Elizabeth Moon

SF3 has withdrawn the invitation to Elizabeth Moon to attend WisCon 35 as guest of honor.

Comments concerning this statement can be left below or sent to info@sf3.org.

Comments are also being collected at WisCon’s Momentary Taste of WisCon blog, at http://wisconnews.blogspot.com/2010/10/elizabeth-moon.html

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188 Responses to Elizabeth Moon

  1. gocart mozart says:

    +5 for Fred Davis

  2. Kim Owen Smith says:

    It’s simple. I do not agree with everything Elizabeth Moon writes. I ssuport herexercising the freedom to write what she believes. I deplore the decision of sf3 to withdraw Elizabeth Moon’s invitation as GOH for Wison. My response is to announce that I will never attend a Wiscon or in any way consider anything done at a Wiscon as worthy of anything more than a hearty “whatever!”. I will attend ANY convention that chooses to honor Elizabeth Moon as aGOH, if at all possible, and I will purchase as many of her books as I can. Basically, you folks blew it, Big Time. BIG TIME.

  3. Kevin M says:

    It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment to politicize a con. Imagine the possibilities.

  4. Laer Carroll says:

    I think the con organizers over-reacted when they withdrew Elizabeth Moon’s invitation. Far better to have set aside an hour to discuss her views with her. You would not have seemed like the mirror image of the Tea Partiers. And you would have exercised the willingness to thoughtfully engage with those whom you do not perfectly agree.

    WisCon sounds like a convention I’d normally like to attend. I’m a feminist from the 60s who has been an activist any number of times, quitting when I had a family to feed and nurture, returning again when my wife died after a long illness and my son grew became self-supporting. But I would feel uncomfortable attending this year.

  5. Laer Carroll says:

    Oh, thanks, shinetheway. I wondered about the post considered so offensive.

    It did not offend me. Parts of it I agree with. Parts not. It seems to me some people are completely over-reacting.

    And why should she not delete the comments on her blog? Her blog. Her choice.

  6. Craig Bertuglia says:

    One of the things I love about speculative fiction is its ability to view society under microscope. One of the things I love about freedom of the press in this country is that it allows the Fourth Estate to discuss societal matters in a way elected public figures, with their inherent vested interest in keeping the tyranny of the majority placated, can never do. I am a librarian and a fanboy… and the actions of SF3 appall me to my core on both those levels. Ms. Moon’s essay was insightful, truthful, and thought provoking which are the earmarks of good speculative fiction as well.

    Shame on you SF3, shame on you WisCon, this is a sad day for fandom.

  7. D. Moonfire says:

    Assuming you withdrew because of her prior blog post, I’m sad that you felt it was needed. She may have said something uncomfortable or unpopular, but we are all entitled to our opinions and feelings. I also thought you were honoring her for everything else she wrote, before that post, and the fact that one thing can erase years of joy she gave readers with a single post is… regrettable.

    I’d rather honor someone who inspired so many people for years of writing.

    If it was because of something else, no clue, since that is the only lighting rod I’m aware of concerning Ms. Moon.

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  9. Alpheus says:

    I find it funny that people are defending SF3 and WisCon for recanting their GoH invitation to Elizabeth Moon, by saying that it’s not censorship, and that she needs to be punished for her Evil views.

    I agree: it’s not censorship–or, at least, it’s not illegal censorship–for WisCon to decide who they will allow to speak, or who they will forbid. WisCon is a private entity, and has just as much a right to do so, as we do, to allow or forbid speech, or even attendance, in our own living rooms.

    That doesn’t mean that what WisCon did is right, though, and individuals have just as much a right to boycott, or to attend, the conference, as WisCon has to do this.

    As for Moon’s comments: I agree with them some, and disagree with them some, but it IS NOT as offensive as some comments in this post have made them out to be. I even find her decision to “slag” comments to her own post amusing: she not only deleted the comments, she also made it clear that she did so because she felt that the comments were producing more heat than light. While I would disagree on that as a reason to delete comments, it’s her blog, and she can make such choices if she would like.

    But the comments she made, nor the decision to delete comments, deserve the rescinding of a GoH invitation, though.

  10. I’ve been trying to find the mission statements for SF3 and Wiscon. Are they educational organizations or not? If they are, it seems to me that the ACLU opinion on the Finkelstein-Clark University case is relevant. The SF3 and Wiscon web sites suggest they are, but that’s just words on a web site. What matters is how they’re legally organized.

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  12. Fred Davis says:

    Why don’t you go to the ACLU directly Will, and just ask them if they’re interested in taking Wiscon to court so that the court can force them to give GoH status to Elizabeth Moon, and afterwards the ACLU can take Moon to court so she can be forced into actually attending the con.

    I’m sure that is a request who’s response will not be a string of swear words punctuated by their lawyers calling you an idiot.

  13. Rosemary says:

    Alpheus – I don’t see people saying that Moon needs to be punished. What people are saying is that she doesn’t deserve to be honored by this one particular convention. That’s not about punishing her, it’s about this convention deciding for themselves who they do and do not wish to honor for their own good.

    Also, I think most of us defending SF3’s decision are not only saying that it isn’t censorship but ALSO that we agree it was the right decision. I know that’s how I feel. And sure, people who disagree are free to boycott or attend WisCon. I don’t think anyone is disputing that.

    And yes, Ms. Moon has every right to delete the comments on her own blog site. Obviously she has that right. But, as you said with the censorship line of argument, that doesn’t mean that doing so was the right thing to do. Many of us believe that it wasn’t. Or, we might believe that it was an okay thing to do, but that doing so has hurt the flow of conversation and given evidence that she no longer wishes to engage with it, which *is* a good reason to rescind the GoH invitation. If she were continuing to talk with people about this and open to educating herself on why so many people were hurt and angered by her words, it would be a different story.

  14. Fred, there’s a difference between what’s ethical and what’s legal. Here’s the ACLU opinion about what’s right in a very similar situation: ACLU to Clark

    The university backed down: Free Speech Prevails at Clark University: Student Group Overcomes President’s Heavy Hand, Allowed to Bring Controversial Speaker to Campus

  15. If you want to go straight to the ACLU’s opinion on canceling speakers for political reasons, it’s here:


  16. Tallis says:

    Actually, the statement referenced by Will Shetterly in the comments above is from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), whose mission includes the defense of academic freedom on college and university campuses. This statement specifically addresses those situations where college and university administrators overrule student organizations’ invitations to outside speakers – NOT those situations where an organization reconsiders extending an honor to an individual when that individual demonstrates by word or deed that their views are inconsistent with the values of the organization.

    As many other commenters have pointed out, SF3 has withdrawn an invitation to attend the convention as a guest of honor. It has not indicated that Moon cannot attend WisCon or participate as a panelist at WisCon, should Moon choose to attend (by all reports, Moon is welcome to attend on her own dime, to express whatever views she wishes to express). Nor has SF3 sought to silence Moon in other venues or mounted an attack her reputation. As “censorship,” this is a pretty poor attempt at suppressing Moon’s right to express her opinions.

    The true analog in the academic world for SF3’s decision would be the decision of a university to reconsider its decision to grant an individual an honorary doctorate or similar honor. Would one quarrel with the University of Massachusetts’ decision to rescind the honorary doctorate given to Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe? Or a decision of a Jewish college to withdraw a proposed honor when the recipient is shown to be an anti-Semite or a Holocaust apologist?

    The free speech /academic freedom argument goes too far when it requires an organization or an institution to endorse or honor those who have expressed bigoted views wholly at odds with the mission or purpose of the organization.

  17. Tallis, Sarah Wunsch is identified as the Staff Attorney for the ACLU, and her statement is on their letterhead. She quotes the AAUP position and several others; I’m sorry that confused you.

    Again, her letter is here.

    Yes, the situations are not identical. However, nothing about Elizabeth Moon’s work has changed since she was asked to attend WisCon. She was not about to receive a doctorate or similar honor, but was expected to be available to speak over the weekend. Instead, the heads of Wiscon decided to honor a heckler’s veto by the loudest people on the internet.

    Diversity in feminism should include conservative feminists. Is there nothing about feminist diversity in Wiscon’s mission statement?

    If anyone has a link to the mission statement, I’d be very grateful.

  18. Tallis, my bad! Yes, I see I did link to the AAUP page and say it was the ACLU’s; I got to it from the ACLU’s site and wasn’t as careful as I should’ve been. Very sorry about the confusion.

  19. Tallis says:

    Will, I was not confused. I read Wunsch’s letter and it is plain that she is quoting AAUP policy to Clark University’s administrators in an effort to persuade Clark University to adhere to its own policies and reverse its decision concerning Finklestein. But is it disingenuous at best to represent the AAUP statement as the ACLU’s position, or to argue that the AAUP’s statement – intended for universities and colleges whose missions include a commitment to tolerating all expression in service to their educational mission – applies to private membership organizations like SF3 or WisCon, whose goals and missions appear to be decidedly different from the average university’s mission. (I would check the bylaws and the other organizations page, linked above, for information about SF3’s and WisCon’s goals and mission .)

    I would argue, however, that you assume facts not in evidence and ignore the plain meaning of SF3’s words when you claim that the invitation was an invitation to be “available to speak over the weekend.” According to the SF3 statement that floats above all these comments, and from all that I have been able to glean from the myriad of blog posts and comments made here and elsewhere, SF3 has *withdrawn its invitation to Moon to attend WisCon as its Guest of Honor.* Nothing I can find on this website or the WisCon website states that she was invited to attend as a speaker, or to speak about a particular topic.

    Designating an individual as a guest of honor – or, in academic terms, conferring an honorary doctor of letters on an individual – may, or may not be accompanied by the perquisite of saying a few words to the audience in the course of receiving the honor, or being honored. But the perquisite is dependent upon receipt of the honor; when the honor is withdrawn – in this case, for articulating bigoted views completely inconsistent with the goals of the organization – the individual no longer has any claim on the perquisites that accompany the honor.

    (Whether or not WisCon conveys such a perquisite to its Guests of Honor is a matter of conjecture; nothing on the SF3 or WisCon websites specifically states that Guests of Honor are “expected to speak over the weekend.” It could be just as likely that the concom intends to ask this year’s GoHs to sign books, wave to the crowd, and sit on a platform while others speak in praise of the GoH, or the GoH’s writings.)

    I’d also argue that you assume too much when you claim that SF3 honored a heckler’s veto; according to the post preceding this one, two weeks before SF3’s decision to rescind Moon’s invitation, the SF3 membership affirmed the statement that “rescinding Elizabeth Moon’s GoH invitation would best serve WisCon’s goals and community.” Unless you attended that meeting and are in possession of facts not available to the public, that statement supports the conclusion that SF3 made a decision consistent with its values, a decision that must have taken a great deal of courage to make, especially in light of all the abuse directed towards the organization.

    Exercising this choice is not censorship. To repeat my earlier post, SF3 has withdrawn an honor; it has not barred Moon from attending WisCon, or from speaking on panels during WisCon. It is not seeking to bar Moon from other speaking venues, nor is it attacking Moon’s reputation. It is simply refusing to endorse or honor a person who has expressed bigoted views wholly at odds with the mission or purpose of the organization.

  20. Tallis, do you think she was using the ACLU letterhead because she was out of her own?

    The notion that a guest of honor is like an honorary doctorate is silly. For a doctorate, you’re expected to make a speech about how grateful you are, take your fake diploma, and go away. A guest of honor is supposed to speak on panels and be available to talk during the con with the attendees. I have trouble imagining how the two could be more different.

    I still haven’t found a mission statement, but I did find the by-laws. It says, “The purpose of SF3 is to foster interest in, appreciation for, and criticism of fantasy and science fiction in literature, art, film, drama, and other forms of communication.”

    It does not say anything about the political views of the people it invites to speak.

  21. The only statement I’ve been able to find about Wiscon’s purpose is “WisCon is the first and foremost feminist science fiction convention in the world. WisCon encourages discussion, debate and extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class. WisCon honors writers, editors and artists whose work explores these themes and whose voices have opened new dimensions and territory in these issues. And, oh yes, we also like to have fun while we’re at it.”

    I see nothing there about acceptable political views, or about silencing discussion, debate, or extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race, or class.

    Sorry my google fu is weak. If anyone has a better link for Wiscon or SF3’s official statement of purpose that justifies canceling Moon’s invitation to speak, I beg you, share it.

  22. Tallis says:

    Will, you said: “Diversity in feminism should include conservative feminists.” Presuming that you are using that statement to argue for the inclusion of Elizabeth Moon as a GoH at WisCon, I’d like to unpack some of the assumptions contained in your statement.

    First, your statement assumes that Moon is a political conservative. Based upon what I have read, Moon apparently views herself as a moderate Democrat. Thus, a plea to include Moon on the grounds of diversity, based upon her supposed political conservatism, must fail at the outset.

    Second, your statement assumes that the bigotry expressed by Moon in her blog post is an acceptable part of conservative philosophy, and thus an acceptable part of conservative feminism.** It further assumes that bigotry is acceptable political and social discourse and that “feminist diversity” is promoted by, and served by, bigotry.

    From all I can read, SF3 and WisCon (and many, many conservatives, I’d wager) reject those propositions as untrue and harmful. Do you have a principled argument to counter that conclusion?

    Bottom line, you are asking a convention that says it opposes bigotry as part of its larger mission to promote feminist SF to subsidize and honor bigotry *at an event intended to be welcoming to those who are the target of that bigotry.* Characterizing its refusal to subsidize and honor bigotry as “censorship” is intellectually dishonest, especially when there is absolutely no evidence that steps have been taken to bar the individual from attending the convention or speaking on its panels.

    What the state must tolerate in the name of the First Amendment and individual rights, what certain institutions must tolerate in pursuit of a specific mission promoting academic freedom, need not be tolerated by other groups and organizations. This is especially true for organizations that oppose bigotry and seek to eliminate its harms from society, including those organizations that exist within the context of SF fandom.

    On your terms, anyone’s refusal to buy a book, buy a ticket for a speaker, or otherwise refuse to subsidize speech is “censorship.” Your use of “censorship” in this manner cheapens the meaning of the word and ignores the fact that, in the marketplace of ideas, no one is required to buy whatever is being sold there, and no seller has a right to force anyone to subsidize or listen to their views.

    Will, I’d like you to answer my original question: should a private organization be required to honor and endorse a person who has expressed bigoted views that are inconsistent with an organization’s goals and that harm its members? What moral authority compels an organization to pay for airfare, hotel rooms, and meals and provide a venue to an individual who espouses a philosophy that is antithetical to what it stands for, and what its members believe? Has “freedom of speech” devolved to the point where no one can exercise any discretion in the marketplace of ideas?

    More to the point: can no one take a principled stand against bigotry?

    **[Many argue that conservative political, economic, and social philosophies are wholly inconsistent with the core feminist belief that all persons are human beings, but I’ll set that aside right now for the sake of argument.]

  23. Tallis says:

    1. Show me the policy document from the ACLU’s Board that adopts or endorses the AAUP statement as its own, and we’ll be cool. Until then, it’s dishonest to represent the AAUP statement as the ACLU’s statement; Wunsch’s citation of the AAUP statement as authority for her argument isn’t an adoption of the AAUP statement by the ACLU Board of Trustees.

    2. I thought you were rooting around for the mission statements in order to bolster your argument that SF3 and WisCon had a specific educational mission that obligated them to provide a venue to Moon, just like Clark University had an obligation rooted in academic freedom to provide a venue to the speakers chosen by its student organizations. Since neither the SF3 bylaws or the WisCon mission appear to support that argument – and you’ve agreed that the situations are not alike — it seems as if you’re now arguing that SF3 cannot withdraw Moon’s invitation to serve as GoH unless there’s some specific statement requiring some sort of group think on the part of its members and/or GoHs. Whatever – in either case, there is no principled basis to claim censorship, or to argue that a private organization cannot advance the values and beliefs held by its members by withdrawing a proposed honor from someone who has expressed bigoted views inconsistent with those values and beliefs.

    3. Nothing on WisCon website appears to guarantee its GoHs a right to speak during a particular event or panel; all it says is that “WisCon honors writers, editors and artists whose work explores these [feminist] themes.” By insisting that an invitation to attend as a GoH always includes an irrevocable invitation to speak, you not only rely on your own unsupported assumptions, you also confuse the giving of an honor with with its perquisites. No honor, no perquisites. (And really? You’re actually saying that a GoH-ship isn’t a situation where the honorees aren’t “expected to make a speech about how grateful [they] are, take their [shiny rocketship thingie] and go away”? I’d say that a GoH ship is precisely like an honorary doctorate.)

    4. Please, show me the SF3 or WisCon statement that says that Moon has been forbidden to “speak on panels and be available to talk during the con with the attendees.” She can still do this – the only difference is that she must now use her own funds to pay for transportation, housing, membership, and food.

  24. Tallis, are moderate Democrats politically unacceptable at Wiscon? Being a socialist, I so want to go now!


    Ms. Moon has a political take on Islam and immigrants. Call her politics what you want—her politics have resulted in the withdrawal of the offer to speak over the weekend at Wiscon.

    Where does Wiscon define itself as being about “acceptable feminism”? I’d love to see the definition of that.

    You say, “On your terms, anyone’s refusal to buy a book, buy a ticket for a speaker, or otherwise refuse to subsidize speech is “censorship.” Well, in Makeupshitland, I suppose that’s true. But in a fact-based universe, I’ve been arguing that rescinding the offer to speak for political reasons is censorship, so let’s please stick to that.

    “should a private organization be required to honor and endorse a person who has expressed bigoted views that are inconsistent with an organization’s goals and that harm its members?” If the organization is intellectually honest and organized for educational purposes and the person’s bigotry has nothing to do with the reason the person was originally selected, you damn betcha. I would also be content with saying yes if only the first condition applies. People often invite speakers who disagree with their group. It’s called broadening horizons or listening to different views. Educational groups often do it.

    “can no one take a principled stand against bigotry?” Of course. If she’d come and I’d attended, I would’ve worn a badge or armband or some other symbol of protest. This is not about taking a stand. It’s about using censorship so no one has to take a stand.

    As for your second list:

    1. I’ll stand by the statements presented by an ACLU writer on ACLU letterhead.

    2. Where do SF3’s or Wiscon’s statements justify canceling a speaker for political reasons?

    3. If you don’t know what a Guest of Honor does at a convention, we really shouldn’t be having this discussion.

    4. Do you know of any case where a speaker was censored who then paid to come and participate? Telling someone they’re not welcome is a pretty powerful way of saying to go away.

  25. Tallis says:

    Yes, Moon has a political take on Islam and immigrants – it’s called bigotry. And that’s the core of the problem. Bigotry is more than just a difference of opinion. It’s an assertion that some persons are less than human, that they don’t deserve to be treated like human beings.

    By arguing from the proposition that Moon’s bigotry is mere “politics,’ you’re arguing that bigotry stands on the same moral ground as a difference of opinion on Social Security, or a difference of opinion about what constitutes feminism. History has taught us what happens when a society begins to treat bigotry as a moral political option.

    Moreover, bigotry is not about broadening horizons; it’s about narrowing them to a tiny universe limned by fear and hatred of the other. I can’t think of anything that’s more opposed to speculative fiction’s commitment to imagination, change, and hope for a better future.

    Bigotry matters. It matters when the organization has a unique mission to fight bigotry and affirm the humanity of all its members; it especially matters when that organization designates someone as a “Guest of Honor.” No theory of free expression obligates that organization to honor a person who espouses bigotry, or obligates them to subsidize a bigot’s speech. The marketplace of ideas: anyone can sell, but no one is obligated to buy a bad product.

    As for “intellectual honesty,” well, I need to laugh, Will. Look at you – arguing that an AAUP statement is an ACLU statement because it’s quoted in a letter by an ACLU lawyer; arguing that there’s some educational mission that obligates WisCon to provide a podium to a bigot when there’s no such mission in evidence; arguing that bigotry should be treated as a mere political disagreement and that bigotry deserves a respectful hearing; arguing that private parties can’t exercise any discretion in who they choose to honor, just so you can label a decision to withdraw an invitation to attend WisCon on the con’s dime as “censorship.”

    Let’s lather, rinse, and repeat: SF3 withdrew Moon’s invitation to attend WisCon as a guest of honor. In other words, they withdrew an invitation to attend WisCon at WisCon’s expense as an honored guest. No more and no less. (You can read the statement in plain English above these comments, if that helps your comprehension.) SF3 has not barred Moon from attending WisCon, or speaking at WisCon; SF3 has not sought to bar Moon from other venues or attacked Moon’s reputation.

    This is not censorship. It’s especially not censorship when the speaker has numerous other opportunities to speak in other venues. To claim anything more requires one to adopt a whole string of unsupported assumptions – wild-assed guesses – about why Moon was chosen as a guest of honor, why SF3 withdrew the invitation, and what actually was expected of Moon as a guest of honor. Neither you nor I have any idea about these facts. I’ve played your game as an intellectual exercise, but really, WE DON’T KNOW any of these things. (And I’ll note here that WisCon appears to be one convention that might actually consider who their honoree is as a person when they invite a Guest of Honor.)

    Go ahead, explain again why an organization can’t exercise its own right of free expression and take a stand against bigotry by choosing who they honor. And before you get started, a few points: “because I said so” isn’t a sound basis for any argument; and let’s not cry any crocodile tears over the fact that Moon has to pay her own way to WisCon in order to speak on its panels and be available to members. There appear to be about 1,000 other members who suffer under the same burden. Having to pay admission and travel costs isn’t censorship.

    And by the way, I’m out of here, Will – there’s life to be lived, etc. But it’s been a fascinating conversation, especially that part where you say you’d support a bigot as a guest of honor. I’ll be remembering that when I go out to make purchases in the marketplace of ideas.

  26. Tallis, I almost ended my last post with a paragraph like yours. So, with luck, a final comment:

    Let’s try this your way. You say, “SF3 withdrew Moon’s invitation to attend WisCon as a guest of honor. In other words, they withdrew an invitation to attend WisCon at WisCon’s expense as an honored guest. ” Fine. Then Clark University withdrew Finkelstein’s invitation to attend Clark University as a speaker. In other words, they withdrew an invitation to attend Clark University at Clark’s expense as an honored guest.

    Do you really buy that logic? The ACLU does not. They sent a letter about that logic. You are, of course, free to ignore it.

    And, yes, Finkelstein could still pay his own way to go to Clark, or could talk later or elsewhere. So? From the letter you so wish to ignore: “The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship.”

    Go in peace.

  27. Tallis, I have a terminal case of Esprit d’Escalier. This is the whole of a blog post I just made:

    Here’s a quote that’s generally credited to Martin Niemöller:

    They came first for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    I’m a red, which explains why free speech matters so much to me. If capitalists don’t respect free speech, I’m silenced.

    But that quote isn’t addressed to reds. It’s addressed to people who oppose them. A modern equivalent for antiracism theorists would start, “They came first for the bigots, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a bigot.”

    Censors love a foothold, so they start with the things that the majority opposes, then use what they’ve gained to censor more. That’s why I agree with the ACLU: lovers of free speech must speak up for a bigot’s right to speak.

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  29. Tallis says:

    @Will Shetterley:

    There are simply no words for the irony evidenced by quoting Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller – himself a victim of Nazi political and religious bigotry – in defense of bigotry. It was Nazi bigotry that landed Niemoller, Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and political dissidents in Nazi concentration camps and death camps.

    More importantly, no one’s coming for the bigots. It’s the bigots who are coming for Muslims, for persons of color, for GLBT persons, for political dissidents, and they’ve got lots of blogs, rallies, cable channels, books, and other means to advance their message of intolerance and hate. To twist Niemoller’s statement into a defense of bigotry is a flagrant, ahistorical misappropriation that ranks right up there with the propaganda advanced by Glenn Beck, Fox News, and others who distort history for their own ends.

    In fact, in the aftermath of WWII, Niemoller sought to atone for his own initial anti-Semitism and nationalism by confessing his failings and pointing out that the Holocaust and Nazi political persecutions occurred only because individuals, churches, and other groups failed to speak out against, and resist, the evils of state-sanctioned bigotry.

    In other words, Niemoller was arguing in favor of the very actions taken by WisCon: a principled stand against bigotry by social institutions and individuals, a refusal to treat bigotry as a moral political choice.

    For while the *state* may be required to tolerate bigoted speech (a point I’ve repeatedly acknowledged) no theory of free speech requires non-governmental groups or individuals to tolerate and sanction such speech, or to treat bigots with respect, or provide them with a podium.
    Indeed, instead of defending bigotry, Niemoller argued that there is a moral duty to speak out and act against bigotry. To claim otherwise ignores and distorts the lessons taught by Pastor Niemoller – and amounts to a claim that those who speak out against bigotry have no right to speak out, no freedom of association, no right to defend the humanity of those groups targeted by bigots – because, well, free speech uber alles, and to hell with defending religious and political minorities.

    Quit conflating the obligations of the state with the right of individuals and groups to resist evil.

  30. Tallis, I first saw the Niemoller quote used in this discussion by someone who thought Niemoller was in favor of censorship. I’m amused that you agree with that person. His statement is about opposing suppression of people who you think are wrong.

    Perhaps you don’t know that censors never censor people they approve of and always censor people that they are convinced are wrong. The Puritans and the Nazis had that in common with Wiscon.

    If you don’t object to dictionaries, please look up the definition of “censorship”. Any organization may censor; the state need not be involved. Censorship by a university and censorship by an educational non-profit (which I assume Wiscon is) are equally wrong.

    And please note that I fully support protesting bigots. But I oppose censoring them. So far as I can tell, Wiscon chose censorship instead of censure because they wanted to avoid protests.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Just have to say, your misguided interpretation of Elizabeth Moon’s blog post and subsequent cancellation of her GoH invite… has very likely resulted in major book sales for her due to the publicity! Congratulations, can you ban some more authors so they can get increased sales, too?

  32. ellid says:

    I’m late to the party, but as a member of the ACLU I am very, very happy to learn that Elizabeth Moon, whose blog post was a fine example of the sort of religious bigotry the ACLU fights on a regular basis, is no longer going to be the GoH at Wiscon.

  33. margiep says:

    Ms Moon is a Texan at heart. Her popular science fiction books have characters with Latino, Mexican, or native surnames as servants and proud to serve in that capacity. I choose to remember her best book The Speed of Dark, as the significant contribution to literature and the community.

  34. Leslie Song says:

    There seems to be some serious (and maybe a bit absurd) confusion over the meaning of the withdrawal of the Guest of Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon.

    1. The deny an honor to someone is not the same thing as censoring their words, burning their books, or doing a Stalin-job on them. Nobody said Elizabeth Moon was BANNED from Wiscon. Nobody declared that her books could not be sold there, and nobody has said that her words, writings, or values cannot be discussed.

    If you want to discuss her ideas and works, suggest a panel, why don’t you.

    2. There has always been plenty of disagreement and heated discussion at Wiscon, and this will continue to be so. Just because management decided not to honor a person who thinks immigrants should be blamed for their sufferings, does not mean the discourse there is now going to be boring and one -sided. Yes, if you want testy conversations about race and culture and gender, believe me you will have them at Wiscon, Moon or no Moon. There are plenty of people who agree with Moon, and they attend, and they talk.


    Why should people of color or immigrants bear the brunt of Moon’s ‘right to say whatever comes to her mind,’ no matter how insulting? Free speech we all have – but I don’t have to honor you for your Montezuma’s revenge of the mouth.

  35. Ocala Wings says:

    We all have the right to think or believe anything we want to; we have a right to our own opinions, based in fact or not. We even have the right to say them out loud and write them down. But if we choose to make them public, then the public has the right to judge them–and by extension, us. That is why most of us choose our words carefully–not because of censorship, but because we understand the importance of words, the power that words have to hurt or heal, create or erase.

    I admit I haven’t read Elizabeth Moon’s work. But I did read the blog in question–all of it. Perhaps it was hastily written. Perhaps she was tired when she wrote it. For all I know, she may have hit send or submit and then regretted it. I have no idea about her intentions, good or ill, all I have are her words. And they were not honorable. Nor was the thinking they represented. Her words about immigrants, citizenship and religion showed an ignorance and bias I would not expect to see in a writer being honored by any group of writers, or from anyone who’s grown up around immigrants. Her choice of the word “assimilation,” to define a “good citizen” was, to me, appalling. Her choice of words about “Muslims” were intolerant and dehumanizing. Did she mean them to be so? I don’t know–all I have to go by are her words. I have to assume she chose them as carefully as I am now choosing mine.

    We are all free to say and write whatever we choose. But no one is required to honor us for it.

  36. A Person says:

    Does WisCon ban socialists, too? I’m guessing no, and that outspoken Marxists like China Mieville are openly welcomed despite fighting for a monstrous ideology that’s murdered tens of millions. Yet the silence is deafening, the lack of boycotting a fact.

    Let’s be honest here: the hard left has never met a totalitarian method it hasn’t liked. It only gets offended when some equally extreme activist on the other side applies it to them.

    Unfortunately, moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, moderate anythings are caught in an insane crossfire where they are expected to choose between greedy Enron executives, book burning pastors, or islamists who want an Islamic building named after the invasion point of Spain in 1171.

    The only sane thing is to reject all 3 bad options. I will start by refusing to buy any books by speakers at Wisdom until they distance themselves from not only the hard right, but also the hard left.

  37. Pingback: Elizabeth Moon | A Momentary Taste of WisCon

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