Monthly Archives: June 2015

I stand with Irene Gallo, and I stand with Tor

I was deeply distressed to learn of the Rabid Puppies’ campaign against Irene Gallo, and the fact that they’re now calling for Tor to fire her. I’ve sent a letter to Tom Doherty. Here is a copy.

Dear Tom Doherty,

First, Tom, I want to extend warm greetings and sympathy to everyone at Tor, for the difficulties that you all have had to contend with over the past couple of weeks. I am sure the situation has created a huge strain on everyone there.

I am writing to you because I woke up Monday morning to discover to my dismay that Theodore Beale, a/k/a/ “Vox Day,” called for his Rabid Puppy supporters to write Tor and Macmillan, en masse, and demand that you fire Irene Gallo for her remarks on her personal FaceBook page on May 11. I’m writing to ask you to resist their demands for further reprisals against her. I stand with Irene.

My apologies in advance for the length of my letter, and for the unpleasantness of the content I’ve excerpted and linked to. I feel it’s important for me to provide context to help show where I’m coming from with all this.

Beale has been pursuing a personal grudge against several people, including Tor author John Scalzi and the Nielsen Haydens, for years. The reason he has targeted them is that they have stood up for those who have been bullied and harassed by Beale and his supporters.

Beale was booted out of our professional trade organization, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), in 2013, after using official SFWA channels to promote a series of deeply offensive, blatantly racist remarks against SFF writer and SFWA member N. K. Jemisin. He has a long history of horrific reactionary public statements, not only against people of color, immigrants, and non-Christians (including citing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who gunned down 77 people, mostly teens, as a national hero for his acts, and suggesting that we look to Hitler to solve our immigration problems [he has since deleted the offending paragraph from his article, but the original pro-Nazi text appears here]). His views on women (“a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages,” “[A] purely empirical perspective on Malala Yousafzai, the poster girl for global female education, may indicate that the Taliban’s attempt to silence her was perfectly rational and scientifically justifiable”) and gays (“Correcting the gay defect;” “How ‘gay marriage’ harms you”) are equally repugnant.

The National Criminal Justice Reference System, a federally-funded organization that provides justice-related information to support worldwide research, policy, and program development efforts, defines hate speech as “the use of speech attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.” There can be no doubt that Beale’s public statements fall into this category. His actions and words have gone far beyond the bounds of reasonable political dissent.

Bullies and abusers rely on the larger community’s desire for comity—our willingness to live and let live—to impose their will and silence dissent. In such a case, it’s incumbent on people with standing in the community to speak up against them, providing a counterweight to their destructive ideas. By speaking when she did, in my view, Irene was doing what other thought leaders in our field like N. K. Jemisin, John Scalzi, and the Nielsen Haydens have done: guarding the health and well-being of our SFF community by standing up against hate speech.

Some feel the stark terms Irene applied to the Sad and Rabid Puppies movements in her FaceBook post—racist, misogynist, homophobic, neo-nazi—were too harsh and too broadly applied. That she spoke out of turn and had no business criticizing the Sad and Rabid Puppies campaign while promoting a Tor book. They protest that their views are not extreme, and using such terms unfairly maligns them, by lumping them in with someone they don’t support. Some members of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns have indeed distanced themselves from Beale, and perhaps they were initially unaware of just how extreme his views were. 

I believe that communities can grow and change. People can learn; viewpoints can shift. I have a seed of hope that someday, through continued dialog and education, we can find a way through this and mend some of the rifts that this conflict has exposed. 

But there is no getting around the fact that a misogynistic, homophobic white supremacist, who has spoken approvingly of shootings and acid attacks on women, and of Hitler and the Holocaust, who has called a respected SFF scholar and popular writer an ignorant, “not equally human” savage, stands at the heart of this conflict. Beale’s followers and fellow travelers may not themselves hold all the bigoted views he does, but information on who he is and how he feels about women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and others has been widely shared by now. If people are emailing you calling for Irene to be fired, they are unavoidably supporting Beale’s hate-filled agenda.

In short, the campaign they are pursuing against Irene, the Neilsen Haydens—and in fact, against Tor itself—has a deep taproot in values not reflective of a tolerant and diverse society. Those of us speaking up against this campaign are doing so not because we want a fight, but because if we stay silent, the deeply offensive views of a destructive individual will be further elevated, driving away many, many people from our field.

It boils down to this. There was truth in Irene’s words. It took courage for her to say something. She has my respect.

For me, this is not a matter of politics. I took a public stand last fall against Requires Hate, a serious cyber-bully on the left. This is about standards of discourse. It’s only a noisy and obnoxious few who insist on making trouble. Our broader SFF community recognizes that we can have political disagreements—even heated ones—without resorting to hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric, threats, and social-media shaming campaigns against people whose views we dislike. In fact, for the continued health and well-being of our field, I believe we must.

Now that Irene has apologized for any confusion or upset that her remarks may have caused among well-intentioned Puppy supporters, and now that you have publicly clarified Tor’s position and your reasonable desire to continue as you have been, grounded in your company’s commercial mission to provide SFF readers with a wide and enjoyable range of good fiction across multiple political and other perspectives, both Irene and Tor have amply satisfied their professional obligations to your customers and the community at large. I believe that neither you, Irene, the Nielsen Haydens, nor anyone else at Tor or Macmillan, has a further obligation to respond to the demands of Theodore Beale, John C. Wright, or their supporters.

I want to support Tor and Irene publicly as well as privately, and will be posting a copy of this letter on my blog, laurajmixon.com

In closing, I am proud to call myself a Tor author, I’m deeply sorry that your company has been targeted like this, and I wish you all the best. 

 Sincerely,

-l.

My letter says just about everything I feel the need to say about the matter. But in case it isn’t clear, I am opposed to boycotts of Tor’s books. Tor is also a target in this campaign, and I’m not interested in giving Beale what he wants.

Yes, I believe Beale’s targeting Irene was part-and-parcel with his own misogynistic views, but I believe Tom’s intent was to be even-handed. I know him to be a community-minded man who is deeply loyal to his staff and his authors.

I stand with Irene Gallo, with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and I also stand with Tor.

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