Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Always Best To Do Nothing (or, Caring About Things Is Stupid)

Jim Mroczkowski at iFanboy posted this asinine article about the Orson Scott Card controversy, where he trots out all the usual lame arguments that the hemmers and hawwers have trotted out regarding this protest: "I missed you at the Iron Man protest" and it's just another fanboy outrage and "For everyone who writes an open letter to DC editorial [...] there is someone in line at Chik-Fil-A who will buy the book out of defiant solidarity" and "If DC spiked Card’s Superman story tomorrow, would that help someone?" and "I don’t see anyone’s mind changed" and "There has to be a better, more productive way to approach this." Someone in the comments adds "I think being Tolerant is the new intolerance," and that's bingo.

To answer the dumb points:
  1. I missed you at the Iron Man protest: while there was at least some discussion of Card's bigotry when Ultimate Iron Man came out, it was also 2006. Several things have changed, most notably the fact that Card didn't join the National Organization for Marriage until 2009 (and that NOM wasn't really significant until 2008). The rise of Twitter has made organizing these kinds of protests easier (for better and worse), and the cultural attitude toward marriage equality has shifted as its passage in various places has not led to the end of the world. But most importantly, in 2006, the extent of Card's bigotry was a bunch of articles he'd written, not helping to drive the most prominent organization that's fighting against people's basic rights.

    Oh! And Card also openly advocated overthrowing the government in 2008. But hey, I'm sure there's nothing about Superman that would make us reconsider letting a guy who advocated treason write him, right?
  2. It's just another fanboy outrage: Sorry I didn't quote that bit, Mroczkowski goes on at length about how this is exactly the same as the Superior Spider-Man and Avengers Arena protests, and a dozen different outrages before that. Because it's not at all completely dismissive to suggest that getting angry because Doctor Octopus switched brains with Peter Parker for a limited series is on the same footing as caring about the actual rights of real-life human beings. But let's pretend that Mroczkowski isn't being a giant asshat here, and that these bouts of outrage are just the same.

    So what?

    Yes, they'll probably lead to the same outcome (that is, the company not changing anything and everyone eventually moving on), but so what if it is just another example of fanboy outrage? Is the alternative staying silent about things you care about? Not calling for any change on any topic ever (if these dumbasses can use these slippery slope all-or-nothing fallacies, so can I)? If this is just another fanboy outrage, why not do what most people do: roll your eyes and be done with it?

    Is it, perhaps, because this isn't exactly like those prior situations? Were there any retailers who didn't stock Superior Spider-Man or Avengers Arena because of those outrages? Did any other prominent authors step up to say they would write those books instead/also, for balance? Did those protests get picked up by NPR, CNN, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, or The Guardian1?

    But boy, if there's anything nerds love more than getting outraged and protesting, it's doing absolutely nothing while smugly telling other people that they're wrong and the things they care about are stupid.
  3. For everyone who writes an open letter to DC editorial [...] there is someone in line at Chik-Fil-A who will buy the book out of defiant solidarity: Again, so what? Even if you could back up this statement (which you can't), so what if the protest does nothing--or even makes the book more successful? What's the alternative, staying silent and hoping no one notices? This is a call to do absolutely nothing because you can't control what the outcome will be. Anything to avoid action, right?

    Look, speaking out (and signing petitions, and organizing boycotts, etc.) isn't doing a whole lot. It doesn't take much effort, it doesn't accomplish a whole lot of real-world change, and it may not actually hurt the book's sales in the long run. But it sends a message. It sends a message that some comics fans care more about their human friends and family members than four-color Kryptonians. It sends a message that there are writers and causes we won't support with our dollars or our patronage. It sends the message that some of us care, and maybe others should too.

    But yes, other people care more about four-color heroes than any flesh-and-blood person, and lots of people are terrible bigots. And now DC is courting them as a fanbase.

    A last point: imagine if DC had instead snagged an author without this cloud of bigotry hanging over them. Imagine if they'd snagged Neil Gaiman or Joss Whedon. Would they be trying to crunch the numbers trying to figure out if the lost sales due to protests will be made up by the gained sales due to defiant solidarity? Or would they be too busy dealing with the "cha-ching" noise that their eyeballs keep making now that their pupils have become dollar signs?
  4. If DC spiked Card’s Superman story tomorrow, would that help someone?: What a dumb question. What makes you think that "helping someone" is the point? Even if it were, did hiring Card to write this story help someone? Would doing and saying nothing help someone? Does asking dumb rhetorical questions help someone?

    The point is making a statement. The point is telling DC that they can't have it both ways: are they committed to diversity and LGBT individuals or not? Do they want the GLAAD awards or the accolades from the Chik-Fil-A crowd? Were Alan Scott and Batwoman and Shining Knight just a matter of lip service so they could pat themselves on the back, or do they represent something bigger with more real-world consequences?

    If DC spiked Card's story tomorrow, it would answer those questions, it would show that DC cares about how they and their choices appear to the world around them, and it might send the message that maybe openly working to deny people their rights might actually have consequences on your employability.
  5. I don’t see anyone’s mind changed: You also didn't see the difference between 2006 and 2013, so that doesn't say a lot. But whose mind are you talking about changing, and about what? Presumably you mean that this protest isn't going to change anyone's minds about LGBT people or marriage equality. That's probably true; people usually don't change their minds about big emotionally-charged issues based on a single event or argument or thing they read on the Internet. Usually it's accomplished through a lot of little things, especially ones that hit close to home. It's possible that this protest will change minds in that way, it's possible that it won't. I don't think that's the main point, but even if it were, it has a lot more of a chance at changing minds than doing nothing, which is ultimately what you advocate.

    I would like to see DC change their minds about whether or not Card is worth the hassle that employing him creates, but we'll see how that goes.
  6. There has to be a better, more productive way to approach this: Great. Figure it out and get back to us. But in the meantime, we're going to try the imperfect, less productive ways to approach this, because there is no way less productive than doing nothing. The whole "there's no perfect solution so you shouldn't do anything at all" is fallacious reasoning.
  7. I think being Tolerant is the new intolerance: No, you don't think, or you wouldn't have said something so transparently moronic.
I think it's weird that fans have such vehement opposition to being made to care about their entertainment choices, that it's somehow gauche to care about things that affect actual humans. But then, I think it's weird that fans care more about fictional superheroes than actual human beings, whether it's the people whose lives are directly impacted by the actions of the National Organization for Marriage, or the creators and their heirs whose lives are directly impacted by the big soulless corporations who treat them like content-generation tools to be used up and discarded. And I'm as guilty of that last bit as anyone. But the solution isn't to write big long articles concluding that it's best to do nothing, the solution is to change and do what you can, or what you think is right. Because doing nothing does nothing.
1. In short, the answer is mostly "no." The Guardian had an interview with Dan Slott, where they mentioned in passing, that "fans expressed skepticism," and CNN ran a TV segment on the fan reaction to the end of "Amazing."


Impulse Fan Boy said...

I have to say, I love all your counter arguments and it is sad that nerd culture can be so stupidly adamant about decrying other people's passions. At the end of the day, you don't want Superman's image besmirched. It is a property that they go to great lengths to protect, Iron Man doesn't stand for the same things and yes I would hate Superman's legacy to be tainted by Mr. Card's work. I have a hard time with him, as I love his Ender series of books and I hate his stance on gay rights, but this one is easy. No to Card on Superman. Superman is against all forms of bigotry . . . so no, I don't want someone who can't espouse the same ideas to try to write a Superman book.

SallyP said...

Beautifully said.