Schluessel: My Zoom Background Censored Again

Guest Post By Edmund Schluessel: Worldcon staff have once again policed and censored my Zoom background.

This morning starting around 9 a.m. New Zealand time I was observing the Interplanetary Immigration Project presentation. Early in the program item I noticed my video feed had been cut off by the meeting host. I immediately raised the issue with Programme Ops.

According to Programme Ops, my background was indeed policed and censored by Program staff. I asked why my video had been cut. Patrick Maher, Con Ops manager, told me in reply, “Same reason as before.  I informed the Room Manager that we cannot do that because your background, whilst overtly political, is not in breach of the CoC.  they then lifted the lock on your video.”

Two days ago, after the first incident, I had an e-mail conversation with Kelly Buehler, CoNZealand Business chair. Buehler apologized to me and assured me: “There is nothing wrong with your Zoom background, and I encourage you to use it as much as you like. […] I am clarifying with the staff that we do not police backgrounds unless they violate our Code of Conduct.” This new incident shows that that has not happened. While I appreciate that running a convention is difficult and complicated, it seems clear that at least some staff are either unequipped or unwilling to uphold the event’s own Code of Conduct and facilitate the open exchange of ideas and inspiration that’s the whole point of a convention.

And whatever nice words people write in Codes of Conduct, the magic in those words are only worth the action that follows from them. Last September saw Fantasticon.dk’s racist poster. Last month an outlet proclaimed SFWA supporters of terrorism for supporting Black Lives Matter. Just a few weeks ago saw a neo-Nazi sympathizer running free on Finncon’s con committee. We’re saying some right words but our actions aren’t changing.

What would I like to see as an outcome from this? Worldcon attendees changing their Zoom backgrounds is a first step. Beyond this:

* I would like to call upon the FSF community everywhere to learn about and become active in the Black Lives Matter movement and the movement against the persecution of Uyghurs in China. When I lived in the United States I was involved in Mass Action Against Police Brutality, which focuses on not just organizing demonstrations but anti-racist education in the greater Boston area. The Free Rahile campaign meanwhile advocates for a stop to the disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detentions of cultural figures and academics of the Uyghur population of China.

* The simple fact is, the United States runs mass detention camps with inhuman conditions to persecute migrants and people of color, while political activists are taken off the street by government agents in unmarked vans. The People’s Republic of China is carrying out a genocidal colonial project in Xinjiang with millions in forced labor, while state repression of the right to protest across the country intensifies. Conditions in both countries are getting worse. We should all reflect on the ethicality of sending FSF’s preeminent international event, one not owned by any one country, to places where even the most basic level of human dignity is so brazenly trampled on such a blatantly racist, violent basis. I call upon fans to build some more ethical alternative for 2023 to a Worldcon in either of these countries.

* Transgressiveness is not inherently good protest, but effective protest is inherently transgressive. Whatever you are doing to fight against injustice in your everyday life, ask yourself — is it pushing up against the comfort levels of those in power?  Don’t just talk about inequity and injustice, but about structural oppression and the nature of justice. And whenever someone tells you wealth is the answer, talk about class, and where wealth really comes from.

Fandom is a show we watch together where we get to see a better world. The price of admission is our labor: we have to try to build that better world together.

29 thoughts on “Schluessel: My Zoom Background Censored Again

  1. political activists wanted criminals are taken off the street by government agents in unmarked vans.

    Fixed that for you

  2. political activists wanted criminals are taken off the street by government agents in unmarked vans.

    Fixed that for you

    Only in some alternate fantasy world, somewhere in your mind.

    What happened in Portland is that people were being grabbed by anonymous people, shoved in anonymous vans, without ever being: (a) told why they were taken into custody; or (b) not charged with any crime.

  3. @John Lorentz — then how do you know it was done by government agents?

    The only account I’ve seen that has sufficient information to vet was as I said, a wanted criminal was picked up and hauled away, as happens daily all over America, with due process of law.

  4. @bill —

    @John Lorentz — then how do you know it was done by government agents?

    1 — This thing called video recording;
    2 — At least one of them was taken to and held in the — get this — courthouse.

    with due process of law.

    No charges were filed, no probable cause was shown — therefore no due process.

  5. I’d say things are changing, though like all such changes in happens in fits and starts and unevenly. But the reaction to the puppies back in 2015 definitely shows that there has been change within sf fandom. Not all of the people up on top (like a certain presenter for a not a Hugo Award this year) are on top of the change, but I’d say enough of them are.

    Edmund, I hope you made a complaint about the CoNZealand tech team formally, according to CoNZealand procedure for CoC breaches.

  6. There will always be some fascist support for the wanna-be-nazis who kidnap political activists. Wether it happens in Pinochets Chile, Putins Russia or Trumps US.

  7. To the person who changed the words “political activists” to “wanted criminals”, I would like to remind you that 1.wanted criminals are assumed to be not guilty until tried 2. If a wanted criminal is picked up, he or she is told about the warrants that are out for their arrest. 3. Wanted criminals have full Constitutional rights 4. Were any of these people read their Miranda rights?

    I am not a Constitutional lawyer nor do I play one on TV but I do know that wanted criminals, political activists and everyone living in the United States have Constitutional rights.

  8. Pingback: George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (RageBlog Edition) | Pretty Terrible

  9. Daily I am reminded that we have crossed the border into an sf dystopia, and bill’s comments above are among the subtle signs of how we slipped into this interzone. People have become so solipsistic that they can no longer distinguish what they want to be from what is. Petulance about masks during a pandemic disease is equated with civil rights protest. Genocide is no worse than calling attention to genocide attempts. All the bullies have to do to succeed is just muddy the water. Believe nothing, trust no one, all is a lie to poison your precious bodily fluids. All disguised as rational smart-guy integrity and authenticity: don’t be a useful idiot to the weak and oppressed, stand for the strong and pure! We slipped into Troll World.

    I never liked dystopias. I wanted optimism and hope. The argument in favor of imaginary dystopias was that they might help us avoid a real dystopia. Well, they failed.

  10. @John Lorentz — then how do you know it was done by government agents?

    For one thing, they admitted it afterwards.

    The only account I’ve seen that has sufficient information to vet was as I said, a wanted criminal was picked up and hauled away, as happens daily all over America, with due process of law.

    Try reading the news, rather than the press releases from the perpetrators:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/07/18/892617402/oregon-to-sue-federal-agencies-over-protest-enforcement

    https://www.npr.org/2020/07/17/892277592/federal-officers-use-unmarked-vehicles-to-grab-protesters-in-portland

    https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/07/us-attorney-for-oregon-requests-investigation-into-arrests-of-portland-protesters.html

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/17/portland-protests-federal-arrests/

  11. I should have said suspected criminals, not wanted criminals. My bad.
    @John Lorentz

    No charges were filed, no probable cause was shown — therefore no due process.

    You seem to be talking about Mark Pettibone, the person whom I find most associated with these claims, and about whom much has been written. He was detained for a few hours, Mirandized, and released without charge. He knew that it was police who were detaining him. But it has always been legal to detain criminal suspects for questioning, in most places for up to 72 hours, without filing charges. The due process you claim is missing didn’t even come into play, because his detention was so short.
    What happened to him would be incredibly scary if it happened to you or me, but there’s nothing about it that is overtly illegal. There’s no requirement that police drive in marked cars.

    [the government] admitted it afterwards.

    Per your 2nd link above, DHS said that yes, they did arrest someone and haul them off in an unmarked van. They thought he was someone who had assaulted officers. They questioned him, figured out he had not, and released him. Again, it would be incredibly upsetting and scary to be arrested on suspicion of something you didn’t do, but the circumstances of how it happened don’t make it a violation of civil rights.

    Your first and third links make it clear that Oregon, in filing the suit, doesn’t any reason to sue other than the same unsubstantiated things being said here.

    The first (NPR) link says “It lists defendants as John Does 1-10 because the “identity of the officers is not known, nor is their agency affiliation,” the lawsuit states.”

    And a judge agreed they had no case.

  12. @bill —

    I said: No charges were filed, no probable cause was shown — therefore no due process.

    You responded: You seem to be talking about Mark Pettibone

    It was me who said that, not John.

    He was detained for a few hours, Mirandized, and released without charge.

    He was kidnapped by Federal officers, not police as in local police, and the officers did not identify themselves. Feds are charged with protecting federal property — which he was not on or near at the time of his kidnapping. He was not told of any probable cause behind his detainment, and no record of his detainment was given to him. And no matter what claims the feds may make about his kidnapping, the existing video footage backs up Pettibone’s claims — not theirs.

    = = = = =
    “”I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone said. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see, and they held my hands over my head.”
    [….]
    Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn’t identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn’t learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.

    “It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,” Pettibone said. “One of them said, ‘This is a whole lot of nothing.’ ”

    Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn’t tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him whether he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later, he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest.

    “I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” Pettibone said. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”

    https://www.npr.org/2020/07/17/892277592/federal-officers-use-unmarked-vehicles-to-grab-protesters-in-portland
    = = = = =

    He knew that it was police who were detaining him. But it has always been legal to detain criminal suspects for questioning

    It was NOT police, as in locals — it was feds. And the feds are charged with protecting federal property — which he was not on or near at the time of his kidnapping. The officers did not identify themselves, no matter what they claim — as is shown on the video — and they did not provide any reason why there was probable cause to consider him a suspect.

    The due process you claim is missing didn’t even come into play, because his detention was so short.

    “Due process” requirements start IMMEDIATELY — there must be probable cause BEFORE anyone is detained. Anything else is unlawful.

    And a judge agreed they had no case.

    The judge said they had no STANDING. He didn’t say anything about the officers’ conduct.

  13. How does it feel to be an apologist for a society’s descent into authoritarianism?

    If only there was some other way to contact and interview citizens without grabbing them off the street and stuffing them into unmarked vans, all while declining to name yourself or your employer. I wonder if any other countries have ideas for how we could accomplish this goal of investigating crime without also kidnapping people.

    I wonder if anyone’s been grabbed off the street and stuffed into a van and hasn’t shown back up yet, because it didn’t happen to be caught on video, so nobody’s looking for them.

  14. It feels just like being an apologist for looters, vandals, and arsonists who think they get to perform insurrection with impunity.

  15. @Hyman —

    It feels just like being an apologist for looters, vandals, and arsonists who think they get to perform insurrection with impunity.

    Hyman, the people we’re talking about were neither looters, nor vandals, nor arsonists. They had committed no crime other than exercising their First Amendment rights to protest.

    You want to arrest the looters and vandals and arsonists? Go right ahead. But DON’T shoot a guy in the head, fracturing his skull, for the “crime” of holding up a bullhorn. DON’T beat a guy with batons so badly that he needs surgery to repair his fractured hand for the “crime” of standing still in the street with his arms at his sides. DON’T let your secret police kidnap citizens for daring to walk down the street in black clothing, and DON’T egg on your stormtroopers into inciting violence.

    Did you notice how much calmer those Portland protests got as soon as the feds left?

    That’s something we call “a clue”.

  16. I think it’s interesting the comments are almost all debating whether the arrests happened at all (they did, it’s well documented) and whether they’re something someone should reasonably expect to happen (it’s not, that’s well documented too)–answering those questions has no direct relevance as to whether a political message should be censored.

  17. @Contrarius

    the existing video footage backs up Pettibone’s claims

    Please link the footage of Pettibone’s arrest/seizure/detention. I’ve looked for it and can’t find it.

    He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest.

    Did he ask for it? Has he gone back and tried to get it later?
    Once I rolled through a stop sign and got pulled over. The officer ran my license, asked me some questions, gave me a warning, and sent me on my way. I didn’t get any paperwork either. This is not at all comparable in its effect on me compared to what happened to Pettibone, but constitutionally, it was the same thing — I was seized by an armed officer of the law on suspicion of having committed a crime, and then I was released.

    It was NOT police, as in locals — it was feds.

    I didn’t say it was local, and whether or not they were local police or federal makes no difference.

    the feds are charged with protecting federal property — which he was not on or near at the time of his kidnapping.

    It may surprise you to learn that many criminals, or people suspected of crimes, or people who are picked up for questioning because they may have witnessed a crime, are picked at places different from where the crime happened.

    the people we’re talking about were neither looters, nor vandals, nor arsonists.

    Glad to know that you have this psychic ability to determine guilt or innocence without actually investigating.

    Did you notice how much calmer those Portland protests got as soon as the feds left?

    From Thursday night/Friday am.
    https://twitter.com/SlimSunnyside/status/1290201067502702593
    Peaceful protesters, peacefully burning things and beating each other up, with no Federal police in sight.

    @becca

    I wonder if anyone’s been grabbed off the street and stuffed into a van and hasn’t shown back up yet, because it didn’t happen to be caught on video, so nobody’s looking for them.

    If this has happened, it would absolutely justify the comparisons to Pinochet, as mentioned above. And given that Portland has had as much media attention as any place in America lately, and that the media are nearly in lockstep sympathy with Antifa and BLM protesters and rioters, the fact that there are no significant credible reports of this happening are pretty good evidence that it isn’t.

    @Edmund Schluessel

    answering those questions [about arrests] has no direct relevance as to whether a political message should be censored.

    The thread has moved from the original question to other questions, as threads populated by people with opinions do. But to answer your question, if you were told you were allowed to be political, then you should have been allowed to be political. A different but related issue is that the more that people take advantage of something intended to be about our shared interest in Science Fiction to make their own political points, the more people who seek respite from politics in genre are driven away. Some of us don’t want to see everything through a lens of race and sexuality and group identity — we get enough of that in our real lives. And this applies even if we agree that there is work to be done in making ourselves and our country better with respect to these issues.

  18. “If you were told you were allowed to be political” — the assumption here seems to be that political speech is forbidden in fandom unless it is explicitly authorized? That seems odd to me.

  19. @bill: it is not impossible that the Constitution cannot distinguish between somebody being stopped on the street and somebody being physically seized and taken elsewhere; however, if it can’t, that reflects on the generality and scope of the Constitution, rather than anything resembling law, so your instance of not getting paperwork for a car stop is irrelevant if not bogus. Your complaint about the media moving in lockstep is Agnewian nonsense and approaches the demands seen these days for “both sides” of questions where the facts are on one side. As for wanting to escape from the real world into genre: the real world is far too much with us; perhaps you should consider whether you are marching not to a different drummer but to somebody with no sense of rhythm.

  20. @bill —

    Please link the footage of Pettibone’s arrest/seizure/detention. I’ve looked for it and can’t find it.

    Then you haven’t looked very hard.

    https://twitter.com/i/status/1283328232033411072

    You’re welcome.

    Amongst other things, the officers claimed that they identified themselves — but the video clearly shows that they didn’t. The officers also claimed that they took Pettibone away from the scene because they were being swarmed by a “violent mob” — which they clearly were not.

    As for what happened later, so far as I know there isn’t any disagreement about what happened during his detention.

    He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest.

    Did he ask for it? Has he gone back and tried to get it later?

    It is not the detainee’s responsibility to ask for due process. It is the LEO’s responsibility to provide due process.

    Once I rolled through a stop sign and got pulled over. The officer ran my license, asked me some questions, gave me a warning, and sent me on my way. I didn’t get any paperwork either.

    Which is completely irrelevant here, since: 1. the officer had probable cause to detain you; and 2. you were never carted off to a holding facility.

    I didn’t say it was local, and whether or not they were local police or federal makes no difference.

    It makes a LOT of difference. As I already mentioned, the feds are specifically tasked with protecting FEDERAL PROPERTY — but Pettibone was neither on nor near federal property at the time he was kidnapped.

    It may surprise you to learn that many criminals, or people suspected of crimes, or people who are picked up for questioning because they may have witnessed a crime, are picked at places different from where the crime happened.

    It may surprise you to learn that the feds have specific rules for whom they can or can not detain.

    40 U.S. Code §?1315. Law enforcement authority of Secretary of Homeland Security for protection of public property

    (a) In General.—
    To the extent provided for by transfers made pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Secretary of Homeland Security (in this section referred to as the “Secretary”) shall protect the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal Government (including any agency, instrumentality, or wholly owned or mixed-ownership corporation thereof) and the persons on the property.
    [….]
    (2) Powers.—While engaged in the performance of official duties, an officer or agent designated under this subsection may—
    [….]
    (C) make arrests without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of the officer or agent or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if the officer or agent has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony;

    Again — PROBABLE CAUSE is required as an absolute minimum. These stormtroopers had none.

    Glad to know that you have this psychic ability to determine guilt or innocence without actually investigating.

    Glad to know that you have this psychic ability to ignore plain words in front of your face.

    Again: one person I mentioned was holding up a bullhorn; another was standing still in the street; another was walking down a street. NONE of these people were looting or vandalizing or burning anything. This is all recorded on video.

    From Thursday night/Friday am.
    https://twitter.com/SlimSunnyside/status/1290201067502702593
    Peaceful protesters, peacefully burning things and beating each other up, with no Federal police in sight.

    Protests Turning More Peaceful (at Fox News)

    Is Fox News lying, Bill?

  21. Some of us don’t want to see everything through a lens of race and sexuality and group identity — we get enough of that in our real lives

    @bill Sorry, but that’s not the way the world works…people who are targeted by racist state violence don’t get to opt out of being targeted by racist state violence. Reading SFF is a great place to pretend to get away from that for a while, but Worldcon exists in the real world, and we’ve got a choice in 2023 between two notoriously racist states and a hazy None of the Above.

  22. More experienced Worldcon fen: Is it possible for a bid to get up and running in time to bid for 2023 if they started looking at doing so now?

  23. Meredith: More experienced Worldcon fen: Is it possible for a bid to get up and running in time to bid for 2023 if they started looking at doing so now?

    Possible, yes.

    They call that a “sprint bid.” Example: The Reno in 2011 declared 15 months before the site selection vote — see here. And they won. However, at this moment it’s barely over 12 months til the site selection vote for 2023.

  24. @Contrarius

    “Please link the footage of Pettibone’s arrest/seizure/detention. I’ve looked for it and can’t find it.”

    Then you haven’t looked very hard.

    https://twitter.com/i/status/1283328232033411072

    I’ve seen that footage since it first came out, linked in many different twitter feeds and blogs. You are the first I’ve seen state it to be of Pettibone. The Washington Post disagrees with you; their article makes it clear that this footage and Pettibone are two different events. Pettibone said ran half a block and that he “sank to his knees”; the person picked up here stood the whole time. Pettibone’s friend Conner O’Shea, who was with him when he was picked up, said “four or five” agents got out of the van; your link shows two. Pettibone was wearing a beanie; this guy has a helmet. Pettibone has red hair; this guy has black (you can see his eyebrows).

    Try again.

    the feds have specific rules for whom they can or can not detain.

    Your own link makes it clear that if the feds see someone walking down the street whom they believe has committed a crime, they can pick him up. Even though the video you linked wasn’t Pettibone, there’s nothing in it (or in Pettibone’s account) inconsistent with the cops spotting someone whom they believe was involved in rioting, picking them up, and holding them long enough to determine that no, the detainee wasn’t the right guy, and then letting him go. And all of that would be absolutely legal.

    PROBABLE CAUSE is required as an absolute minimum. These stormtroopers had none.

    You have absolutely no way to know whether these cops had PC or not (except, of course, for your psychic powers). People get arrested all the time when cops see someone who fits the description of a person who committed the crime at an earlier time.

  25. Although the US currently has a fascist President who appears to be starting a civil war, and also lots of cities have murder cops; and China is a would-be totalitarian state running a genocide program;….

    ….I honestly can’t think of very many countries in the world which are actually safe with decent human rights records. All of South America is out. All of Africa is out. All of Asia is out. All of North America is out. Much of Europe is out (I haven’t gone through every country.) Australia is out. Maybe something in Oceania…

    New Zealand, I guess? Under Jacinda Arden, it’s been great.

  26. @bill —

    I’ve seen that footage since it first came out, linked in many different twitter feeds and blogs. You are the first I’ve seen state it to be of Pettibone. The Washington Post disagrees with you

    Okay, wait — Are you seriously trying to argue that the name of the person being illegally swept off the streets makes a difference to the illegality of the kidnapping?

    Seriously??

    As the WP article you linked to points out, the officers themselves make the false claims I cited about the video that I posted:

    “Federal customs officials said Friday that their agents had detained a demonstrator in Portland, Ore., in a widely seen video circulating online that showed two men in apparent military garb taking a young man wearing all black into custody….
    [….]
    When the agents approached him, CBP said, “a large and violent mob moved towards their location. For everyone’s safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning.”
    [….]
    “The CBP agents identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter,” CBP said in its statement.”

    These claims are false, as can be seen in the video. Whether that particular video is Pettibone or some other victim is irrelevant. In fact, if that is not Pettibone, that merely makes the situation worse — because it proves that Pettibone’s kidnapping was not an isolated incident.

    Also from that same article:

    “Arrests require probable cause that a federal crime had been committed, that is, specific information indicating that the person likely committed a federal offense, or a fair probability that the person committed a federal offense,” Orin Kerr, a professor at University of California at Berkeley Law School, told The Post. “If the agents are grabbing people because they may have been involved in protests, that’s not probable cause.”

    Your own link makes it clear that if the feds see someone walking down the street whom they believe has committed a crime, they can pick him up.

    If they have probable cause to believe he has committed a crime. “Hey, he’s wearing black, he must have committed a crime” and “Hey, he was at a protest, he must have committed a crime” are not probable cause.

    You have absolutely no way to know whether these cops had PC or not

    Of course I do. If they’d had probable cause, they’d be spouting its details far and wide — because not having probable cause makes them look like, you guessed it, stormtroopers. Their deafening silence is a great big clue.

    People get arrested all the time when cops see someone who fits the description of a person who committed the crime at an earlier time.

    And again — wearing black and attending a protest are not probable cause.

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