Saturday, November 8, 2014

A call for kindness inspired by Requireshate and Racefail 09

Inspired by the comments at A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names, I'm writing something that's very hard for me. I'm starting with a few general points for people who aren't familiar with my blogging. Then it gets personal.

Don't mock anyone who claims to have been hurt by the antics of Requireshate and her supporters. If you've never been mobbed, you can't know that the psychological effects are so horrible that some victims kill themselves. I wrote a little about that at Mobbing drives people a little—or a lot—mad.

But when you have sympathy for RH's targets, try to have sympathy for the people who aided her in the belief they were doing the right thing. Five years after the Salem Witch Trials, the jurors signed a letter stating, “…we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature.”

And, if you can, try to have some sympathy for RH, too. She clearly suffers from some mental disorder, and she adopted a belief system that brought out all the worst in her. She was more extreme than her fellows, but her fellows applauded her. Like Barry Goldwater, they believed extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Anyone who has read about the Jacobins should know that's wrong, but people who think their goals are virtuous often excuse the worst tactics. Folk wisdom rejects that: The ends don't justify the means. At some level, most of us know the means and the ends are the same.

Martin Luther King said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." I learned that the hard way in Racefail 09, when many good people were accused of being racists. I was silent for days, but then I saw two people in particular being attacked—my wife, whose first novel should be remembered in any history of interracial romance in our genre, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who ten years before had published "Racism and Science Fiction" by Samuel R. Delany. So I spoke up.

If you have sympathy for RH's targets, try to have sympathy for all the people on Racefail's blacklists and "shitlists," except me. Some of them, maybe most of them, maybe all of them, are still suffering. They saw themselves becoming pariahs, and saw that the work they had valued all their lives was meaningless, and feared they might never be able to do that work again.

I'm not saying I'm exempt from the suffering caused by mobbing—if anything, I'm an extreme example of the damage it does—but I've lived with this all my life, thanks to the Ku Klux Klan driving my family from our home for our involvement in the civil rights struggle. When Racefail came, most of its targets were good people who had never been hurt by mobs before. Their wounds were fresh and raw. For me, old scars were simply torn open again, so the flight instinct was weaker and the fight instinct stronger.

To mobs, those who fight back deserve what they get, so I bear it. But the rest of the people on those lists? The people who were so smugly judged at this RaceFail Amnesty Post? They deserve every bit of sympathy being given to the people who have been savaged by RH and her allies. Some of them, maybe most of them, maybe all of them, would be grateful for a kind word.

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