Wednesday, February 13, 2013

yes, free speech includes the right to oppose other people's speech, but.... (on Orson Scott Card and Superman)

Orson Scott Card's getting attention again for his opposition to gay marriage, and one manifestation of that is a petition to get him fired from writing Superman.

I've supported gay marriage for decades. I heard this song when I was in my teens and recognized my philosophy about the rights of adults:

I've also supported free speech since I was a boy in the '60s, when rightwingers were busily trying to silence their opponents, just as too many leftwingers do today.

In Orson Scott Card, Homophobia, and Superman | Sequart Research & Literacy Organization, a point is made that's loved by censors:
...private boycotts and petitions are in fact an expression of free speech, not a violation of it.
Ignore the word "private" there, because there's nothing private about trying to get people to join in a boycott. The rest of the statement is 100% true.

And 100% irrelevant.

Where democracy does not protect the rights of the minority, there's no democracy; there's only mob rule. Where people are not free to say things I despise, I am not free to speak—where someone can be silenced, anyone can be silenced. Remember the centuries of people who suffered because they were gay, and reject the tactics of their oppressors.

In this case, I agree with Dale Lazarov: "I've known Orson Scott Card is a raging homophobe since the early 90s. I refuse to buy or read his work. But asking that he be denied work because he is a raging homophobe is taking it too far. Asking for workplace discrimination for any reason is counterproductive for those who want to end discrimination on their own behalf."

ETA: Here's Taj Mahal's take on the same subject:

ETA: I was tiny bit amused that I just got email from the ACLU about other people who believe in silencing others: Stand With Bayli As She Stands Up To Bullies | American Civil Liberties Union: "Bayli Silberstein, an 8th grade student in Florida, has been trying for a year to create a Gay-Straight Alliance, a student-led club to combat the name-calling and bullying she and her friends face at school. But in an underhanded attempt to stop Bayli from forming the Gay-Straight Alliance, the school board is considering banning ALL extracurricular clubs."

ETA: Steve Brust blogged about this at Orson Scott Card, DC Comics, and Censorship | The Dream Café, and I joined in the discussion there.

ETA: A fine version recommended in the comments:


  1. There's a wonderful moment in Dave Van Ronk's memoirs, when some reactionary asshole did something, and Van Ronk said the guy shouldn't be hired, and his friend said, "Dave, we on the Left don't blacklist."

    Yeah, like that.

  2. Is there a difference between asking that he not be hired and telling DC that if he is, you'll take your custom elsewhere?

    1. Who are you asking? For me, one of the lines that shouldn't be crossed is going to someone's boss to try to have them fired for what they think.

    2. I agree that the lines can be tricky, sometimes. But the petition in question is titled "DC COMICS: DROP ORSON SCOTT CARD!". Has anyone heard that there's anything homophobic about the storyline he's working on?

    3. My previous comment contained some stuff that didn't need to be there. Here's one without the junk.

      Will - until it hits the streets, I don't think that any kind of analysis can be made of whether or not it's homophobic. I wouldn't expect it to be overtly so, but then, close editorial influence on comics has all but vanished, so who knows?

      As a political statement by DC, hiring Card is no worse than the statement they made by restarting their entire universe with male writers and artists who generally turned the female characters into paper dolls with big hooters and tiny tiny brains, but that's really just a symptom of the people running the company. Were I in charge, I would not have sought him out in the first place, but since he is there, firing him for anything not related to his performance as a writer would be disgraceful.

    4. The statement that DC made is that they'll publish popular writers, regardless of their politics.

      Has DC done anything homophobic in its stories lately? I don't keep up, so it's possible. I found a list of their gay characters here: Homosexual Characters - DC Comics Database. Have they been made straight or reprehensible or anything to suggest DC has an anti-gay agenda?

      That said, I share a lot of your reservations about DC. If I was rebooting it, their superheroes would "look like the USA" in their race and gender breakdown, and I would hire writers from outside fandom to get rid of the reverence for 1960s straight white male characters.

      But for now, no one's saying you have to buy Card's stories. Buy what you like and ignore the rest.

  3. Dale Lazarov had trouble leaving a comment here, so I'm posting it for him:

    "Thanks for agreeing with me. Now buy my gay erotic comics! :-D"

  4. Your making a rather fine point here, but I have to say I agree wholeheartedly. Much as I'm tempted to join a boycott due to personally experiencing the wrong end of homophobia I'll try to remember this distinction.

    btw if you haven't heard of the Asylum Street Spankers, they do a version of that song.

    1. Hadn't heard of 'em. Always good to learn about a good band--thanks!