SF3 Cancels Elizabeth Moon as WisCon GoH

WisCon’s parent organization SF3 announces it “has withdrawn the invitation to Elizabeth Moon to attend WisCon 35 as guest of honor.”

The opinions Moon expressed in her September 11 LiveJournal post about building a mosque near Ground Zero aroused widespread controversy (for analysis on The World SF Blog click here). In the wake of this reaction, SFpassed a resolution October 3 recommending that the WisCon rescind Elizabeth Moon’s GoH invitation. However, several weeks passed before that action was taken.

The decision itself, naturally, has become the focus of another controversy.

David Klaus, a frequent contributor to the File 770 blog, feels it is an opportunity for dialog lost.

And Cheryl Morgan, in “Pressure Tells”, realizes the decision can be simultaneously seen as a victory and defeat for civic virtues:  

So where are we? Have we found ourselves in a world of mob rule where anyone with a following on the Internet can hound innocent writers and convention committees into doing their bidding? Or have we found ourselves in a world in which the ignorant expression of hatred for people you have defined as different, and therefore inferior and immoral, has become socially unacceptable?

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

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12 thoughts on “SF3 Cancels Elizabeth Moon as WisCon GoH

  1. Thanks for the link to the original post. I guess it shows how far outside the SF mainstream I am that I find nothing at all offensive in what Ms. Moon has written. I think it’s well and calmly written and I agree with just about all of it.

  2. I shouldn’t doubt that one thing on people’s minds was the vision of what would happen at the con if Moon and her most strident opponents did “engage” in person at anything like the temperatures displayed online.

    It would make the Nolacon II gripe session seem like a love feast.

    Not that it’s certain people would behave so heatedly, only that a concom must forsee how little control they could exert over anyone who was detrermined to create such an environment. And how detrimental it would be to the con’s reputation if that happened to a GoH.

    A decision that leaves people debating whether WisCon has lived up to certain principles has its own costs, but it results in a more manageable outcome.

  3. Among the more problematic of Moon’s statements, G:

    I know–I do not dispute–that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could.

    Moon asserts that the majority of Muslims were connected to the September 11th attacks, approved of them, and would not have stopped them if they could. Only “many” would not.

    I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims,

    Who are the exceptions; Muslims are otherwise radical extremists, who as we see in the previous sentence, wish to kill us.

    that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways.

    But most don’t and aren’t.

    I’m Jewish, and if you switch out “Muslim” for “Jews,” I’m going to be offended as I am at the attack on the majority of Jews these statements would be, just as I am offended at these ridiculously bigoted claims about the majority of Muslims, whom Moon feels “fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had” (from who, “real” Americans?) and feels that she “personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship.”

    Setting aside anything to do with sf conventions and GOHs — I’m not making any statement here about what was the right or wrong decision for WisCon 35 to make, and frankly I think they were screwed no matter what they did — and I will try not to comment further on this, so as not to have another of These Discussions on Mike’s blog, but I do suggest that if you either switch out “Muslim” in Moon’s post for some other noun you can identify with, or know much about Islam, it’s difficult to find a way to read Moon as not saying that that most Muslims don’t “have all the virtues of civilized persons,” that she’s leaned over backwards for them, etc.

    If you agree with that, well, then, and if not, not.

  4. “Several weeks” worked out to about 2.5 weeks (Oct 3 to Oct 21); not as glacial a pace as implied.Why is there all this kvetching about silencing and dialog? There was amazing discourse happening in the comments to Elizabeth Moon’s essay. The comments which she deleted. Which is, of course, her right; but it makes her defenders sound somewhat silly. There has been much discussion of the ethics and manners of the con committee, of the ancient assimilation/culture retention argument, of respect for difference and intersectionality, and even of social justice work. The only “silencing” visible seems to be that Ms. Moon has opted out of these conversations (which, again, is her right) and her supporters do not want to engage in the issues brought up in these conversations.If she wasn’t willing to have dialogue and discourse in her own Live Journal, space she controls, why would she be more willing to do so in person at a convention?Just asking.

  5. I don’t know about it being an opportunity for dialog lost.

    That opportunity was lost when Moon didn’t just lock commenting on her blog entry but erased it wholesale and described it as “slag.”

    Free speech is free of government intervention, not free of consequence. Weigh the consequences, say something if you think it’s important enough, take your lumps.

  6. I think that the entire WisCon organization — every last one of them — should be incredibly ashamed of themselves.

    Of course they won’t.

    All power to the *correct* people — the story of fandom for the last several decades.

    I am sooooo glad I’ve nothing to do with fandom anymore.

  7. @Tim: Disagree with them if you like but this shaming dynamic isn’t worthy of you. Unfortunately it is commonplace in online fandom for people to speak this way.

    You’ve run conventions — do you really think it’s a good plan for them to plow ahead with Moon as a GoH, regardless? If WisCon’s parent organization knows it can’t sustain Elizabeth Moon as Guest of Honor in the full sense of that term, whether it’s because of how she’s handled this controversy, because keeping her on might damage the con’s membership base or fragment the committee, or because they may doubt their ability to handle her being present from a safety or publicity viewpoint, why wouldn’t they be frank about it and make a change instead of gritting their teeth and ignoring the hazards on all sides.

    Among those who approve the decision I’ve seen many say that it’s a sorry situation and one that pains them. Some thoughtful people are weighing in on the discussion.

  8. So…a feminist science fiction convention booted
    *Elizabeth Moon* for making controversial statements about the most
    antifeminist religion on Earth? Really?

    One wonders whether the con managers shy from real controversy, or just these?

  9. I have a different opinion from my extremely good, my great, friend Tim.

    a) I think that without knowing anything about the communications or dynamic between the committee and Elizabeth Moon, I’m not in an adequate position to fairly judge.

    Beyond that, I’d want knowledge that if it isn’t at the level of being privy to all the relevant conversations and written exchanges, at the very least is at the level of comprehensively thorough write-ups that all significant parties agree are reasonably accurate.

    b) I think that without knowing anything about the communications or dynamic between the committee and SF3, and within both organizations, I’m probably not in an adequate position to fairly judge.

    c) Were I on a convention committee, I would only vote to disinvite a GOH if I felt it was the only viable alternative. I don’t feel I’m in a position to judge if that was or was not the case for WisCon, despite having read a fair amount of wordage about it.

    d) Without the sort of close knowledge I’m demanding, I think deciding either way seems entirely defensible.

    e) I therefore have no interest in criticizing the committee; as I’ve said before, I think they were screwed after Moon shut down and deleted her hundreds of comments. That’s a blogging/web no-no, and it also was the end of her defending her comments, or leaving any public lines of engagement open.

    f) This certainly is not a matter of free speech.

    g) Past all that, that Moon ever since has publically pretended it all never happened doesn’t suggest any interest in discussing the issues she chose to raise.

    This is not the case of a brave person being persecuted for defending a position.

    It’s a case of someone choosing to step up, voice an opinion, and then run away, stuff her fingers in her ears, chant naa naa naa naa, I can’t hear you, and take no responsibility in any direction whatever for her words and choices.

    That’s not a matter of defending free speech; it’s, perhaps, defending the right to be silent.

    But I don’t think that’s what being a GOH is about, either.

    Bottom line: whichever way the committee went, I don’t see how I’m in any position to judge them adversely without a hell of a lot more knowledge than I have, or am apt to get.

    But inevitably opinion is and will be all over the map on this.

    Mine is largely to feel sorry for the WisCon committee, and gratitude that I wasn’t stuck with this crap.

  10. The opinions Moon expressed in her September 11 LiveJournal post about building a mosque near Ground Zero

    Whether you agree with Elizabeth Moon’s views on Muslims, or find them as offensive as hell, her claims about the Cordoba Centre were incorrect.

    It isn’t a mosque or a memorial centre. It will be a community centre, directly inspired by the Jewish Community Centre in Manhattan (Sharif Gamal, the real estate developer who bought Park51, swims regularly at the JCC pool and said he wants the Cordoba Centre to be the same kind of space) and intended to fulfil the same purpose for the Lower East Side as the Manhattan JCC does for the Lower West Side: a place where anyone of any faith and none can come to use the cafe, the library, the sports facilities, etc: and which will include a two-floor space for prayer.

    Moon was being offensive. But she also got her facts wrong.

    Which: I’ve visited a mosque, and was told by my guide that except during prayer hours, when the available space tends to be filled up by people actually praying, Muslims regard any quiet use of prayer space as appropriate – reading and studying is especially appropriate*, but people are welcome to just sit and talk quietly, too.

    *The mosque I visited was just over the road from a university campus, and I was told that many students, Muslim and not, use the prayer space as a quiet place to study – any kind of study, not “religious”.

  11. Mr. Benford:

    Wiscon isn’t just a feminist convention these days; it also includes minority viewpoints in its mission. The “con managers” have a much narrower ideological space to work with than most concoms.

    AFAIK, SF3 hasn’t said they don’t think anyone else should invite Ms. Moon to other conventions; she’s just turned out to not be a good fit for this one particular highly specialized event.

  12. So what is Greg Benford suggesting? That feminists ought to embrace anyone who criticizes an anti-feminist religion, no matter what they say? That’s the way to make ridiculous bedfellows. Moon used all the classic language of an old-fashioned witch-hunt to tar all Muslims with the brush of terrorism, unless they proved their innocence under her deeply suspicious eye. She wasn’t defending feminism, and feminists don’t need defenders like that.

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