life” dichotomy."

Understanding the dichotomy between online and offline behavior is essential to understanding why Del Arroz may win his law suit. Being banned from a physical place says the organizers believe that person will physically misbehave if they don't take the extreme step of issuing a ban. It's easy to point to examples: Rene Walling was banned from Readercon for trailing after Genevieve Valentine at the conventionJim Frenkel was banned from WisCon for propositioning several women at the convention. But what misbehavior has Del Arroz committed in the physical world that could justify keeping him from being physically present at WorldCon? Hines does not offer any.

He effectively acknowledges that when he says,
I’m not saying Del Arroz is pure evil, or incapable of niceness. I know some people have had nothing but great experiences with him. One person I have a fair amount of respect for talked about how Del Arroz picked him up when he was stranded in the rain, and took him the rest of the way to a convention. That’s a cool thing to do. I’ve seen Del Arroz shut down one of his followers who suggested doxxing SJWs. Sure, not doxxing is a bare minimum of decency, but good on him for taking that stand.
I will point out that fandom's SJWs periodically fail to meet that bare minimum of decency, but it's not like I expect Hines to acknowledge his side's shortcomings. We all tend to magnify the sins of our opponents and minimize those of our allies.

Ah, well. It may be that fandom is simply so large that it will have to splinter. The people in charge of fandom for the last thirty years tend to be identitarian neoliberals, just like the people who have been in charge of the US for the last thirty years. Having fandom break on those lines may be inevitable.

Oh, lest anyone think I'm remembering a golden age that didn't exist, I remember very well being part of the new guard who was frustrated with the old. Fandom's "one big happy family" always fought constantly. But we understood the dichotomy that Jim Hines does not. Was anyone ever banned from a convention for things said in an apa or a fanzine?

If things do not change, a statement like this will be inconceivable in fandom:
"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." —Isaac Asimov

1. How much going to conventions helps writers is impossible to measure. If you can't afford to go to conventions, don't agonize--keep writing. And if you can afford to go, don't focus on promoting yourself--you'll just alienate people.

2. Fans were banned from the very first WorldCon for what they wrote. See "The Great Exclusion Act of 1939" by Dave Kyle. It is not a proud moment in fandom's history.

ETA 2:

On Facebook, a writer who rarely goes to conventions asked if going to more would help or have helped him. I told him I can't guess. Conventions are most useful for conventional writers.

ETA 3:

Exclusion Act - Fancyclopedia 3:
There have been three Exclusion Acts at Worldcons, two major/one minor, all of which ultimately drew negative responses from fandom.

ETA 4:

Identitarians Don't Do Metaphor, or Why Jim C. Hines Banned Me 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The False Paradox of Tolerance

Censors love Karl Popper's Paradox of tolerance:
Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.
Popper's theory is probably as old as the idea of tolerance. Many thinkers disagree with him, noting that intolerance is intolerance, even if it's intolerance of intolerance. I like Thomas Jefferson's observation in his first inaugural speech:
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
People who say we must be intolerant of intolerance are failing to ask what feeds it. They think intolerance is only a belief that grows by being told, so if you stop the telling, you'll stop the intolerance.

But intolerance is a reaction to the world around us. When people feel they must compete, they tend to become intolerant—fascism needed the Great Depression to thrive. When people's needs are met, they tend to be tolerant. There's no reason to be intolerant of intolerance when times are good—the intolerant are powerless then. And in hard times, it's better to show the virtues of tolerance while working to solve the problem that's manifesting as intolerance.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Benjamin Franklin sounding like a communist

"All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it." -Benjamin Franklin

YouGov poll suggests Americans of all races are becoming more racist

From Nearly 20 Percent of Americans Think Interracial Marriage is ‘Morally Wrong,’ Poll Finds:
Seventeen percent of respondents said interracial marriage was “morally wrong” while 83 percent said it was “morally acceptable.” There was a bit of a divide along party lines on the subject, with 28 percent of Republicans and just 12 percent of Democrats replying that interracial marriage was morally wrong.

There wasn’t much of a difference among respondents by race, however, according to YouGov. Seventeen percent of white respondents felt interracial marriage was morally wrong, compared with 18 percent of black respondents and 15 percent of Hispanic respondents.
If the poll is accurate, this is troubling for two reasons. Gallup had found higher support five years ago, and historically, black people have been more supportive of interracial marriage. From In U.S., 87% Approve of Black-White Marriage, vs. 4% in 1958:
Blacks' approval of black-white marriage (96%) is now nearly universal, while whites' approval is 12 percentage points lower, at 84%. Blacks' approval has consistently been higher than whites' over the decades, although attitudes among both racial groups have generally moved in a parallel manner since 1968 -- when Gallup first was able to report reliable estimates of each group's opinion. The gap between black approval and white approval in recent years has been smaller than it was prior to 1997.
I can offer two theories for why people might be becoming more racist:

1. Economic desperation can make people more racist. See Will privilege theorists call this black female privilege? Plus evidence that ending poverty will end racism

2. Promoting antiracism theory often increases racism. See Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse

Will privilege theorists call this black female privilege?

That black men have it tougher than white men shouldn't surprise anyone. If you didn't know that, the data's at Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites - The New York Times.

This surprised me:
Black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults.
Should privilege theorists be talking about black female privilege now?

On false memories and confirmation bias at File 770


I'm amused and pleased none of my doubters have taken up my offer to let them see all the emails between the Fourth Street Board and me. But after watching them over a couple of days, I suspect they're simply not interested in facts that would force them to rethink their beliefs. All humans are susceptible to this, especially when they believe in things like neoliberalism or identitarianism that have nothing to do with facts.


Though estee confirmed that Coffeeandink had been public about her legal identity, Andy H insisted, the time of Racefail I had been a regular reader of coffeeandink’s blog for at least five years. For most of that period I did not know her real name. I don’t recall how I eventually learned it, but I understood it to not be something that was generally linked to the blog and with which it was appropriate to be discreet. I do not believe it to be true that she had ever used her first name as her livejournal username; she was coffeeandink for the entire time I followed her, but commenters occasionally called her affectionately by another pseudonym which I think may have been her username before.
I believe Andy H is being completely honest about her memory. But memory is so unreliable that good detectives know eye witnesses sometimes give false testimony without realizing it.

Fortunately, in this case, we have Coffeeandink's own words to show that Andy H misremembers. On March 7, almost a full week after I am supposed to have outed Coffeeandink, she made a public post addressed to Kathryn Cramer that included this:
Please also explain how I was hiding my identity from you or the Nielsen Haydens in a LiveJournal pnh friended a few years ago, with a user profile that lists my very identifiable first name, in a post that is signed with my very identifiable first name.

As the conversation peters out, the neoliberals have been promoting two thoroughly debunked theories. I provided two relevant linkfests:

A few links for Clinton fans who still say Sanders was never attacked

A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along

But confirmation bias always rules. We trust things that confirm our beliefs. Cultists carry this to such an extreme that it might be called denial bias--they will reject disquieting information even when they don't have comforting information to fill the void.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

For Lis Carey, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, or anyone who has said I must have held back relevant information about the Fourth Street Kerfuffle

With two conditions, here's my offer to end part of the whispering:

Write me—shetterly at gmail—and I'll forward the raw email discussions that I drew on for Positively Fourth Street, or On being banned for ... vague reasons about nearly indescribable things? That's easy to do in Gmail and it will show what I thought was unnecessary. If there's something you think relevant, you're free to share it.

The conditions:

1. This offer isn't open to everyone who's curious because life's short. It's only open to people who have said in public that I must have left something important out.

2. Some of the material in those conversations, like Alex Haist's gmail account, is private and must stay private. The only things I am giving permission to share are things that the Board said officially (which, I suppose, would include the comments Alex Haist incompetently or maliciously included at the end of an official letter) and anything that I said.

Why I prioritize class and identitarians don't

Anyone who knows history knows this:

1. The gender gap is narrowing.

2. The racial gap is narrowing.

3. The wealth gap is widening.

Neoliberals support all three of these.

And socialists whose beliefs about identity come from liberals like Derrick Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw effectively support all three when they focus on the battles that are being won instead of the one that's being lost.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Writers at File 770 validate my concern about the Fourth Street ban

At Shetterly Banned by 4th Street Fantasy Convention | File 770, Lis Carey says,
I’m also not inclined to believe he has engaged in full disclosure about his interactions with Fourth Street over this. Not suggesting anything is faked; just that I wouldnt be surprised if there’s more, stuff that he’s decided is “not relevant,” but which Fourth Street might consider very relevant.
Hampus Eckerman says,
we can be fairly sure that he will not mention everything relevant.
JJ says,
I’m quite sure that WS has, as usual, presented only the information which supports his narrative. 
This amuses me. In order to show I wasn't omitting anything relevant, I was afraid I'd included too much.

For the record, I omitted the emails about planning the seminar before I was kicked off it, I omitted the emails we shared once it was settled that I'd be doing a panel at the convention, and out of consideration for Alex Haist, I omitted some insulting notes that she incompetently or maliciously left on the copy of the letter she sent me to answer my four questions. If there's anything I left out that seems pertinent, I invite anyone from the Board to share it with the assurance that I have no intention of suing anyone.

It also saddens but doesn't surprise me to see people insisting "But there must be something more!" It is another way cults try to discredit outsiders: when they have nothing, they suggest that the absence of evidence must be significant.

Meredith says,
I’ve never got the impression that Shetterly is dangerous – apart from a willingness to out people, which is a different sort of dangerous –
My "willingness to out people" consists of ironically saying I was outing one person, Micole Coffeeandink. If there were more, Meredith's community would have screen caps to prove it.

For much too much about this claim: The Retroactive Pseudonymity of Micole “Mely” Coffeeandink

Jayn says,
I remember vaguely how he went around here saying that he took some sketchy exam online that proved he wasn’t racist while vaguely implying that anyone who didn’t want to take the same exam online was.
The idea that Project Implicit's Race IAT is "sketchy" is also amusing. The test actually suggested I am racist--like a large minority of white people, I show an implicit preference for black folks. I wish I was among the people who show no preference, but sometimes you have to accept that you are what you are.

estee says,
about the “outing” business—that woman was not closeted in the first place, no matter what she said about it afterwards. Back in 2009 when Racefail was in full swing, I used to read the various blogs every few days, when I could snatch a little free time. On one occasion I had trouble finding hers because I couldn’t remember the name of the blog and hadn’t bookmarked it; but I did remember the personal name used by the blogger, because it was unusual. So I Googled it, and among the first things that came up were her Amazon wish list, and references to her published fiction, all with her full legal name. I had no idea who she was and certainly wasn’t trying to find anything except the blog, but there all the information was, for anyone to see. So when she started claiming that she had been outed by the people she disliked, my first reaction was bewilderment, and my second reaction was outrage at such a bold-faced lie. (And my third reaction was disgust at how many people fell for the lie.)

I strongly disagree with many of Will’s opinions, but for several years—specifically, between 2009 and 2014—I read his blog regularly because he seemed to be the only person willing to tell the truth about something important: namely, that very ugly things were being said and done in the name of social justice in SFF. Eventually, of course, the nastiness became so extreme that other people pointed it out as well, and Laura Mixon won a Hugo for going public with it. But for quite a while there, Will was the solitary, bratty kid complaining about the Emperor’s new clothes while everyone else politely pretended that all was well.
estee, thank you.

Oneiros says,
It seems to me that WS could’ve just taken his lumps and gone on with his life. His decision to go public about all this is just trying to create drama over a non-situation. He’s done with them; they’re done with him. Nothing of substance has changed as far as I can tell.
The discussion at File770 shows what has changed: so far as I know, no one is implying that I'm physically dangerous to be around, which would have been the first assumption if I'd stayed silent.

Litch says,
Really, there was no threat of lawsuit in his email, none. He both explicitly denies an interest and provides a reasonable explanation for why he brought it up

Why go out of your way to piss him off? Ive seen some people call him a drama queen but really, this crown was thrust upon him.
Litch, thank you.

John A Arkansawyer says,
One advantage of taking this to court–which I’m increasingly hoping he’ll do as I watch you go all white cell group mind over the intruder, something I doubt you realize looks as ugly to outsiders at it does–would be an outside check on whether or not this is bullshit.

I think it sounds like bullshit. Once you wipe away the dust, what happened was that Shetterly and Brust disagree politically with identity populism. They take a traditional left-wing approach to ending oppression. That is not an acceptable political position to say out loud in America, so they got booted under pretexts.

(That’s clearly not what happened with whatsisname, who made publicly explicit his intentions to commit clear and unequivocal harassment.)

So I’d like to see a judge–or anybody who isn’t the buddy or antagonist of someone involved, though a judge can really rub your nose in it–say whether or not what what Shetterly is accused of is actually harassment. A word the board avoids using, though folks here have felt free to do so without knowing what the board knows.

That last is a rather delicious irony which only occurred to me as I typed it.
One of my assumptions is that this is not about harassment. I assume that because the board was explicit in what they said.

The bouncing from a panel–but not from the convention, as I assume it would be if he were harassing people–was about “mode of discourse and your pattern of pursuing conversation past the point of when the other party wants to disengage”. I read that as being about panel behavior, though I could be wrong.

The banning is explicitly said to be because they are worried about a lawsuit.

Neither is characterized as harassment by the board, which presumably knows more about the situation than anyone in this discussion. Yet two commenters had used the word harassment in varyingly indirect references three times, all after the comment where I quoted the board’s explicit statements.

I don’t like slippery slope arguments, because all of life is a slippery slope. Being on the the slippery slope of banning people for harassment is a righteous place to be. It’s made righteous by not by leaving the slope–since you can’t leave it–but by resisting going down it. So perhaps people could resist sliding from right to wrong on this one.
@Meredith: Since I’m here, I’ll say it again: The board did not make any claim of harassment whatsoever. Harassment entered the discussion here, when people did exactly what Shetterly predicted they’d do: Decide something happened that was super terrible and double secret. And so entered harassment, from thin air.

He was bounced from a panel for…harassment? Why wouldn’t he be bounced from the con for that? Isn’t it much likelier such a limited sanction involved a more limited reading of the board’s words: “your mode of discourse and your pattern of pursuing conversation past the point of when the other party wants to disengage”?
John, thank you. I'm sorry to disappoint you about suing them though. Life's too short.

Lenora Rose says,
Then more reports of following people after racefail (And some later smaller incidents, if I recall correctly) — including into private correspondence. That started to weird me out.
it seemed exceedingly frequent for him to attack other leftists
Following people around and repeatedly trying to get them to continue an argument thay have said they don’t want to have, and who have asked you to leave – IS HARASSMENT.mis
I suspect the mention of "private correspondence" refers to an attempt to end a disagreement by email. In many communities, trying to resolve things privately is considered a virtue, not a sin. Whenever I was told someone did not want to discuss this, I dropped the subject. If I am misremembering anything, I invite people to share my emails. One of the codes I try to live by is Bob Dylan's "to live outside the law, you must be honest."

As for disagreeing with people on public forums, I completely own that. I do not tolerate lies or misrepresentations, and I do not plan to change my ways. Anyone is free to respond at a public site, much though people promoting agendas may wish it were not so.

I'm not sure who the "other leftists" are. I suspect they're neoliberal identitarians, who I criticize because they are not leftists. I just today came across Adolph Reed's observation from 1996:
"...identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance."
The flamewar called Racefail was entirely about form over substance.

Lydy Nickerson says,
The woman in question did not want her LJ handle linked explicitly to her real life handle.
If that were true, why did she use her extremely uncommon first name as her LJ handle? At the time, if you googled just her first name, she was among the very first hits thanks to her habit of using her full legal name in public posts on her LJ.

ETA: There has been more discussion at File 770. I say that for thoroughness—none of it seems worth adding to this post.

ETA 2: For Lis Carey, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, or anyone who has said I must have held back relevant information about the Fourth Street Kerfuffle

Potential Fourth Street fallout—on mobbing, emotional abuse, depression, and suicide

So far as I know, no one in science fiction fandom has chosen suicide as a consequence of being mobbed. But if nothing changes, someone will.

At least two of the targets in the #MeToo movement have killed themselves—Jill Messick and Jo Min-ki. That's no surprise to anyone who has read about mobbing—see The very real link between workplace bullying and suicide: Twice as likely to contemplate suicide. I've written about this before: Mobbing drives people a little—or a lot—mad.

More people than anyone knows have been attacked by fandom's New McCarthyites. After posting Positively Fourth Street, or On being banned for ... vague reasons about nearly indescribable things?, I was told more stories. I should have expected that--people whose fears keep them silent will tell things in confidence to those who speak out. Once, in an online argument, I was foolish enough to say I was supported by lurkers in email. The people on the other side assumed I was lying and mocked me. I only pitied them—if you've never been supported by lurkers, you're the bully in the room.

I want to assure people that I'm not suicidal. I like to think it's because I'm a hard ass, but I know it has more to do with having people in my life who love me.

Yet people kill themselves even though they're surrounded by love. Being driven out of a community causes enormous psychological damage. Humans are herd animals. For some, death is more comforting than being cast out.

If you're one of those people, reach out to a friend or a suicide hotline now. That feeling is powerful, but it is a lie.

People who have not experienced mobbing often think it would not harm them. They are like Trump claiming he would have run into danger. Braggarts are usually people who have not been tested.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Positively Fourth Street, or On being banned for ... vague reasons about nearly indescribable things?

If you only want to know about the ban, skim to the third section.

Introduction: Why this, why now?

I despise few things more than whisper campaigns, so I'm going public with something that's gone on for over a year in science fiction fandom, a community that may gossip more than any other because all fans love a wild tale.

Even if it could be proved that fans gossip less than other people, the folk wisdom about gossip appears to be true: The spread of true and false news online @ Science concludes "It took the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1500 people" and "Falsehood also reached far more people than the truth."

1. First I am invited, then I'm not, then I am

A full history would begin with the flamewar called Racefail 09, when fandom's race reductionists objected to the fact that class often matters more than race, and I made the mistake of ironically claiming I was outing a woman who was using her full legal name in public, Google-searchable posts on her LiveJournal. But the chapter that has been kept to gossip circles begins last year, on January 10. Brad Roberts, a Board member of the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, emailed Emma and me, saying,
Hey.. I'm running into a bit of a snag putting together 2017's friday morning seminar. I had an initial plan that's fallen apart so I've been brain storming alternate plans.

What do you two think of putting something together around the topic of writing for different mediums: read, watched, listened to, small screen, large screen, etc?

Is this something I could arm twist either or both of you into leading a seminar about? :)
We said we'd think about it and suggested other writers who could be helpful. On the 16th, Brad wrote,
Are the two of you solid enough to be considered confirmed? If not, what sort of incentives do I need find to help. :)
We said we'd decided against it, but would be glad to help out in other ways. Brad wrote on the 22nd:
Can I change your mind with a hotel room for the weekend? Any other bribery technique that'd work on you? :)
On February 4, he wrote again, saying,
Any change of heart, I'm ready to beg. You two would be great for this and I really think it's important to have at least a person or two who knows the 4th street vibe to be involved.
I liked Brad and felt bad that 4th Street was having trouble getting teachers for the Friday seminar, so I wrote back,
Well, if you're twisting, I'll agree.
During March, Brad and I and the other seminar leaders made our plans. Everything seemed to be set.

But on April 25, Brad sent a note saying someone else was lined up to do the convention. I didn't think anything of it until I learned that was't quite the case. So I sent this email to Brad and the convention's founder, Steven Brust, who, as an ex officio Board member, was supposed to be kept informed of Board decisions:
This has been nagging at me, so I thought I'd seek some clarification.

Brad seemed to be pushing hard to line me up for the writing seminar. I had mixed feelings about whether I was a good choice now that I'm doing less in the field, but I was flattered and agreed when he persisted.

Then I got bumped with this short and uninformative note:

"Thank you for being so accommodating around the seminar. I appreciate it. As it turns out, we've found someone else who can fit the bill, and we're going to go with them instead. I am extremely grateful for your willingness to step up for us."

So I went to the 4th Street site and learned that Doris Egan had been lined up and "panelists are still being recruited."

I gather I've been blackballed. My inclination is to simply avoid 4th Street, but Emma says I may be misreading the signs. If it wasn't for that business about 4th Street still recruiting panelists for the seminar, I would happily assume Brad had been writing fast and didn't realize a short note following the earlier, longer attempts to convince me might look like a brush-off.

So I'll make this blunt. Have people said my presence would trigger them, and therefore I shouldn't come to 4th Street? Or am I reading too much into being told I wasn't needed while you recruit someone else?
The Board—Alex Haist, Scott Lynch, Brad Roberts, and Janet Grouchy—had failed to keep Steve informed. So he contacted Janet and learned a little of what had happened. Around this time, Janet quit the Board in disgust with their decision to ignore the "4th Street Guidelines for Handling Sensitive Issues" which stated:
  • The Board will investigate the complaint via conversation with involved parties with as much documentation as can be obtained. 
When Steve wrote me back, he included this bit which will be relevant later:
...I've prepared a rant inspired by the whole thing, titled, "Fourth Street is not a safe space, and it shouldn't be."  I've asked Scott to make it the first panel, but he probably won't, in which case I'll be delivering it as my opening comment. 
I am unreasonably steamed about this.
Brad sent me this:
I talked you to into being a seminar leader without discussing it with the Board. Once it went up on the website, our Safety Coordinator, Alex Haist, raised some concerns. After looking into those and much discussion, the Board decided it would be better for the convention to go with someone else. If you'd like to more detail, you are welcome to discuss it directly with her. Her email is ...

You are not at all barred from the convention, and I'd be happy to see you there. I apologize for the rocky communication.
I replied:
Just for the record, what the fuck am I supposed to have done that was ever a threat to anyone beside disagreeing with people online?

It is currently extremely unlikely that I will be there.

But I do sympathize with you for being stuck in the middle.
I then wrote the Board:
I don't know why I've been blackballed. I know that I have a long history of disagreeing online with the genre's more vocal neoliberal identitarians, but so far as I know, my only offline manifestation of that has been to ignore a few people when I see them at conventions. If I am accused of behaving like [Person Y] or doing anything that might make anyone think I am not be safe to be around, I would greatly appreciate hearing about it. If I've forgotten something I did, I'll own it. If it's just more of the wild gossiping that bedevils this community, I'd like to refute it. The only thing I do not appreciate is precisely what's happened here, being judged and condemned in absentia for a crime I've not been charged with.

Hmm. Perhaps you should do a panel on Kafka.

Obviously, I do not plan to come to 4th Street.
Alex Haist emailed me:
I want to apologize for how we have handled talking to you about this; we should have talked to you sooner, and Janet shouldn't have talked with Steve so that he could explain to you what was going on. This was no way to treat you after you agreed to do the seminar, especially with Brad personally inviting you. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that.

I'm still not sure what you've heard, so I'll lay out what happened. When the seminar page went up, we received many complaints, and I brought these Safety concerns to the Board. Your long history online and on certain panels at 4th St. are the issues. Of particular concern is your pattern of refusing to drop arguments despite direct requests and pursuing people on various social media platforms when they do not want to engage with you.

Your reputation and mode of discourse are such that the Board decided that having you represent the convention as seminar leader wouldn't be in line with the kind of inclusive culture we want to promote at 4th St. Fantasy. If you were to behave in person the way you have online--by refusing to back off when the other party was done conversing--you would not be welcome at 4th St. at all. At the moment, we have only instituted formal safety procedures as of last year, and we haven't received any formal complaints that would lead to you being banned from the convention.

Please let me know if I can clear up anything else.
I replied:
Let's see.

1. You agree that I do not behave in person the way I'm said to behave online.

2. You say I don't back down from arguments online. That's true. But as for "pursuing people", when someone is telling lies about my friends or me in public forums, I refute them. I do realize that some people take umbrage at having their stories challenged. However, as I note in my blog today, if I was guilty of abusing people online, there would be screen caps to prove it--your community has been religiously screen capping the things that upset them at least since they doxxed and terrorized Zathlazip nearly a decade ago. See

3. There was a panel that Beth Meacham moderated which I agree went abominably. However, did I call anyone names? Did I threaten anyone? Did I do anything more than disagree vigorously? Did I not submit when Beth insisted?

Ah, well. The questions here are rhetorical. No need to reply.
And I sent this note, which will also be relevant later:
I confess, what's most disappointing is that if one of you had had the common decency to come to me and say there were concerns, I would've happily stepped down for the good of the convention. I am aware that I have become a convenient demon, and I don't like seeing others suffer for that. I would've made some face-saving apology about how the workshop wouldn't fit my schedule, but I was looking forward to seeing people at the convention itself.

Instead, you have placed me in [Person Y]'s company as someone who must be rejected for safety's sake.

Someone has suggested this decision to imply I'm unsafe in public might be actionable. I don't know. I just think it is just very disappointing.
Emma sent this to the Board:
I believe it's actionable, though I wouldn't do that to Fourth Street. Here's the story that will now circulate in fannish gossip circles (because now that this has happened, word will spread; I've been in fandom for long enough to know it): Will Shetterly was kicked off programming on a local convention he helped found, because of concerns raised by the Safety Coordinator. Once that gets around, Will will be placed firmly in [Person Y] territory, and any convention considering inviting him to participate will reconsider. No one will know that your decision was made on the basis of hearsay and Things Believed on the Internet, and reinforced by his once having argued on a panel.

By doing this, in this way, you've damaged Will's personal and professional reputation and hurt his career. If Fourth Street has no respect for writers' reputations and careers, I'd say it's not the place for a working writer to have a public discussion of writing and art, two subjects that are deeply personal and intimately connected to the creator's principles and beliefs.

I also want to ask, parenthetically, if Fourth Street still welcomes discussion, disagreement, and even argument. It was founded on the idea that that was what participants wanted to do--to address passionately and with complete commitment the things that were most important to them about their craft and the ideas that drive it. If that's no longer the case, I'll accept that Fourth Street is no longer the convention I loved, and I will spare you my disruptive presence.

I'm particularly disappointed because, as usual, Scott has produced a fascinating first cut of programming. I would have loved to be part of it, even if only conversing from the audience. Brad, I'm very sorry you were caught in the middle of this; you've observed Will's behavior at Fourth Street and elsewhere, and had no idea anyone would object to his participating in programming. You only did what you'd committed to do--recruit workshop participants--and I don't believe responsibility for this falls on your shoulders.

(I'd also like to point out that Ben, Holly, and Will had already started discussions about how to organize the workshop. In addition to all the rest, you've wasted a bit of Ben and Holly's time, which can't be in endless supply.)
I emailed the Board:
My take is that sometimes communication breaks down and things go to hell, and the only way to fix them is to get everyone back in the loop, at least in the broadest strokes. So you may all make your decisions with the necessary information about my intentions, here they are:

1. I do not want 4th Street to suffer in any way.

2. While I'm disappointed that no one came to me early on, life's too short for grudges, so I'm not holding this against anyone.

3. So long as nothing new goes public, I'm content to stay quiet about this for a few days.

4. Given the fact that I was officially involved with the workshop and then was dropped from the web page, I need to make a public statement. I haven't got a clue what it should be. I'm in no hurry to do it, and I will not lie about the reason, but I do not need to explain what happened either. I just need to come up with something true that I can be content with.

5. I cannot speak for Emma, but I would like her to be there for the 30th anniversary of War for the Oaks.

So don't anyone feel they need to rush things on my account. I'll see where things are by Monday, and then I'll draft something that I'll run by Steve and Emma for approval before I post it.

Hoping you all have a good weekend--
On the 28th, I wrote Alex Haist:
I'm meeting with friends Sunday night to decide what to do Monday. I need some clarification and hope you can provide it soon.

As a workshop leader, my job would've been to teach students a little about what I've learned from 30 years as a professional writer and editor. What could I possibly do during a one-day seminar that would upset anyone? A workshop is not comparable to a panel where one might debate the validity of "cultural appropriation" and whether white people should write about black people. There's nothing to argue about when talking about the professional life—either a pro has learned something useful or hasn't.

However, given fandom, one thing is clear: Men who are perceived as sexual predators are being banned or moved from positions of authority. I have been moved from a position of authority. So far as the general public is concerned, I've been banned entirely since my name is not on the list of attendees and no reason has been offered for removing me from the workshop. So my three questions:

1. Is there is any suggestion that I have done anything out of line sexually? I need to know because it is the vilest slander.

2. If there is not, what are people afraid I would do as an instructor? Teach socialism?

3. What do you expect the public to assume from your decision to remove me from the workshop? Given fandom's history with people like [Person Y] and [Person W], I think the answer is clear.

The notion people won't talk about this is silly.You have noted that people saw the announcement and commented on it. I hope you will acknowledge that in your community, gossip is currency. Obviously, you talk about this with your friends, who talk about it with their friends, etc. I understand the board member who quit recently [Will's note: Not Janet—a Board member who quit shortly before her], who I have no memory of ever interacting with, was on a vendetta against me—I have no doubt she is spreading this story as far as she possibly can.

Answers to these questions will be very useful for deciding how to proceed tomorrow night.
Then I sent,
I apologize for having a fourth question, but it is extremely important.

4. Did any of the writing students that Emma and I have taught over the last 30 years suggest I had ever done anything wrong or was in any way incompetent?

This question is essential because the second reason people would assume I had been dropped was that I'm a bad teacher. Yet in the three decades that Emma and I have been teaching, we've gotten a lot of praise and no criticism that I remember. We don't always teach together, but obviously, we're sufficiently linked that an attack on my reputation affects hers.

I realize your community has been weaponizing poverty, that is, trying to get people fired for disagreeing with your ideology, since the doxxing and terrorizing of Zathlazip. I don't know if it's because so many of you are economically privileged that it doesn't occur to you that this matters or if it's because you believe heretics must be discredited and impoverished.

Whatever the reason, I can't see a third option. Either you dismissed me for sexual malfeasance or professional incompetence. If the latter, there must be students who think I'm a bad or abusive teacher. Are there? Did you verify that they had studied with me?

Hoping I don't think of a fifth question while you enjoy this nice weekend,
Alex replied:
The first e-mail we sent was our attempt to make a neutral statement, suitable but not intended for public consumption. It was undeniably shabby of us to invite you, and then, by drawing out the notification and website updating processes, to needlessly complicate matters and alarm you.

We are not planning to make any kind of a public statement beyond changing the website and sending attendees the final seminar line up. This has been handled as privately as possible, and there's no need to draw attention to it.

If anyone presses for a reason beyond the lineup changing, then we will tell them that Brad asked you to do the con a favor by being a seminar panelist, and we ended up not needing the favor. That is all we intend to say publicly. The goal here is to avoid, not start, drama, for either the convention or for you.

To answer your questions:

1) No. Sexual misconduct has not been remotely brought up.
2) The active 4th Street Board concluded that your mode of discourse and your pattern of pursuing conversation past the point of when the other party wants to disengage aren't in line with the inclusive culture 4th Street would like to promote. As such, you're welcome as an attendee but not a representative of the convention.
3) You're welcome to post the reasons I shared with you in a previous email if you think it's better to offer the community that much detail. It's your reputation and your call.
4) Your competence wasn't a factor in our decision.

Thanks for the heads up about your thought process.
On April 30, I sent this to the Board:
I'm back from a very pleasant evening of dinner, drinks, and music from Lojo, and I had a couple of ciders, so if there are even more typos than usual, my bad.

I just want to reassure everyone that Emma and I have less than zero intention of suing anyone. When we talk about what you've done being actionable, we're trying to point out how very badly you've misjudged the consequences—I assume you simply thought that when some people complained to the safety person, you could drop me and all would be fine.

So far as I'm concerned, as one of the founders of Fourth Street, I want it succeed; I consider everyone but Alex a friend and I credit her decisions to ignorance rather than malice; and even if for some odd reason I felt vindictive, one of my bits of quirky Christianity is “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."
So in the interest of making peace, I went to the convention and took part in a panel. For me personally, it was a surprisingly pleasant Fourth Street.

But it was an awful convention for Steve Brust.

2. A space safe for ideas becomes a space safe from them

At Opening Ceremonies, Steve tried to share "Fourth Street is not a safe space, and it shouldn't be." Alex Haist shut him down before he could finish, which led to an enormous number of misunderstandings. I thought Steve was treated abominably—at the very least, he should have been allowed to finish speaking and then clarify his intent. Sometime during the convention, I realized I was done with Fourth Street and wouldn't be returning.

In the days after the convention, Steve's aborted speech was discussed online and off. If you want to know more, start with his accounts:

My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention

Followup On Fourth Street

You might also read what I wrote then:

Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle

Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

Denying "standing": how identitarians marginalize the marginalized who disagree with them (focusing on 4th St. Fantasy)

Why it's easier to speak among free speech supporters than in a "safe space"

Four kinds of safe spaces and a question about idiom

Understanding the identitarian difficulty with metaphor and idiom

3. I was done with 4th Street, but 4th Street was not done with me

After deciding I was done with Fourth Street, I rarely thought about it. When I did, I remembered it like Minneapolis's Uptown neighborhood, a place that was fun that has been gentrified. It never occurred to me that Fourth Street was not done with me, but the convention is like a lover I ghosted—she felt obliged to tell me the relationship is over. On March 8, I woke to find this email:
Dear Will:

On April 27, 2017, as part of an email conversation regarding your removal from a programming item at the 2017 4th Street Fantasy Convention, you wrote “Someone has suggested this decision to imply I’m unsafe in public might be actionable.”

We cannot disregard this implied threat of legal action, particularly combined with your lengthy and detailed public criticism of the convention on multiple platforms. Despite your reassurance in correspondence dated April 30, 2017 that “I just want to reassure everyone that Emma and I have less than zero intention of suing anyone”, the Board of Directors has decided that we are unwilling to open ourselves to liability through further association with you.

We are therefore banning you from Fourth Street Fantasy.

We would like to resolve this privately. These are the practical steps we have taken:

• As stated above, you are banned from Fourth Street Fantasy. You will not be allowed to register for the convention or attend convention events. Please do not come to the Doubletree Hotel during the weekend of the convention.

Thank you for your service as a founder, programming participant, and long-time attendee. We wish you well in your further writing career.

Sincerely Yours,

The Fourth Street Fantasy Board of Directors

Brad Roberts
Scott Lynch
Alex Haist
Arkady Martine
Max Gladstone
To show I copied it accurately, here's the original:

(click to enlarge)

Amusingly, the letterhead is from a piece of art that uses Steven Brust in his beloved cavalier's hat as a model for an archaically dressed adventurer who leans against a lamp post. If you're attentive to symbolism, it suggests that here is light in darkness, but there may still be danger. It was a good symbol for the original Fourth Street, where competing ideas were discussed, not silenced. The current letterhead is a good symbol for the new Fourth Street—its founder has been erased.

Almost as soon as I got that, I replied,
Man, y'all are just doubling down, aren't you? Are you trying to get me to take action against you?

I know it sounds lame after you do this, but since you treated Steve so badly, I had decided not to return.

By the by, you do know I've never done anything to make anyone feel unsafe at any convention? Well, other than disagreeing with neoliberalism and identitarianism while supporting socialism, a notion that always troubles the privileged?

I then wrote Brad and Scott:
I just wanted to say I'm very disappointed by the way the two of you are handling this. I don't know the others on the board, so there's no reason I should expect them to behave like friends, or even like adults. But I had thought of you both as friends in the broad sense of the word, and, Scott, in your case, a closer sense that came from doing little favors like helping you move into your apartment. I began to suspect I was wrong when you kicked me off the panel earlier. The latest letter from the board confirms what I should've accepted earlier.

If there is some new development that I should know about that has sparked this new board decision, I would be very grateful to hear about it. But if there's not, or if you prefer to keep silent, go in peace.
And I made this post on Twitter and Facebook:
I do get tired of being disappointed by people I had thought were friends. But I suppose that's the price of having friends.
Soon afterward, I realized these things:

1. The only substance in the Board's letter is the fact that I'm banned because they're concerned I might sue them for implying I'm unsafe. Their logic is odd. If I was the sort of person who liked using the law, banning me would make me more likely to sue them. By banning me, they are giving me the only reason I might have to sue them—in earlier times, no one would have been banned for polite disagreement, so people will quite reasonably assume there must be more to the charge.

2. Their letter says I criticize the convention without citing examples because there are none. I've always supported the convention. I've only criticized its current administrators who speak as if they are the convention—L'Etat, c'est moi is the motto of all petty people who fail to see they are only caretakers.

3. The letter says the Board "would like to resolve this privately", but a ban means nothing if no one knows about it, the idea that five members of this community could keep anything private is hilarious, and there's nothing offered to resolve: the Board isn't dangling any hope of rescinding the ban if I promise to keep from criticizing them in the future. Their "privately" may mean they want to keep the story in the realm of gossip instead of making a press release, but the game of telephone began the moment a Board member told a friend I'd been banned or answered an inquiry about whether I'll be at this year's 4th Street.

So the Board has given me three choices:
a. Do nothing, thereby validating the implication that I'm banned for the same reason other men in our community have been banned. 
b. Sue the Board to make them admit that the implications of their ban are false. 
c. Make the historical record public so people may draw their own conclusions.
I'm going with Option C.

Ah, well. We live in mad times. The current Board reminds me that identitarianism is a cult. Perhaps the greatest sign of cultishness is the haste to silence those who disagree, the heretics, pagans, barbarians, and outlaws, the people who've always been part of my tribe.

Two things keep recurring to me since last Thursday. The first is Rafael Sabatini's opening to Scaramouche, "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." The second is that the only good thing about people fighting you is it says you matter. My friends think I should be upset by the Board's letter, but I'm not. I find it oddly validating.

Go in peace, Fourth Street Fantasy.

The inspiration for my title: Adolph Reed's Antiracism: vague politics about a nearly indescribable thing.

Update: Potential Fourth Street fallout—on mobbing, emotional abuse, depression, and suicide

PS. At least one person has suggested I haven't given the full story of what happened with Fourth Street. To the best of my knowledge, I've shared everything that's relevant. If I've left anything out, the Fourth Street Board is welcome to share it.