Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wiscon and Elizabeth Moon: What Happened and What Can We Learn from it?

A panel at Armadillocon. Emma Bull, moderator; Stina Leicht; Scott Lynch, Lawrence Person, Cat Rambo, Lee Thomas.

Emma took her moderation duties very seriously: she began by presenting a timeline of events, then told the audience that she would not call on anyone in the audience for forty-five minutes so the panelists could have time to make their statements and respond to each other. The following is my take on their positions:

Lee Thomas seemed to be most sympathetic to Wiscon's handling of the affair. He asked a question that did not get answered: how far may an invited guest's statements go before a con should uninvite a guest?

Scott Lynch's position was similar. He proposed, "My con, my rules"—if Wiscon wanted to uninvite a guest, that was their right.

Stina Leicht, Cat Rambo, and Emma all objected to what Moon had said about Muslims and Fox News' deceptive label of "Ground Zero Mosque" for a community center that was nearer to strip joints than the 9/11 site, but were also troubled by Wiscon's decision not to honor its invitation of a guest. Emma noted that Wiscon had changed its definition of feminism in order to justify its actions; she said that feminism does not have a political orientation, and though she's a socialist, she recognizes that when conservative women do things like serving on the Supreme Court, they are making progress as feminists that will help women who do not share their politics.

Lawrence Person proposed that Moon's comments on Muslims had been misinterpreted, that she had not been saying that Muslims should be treated badly, but that they should be prepared to face discrimination because every immigrant group has faced discrimination.

When Emma called upon audience members, reactions ranged from full support for Wiscon to an emphatic declaration that institutions should not censor under any circumstances.

In discussion after the panel, someone with great familiarity of conventions and contracts said that Wiscon was very lucky when Ms. Moon accepted their decision. By announcing her as their GoH, they established a contract, and when they withdrew the offer, they put themselves in the position of being in breach of contract.

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