Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #19

Burn The Witch and Shoot the Messenger – Windycon 44

By Chris M. Barkley:

Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around the tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

From “Burn The Witch” by Radiohead

It’s not as though I seek out unpleasantness, it seems to find me. The latest round of is playing out this weekend at Windycon 44, in Lombard, IL.

I week ago, I emailed the programming staff of Windycon to inquire about the panels I was going to be on. I had filled out a questionnaire several months ago and had not heard back from them.

On November 4, I received several urgent emails from Louisa Feimster, the head of Programming of Windycon, apologizing because Mail Chimp had lost some emails and mine was probably among them.

Even though it was far past the deadline to include me in the program book, she sent me a link to fill out a new survey and programming application. Within 24 hours of doing so, I was inserted into several panels which had members drop out for one reason or another:

  • Friday, 5:00 pm, Geek Chic: We don’t have to hide anymore. When did it happen and how long will it last?
  • Saturday, 11am, Creature Comforts: What would you miss the most? Ice, TV, Chocolate, etc.
  • Saturday, 12 pm, You Know Nothing, John (sic) Snow: Game of Thrones is very popular but there is a division between show fans and Song of Fire & Ice reader fans. Can we bring peace to the 7 kingdoms or at least the two fandoms?
  • Sunday, 10am, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A lot of today’s technology was yesterday’s science fiction. Join a discussion about that past and what might be tomorrow’s tech.
  • Sunday, 11am, The Obligatory Doctor Who Panel: Discuss fandom’s favorite Doctor.
  • Sunday, 12pm, Tutti Frutti Literature: With changing social norms and lifestyles, how is this affecting our literature?

On Friday, at 6:18pm, I received a tweet from author Jim C. Hines: “Damn…@cmzhang42 – any idea what the heck’s going on with this one?” (screenshot)

I had NO idea of what he was talking about.

So, I immediately went to my Twitter feed and found a post from @leeflower, who was complaining about the “Tutti Frutti Literature” panel:  (screenshot)

After thinking a moment, I decided to enter the fray by directly asking @leeflower, “Hello, I’m on this panel. Can you explain what your objection is, please?”

I immediately tweeted back to Jim Hines, @leeflower and @Windycon, “I have made an initial inquiry with the person who complained. Stand by…” To date, I have yet to receive a response from @leeflower.

In the meantime, the shit was hitting fan. All sorts of people piled onto to this haywagon of condemnation of the Windycon Programming staff, based solely on the objections on @leeflower.

[Editor’s note: Chris supplied these screencaps without indicating their order. Looked at Twitter and attempted to reconstruct it. The inconsistent order of the internal timestamps (e.g., “14h”) is due to not all the screencaps having been made at the same time. That said, they still might not all be in order.]

No one in the Windycon administrative pipeline has responded in any way because…did I mention that Windycon was THIS weekend? And I might also add that as far as I know, NONE of the plaintiffs in this debacle are actually attending Windycon.

I happened to run into Louisa Feimster at the Saturday afternoon at the Art Show. When I outlined what was happening on Twitter in the past twenty-four hours regarding the “Tutti Frutti Literature” panel, she did a huge eyeroll and said, “You want to know what really happened? We were under a lot of pressure to come up with titles for panels and we kinda finished up in the middle of the night. Really, we didn’t mean to offend anybody, we were just tired.”

She also went on to explain that in her end of the BDSM world, ‘tutti frutti’ does not have a negative connotations and she thought it would be an interesting way to title a panel on the changing forms of literature.

So, there was no grand conspiracy to offend the gay community. While the choice of the term “tutti frutti” may be regrettable, it was NOT done in any sense of malice, at least from my point of view.

So, in every sense of the term, THIS was a witch hunt, but no actual witches were found. We only burned ourselves. (Author’s note: I in no way condone the burning of witches, good, evil or otherwise. It’s just a metaphor, OK?)

So at the appointed time, the panelists gathered; authors Cliff Jones, Ross Martinek and the moderator, Mari Brighe. Everyone had been briefed and I was looking forward to an interesting panel. The audience was rather sparse, it numbered no more than a dozen people.

Louisa Feimster was also in attendance, to make a statement about the controversy before the panel started. Her appearance seemed to annoy Ms. Brighe who asked if she still had control of the panel.

Louisa Feimster said she that she did, but wanted to make a brief statement about the title of the panel and to outline what the intentions of the the Programming staff was when they made the decision to title this particular panel. After eloquently stating her case from what she had said to me yesterday, she indicated that the panel should begin.

Then Ms. Brighe surprised me by asking if I wanted to make my statement then. Surprising to me because usually the moderator introduces themselves before the other panelists do.

“Some of you may have heard of a dispute that started on Twitter Friday evening regarding the title and subject matter of this particular panel, ‘Tutti Fruitti Literature.’ Someone with the twittter handle @leeflower has stated that the use of this term, in the context of a discussion about our changing social norms and literature is a slur against the gay community.”

I then went onto explain, perhaps a little too forcefully, that there was no intended slur and that in the big scheme of things, we had more to worry about than a perceived slight by people who were not attending the convention and did not know the context of how the phrase was being used.

“The main point is that damage has been done to the honor and reputation of Windycon because someone was offended.

“To which I respond : BIG DEAL!

“This is the double-edged sword of the pervasive use of social media; yes, when wrongdoing is detected and a bright harsh spotlight is aimed at targets like Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., the world can be enlightened and warned about a situation.

“But when there is an angry, unwarranted attack, as this shows every indication to be, it does a huge disservice to the accused party and to fandom as a whole.

“To @ leeflower and other offended parties I say this; save your indignation and anger for the bigger issues and targets, like the social forces who seek to divide and demoralize us. Save it for the corporations who seek to pocket more of our tax dollars to support their businesses and interests. Save it for the judicial and police forces who oppress and kill our brothers and sisters every day. Save it for the politicians and lobbyists who are plotting and this very moment to suppress voting rights and subvert the Constitution of the United States. And most of all, save it for the current occupant of our White House, whose list of crimes and misdemeanors grow with each passing day.”

“We have plenty of enemies to worry about. Windycon is definitely NOT one of them.”

Now, I have to admit that during the latter part of my statement, I was channeling my inner Keith Olbermann, my voice filled with more than a little outrage and anger. Because, let’s face it, I was more than a little angered and outraged.

Well, I had hoped that this little outburst would rally the troops to my cause and there would be a large burst of applause as the cherry on top.

It was met with mostly silence and a few angry faces. And then came the kicker.

Ms. Brighe then took center stage and stated, in no uncertain terms, how she as a transgendered fan, was very disappointed in Louisa’s leadership with the Programming staff and with this program item in particular. She also stated that she thought that Windycon was not as progressive as they thought they were and that she still found instances of “micro-aggression and homophobia” at the convention and that as a consequence, she was relinquishing her responsibilities with this panel and was leaving.

With that she got up and left the room, leaving all us in stunned silence.

After a moment or two, Ms. Feimster picked up the moderating duties. We started with a discussion of what the hell just happened. One woman (whose name I did not catch) seemed to blame me personally for the walkout; she thought Ms. Feimster’s speech struck the right note by my speech was loud, noisy and did not take Ms. Brighe’s point of view into account.

Cliff Johns remarked that the whole incident appeared to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. I followed up by saying that this would have been a great opportunity to more understand her point of view, HAD SHE STAYED to moderate the panel.

Then Ross Marinek came to my aid by stating that he understood my point of view because he saw this attack on Windycon as an act of bullying. None of the people complaining were actually attending the convention and were triggered to make an assumption of the programming staff’s intentions without knowing the context of the offending phrase.

After this rather tense disacussion, we settled down to throwing out some examples of books, television shows and films that show how we as a society have progressed in the past 75 years.

In the aftermath of the panel, people online have proclaimed that I am a “puppy,” a bully and guilty of being homophobic myself.

The only thing I can say is that in my passion for defending the kink positive panel and Windycon, the LGBTQ community sensed a dog whistle that did not exist. If I was being overly assertive in defending a convention I dearly love and cherish, I apologize.

I may choose to do it differently next time, having learned from this experience.

However, I will always defend all of fandom, all of the time.

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104 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #19

  1. Episode #495 of the identity politics wars. Forgiveness and tolerance went out the window a long while ago.

    That humming sound is coming from a grave.



  2. D Franklin: You’re really working hard to foster the illusion of injustice in the coverage here.

    Let’s look at how this started. Annalee Flower Horne criticized a Windycon panel title as a slur. Her tweet included the names of the panelists but not the name of the programming person who gave the item its title. Jim C. Hines tweeted an inquiry at Chris Barkley, one of the named panelists, pulling him into the controversy.

    @leeflower, or anyone else, is entitled to criticize a panel title for whatever makes it problematic. When that’s done in the public medium of Twitter, it’s being presented to the world.

    While things get picked for the Scroll because of newsworthiness, and not necessarily whether I agree with them, in this case I thought the criticism of the panel title was on target. I thought the title was a very poor choice, bound to give offense, and shedding almost no light on the real topic.

    On the other hand, as a consequence of the way @leeflower constructed the initial tweet, Chris got drawn into the social media crossfire. He is a frequent column contributor here, and his forum does not depend on whether I agree with all he has to say.

    I would be pleasantly surprised to hear from any of the other participants in that panel, but I don’t agree with your claim that I need to further pursue some kind of artificial balance, because I have already presented @leeflower’s publicly stated views in their original context.

  3. This really was a poorly-described panel. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. What gets me about it the reaction to the title is the level of certainty.

    Not only is “tutti frutti” a slur, it’s also a “dog whistle”. The slur accusation has enough basis in fact that I can’t get too unhappy with someone who reads it that way. Some days, that’s how I’d read it. I haven’t heard “fruit” or its variants used in a homophobic slur in a very long time, and I don’t think it’s current, but I could be wrong.

    But a “dog whistle” is a deliberate, conscious attempt to cloak bigotry in reasonable language, intentionally bigoted and intentionally deceptive.

    That’s a whole different thing, much worse, for which I see no evidence at all.

  4. @Mark; @John
    Welp, maybe I’m wrong as well! Hopefully Harold will tell us. I did think that if it definitely had never been used in that way then he’d have said so.
    It wasn’t common–the early 70s, you’d be more likely to hear fairy or fruit.

    I’ve been trying to remember where I heard or read ‘Tutti-Fruiti” as a slur but I’m now at that point where you’ve spent so much time trying to remember, you’re not sure if you really do remember.
    It could have been someone making a witty remark about another person being ‘fruity’. When I came out in 73, the community I found myself in still used a lot of gay slang/group speak and it’s entirely possible that sitting around gabbing one day, there could have been a remark that someone (probably someone not there) was kind of fruity and then “yeah, Tutti-fruitti” to take it one step further. Fruity’s died out pretty much, I think. I don’t think younger kids even know it.
    My mind is telling me that it was probably in some book–some kind of noir/underworld/”twilight world” work and heavily coded. You know, the kind of thing where they’re alluding to some kind of swishy/precious male. It would have been a throw-away line like “Nah, I don’t get mixed up with some tutti-fruity guy”. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it really started popping up after Little Richard.
    Who knows, it could have been in one of those magazines my Dad had around–the ones with names like SIR! and SWANK and KNIGHT.
    you know, the panel’s name’s not nearly as funny if it was actually supposed to be about kink. I’d have skipped that one, more than likely.
    Really, if it was supposed to be about kink and all that; “Tutti Fruitti Literature” is just misleading. Why not “Different Strokes for Different Folks”?
    And I still think there was a great deal of over-reaction to it. And I’m contrary enough that I would have been irritated by the apology, if I’d been there.

  5. Nebraska has good stuff? ?

    I must rise to the defense of my beloved home state!

    However, I have a freelance deadline this week, so you are going to get a sampling of what I have in my memory.

    Starting with Omaha in the eastern edge of the state, the Henry Doorly Zoo is not to be missed. It’s one of the top zoos in the USA, and possibly the world. Among other delights it has an an indoor rainforest and a desert dome. You could spend a whole day there, or maybe two.

    If you like art Omaha also has the Joslyn Art Museum. If architecure is your thing you MUST see the Joslyn: it’s the world’s finest example of Prairie-Egyptian Art Deco. (Also, possibly the only example. Did I mention it’s built of pink marble?)

    Heading south towards Nebraska City gets you to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, once the home of J Sterling Morton–who, in case you have forgotten, was the founder of Arbor Day. (It’s a state holiday here in Nebraska, as we tend to be deadly serious about tree-planting.). It’s open year-around, but I think it’s best in the fall during the Apple Festival: Nebraska City is the state’s top apple-producing area.

    Up in there northeast there is Ashall Fossilbed State Park. About 10 million years ago a volcano in the Rocky Mountains blew up and the ash cloud buried a watering hole here and all the animals huddled around it. It’s been under excavation for a number of years now, and there’s a nice visitors center showing what’s been learned. A building has been erected over the main dig, and during the summer season you can actually stand on special walkways and watch the researcher slowly excavate new fossils. The fossils include ancient hippo species, camilids, deer-things, and other assorted mammels. (Nebraska is dinosaur-poor, as we were at the bottom of a shallow sea in the relevant time period. But we have lots and lots of interesting mammal fossils.).

    Dropping down to Lincoln, the capital city, we have the International Quilt Museum. It’s near the East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so after you admire the quilts you can go the the UNL dairy store and eat ice cream. Then you can go visit the Nebraska State Capitol Building, which is 400 feet of limestone Art Deco goodness. Its ornamentation ranges from a bas-relief bust of Hammurabi the Law Giver to mosaics of the Native American thunderbird.

    Sweeping up to the north-central and north-west regions of the state there are a number of natural attractions. Toadstool Park, part of the Nebraska badlands, has a variety of weird rock formations. Nearby is the Sandhills region, which makes up about a quarter of Nebraska: a vast range of sand dunes, held in place by prairie grasses and plants. The Sandhills ecology is practically untouched by the influx of European-Americans because they can’t be plowed. It can be used to graze cattle, but there’s strong incentive not to over-graze because then the land literally blows away.

    Also nearby is the Nebraska National Forest, the largest hand-planted forest in the US. (You thought I was kidding about tree planting, didn’t you?)

    Further west, near Alliance, is Carhenge: a model of Stonehenge constructed of old cars. I’ve seen it; it’s as weird as it sounds but also oddly majestic.

    Finally, a defense of I-80. It roughly parallels the Platte River across Nebraksa, and in the late winter and early spring it is the pathway to wonder, because that’s the time of the great crane migration. Every spring the Sandhill cranes make their long journey from their winter homes in the south up to their nesting grounds in Canada, and most of them stop in Nebraska for a long rest in the middle of the trip. The Platte River beween Grand Island and Kearney offers them abundant sand bars to sleep on (thus protecting them from predators) and ample feeding grounds. In the day time you can see them hunting for waste-grain and insect larva in surrounding farm fields; in the evening you can see them glide slowly and majestically towards the river. At the peak of the migration Nebraska will host thousands of cranes.

    So now you know some of our secrets. 😀

  6. Dann:

    “Episode #495 of the identity politics wars. Forgiveness and tolerance went out the window a long while ago.”

    This is a very confusing statement. First: Where is the identity politics? Is it identity politics if you react to something that sounds like a slur? Second: Would it be more forgiveness and tolerance if we accepted slurs?

  7. @Nancy, NOW you tell me these things…after I slashed across the state on the way to and from Colorado last fall…

    (I’ve seen the state Capitol, at least), and drove some of that NW hill country. Pity I missed Carhenge though.

  8. @Hampus Eckerman: I found it very enlightening. It sounds as though most everyone got swept up in the social media reaction. I especially appreciated that Mari Brighe went into why she thought of “tutti frutti” as a possible slur. It was nuanced and allows for discussion, unlike the original blunt provocation/accusation.

  9. For what it’s worth, Mari’s description of the panel is accurate for the period she was there. From that I’m inferring the truth of the rest of it.

  10. When I read Analee’s tweet I had absolutely no idea the panel was supposed to be about kink. Did anyone else?

    I think Heather hit the nail on the head. When even the moderator doesn’t know what the panel is about, the con has had a communications failure.

    The correct thing to do is apologize for the offensive wording of the title and the impenetrable description of the panel, and pledge to do better next time.

    Also, Chris is coming across to me as a jerk.

  11. @ULTRAGOTHA: I wouldn’t apologize for the “offensive wording of the title” because it’s not offensive to someone not looking for offense. It’s an invented slur. I think it’s important to push back on this, because the effect of it is to haul an outdated slur (fruit) out of the past and make it new and current again. Where’s the gain in that?

  12. John A Arkansawyer: I wouldn’t apologize for the “offensive wording of the title” because it’s not offensive to someone not looking for offense.

    It’s not offensive to you. But you don’t get to dictate other peoples’ feelings to them, any more than Barkley does.

    Claiming that other people are only offended because they want to be offended is the sort of crap that LGBTQ people have been putting up with for decades, and your continued insistence on that, frankly, makes you look almost as bad as Barkley here.

  13. John A Arkansawyer:

    “It’s an invented slur.”

    Because other slurs are non-invented!?

  14. @JJ: “you don’t get to dictate other peoples’ feelings to them”

    No, I don’t, any more than you get to dictate mine, or how people make their own apologies, so I’ve put my two cents worth in right next to yours.

    There is enough hate speech in the world without creating more.

  15. John A Arkansawyer: it’s not offensive to someone not looking for offense.

    John A Arkansawyer: No, I don’t [get to dictate other peoples’ feelings to them]

    Well, which is it? You do get to dictate peoples’ feelings to them, or you don’t?

  16. @JJ: A fair question. I’m not telling anyone how to feel. I’m telling someone not to lie.

    The instigator of this mess not only claimed there was a slur, but also claimed it was a dog whistle. Here’s the first Googleable definition of dog whistle:

    a subtly aimed political message which is intended for, and can only be understood by, a particular group.

    I’ve bolded the word intended because the instigator of this argument imputed bad intent. Talk about dictating people’s feelings! It’s a claim for which the instigator had no basis other than those precious, precious feelings. And the claim turns out to be false.*

    So yeah, when someone goes past claiming a slur and falsely claims an intentional insult, I further downgrade the original claim. That it already smells of bullshit doesn’t help any.

    *I could make a very tortured argument that it was a dog whistle to the kink community, but I don’t believe that’s what the instigator intended. The real issue looks to be hurried, sloppy writing.

  17. @John A Arkansawyer: I’m kinda impressed how, when evidence that it is a slur has been posted MULTIPLE TIMES in this thread, indeed in comments you’ve clearly read… when that evidence has been not even hard to interpret, but pretty plain, like the top definition on urban dictionary and personal experience of it being used as a slur… that you can still say it’s not a slur. That is pretty impressive ability to completely ignore the actual EVIDENCE.

  18. John A Arkansawyer: I’m not telling anyone how to feel.

    You are insisting that you know what other peoples’ motivations are. You are dictating what their reasons are, according to you — rather than listening to them say what their reasons are, and accepting those reasons as legitimate.

    Do you honestly not understand how incredibly offensive “it’s not offensive to someone not looking for offense” is? It’s a claim that you are more of an expert on what someone else is thinking than they themselves are, and that they are being dishonest in what they say, and that their motivations are just to find reasons to be offended. I can tell you right now that that wasn’t my motivation in finding the panel title and description offensive, and how fucking dare you insist to me what my motivations are.

    John A Arkansawyer: It’s a claim for which the instigator had no basis other than those precious, precious feelings. And the claim turns out to be false.

    Oh, bullshit. Even I looked at that panel title and description and thought it was offensive, because it appeared, based on the wording, to be about LBGTQ literature. And if that is indeed what the panel was supposed to be about (and, not being one of the 5 people who knew that it was supposed to be about kink, pretty much everyone got the impression it was about LBGTQ literature), then the word “lifestyles” is a huge dog-whistle which has been repeatedly used to insist to LBGTQ people that they are “the way they are” by choice, and not by birth or nature — that it’s merely a behavioral affectation, and not their actual personal identity..

    Does the fact that someone uses a dog-whistle word in an ambiguous context, without intending harm, mean that the word ceases to be a dog-whistle? I don’t think so.

    From the point of view of someone who thought the panel was supposed to be about LGBTQ literature, saying that it is a dog-whistle is a legitimate claim.

  19. Pingback: Mari Brighe: Statement on Windycon 2017 and the “Tutti Frutti” controversy | File 770

  20. @D Franklin: “the top definition on urban dictionary”

    Have you looked into how Urban Dictionary is run? People submit nominations and then there’s a voting process. Kind of like Wikipedia, except without the transparency, the philanthropic intent, and the community. Or maybe if Wikipedia is the Hugos, Urban Dictionary is the Dragons. So I don’t take it seriously.

    “personal experience of it being used as a slur”

    What Harold Osler actually said was not nearly that, that he probably encountered it in a book. And I want to hold this up from it: “Fruity’s died out pretty much, I think. I don’t think younger kids even know it.” That sounds accurate to me.

    One of the curses of knowing your history is being held hostage to it.

    @JJ: You are right to say I can’t know your motivations. That point is well-taken on your part. Had I added “or someone primed to take offense by another”, I’d stand by it, but as I said it, I overreached and I was wrong. I’ve also been an activist. Some of the things activists do are not always fair. (It’s not that I always feel the urge to be fair. It’d be fair to remind people Roy Moore isn’t a pedophile [just an ephebophile], to be fair, but fuck that.) Part of how activism works is framing issues in the most favorable way to our cause. Sometimes–actually, pretty often–that framing is unfair. That’s how politics works. And how it also works is that people sometimes push back over unfairness.

    This framing by the activist who instigated the argument is an unfair framing. It’s reaching into the past of dead and dying slurs and finding a word to beat someone up over. It’s a great way to look good. I’ve done similar things myself, and I’d probably do it again if the occasion demanded it. But I’d (try to) only do it to an enemy, because it is unfair.

    “Does the fact that someone uses a dog-whistle word in an ambiguous context, without intending harm, mean that the word ceases to be a dog-whistle? I don’t think so.”

    Let’s see the first paragraph from Wikipedia:

    Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is often used as a pejorative because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently distasteful to the general populace. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.

    If you want to argue that can be done without intent, well, I’d be curious to hear how, especially in accounting for “the inherently deceptive nature of the practice”.

  21. John, isn’t the issue that one could reasonably read it as a form of dog-whistle messaging, rather than what was intended?

  22. @Robert Wood: I guess, if we want to take “intent doesn’t matter” to its extreme conclusion and say “falsely accusing someone of bad intent doesn’t matter, either”.

    I’m sorry to be so stuck on this point, but dog-whistling is not a passive act. It’s not something you do on accident. It’s deliberate and calculated and meant to deceive. If one really believes that the people who wrote that program entry were trying to send a coded message with it–but does anyone believe that?

  23. Well…

    Either you can look at the reactions to the title as if people were only looking for things to be offended by.

    Or you can look at Johns comments as if he is only looking for things to be offended by.

    Personally I think all involved are honest in their emotions and in what they are reacting to.

  24. John, you seem quite badly stuck on insisting that multiple people couldn’t have come by their opinions by honest means. That’s…not a good look.

  25. @Mark: I’m saying that, from my own personal experience, activists are not always scrupulously fair or honest, and aren’t under any obligation to be. I’ve made a maximalist case against before, interpreting everything I could get my hands on in the most unfavorable way, and I get why it’s done to enemies.

    What we have here is someone instigating a fight making the most unfavorable reading of a text, and then being given the least unfavorable reading of their own words. It’s a lot likelier the instigator actually meant “dog whistle” by saying “dog whistle” than the convention actually meant “[anti-gay slur]” by saying “tutti frutti”.

    I do have a hunch about who made which interpretation of “tutti frutti”. I very strongly suspect that most people who took great offense are young and not cis-gay males. I think they were working from second-hand knowledge of slurs of the past and interpreted in that light instead of lived experience and current usage. A very strong hunch.

  26. I like your hunch, John. Does it have any basis other than doubling down on defending what the con itself, unlike Chris, has very readily and openly acknowledged as a big mistake and offensive?

  27. I like the con’s apology and now think I was wrong to say they shouldn’t have issued one.

    @D Franklin: My hunch is based on decades of watching new activists enter a field of struggle and go overboard for a while. I see it in others and I’ve seen it in myself. It’s an impulse that comes from a fundamentally good place and is incredibly annoying until the person feeling it gets to the next stage. Most people do.

  28. John, You’re ignoring what I said, which is a little frustrating. My point is that the people who brought up the original problem were given very little to work from, and tried to find out more, but were given no additional information. Within that context, it strikes me that the interpretation is neither tendentious or made in bad faith. It later turned out that there was a different context, which changed the meaning, but that material wasn’t accessible. This isn’t a matter of a claim about intention, but about interpretation of the material available. Do we get controversies built upon partial or tendentious readings of materials? Yes, but I don’t think this applies to the current situation.

  29. Pingback: Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel

  30. John, in that case, will you retract your comment about people looking to be offended?

  31. @Lenore Jones: I’d like to–this is not an enjoyable discussion, for many reasons–but part of what I did in the activist part of my life was exactly that: Look for things to be offended by so we could react to them. I don’t believe activists have quit doing it, and I don’t think it’s usually wrong to do so, just that it lent itself to misuse this time.

    (I guess I should add I think Chris overreacted, too, also from a fundamentally good place, perhaps also using methods that led him into error.)

  32. Chris R on November 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm said:

    ULTRAGOTHA, just checking… do you mean me? If so, I’m open to adjusting my tone.

    No, not you. The Chris in the OP.

  33. While we’re talking about how the complaints came from young and inexperienced activists who were overreacting in their zeal, shouldn’t we mention this one too?

  34. @John, you said “it’s not offensive to someone not looking for offense”. Perhaps you would retract the implied “only”? I do appreciate you listening and responding.

    Edit: Hello, EvilRooster! Haven’t seen you in a while. And yeah, it clearly wasn’t just young folks, or just older folks, either.

  35. @Lenore Jones: Thank you for your patience with me. Yes, I think that’s fair. I’m sure people can be sincerely offended by that title.

    @evilrooster: Gosh, it’s good to hear from you! I had you on my mind just this week.

    You know I’m fond of Patrick. I also note that the timestamp on his tweet is somewhat past that of the original tweet. When I’m primed to see something as a slur, especially a slur against people with whom I sympathize, I can overreact. Possibly the same is true for him. It’s very human.

    And I am curious, now that I’ve seen yet another use of Urban Dictionary (by someone in his thread as a reference), whether you think I’m out to lunch on finding it gameable and unreliable. I’m not saying its necessarily wrong, just that I don’t take it in any sense as a reliable authority.

  36. Hi Lenore! Long time no. How goes?

    John, your approach to this matter is looking more and more like a case study in the First Rule of Holes. You’ve made a bunch of assumptions about someone you clearly don’t know much about, based on someone else’s equally unconsidered impressions. My question about why one person is in the collective crosshairs and not another is not, in fact, an idle one; I think the assumptions and impressions are not…neutral.

    And now you’re defending your thesis by any means you can. Do you really think Patrick is that easily led? I certainly don’t.

    If I were you, I’d seriously consider stepping back and rethinking the whole matter. It’s the more intellectually respectable approach. Because it’s possible that the position that you have arrived at is not representative of the balance of reality here. It’s possible that something that you don’t consider a current slur still is one. Slang is like Bill Gibson’s future in that it’s both weird and not evenly distributed.

    And I rely on Urban Dictionary to be a good indicator of the underside of the language, yes. The upvoting mechanism is actually a very good measurement of street meaning for words that have gotten the crowd’s attention. There’s cruft in there as well, of course, but I consider it the Boaty McBoatface phenomenon turned into a usable tool.

  37. An observation or two about the Urban Dictionary:

    Let me preface this by stating that I’ve actually heard “tutti fruitti” used as a slur against gays, some 40 years ago.

    So far as Urban Dictionary is concerned, I view it as more for entertainment purposes than for actual definitions and I suspect that a number of their contributors/voters do as well. To illustrate, I link the “definition” of (ahem) the first name “Robert” at Urban Dictionary:

    While it’s rather flattering to anyone bearing the name, I’m not going to lay a claim to being “awesome” by using a “definition” approved of by all of 64 voters as “proof”.

    Now, check out the “definition” of “tutti fruitti” at UD and note that it has its first place designation by dint of all of 82 approvals:

    In short, I’d use the UD as a fun resource to kill some time, but I’m not betting the ranch on its accuracy.

  38. @Robert First names are a known weakness in UD. They get a lot of brigading. Commoner terms have a better distribution of evaluators.

  39. @evilrooster:

    Perhaps, but I would still argue UD should be taken with a grain of salt in either instance.

  40. @EvilRooster, pretty good. I retired unofficially last year (I was working per diem for a few years, and the firm staffed up), and noticed my physical fitness level, never good, had begun to approach abysmal. So I’ve been working on that, and am seeing slow improvement. And I dyed my hair dark blue. It doesn’t look that vivid to me, but strangers on the street keep complimenting me, so it must be more obvious than I think!

  41. @evilrooster: I figured you’d looked more deeply into Urban Dictionary than I had. I’m sure you’re right that it’s a useful indicator. Beyond that I’m doubtful but will look more carefully.

    The last two times you and I disagreed, you were right, so it’s very possible you’re right this time.

    But give a moment’s thought to the second time, when something that I’d posted with innocent intent but didn’t properly frame got both you and Patrick mad at me, and for which I apologized. If we hadn’t had the previous disagreement, would you and he have taken that posting in the way you did?

    Framing, prompting, priming, all those things work on people. So no, I don’t think Patrick is easily led. But I think it’s very human to be leadable in that manner, and I think word people are more (rather than less) vulnerable to it. And at this moment in history, when people believe baldfaced lies, do their best to do worse, folks I’ve known my whole life gone bugfuck crazy, I’m skeptical of everyone’s ability to hold firm. Including mine. Dahlia Lithwick said something in Slate recently which I found convincing and creepy:

    I now believe that the people who continue to have faith in law and in journalism are the most vulnerable to the cascade of lying that pours forth from the White House and the Justice Department. Lying destabilizes both endeavors in ways that make us feel that they cannot be practiced at all.

    Not the same thing, of course. It never is, quite.

    But I’ll give what you say thought–I both respect and value your opinions–knowing you’ll do the same for what I’ve said.

  42. I swear I was just bouncing around the internet today so I have no idea what particular set of links led to this–maybe looking for video from Star Trek Discovery/Wilson Cruz but one of the pages that came up had this on it:

    Back in Los Angeles, Gerrold says, Roddenberry mentioned “the gay issue” in a meeting about the direction of the new series. Apparently some members of the staff were surprised. “Next Generation” producer “Robert Justman made a remark about ‘ensign tutti-frutti,'” says Gerrold. “But Gene very calmly explained that it was time.”

  43. @Harold Osler: That moves it closer to the present, sure enough, even though it was said by someone born in 1926. Maybe it is still sadly current, or at least more current than I’d thought. I’m still not convinced, but I’m definitely nudged a little in that direction. I’ll do a little more looking and see what I can see. Thanks for the report!

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