Tag Archive | wingnuts

The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs

One day in the summer of 1981, I was walking around the inside of a huge church sanctuary in Virginia, every now and then stopping to clap once, then listen to the echo. It was something I did just about every day that summer—each day in a different church. I was a member of an evangelical inter-denominational youth choir. I was one of the singers, but I was also the Lead Sound Technician. And while a bunch of the singers were carrying in the sound equipment, our risers, and other parts of our touring program, I would do this exercise to figure out where I wanted to place our speakers and where to aim them. I took this part of the job very seriously.

I was 20 years old. I was a deeply closeted gay guy who for several years had been struggling to reconcile my love of science and my sexual orientation with the religion I had been raised in (Southern Baptists) which is extremely anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-birth control, anti-modernity, et cetera and ad nauseam. Only eleven years before that day had the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its resolution on race, which was intended to end segregation in Baptist Churches themselves. At the denomination’s founding in 1845, 12 of its 14 statements on faith had been explicitly in favor of slavery, the segregation of the races, and the supremacy of the white race.

That 1970 resolution didn’t make Baptists pro-equality. The very church that my parents had been members of when I was born, for instance, split after the resolution. A number of members forming a new “Bible Baptist” church the aligned itself with one of the other conventions that had split from the Southern Baptist in the previous couple of decades. And at the 1972 convention the convention adopted a resolution condemning public school segregation.

One of the pastors leading that charge to re-assert the church’s racist past in 1972, was Jerry Falwell, Sr. Falwell was the pastof of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was also the host of the syndicated radio program, the Old Time Gospel Hour, which my grandmother listened to faithfully, where he frequently preached against the civil rights movement, women’s rights, gay rights, and a boatload of other topics. In 1971 he founded Liberty University, which to this day still forbids students of differing races to date. And in 1979 he founded the so-called Moral Majority, a political organization bent on supporting conservative Republicans and rolling back what rights women, racial minorities, and queer people had won in the 70s.

In the mid-80s Falwell infamously lost a lawsuit to one of his former classmates from Baptist Bible College, Jerry Sloan. Sloan had come out of the closet after leaving Baptist Bible College, and had become active with Metropolitan Community Church, which was one of the few explicitly gay and lesbian inclusive denominations at the time. Sloan and Falwell participated in a television debate about, among other things, gay rights. After Falwell insisted that he wasn’t at all prejudiced against gay people, Sloan quoted Falwell as having publically called the MCC “brute beasts” and “a vile and Satanic system.” Further, he said Falwell had predicted “one day they will be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.”

Falwell said that it was a lie. And when Sloan said he had it on tape, Falwell bet him $5,000 (on television with millions of witnesses) he couldn’t produce it. When Sloan did produce the tape, Falwell refused to pay. So Sloan sued him, won the $5,000 plus court fees, and he donated it all to a queer community center: Falwell Pays $8,900 to Homosexual Activist.

Jerry Falwell, Sr, was a bigot and a liar (not to mention a chisseler for not paying his bet). And he became a multi-millionaire by preaching hate and promoting hate through his radio show, university, and his political organizations. And I, for one, did not shed a single tear when he died in 2007.

So, back to 1981. Earlier in that year, the Director of the touring choir mentioned that he was “this close” to getting us a tour date at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. And without thinking, I blurted out, “if you do, I quit.” The Director was flabbergasted and tried to explain how much exposure we would get there—and possibly be on the Old Time Gospel Hour. I said, “I refuse to have anything to do with that evil man. I refuse to do anything that implies I support his divisive, hateful theology.”

A member of the board of directors who was literally helping me untangle some microphone cables when this exchange happened, chimed in, “Me, too. Falwell preaches the opposite of Christ’s teaching, and if you’re going there, I’m resigning from the board and pulling my kids out of the choir.”

The director made some sort of joke to diffuse and change the subject. Later he made sure to inform both of us that he had decided on his own against pursuing the Thomas Road gig because the strict dress code would, among other things, force us to change our uniform and force a lot of the guys to get extremely short haircuts. I like to think that excuse was his way of saving face, and that my threat had been effective.

And so while later that summer in 1981 we did perform at a Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, it wasn’t Falwell’s—it was a beautiful historical building, which is still there, though it has since merged with another church and changed its name and denomination. And I’m glad I didn’t have to quit the chorus over it.

All of these memories came to mind this week as there is a new (and to me totally unsurprising) development in the story of Falwell’s heir, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his pool boy scandals: ‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence – More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.

You may remember that the two pool boy scandals of which I’ve written before — besides having a lot of sexual innuendo — involved Falwell, Jr. finding ways to finance multi-million dollar real estate deals for the benefit of the handsome young men after spending a lot of time flying each young man to various luxurious places along with Falwell and his wife on their private jet.

The new article (interestingly enough written by a journalist who attended Liberty University) lists other financial deals, including loans of $300,000 and more to Falwell’s friends, funneling lucrative contracts related to the university to businesses owned by his son, and more. Plus, apparently Falwell is very fond of talking about his sex life with colleagues. With a lot of crude details of the things he and his wife do.

And most tellingly, in one incident involving the guy many of us have referred to as “the other pool boy” (though he was employed as a personal trainer when he met Falwell, Jr). Junior texted pictures of his wife in sexual fetish costumes—to a bunch of staff members, plus the trainer. He claimed afterward that he had meant to just send it to the trainer (I believe that), but he also tried to claim to the people accidentally included on the wayward message that the purpose of sharing the pictures was not actually sexual. No! Falwell, Jr sent the personal trainer pictures of Mrs. Falwell in fetish gear because the trainer had helped her lose a lot of weight.

Um, yeah, no I don’t believe that.

Remember: Junior's largest salary comes from being president of a religious school that forbids drinking and dancing, among other things. So why are he and his son partying at south Miami nightculbs?

Remember: Junior’s largest salary comes from being president of a religious school that forbids drinking and dancing, among other things. So why are he and his son partying at south Miami nightculbs? (click to embiggen)

Listen, hot-wifing, threeways, and cuckold fantasies are all perfectly healthy sexual things that a committed couple who are into ethical non-monogamy should be able to engage in without shame. But when you run a couple of massive non-profit organizations (and draw more than a million dollars in salary between those jobs) that explicitly condemn homosexuality, family planning, women’s rights, sexual liberty, drinking, and dancing (yes, dancing!)—well, then this kind of scandal becomes of interest to the public. Because remember, those non-profit organizations are tax exempt, and therefore all of these shenanigans are being subsidized by our tax dollars.

On top of that, Falwell, Jr effectively swung the evangelical base of the Republican party firmly behind Trump (and all of the evil, non-Christ-like policies that has unleashed on us). And apparently he did so because Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, made a blackmailer with more of those kinds of pictures of Mrs. Falwell go away.

You should go read the Politico story. It is full of fascinating details (and keeps the sexual stuff, as much as it could be, more tasteful than I would). The amount of information that people were willing to give the reporter is amazing, given that Liberty University and the associated businesses famously have very strict non-disclosure agreements that claim to stay in force even after a person leaves.

Speaking of those agreements: Jerry Falwell: I Called The FBI On Liberty U Traitors. That’s right! Junior has called the FBI on people for tattling on him.

Listen, some of those financial deals are clearly prosecutable crimes. Junior’s using tuition funds and donations to finance his jet-setting lifestyle and that of his friends—and probably sex partners.

“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Given that he’s been flying some of these people across state lines in his private jet to close some of these deals, Junior maybe should have thought twice before calling the Feds.

Maybe he thinks that his buddy, Trump, will bail him out. After all, Trump’s very fine lawyer, Michael Cohen, helped get rid of that pesky blackmailer right? Except now Cohen is cooling his heels in federal prison, convicted of financial crimes on Trump’s behalf. Trump hasn’t shown any sign of being willing to pardon Cohen. Or any of the four other people Mueller got to plead guilty to related crimes, nor the four people Mueller got convicted, nor the 19 other people still under indictment whose cases are on-going.

So, Junior may need to start prepping for some less luxurious accommodations than those he is currently accustomed to.


Note:

(Part of the title of this post comes from the hymn, “Up from the Grave He Arose (Low in the Grave He Lay),” by Robert Lowry. It was hymn number 113 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.)

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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.

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.

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 here 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.

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

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are being that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

Marriage, as we know, is a blessed arrangement. We also know that it’s an ancient tradition. Except, of course, exactly what that arrangement was and how it was arranged has been a constantly changing thing for all of human history. For instance, in some of the Ancient Greek city-states the tradition of male line inheritance required that if a man of property died without a son, a surviving daughter or granddaughter of child-bearing age would be forced to marry her closest male relative and that husband would then become the heir. Many societies didn’t merely allow a man to hve more than one wife—it was expected! There were fewer societies that allowed a woman to have more than one husband, but those existed, too. Even if we restrict ourselves to the Judeo-Christian traditions, remember that the Biblical King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Most European traditions didn’t assume monogamy was part of marriage until something between the 6th and 9th Centuries AD. Christian teachings didn’t start treating marriage as a sacrament until the 16th Century AD (despite that oft-quoted verse about “what god has joined together”). The same sort of people who quote that verse while demanding that secular law follow their tradition ignore the parts of the New Testament where the Apostle Paul condemned marriage as a waste of time, and only grudgingly said that if a man found himself so burning with lust it distracted from evangelizing should he marry.

The modern notion of marriage being about two people who fall in love and decided to pledge themselves to each other didn’t really become common until the 1700s. Now, it’s true that songs and poems and such from the 12th Century on waxed rhapsodic about courtly love, but it was considered the exception, rather than the rule.

All of these facts contradict what I was told about marriage growing up in Southern Baptist churches. Marriage, according to them, was a sacred institution that had existed unchanged since the beginning of time. And it had always been about a man and a woman who love each other and commit to a lifetime together. And once married, no matter what the circumstances, the two are bound together in love and divine grace, et cetera.

And they really did mean no matter the circumstance. I sat through more than one sermon where the pastor said that even if you make a mistake and marry the person god didn’t want you to, once you exchange your vows before god, that person is now the right person.

Despite the above, as far as I know, every single Baptist church we had ever been a member of had at least one married couple in which at least one member had been married to someone else before, been divorced, and had now re-married. And most people in the church treated the second marriage as just as sacred and eternal as the ideal they kept talking about. The usual hand-waving was the god forgives everyone who repents, and therefore if someone has committed the sin of divorce, but now has sincerely repented and pledged to make it work this time, well, god’s going to bless that.

Of course, before many members of a congregation were willing to go to that step, the divorced person would have to suffer for a while. They had to have a moving tale of the pain and heartache and regret they went through to show the sincerity, you see. Because someone had to be to blame, right? And if someone is to blame, then they must be punished. Like the women in this story: For Evangelical Women, Getting a Divorce Often Means Taking All the Blame.

That idea, that divorce is always wrong, doesn’t just hurt women who are in bad marriages. It also hurts children. I’ve written more than once about how my father was physically and emotionally abusive. When my mom shared her pain and fear with people at church, the answer was always the same: if she had enough faith, god would change dad.

No matter what evidence was presented.

When I was 10, my dad beat me on a Sunday afternoon with a broom handle while calling me the worst names imaginable. By the time he was done not only was I covered in bruises and contusions and worse, I had a broken collar bone. I had to be taken to the emergency room. Later that week—while my arm was still in a sling, I was bruised everywhere, and stitches visible on my face—our pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I would just be obedient and act the way my father wanted, Dad wouldn’t have to be so strict. Keep in mind, Dad had sworn off religion a few months before I was born. He refused to set foot in church and wasn’t the slightest bit friendly or welcoming when the pastor visited our home. Yet still, because of their theology about marriage and the husband’s role as master of the home, anything bad that happened to the rest of us was our fault.

I don’t know everything the pastor said to Mom, because I was taken away by one of the church ladies (who scolded me some more for upsetting my father so much he did this to me) while the pastor talked to Mom in private. But Mom came out of the meeting convinced that it was her fault. If she just had enough faith and loved Dad enough he wouldn’t be this way.

Somehow that doesn’t seem like the wise plan of a loving god, you know?

What brought all of this to mind today is this odd little bit of news I came across: Hate Group NOM Allows Web Domain To Expire. The National Organization for Marriage was at the forefront of the battle against gay civil unions, marriage equality, gay adoption rights, and several related fights for years. They poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns to defeat gay rights initiatives and so forth. They have insisted again and again that they don’t hate gay people—they are just defending traditional marriage.

The kind of traditional marriage that says a woman must stick to her husband even if he beats her and their children severely, for instance.

The organization still exists, and its president, Brian Brown, is still sending out fear-mongering email blasts to supporters begging for money. The last time the IRS got them to partially disclose their donors (they have been under investigate for many years because they never file complete paperwork or comply with court orders to disclose campaign spending) their donations (and the number of donors) had dropped off significantly. NOM used to be an umbrella organization for at least 8 different “education and advocacy” funds and a bunch of Political Action Committees, now all but two of those have been shut down. Apparently last year each of those two remaining entities reported income of less than $50,000.

I’m hoping that the website lapsing is a sign this hate group is gasping out its dying breaths. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God gay news blog, reports: “I’ve put in the required whopping $12 bid to snap up the domain, which will redirect to JMG if I’m successful.”

If you can’t muster the empathy to tell an abused child or an abused spouse that being a victim isn’t their fault, you don’t know what “love they neighbor” means. And you can’t claim to be following a loving god while doing and saying hateful things about whole categories of people.


The title comes from the hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. All of the Baptist Churches I was ever a member of used the 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal. The next major update didn’t happen until 1991, by which point I was out of the closet and officially declared myself a former Baptist.

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

Aaron Schock was photographed in April 2019 schmoozing with gay men at Coachella... and making out with one of them and putting his hand down the guy's pants. So much for the claims he isn't gay...

Aaron Schock was photographed in April 2019 schmoozing with gay men at Coachella… and making out with one of them and putting his hand down the guy’s pants. So much for the claims he isn’t gay…

I was out of town Friday and Saturday dealing with family things, and then when I was back Sunday I needed to get the errands I usually do on Saturday finished Sunday morning, then get ready for the second Seahawks pre-season game in the late Sunday afternoon. So though I really wanted to post links to the following stories as a Weekend Update, I just didn’t have time. So this is an update to stories that I’ve linked to and commented upon extensively before that have had some new developments. Some of those developments aren’t that new, but I missed them when they came out.

I have written so many times about the self-loathing closet case former anti-gay Congress-person Aaron Shock. Seriously. Many time. Many, many, MANY times. Among all of these stories about this self-loathing closet case who voted for numerous laws in congress that hurt his fellow queers, we also had to deal with his violation of campaign finance law, which eventually let him to not seek re-election and focus on trying to get out of the criminal prosecution. Which, damn it, he mostly did evade.

Then, as a former anti-gay congressperson with a lot of personal life connections that indicated he was a flaming hypocrite, he started turning up on a bunch of news sites. The stories had a sad semblance: people would post pictures or videos of the easily recognized former congressman hanging out at gay events, or kissing and groping other men at gay events, or shoving money into the g-strings of gay male strippers at gay event, and the other people hanging out with the self-loathing closet case who had inflicted immeasurable damage on other gay people would get called out about hanging out with the evil guy, and they’d try to explain how they didn’t know who he was…

It was just a mess.

Recently, there have been indications that the self-loathing closet case wanted to come out and regenerate his political career. It began a couple months ago with a story I missed: Aaron Schock: ‘We Each Have Our Own Journey’. There are some follow up stories at Kenneth In the 212 that fill in some of the blanks, but the short version is: a guy messaged Schock to commiserate about how Schock’s antics at the festival above were covered in the news (and to hit on him). They wound up having a text conversation.

Then, some weeks later for no apparent reason, the guy shared screen caps.

Turns out, the second guy had been asked to “leak” the conversation by Schock himself. Leaking it in June didn’t have much of an effect. Until earlier this month, when some other news sites found that post and started reporting it. And most gay bloggers and news sites who covered the story it did not comment very favorably on Schock’s poor little rich Republican spin on coming out.

So the purposed of the “leaked” text conversation was to see if the blogosphere would react sympathetically to the idea that, hey, his perfect anti-gay voting record in Congress and all those speeches about homosexuals being abominations and employers should have the right to fire someone even if they only suspect they are gay all happened before he came out of the closet. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold it against him.

He was trying really hard to imply that it wasn’t just that he was in the closet, but he actually didn’t know he was gay back then. Of course, we know that is false because of the time a reporter found him having sex in a shower with his supposed roommate, among other things. Because that stuff is out there, I think he knows he can’t explicitly claim that he just didn’t know he was gay.

None of us are buying the closet as an excuse. So then he backtracked and claimed the guy didn’t have permission to share the screen caps after all…

…and then, this happened: Homocon Columnist: Unhinged, Intolerant Gay Leftists Are Committing A “Digital Lynching” Of Aaron Schock. That’s right, we’re the bad guys. I should note that I have not linked to the angry columnist’s op ed piece directly, but rather to an excerpt with commentary from Joe.My.God. As Joe notes, the writer of the op-ed has previously written about how unfair it is that most gay men won’t date or have sex with trump-supporting gay men. Boo-hoo!

Note that this op-ed just casually refers to Schock as gay and out as if it is old news. And Schock started sharing the op-ed the same day it came out. So it appears that this is Schock’s new tactic for coming out. To get someone else to whine about the pain that somehow we have caused Schock and his family.

We caused?

If Aaron Schock’s family feels humiliated because of photos like the ones at the top of this post and the comments that many of us out queer people have made about them, that is entirely Aaron’s fault. None of us force him to kiss that guy. None of us forced him to shove his hands down that guy’s pants. None of us forced him to go to a gay bar and put money in a stripper’s g-string.

None of us forced him to run for Congress. None of us forced him to vote against every gay rights bill that came up while he was there. None of us forced him to sponsor bills to take rights away from gays while he was there. None of us forced him to make those speeches. That was all on him.

We also didn’t force him to illegally transfer campaign funds to his personal accounts. We didn’t force him to submit false mileage reimbursement forms to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. We didn’t force him to take his boy toy on trips paid for by the taxpayer and his campaign donors by pretending said boy toy (who kept posing in official photos with Aaron) was the campaign photographer. (Hint: the photographer should be behind the camera, but standing next to the congressman like one of the congress spouses.) All of that is on him.

And to both Schock and Mr Polumbo (who wrote that whiney op-ed): it’s not the fact that we have different politics that makes us unwilling to embrace you within our community. Nor is it merely that you voted for Trump. It’s your willingness to support racist, misogynist, homophobic policies. It’s your votes to take rights away from queer people. It’s your willingness to support an administration that is implementing genocidal policies at the border, taking medical care away from your fellow citizens, taking rights away from queer and trans people, transferring massive amounts of wealth from working class people to billionaire, and encouraging white nationalists to terrorize your fellow citizens.

The fact that you can do all of those things while also being a member of one of the marginalized communities that is a feeling the pain of these things you support is just the cherry on top of this horrible, disgusting dish you are offering up.

We’re not the unhinged ones. The fact that you can’t see how unhinged the policies you support are disgusts us.

One last thing: before anyone brings up the tired old saw about outing people, go read this: Aaron Schock and the Politics of Outing – A blogger was banned from Twitter after posting shots from a video allegedly featuring former congressman Aaron Schock. The deeper debate should be around sexuality and hypocrisy.

Aaron Schock is a public figure and was an elected official who actively caused measurable harm to my community. I have both a Constitutional and moral right to comment upon his actions. And I believe that all journalists bear an ethical imperative to report about hypocritical activities of all elected officials.

Pining for Commander WASP and his sidekick, Biff; or, your sf/f golden age not the only one

The May 14, 1921 cover of Argosy All-Story Weekly,  illustration by P. J. Monahan

The May 14, 1921 cover of Argosy All-Story Weekly, illustration by P. J. Monahan

Once again while I was merrily surfing to some of my favorite web sites (when I should have been writing), I came across a link to a ridiculous and judgmental comment on the state of science fiction. More specifically, it was intended as an indictment of the reading tastes of “fans these days” while nostalgically lamenting that the genre is no longer defined solely by Heinlein’s juvenile novels and Niven’s hard SF novels. This is a complaint that I’ve written about more than a few times, but these guys keep finding new ways to make their really bad arguments, and I just can’t sit idly by while the misrepresent both the genre that I love, and the people who love it. This particular person, unlike some of the folks who have inspired me to write on this topic before is not my age or older. He’s young enough that all of those Heinlein juveniles were written more than a decade before his birth, and the Niven books he thinks are definitive were written when he was in diapers and such.

I realize that this means he’s still old enough to look down his nose at fans in their 20s and dismiss them as clueless kids.

Anyway, I’m not linking to the diatribe for reasons. I do think that it is very telling that he cites Hidden Figures as an example of what’s wrong with modern sci fi (never mind that it is historical non-fiction). When I first saw the screen cap of what he said, I had to do some research to figure out who he was. I’d never heard of him. And in the course of doing that, I found that this is a topic he has ranted about many times. And in those longer rants, he asserts again and again not just that he thinks the writings of Heinlein and Niven are the best (which he is perfectly free to believe), but that they defined science fiction—and specifically that Heinlein is the origin of the genre.

Mary Shelly, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne (and others) may have a bone to pick with that assertion.

He also talks a lot about how the perfect protagonist for science fiction stories in Heinlein’s “competent man.”

I get it. I literally grew up on Heinlein. I’ve mentioned that my mom is one of the biggest fans of Heinlein’s stories from the 50s who as ever walked the earth. From the time I was an infant until I was old enough to read myself, Mom would read to me from whatever book she had checked out from the library or picked up at the used bookstore. I read every Heinlein book I could get my hands on during the late 60s, 70s, and into the 80s. And yeah, as a teen-ager in the 1970s, I started reading Larry Niven’s books—not as enthusiastically; I admit I was a bit more taken with Asimov, LeGuin, Pournelle, L’Engle, and Bradbury during those years. But I still liked Niven.

It’s true that Heinlein and Niven were very influential writers who inspired many fans to become writers themselves, and so on. But science fiction wasn’t just those two authors even at that time, and there was a lot of science fiction that existed before either of them wrote their first story.

Also, a lot of their stories haven’t aged particularly well. It happens. It’s called the passage of time. The text may be the same, but we, as people, change over time. Society changes. Our understanding of what certain things about society mean changes.

The image I included above is an illustration for a novel called The Blind Spot, written by Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint. It was serialized in a number of issues of Argosy All-Story Weekly beginning in May of 1921. It was eventually published in book form in 1951 (it took so long because one of the authors died shortly after publication, and it just took a long time to sort out who had legal right to agree to a re-print), at which point the Forward was written by Forrest J Ackerman, who had been at one time the literary agent of such classic sci fi luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. Van Vogt. At the second ever Worldcon (Chicon I, 1940) at the very first Masquerade ever held at a Worldcon, the second place costume was a person dressed as one of the characters from The Blind Spot. As late as the 1950s, sci fi writers, editors, and reviewers were referring to The Blind Spot as one of the honored classics of science fiction.

By the 1990s, the opinion had changed considerably. The Blind Spot is available on Project Gutenberg. I gave it a whirl. I mean, all those famous sci fi writers of the 1940s and 50s said it was fabulous, right?

Writing styles have changed over the years, so part of why it is difficult to slog through it is just how slow the action is and how dense some parts of the prose are. But, first, it isn’t science fiction. The titular Blind Spot is a place where periodically a magic hole opens to another world. Now, a lot of science fiction does include portals or gateways that aren’t always explained, but the other side of the portal is a temple in this other world, and various people, some of them immortal, hang out in this temple because of prophecies about the opening of the temple and how people who go through it will ascend to god-like powers and so forth. The plot involves necromancy, spirit writing, an immortal queen, the transmutation of people into spirits, and a mystical intelligent flame that enforces the sacred law.

In the pulp era they didn’t have the same kind of rigid genre definitions we’re used to today, so a weird tale like this with elements of magic and psychic powers and a hint at Lovecraftian horror was common. But that’s the thing. This is a story that for several decades was held up as a defining example of the genre. Yet by the 1990s it was being described as a “beloved book devoid of all merit.”

Because we changed. What we are willing to suspend our disbelief for in 2019 is considerably different than the expectations of readers in 1921. Their are spots in the opening chapters of this book when many paragraphs are spent describing how a couple of characters take a train through San Francisco, cross the bay in a ferry, take another train in Oakland, then hire a cab. Modern readers expect if you’re spending that many paragraphs talking about transit that it will eventually figure into the plot, right?

I sincerely doubt that the guy who is upset that the sci fi field doesn’t look like the way he remembers those Heinlein juveniles would think that The Blind Spot is fabulous. Although, given some of his comments about what he perceives as being wrong in what modern fans like, he might like some of the casual racism.

Even in the 50s, science fiction protagonists weren’t confined solely to blond-haired, blue-eyed lantern-jawed Anglo-Saxon Protestant heroes who always beat the bad guys and got the girl. Certainly by the time Niven was writing his most famous books, the genre was more diverse than that.

It’s okay to have personal preferences, but science fiction is supposed to be about leaping into the future. You can’t do that if you have fossilized your brain in the past.

Tuesday Tidbits 8/6/19: Smirking and Inciting

I frequently save memes, cartoons, and the like to use as an illustration for a blog post or Friday Five. I always gather a lot more than I can actually use, so every now and then I share some that I didn’t use.

If playing video games caused mass shootings, we’d see a lot more mass shootings outside the U.S.(Click to embiggen)

As the stock market drops further while China stops buying our farm goods, and buys more from Russia and Brazil.

“Two things Republicans hate: 1. Being called racist, 2. Brown people.”

Yep! (click to embiggen)

“I'm starting to think that someone who paid $290,000 to have sex twice is maybe not really a super expert in making good deals.”

Illegal diversion of campaign funds to cover it up… (click to embiggen)

“Planned Parenthood isn't killing children. You're thinking of the NRA.”

Yep!

“Jesus doesn't how how many Bible verse you have memorized. Bu he will know the bastards that put kids in cages.”

(Click to embiggen)

Since there is almost certainly going to be more outrageous political news by the end of the week that will be more urgent for the Friday Five, I also wanted to share some more stories and op-eds on the horrible crimes that happened this last weekend (which I wrote a about yesterday):

If you think the El Paso shooting wasn’t about LGBTQ people, think again – The white nationalist fear of change to “our way of life” extends from immigrants to people of color to, yes, LGBTQ people. That can lead to violence. It’s hate all the way down.

Trump smirked at idea of shooting migrants at rally three months before El Paso massacre – ‘How do you stop these people?’ US president said about undocumented Mexicans.

El Paso shooting: Prosecutors to seek death penalty for “domestic terrorism”.

Republicans Insist: White Nationalist Violence Nothing to Do With White Nationalism.

What Both Sides Don’t Get About American Gun Culture. While he has some points (which I have made myself), he is also super-over-simplifying if he thinks that there are only two sides to this debate.

US in the midst of a white nationalist terrorism crisis.

Ohio shooter kept a ‘hit list’ and a ‘rape list’ – Classmates say the gunman was suspended for compiling a “hit list” of those he wanted to kill and a “rape list” of girls he wanted to sexually assault.

The appeal to worse problems fallacy, and other unhelpful responses to domestic terrorism

“President Trump, America is scared and we need bold action. It's time to Ban Weapons of War”

Front cover of today’s New York Post.

Another week another mass shooting, or wait, no at least two more mass shootings. And oh, all the usual nonsense from people who are deeply invested in making sure we don’t do anything to cut down on the number of preventable deaths. I’ve written about this too many times already: Why thoughts and prayers are worse than inadequate, for instance. And then this analysis of the most popular arguments from those who claim there’s nothing we can go: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either. Not to mention this bit about leaping to conclusions without examining underlying assumptions: Oh, lord, the leaping!

I am slightly heartened that a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, has joined the ever growing chorus calling for a ban on certain categories of guns: The Post urges Trump to take action on assault weapons.

We’re used to all of the usual suspects trotting out their logically fallacious arguments (most of them commit a variation of the Nirvana Fallacy, also known as the Perfect-solution Fallacy: if whatever changes proposed can’t guarantee there will never be a gun death again, well, then we can’t do anything at all! Bull.

This weekend, thanks to Neil deGrasse Tyson being his usual smug self, we got one of the other fallacious arguments, and not for one of the typical rightwing types at all! Tyson had one of the most vapid and tone-deaf hot takes ever, in a tweet where he made the claim that in a typical 48 hours there are far more deaths in the U.S. due to medical errors, and due to the flu, and due to suicide, and due to car accidents, and due to homicide by handgun then these too mass shootings. Therefore, we should, you know, not get upset. Hit the link to see the tweet in question.

In one tweet he managed to pack several logical fallacies, which—if we weren’t talking about people being murdered—would be funny coming from a smug wanker who has made a career out of pretending to be the smartest guy in the room.

The first logical fallacy he is committing is the Appeal to Worse Problems (more formally known as the Fallacy of Relative Privation). All of these other things, he argues, cause more deaths, so we shouldn’t waste any time worrying about mass shootings until we eliminate all of those other causes of death. It’s a specialized kind of false dichotomy or dilemma: implying that we can only choose to worry work on a solution to one of the things in front of us.

Another problem is that several of the things in the list have no relationship whatsoever to the problem at hand. That the couple that could be argued to have a relationship, it’s a very weak one.

Medical errors, by definition, are not intentional acts. One has to be licensed as a medical professional and in most jurisdictions receive regular training and sometimes re-certification in order to practice medicine. Another way they differ from mass shootings is that we have systems in place designed to study such errors in order to find ways to make them less likely to happen. We have systems in place to apply those lessons. We have nothing like this for mass shootings.

Flu is not an intentional act by a human, it is caused by a virus. We have vaccines to reduce the incidence of flu. We have medications to reduce the severity of flu when it happens. We have entire teams of experts constantly studying flu and looking for ways to improve the vaccines and educate people in other ways to reduce their odds of catching flu. We have nothing like this for mass shootings.

Suicide is an act of self-destruction. We have suicide prevention hotlines. We have other forms of medical and psychiatric help available. We have groups of medical experts studying suicide (and proving again and again that there are ways to reduce the incidence of the act—that’s a topic for another day). But, those studies do relate slightly to the mass shootings discussion, as it has been shown that, for instance, banning guns in the residential parts of U.S. military bases (a program first undertaken at bases with a high incidents of service members committing murder-suicide of their families) doesn’t just cut down on the instance of gun deaths, but also reduces the rate of all categories domestic violence.

The vast majority of car crashes are not intentional acts. And again, we have experts in both the private and public sector who study car crashes and car design and relevant laws to find ways to reduce the rate of car fatalities. And we’ve significantly reduced them! Again, nothing like that exists for mass shootings. Also, you are required to have a driver’s license and regularly renew it to be drive. Cars are required to be registered and have their plates renewed periodically. Most jurisdictions require that you carry auto insurance for each car you own. Many jurisdictions require periodic inspection of the car to retain its registration. None of this applies to gun ownership.

The only one of his claimed worse problems to have more than a slight connection to mass shooting is homicide by handgun. And those findings about domestic violence on military bases give us at least some reason to suspect that the easy availability of guns contributes to the incidence of violent crimes in general. There seems to be something about the way that we perceive guns as opposed to knives and other weapons that has far-reaching effects. But, again, we don’t have large systemic ways of studying gun violence in this country.

The reason we don’t have systems in place to study gun violence is because Congress, under the influence of the gun lobby (usually in the guise of the NRA) has made it illegal to do so. And if there were no relationship between the availability of guns and the incidence of gun violence, why else would gun manufacturers be willing to spend millions each election cycle to prevent anyone from studying it?

Humans are social animals. Working together and the ability to divide labor is one of our species’ survival traits. We can work (as we already are), on other problems and the scourge of gun violence at the same time. Putting effort into universal background checks, and voluntary gun buy back programs, and studying other ways to reduce the incidents of these crimes. Red flag laws, which at least some Republican Senators have signaled they are willing to pass, would be a nice start.

Figuring out how to unpack toxic masculinity, racism, and how the mega-rich use our prejudices to blame economic uncertainty on marginalized groups instead of the hoarding and exploitation by corporations and billionaires, isn’t going to be easy. But if organizations like the National Institutes for Health could start studying gun violence systematically, we will find at least some ways to combat those contributing factors.

But it isn’t going to happen unless we ignore the excuses and demand action.

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