TNH overflow February 22, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

People apparently can't stop talking about TNH and Boing Boing! And here's a place to do it. Thank you.
posted by Artw to MetaFilter-Related at 11:53 AM (179 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

This will not help the complaints of too many closed MetaTalk threads.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tich Nhat Hahn?
posted by edgeways at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


While we're on the topic of TNH, I'd like to bring up her recent dismembering of the suit against JK Rowling...
posted by DU at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2010


I don't even know what TNH is. I guess I'm just a big lame.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2010


The News Headlines. It's a cable channel.
posted by lore at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2010




Proactive MetaTalk threads do not good MetaTalk threads make.
posted by TomMelee at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2010


Going to meta has been mentioned several dozen times there. Now the excuse of there not being one doesn't exist.

Not that I expect people hellbent on making and ass out of themselves in thread to actually use it, but there you go.
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2010


Artw, your first response made me smile, because you are quite obviously doing your best to restrain yourself and cut the hate off at the start. I'm sorry it didn't work.
posted by Think_Long at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2010


Is TNH the Bizarro-mod-world version of jessamyn?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2010


What proactive MeTa threads do allow us to do, however, is delete off-topic ranting as derails and direct people who want to continue to off-toplically rant to this existing thread, a thread that they would have not created themselves.

Really, without putting too fine a point on it, it's a little embarrassing how a few polite and slightly-less-polite requests to take that sidebar elsewhere were totally ignored with even more "no she really IS horrible" commentary. I don't care what sort of an evil harpie you think someone is, there is no acknowledged "right to be a jerk to someone who is a jerk" policy here and additionally no right to fuck up someone's MeFi thread because you think someone mentioned in it is particularly noxious. Not saying it hasn't happened, but saying it should happen less, much less.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


because you think someone mentioned in it is particularly noxious

She is the author of the article.
posted by smackfu at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2010


To clarify, I mean it's certainly not unusual for comments to be about the author if they are controversial. For instance, Orson Scott Card.
posted by smackfu at 12:20 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I get that a bunch of MetaFilter has this weird allergic reaction to Teresa Nielsen Hayden. I can't say I share it, but I at least sort of see where it came from, historically. But still, I'd be a lot happier if every single mention of her wasn't immediately followed by someone doing the oh-look-I-disemvowelled-my-own-comment trick. That sort of thing is clever exactly once, and cute maybe twice, tops, and by now it's just really, really tired. I called it before opening up the current thread, and there it was, two comments in. You know what that is, folks? That is lame and unoriginal.
posted by moss at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh I don't know, I think there's a good case for hating him purely on the basis of the text there.
posted by Artw at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2010


The longer I am on metafilter the less I understand it. In another 5 years I won't even know it exists.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Not here to rant, but: when did TNH stop being a BoingBoing moderator?

I remember a big announcement on Making Light when she took the job; but I don't remember a corresponding post for her standing down. Although I don't follow it terribly closely.

(FWIW, Making Light is totally worth it for Jim MacDonald's occasional posts about his EMT work: index.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:25 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Had no idea there was so much interest in Télévision Nationale d'Haiti.
posted by jbickers at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


when did TNH stop being a BoingBoing moderator?

Some time around April of last year. I have no idea what the details are, since no one involved seems to have said anything much about it at the time or after, and since that's probably not accidental I figured I'd just leave it alone once I pieced the basic timeframe together from context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2010


when did TNH stop being a BoingBoing moderator?

It's been months. I went digging around trying to find a specific "I am leaving" or "she left" post, but I know she's not a moderator there anymore and I know it's been a while.

So at some level -- and again, I don't know TNH personally and have good and bad opinions about her -- I feel like "Okay, you think she was a bad moderator, guess what she's not even working there anymore!" Sort of like how my Mom complains about my grandmother who did various terrible things over holidaytime twenty years ago and all I can say is "Well, she's DEAD now Mom, I guess that fixed her!"

It makes me wonder sometimes if there are people on other websites that talk about cortex and me that way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


jesus, the laziest way in the world to quickly shill for favorites seems to be to make the obvious "Thrs Nlsn Hydn dsmvwls stff ll." joke as soon as she's mentioned.
posted by shmegegge at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It makes me wonder sometimes if there are people on other websites that talk about cortex and me that way.

Probably. I'm pretty sure everyone I've ever banned has joined a facebook group to bitch about me.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2010


I've caught the occasional generic complaint about moderation over on reddit from burnt former users, but nothing juicy. We're clearly not trying hard enough.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2010


I am so confused you guys.
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thich Nhat Hanh's exposition of the Diamond Sutra is awesome.
posted by everichon at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2010


So can someone give me the tweet version of the history justifying the vitriol directed at TNH? Also, the disemvollowing thing?
posted by cjorgensen at 12:47 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


God help me but I think this is the way it went.

- TNH had a very popular blog with a small community at her personal website.
- She came up with this idea of "disemvowelling" problematic comments
- Other people latched on to this and gave it a lot of "OMG AWESOME" props
- Because there's not really much to say about moderation other than "be good at it"
- And people like to think they can just make a MT Plug in and moderating will be good
- TNH was hired at BoingBoing thru Federated Media to use her special mod powers there when they re-opened comments
- before they reopened comments they had a forum which was sub-optimal
- TNH moderated as a job, things mostly went okay, some loved her some hated her
- something with Violet Blue happened which resulted in all her posts being unpublished [i.e. hidden from public view] by Xeni
- unpublished is really the same as deleted to anyone but mods
- this distinction was poorly explained and poorly supported and seemed contrary to BB's ethos
- people LOST THEIR MINDS all over the internet over this
- there were many contentious threads on many sites all GRAR about this
- TNH had to moderate a thread of very angry people for a very long time over something stupid someone else did
- by most accounts this didn't go so well, TNH lost her cool, was immoderate
- "The Boingers" didn't really show up to do triage or debrief when it was all over
- some people never forgive or forget anything
- TNH does not work for FM/BoingBoing anymore
- TNH has a complete life outside of BoingBoing, as do most people

Ummm, that's it?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2010 [36 favorites]


Reddit has moderation?
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The MetaTalk thread on the Violet Blue thing

I don't really think anyone on Metafilter cared much about the disemvoweling before that disaster. But combined with the unpublishing...
posted by smackfu at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2010


So can someone give me the tweet version of the history justifying the vitriol directed at TNH?

This is as short as I can make it and still capture most of what I think the story is:

When the Xeni-unpublishing-Violet-Blue thing broke back in summer 2008, no one on BB publicly responded to the sudden blogospheric interest about the whole situation; questions like "what was deleted" and "why" went unanswered, and attempts by commenters on-site to broach the subject (generally with thread-derailing comments, since there's no real facility on BB to start a discussion about site policy) were deleted.

That went on for a couple of days, during a period where TNH had for a while been established as the lead moderator on BB, and so a lot of the general annoyance at the situation hit her and to some extent her team of assistants, though it was less clear at that point who was and was not in that group and so she remained the primary target.

Some folks had already had poor opinions of her as a moderator on BB, with the feeling that the general moderative approach and the specific use of disemvoweling that she imported from Making Light didn't fit very well with BoingBoing comment culture.

The first real acknowledgement of the VB thing was on Making Light, from a post made by Patrick; it was oblique and didn't really answer questions, but it put the Nielsen Hayden's even more at the locus of the brewing controversy; another post on Making Light, by Teresa, somewhat more directly approached the subject, and that was followed soon after by a post on BoingBoing proper.

By that point, the blogosophere was at high pique about first the notion of mass-removal of content from BB and second by the weirdly (certainly so by lightning-fast internet standards) glacial response by BB to the whole thing. And so a lot of heat was unloaded in that first BB thread. And under those particularly unfavorable circumstances, the moderation of the thread by TNH and crew went pretty badly, with Teresa saying some fairly crappy and aggressive things, and that bothered a lot of people as well.

All of this is aside from the fact that, as Jessamyn touched on in the thread on the blue a little earlier, the whole mess wasn't really Teresa's and the people whose mess it was weren't doing much of anything to help the situation (were really, for the most part, doing nothing at all publicly, and Xeni's sojourns into the comments once BB had a thread about it didn't help, nor did the silent redacting of portions of hers and Teresa's more problematic comments, and so on).

It was a big ugly mess born out of something that had basically nothing to do with TNH except that she had the bad luck to have that job at that time, as far as I can tell. I gather that there are various other threads of interaction and dislike that some folks carry in their whatever-it-is against her, and I'm not about to tell anyone they can't have whatever opinion they want of someone else, but the BB/VB thing was a genuine clusterfuck of the sort that I think makes poor footing for a real grudge.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


To clarify, I mean it's certainly not unusual for comments to be about the author if they are controversial. For instance, Orson Scott Card.

I don't think I understand, and I really don't have an opinion of TNH, but aren't the comments about Card about his controversial statements linked in the post? These comments seem to be about something, something boneheaded and wrong, but not hateful, that has nothing to do with the post.
posted by OmieWise at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2010


Should have previewed. Now I need to xref that against jessamyn's bulleted list and see how much we remember the same thing. Heh.

Reddit has moderation?

I meant that former (and potentially current) mefites now spending time on Reddit sometimes bitch about mefi moderation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:06 PM on February 22, 2010


I could understand the derail a bit more if someone linked to Xeni Jarden doing something interesting... but... you know...
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gosh, and to think I was just sputtering about this very same topic less than a month ago...
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2010


nor did the silent redacting of portions of hers and Teresa's more problematic comments

Yeah, stuff like that is what really made the thing into a permanent grudge for a lot of folks, I think.
posted by mediareport at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2010


I don't think I understand, and I really don't have an opinion of TNH, but aren't the comments about Card about his controversial statements linked in the post?

You're right. What I was thinking was, it would be very difficult to put up a post about his books on the blue without it getting derailed by comments about his personal views. I couldn't find an example of that though, since it seems like he only gets linked for his outrageous op-eds now and not his fiction.
posted by smackfu at 1:14 PM on February 22, 2010


Has Xeni Jardin ever done anything interesting?
posted by entropicamericana at 1:15 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


im gay
posted by Damn That Television at 1:15 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has Xeni Jardin ever done anything interesting?

Well, you see, the point of my comment was... aw, forget it...
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2010


What I was thinking was, it would be very difficult to put up a post about his books on the blue without it getting derailed by comments about his personal views.

Yes, that's probably true.
posted by OmieWise at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2010


Well, some of us dislike the NHs for the way they handled racefail last year, and have no feelings about them based on BB's mishandling of the VB situation. (I still read Making Light occasionally because there are very often interesting links, and Jim Macdonald writes fascinating stuff.)
posted by jeather at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2010


Racefail being a similar bizarre internet shitstorm with a similar level of axegrinding.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


artw: Doy. I think I have a case of the MONDAYS.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2010


Yeah, note that my capsule summary is BB/VB-centric, in part because that's what I know the details of and in part because that was easily the highest-profile TNH-related thing on mefi and the thing to which much of the grindiness stuff in the thread today was apparently tied.

Like I said, I'm sure there are other vectors (and I'm vaguely aware of the whole racefail episode), but from a why-does-this-shit-keep-coming-up-on-mefi perspective, Violet Blue is the seeming epicenter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2010


I can't believe I just goggled the word "racefail"
posted by Damn That Television at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really have no horse in the race between Teresa Nielsen Hayden and her Boing Boing hater brigade, nor have I followed what went down with her, the Boing Boing blog, or the blogger called Violet Blue.

But I can understand seeing her name and wanting to tell everyone what a horrible human being she is.

TNH's husband stumbled into racism or took a deliberate step during the Elizabeth Bear racism imbroglio, only he knows, and was approached by many women of color bloggers trying to point out his mistake. He argued rather than apologize, and then he deleted his journal in embarrassment. It's at this point his wife, TNH, made a couple posts in support. One made a crouched threat of creating a blacklist of people arguing so she could keep them from being published at Tor's sci-fi division, as well as a post where she called these women of color draggletailed loudmouths and scolded them with a very long shame on you.

Women of color are continually stereotyped by white people as uneducated, welfare-abusing sluts and then shut out of discussions and arguments by people telling them to watch their tone and voice volume, rather than answering to any actual points being made. So when the words draggle tail (definition being slut or slattern, and -ed untidy, bedraggled, and slovenly) is paired with loudmouth, it becomes a racial slur. This woman was employed by Tor as an editor to understand the use of words and the power behind them. Either she knows exactly what she said or she is a horrible editor.

Draggle tailed loudmouths is verbally dismissing a woman of color and pushing her back a step, telling her she is assuming airs beyond her place and arguing with her better, without actually using the more recognizable slur, uppity. Because had TNH actually used the term uppity, no one would have argued her racism. TNH would have had to own her racism. Instead she couched it in archaic terms and shut down her detractors by deleting comments in her journal and locking away the post. Perhaps she thought that if we couldn't see the words used or objections raised, then she couldn't possibly be racist.

Unfortunately for her, what you say ripples out in a whisper under cracks and through open doors, and when it comes back the whisper is a roar.

She has never publicly acknowledged what she did nor apologized.

I think that's a far better reason to hate her than for disemvowelling a couple of comments on a community blog for sharing web links.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


im gay

But are you aso pretty and witty and light?
posted by The Whelk at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2010


I don't get the lingering Boing-Boing rage. I mean, it was interesting high school gossip when the whole thing went down, but after that? I just didn't get the lingering rage. Why keep beating that drum?

And then at work today, someone mentioned Rob Liefeld and and I FLIPPED THE FUCK OUT.

So I guess we all have out buttons. Trick is knowing what to do when they get pushed so that things don't spiral out of hand.

In my case, it was yelling FEET FEET POUCHES into a bottle of rum for a half hour.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


TNH's husband stumbled into racism or took a deliberate step during the Elizabeth Bear racism imbroglio, only he knows, and was approached by many women of color bloggers trying to point out his mistake.

On the other hand, the assault on Elizabeth Bear was over-reaching bullshit.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2010


Did Leifeld ever put pouches on feet? Tiny, useless little pouches?
posted by The Whelk at 1:42 PM on February 22, 2010


Some of those feet were so deformed that they might have been special prosthetic ankle pouches.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:43 PM on February 22, 2010


they're whittled down to a single point, allowing people to glide by on quantum energy
posted by The Whelk at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2010


The quantum energy explains the constant grimacing Liefeld's characters do. That can't be easy on the ole posterior.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2010


Artw, that's you're opinion and you go with that, but it doesn't dismiss the racist behavior that followed.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2010


Or digestion....
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on February 22, 2010


Values of racism may vary. This is fucking livejournal we're talking about - it does take much more than stringing together the words "race" and 'fail" to summon up a storm of kneejerk haters. In that situation certainly apologies or explanations are not going to do you a jot of good.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on February 22, 2010


As bad as Leifeld drew, he at least it was his own work and he wasn't a porn tracer like Greg Land.

Though every time someone brings up Leifeld I just picture Captain America's huge, heaving man boobs. He had more boob than some of the women Rob drew.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2010


Cap's heart would've had to have been the size of road island to support that frame, possible providing that he has America inside him always.
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It didn't start on livejournal, nor was it contained in livejournal. But I understand you seem to have a huge hate on for livejournal and I'm sorry it dropped a house on your sister. Shameful.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]




It didn't start on livejournal, nor was it contained in livejournal. But I understand you seem to have a huge hate on for livejournal and I'm sorry it dropped a house on your sister. Shameful.

Shrugs.

Livejournal is not the sole preserve of a certain kind of internet denizen, and in fact there are many people on the livejournal who are not that kind of internet denizen at all, and yet Livejournal has certainly become emblematic of them.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2010


Thanks, cortex and jessamyn, for the history. I was aware of the VB/BB things as it was going on, but had no idea TNH was involved. I've had a few interactions with her and her husband over the years and they were always positive (though superficial). I'm not sure I understand the mess any better, but at least I get where it's coming from.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:02 PM on February 22, 2010


Where some of the people involved blog from does not dismiss the racist behaviors that were displayed.

You seem to come across as a fan of TNH, and I apologise if that assumption is wrong. But I am not a fan of her or her work myself. So I don't see this going much farther than me making my points and you seeking to derail them in an endless cycle.

So I'm going to step away from the keyboard and I hope you have a pleasant evening/day.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2010


Good day, sir! I said, good day!
posted by found missing at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2010


At least Leifeld didn't draw Invisible Girl with six fingers and then got a poor fan to pay for it... I'm STILL gobsmacked by that...

Oh and... Cory's written a book!!??!?!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2010


You seem to come across as a fan of TNH

heh. Suuuuuuuuuuuuuure. You might want to go back and read some of those BB/VB threads.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2010


Sort of like how my Mom complains about my grandmother who did various terrible things over holidaytime twenty years ago and all I can say is "Well, she's DEAD now Mom, I guess that fixed her!"

Your mom would really fit right in around here.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2010


Metafilter moderators are awesome! You guys delete me way more than the BoingBoing people do, and yet for some reason I still like you better
posted by NoraReed at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2010


But was the moderation steampunk?
posted by ishotjr at 2:45 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Racefail kinda passed me by, I think I must have been busy at the time - unlike watching the slowmo explosion of BB/VB in hideous real time. Just a peak under the rug and ... woaaahh... backing away.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2010


Weird. That's a tad mystery meatish, but certainly no more than previous posts that have gone by without objection and the title urls and tagging are more than a giveaway.

And then there was that lightweight piece on rules for writing which produced no end of diatribes against the evils of writers giving advice...

Has MetaFilters snark been dialed up to 11 by accident?
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2010


Wasn't "racefail" not posted here until it was done?
posted by smackfu at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2010


cortex: I gather that there are various other threads of interaction and dislike that some folks carry in their whatever-it-is against her

The Nielsen Haydens came of age in a certain kind of environment, pre-internet Fandom, in which various behaviors were completely acceptable (e.g. using obscure insults like nithing is horseplay, like friends calling each other bastard, knucklehead etc.) but that do not translate outside of that context. For most people, if they get called by a word they don't know, they'll look it up and take it literally. The effect is that people feel like that the Nielsen Haydens think they're too stupid to know that mean things are being said about them. The intent of the Nielsen Haydens, I believe, was the opposite, to indicate that the insults shouldn't be taken seriously. But that's something you need to know a lot about the folkways of Fandom to understand.

shakespeherian: Your mom would really fit right in around here.

'May your mother start hanging out at your workplace' is an ancient curse, I believe.
posted by Kattullus at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


You guys delete me way more than the BoingBoing people do

Amusingly, except for a double post, you've had exactly three words deleted from MeFi, ever.

shakespeherian, I am counting on MeFi's confusing interface and dense injoke-laden prose to thwart my mother should she ever come here. However, after she sussed out my sister's craigslist handle and followed her around there for months before she told her about it, I assume nothing. If my Mom shows up here, I am the boss of her so my guess is she would not stick around long. My father, in contrast, has been to MetaFilter and his comment was "Do those people have jobs?!" He apparently prefers Digg.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


A while back my mother told me she had had an email suggesting she friend me on facebook... I went pale for a second.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2010


At least it's not your Twitter...
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on February 22, 2010


If my Mom shows up here, I am the boss of her so my guess is she would not stick around long.

At long last, a reason to instate the hellban.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2010


Listen Mom, if you're going to stay in my house you have to live by my rules...
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2010


A while back my mother told me she had had an email suggesting she friend me on facebook... I went pale for a second.

conversations I've had that make me regret ever introducing my mom to the internet:

mom: why were you out getting drunk last night?
me: what are you talking about?
mom: your facebook says, and I quote "out getting shitfaced! fffffffuckkkkkk yyyyyyyyeahhhhh." (mom stretches the appropriate sounds out while reading it back to me.)
me: ... shit.


mom: why is that video of you on the internet?
me: what video?
mom: the one where you're singing.
me: I don't know what you're talking about.
mom: you're singing the sinatra song.
me: from my birthday? oh, we went to karaoke. it was awesome.
mom: well, it seems to me you can't sing very well and you shouldn't ruin a sinatra song that way. (It's worth mentioning that my mom was once a professional singer. she takes this shit seriously.)
me: what? let me see this.
*checks facebook to find my friend posted a video of me at the VERY end of the night drunkenly slurring "I've Got You Under My Skin" for perhaps the hundredth time that night, very off key and barely able to stand.*
me: ugh. look I was just dr-...
mom: you were just what?
me: nothing.
mom: you were just drunk. again?
me: ... shit.
posted by shmegegge at 3:13 PM on February 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


It could be worse, say, if your mom friended not only you on Facebook but all of your former high school friends (many of whom you weren't even sure you should friend at this point), and then started interacting with them Every Day and commenting on all their photos and stuff.
posted by theredpen at 3:13 PM on February 22, 2010


I agree with Artw about the assault on Elizabeth Bear.

Also it bears noting that another direction of hate toward TNH seems to have some momentum from the overall Racefail 2009 issues when both Patrick and Teresa got seriously embroiled in another thrust of the antiracist campaign during Racefail 2009.

So some hating on TNH here may derive from that fiasco as well.

I'm one of the formerly strongly-opinioned antiracist activists who got burned badly in Racefail 2009 for speaking up against other antiracists I felt were going too far (in re: Elizabeth Bear) and was tossed out of whatever activist community I had over that.

So I don't talk too much about it anymore from the point of view of doing that activism, unless I personally feel the cause is meaningful enough.

For Racefail 2010 (look for it after WisCon 2010)? I am Switzer-fucking-land.
posted by kalessin at 3:18 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has Xeni Jardin ever done anything interesting?

She's pretty good on this week's Jordan, Jesse, GO!.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2010



I'm one of the formerly strongly-opinioned antiracist activists who got burned badly in Racefail 2009 for speaking up against other antiracists I felt were going too far (in re: Elizabeth Bear) and was tossed out of whatever activist community I had over that.


Oh, scuse me. You dropped these.

*hands you hammer, nails, crosspeice*

Carry on.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2010


Oh, scuse me. You dropped these. *hands you hammer, nails, crosspeice* Carry on.

You appear to be putting emo in my mouth.
posted by kalessin at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amusingly, except for a double post, you've had exactly three words deleted from MeFi, ever.

Maybe she's only had two vowels deleted from BoingBoing, ever. There's your way more right there!
posted by hangashore at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2010


*hands you hammer, nails, crosspeice*

The second wrist is always a bugger, innit?

I have no real opinion on racefail, except that that level of melodrama always seems to occur to people who use the word 'fandom' a lot (and even more so to those that use the word 'fandoms'), but Making Light's continued crusade against the evil end of the vanity publishing market deserves some respect, regardless of any failings of the Haydens, real or imagined.
posted by Sparx at 4:30 PM on February 22, 2010


> My father, in contrast, has been to MetaFilter and his comment was "Do those people have jobs?!"

Very nice to know, sometimes, with whom one shares a thought. I've been hanging around here since 2001 and I ask myself the same question all the time.
posted by jfuller at 4:55 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Making Light's continued crusade against the evil end of the vanity publishing market deserves some respect

I agree with you that it deserves respect. I think a lot of fandom communities (who are often also writing communities) thought that made Making Light automatically allies in the war against race last year and were surprised when TNH had her Racefail-related freakout. I think the surprise turned to anger for lots of people, souring a lot of otherwise good relationships that might have blossomed between ML and fandom communities.

Not that there still aren't good opptys for that kind of relationship building, but I think there are arguably fewer now than prior Racefail 2009.
posted by kalessin at 5:18 PM on February 22, 2010


The VB/BB and Racefail scandals both hit that sweet-spot for me of internet flamewars that spanned too many different sites and comments for me to follow properly. I'm not a cross-referencing historian, dammit. I like my flamewars confined to a single MeTa thread, or a thread on the grey and a referenced thread on the green or blue if absolutely necessary. Even then I still don't really like them. As Achewood recently noted, "on the internet, nobody knows you're a human." This sort of thing is where it gets worst. The more personality you show in your writing, the more notable your name, but also the more likely you are to be misinterpreted.

Every time I've tried to delve into the VB/BB thing I've quickly given up after deciding that it's fascinating in theory and dead-boring in practice, just people shouting at winmills and getting their haterage up over nothing. The Racefail thing is more interesting to me, if only because the original Elizabeth Bear article seemed so... I dunno... sensible and right-headed.

So I ask. Can somebody explain Racefail objectively? What was the offense in the Bear article? Where did it go from there? I'd love to know, but slogging through that is just not the way I roll, and I suspect it will only make me angrier than I need to be tonight.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:26 PM on February 22, 2010


Artw: Livejournal is not the sole preserve of a certain kind of internet denizen, and in fact there are many people on the livejournal who are not that kind of internet denizen at all, and yet Livejournal has certainly become emblematic of them.

I've been thinking about this a lot this evening. I'd argue that LiveJournal has become the heart of Fandom. For whatever reason (probably the easy community creation) LiveJournal is the place online where science fiction and fantasy fans gather to talk about what interests them. This goes especially for literature. This all just kinda happened on its own and it was mostly its own thing that happened outside of the older Fandom community so the mores and etiquette that's grown on LJ is very different from that of oldstyle Fandom. Because of the huge mass of fans on LJ older fans and pros migrated to LJ (I believe, though I might be wrong, that the Nielsen Haydens were in the first wave of older pros). There have been a lot of clashes through the years between the older fans who treat LJ as just an extension of Fandom without realizing that it's its own society with it's own way of doing things.

The main difference, I think, is that people on LJ tend to be very earnest, while the older Fandom was much more theatrical (e.g. arguing for the sake of arguing, without much emotional heat behind it). There are other factors as well, Fandom was very male-dominated while LJ is majority female, for example, and LJ is much more diverse than Fandom used to be. RaceFail was not the first of these blow-ups, and it won't be the last. I vaguely remember some contretemps about libertarianism some years ago, for instance.

That's actually another thing... what's tolerated changed between generations. Older Fans tolerate libertarians (or are themselves libertarian) while younger Fans tolerate Furries (or are themselves Furries). Fandom has changed dramatically in the last decade and the change has mostly taken place on LJ, so it's not strange that the big flareups happen there.

I'm not entirely sure I've articulated what I'm trying to say very well, it's all just kind of roiling inside my head, but I think there's been a major sea change in Fandom. I came up with a list of "King Geek of the Decade" in my head since Fandom came into existence and I think it illustrates what I mean. It's a fairly tendentious list, but I tried to make it as uncontroversial as possible.

1930s: E. E. "Doc" Smith
1940s: Isaac Asimov
1950s: Robert Heinlein
1960s: Arthur C. Clarke
1970s: Larry Niven
1980s: William Gibson
1990s: Neal Stephenson
2000s: Neil Gaiman

There is fairly clear lineage from Smith to Stephenson but Gaiman comes from a completely different direction, comics, fantasy etc. which wasn't exactly anathema to these other writers, but had very little to do with what they've written. Anyway, my point is that the Fandom that exalted Smith through Stephenson would never have done the same for Gaiman.

By "King Geek of the Decade" I mean that they're incredibly popular in Fandom, very influential and somehow central to what's going in SF. I don't mean this as a qualitative descriptor (I don't care much for Heinlein, for instance) In some ways each of those guys is simply emblematic of what's the ruling tendency in SF at the time. I could've made the a genre list like this:

1930s: Pulp
1940s: Golden Age
1950s: Hard SF
1960s: Cosmic SF
1970s: Hard SF
1980s: Cyberpunk
1990s: Post-cyberpunk
2000s: Fantasy

[I use Golden Age as a genre term, also, the hard SF of the 50s and the hard SF of the 70s were very different creatures. Also, the fantasy that Gaiman exemplifies is a lot closer to the Jeff VanderMeer/China Miéville New Weird than it is to Tolkien.]

Basically, science fiction ruled Fandom up until now. Fantasy has probably always been a more popular genre in terms of sales but science fiction fans were better organized and ran the cons. SF and Fantasy have different cultures, so that comes into it as well.

Anyway... this is something of a messy comment, but I've been thinking about this all night.
posted by Kattullus at 5:36 PM on February 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


Can somebody explain Racefail objectively?

MeFi's own ShawnStruck provides a summary (that itself links to multiple summaries.

1950s: Hard SF

I think of the ruling tendency of fifties sf to lie in the social satires that dominated "Galaxy" -- Pohl, Kornbluth, Sheckley, Tenn, Clifton, etc.
posted by Zed at 5:49 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Racefail kinda passed me by, I think I must have been busy having a life at the time
posted by octobersurprise at 5:55 PM on February 22, 2010


Navelgazer, I cannot even pretend objectivity. And I expect my version will differ from ShawnStruck's that Zed just linked to.

As an ex-antiracist activist community member and still friend of Elizabeth Bear's, no one would possibly give me the objectivity award.

I don't think, though, that I have an axe to grind, and I've long since made my peace with Elizabeth's role in the issues of Racefail, and also made my peace with the fact that some folks are never going to forgive Elizabeth for what she said during the long time she stuck with it, trying to make it right.

I should say that Elizabeth Bear's part in Racefail 2009 was by no means the only part nor the most notable part in the perspective of all that was done and talked about during Racefail 2009. It was just the part of the struggle that happened close-by to me.

As with Racefail 2008, it probably started with the WisCon (an annual speculative fiction writers' conference that happens on Memorial Day weekend in Madison, Wisconsin) panels in 2009 that talked about cultural appropriation, the idea that profiting off of another culture in which you have no personal stake is probably bad and that there are better and worse ways to carry off appropriation when you do it, because it seems unavoidable that in some wise you will if you write speculative fiction, and how do we determine what those better ways are, or should white people just write white characters and writers of color be the only ones free to write characters of color?

The assault against Elizabeth Bear, as Artw put it, culminated, from my perspective, in a boycott of Elizabeth Bear's works and books by a lot of folks who thought that she spoke out of turn about things she couldn't possibly know. Along with boycotting there was also a noticeable surplus of poison penning and a lot of other patterns of a part personal, part professional nature by folks who were in opposition to Elizabeth's beliefs.

For her part, Elizabeth wrote a lot before and during Racefail 2009 about how she felt it was possible, as an outsider, to write the "other" and to do it convincingly (and how to approach doing it convincingly). When folks in antiracist activist communities and individuals disagreed (some of whom had attended WisCon, some of whom hadn't), it got ugly fast. For whatever reasons (personal for her, I think) she stayed in it (the discussion, the flames, moderating the discussion as much as was possible on her LiveJournal, until it began to consume too many hours in the day) longer than would have, certainly.

Eventually, she quit talking, shut down her LiveJournal discussions of these topics and attempted an orderly withdrawal. Some activists didn't take too kindly to that either, from both a records-keeping and archiving point of view as well as from a censorship point of view. (Technical detail: On LiveJournal, some kinds of post/thread closures erase all evidence of any comments that folks may have spent hours crafting.)

Anyway, during the time Elizabeth was in it, and well after it, the discussions of Racefail 2009 got very broad and sprawling and meta (as you note).

For my part, I lost or at least stunted a lot of friendships by having unpopular opinions and refusing to shut up about them. I still regret some of that, but probably not enough to avoid having and speaking about unpopular opinions if I had to do it again. I'm sure that Elizabeth had a similar experience (losing friends) but I don't know how she feels about it.

I hope this helps. Maybe you'll get another opinion from someone else. I don't know if I'd believe anyone who said they were being objective about this. Even the folks I know of who carefully avoided having any public opinion at all ever about Racefail have private opinions that would make you question their objectivity, even if they presented the appearance of objectivity.
posted by kalessin at 6:06 PM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Amusingly, except for a double post, you've had exactly three words deleted from MeFi, ever.

Wait, you guys keep records?

Fandom was very male-dominated while LJ is majority female

I think what you've stumbled across is the intersection of fandom and fanfic. Fandom is (almost exclusively) male, fanfic is (almost exclusively) female; both interact with the same genres in completely different ways. Fanfic predates LJ, or for that matter the internet, by decades at least -- the old guard at the cons (yes, they have lots of cons) mostly met one another through zines.

A lot of the "transition" you think you're discovering is just that the two groups are finally sort of vaguely kind of starting to notice one another.
posted by ook at 6:25 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, you guys keep records?

Yes. Would you like a look at yours?

I vaguely get the racefail thing but I don't get the annualness of it. Is there some race-related drama every year? Or just 2008 and 2009? Without being too snarky, some of this reminds me of this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


jessamyn, it's my strong impression that racefail is annual because it's closely coupled with the cultural appropriation panels at WisCon. Usually someone blogs or liveblogs about those and the Fail proceeds from there.
posted by kalessin at 6:55 PM on February 22, 2010


ook: A lot of the "transition" you think you're discovering is just that the two groups are finally sort of vaguely kind of starting to notice one another.

Oh definitely. I completely agree, though I'd argue that the fanfic community grew exponentially in the 90s and early 2000s (it seems to have leveled off now) and that a lot of it resides on LiveJournal.
posted by Kattullus at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2010


P1) 101.~> pfinger tnh
Login Name: tnh Full Name: Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Directory: /net/u/2/t/tnh Shell: /usr/local/bin/tcsh
Last login Thu Jan 8 23:23:36 2009 on panix5.panix.com pts/30 from 0.0.0.0
6.
No mail information available.


She still has her panix account so she's OK with me.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:07 PM on February 22, 2010


LJ tend to be very earnest

You forgot "incredibly touchy", "prone to pile-ons", "prone to assumptions of guilt, parsing for maximum offense and willfull misinterpretation" and of course "massively passive agressive on a scale hitherto not seen upon this planet".

FunkyHelix is right, I'm not really a fan.
posted by Artw at 7:11 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I took the IP address out of that finger OR, hope that's okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:12 PM on February 22, 2010


Also most of the LJ fail crowd are also big on Anime, which is generally as racist and sexist as it gets. WTF is up with that?
posted by Artw at 7:12 PM on February 22, 2010


No problem. I should have done it myself.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:16 PM on February 22, 2010


I've been thinking about this a lot this evening. I'd argue that LiveJournal has become the heart of Fandom. For whatever reason (probably the easy community creation) LiveJournal is the place online where science fiction and fantasy fans gather to talk about what interests them.

I'd say it's a heart of media fandom. "Fandom" is too big and contains too many multitudes to have one heart.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of Racefail (about which I have a lot of opinions, most of which are irrelevant), Katullus is absolutely right that a significant factor was the cultural differences between the end of fandom that the NHs belong to and other groups of fans (media fandom, Wiscon fandom, etc.). Etiquette about how and where to respond to criticism, whether response was necessary, and so on differed widely among participating groups, and there was a lot of taking people's different ways of doing things as disrespectful and inappropriate in one way or another. That's not to say everyone would have ended up peaceful and happy if they'd all been on the same page about things like whether it's appropriate to comment in someone's own post or take it back to your own livejournal, but the differences in culture made a difficult situation a lot worse. My $0.02, YMMV.
posted by immlass at 7:16 PM on February 22, 2010


So, having read up now, it looks like Racefail 2009 was:

Bear writes an article worth reading, about avoiding stereotypes while also making sure to keep your fiction inclusive of all races, creeds, cultrures, sexualities, ect.

Some people point out that Bear has not been so great about this herself.

Some others disagree with the assessment of what Bear was going for.

Some people jump - not on Bear - but on the topic to explain that fiction, and Sc-Fi in particular, is so steeped in Western European mythos as to make writing outside of that mindset and yet within the same genre extremely difficult is not futile.

PNH jumps in, unnecessarily.

TNH follows him in, with even worse results.

One of the notable posts includes a reference that "all children of alcoholics have been abused" or something to that effect. This goes largely unremarked-upon.

The whole thing goes to shit because we fail to act civilly when we can't see one another face-to-face.

I speak from privilege, but I still think Bear was right to address the issue of writing those from different circumstances, and not reducing them when doing so. I believe she even brought up DeepaD's major concerns before DeepaD did, in her bit about trying to avoid ethnocentrism and seeing that everybody comes from a culture which is equally real and central to their identity, and which is equally - sorry - valid.

I haven't read Bear's work, so I can't comment on the vitriol which followed (though it started off very well, or at least as thoughtfully as this sort of thing can) but I can say that TNH's comments were not cool. I'm still not going to judge someone who was trying to defend her husband, though.

In the Blue thread, WCityMike made the point that one's online persona is still a part of them. I don't totally agree. I think one's online persona is determined by the beholder, who has only a pinprick-hole in which to see the person behind it. An online persona is only a part of the person creating it through the filters of the people who view them knowing nothing but what they've read. That can be much more revealing in some personae than others. TNH has given us more than most to try to get a picture from, and I don't like her part in Racefail, but claiming to know anything about her from these things at all is sophomoric folly, as anyone who's ever been to a meetup can tell you.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2010


"Race fail '10?"
"No, I made my saving throw."
posted by klangklangston at 7:47 PM on February 22, 2010


I see Racefail as a garden variety example of the tendency of oppressed groups to make their most ferocious attacks on the friendliest members of the group they identify as oppressors, simply because they continue to be absolutely terrified of their true enemies-- generally for very good reason.

It's sad and pathetic, but I think it could be an inevitable developmental stage in any movement toward greater equality.
posted by jamjam at 8:08 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't get the annualness of it

Someone referred to it as "Racefail '09: The Failening," and it stuck, but the extended conversation really hasn't stopped since. I don't think there is any annualness, just a bit of silliness in naming. (While there have certainly been new eruptions of conversation after Wiscon and Worldcon, the original racefail began in January 2009, and Wiscon is in May.)

immlass, I find it a little strange to describe the Nielsen Haydens as being from a different end of fandom from Wiscon fandom. Here are PNH's pictures from Wiscon 30. Multiple Wiscon GOHs are regular commenters on their blog. They've edited stacks of things that have been nominated for or won the Tiptree (if you count every Tiptree nominee from Tor, of which PNH is fiction editor, it becomes a much bigger stack.)
posted by Zed at 8:22 PM on February 22, 2010


I haven't read Bear's work

Here you go.
posted by Artw at 8:28 PM on February 22, 2010


I'd add a few things to that summary, NavelGazer:

It seems to me that the key point at which the Fail started was when Bear tried to respond calmly (if disingenously) to criticisms of racial issues in her own work; a mix of friends, fans, strangers, and "Please get off my team, you're embarrassing" people rushed in to defend her against the criticism, at which point the Fail started in earnest; Bear was away from the computer and largely did not argue with the commentators or moderate comments. And aside from the racial issues, it brought up issues of vastly different frames of reference in terms of how much comment moderation is appropriate (creating a space where people can feel safe vs. creating a space where everyone can say what they want to say even if it's vile), and how much it's appropriate to call out your friends in public.

I was on the fence right up until the point where Bear admitted she was being disingenous about accepting the criticism well but wanted to be a good example for racial dialogue. Thanks. That worked out real well.
posted by Jeanne at 8:57 PM on February 22, 2010


immlass, I find it a little strange to describe the Nielsen Haydens as being from a different end of fandom from Wiscon fandom.

I don't doubt that there's a lot of overlap, but my experience with people who identify heavily with Wiscon (as opposed to SF literary fandom in general), especially through livejournal, is that they're a different subculture of fandom to old-skool SF literary fandom. But I may just know more people who are into things like the cultural appropriation panels. The Wiscon rep in the circles I'm acquainted with is that it's the feminist con, the one where genderqueer folks of all stripes can find safe space, etc. That doesn't exclude other activities, just it's not the big focus you hear about through friends of friends if you have a livejournal.

Aside: I'm acquainted with and rather like the NHs through non-fandom/non-SF activities. I don't consider myself a part of "fandom" at all for all that I enjoy SF/fantasy books and TV/films. My comments were not intended as a dig at either the NHs or livejournal fandom, just an observation.
posted by immlass at 8:59 PM on February 22, 2010


Well, yeah, Wiscon is the feminist con. And here's a longtime Wiscon concom member posting on the Feminist SF blog calling attention to which of a list of the 50 most popular personal SF&F blogs were feminist. She includes the Nielsen Haydens' blog. It's not at all like old-skool literary sf fandom is the only flavor they've participated in.
posted by Zed at 9:51 PM on February 22, 2010


It's not at all like old-skool literary sf fandom is the only flavor they've participated in.

This does not mean they (or anyone else) have participated in, or are familiar with the subcultural mores of, every branch of fandom, which is one of the points of my original comment, the other being a refinement of Katullus' point about livejournal and fandom. Livejournal is not the center of "fandom" but people who come to fandom through it have a different experience and different expectations of behavior than those who came to fandom in different ways. The fact that I, who know Wiscon primarily through hearing people talk about it on livejournal, have a completely different understanding of Wiscon than you, who I'm gathering knows more about it from other venues, is suggestive of the point I'm trying to make here: that people from different ends of "fandom" have different understandings and expectations of how "fandom" works.
posted by immlass at 10:21 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm not sure why you think we have a completely different understanding of Wiscon. The only thing I said in response to your characterization of it was agreement, though I only referred directly to a part of what you said.

Let me be more explicit: everything you had to say about Wiscon is consistent with my understanding of it, from having attended it, from having talked about it with friends who've attended a heck of a lot more often than I have (some of whom have been concom members), and also from having read accounts of it on LJ and elsewhere.
posted by Zed at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2010


Hey, we're cool, Zed. I just find that even sticking my head up to talk about "fandom" related stuff even as little as I have in this thread is frequently a source of extreme if inadvertent offense, especially when the Nielsen Hayden name comes up. I've also found it's very important to keep pointing to the disclaimer that people's mileage may vary and my experience is only my own.
posted by immlass at 10:50 PM on February 22, 2010


I vaguely get the racefail thing but I don't get the annualness of it. Is there some race-related drama every year?

*Cough*

As bad as Leifeld drew, he at least it was his own work and he wasn't a porn tracer like Greg Land.

I'm sorry you had to find out this way.

You forgot "incredibly touchy", "prone to pile-ons", "prone to assumptions of guilt, parsing for maximum offense and willfull misinterpretation" and of course "massively passive agressive on a scale hitherto not seen upon this planet".

And that branchy or tree or whatever you call it comment system. Christ, I hate those.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:31 PM on February 22, 2010


So hang on a second... I've now got another reason to get my hate on with American Steampunk authors 'coz they have appropriated my cultural heritage (ie Victoriean England)? (not really steampunkist)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:46 AM on February 23, 2010


I'm pretty sure there's some bingo card to explain why it doesn't count for us.
posted by Artw at 2:02 AM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So hang on a second... I've now got another reason to get my hate on with American Steampunk authors 'coz they have appropriated my cultural heritage (ie Victoriean England)?

In fairness, for equivalence you'd need to be able to argue that Victorian England was a minority or oppressed culture.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:20 AM on February 23, 2010


It's follow-on conversations like these that happen after I go to bed that really make me proud (on the whole) of Metafilter.

They seem... fair?

I think Zed's right that the conversation is ongoing, but I also think that some of us chose to take our balls and go home. Also, I'm not sure now I think of it whether Elizabeth's flamewar of doom happened before or after WisCon last year.

And I still hate the term "disingenuous", because I feel like whenever things get to that pitched fury, everyone could be discovered (even if by their own admission) to be disingenuous. In my opinion, etiquette just doesn't stand up to that kind of scrutiny.
posted by kalessin at 3:30 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know and don't care a damned bit about BoingBoing - seriously, it's amazing how much people on the internet care about stuff that means nothing to me, and I guess I'll just always be sort of in awe about that. I think I should keep that natural wonder, because I have a feeling my own care for certain things is probably on the same level, so I should try to have the perspective.

Anyhow, this:

jsavimbi: “Also, if I were to stalk someone, as in having some compulsive sexual interest in a person, it would not be the aforementioned author, editor and great person.”

is absolutely the creepiest thing I've read on here in a long time. Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 3:57 AM on February 23, 2010


Artw: I'm pretty sure there's some bingo card to explain why it doesn't count for us.

Sorry guys, there's at least a couple of centuries until you lot live down that Empire business, until then, you're fair game :)
posted by Kattullus at 4:16 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll cop to being fair game to the older Empire business that happened in the Middle Kingdom, I suppose, but as a PoC of mixed race, I'm unclear on whether it's also my day in the barrel for my hereditary involvement in the British Empire as well.
posted by kalessin at 4:19 AM on February 23, 2010


Also, while we're talking about disingenuousness, one of the things that really bothered me about the social dynamics of what were going on during Racefail 2009 (especially near one of the ground zeroes) and while I ultimately was happy to be booted out of the antiracist camp was that there were some things going on that no individual could be blamed for that I read as really strenuously fucked up loyalty tests.

For instance, I witnessed a bunch of folks calling on Elizabeth Bear to prove her trustworthiness by publicly calling out her dear close friends for saying things that were slightly out of line. When Elizabeth refused, that was taken as a sign that she couldn't be trusted.

And the way the Internet works (as I hope we all know), when one person says something like that, 10 people will say it, and when 10 people say it, another 40 will turn up who say it differently, and some of those people will take it even further.

And under these circumstances, when the antiracist brigade was doing this kind of number on Elizabeth and her friends and allies, THEN we come by a year later and judge her as being unreasonable when she finally loses her composure enough to say some foolish things and then take her ball and go home?

When we participate in or benefit from a group action which does unjust things and we say, "Oh, well, I didn't do the injustice, so it's not MY fault. I still have righteous things to say, and I'm going to say them!", or when we know that folks were in a flamewar and we deride them for not always being reasonable during the flamewar (because I don't know anyone who has never said a foolish thing during a flamewar), I think that's pretty fucking disingenuous too.
posted by kalessin at 5:05 AM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


In fairness, for equivalence you'd need to be able to argue that Victorian England was a minority or oppressed culture.

Technically, you would have to be able to argue that they are a minority or oppressed culture. From their former position as dominaters and exploiters of much of the world, the once-mighty Victorian English have fallen to such a low level that they cannot even defend themselves against endless Sherlock Holmes pastiches, which is oppression of some sort. Oh, and the Dick Van Dyke accent from Mary Poppins was such a brutal attack that its like is forbidden by International Law. On the other hand, the Victorian English were pretty much bastards, so....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:49 AM on February 23, 2010


At this point I'm going to have to point out that the a fair amount of slavery, genocide and other badness was going on over on our current imperialist opressors side of the Atlantic during the 19th Century, giving you not much of a leg to stand on, and that given the seriousness of the crimes of cultural appropriation commited the only thing you can possibly do in recompence is public behead David Anders. Do that and it's all square.
posted by Artw at 6:05 AM on February 23, 2010


I'd like to point out that I'm from Iceland, a colony of first Norway since 1262 and then Denmark following the Kalmar Union, and occupied by the UK in 1940 and the US in 1941, so you both got what's coming for you.
posted by Kattullus at 6:29 AM on February 23, 2010


so you both got what's coming for you

Well, I will point out that you guys a) repeatedly invaded England and b) carried out some sort of clandestine settlement plan in North America, so turn about is fair play.

But let's let bygones be bygone. Who can we kill to make it up to you?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:36 AM on February 23, 2010


repeatedly invaded England

Nah, that was more Denmark, the common oppressor. Lets stick it to them!
posted by Artw at 6:46 AM on February 23, 2010


True, true, one can always hate on Denmark. Well, except for the Legos.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:47 AM on February 23, 2010


Lego.
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on February 23, 2010


My Eggo.
posted by The Whelk at 7:03 AM on February 23, 2010


It makes me wonder sometimes if there are people on other websites that talk about cortex and me that way.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on February 22


Yes, but if it makes you feel any better, it's just an old man pretending to be a transvestite dominatrix for an audience of socialites.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:08 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to point out that I'm from Iceland

I'd like to point out that I'm not really a Rapid Offensive Unit. I'm a puffin.

You lot with your opposable thumbs and metal tools and puffin-stomping shoes stole our land from us and ate the murdered flesh of my ancestors. You raped us both figuratively and literally. Worse than Hitler? Feh. Worse than Reavers.

I'm not really a puffin. I'm a broom.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:18 AM on February 23, 2010


So the rule is, if you come from a minority culture you can write from the pov of an oppressive culture and not vice versa? Not being from the US i find the racism debate, when it gets to that kind of granular level, kind of difficult to parse.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the rule is, if you come from a minority culture you can write from the pov of an oppressive culture and not vice versa?

If there were a rule, this would all be clearer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So let me get this right:
1) TNH invented RaceFail at WisCon, because
2) Denmark invaded LiveJournal, which inspired
3) Violet Blue to write a book about kalessin without using any vowels, after which
4) Queen Elizabeth Bear covered England in pouches, and in better revenge
5) Neil Gaiman ruined Science Fiction.
posted by fleacircus at 8:27 AM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


You forgot #poland.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2010


Wait, you guys keep records?
Yes. Would you like a look at yours?


I'm torn here between curiosity and terrible fear at the idea of looking at a transcription of nine years worth of things I should have known better than to say in the first place.

Thank god metafilter didn't exist when I was going through puberty, at least.
posted by ook at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2010


immlass, I think we inadvertently ended up in something like a no true Scotsman disagreement. "Wiscon fandom" meant to me something like people who like and attend Wiscon, like the sort of fiction written by its guests, and the sort of fiction that gets on the Tiptree shortlist (sets with huge overlap), and support Wiscon's feminist (and generally anti-other-ist) aims. By this encompassing interpretation, it seemed to me that of course the NHs were part of Wiscon fandom. If not people who actually appear on Wiscon programming, edit Tiptree winners, are identified as feminists on the Feminist SF Blog, then who would be?

I see now that you clearly meant a narrower meaning of "Wiscon fandom" and were fairly explicit about that, and I missed it. In the wake of Racefail, there are obviously some people who both "identify heavily with Wiscon" and who consider th NHs to be not on their side, so of course you're right that there are disparate communities involved.
posted by Zed at 9:25 AM on February 23, 2010


I have seen my list. I shall go and sin no more.

Well maybe just a little sin. If you're not going to use it. Be a shame to let it go to waste.
posted by ook at 9:50 AM on February 23, 2010


TNH and I worked in adjoining rooms for about a year. She's sweet and kind, full of knowledge and a good listener. She's like-able and easy to talk to. I consider her a friend.
posted by bingo at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2010


jessamyn: "If there were a rule, this would all be clearer."

No shit.

But I think the problem is that the best formulation I've been able to make (and it IS US-centric) is that if you are a member of a minority (especially notably oppressed) culture, then you are usually proof against strong criticism regarding appropriation of other people's culture for your creative (and presumably profitable) unless a dissenter has a good reason.

Whereas if you are not a member of a minority and you are similarly appropriating cultures, you are fair game for getting called out by lots of people for no apparent reason and with no good argument, simply because you are GUILTY.
posted by kalessin at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2010


Whereas if you are not a member of a minority and you are similarly appropriating cultures, you are fair game for getting called out by lots of people for no apparent reason and with no good argument, simply because you are GUILTY.

I don't know. This strikes me as kind of sweeping and broad. I think there's a lot more to it than that.
posted by shmegegge at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2010


jscalzi's blog contained a Racefail conversation that didn't spiral out of control, and is a refreshing antidote to others that did.

Scalzi dismisses the affair as people being pissy to be pissy. He dismisses criticism of his dismissal. He apologizes after friends convince him that he had been wrong. He responds to criticism of his apology. Mary Anne Mohanraj writes about race and F&SF at Scalzi's invitation: Part I, Part II. So does K. Tempest Bradford.
posted by Zed at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whereas if you are not a member of a minority and you are similarly appropriating cultures, you are fair game for getting called out by lots of people for no apparent reason and with no good argument, simply because you are GUILTY.

This seems like a crabby interpretation. With only a MeFi-explanation of the racefail stuff, but having gone to a progressive liberal arts school in the 80s, I'd have to say that this is all heavily contextualized within whatever community you're talking about.

People are always, always, fair game for getting called out on the internet because it's the internet and people have less investment in the neighborly "we have to get along because we live with each other" aspects of many real life communities, in my opinion. Whether something is a valid call-out [something we deal with in MeTa all the time] has more to do with community mores and norms than any sort of rules-based approach to this sort of thing.

I'm sorry this was a painful thing you went through kalessin, but some of the issues that were problematic and painful in that community have different applications here [as you've seen in various race-related discussions] and I think it's important to note that there's no absolute truths, especially where the topic at hand is "what is or is not a legitimate callout" I'm aware that this may just be you interpreting for us a particularly difficult interaction that happened a ways back, but I can't at all tell whether you're trying to explain this to the MeFi community or just reliving the bad way it felt when it all went down.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:57 AM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


jessamyn, in short, the reason it’s called RaceFail ’09 is to distinguish this from past incidents, and also to acknowledge that not only it is ongoing, but that this could happen again.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:37 AM on February 23, 2010


Is this the bit where jessamyn gets called out for not sufficiently denouncing kalessin and gets badgered into an apology?
posted by Artw at 11:50 AM on February 23, 2010


Mercifully, MeFi as a community doesn't depend on a cult of personality so my personal opinion on any particular person is only a small data point [and kalessin and I get along fine, I'm pretty sure] and one that can be ignored.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2010


Artw, are you trying to launch MetaRaceFailFail '10?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:53 AM on February 23, 2010


Heh, fuck that. I've studied the French revolution, I know how this shit rolls: The ringleaders always get swept up in the next round of denunciations and end up on the chopping block anyway.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2010


jessamyn: "I'm sorry this was a painful thing you went through kalessin, but some of the issues that were problematic and painful in that community have different applications here [as you've seen in various race-related discussions] and I think it's important to note that there's no absolute truths, especially where the topic at hand is "what is or is not a legitimate callout" I'm aware that this may just be you interpreting for us a particularly difficult interaction that happened a ways back, but I can't at all tell whether you're trying to explain this to the MeFi community or just reliving the bad way it felt when it all went down."

jessamyn, neither am I sure. A bad trip is always threatening. For instance, when ShawnStruck initially responded to me with his reference to the crucifixion and I assume his assumption that I was overstating my position for rhetoric or in a bid for underserved sympathy, I figured it was just going to go down the way it did before. At the same time, I've had feedback in MeMail that at least one MeFite values my contributions to this particular discussion.

I don't know how to translate my quip about being GUILTY above in a way that will be more useful, but it is more than just me losing my marbles and sobbing and running away. The metaphorical thumb under which I eventually got (whether it was my own guilt, social pressure, cowing, flamewars, enculturation, whatever, I am not competent to guess - I know I'm just too close to the material) was so massive that it was difficult to get out from under the overwhelming sense of generalized guilt.

When I had bad poop go down, the emotional environment was so pitched that I literally could not tell the difference between what I was really at fault for doing or not doing, saying or not saying and what was my critics' imaginations. I didn't completely lose it, drop my marbles all over the floor, pick up my ball and flounce out, but part of the violence of my withdrawal was from the lack of energy I had to deal with it at the end. That was also, I think, why I was absolutely relieved to be out of it. To just be done.

Additionally, the other thing that happened for me (and friends) in Racefail 2009 was that it took so much TIME. To be truly responsible to the audience, to be clear and concise and thorough and not guilty, we all had to dump hours of time into the dialogue and even then were usually at a disadvantage at the end of each post. I sense this happening again here in this context, so I'll probably withdraw very soon. That I couldn't post what I just did and leave it at that means that things are getting weird enough that I probably just don't have the time available to sustain a responsible level of communication here.
posted by kalessin at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2010


MeFi as a community doesn't depend on a cult of personality


Aww, but I'm half done with my statue. I was just about to add the tenctles and the screaming children.
posted by The Whelk at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2010


Artw, It ain't a yearly cycle for that revolution in Racefail. As far as I can tell, the top antiracist activists have remained in leadership roles since the Racefail cycle began.
posted by kalessin at 11:57 AM on February 23, 2010


Yeah, you;re right, it;s always the people who actually DO stuff that get the skewer.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on February 23, 2010


I was just about to add the tenctles and the screaming children.

WTF Heretic? Mathowie is the tentacles, Cortex is the screaming children. What kind of patchwork monstrosity are you worshipping exactly?
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2010


What kind of patchwork monstrosity are you worshipping exactly?

You misunderstand, the statue is of me.
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm pretty sure that the Icelanders and other Norse guys invaded Scotland, the Orkneys, Faroes, and Ireland too -- the Norse founded Dublin. I think they also invaded bits of north-west England, like Cumbria, but I'm not sure. Isn't there a famous Norse cross with an image of Thor around there somewhere? But they didn't really go for Wales. I guess Wales didn't look worth invading. Poor Wales.
posted by jb at 12:04 PM on February 23, 2010


There's a low-hanging "rarely is the question asked, is our children screaming?" joke to be made here, but I'm better than that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:06 PM on February 23, 2010


Anyways -- I read Egil's Saga, and he's Icelandic, and it seemed to me that Egil went around killing people in every place. He killed people for the English, and then went off and killed people in Russia or Latvia or somewhere. Also, everyone who is not Egil is named Thor-something.
posted by jb at 12:09 PM on February 23, 2010


Yeah, Iceland was kind of a retirement home for vikings, so my ancestors almost certainly had something to do with that whole business in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe. My great-great grandfather was a Danish merchant, so there's that as well. And further back I've got all kinds of ancestry, Dutch Jewish merchant, for example.
posted by Kattullus at 12:17 PM on February 23, 2010


A Viking retirement home would indeed be a terrifying thing.
posted by The Whelk at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2010


A Viking retirement home would indeed be a terrifying thing.

Isn't that just Valhalla?
posted by kmz at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2010


It's where we are all Vikings.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on February 23, 2010


I read Egil's Saga, and he's Icelandic

Well, the saga is Icelandic. Egil was born in Norway, for what it's worth. Of course, since he was run out of the country (and drove the king out in revenge with his awesome poetry/sticking horses' heads on poles), I suppose you could say that he surrendered his passport. I am not sure you would have much luck in finding a country that would take Egil; due was trouble, man.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:08 PM on February 23, 2010


Oh, crap; now we have SagaFail (VikingFail?). Not that you can be more culturally insensitive than looting and pillaging....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2010


The Whelk: “A Viking retirement home... ”

– is the premise for my second-favorite Douglas Adams book, The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul. Seriously - Odin's so old that all he really wants to do is sleep, so in order to get more sleep he signs all their powers over to two underhanded people who are in advertising, thus precipitating the virtual destruction of the world. Really, it's quite funny, and I highly recommend it. (I prefer the Dirk Gently books anyway, as great as the Hitchhiker's Guide books are.)
posted by koeselitz at 4:14 PM on February 23, 2010


and drove the king out in revenge with his awesome poetry/sticking horses' heads on poles)

Wow, thanks for the spoiler alert. I've only just gotten to the part where he slices the kid's head open with an axe because he lost at tag or something (damn, I did not retain any of the reading I did last night. Now I have to go back and reread, great.)
posted by Think_Long at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2010


For a nice overview of the Viking situation, I recommend The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson.
posted by feckless at 4:35 PM on February 23, 2010


...whose publisher is (wait for it...)

Viking!

(no, really)
posted by Zed at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: Egil was born in Norway, for what it's worth

He was born in Iceland, his father emigrated from Norway, however.
posted by Kattullus at 5:04 PM on February 23, 2010


He was born in Iceland, his father emigrated from Norway, however.

It's like they are going back and forth every third chapter! But, hey, you want Egil, you can have him!

Feckless, sorry for the spoiler; I figure after 700+ years, the mystery is gone. But I won't tell you how Njall's Saga ends.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2010


Metafilter: You misunderstand, the statue is of me.
posted by klangklangston at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always thought two things.

1) The moment you give something a cute name, you dismiss it of all value.

2) In terms of Racefail, everybody lost.
posted by eriko at 11:40 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


RaceFail can be summed up pretty well by a new word I learned the other day: "failmobbing". On the one hand, you have a metric fuckton of LJers, and if there's a persistent characteristic of fandom on LJ it's that they believe (and post about it, at length, frequently and persistently) that they have a better and purer grasp on various SFF works and characters than do the creators themselves. On the other hand, you have a handful of SFF authors who are faulted as much (if not more so) for the way that they conducted their side of the debate as for what they actually said or didn't say. Hilarity, as they say on Fark, ensued.

Now, you might say that it really was about race and had nothing to do with that incredibly toxic, self-involved love/hate relationship that so much of fandom has with creators. If you've been following it very closely, you might even be able to point to a few semi-precious gems in the dungheap as evidence that Something Very Important Was Learned. Maybe so. Regardless, if I were a creator in SFF, I'd treat LJ like it was in the vicinity of Chernobyl.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


A Viking retirement home...

Isn't this also explored in one of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books? Loki and Odin are mostly unworshipped and are reduced to little more than ghosts ...

posted by zippy at 5:23 PM on February 27, 2010




Talking of axe-grinding mobs high on entitlement demanding denunciations that is some serious bullshit going on in that thread.
posted by Artw at 6:38 PM on March 6, 2010


Yeah, even by the, um, "standards" he set in the previous thread, jsavimbi is doing some epic threadshitting. He's making a strong play to be MeFi's resident Red Lantern.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:32 PM on March 6, 2010


God, that thread makes me tired.
posted by OmieWise at 11:35 AM on March 7, 2010


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