Friday, June 23, 2017

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

In defense of safe spaces, Scott Lynch said, “It is difficult to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t feel fundamentally welcome.”

That's certainly true. But it's not the only consideration.

It is impossible to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t know what may inspire them to silence you. It is much easier to be bold in front of free speech supporters. Even the ones who most oppose you will support your right to speak.

The Malcolm X Code of Behavior


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

“Obey the law” does not mean submit to authority. Martin Luther King believed in nonviolence and Malcolm believed in self-defense, but they had more in common than not, including a preference for legal protest. It's tactically wise. A speaker is more effective in public than in prison.

Because Malcolm believed in self-defense, his “if” is essential: Has no one laid hands on you? Stay peaceful, courteous, and respectful.

Nothing in his code kept him from demanding justice, as you may see by watching any of his speeches or interviews.

Possibly relevant: I discuss cowboy codes of the early 20th century in A little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values. They have a lot in common with Malcolm's code.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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

At Followup On Fourth Street, Hopping689 told Steven Brust,
Your opening address was in no way aggressive and I heartily approved of it. Speaking as a disabled woman. 
If a writer has nothing to say about society, I don’t read their work and I certainly don’t go to hear them speak. Why would I, if they have nothing to say? Surely nearly every story is about society and the individual’s place in it. Especially SFF, aka “the literature of ideas.” 
By “safe space” do those who object actually mean “commercially safe space”? If groups are socially and economically disadvantaged to the point they don’t feel safe speaking up in public discussions, hadn’t the panel better address the political forces behind that? If you don’t talk about real things, real people don’t care. They don’t have the time. The purpose of the discussion becomes insular, otherwise; maybe even indulgent. It’s the very thing that puts busy, cash-strapped, tired people off reading in the first place. Anti-intellectualism relies on art which says nothing. 
It seems a fairly typical use of identity politics to quash genuine political discussion, whether it’s done consciously or not. And anyway, (to make the old joke) speaking as a woman, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
But her comments have been excluded from the identitarian narrative because it does not fit. Like Adolph Reed, whose short piece on anti-racism should be read by anyone who is concerned with racism, she cannot be dismissed with the usual ad hominem, so she's simply ignored.

I started thinking about "standing" when I read Cheryl S.'s comment at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770:
...I commented yesterday that Brust lacked standing. He doesn’t get to redefine the meaning in order to make a rather dubious point while also dog whistling the culture. wars.
Why does Steve lack standing? Because he's a white male who does not accept the neoliberal understanding of privilege developed in the Ivy League.

As a disabled woman, Hopping689 should have all the "standing" anyone needs to have their position taken seriously. But for identitarians, ideology trumps identity, a fact that should be especially obviously when cis het white male identitarians erase her and all the women who did not feel threatened by Steve from the story.

Earlier:

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

"Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes

Jonas made a comment on My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention that deserves more attention, so I've made it a guest post. -WS

Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist

by Jonas Kyratzes

Of course the concept of appropriation is pro-capitalist: it treats culture, inherently diffuse, messy, mixed up and impure, as an ownable good available in limited amounts. It’s an even more extreme version of the logic applied to software piracy. It’s turning everything into a product.

Even the excuse that the point supposedly is to protect people from that culture (and not to police cultural borders) comes purely in capitalist terms – the function is to protect those artists who make a living by selling a purist fantasy. And usually, to be clear, these are Americans who have some ancestral connection to that culture, not people from another country. Because people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.

And the irony is, of course, that this demand for cultural purity actually *diminishes* opportunities for artists from these countries. If certain elements of their culture become part of the global mainstream, that’s actually a chance to have an impact! It makes you more easily understood, makes what you have to offer more accessible. It builds bridges. But the anti-appropriation argument actually just has the effect of limiting “cultural authority” to the tiny minority of English or American middle-class artists who take on the role of “authentic” representative/consultant and perpetuate these rigid Maoist-style ideologies to safeguard their position.

The people outside the US most likely to be against appropriation, i.e. against the mixing of cultures, are fascists. The people most likely to make a big deal about “their” culture are extreme conservatives. That’s what you’re supporting on a global scale when you fight against appopriation – the very worst parts of society, the equivalent of your very own white supremacists. The rest of us are deeply opposed to nationalism, to cultural chauvinism. We’re not insecure about “our” culture. We’re fighting against borders, against segregation, for unity and understanding between cultures. Cultures which, incidentally, simply cannot be ranked in some convenient hierarchy – our histories are way too messy for that.

Why American leftists insist on supporting the extreme right, the worst enemies of the very oppressed you claim to want to help, will never make sense. We could really use your solidarity, but that would require an internationalist, transcultural perspective.

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

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

I completely understand why people find it hard to believe anyone did not understand that Steve was speaking metaphorically. That croggled me, too. But the difficulty of understanding metaphor began with the first comments at 4th Street Fantasy Society:

David Cummer Are you saying Steve intended to make people feel threatened?

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ReplyJune 17 at 2:29pm
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Alex Haist David Cummer He said so explicitly, so yes.

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ReplyJune 17 at 2:30pm

I answered,

Will Shetterly Alex has trouble understanding metaphors, so she did not hear what he was saying. This would not have been a problem had she asked him if what she inferred was what he intended to imply.

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June 18 at 12:30amEdited

Even after considerable discussion about metaphors, there were exchanges like this:

Karen Osborne Because he literally said that we should feel threatened. Good heavens.

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June 20 at 3:54pmEdited
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Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Did he say it literally or metaphorically?
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Will Shetterly I asked Matt Smit this, and he hasn't answered yet: Is it no longer possible to use "threaten" as a metaphor? I'm old, and language changes, so if that's so, it'd be good to know. In my day, anything could be meant literally or metaphorically.
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Matt Smit You asked Reuben, not me, Will.

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June 20 at 3:58pm
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Karen Osborne Will - You already know what he said.

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June 20 at 3:59pm
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Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Yes, I do, and I know it was a metaphor.

ETA: At Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770, Hampus Eckerman doubles down on the idea that Steve's metaphor was a literal threat. I replied, "All metaphors are said literally. That does not mean metaphoric speech is literal speech, even though English would let us say that."