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The background: former SFWA presidential candidate Theodore Beale is known for rather over-the-top screeds. To this day, I can’t figure out if he actually believes the stuff he writes, or if he’s doing some sort of whiny white male supremacist performance art.

Normally, I wouldn’t waste my energy on this. Free speech is a thing, and he has the right to take a dump in his own little corner of the internet. The rest of us can carry on and leave him to play in his filth.

But Beale is also a member of SFWA. We’re already struggling with a few black eyes over sexist content in the Bulletin, among other issues. The last thing we need is for the smell of Beale-droppings to taint the whole organization.

Today he not only wrote a racist attack against author N. K. Jemisin, he then had it automatically tweeted to the SFWAauthors Twitter feed, which is used to promote relevant and appropriate content for SFWA members, as spelled out in the Twitter feed guidelines.

SFWA reacted exactly as they should have. When they became aware of the Tweet, they removed it, and Beale no longer has the ability to submit content to that feed. But once again, his actions have stained an organization I’m a part of.

Amal El-Mohtar has screenshots of Beale’s post “A Black Female Fantasist Calls for Reconciliation” here.

Trigger warning for racism, sexism, and general fuckmuppetry…

Now, Jemisin did refer to Beale’s candidacy in her Guest of Honor speech at Continuum, so I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for him to respond.

He begins with his usual routine of accusing John Scalzi of being a rapist. Because man-crush, I guess. He describes Theresa Nielsen Hayden as a “fat frog” for good measure. Not sure what this has to do with Jemisin’s speech, but maybe he was warming up for the main act, wherein he explains:

it is not that I, and others, do not view [Jemisin] as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.

Jemisin mentioned “Stand your ground” laws in Texas and Florida. Beale responds:

The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.

The awkward sentence structure here offers two interpretations.

  1. When “half-savage” people like Jemisin (i.e., Black people) attack you, you should be able to shoot them.
  2. Jemisin is a half-savage engaged in attacking Beale (via a speech), so Beale should be able to shoot her.

I’m guessing he meant the former, but either way it seems to come down to describing “Stand your ground” laws as legal protection for white folks who shoot scary dark-skinned people.

Beale goes on with more gems like this:

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males.

You can read the whole thing if you’re feeling masochistic, or want to see other bits, like his comparing Jemisin to an “illiterate Igbotu tribesman.”

Beale is a member of SFWA. He has been held up as the reason people refuse to join, and I have a hard time arguing with that decision. Why would I want to join a group where I know there’s at least one person who will take a steaming dump of hate, play around in it, and start throwing it at anyone he doesn’t like.

Ten percent of SFWA’s voters supported this man for president. Given typical voter behavior, I have to assume a good chunk of voters didn’t read anything beyond the presidential platforms, and weren’t aware of Beale’s history. But even so — and even with Beale getting so thoroughly trounced in the election — I agree with Jemisin that it’s disturbing he got even that many votes.

Beale hurts the organization. I’m assuming this is a deliberate effort on his part, a mix of a fun game and a plea for attention.

I don’t believe he should be kicked out for his views. I’m not sure whether his comments and behavior in the discussion forums or toward other members violate SFWA policies. (See update below.)

I do know that SFWA should not be an official platform for anyone’s foaming diatribes. And I know that while Theodore Beale is indeed part of SFWA, so are many, many people actively working against racism and sexism and discrimination.

Yeah. This sort of ignorance, bigotry, and hate still exists. Often it’s more subtle. Sometimes it’s even worse.

I also believe it’s fighting a losing battle. For every sexist rant in the Bulletin, we see hundreds of people speaking out in protest, demanding that women be treated not as “beauty queen lady editors,” but as equals. For every racist screed, far more people speak out to denounce that bigotry.

It’s a long battle, and like Jemisin, I don’t expect to see it won in my lifetime. But I also see rants like Beale’s as an increasingly desperate cry of protest as he and others who share his hatred slide further and further into irrelevancy.

ETA: Thank you to those who pointed out Article 4, Section 10 of the SFWA By-laws, which state, “The officers of the Corporation may, by unanimous vote, expel any member for good and sufficient cause.” While the by-laws don’t specify what “good and sufficient cause” means, I personally think we’ve cleared that bar with Beale actively using a SFWA resource as part of his personal attacks on members, as well as the reputational damage he’s done to the organization as a whole.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 112 comments — Leave a comment )
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barbarienne
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
If "actively repelling current and potential members" isn't grounds for expulsion from an organization, what the fuck is?
jimhines
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
I don't know. I suspect he's planning to keep pushing until he gets kicked out, at which point he can declare victory to his blog.

I do think there needs to be a line beyond which certain behavior isn't tolerated. I also think we need to be very careful about where we draw that line. If I had it completely clear in my head, I would have included it as part of my post...

ETA: And part of my problem is that I haven't had time to review the SFWA regulations to see exactly how the harassment policy and other rules are written.

Edited at 2013-06-13 05:24 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - barbarienne - Jun. 13th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - etcet - Jun. 13th, 2013 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - suricattus - Jun. 13th, 2013 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - autopope - Jun. 13th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Jun. 13th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Jun. 14th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elusis - Jun. 14th, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - elusis - Jun. 14th, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - suricattus - Jun. 14th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cissa - Jun. 20th, 2013 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
suspicions - Steve Davidson - Jun. 15th, 2013 12:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
arielstarshadow
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
…it is not that I, and others, do not view [Jemisin] as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.


Oh holy shit.
cloudthorn
Jun. 13th, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
I actually don't understand what he's saying here. It looks to me like he's saying: 'I'm not saying she's not human, except genetically' which doesn't even make any sense. Can anyone explain the logic whereby we're all human but some are more human than others?
I don't mean justify it, I just want to understand what his actual point is.
(no subject) - sylviamcivers - Jun. 13th, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mary_j_59 - Jun. 15th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
An Attempt at Translation - gehayi - Jun. 13th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tsubaki_ny - Jun. 13th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - groblek - Jun. 14th, 2013 06:09 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - tsubaki_ny - Jun. 14th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - badgermirlacca - Jun. 14th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bookishdragon - Jun. 15th, 2013 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
agharta75
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
If he isn't expelled, there need to be mass membership resignations.
autopope
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
The trouble with resignations is that they hand ownership of the organization to the bad apples by default.

(This is not to say that I disagree with your sentiment.)
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jun. 14th, 2013 01:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - autopope - Jun. 14th, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
lietya
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
Holy hell.

I will happily go on record saying that if "attacks other members in a jaw-droppingly vicious and bigoted fashion" is not actually grounds for expulsion under the bylaws of SFWA,... well, that would be another black mark against the organization in my mind, actually. (His rant is not, per se; they seem to have acted appropriately as soon as they realized he'd misrepresented himself as speaking for them rather than himself, and every organization of more than a handful of people has some assholes in it.)

Personally, I also consider the shrinking number of people willing to go on record with this kind of guns-blazing, spotlighted bigotry to be a victory as well. A small one, a stepping stone, but nevertheless. Call me the PC police if you want, but suppressing this kind of hate speech sends the additional unspoken message that this kind of crap won't be tolerated in a decent society. (And cuts down on the number of times someone like the inestimable Jemisin has to stumble into a steaming pile, which is also a win.) Or in other words, I agree that his *views* aren't a reason to revoke his membership, but his screed - and his efforts to actively undermine the organization - certainly should be.


And as an aside, I always wonder when middle-aged white men assume that they'd automatically still be the top of the heap in a Mad Max universe, because history and evolution and probably magic fairies all prove that people like them are superior. Something tells me it's more likely someone younger and faster would shoot him and take his stuff...
barbarienne
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
They imagine they'd still be top of the heap in a Mad Max universe, despite the lack of law enforcement to protect them from all the scary brown people who would be free to do whatever they wanted!

Intellectual consistency is not the strong suit of this sort of person.
(no subject) - lietya - Jun. 13th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
deborahblakehps
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

SERIOUSLY?
pantryslut
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
I don't think he should be kicked out for his views. I do think it's worth discussing whether he can (and should) be kicked out for his actions in abusing the feed.

Wasn't part of his platform to disband SFWA? In which case it's also worth asking how much slack to give a member whose articulated a goal of destroying the organization he is a member of.
daveamongus
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing that he thinks he has a win/win/win strategy in place: if he gets expelled, then he gets to claim martyrdom on his blog. If he doesn't, then he gets to continue to chum the waters and distract everyone with his irrelevancy. And if he manages to drive away members and keep people from joining, then he gets to makeover the organization into something more ideologically "correct" from his point of view. I think he underestimates the value of his martyrdom--it's only going to impress people already impressed by him, and the larger SFF community will better be able to ignore him.
lenora_rose
Jun. 14th, 2013 02:38 am (UTC)
And of course if he's thrown out by his adorable-man-crush victim Scalzi, extra "Win" for him...

But I do think everyone who isn't already on his team would shrug at his declaration of martyrdom and go on with their lives.
temporus
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
Holy crap. I was thinking of saying something more profound. But I think that covers my shock at this .... I don't have any polite word I'm willing to put in print for him. Disgusting.

ladycat777
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't implying that someone is not human, no matter how cleverly worded with his bullshit line about similar species, be grounds for expulsion?

Free speech is maybe even more of an issue for a group of writers. The line between acceptable and not is fine as spider's silk and often incredibly subjective. Those are all valid, necessary things to consider before making such a drastic decision.

But come on. This is a writer's group and he can use every nasty little verbal trick or grammatical slight of hand he wants. Everyone knows exactly what he believes.

He's a racist and a bigot and he called someone a non-human because of the color of her skin.

He should be expelled. Let him have his own little victory party. The SWFA will be better without him.
gehayi
Jun. 13th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
The By-Laws and Expulsion
According to Article IV, Section 10 of the by-laws of the SFWA, "Expulsion of Member":

The officers of the Corporation may, by unanimous vote, expel any member for good and sufficient cause.

I think that good and sufficient cause exists. There is evidence of what he did. He has publicly posted a racist screed that

a) is meant to harass an existing member;
b) expresses the idea that he and those of his race should have the right to shoot the other member and those of hers;
c) lowers the repute of the SFWA and of the science fiction community in general, which is contrary to the stated purpose of the SFWA in the by-laws ("encouraging public interest in and appreciation for science fiction and fantasy literature"); and
d) convinces other writers that belonging to the SFWA (and thus paying dues to the SFWA) is a bad idea.

Furthermore, there's reason to believe he'll continue to do this and things like this in the future if not checked. So expulsion for good and sufficient cause seems more than possible--provided the existing officers of the SFWA will do so.

In the event of such expulsion, the said member’s dues, if paid, shall be refunded on a pro rata basis. If a member so expelled is a life member, the refund shall be the life membership fee paid by the member minus $50 per year elapsed since the life membership was purchased.

Beale is an active lifetime member, so he'd get his fee back minus fifty bucks for each year that he's been a member.

A member so expelled shall be reinstated upon petition of two-thirds of the active membership.

I don't think that many people would be interested in reinstating him.

The Corporation shall have no responsibility to circulate the petition.

Good.

Really, it seems to be down to the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer all voting to expel Beale. That's really the only way to get rid of the creep. If one of them disagrees, the SFWA is stuck with him.

Doubtless that's why Beale is trolling the SFWA. He knows that there's not a lot anyone can do to rein him in, much less punish him.

Re: The By-Laws and Expulsion - jimhines - Jun. 13th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aberwyn - Jun. 13th, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The By-Laws and Expulsion - coffeeandink - Jun. 14th, 2013 01:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The By-Laws and Expulsion - gehayi - Jun. 14th, 2013 01:18 am (UTC) - Expand
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
In the UK, his remarks would be grounds for legal action. I'm firmly in the camp that feels he should be expelled. He's exercised his free speech: now those many who oppose him are exercising theirs.
hawkwing_lb
Jun. 13th, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
Yes. And, if I'm not mistaken, the argument could be made that joining an organisation which permits this sort of speech to be made through official channels is... legally dubious, in some jurisdictions.

Including mine, under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989.
(no subject) - hawkwing_lb - Jun. 13th, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jun. 13th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hawkwing_lb - Jun. 13th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
tuftears
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC)
Not a member of SFWA here but my first thought is 'maybe this automatic Twitter feed needs to be less automatic and more edited'.
cathschaffstump
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
So...um...Article 4 Section 10 of the SFWA bylaws?

Because Mr. Beale clearly violated the SFWA Harrassment Policy, which is a hard to locate but public part of the SFWA website. He's like a textbook case of a violator, especially in regard to his conduct with Ms. Jemisin.

This is why I spent last week getting acquainted with the policy. Icky things were happening, and I wanted to know what the organization's official stance was.

The board could try a warning, and then an expulsion with that policy. Personally, if I were on the board, I would consider that his past history showed a fairly unrepentant racist/sexist/broken individual against whom remediation would not work, but you know, warning is an option.

However, I would say just boot him. If not, SFWA looks like its policy fails its test, and then members would be wise to resign.

So, I'm gonna disagree with you on the idea that you should let him continue. He's violating the organization's clearly spelled out policy, which you can link to below.

http://www.sfwa.org/2011/11/sfwa-statement-on-sexual-harassment/

Edited at 2013-06-13 06:34 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
I don't think I said we should let him continue, did I?
(no subject) - cathschaffstump - Jun. 13th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
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harmfulguy
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
Why do I suspect that Mr. Beale will turn out to be yet another one of those individuals who conflates "censorship" with pointing out that his shit does, in fact, stink?
temporus
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
Probably because people that want to spew vitriol and hate don't like to have things splatter back and affect them. So, I give this a 98% chance of being an accurate prediction.
(no subject) - jimhines - Jun. 13th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - Jun. 13th, 2013 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
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mtlawson
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
/sigh

I'm not shocked. Disappointed, but not shocked. I've known too many racists who hid their racism from public eyes, but once you got a couple of beers in them....

I just hope that the SFWA sticks to their guns. Free speech does not mean free from consequences of their speech.
law_nerd
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
Regarding sexist/racist/b.s. being on the losing side... there's a couple of people making that more so, having decided that today would -- just randomly -- be a good day to raise money to make SFF a more inclusive thing...

Scalzi and others are pledge matching to raise money for the Carl Brandon Society and Octavia Butler Awards here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/13/pledge-matching-today-for-the-carl-brandon-society/

Arachne Jericho is pledge matching money (up to total of $500) donated to Con-Or-Bust here: http://spontaneousderivation.com/2013/06/13/pledge-matching-for-good-causes/
jimhines
Jun. 13th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Just shared both links over on Twitter.
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