Devouring their elders

Instapundit urges support for Malzberg and Resnick and quite rightly suspects “that the real ‘radioactive aura’ is more likely to attach to the SFWA”, while Andrew Fox excoriates the recent attempt of the SFWA’s pinkshirted stormtroopers to mau-mau their feminist forebears in considerable detail:

I feel compelled to point out, or at least suggest, that a vocal and
very cyber-visible portion of the SF pro and fan community have not been
covering themselves in glory recently. In fact, they have been acting
like a mob. A cyber-mob. And a mob is an ugly thing….

Given the prevalence of academic jargon from Cultural Studies or
other Studies departments in their comments, I imagine a goodly number
of the criticizers on the SWFA discussion boards and the broader
Internet are either university instructors or possessors of an advanced
degree from one of those programs. For many individuals under the age
of forty who have been through the university system, mau-mauing may
seem normative, or at least unremarkable. They have seen it at work
through divestment campaigns of various kinds (divestment from Israeli
companies or U.S. companies which provide goods to Israel which might be
used in security operations against Palestinians, or from companies
involved in fossil fuel production, or from companies connected to
certain figures active on the Right, such as the Koch brothers) and
through shout-downs and other disruptions of speakers invited to campus
whose backgrounds or viewpoints are contrary to those favored by student

Many of the criticizers may not consciously realize that they are
mau-mauing Mike and Barry, but mau-mauing is what they are engaged in.
Some commentators have pointed out the criticism is not censorship.
True; but in this instance, rather irrelevant. Other commentators have
stated that freedom of speech does not imply a right to a paid platform
(such as that enjoyed until now by Barry and Mike with their quarterly
columns for the Bulletin). Again – true, but irrelevant. For
what the protesters either seek to do or end up abetting is not
censorship, but what can be called shunning and shaming, an application of a radioactive aura to these two men which will make not only the future editors of the Bulletin
but also editors at other periodicals and publishing houses, organizers
of conventions, literary prize juries, and media outlets shy away from
wanting any connection with these two and their works. Remember, this
story has now broken out into mainstream outlets such as Salon and the Guardian;
people who previously had never heard of Mike Resnick or Barry Malzberg
or any of their books will now have their initial (and most likely
only) impression of them branded with a scarlet “S” for “Sexist,” as
detrimental a negative label in our time as “Adulterer” was in the time
of the Puritans. As Barry himself stated in the column “Talk Radio
Redux,” the most potent form of censorship is self-censorship,
the type that occurs in a writer’s head before he or she sets fingers to
keyboard. The mau-mauers, consciously or not, are using Mike and Barry
as cautionary examples – “Look what we’ve been able to do to the
reputations of a WorldCon Guest of Honor and to a man who has written
close to a hundred novels and over 250 short stories, several nominated
for Hugo or Nebula Awards. If we could do this to them, what do you
think we could do to you if you commit ThoughtCrime?”

The virtually thoughtless piling on is perhaps the most appalling.
So many of the criticizers whose comments I have come across admit they haven’t even read the columns in question. Once the ball of shunning and shaming
got rolling, hundreds of onlookers, alerted by social media, jumped on
the bandwagon, attracted by the enticing glow of participating in shared
moral outrage. Moral preening is on overload; industry professionals
and would-be professionals frantically signal to each other that they
are right-thinkers. According to the mau-mauers, Mike and Barry did not
merely misspeak (miswrite?); they did not have decent-enough intentions
which were ruined by Paleolithic habits and blinkered upbringings; they
are morally suspect, malign and vicious and evil. It’s burn the witch! all over again, but this time on a pyre of blog posts and Tweets.

I mentioned before that I completely understand the vehemence of
Barry’s reaction to all this. One sadly ironic aspect of this brouhaha
is that Barry is a lifelong man of the Left. He was staunchly antiwar
during the Vietnam era (see early stories such as “Final War”), and his
dream president was (and remains) Eugene McCarthy. I fully believe,
based on his writings about Alice Sheldon and Judith Merril, that Barry
considers himself a feminist, and an avid one. Condemnation from one’s
“own side” always burns hotter in one’s craw than condemnation from “the
other guys,” which can be easily rationalized away; just as criticism
(especially when viewed as unfair) from one’s own family hurts much
worse than criticism from relative strangers. Forty years ago (and in
all the years since), Barry was a fierce advocate of the New Wave in
science fiction, whose practitioners (with the sole exception of R. A.
Lafferty) were all politically aligned with the Left, as opposed to
old-timers such as John W. Campbell and Robert Heinlein. Now Barry must
feel as though the children of the Revolution are eating their elders
(as so frequently happens, it seems).

The amusing thing about this is that the SFWA folks involved, from Scalzi on down, genuinely believe that it was Mike and Barry making the organization look bad.  But they’re doing a fabulous job of doing that all on their own and they just keep digging the hole deeper… especially in light of the recent announcement of a 5-Year 4-Step Plan in which the SFWA Bulletin has been put on hiatus for up to six months while the pinkshirted task force ideologically cleanses redefines the “goals and mission of the magazine.”

As for devouring their elders, Fox may not realize quite how literally that has been true.  Although, to be fair, if Laura Resnick has not deigned to publicly defend her father, she has at least refrained from throwing in with the pinkshirted maenads.