Kowal Apologizes for Raytheon Sponsorship of DisCon III

DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal today took responsibility and apologized for the Raytheon Intelligence and Space sponsorship that the convention accepted: “Statement and Apology on DisCon III Sponsorship”.

The sponsor’s corporate logo was on the backdrop used for red carpet photos before the Hugo Awards ceremony, and acknowledged from the stage during the ceremony. The ceremony also seems to be the first place people became generally aware of the sponsorship. Unlike Google, which was also thanked during the ceremony, Raytheon was not one of the sponsors acknowledged in the DisCon III Souvenir Book (page 54).  

Statement on DisCon III Sponsorship

I am Mary Robinette Kowal, and I was the chair for DisCon III. I take full responsibility for accepting Raytheon Intelligence and Space as a sponsor, and I apologize for doing so.

The decision tree that led us to this point is filled with branches that sound like excuses for my own culpability. At the root of it is simply that in accepting funding from Raytheon Intelligence and Space and partnering with them for the members’ red carpet event, I was wrong.

That choice has caused harm and damage to people: the finalists, who were unaware; the people in our communities; the members and staff of Worldcon, who trusted me to make good choices.

I am sorry that I let you all down.

DisCon III is making an anonymous contribution to an organization dedicated to peace, equal to the amount we received from Raytheon. I am also personally contributing to the same organization.

The delay in responding added to the distress that we caused. For this, I ask your forgiveness. We needed to have conversations that were slowed by post-convention travel.

For the past several days, we have read your comments in email and on social media. Thank you for sharing them with us and trusting that you would be heard and taken seriously. Your honesty and sincerity are what make our community a better place.

Future conrunners can avoid our mistakes by:

  • Developing a sponsorship policy for your organization that reflects the values and concerns of our community.
  • Creating a robust plan for doing due diligence on potential sponsors.
  • Creating a mission and value statement against which to measure actions.

We did none of those. Our Code of Conduct says that DisCon III aims to build an inclusive community for all fans. This sponsorship did not achieve that goal.

I cannot erase the harm that my actions caused. This happened on my watch. It is my fault, and I am deeply sorry for the pain I caused.


Mary Robinette Kowal

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161 thoughts on “Kowal Apologizes for Raytheon Sponsorship of DisCon III

  1. I think the desire of people to be on WSFS’ only permanent committee is an understandable one. I find it amusing and not reprehensible.
    I actually do understand the pull.
    — Brad Templeton

    I find your attitude smug and condescending. You’re the one who chose to start with the criticism of individuals’ characters, so turnabout is fair play.

    I couldn’t care less whether the MPC is a permanent committee or not. I’m a part of it because I think it performs an important function for WSFS and the Hugo Awards. You know how I got involved? When I found out what it is and what it does, I said, “Can I help?”

    That’s it. That’s my sole motivation. I care, I have some available time and effort, and I want to help. And at whatever point I am no longer officially on the MPC, I will still help. Because it’s the help that is the point, not the position title.

    Based on your comments, I do not for a moment think you actually understand anything other than your own motivations. That makes me sad for you, but given everything you’ve said, I don’t see enlightenment being a likely possibility for your future.

  2. Jay Blanc: As is par for the course, you didn’t fully register what I said: “Since at least a couple of them have been renewed since 2015 and continue to be identified as held by WSFS, one wonders what the story is.”

    You told me you had looked up these marks. So you should also have noticed that a couple of them have already been renewed since 2015. For them, it will be well beyond 2024 when they are due for renewal again.

  3. @Mike

    I would presume they are going to wait till the largest number of renewals are pending, and then do them together in a Madrid filing to save on fees and consolidate the paperwork.

    You should refer questions to the Board of the Worldcon Intellectual Properties company.

  4. @Brad Templeton:

    As I wrote, I think the desire of people to be on WSFS’s only permanent committee is an understandable one. I find it amusing and not reprehensible. I apologize if my words seemed to imply otherwise.

    Brad, do yourself a solid: Just take a step back and re-read, if nothing else, the above passage and note how dickish you start sounding right in the middle of (short) sentence #2, even before you got to the non-apology apology in sentence #3.

    I can guarantee that just about everyone reading this exchange, including people like me who are accustomed to thinking of you as well spoken and mild-mannered, read that and thought “Wow, who micturated in his Wheaties?”

    I’ve respected you and taken you seriously all the way back to ClariNet days. Please don’t stuff it up. No good can come of continuing this stuff. Seriously.

  5. Given that MRK’s apology has been held up as an example of How You Do Apologies with specific regard to taking responsibility for the offense given and/or harm done, I think it’s worth holding up Brad Templeton’s… response, as an example of How NOT To Do Apologies:

    JVE: I apologize if you felt this was a personal attack. It was not intended as such.

    When the words “I apologize” are followed by something the speaker does not and refuses to take responsibility for, it’s not so much an apology as it is an act of passive aggression.

  6. WIP’s board of directors is the WSFS Mark Protection Committee. The WSFS MPC is elected by the WSFS Business Meeting and appointed by Worldcon and NASFiC committees. (Also, if none of those people are California residents, the WIP Board can appoint a non-voting member from California to make sure there is always at least one director from the state in which the corporation is incorporated.) This is all set out in the WIP bylaws, which are published on the WSFS.org web site.

    So the unincorporated WSFS maintains control over this one small non-profit corporation by the mechanism of electing its directors via the MPC. It’s pretty simple and not very secret. It’s probably a bit boring, however, which is why most people ignore it.

  7. @Rick Moen

    Genuinely surprised at that characterisation since he’s been doing that schtick since the site selection result was announced – at this point I was assuming it was his standard operating system. I was getting pretty tired of the whole “makes a personal attack” followed by “complains that someone pointing out the personal attack is a personal attack, and also makes some more personal attacks” thing, but if it’s out of character I’ll try to keep that in mind.

  8. @Meredith, I do my best to assume the best of people, and also assume that someone might be having a bad day or {looks around} bad year. Also, assuming good faith, wherever that is still a tenable assumption, helps keep discussion’s tone pleasant.

    But I do have a fond and, I think, accurate impression of Brad as a very constructive and level-headed voice in Internet affairs for many years, plus being a chairman for the EFF, and a primary pillar of Usenet in its glory days. Heck, I’d like him and try to give him some slack for much latter-day peevishness, if only for his creation of rec.humor.funny. He’s been one of the greats, and I honour that.

    (Should I get in trouble and suggest that some national cultures tend towards passive-aggression, or should I be a good neighbour to our respected friends to the north? Hmm.)

  9. Maybe I missed a big news story. Last I heard, Raytheon had gone woke in a big way. Did they do something since to offend the snowflake people? What was wrong with accepting their money for a Worldcon sponsorship?

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