Archive | August 2019

Weekend Update 8/31/2019: Dozens attend straight pride, and yet another ex-ex-gay

Mostly empty amphitheatre at today's Straight Pride in Boston.

Twitter user @SobaFett posted this picture of the crowd at today’s Straight Pride rally https://twitter.com/SobaFett/status/1167845221113180160

Was it really just this last Monday that I posted about the only one dozen people who turned out for the so-called Straight Pride parade in Modesto? That group (led by the guy who accidentally admitted that they were a racist group when arguing at a city council meeting) failed to get a permit, but the Patriot Front, American Guard, and Proud Boys (all neo-nazi groups) in Boston did get a permit… and boy, they had dozens show up!

The Boston police department contingent sent out to prevent violence outnumbers the straight pride idiots… and the cops are greatly outnumbered by the counter-protesters. You can find details here: Here’s what’s unfolding at Boston’s ‘Straight Pride’ event – Well, surprise surprise — it’s basically a pro-Trump rally featuring Milo Yiannopoulos. Also: Tens March In Straight Pride Parade.

Someone put up these fliers around the parade route in Boston.

Since I opined on this whole topic just a few days ago, I’m not sure if I want to say more. Other than to point out that the so-called Straight Pride Parade’s grand marshal, Milo Yiannopoulos, should only be remembered for when he cheerfully explained how beneficial it is to gay boys to be sexually molested by adults.

I realize the purpose of the event is to troll and get attention. But the old adage about not feeding the trolls is just like the useless advice that some adults give bullied kids: if you don’t react, they’ll stop bullying you. That advice is useless because the bully gets just as much enjoyment from the laughter of the bystanders as he does from any reaction of the target. So ignoring them completely isn’t what works. We have to counter lies with truth. But I don’t need to repeat myself, especially when this article explains why straight pride isn’t needed: On Eve of Straight Pride, Equal Rights Group Debunks ‘Heterophobia’.

In other news: Another Ex-Gay Torture Leader Denounces Movement. It’s a story some of us have heard a thousand times: bullied gay kid growing up in a religious family tries to pray his gay away, becomes involved in an ex-gay ministry, leads a double life pretending to be straight while secretly pursuing illicit relationships, and now he wants to apologize and admit he was gay all along.

Except McKrae Game didn’t just become involved in an ex-gay ministry: he helped found one, and did a lot of the (hypocritical) counseling himself.

Listen, I do feel sorry for Game’s younger self. I get it. I, too, was raised in Southern Baptist churches. I was teased and bullied at school and at church as a child because people thought I was gay. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god for years. And also, similarly to this guy, when I confessed to a good friend (who happened to be a young woman) that I thought I might be gay, I let myself be talked into giving a different orientation a try. Yes, I got married to a woman and then eventually divorced and came out.

So I certainly understand the sort of self-destructive toxic self-loathing that drives a queer person to try not to be queer.

But…

I never claimed to be straight. The lie I tried to live for a few years wasn’t much better, because I wasn’t bisexual any more than I was straight. But I didn’t try to tell other gay people that they could be cured. I didn’t found an organization that wouldn’t just spread that lie, but would sell the lie to other struggling queer people.

And maybe I just lucked out in that the first person I confessed my fear aloud to wasn’t anti-gay. Maybe I just lucked out that the attempts by family and church to intervene in my teen life weren’t as forceful and sustained as one of my cousins was subjected to.

But the thing that I keep coming back to with guys like McKrae Game is: it became his job to do this harmful and ineffective “treatment.” I said some pretty shitty things when I was a teen-ager and younger, trying to deflect people’s suspicions. I owe some people that I will likely never see again apologies for that.

But this guy charged the people he was lying to. Like other ex-gay leaders, he made people pay him for the lies he was telling. And some of those people killed themselves because praying didn’t make their feelings go away.

In the article he seems to understand that:

“Most people in the gay community have treated me ridiculously kind,” Game said, “liking me for me now and not who I was. And I hope they just give me the chance to talk to them so I can hear them out and apologize.”

Game said he realizes that for many an apology won’t be enough. And that he’ll likely be apologizing for the rest of his life.

Yes, yes he will.

Enough about that. Let’s close with this bit from June, when Stephen Colbert commented on the Straight Pride when the group first applied for their permit:

Stephen Colbert: What The ‘Straight Pride’ Parade Won’t Have:

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Friday Five (save the planet edition)

This is not a movie. Photographer Jasper Reyes took the picture of part of the demolition of the Alaska Way Viaduct here in Seattle.

This is not a movie. Photographer Jasper Reyes took the picture of part of the demolition of the Alaska Way Viaduct here in Seattle. (Click to embiggen)

I really can’t believe that it is Friday! The last Friday in August. So summer is winding down. And this weekend is a holiday. Yay!

But first, I have to get through another impossible deadline at work. One the plus side, while I was compiling this I was also watching the Seahawks win the final game of the pre-season. Which was fun. Even if the gane doesn’t count.

So, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five science stories, five stories about a hopeful future, five stories about why we should impeach someone already, and five videos (plus things I wrote and notable obituaries).

Stories of the Week:

In The Matter Of Diamond And Silk’s Very Real Lawyer v. Wonkette: Bring It, Sh*thead. For the record: Diamond and Silk are black, but they also promote and defend white supremacists, so yes, they most definitely are black white supremacists. And should be deeply ashamed.

Undercover in Patriot Prayer: Insights From a Vancouver Democrat Who’s Been Working Against the Far-Right Group from the Inside.

Hurricane Dorian grazes Puerto Rico.

New Jersey woman won’t stop abandoning kittens at Whole Foods, shelter begs her to stop.

Now You Can Help Save the Environment by Watching a Bunch of Porn.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

Superior, Wis., passes gay ‘conversion therapy’ ban – The city joins seven others in Wisconsin banning the practice.

‘We Don’t Promote That Here’: Kentucky School Administrators Force Students to Remove LGBTQ-Pride Tee Shirts – Student Says Principal Outed Several LGBTQ Students to Their Parents.

Former NFL Player: There Are Gay, Bisexual Players On Every Pro Football Team – Ryan O’Callaghan, who played for the New England Patriots and came out in 2017, said he regularly hears from closeted current athletes and as if on cue: Former NFL Player Comes Out As Bisexual.

Out candidate Pete Buttigieg would beat Donald Trump in presidential election – A new poll from Quinnipiac shows Mayor Pete winning the general election by 9 points.

Kentucky principal who tried to ban books over ‘homosexual content’ busted for child porn .

This Week in Science:

New landmark study finds that genetics influences sexual orientation – It turns out there isn’t just one gay gene. There are several.

Stone tools may place some of the first Americans in Idaho 16,500 years ago – Artifacts add to evidence that North America’s early settlers predated an inland, ice-free path.

Storms on Jupiter are disturbing the planet’s colorful belts: Radio, IR and optical observations show evolution of plumes and their impact on belts and zones.

NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars. It’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

These Experimental Shorts Are An ‘Exosuit’ That Boosts Endurance On The Trail.

This Week in the Next Blue Wave:

How Georgia could help Democrats win the Senate — but only if they play it perfectly.

Democrats’ Emerging Tax Idea: Look Beyond Income, Target Wealth – Lawmakers and 2020 candidates offer a range of options focused on capturing some of the trillions of dollars in assets belonging to the nation’s richest.

A goal for Democrats: Make the White House boring again.

Republicans grow anxious about the Trump economy – Trump’s trade war with China could undermine GOP chances of holding the White House and Senate in 2020.

Is The NRA Financially Bleeding Out?

This Week in Impeach the Mo-Fo Already:

Legal Experts: Trump’s Promise of Pardons to Aides for Breaking the Law to Build His Wall Is Impeachable.

Thank You for Your Service. Sorry, Your Kids Aren’t US Citizens: Trump Changes Rules on Military Families Overseas.

Trump sees all U.S. Jews as Israelis because his Christian Zionist allies do, too.

Trump Loots Millions From FEMA to Send Migrants Back to Mexico – Just as Hurricane Season Starts.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis Rips Trump’s Policies In New Book: Storm Clouds Are Gathering, America’s At The Breaking Point.

In Memoriam:

Attorney Who Challenged Arkansas Gay Marriage Ban Dies.

Gaming Legend Rick Loomis.

Things I wrote:

Oppressed oppressors: A Dozen Peaceful Racists Show Up for “Straight Pride”.

Frogs and scorpions, or, he was never a journalist.

Late Tuesday Tidbit: The evangelical leader and the other pool boy.

Astounding Stories of Super-Science, or name changes are nothing new in sf/f.

Hard Times reap hard lessons, or when did cyberpunk really begin?

Videos!

CHEETO CHRIST STUPID-CZAR – Randy Rainbow Song Parody:

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Greyson Chance – white roses:

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Kygo & Whitney Houston – Higher Love (Official Video):

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Tegan and Sara – I’ll Be Back Someday [Official Music Video]:

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David Archuleta – Paralyzed (Official Video):

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Hard Times reap hard lessons, or when did cyberpunk really begin?

If you search the web for the history and definition of cyberpunk, most places will tell you it is a dystopian sub-genre of science fiction which came into being in 1983 when Bruce Bethke published a short story by the name. Most definitions of the subgenre focus on a society controlled by computers and cybernetic technology. But I think a better definition is stories in which the main characters are marginalized and/or alienated, living on the edge of a generally dystopic society, where daily life has been transformed in invasive and sometimes grotesque ways by rapid technological change—a world where everyone’s access to information is controlled (usually by moneyed interests who in turn don’t realize the information and technology are controlling them) and information about individuals is used against them. These are the themes common across works that most people agree are cyberpunk.

Because cyberpunk was identified as a sub-genre in the 1980s, computers and their possible misuse figured prominently in early works. As computers became more ubiquitous in the real world, later works have tended to focus on the products of all the information technology. The hallmark of cyberpunk is stories which show that despite technological advances, the quality of life has degraded precipitously. Cyberpunk protagonists face off against the dehumanizing forces of technology, trying to reassert the worth of human imagination and connections.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (published in 1984) is said to be the first cyberpunk novel. Although other people have argued that Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a contender for the first cyberpunk novel, even though it was written years before the term cyberpunk was coined. And clearly since one of the themes of that book is that we must understand how technology encroaches on life in order to understand what technology is, and that is a very cyberpunk notion. There is certainly no doubt that the movie based on Dick’s novel, Blade Runner is cyberpunk, which could be another argument in its favor.

I am quite happy to include Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? within the sub-genre of cyberpunk, but I don’t believe it was the first cyberpunk novel. The first cyberpunk novel was written 114 years earlier than Dick’s novel, and 130 years before Gibson’s. The first cyberpunk novel was published in 1854, written by none other than Charles Dickens. It was a novel called Hard Times — For Our Times. I recognize that this seems an extraordinary claim, but bear with me.

Hard Times is not one of Dickens’ most famous works. It is one of the shortest novels he wrote. And unlike many of his more well-known novels, not a single sub-plot has any humor in it. Some characters get happier endings that others, but no one gets a classic happy ending.

The book is set in the fictitious industrial town of Coketown. The story opens with one of the villains of the piece, Mr. Gradgrind, a school board superintendent, quizzing a young woman (Cecilia Jupe) at the school about the definition of a horse. When Ceclilia describes it as a magnificent creature, he berates her for not knowing the zoological definition. Gradgrind is convinced that all education should be facts, only facts. Gradgrind lays out his belief that all of life can be understood if you simply know the facts and averages, and that things such as art, music, or imagination are wastes of time. Later in the book we will learn that Gradgrind has named one of us one children after Rev. Thomas Malthus (famous for writing about overpopulation problems and tangling his mathematics with his moral philosophy), which I think is telling.

Another important player in the book is Mr. Bounderby, a wealthy mill owner who is the employer of many of the other characters in the novel. Bounderby and Gradgrind are friends and business associates. Bounderby wants to marry Gradgrind’s daughter, Louisa, even though she is more than 30 younger than he. Bounderby is also big on numbers and calculations—he makes all his decisions—both business and person—based on cold facts and numbers. We also learn that Bounderby is the sole shareholder of the only bank in Coketown. As the plot of the novel develops, it turns out the Bounderby has financial ties to just about everyone in the city.

Much of the plot concerns itself with the toll that factory work takes on workers and their families, which we mostly see through the eyes of Stephen Blackpool, one of the workers. Dickens portrays the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, particularly when the same people who own the means of production also control both the flow of capital and information. He also has a subplot about an attempt by the mill workers to unionize. Unfortunately this is the weakest subplot of the novel, because Dickens didn’t seem to understand how unions work.

A driving force of many of the subplots is Bounderby’s network of spies. He uses his financial power over people to force them to spy on their neighbors, families, and co-workers, and report to Bounderby so that, for instance, he can prevent the workers unionizing.

So, how does this map to my definition of cyberpunk?

All the sympathetic characters (Louisa, Cecilia, Stephen) are marginalized in various ways, either because of the economic status or because their lives are under the control of others because of their gender of familial dependent status. Coketown is definitely a dystopia, and many aspects of the various social and economic forces he describes are worse than actually existed at the time of writing, so it can be argued it is a near-future dystopia, at that. Many of the difficulties and challenges the sympathetic characters face are because of the invasive way the industrial revolutions has disrupted social norms. The quality of life has degraded significantly, and many characters remember relatively recent times when things were better. Between them, Bounderby and Gradgrind control what information most of the inhabitants of the town have access to. Bounderby actively uses information he gathers through is spies to blackmail or otherwise harm characters who don’t do as he wishes.

In short, the protagonists face off against the dehumanizing forces of technology, and at the end, only those who have been able to reconnect with human connections, emotions, and imagination get a sort-of happy ending.

Dickens doesn’t explicitly say that the tale is set in the near future, even though I argue that was his intent. He’s clearly trying to show where the utilitarian philosophy that was becoming prevalent among the movers and shakers of his time will lead. But if that isn’t enough to make you think of this as, at least, proto-science fiction, there is also Bounderby’s obsession with numbers and calculations. What Bounderby is talking about when he says he makes life decisions based on numbers and calculations sounds an awful lot like an algorithm. And what are computer programs but algorithms? The way he explains his philosophy to Gradgrind at one point would not sound out of place coming from a character in one of Isaac Asimov’s stories involving psychohistory (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, et cetera).

The dehumanizing aspects of technological advance is a theme that shows up in later works by Dickens. His last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend similarly warned against the loss of humanity to the cold demands of industrialization.

The way we think of genre now wasn’t how writers, readers, or publishers thought of stories in Dickens’ time. Dickens didn’t think of his Christmas ghost stories, for instance, as being a different kind of writing than his less fantastical ones. I know I’m making a stretch, here, but I think it is useful to try to look at stories—new ones we love today, and those that came before—from new angles. Cyberpunk’s core is the negative impacts of technology on individuals and society—cyberpunk is always about a dystopia. Whereas steampunk, despite having a similar name, at its core is optimistic.

Given that contrast, this particular novel, and several others Dickens wrote after, falls more clearly on the ancestral tree of works such as Neuromancer and Blade Runner than Boneshaker or Morlock Night. Maybe what Dickens wrote wasn’t cyberpunk, but I feel quite safe calling him one of the grandparents of cyberpunk.

Astounding Stories of Super-Science, or name changes are nothing new in sf/f

The February, 1930 cover of Astounding Stories of Super-Scinece, cover art by  H. W. Wesso. In 1930 the magazine's editor was Harry Bates.

The February, 1930 cover of Astounding Stories of Super-Scinece, cover art by H. W. Wesso. In 1930 the magazine’s editor was Harry Bates.

Just last week I commented on the kerfuffle in sci fi fannish circles about how problematic some of us think it is to have one of our major awards named after an extremely racist (and misogynist, classist, xenophobic, anti-democracy advocating authoritarian) and long deceased editor. I only linked to a fraction of the commentaries and arguments posted online since the acceptance speech that kicked this off. And while the kerfuffle has raged on there has been a very significant development: A Statement from the Editor.

As we move into Analog’s 90th anniversary year, our goal is to keep the award as vital and distinguished as ever, so after much consideration, we have decided to change the award’s name to The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

So, Dell Magazines has decided to rename the award. They pledge that the award recipients will continue to be selected in the same way as before, and pledge to work with WorldCon going forward to implement the change. This might seem like really swift action on the company’s part, but another article published just the day before this announcement, the current editor is quoted as saying that he has been having this conversation within the company since shortly after he read an early draft of Alec Nevala-Lee’s book about the Campbell era: Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

As many people have pointed out, there have been previous op-eds, letters, and even petitions suggesting changing the name of the award, so it is hardly a new idea.

This decision has been no less controversial than the aforementioned speech. And I find it particularly amusing that one of the arguments being put forward by people who don’t want to change the award’s name is that changing names is bad and it somehow erases history.

This argument is particularly amusing in light of both an award an an editor tied to the magazine formerly known as Astounding.

When the magazine just began publication in 1930, the full title was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, as you can see by the image of the ‘zine’s second issue included above. A few years later, the title was shortened to Astounding Stories. Then, shortly after Campbell took over as editor, he renamed the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which is the name it operated under until 1960, when Campbell changed the name to Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction.

That last name change was handled in an interesting way, graphically. For a few months both the name Astounding and Analog could be seen, with Astounding fading more and more each month. There was also a lot of variation with the rest of title, sometimes appearing as Science Fact & Fiction, sometimes Science Fact/Fiction, and sometimes with the ampersand or slash replaced by a glyph that looked like an inverted U with a line through it which Campbell said meant “analogous to.”

Which gets us to another faulty argument being made against the new name: calling it the Astounding Award still makes the name honor Campbell, and why isn’t that problematic? First, Astounding was published for seven years before Campbell became editor, and the previous two editors weren’t quite as ideologically driven in their story choices as Campbell. Second, Campbell was the one who wanted to stop calling the magazine Astounding all along. And third, while Astounding is one of the names of the publication in question, it’s also an adjective which is a synonym for wonderful or amazing.

Based on a lot of comments I’ve seen from the irritated ones, most of them don’t actually know that much about Campbell. They certainly haven’t read any of his notorious editorials. I suspect that for most of them, they know that he published Heinlein and Asimov and the like—and I suspect they haven’t read many of those author’s works, either. Campbell’s sort of a Rorschach test in that way: they see what the want to see. And frankly, the main thing they know is that those darn Social Justice Warriors and uppity people of color and decadent queer fans are critical of Campbell, therefore he must be defended at all costs no matter how illogically.

I didn’t start regularly reading sci fi zines until shortly after Campbell’s death, and even then, the magazines I preferred were Galazy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Most of what I knew about Campbell in my early years came from the autobiographical bits that Isaac Asimov included in his anthologies (especially The Early Asimov) but even Asimov’s portrayal of him did not ignore some of Campbell’s eccentricities and flaws.

I recall Asimov seeming least happy about Campbell’s insistence that if aliens appear in a story, they absolutely must be shown to be inferior to humans in some way. It so bothered Isaac, and Isaac felt that he owed Campbell first shot at any of his stories, that Asimov simply stopped writing aliens at all. Asimov’s future history galaxy-spanning society was inhabited by humans and their robots and that was it.

Campbell had a lot of other rules about stories that pushed the field of science fiction into a specific idealogical corner. One in which rich, white, aggressive men were always on the top of the heap, and where the working class, poor, less educated, and women and people of color were always on the bottom—and always in need to the leadership of the folks on top.

For all that Campbell is often regarded as a proponent of keeping science in science fiction, one has to note that Campbell meant physics and chemistry. Sciences such as geology, paleontology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology weren’t part of the Campbellian vision.

Society changes. Our understanding of the universe and our place in it changes. Science fiction as an art form and the fannish community of Campbell’s peak years wasn’t very welcoming to women, queer people, people of color. Yes, there were always fans and creators within the sci fi community who came from those other communities, but it was clear that we weren’t meant to be heroes. That our stories never mattered. That our role was always to be supporting characters or sit quietly and marvel at the competence of men like Campbell.

And that’s neither true of the real world, nor is it something an ethical person should aspire to.

So, yes, the name change is a good thing. Because one of the things I love about good science fiction, are those moments that astound me.

Late Tuesday Tidbit: The evangelical leader and the other pool boy

Instead of finishing my binge watch of The Boys a glance at twitter is forcing me to update a previous post. Remember how Jerry Falwell, Jr. and is wife decided for some completely unfathomable reason to hand over $1.8 million dollars to be a gay-friendly flophouse in Miami as a gift to provide an income to a hunky pool boy they met at a very expensive hotel (and how they kept flying him around on their private jet)? Well, it turns out he isn’t the only one: Another ‘Pool Guy’? Falwell Jr’s Personal Trainer Scored $2M From Liberty U To Buy A Gym.

And while there were people trying to figure out if the previous deal used funds from the non-profit religious organization of which Falwell is leader, there is no doubt on this one: Exclusive: Falwell steered Liberty University land deal benefiting his personal trainer.

I’m just going to pull a few paragraphs from that latter story:

The support Falwell provided to the two young men, Granda and Crosswhite, has some parallels. Both were aided in business ventures and both have flown on the nonprofit university’s corporate jet.

One difference: When Falwell helped Crosswhite, he used the assets of Liberty, the tax-exempt university he has led since 2008. Among the largest Christian universities in the world, Liberty depends on hundreds of millions of dollars its students receive in federally backed student loans and Pell grants…

…As Liberty’s leader, Falwell draws an annual salary of nearly $1 million, and is obligated to put the university’s financial interests before his own personal interests when conducting Liberty business.

“The concern is whether the university’s president wanted to do his personal trainer a favor and used Liberty assets to do it,” said Douglas Anderson, a governance specialist and former internal audit chief at Dow Chemical Co, who reviewed both the transaction and Liberty’s explanation of it at Reuters’ request. That would be bad governance, he said. “At a minimum, the terms suggest the buyer got a great deal and Liberty got very little.”

I’m sensing a pattern, here…


Edited to Add: I wrote about the first pool boy scandal here? Oh, you dirty devil—or The preacher and the pool boy… and then…

On Sept 9 Politico posted an exhaustive exposé of Falwell Jr’s financial and sexual scandals. I have some things to say (and maybe talk briefly about my one personal encounter with Junior’s scamvangelist father) about that: The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs.

Frogs and scorpions, or, he was never a journalist

He's been fired from Quillette because it was revealed that he participated in planning of an attack with Patriot Prayer.

All anyone had to do was fact check his October 2018 piece in the Wall Street Journal to see that he’s nothing more than a propagandist.

So, Andy Ngo is probably most famous for trying to claim that a milkshake someone threw at him while he was allegedly reporting on a Patriot Prayer rally actually contained quick-drying cement, and that led to him being hospitalized with (depending on which day he talked about it later while begging people to donate to his various crowdsource funds), a brain hemorrhage, a brain bleed, or traumatic brain injury. We’ll come back to the medical bit, but the quick-drying cement is not only a lie, but it is a lie that defies the laws of physics.

In the video, a person is clearly seen flicking a milkshake container and the liquid flies out of it behaving exactly like a milkshake. If it were quick drying cement that had been mixed to a consistency where a flick of a wrist could send it flying like that, then the density and mass of the liquid would cause absolutely no more damage than an ordinary milkshake. Even if it magically hardened midair somehow, physics tells us force is equal to mass times accelleration and it doesn’t matter whether the mass is liquid or solid. Besides, some of Ngo’s own footage from moments before showed the folks in the crowd who had the drink containers drinking from them. If they had been drinking quick drying cement, they were the ones who would have ended up in the hospital.

But let’s get back to the medical report. Despite a number of legitimate news organizations trying to confirm that Andy was hospitalized overnight, no one was able to confirm it. Also, while a layman might think that the three diagnostic terms (brain hemorrhage, brain bleed, or traumatic brain injury) are interchangeable, they are not. The term brain hemorrhage is usually used to describe a specific kind of stroke. Brain bleed would be the term usually used for intercranial bleeding caused by a blow to the head. Ngo was punched in the face on video before the milkshake was thrown at him, so he might well have had a brain bleed and/or a concussion. Traumatic brain injury is a much more complicated medical condition, and would require considerably more tests than those a typical ER would run for a head injury. And if they did diagnose it as a traumatic brain injury, they probably would have kept him for more than one night.

And remember, no one has been able to verify the overnight stay.

I agree that it appears that the punch in the face was assault. If the punch in the face was unprovoked (and we can’t always tell from these videos), then yes, it was uncalled for. Technically the milkshake is assault, too, but I’m sorry: I remain firmly in the camp that whoever throws a milkshake on a Nazi apologist is a hero.

Because that’s what Andy Ngo is. He’s not a journalist. He’s a propagandist, a liar, and a shill for fascist white nationalist organizations. And, as we now know, he’s more than just a propagandist: Andy Ngo Captured On Video With Patriot Prayer As They Reportedly Plan Attack On Antifa.

That word “reportedly” is overly cautious. The video includes clear audio and they are discussing an attack they are about to make, Andy participates in the discussion, and laughs. A lot.

And there have been some consequences: Andy Ngo, Who Became a Right-Wing Star, Leaves Quillette After Incriminating Video Appears. Even the far-right so-called news site Quillette couldn’t justify keeping him on as an editor. Note, though, that they aren’t firing him because he’s an active participate in alt-right violence, they are firing him because they can no longer deny it.

The knowledge that he doesn’t just report from a particular bias but he actually lies in his reporting isn’t new. Last year at what was essentially a Black Lives Matter March in Portland, an older man in the car appeared to intentionally drive into the crowd, striking one protestor and send him rolling down the street. The crowd closed in on the car and yelled at the driver. Which was understandable. Video of the incident was edited to cut out the first part of the incident, to make it appear that an innocent man was being harassed by the crowd. And it was that lie which got Ngo a guest spot on Tucker Carson’s show (where for whatever reason he spoke with a fake British accent. Ngo (who is a Vietnamese-American) was born in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in Portland and attended a private evangelical high school in Portland. He’s not British.

You can read a lot more about his previous lies and grifting attempts here: Portland’s Andy Ngo Is the Most Dangerous Grifter in America: Though he poses as a journalist, the purpose of his platform is to sow harassment and violence against his targets on the Left — and the mainstream media have fallen for it.

The thing that really gets me about this series of event is why someone like Ngo — Vietnamese-American, out gay man, self-described as rejecting all religions — is defending, propagandizing for, and collaborating with white nationalist who subscribe to a radical form of christianist authoritarianism. I have the same question about the notorious Milo Yiannopoulos. Have neither of these guys heard of the Night of Long Knives in early Nazi Germany?

The Night of Long Knives was an operation ordered by Hitler in 1934 to murder members of his own government, certain military leaders, and political enemies. Some of the murders were to settle old scores, some were to eliminate possible rivals, but a whole lot of the killing was aimed at the all the openly and semi-openly gay members of the SA (“Storm Battalion”) including the openly homosexual leader of the SA, Ernst Röhm. Part of what convinced Hitler to go ahead with the operation was when, on a state visit to Italy, Mussolini told him that tolerating all those homosexuals was making his government look bad to their allies. After Röhm and many, many others were killed, Hitler appointed a new head to the SA and gave him a specific mission to root out “homosexuality, debauchery, drunkenness, and high living.”

Let’s not forget that in the first years of the Nazi concentration camps, most of the prisoners were originally arrested on charges of sodomy and the like (whether trumped up or true).

Folks like Ngo are allowed to hang out with white nationalist groups like Patriot Prayer because they are considered useful pets. It’s a variant of the tired old argument, “I can’t be a bigot! Some of my best friends are gay/asian/black/etc!”

If groups like Patriot Prayer get their way, eventually it’s not just going to be people who come to the border locked up in overcrowded camps with inadequate food and medical treatment. And people like Ngo and Milo and the like are going to find themselves rounded up with the rest of us. They think they are immune because they have been such loyal pets. But like the fable of the scorpion and the frog—which tells us it is in the nature of scorpions to sting anyone, even those who help them—it is in the nature of neo-nazis to attack queers, people of color, and so forth.

Oppressed oppressors: A Dozen Peaceful Racists Show Up for “Straight Pride”

“There's no 'straight pride' for the same reason we don't have soup kitchens for the rich, dumbass.”

(Click to embiggen)

Six years ago there was an ex-gay rally held in Washington, D.C. The organizers insisted that there would be thousands of participants. Several news blogs I followed at the time predicted that the rally would be attended by possibles tens of people. After the event, some of those sites issued a retraction—because the number of attendees was only nine people. And all nine of those attendees were employees of the ex-gay “ministry” that organized the event. When the various groups started applying for permits for straight pride events earlier this summer, I wasn’t quite so sure the crowds would be small—because the people organizing the events are groups associated with various violent white supremacist rallies over the last few years.

One such group failed to secure a permit in Modesto, California earlier this month. The video of their leader arguing at a city council meeting for why they should be allowed to have the event went viral because, after countless times earlier insisting that they weren’t white nationalist, nor white supremacists, nor otherwise racist, he angrily said, “we’re a totally peaceful racist group!”

The council didn’t grant the permit, though I should point out the reason why was not the slip of the tongue. The groups, because of the connection several of them have to those hate rallies I mentioned earlier, had been unable to obtain the necessary insurance coverage required for a parade or similar public event. The slip of the tongue was just icing on the cake.

Despite not getting a permit to shut down traffic, the group vowed to hold an event anyway. And this weekend they did: Modesto protesters outnumber straight pride supporters at tense but peaceful rally. Outnumbered is putting it mildly: California’s ‘Straight Pride’ aimed to celebrate straight, white Christians. Only 12 people attended — They faced 200 pro-LGBTQ counter-protesters “standing together to reject this group and what they represent”.

About a dozen proud bigots showed up for an event at a rented barn—which was cut short when the owners of the venue saw their hateful signs and other things. Then the 12 proud bigots walked to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic (which was closed) and they chanted various slogans that, oddly enough, didn’t have anything to do with being straight. I mean, I suppose the anti-gay slogan kind of count. And the pro-Trump signs I suppose could be argued to be about the straightness of a philandering twice-divorced man who, by his own admission, loves to grab women by the pussy. But, um, I don’t quite get what the Build the Wall chants had to do with straight pride. Sounds like could old-fashioned racist xenophobia.

About 200 counter-protestors, on the other hand, showed up to express support for queer rights and to denounce hate. And while apparently some angry shouting happened at one point, no actual violence broke out.

We know that this is just a gimmick. The real straight pride happens 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. It has never been illegal to be straight anywhere. It has never been legal to fire people because they are straight anywhere. Straight children aren’t shamed and bullied in schools for being straight. It has never been illegal in any country in the world for opposite-sex couples to marry. No one calls for a boycott of a television network when a male character goes out on a date with a female character on any television show. No local television stations refuse to broadcast a specific episode of a show because of the inclusion of a marriage between a man and a woman.

And if straight people think that they don’t have a holiday, go take a look at how many Hallmark Channel movie listings during Thanksgiving and Christmas time have a straight romance as the central plot. Heck, how many times does a kiss between an opposite-sex couple at the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve figure into romance movies?

And let’s not forget Heteroween — a holiday that once did belong to the queers, but y’all took it away with all those sexy mummy and sexy nurse and sexy fireman and sexy pirate costumes that are sold in pairs that result in a clothed-male/nearly-nude-female. Please note, the only problem I have with straight people co-opting our fabulous holiday this way is that they don’t do it equitably. It shouldn’t just be the ladies in those straight couples showing off some skin. I mean, c’mon, isn’t the point of being a straight studly man that woman want your sexy body?

If straight people don’t want to embrace the values of throwing off sexual repression and insist that they are all about family values, I have a quibble about that, too: Straight Pride organizer criticized by her gay son for planning ‘straight, white, Christian’ event .

Maybe instead of attacking the rights and freedoms of their neighbors, co-workers, and even their own children, they should put a little more time into asking themselves why queer people make them so uncomfortable. A little self-reflection would do far more good than staging these white supremacist events masquerading as straight pride.

Friday Five (hold my beer edition)

Once again, Friday is upon us!

After a few hot and muggy days, we got a drizzly day followed by an cool overcast day. So far we’ve had a mild summer. Let’s hope it stays that way!

So, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about sci fi and fantasy, five science stories, five stories the impeachable one and related problems, five stories about domestic terrorist, and five videos (plus things I wrote and notable obituaries).

Stories of the Week:

The Second Amendment Has Always Been a Tool of White Supremacy – The U.S. has a long political tradition of marrying gun control legislation with racism and xenophobia.

Beto O’Rourke re-invents how to run for president. Is his ‘Bulworth’ campaign crazy enough to work? Beto isn’t my first choice, but I’m glad that someone had decided to take the gloves off vis a vis whether Cadet Bonespur is a racist.

Art Spiegelman: golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism.

Detroit Jewish group supports Tlaib, despite Donald Trump’s comments.

LGBTQ books are being censored in middle schools. Authors are speaking out.

This Week in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fandom:

8 Lesser-Known Works by Ray Bradbury.

These Nigerian Teens Are Making Sci-Fi Shorts with Slick Visual Effects.

Cory Doctorow: Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters.

2019 Hugos in detail, and reflections on the viability of Best Fanzine.

Spider-Man and Tom Holland: Sony ‘disappointed’ over Disney split.

This Week in Science:

Nasa confirms ocean moon mission.

Meet Alice Ball, the Bad-Ass Seattle Scientist Almost Lost to History.

How a Cooling Vest Invented by a Furry Made Its Way Into the U.S. Military.

Astronomers just quintupled the number of known repeating fast radio bursts.

A 3-D map of stars reveals the Milky Way’s warped shape.

This Week in the Impeachable One and Other Deplorable People:

Trump’s Campaign Manager Brad Parscale Has Blown Millions.

Trump’s ‘Chosen One’ Comment and Spat with Denmark Shows His ‘Psychotic-Like State’ Says Doctor Who First Warned About President’s Mental Condition.

The Justice Department Sent Immigration Judges A White Nationalist Blog Post With Anti-Semitic Attacks.

Trump swats at Danish prime minister for ‘nasty’ statement on Greenland.

In Insane Tweet Trump Baselessly Accuses Democratic Lawmaker of ‘Violence’.

This Week in White Domestic Terrorists:

White Supremacist Who Attended Charlottesville Nazi Rally Busted For Terror Threat and Jewish Community FBI Says, Many Weapons Found.

Private militias must stop pretending to have authority they don’t have.

Proud Boys Rallying Could Ramp Up With Trump Re-election Campaign .

Feds Arrest Neo-Nazi Trump Fan for Threatening to “Exterminate” Miami Hispanics.

At least 27 people have been arrested over threats to commit mass attacks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

In Memoriam:

‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Animator Richard Williams Has Died.

Things I wrote:

A Hugo of Our Own.

Tuesday Tidbit 8/20/2019: Closeted politician tries to co-opt us to dodge his anti-gay past.

Set our hearts at liberty — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical.

That has always been here, or politics aren’t a new thing in sf/f.

Videos!

The Check In: Trump and Trucking:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Maddow: Racism Is ‘A Persistent Infection’ In White American Culture:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance | Trailer:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Lostchild – Like Like (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

MIKA – Tiny Love:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

That has always been here, or politics aren’t a new thing in sf/f

The cover of the November, 1950 issue of Astounding Stories. Cover art by David E. Pattee. The cover illustration shares the same title as John W. Campbell's political editorial published in the same issue.

The cover of the November, 1950 issue of Astounding Stories. Cover art by David E. Pattee. The cover illustration shares the same title as John W. Campbell’s political editorial published in the same issue.

I’ve been a fan of Jeannette Ng since a friend recommended her novel, Under the Pendulum Sun a bit over a year ago, so I was overjoyed when at this last weekend’s WorldCon they read her name as the winner of this year’s John W. Campbell Award. And her acceptance speech began with the line: “John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist.” And she went on to talk about how the way he shaped the genre excluded many people but then, “But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.” And then she pivoted to talk about the current situation in Hong Kong, the city in which she was born. You can read the text version here. As you might guess, her speech has drawn some criticism from certain corners of the fandom.

I am not one of the people upset with her words. I was watching the livestream and when she spoke those opening words I literally exclaimed, “She went there! YES! Oh, you go grrrl!”

The reasons people have given for being upset at her words boil down to basically three claims:

  • It is inappropriate to make a political statement in a science fiction award acceptance speech,
  • Campbell was conservative, but not really a fascist,
  • It is extremely ungrateful to say such a thing about a man while accepting his award.

Let’s take on each of those assertions:

Are political statements inappropriate at sci fi award ceremony? During the approximately 33 years that Campbell was Editor of Astounding Science-Fiction he wrote an editorial for every monthly issue and almost none of those editorials were about science fiction. Most of those editorials were on various political topics. You can read a bunch of them here. He injected his opinions on race, democracy, the poor, and many other topics every month into that magazine. Many years after his death, Michael Moorcock (award-winning British sf/f author probably best known for the Elric series) observed that Astounding under Campbell was a crypto-fascist platform.

Campbell wasn’t the only one putting politics into science fiction.

  • Part of the plot of H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The Time Machine (published in 1895), is a commentary on the destructive nature of capitalism and the economic/social class system.
  • One of Jules Verne’s novels, Paris in the Twentieth Century, was such a scathing indictment of the dehumanizing power of industrialism, that no one would publish it until almost a hundred years after his death! In the original manuscript for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (published in 1870) Nemo was a Polish scientist who was bent on revenge agains the Russian Empire because Russia had invaded his homeland and killed his family. It had a moving speech by Nemo condemning Russian Imperialism. Verne’s publisher, knowing that much of the income for Verne’s earlier scientific adventure stories had come from Russian reprints, asked him to remove that, and suggested that if Nemo needed to have a political cause, that perhaps the abolition of the slave trade would be a target that wouldn’t harm sales. Verne decided not to do either, and so there are some enigmatic scenes in the novel when Nemo destroys some ships flying a flag he finds offensive, but our viewpoint character never knows what flag it is, nor why Nemo hates it.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (published in 1818), among other things, explores the relationship between individual freedom and one’s obligations to society. Many of her short stories and books written after Frankenstein explore the role of women in society (and why they should have the right to vote and own property) and directly tackled various political institutions.

I could find many more examples throughout the history of science fiction. But the upshot is, politics have been in the fiction itself, and creators of science fiction have used both the stories and other associated platforms they gained access to as writers for making political statements the entire time.

Was Campbell a fascist? At least several of the people claiming he wasn’t a fascist admit that he was racist, but they insist that isn’t the same as being a fascist unless you are using a really loose and “modern” definition of the term.

Campbell advocated a lot of fascist ideas in addition to his racist policies, such as means-testing for voting rights (Constitution for Utopia {1961}). He argued many times against democracy (Keeperism {1965}) or the rule of law (Segregation {1963}) rather than the rule of wise men. He argued that many people (particularly black people) were better off enslaved (Breakthrough in Psychology {1965}, Colonialism {1961} and Keeperism {1965}) and they even wanted to be enslaved, and that the genocidal disasters caused by colonialism were the fault of the inferior culture of the victims (Constitution for Utopia {1961} and Colonialism {1961}), not the colonial powers. He also argued that the death of children in medical experiments was for the good of society (The Lesson of Thalidomide {1963}). He argued the poor people were poor because they deserved to be (Hyperinfracaniphilia {1965}) and that society was better off transferring wealth to the rich. He argued in favor of racial profiling and the persecution of anyone who did not conform to conservative societal norms (The Demeaned Viewpoint {1955}). And (because of course he did) he argued for sterilizing people with undesirable traits to prevent them having children (On The Selective Breeding of Human Beings {1961}).

That last one is right out of the Hitler-era Nazi playbook!

John W. Campbell espoused and promoted fascist policies. You don’t have to use a modern or loose definition of fascism to recognize that he was a fascist, you just need to read what he wrote there in the pages of Astounding Science-Fiction.

Those editorials are part of the reason that, for instance, Asimov said that Campbell’s views became so extreme that he sent fewer and fewer stories to Campbell.

Campbell liked to micro-manage authors he published, in some cases pressuring writers to revise stories to conform to his authoritarian, racist, and misogynist views.

Is it ungrateful to accept his award while critiquing him? I (almost) can’t believe people are making this argument. Campbell’s ghost is not giving out this award. Campbell’s estate is not giving out this award. This award is handed out by the World Science Fiction Society, after a nomination and voting process in which members of the World Science Fiction Society participate. The award is named after Campbell, but it isn’t his award nor is it coming from him in any way.

I am a member in good standing of the World Science Fiction Society, and it just so happens that on my Hugo Ballot this year I put Jeannette Ng in the number one spot for the John W. Campbell Award on my ballot. But even if I hadn’t placed her at #1, I would still insist that the award is coming from the 3097 World Science Fiction Society members who voted in this year’s contest. It is not coming from Mr. Campbell, who died 48 years ago, the award is coming from us.

In recent years we’ve had a misogynist, racist, and homophobic faction of the fandom organize to try to purge science fiction of the “wrong” kind of fan and the “wrong” kind of writer. That’s the bones of exclusion that Ng talked about in her speech coming back to haunt us. Part of their attempted purge was to slate-vote the Hugo awards, until we changed the rules to make it much harder for them to take over entire categories. That means that the Hugo award ceremony is not merely an appropriate place to deliver Ng’s critique, it’s the perfect place.

It is clearly time to discuss renaming the award. That doesn’t mean penalizing any past nominees or winners. It doesn’t mean exiling Campbell and the writers he cultivated from the canon of sf/f. It simply recognizes that just because a person had a profound effect on the genre, that impact doesn’t negate problematic aspects of his actions within the community. And as the sf/f community and field grows and changes over time—as our awareness of the diversity of people and ideas that have previously not been welcomed to the table expands—it is perfectly appropriate to make changes in how we recognize and honor excellence in the field.


Mike Glyer has an excellent round up of postings and comments from other people over at File 770: Storm Over Campbell Award.

Edited to Add: Elseweb I received some quibbles about the third part of my argument here. While the nominees for the award are chosen by the Hugo voters of the WSFS, and the winner is chosen by those same voters, the award is technically owned by Dell Magazines, the company that publishes the science fiction magazine Campbell was most associated with. That’s why the announcements and such always mention that the award is technically not a Hugo. I was aware of that at the time, but considered it only a distracting tidbit. Dell Magazines is not the Campbell Estate. Campbell’s estate doesn’t contribute any money to the making of the award pins that all nominees get, and of course, Campbell’s ghost does not hand out the award.

More news here: Astounding Stories of Super-Science, or name changes are nothing new in sf/f.

Fumble fingers again

I was still editing and accidentally click Publish in stead of Save.

But now the post is up: That has always been here, or politics aren’t a new thing in sf/f.

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