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The latest Hugo awards storm

So today Loncon 3 announced that Jonathan Ross would be toastmaster at the Hugo awards this August in London. And lo, twitter melted down in outrage for some reason.

I agree with Farah Mendlesohn (who resigned from the committee over this choice) that he's a very bad choice for Hugo toastmaster.

My reasons for thinking this differ slightly from hers.

Regardless of Mr. Ross's personality and track record, it is clearly the case that he has a history of scrapping with tabloid journalists, then being quoted out of context.

The problem I see is that while fandom is in the process of cleaning house, inviting him — or anyone with a controversial media profile — to be Hugo toastmaster is like rolling out a welcome mat at the Worldcon front door that says "muck-rakers welcome". There's a lot of muck to be raked, even before we get into Daily Mail photographers stalking cosplayers: just look at the recent SFWA fracas (plural), the Jim Frenkel/harassment scandal at Tor, and so on.

Worldcon should be safe space for fans, and inviting a high profile media personality who has been targeted by the tabloids is going to cause collateral damage, even if nothing happens, simply by making many fans feel less safe.

We're seeing a huge explosion of anxiety on twitter right now. If Ross is toastmaster, I can predict that at least one major Hugo nominee/past winner who was planning to be there won't be present at the ceremony, because Ross has past form for using women with weight issues as the butt of his humour. She says she doesn't feel safe, and I believe her: I wouldn't want to be there in her shoes (and I'm an ancient has-been who hasn't been on the shortlist for a couple of years, now, so I'm unlikely to be in the front row). I don't like seeing my friends mocked, so I probably won't be there either. And this is regardless of whether the mockery would come from the toastmaster, or the tabloid journalists in the back of the audience.

The sad fact is, however well-behaved Mr. Ross is on the day, inviting him into a pulpit that has been misused in the past is sending a really bad signal. (And anyway, what happened to our community's supposed newfound commitment to diversity? Isn't it about time we had a toastmaster who wasn't a white privileged male? Someone like, say, Jane Goldman?)

UPDATE: Stand down:

Jonathan Ross ‏@wossy 12m

I have decided to withdraw from hosting the Hugo's @loncon3 in response to some who would rather I weren't there. Have a lovely convention.

(Via twitter.)

183 Comments

1:

Not being from over there and mostly unaware of Mr. Ross's existence until today I'm afraid the controversy is mostly going over my head.

However, I can say without reservation that any choice for Hugo Toastmaster leading to resignations from the committee is most likely a very bad one. How could they let it get to that point in the first place?

On top of everything else, why someone from the 'outside' anyway? I scanned through Mr. Ross's Wikipedia entry and saw nothing there placing him into 'our' circle. There are loads of people from the SF community capable and willing to serve as toastmaster. Why bring in a controversial figure who isn't even one of us?

I don't get it. Can anyone seriously defend this choice?

It all seems like a giant screwup to me.

2:

NOTE IN COMMENTS:

For what it's worth, I think a lot of the worries about Jonathan Ross are overblown. Yes, he's a comedian, and some of his jokes are in very bad taste. On the other hand, he's also been targeted by the tabloid outrage merchants: and a 20 year career in stand-up is more than long enough to give anyone's enemies a ready-made armoury. I'm not in any position to judge how much of his public persona is a fabrication of his enemies: I just don't know. So I will reserve judgement on Jonathan Ross, the man.

What I do believe is that this betrays a saddening lack of political awareness on the part of the Loncon 3 Chairs. Which will hopefully now be remedied.

3:

Look up who he's married to. He also has a history as a comics writer, film critic, and games developer.

4:

And he's out:

I have decided to withdraw from hosting the Hugo's @loncon3 in response to some who would rather I weren't there. Have a lovely convention.

— Jonathan Ross (@wossy) March 1, 2014

5:

I'm with you on this. As an American I'm not familiar with Mr. Ross. However, I'd say that (after Googling him) he is most definitely a sub-optimal choice. Given the recent context of controversy within Fandom and SFWA, I have to raise and eyebrow. What's the motivation here? Because I have to say it doesn't look good. Regardless, why not Jane Goldman? If you ask me, she's infinitely more qualified.

Just a thought but... er... how many female speakers would be chosen based upon who they're married to? [cough]

6:

His appointment was probably a bad move, but the way he was hounded out was, in my opinion, much worse.

Pot, kettle.

7:

His appointment was probably a bad move, but the way he was hounded out was, in my opinion, much worse.

Would you rather the Hugo ceremony went ahead with a toastmaster trailed by tabloid journalists looking for scandal, with half the nominees missing (either because they were afraid of the toastmaster, or out of solidarity with those who were afraid, or out of fear of the tabloid press), under a cloud of ill-tempered back-biting about privilege and contempt for minorities?

It's better to get it out of the way right now, the same day that the bad decision was made public, than to wait. (Better that it hadn't been made in the first place, of course, but ...)

8:

Odds that we could get Stephen Fry?

9:

There are probably some out there who would complain about Stephen Fry being gay and threaten to boycott.

But then we could just laugh at them.

10:

"His appointment was probably a bad move, but the way he was hounded out was, in my opinion, much worse."

Yes, but you have to admit that nobody important got consulted ahead of time so they didn't even know what a bad idea it was.

Since the people who ran the convention were so totally clueless, very likely they would have gone right ahead and stuck to their guns without a great big public humiliation.

There was simply no other way to guarantee a good outcome than to turn it into a giant public scandal. That's just reality.

Fandom is divided between Us and Them, and when it's Them making choices, the only way to make sure They do it Our way is to call Them out whenever They make a decision without Us. It has to be public and it has to be ugly, or They won't submit.

11:

Generally speaking, using the Us vs. Them dichotomy is not necessarily the best way to persuade people, but then, "Controversy is as abhorrent to me as gin to a reclaimed drunkard" T. H. Huyley

12:

I'm probably missing something myself. Jonathan Ross seems a pointless choice. (I'm American and like the first poster was substantially unaware of Mr. Ross' existence.) But a quick perusal of Jane Goldman's biography suggests she'd be a fine addition to a WorldCon program. The only reason I can see for inviting Jonathan Ross is to give her husband something to do, on the theory that he's at least used to public speaking.

13:

I suspect Ross would have done a professional job of it; it's clear from occasionally having seen his film criticism and chat shows that he's a small-f fan. I also respect him withdrawing when he discovered how diversive he would be. But he's pushed his comedy over the line several times, so why did the chairs of the con take that chance? Did they think that Mendlesohn would be an isolated voice? Frankly it's wierd.

14:

Jonathan Ross is a published sci-fi author, with Turf, America's Got Powers and the recent Revenge to his name. He has made TV shows such as In Search of Steve Ditko and Japanorama. He is the presenter of Britain's most watched chat show for a couple of decades, and he is the host of the National Comedy Awards. He is, basically, Britain's leading award show host, he is a massive sci-fi fan and author, and when Neil Gaiman asked him to do the awards, he said yes.

Such an event, he would usually charge a six figure sum. He agreed to host the Hugo's for free.

Last year he presented the Eisners at San Diego Comic Con, and went down very well indeed. I expect they will willingly accept him this year and he'll have plenty of new material as a result of today, I'm sure.

15:

Ahh, old school, backward looking, SF fandom - so welcoming, so accepting, so sane ...

I'm sure they could give a 1970s student union autonomous collective, staffed by sociologists, a lesson in cliquey PC bigotry.

16:

When you say that you've never heard of Ross because you're American, you've pretty well undermined your comment that he's a pointless guest. A non-US convention cannot and should not programme everything as if it was in the US.

Ross is extremely high profile in the UK, and would have quite possibly been the most high profile person at the convention. As such, if portions of that profile had not been an issue, it would have been quite a coup, particularly since he was happy to do it for free because of his love for the field, unlike when he presented the BAFTAs.

Sadly, it appears he's a trigger for a number of people, to an extent that the people who originally invited him to do the gig didn't appreciate. That's a shame, since he was one of the first big names in the main media to openly defend being a comics, gaming and SF fan. But he's one of those people who's half way over the bridge — the people on both sides see him as being on the other side.

In this instance, I'd have decided differently from Farah Mendlesohn. But (unlike my wife) I'm not involved in LonCon3, being just a member.

Yeah, disclaimer: my wife is staff on the convention and knew about the invitation a while back. Also, Farah is a friend, and someone whose point of view we'd both pay attention to, even if we didn't agree in the end.

In the end, I agree with Charlie: he's too big a target for the tabloid media (and the UK tabloid media is pretty damned poisonous).

17:

Currently, Banbury is covered in signs advertising his signing his new sci-fi book Revenge next month. No tabloid controversy there. Just an expected massive line.

18:

To be frank, the 'storm' seems slightly daft.

The idea that he's unsuitable holds little water. He's very high profile here and a frequent, accomplished awards host. It's the UK equivalent of getting Letterman to host your awards, for free, because he's a fan. The idea that he's unconnected to the genre isn't quite true either. He's famously a geek, a fan and collector of comics and now a writer as well.

The idea that it would cause controversy doesn't quite work either. He's very mainstream here. "Jonathan Ross to host awards ceremony" is a headline that will cause precisely no surprise to anyone.

The scifi community deciding that he's persona non grata for whatever reason makes us seem precious and exclusive.

19:

I'm American, and I do know who Jonathan Ross is, and I don't understand the choice. I think it was entirely right for people to object, but I am kind of pissed off at how many people thought it a good idea to attack the man personally. He's a fan, and he has been known to apologize in the past, although he does seem to fall back on the same bloke-y schtick a lot.

Unfortunately, that schtick, and reports of his behavior at the British Comedy Awards, (and wasn't it just the other week that the BBC announced that there was to be an attempt to make its comedy panel shows less laddish?) are inconsistent with making the con a safe and inclusive space.

What much of the discussion over the issue says to me is that a lot of people don't get what "safe" means. For people who have been bullied or harassed, even being in an atmosphere that tacitly supports the sort of humor for which Ross is known can feel unsafe. The con was supposed to be working to avoid that sort of atmosphere. The choice was inconsistent with what members had a right to expect. End Of.

20:

It's worth noting that Ross's responses to criticism on Twitter were...not exactly temperate. If he'd said something like, "I understand your concerns based on my acts in other venues, but don't worry, I can adjust my material to fit my audience and I promise I won't be making any of that kind of joke," that would have been one thing.

But instead he came out and said things like, "I'll happily buy the ticket off you and give it someone less stupid," and referred to his critics as "haters."

So...yeah.

21:

"Generally speaking, using the Us vs. Them dichotomy is not necessarily the best way to persuade people"

Yes, but it isn't about persuading people. It's about Us defeating Them.

When temperate language is allowed, that makes it easier for people to waffle and avoid taking sides, and in turn that makes it harder to get a decisive victory.

22:

"For people who have been bullied or harassed, even being in an atmosphere that tacitly supports the sort of humor for which Ross is known can feel unsafe. The con was supposed to be working to avoid that sort of atmosphere. The choice was inconsistent with what members had a right to expect."

I don't want to sound insensitive, but perhaps people who are deeply traumatized and feel unsafe because of an awards ceremony host should get therapy instead of attend conventions?

23:

It's not just "deeply traumatized" people. It's often women in general. Sexual harassment at conventions these days is a common and constant thing. One of my Facebook friends just today posted that on the first day of her local con she got "groped by the local perv."

What with this, plus the whole sexism-in-the-SFWA kerfuffle of the last year or so, you'd really think the con runners would want to be a little more sensitive to this sort of thing.

24:

I WAS going to say ... "I've never hear of this Ross creep ( He MAY be "extremely high-profile" to some, but then, so are some footballers, shudder.) - just anothre self-imoprtant media prat, oviously" ... except I followed CHarlie's link - to find out that he was the tosser involved in the Andrew Sachs insuts (etc)
"Tosser" is far too polite, btw.
However, now it appears he about to engage in sex & travel, we can presumably stop worrying about this idiot.

Agree with other posters, that the very last thing we want are the reptiles of the tabloid press @ Loncon.
Is there any way that Loncon can make sure & state publicly that "representatives" of the Mail, Mirror, Sun, S-Sport, Star will be barred from entry & ejected if found?

25:

"Yes, but you have to admit that nobody important got consulted ahead of time so they didn't even know what a bad idea it was."

On the contrary, the Chairs of Loncon were told by Farah Mendlesohn (the committee member who resigned over this) one week before the decision was made public that Ross would be a hugely divisive and controversial choice, and one that she herself would never be able to accept.

Farah's account also mentioned that the Chairs knew she would be unhappy with Ross even before they made the choice of Ross, or informed her. How much (or at all) that factored into their thinking only they know.

To me, that tells that the Chairs made enormous errors of judgement here on several levels.

26:

@Ian, perhaps it's a function of the difference between spending your time concentrating on apocalyptic scenarios and vampires vs. utopian scenarios of post-scarcity?

Various outdoors venues often have a few police standing around, perhaps this would help attendees feel safe and secure; even if they can't be everywhere, all attendees are aware that any crime having been perpetrated will swifly be reported and handled by the proper authorities.

27:

"I don't want to sound [x] but ..." Is usually a good indicator that the following sentence expresses sentiment [x], be it insensitivity, racism! sexism! or any other -ism.

Yes, you're an insensitive ass-hat. Also guilty of exclusionary rhetoric. Now fuck off and leave fandom alone.

28:

You've never been to a worldcon, have you? Hint: not an outdoor event. 'Nother hint: police generally don't have a good record when it comes to dealing with socially unconventional folks. If anything visible police would probably make people feel less secure, not more.

29:

It seems to me entirely appropriate that someone who is habitually professionally offensive should suffer consequences for it.

Doesn't really matter if the offensiveness stems from personal conviction or a calculated persona, it's a real failing in either case.

30:

Are you an American? I hear they do some of that stuff differently.

I wouldn't be happy about the Police being around the actual Worldcon. I have been at cons where the site and convention had agreed on uniformed private security, a couple of guys, at the site entrance. There was some uncomfortable history on intruders at that site, and I didn't have a problem with that choice.

Way back, I heard a few stories about the Dutch worldcon. People I knew were telling of meetings with the Dutch police. and comparing them with British police. One gay young man told me he had been nervous, but the Dutch police asked him for fashion tips.

From my own experience, I suspect the British police can be better than their reputation, but I have had bad experiences. Hit them with something unfamiliar, and some cosplay can be professionally triggery for them, and it could turn bad very quickly.

I am going to be a stranger in London. That's going to be quite bad enough.

31:

I won't claim the prospect of Jonathan Ross at the Awards Ceremony made me feel unsafe. I can see him being an interesting contributor to a panel, he has the knowledge and enthusiasms to fit. But, with his history and public image, even with his very generous offer, there's something about how the deal was done which makes me wonder about the con chairs.

I'm not that interested in the awards ceremony anyway. The last time I was at a worldcon, I spent the time in the bar. The ceremony was packed out, and I met some interesting people I could talk with.

What still makes me uncomfortable is the feeling that. the way this happened, there are some people running this show who don't realise how the world is changing. They might not even be white and male, but the idea of white male privilege fits very well with how they appear to have acted.

32:

I know the con chairs fairly well, and they generally exercise good judgment. (Full disclosure: I have been a guest of honour at a convention in the past where one of them was a co-chair. I'm on social terms with them that include occasionally doing dinner, and nattering at the bar over a pint of beer at other conventions.)

I do not know exactly what happened here, but my guess is that they wanted someone high profile (as in: major media personality), and a friend (possibly Neil) said "I know who I could ask ..." and they got all star-struck and said "yes" without thinking through the implications first. And once committed to asking one major media figure to ask another major media figure, it's kind of embarrassing to back out.

I think Jonathan Ross is an interesting guy and UK fandom might well benefit from his presence, but it would have been better to introduce him to fandom gradually, e.g. by inviting him as one of the guests at a British Eastercon. That way people could get to know him as a fan, and he could get a handle on con-going fandom's rather unusual culture, and assuming all went well a subsequent Hugo toastmaster invite would seem entirely reasonable. Or if things went badly awry, we'd have a small explosion, hopefully not causing too much damage. But the Hugo ceremony is the centerpiece of a worldcon, and we've had enough controversy on stage in the past, thankyouverymuch: merely inviting a controversial comedian who isn't already well-known to the community is enough to trigger blood pressure spikes.

33:

The problem is this seems to have been rushed and then various committee members seem to have had a rush of blood to the head. Have the not heard of collective responsibility.

Makes me thinks is the Loncon committe to large and has cliqes.

I worry that the tabloids will now smell blood in the water and send in undercover reporters photographers to get a scoop from those weirdo geeks.

34:

So the choice is between bland nobodies or big names in the small pond of fandom? My decision not to be a Fan (capital F) many years ago looks well vindicated. This is the kind of stuff that makes me sick of such inbred ghetto politics [But I certainly get my share of it elsewhere eg Transhumanism]

35:

Welp, he's withdrawn.

What happened to thick skins, what happened to, "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me"?

Are words, humour directed at oneself, so painful to bear now that we have to ban vicious humour or caricature, walk on eggshells, etc.?

As a stone-gone comics fan, Jonathan Ross has done a fair bit to make geeky stuff respectable. I don't see why he was an inappropriate choice. If he were to call someone out for being fat, or whatever, so what?

Can't we laugh at each other any more?

36:

That's a lot more sensible objection to Ross than any I was reading last night, Charlie. And put that way, I tend to agree. It's still a great shame that things went down this way.

Meanwhile, I'm now getting superstitious dread that if we mention the Qnvyl Znvy too often, they'll turn up anyway and do more than the usual "Look at the funny fans" stuff.

37:

No.

We should instead strive to laugh with each other.

Sf fandom has a long history of "jokes" being used to belittle and marginalise certain groups. Women is one of those groups. Fandom is not alone in this, far from it, it's prevalent within our entire society, but fandom has just recently started to try to grapple with it and is trying to build up tools for it.

I'm sure Jonathan Ross can be a swell guy, but he also has a long and documented history of offensive and misogynistic jokes. Having potential Hugo winners being afraid of being the target of fat "jokes" at what should be fandom's celebration of them and our genre strikes me as exactly the thing we should strive to avoid.

38:

Then tell guest speakers not to be impolite - write it into their contracts if it bothers you. Go the full legalese route with penalty clauses. That would include assault eg Harlan Ellison's behavior.

39:

As a stone-gone comics fan, Jonathan Ross has done a fair bit to make geeky stuff respectable. I don't see why he was an inappropriate choice. If he were to call someone out for being fat, or whatever, so what?

Let me guess: you're not fat, female, or otherwise on the receiving end of having fun poked at you.

Seriously: there's stuff said in jest, and then there's being made the butt of a joke in front of an audience of a thousand-plus people without your prior consent. The latter is not fun, and I don't expect you've ever been there: nor are you likely to be.

Nor are you likely to be the target of the prurient gutter press who would be stalking him if he'd taken up the toastmaster invitation. Again: that stuff destroys lives.

40:

IMO speaking as someone who has been, and will always receive a certain amount of abuse by those who consider themselves reasonable people, what disturbs me most about this, and other recent outraged responses, is that we are seeing mob rule. It may be mob rule with the best of intentions, but I am far more disturbed by social media slap downs than being groped, laughed at, or threatened by individuals, or small groups. YMMV

41:

That is the way things are trending. More and more walled enclosures where the inhabitants make themselves safe from everything that might offend them. With an instant vigilante posse to run the unpopular opinions out of town, as needed.

Remember - there is no Right to "free speech" on private property, as Charles often points out here.

42:

Or, which is my preferred route, invite guest speakers who are known to not make jokes in bad taste or are exclusionary.

I have some small stage and speaking experience, and if you are to MC a huge show it implicitly requires a large amount of improvisation, and that requires lots and lots of confidence in yourself and your abilities. If you are told beforehand a list of things you must not do or must not say, that will directly impact the way you can handle the event.

43:

A T T
I am going to be a stranger in London. That's going to be quite bad enough
Don't worry - the "Little Village" has, like all great cities, rough places ... but it can be very welcoming too.
Com on in or over - I hope you'll enjoy yourself enormously.
As a life-long Londoner (Who spent 3 years in Manchester - another amzing, but much smaller city) I think you'' like it.

44:

I worry that the tabloids will now smell blood in the water and send in undercover reporters & photographers to get a scoop from those weirdo geeks.
See also my comment @ 24.
I do hope that a policy of "No gutter press - & if found will be given the Bum's Rush" is adopted.
These unspeakable morons have extremely bad form (in the criminal sense) in this country.
To non-UK residents: Google for "hacking" & "Millie Dowler". It is unspeakably sickening.

45:

The sickening thing is that they would not do it if people did not buy/read it in very large numbers.

46:

Analogy time! I'm tall and have a receding hairline and wear glasses, and every now and then someone I've just met thinks it's funny to make jokes about them (usually ones I've heard many times). I do indeed have a thick skin about this, and simply make a note to avoid such people in future*.

It's somewhat worse if such a person is a senior work colleague. IF people on the street and in the media and so forth decided that such attributes were automatically amusing and people with them figures of fun it would be very wearing indeed. Were there a comedian who was notorious for making speccy, lampost, slap-head jokes I would probably not turn up to one of their shows (or book signings).

If, assuming all the above, said comedian was announced as the host of an awards ceremony honouring me for professional achievements I would seriously consider not going and letting those in charge (as well as those who might expect to see there) know exactly why.

At that point of course, it gets out of hand and an internet mob forms. And all of this despite the fact that said comedian, a professional, would probably have managed a perfectly good and uncontroversial show.

I don't have any solutions to this. "Have a thick skin" isn't good enough, but neither is "Ban anyone who might offend the audience". At the end of the day, if nominees aren't comfortable with the presenter, then change the presenter, but it never should have got that far. Ross is the wrong man at the wrong time. Which is unfortunate.

* Which isn't to say that these jokes can't be funny, but I would prefer to make them myself, or have them from a friend who knows when to stop pushing.

47:

Speaking as someone who has never attended an SF convention in the past [nor an awards ceremony], and has no desire to do so in the future,{1} I would have thought Jonathan Ross would have been ideal for loncon3.

He's probably one of the few big-name celebs with a significant SF hinterland, and an unabashed loved for the genre [or so it seems]

I remember watching his "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" series a loooong time ago.

I can't imagine he would deploy the same disrepectful schtick he deploys at say, the Comedy Awards. The fact he offered his services for free is suggestive of this.

However, bearing in mind point {1} my opinions are irrelevant compared to the feelings and wishes of those that do.

For the organizers to offer the role to Ross, him offer his services for free, underestimate the extent to which their members might find his presence controversial/offensive, and then embark on an humiliating reverse-ferret, which culminates in Ross resigning on Twitter, suggest at best naivete, at worst incompetence on their part.

It doesn't make a SF convention sound like the kind of event I'd like to pay to attend, particularly if attendees [presumably adults, in the main] have as much trouble being civilized and respectful to each other, as has been alleged elsewhere, without the organizers having to resort to a Harassment policy

[Not that I think having a Harassment policy is a bad idea]

48:

The Harassment Policy used to be called "Good Manners"

49:

Good manners cost nothing - and therefore cannot be monetized ;-)

50:

I hope that when you say "this is mob rule", that it's an ironic comment or deliberate overstatement. Because it isn't really mob rule at all.

AIUI, there's been no personal harrassment; and no-one has been threatened with physical, financial, or career harm.

From my limited viewpoint, a decision was taken; someone disagreed strongly enough to resign from a committee; the debate widened; sufficient people agreed with the resignation that the decision was reversed. There has no doubt been some embarrassment, and there may be residual disagreement, but on the whole it appears to have achieved consensus. I've seen reasoned debate and a clear explanation of position (although I'm quite willing to acknowledge that the other may have occurred.

That's called democracy. The people who tend to call it "mob rule" are the ones who have been outvoted.

51:

Actually, I haven't been to any UK cons, so I don't know how they compare to German ones. And the policy in question is from an US POV, where things might be, err, somewhat different. BTW, similar problem tend to pop up at hacking events.

OK, first of, compared to most other events, especially the one just going on outside most cons are quite civilized events. Second of, women are usually in the minority, though we might argue if the proportion is really that much worse for SF geeks compared to, say, a marxist discussion group. Third of, expect a high presence of minorities nonetheless, at least compared to some of the events just going on outside; I guess carneval is one of the few events a furry would NEVER wear costume.

The thing to take away from storms like this is, yes, shit happens at cons, but, yes, this might sound trivializing, and it's sad as it is, but shit happens at every event, and if you think a certain event is really save and you can let your guard down, expect some sexual predator sorry excuse for a human^w hominid^w eucaryotic being exploiting exactly this attitude to do some really heinous stuff. Personally I don't know if anybody calculated the risk of being sexually harassed at loncon compared to, say a rock festival,

http://roskilde-festival.dk/forum/mm_forum_pi1/posts/roskilde_babble/roskilde_a_safe_space_for_sexual_haraassment/

but I would not be that much surprised if it was somewhat lower at loncon. Problem is, talking about it if nobody else does of course gives the impression you're worse than everybody else.

And to do my stint into insensitive comments, "now if you please could ignore some second wave feminists and sex-positive feminists getting into a catfight over there..."

52:

I apologise for the text wall, but I just wanted to drop my 10 pence in on the debate -

I can understand to some people that they may be initially somewhat concerned about his 'style' of humour, but as far as I can tell (after only a quick google, I will admit) most of the controversial comments he had made took place around about 5 years ago.

Now, call be a naive or insensitive dolt if you want, but if we intend to be inclusive, then surely we should start by forgiving people for comments that they made years ago, and focus upon their merits and what they bring to this fandom.

As for his reactionary comments, I can hardly say that reaction was unexpected - to be offered a place as award host at a convention which would mean a lot to you, only to be hounded upon by people who you share a love of something with and maybe even the creators of works that you also love because of things that you said or did years ago and have attempted to atone for would would fucking well piss me off as well.

All in all, I think that while their concerns may have been valid, people over-reacted, than he (unsurprisingly in my opinion) over-reacted also. I don't like his humour, but he did deserve the chance at least.

53:

I can't agree that this process has been a smooth demonstration of democracy in action, nor that the result is a consensus of any kind. At the risk of trivialising important issues by comparison with the penny-ante problems of SF fandom, would you recommend this process to the citizens of Crimea and Ukraine as a way to sort out the problems there? Should Russia get to vote on the issue?

54:

if we intend to be inclusive, then surely we should start by forgiving people for comments that they made years ago

This is a good point.

However, I don't think it's sensible to pursue a policy of granting total absolution without doing some due diligence. And there's also the question of con-going enculturation. The right way to do it would be to invite him to be a guest of honour at a small-to-middling convention and see how it goes. Not to drop him into the MC role at the most prestigious award ceremony in the entire field, from cold, with no warm-up.

55:

A key fact that some commenters seem not to be aware of is that world science fiction conventions are essentially amateur operations organized by volunteers. They're big amateur operations -- up to 5000 attendees, over a hundred unpaid volunteer staff! -- but they're still amateur.

Larger conventions (Dragon*Con, Comicon, etc) tend to be run by companies or non-profits with full-time staff, because you can't make them happen any other way; worldcon teeters on the edge of manageability, maxing out what unpaid volunteers can do (and it tends to burn con-runners out).

To make matters worse, every worldcon committee is different: they're regional teams, bidding against one another for the honour of running the worldcon this time round. The UK, for example, gets a worldcon roughly once a decade (1979, 1987, 1995, 2005, 2014 ...). When things go really well, we have some institutional memory -- the chairs from British worldcon N-1 are on hand to have their brains picked by the chairs for worldcon N -- but in general, nobody gets to do the job twice.

Finally, worldcons are running against a background of a massive cultural shift in SF fandom -- especially con-going fandom. Any attempt to stay relevant, especially to younger fans (who have a quite different cultural attitude to racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and so on from their elders, not to mention consuming and producing different media) is going to put some noses out of joint. You can't please everybody. What you can do is try to bring in new blood (some of 2014's first-time worldcon attendees may be running a worldcon in 2025 or 2032), and a good first step in that direction is to avoid unintentionally doing things that might seriously offend them.

(If you mean to piss some people off, then fine: it's an executive decision. But don't do it by accident. That's just dumb.)

Apropos which, I suspect the situation was retrievable, until @wossy responded adversarially on twitter. Scared people complain, cause of fear responds combatively (the word "slander" was, I believe, used) ... things spiral out of control. If he'd taken a conciliatory approach, announced a willingness to listen, claimed awareness of and intent to comply with the con's harassment and behaviour policy, and not come out swinging, the twitter storm might have calmed down.

Which just goes to show how important it is to employ effect public relations and (see above) try not to inadvertently piss people off or scare them.

56:

Dirk:
The Harassment Policy used to be called "Good Manners"

People say that, but what it practically meant was celebs got twenty years of abusing and harassing people at cons before it was public and visible enough to get called out and acted on.

A lot of people are upset by the enabling that social media is having in complaint processes. It may on some level be mob mentality, and sometimes misdirected, but i see it more along the lines of giving the victims a fighting chance for justice. A lot of people are shocked that victims can stand up and call things out now and be heard.

Accountability matters.

57:

As if anyone had not heard of Bernard Manning pre-Internet, nor the complaints against him. The problem is not with tolerating such bad behavior, but rewarding it. Which is what a large section of the public does.

58:

I do hope that when you say, "That's called democracy. The people who tend to call it "mob rule" are the ones who have been outvoted." That you are attempting a witty riposte, or an attempt at humour, because it isn't really democracy when no organised vote was taken.

Unless I missed the poll of course.

59:

The right way to do it would be to invite him to be a guest of honour at a small-to-middling convention and see how it goes. Not to drop him into the MC role at the most prestigious award ceremony in the entire field, from cold, with no warm-up.

This I had not thought of, and honestly, in this regard, you are absolutely correct. If this were to happen, I would expect that people would have less concern.

Honestly though, he'd still be a better choice for this than Joe McHale was for the Spike VGX last year.

60:

Apropos which, I suspect the situation was retrievable, until @wossy responded adversarially on twitter. Scared people complain, cause of fear responds combatively (the word "slander" was, I believe, used) ... things spiral out of control

Having some of his twitter comments I'm not surprised the flames of Fandom's ire were fanned.

He may well have imagined Fandom would have been thrilled to hear of such a high-profile host.

Alas, no.

The fact that cons are invariably organized by amateurs may be part of the reason why I prefer to view them from afar.

61:

Tempting as it may be to announce that the tabloid media are personae not grata, I cannot think of a move better calculated to encourage such people to attempt to enter the convention covertly to find out What We're Trying To Hide. And, if they don't find it, to make it up so as to justify their time and effort.

As to throwing someone out who is a journalist, on what basis? If he or she has paid a membership fee, we can only eject them for breaching the code of conduct, and the simple fact of being a member of the press does not do that.

62:

"The fact that cons are invariably organized by amateurs may be part of the reason why I prefer to view them from afar."

Fair enough. I have the same feeling about Creation Cons / $BIG_MEDIA "events". To each their own.

63:

I cannot think of a move better calculated to encourage such people to attempt to enter the convention covertly

Exactly.

The best way to avoid headlines in the Daily Fail is to contrive to bore them silly: to not be a story.

A close second is to have a professional media liaison person who can give the visiting journalists exactly what they need to file copy and satisfy their editors without annoying or frightening the civilians. Alas, Dave Stewart (who did a bang-up job at the 2005 Glasgow worldcon) is no longer with us and I don't think we have anything approaching a replacement ...

64:

Negative social interactions (NSIs) have a larger weight/impact than positive social interactions (PSIs); that is, a deeper and longer lasting effect. There's no excuse to do harm to anyone.

65:

It's 5 years this October since Dave died. Way, way too young. I hope his father and brothers appreciate that he is even now still missed.

And, damn it, I forgot to raise a glass of whiskey (Irish of course) to his memory 4 weeks ago. He would have been 54.

Meanwhile, I have my wife back after her weekend down at the Excel. She is not impressed by a certain section of 'fandom'.

66:

Can I just point out that by publicly rejecting him, SF fandom has made itself a news story anyway. Even the Sun or the Fail aren't really going to bother with Worldcon because he was there (it's a hosting gig, they are ten-a-penny). However they might now - since you've suggested there is a story you want to hide.

And actually having a higher profile for the Hugos helps make fandom less inconsequential. Everyone is always complaining that there is little decent serious SF around in the mass market - well that's a function of the insular, cliquey nature of it. Whereas comic book has gone mainstream, serious SF is still something you avoid tagging your film with. Some open, friendly, inclusiveness would help to counter the obsessive, nerdy, BO-reeking, PC-obsessed, closed image of the thing.

And like it or not, Jonathan Ross is more socially acceptable than most SF fandom - not because there might not be female parity on panels, but because he's personable, and they are not.

67:

I am fat actually, and also hairy, and I expect people to take the piss now and then, no harm done.

I am male, but I don't see what difference that makes. Are females uniquely fragile, little treasures to be kept from the slightest shock? Hmm, that sounds a familiar ...

There's a difference between something done for amusement and something done out of viciousness. If the former is put on a level with the latter, the latter loses distinction as something abhorrent.

Unless one takes the tack that all humour is necessarily vicious, in which case, let's just forget about laughing at anything ever again. Maybe laughing at things is just bad.

Jesus, I'm 54 years old, what the fuck is the world coming to?

I think basically it's just "overshoot"; a line of thought on automatic pilot. Certainly, to be in a minority and laughed at for something you can do nothing about, like your skin colour or accent, must be extremely unpleasant. But jokes on such a basis aren't funny anyway, and clowns like Bernard Manning and his ilk were deservedly shot down for it.

But laughing at a man or a women because they're fat - which 9/10 is something they CAN do something about - is not on the same sort of level at all.

Fat people are intrinsically funny. Cheeks are often puffed out as if the mouth is permanently full, fat wobbles, and people who are very fat usually waddle in a semi-majestic, semi-ungainly way, which in itself is intrinsically funny.

If it's too painful to be fat, the remedy is easy: cut out all sugar and all processed foods, exercise.

Only if someone is fat because of a condition, would I agree that humour directed at them is misplaced, and to the extent that it's not always possible to tell (although actually it is most of the time), that's the ONLY reason why scattershot fat jokes in public aren't a good idea - precisely because what's being laughed at is out of the humour-butt's control, just like with racism.

However, had Wossie done that, the proper course would have been for some nearby wit to take the piss out of his speech impediment and see how he liked it.

All that to the side though, of course it's a private do, and the organizers have the right to invite or not invite whoever they like.

68:

Comments along the line of "Well, I don't mind, so I don't see what the big deal is" are not particularly constructive, enlightening, or novel.

I'm in a different timezone than Charlie, so I'll mute them and let him sort it out later.

69:

I almost hope that gurugeorge's comment doesn't get deleted, because it will be useful to have such a spectacular example of privilege and victim-blaming to point to the next time we have to run How Not To Fail As A Human Being 101.

70:

In terms of media management, this also includes considering what you need to tell high-profile guests, as Foz Meadows points out in this very insightful post on the Ross debacle. As she notes, even if Loncon 3 thought it appropriate to go ahead despite Farah Mendlesohn's concerns, those concerns should have led to a discussion with Ross as to the possible reaction to the announcement.

71:

Oooh, well put :) I deserved that

But democracy doesn't require a closed ballot. Votes largely avoid "mob rule" (thinks back to "show of hands" ballots in 1970s/80s) and give equal weight to every vote, not most weight to the loudest / most popular (many of us can think back to our schooldays for examples of that) - but if a consensus emerges from debate, and that consensus "chimes" strongly, is it any less a consensus?

Is it about doing the right thing, or doing things the right way? (noting, of course, that these are not mutually exclusive, or that either is a guarantee of the other)

72:

Can I just point out that by publicly rejecting him, SF fandom has made itself a news story anyway.

Yes, you can point it out. You will note that I added the emphasis in the quote above; if the committee had functioned properly this wouldn't have happened.

Hopefully this will prompt a re-think about how certain highly visible processes are conducted.

73:

I'm sure this will all be resolved to the satisfaction of many very soon, and I hope that all the influencing parties who disagreed will stay friends if they were friends, and remain civil and try to be forgiving of each other if they were not.

I would have loved the opportunity to (possibly) meet Wossy on the turf of fandom. My mom was a huge fan of his. Some of his meaner barbs over the years passed us both by, being directed mostly at fellow celebs... but the Sachsgate affair made me groan. It wasn't funny, and I'm glad he apologized for it.

That was back in 2008, just before I started getting into performing as a stand-up. From the fellows I met on the circuit who were involved with BBC productions, they said the resultant change due to Sachsgate was palpable. Not all entirely positive, and it didn't even kill off intentionally offensive comedy at the Beeb (see Frankie Boyle). But it meant a lot of creative projects got dropped in favour of cheaper panel shows and vetted stand-up routines that were deemed to have passed muster, and which couldn’t be deviated from in the slightest.

Of course, I am one of the hordes of newish comedians trying their hand at what is becoming, like publishing, an increasingly devalued and diluted industry. I meet so many young'uns who have been fired up by an effective polarisation of comedy to be on the side of 'edgy' as opposed to, erm... 'not edgy', as they think the best way of standing out is to get as close to the line of tolerance as possible (the tolerance of the majority privileged audience members). The fact that I try to be funny for the power of good and be a positive influence doesn't mean I have never offended anyone (note to self: jokes about body fluids do not go down well at the Army and Navy Club... whodathunk?) so I can understand Wossy's frustrations that so many SFF fans have shown themselves unable to forgive him for regrettable transgressions that he has, indeed, regretted. But it's a frustration that I'm sure he will be able to move on from. Just don't count on him easing his way into fandom via the route of a smaller con now.

As for safe spaces... yes, cons should be. Who can argue with that?! No one has the right not to be offended, but neither should we tell people what they should or shouldn't be offended by. All I can say is, as a *gigging* comedian I am probably not shocked by Wossy, because I encounter much more offensive stuff all the time. Stuff I have to fight. Stuff I have to educate people on (and I do coach newer acts on how to tailor their material to suit the venue type and crowd; to take notice of, for example, women). Comedy is a lower art form with a kernel of higher art at the centre that can stay dormant or be nurtured. Or turned into popcorn.
My philosophy is that we are all personally responsible for the changes we want to see in the world. I would like to see positive, creative actions in response to this, hands of friendship extended, and one great big group hug. Come on people we can do this! #whyIloveSFF
And if Loncon3 want suggestions of higher profile comedians who are not white men, I don’t know anyone quite as big as Wossy, but I know lots of people from telly and radio and that who like SFF and/or who have geek cred I can put to them. Clue: not *me*.

74:

I am male, but I don't see what difference that makes. Are females uniquely fragile, little treasures to be kept from the slightest shock?

I'm tempted to ask if you've ever been stalked, raped, or assaulted by your partner. Or if you've ever noticed that female hominids are on average a bit smaller than male hominids, and thereby likely to come off much worse in a fight, all other variables being taken out of the equation?

To use a metaphor: just because you haven't been a victim of racism yourself, it does not follow that racism does not exist. (Extend metaphor to: casual sexism, rape culture.)

I am tired and my hands are hurting so I am going to resist the urge to do this:

However, you are showing dangerous signs of inability to empathize with people who are not like yourself, and a lack of awareness of your own social privilege. Beware. Times are changing, and behavioural patterns you've had 54 years to internalize because nobody's called you on them are no longer necessarily going to go unremarked.

75:

I'd like to call everyone's attention to Simon's link to this essay by Foz Meadows, which is about the best summary of the situation and its ramifications that I've seen.

76:

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution! (Can I ask who you are? You've run afoul of the Google login bug in Movable Type which has mangled your online identity ...)

77:

I would be moved to suggest Henry Gee; I've heard him speak in the past, and he's pretty good. He is also uncontroversial, and has a background in both science fiction and hard science.

78:

Donna Scott :D

http://www.donna-scott.co.uk

79:

"simply by making many fans feel less safe"

I actually feel less safe because I can see how even a major and famous fan can be monstered out of a community he should be able to feel safe in.

I'm not part of your hard core inner fandom network. I've been to exactly one Eastercon, where I knew few people people and they were generally too busy to make me feel welcome. If this degree of hate will be directed to someone who's done an awful lot of genre stuff, what chance have I got?

80:

I'm assuming calling Henry Gee uncontroversial is a joke; the man is, err, remarkably unreconstructed (http://www.principiadiscordia.com/forum/index.php?topic=30799.0 for a visible public example, his blog for fairly constant less public examples).

82:

Turn it around and imagine yourself being the target of public mockery by someone with the profile of Wossy.

As an outsider, what you've missed is a period of 2-3 years during which con-going fandom has been tearing holes in its own guts over issues including: racism, discrimination against the disabled, casual sexism, stalking and harassment. A lot of folks who were on the receiving end of these forms of abuse stood up and yelled ENOUGH!. A bunch more folks who weren't directly impacted (only indirectly -- it's hard to see a missing stair when you get to ride the elevator -- but didn't want to be a party to that sort of thing joined them.

What's going on is a huge amount of awareness-raising, which will hopefully in the long run make fandom both more welcoming and safer for people like you -- who don't have friends or a support network -- but who may also be vulnerable.

83:

Correct, you cannot make all the people feel safe all the time.

Thing is, this storm was not only largely avoidable, it is also deeply tied to the here and now. If Ross had been proposed and acepted as MC in Glasgow 2005 I doubt this would have happened at all, and there are two huge factors that play part. One is that Ross at that time hadn't acquired the public reputation of a maker of offensive and injuring jokes. The other is that fandom at that time hadn't really started to grapple with how they treat women and other minorities within fandom. That is, a group that previously often felt unsafe at cons are now (rightly) demanding that cons should be safe for them too.

Another thing to remember is that the phrase "he's/she's a fan" can be interpreted two ways. The first is someone with an interest in sf, with some geeky friends, and so on. Ross fits that nicely. However, the second way is someone who is actively involved in sf fandom, interacting with it in various ways as a participant. Our host is one of the big names here, so is Farah and the rest of the committee of Loncon.

Now, Ross has plenty of status and the help of a strong network in the general entertainment industry, and probably also in comics. But he lacks that network almost entirely within fandom. To us, he is an outsider. A recruitable and potentially friendly outsider, but still an outsider. That doesn't mean he's not welcome, but it means that Ross can't get the help of his outside status and old networks while interacting with fandom. I think that's what bit him hard in the twitter exchanges - he had his outside baggage without his outside status.

All this is also tied with him getting a post of honour and responsibility at WorldCon. If he had been a regular visitor and participated in some programme items and done some signings, then I doubt anyone would've said anything.

84:

Northampton... I grew up there. A seriously weird and depressing place.

85:

Henry is a very clever bloke. And has made serious (if slightly slipstream) contributions to science and to science fiction as an editor and journalist. Someone I'd love to see at a con. But not at all uncontroversial if you have strong views on taxonomy or cladistics.

A well-known fan resident in Embra suggested Julie Burchill. I sort of hope she meant it as a joke.

I am not going to go anywhere near commenting on the merits or demerits of any candidate. Partly because I don't much bother with the ceremonial side of cons, (It would be no skin off my nose if there was no toastmaster and a committee member just read out the results and we all got on with e drink afterwards); mainly because the whole thing is so touchy. I suppose its because the problems are of huge importance to a large minority of fans and of almost no importance to others, so there is a large gap for misunderstanding and resentment to creep in to.

And because women fans I know - feminist women fans - disagree on it, people I would normally take a cue from as to what is acceptable and what not. Perhaps I'm being a conflict-avoiding wimp. And there is so much potential for unhelpful positive feedback between this and other recent divisions in parts of fandom.


Or maybe there is only so much you can campaign on all the time. Perhaps its a good thing there is some specialisation. There are other political fights that are more my department.

Ken Brown

(And I wish I could fix this Google id thing)

86:

"The first is someone with an interest in sf, with some geeky friends, and so on. Ross fits that nicely. However, the second way is someone who is actively involved in sf fandom, interacting with it in various ways as a participant."

That's sort of my worry. JR has spent the past twenty years making TV shows about comics and animee and weird films, bringing his love for the things we love into the mainstream. But he will always be an outsider to this closed fandom society. What hope have the rest of us?

87:

The naive answer is that if you want to become member of a fandom, you just need to join in and participate. You don't need to go to cons - there are plenty of fan groups online (said he who got into fandom via alt.fan.pratchett on usenet), for any fandom you can name.

But in general, you need to make an effort, you need to participate, and engage with others, and be friendly/funny/knowledgeable/interesting/whatever, the same sort of thing that's needed to become accepted and part of any community.

Wossy is both a fan and a creator, but he's not in fandom, as far as I'm aware. If he wants to, he's welcome to join, just like anybody else. Of course, his situation is a bit complicated both because he's an ouside celebrity (so his fan credentials will be questioned - is he a fake geek celeb?) and because he's a creator, which in general means you enter the community in a different position, unless you transition from fandom-fan to creator (like so many has done).

But to state he'd never be welcome in fandom is ridiculous.


88:

What silly-swordsman said.

Fandom is no different than any other community. If you are to be a "full" member, people there need to know you and you need to know people inside. Nothing magical about it, and people do it all the time when they move, switch jobs, join a club, or do something else.

Hopefully you have something or someone to ease you into the new group, and this is a part where the people responsible for inviting Ross totally failed. And Ross had a greater need of that help than just about anyone else, since (a) he was put into the spotlight from the start, (b) is a celebrity with a reputation, (c) his fan credentials were to some degree unknown.

Any group will react violently to newcomers or outsiders who they perceive as disruptive. But most newcomers are not disruptive. Ross was a disruptive influence for people like Mendlesohn and McGuire, and a potential one for Stross. Then Ross acted like an ass on twitter in his first responses, and it became impossible to fix things.

89:

Charlie, as we both know, I've had that problem too (I'm now 68) ... but we learn to adapt, I hope.

90:

Alas, X being an arse on Twitter is so common as to be a cliché.

I suppose the answer is not to be an arse anywhere. And when we've found these perfect beings of shining light, they may not let us sinful creatures join their club, anyway.

91:

Oops, buggerit!

I didn't know about that; thanks for enlightening me. I shall now pipe down.

92:

Christopher Priest reports on a previous run-in with Ross at the end of a publisher's* book tour nearly 20 years ago.

93:

Are you suggesting that verbal "violence" is like physical violence in some way?

It's called bullying.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can drive you to suicide.
Does Wheaton's Law need to be invoked?

94:

Having suffered both forms, having a gang waiting to beat you on the way home from school is definitely far worse than the name calling.

95:

And hanging yourself is a worse outcome than a few bruises. What was your point?

96:

I've had both as well.

Being worked over by the class thugs[1][2] a few times was pretty damned unpleasant and certainly worse than any single isolated incident of name calling or other form of non-physical abuse but these things accumulate over time and I'm not sure that a couple of years of constant abuse, exclusion, and petty harassment didn't leave more lasting damage than the odd beating did...

[1] Who seemed to have a well developed, finely judged awareness of how hard, how often, and where to hit, kick, or punch to cause maximum pain, humiliation, and distress in the short term without leaving enough visible damage that even an old-fashioned, rugby playing, Latin teaching, Character Building Grammar School would have to stop not noticing and take some kind of action beyond awarding me detention for the marks and damage to my school uniform...

[2] Otherwise known as the Rugby Team, Rugby Team wannabees, and associated hangers-on...

97:

I would take Chris Priest's judgement with a pinch of salt. Just sayin'.

98:

On the off chance you haven't seen it, I will mention that you are extensively quoted in the Guardian article on the subject.

Personally I'm kind of sad he wasn't given the chance to host, as I'm sure he would have done everything possible to do a good job and gives every sign of being a true geek/nerd/fan at heart. However the Loncon3 committee should have forseen the reaction they got and taken steps to preempt it.

99:

It's 5 years this October since Dave died

Which is factually incorrect. He wasn't 49 when he died, he was 46, actually 8 years ago. (It was a bad week as far as I was concerned: Dave died, I got my first speeding ticket in years while crossing Anglesey, and then the morning of Dave's funeral, I found my car to have a defunct engine controller — in Dublin, a foreign country — and ended up not getting there.)

100:

Yes, I saw the Guardian piece. It's about as good as you're going to get in the mainstream press, coverage wise: but the comments are best avoided. (The Graun's comment threads seem to get regular invasions by Daily Mail readers.)

101:

Hi Charlie

To be honest this whole incident has put fans in a very bad light and I'm afraid that I would contradict you and suggest that people should read the comments to see how petty and small minded the whole thing appears from the outside. and from long experience reading the granuards comments these seem more the locals than the DM crowd.

Its put me off attending and for once I was going to be in the right city at the right time. :-( .

102:

So a fat joke amounts to bullying?

Someone making fat jokes about someone again and again, and with vicious or manipulative intent, would certainly be bullying. And in retrospect, the first fat joke in that series would be understood as the beginning of that person being bullied.

But a single fat joke at a convention? Is that really bullying?

Or has language gone on holiday here again?

103:

Worldcon should be safe space for fans, and inviting a high profile media personality who has been targeted by the tabloids is going to cause collateral damage, even if nothing happens, simply by making many fans feel less safe

Paul Dacre, Rebekah Brooks, collect your heckler's veto at the desk? Doesn't this reward their horrible behaviour?

104:

But a single fat joke at a convention? Is that really bullying?

It depends on the context in which the joke is uttered. As humour between friends or equals, or as self-deprecation, it's fine. But jokes can be used as a form of cover for verbal aggression, exceeding the limits of what is normally permissible with the excuse "but it was just a joke". There's also the question of power imbalance.

Put it another way: there's a huge difference between being laughed with and being laughed at. And there's a big difference between a random tool making barbed comments in your direction, and a star standing on a stage inviting a thousand people to deride you.

105:

Meanwhile, Mr Ross provides yet more lulz for the tabloid headline writer.

The only comment I can add to this is that I think it substantiates my belief that the redtops have the knives out for Jonathan Ross. The full implications of this issue are left as an exercise for the reader ...

106:

Quote from the comments on your link - "These fella sure watches a lot of TV he doesn't like. Maybe change your job mate, do something you enjoy."

107:

"But a single fat joke at a convention? Is that really bullying?"

Apart from what our host said, there is another factor to consider. A series of fat jokes can certainly be considered bullying. What if those jokes are spread out over a period of several years, and with lots of people saying them?

Yes, it might not be grounds for legal or other action from authorities, but I posit that the end result for the victim can be just as bad as if all those "jokes" came from the same person or limited group of persons.

Also, if one person of great stature (and being the MC at the Worldcon is being that) does something, it gives a sign of approval to other people to make the same kind of jokes. That's why one should be very careful in choosing one's leaders, even if only symbolic and temporary ones.

108:

Come on! Can you not see that "a single fat joke" is extremely unlikely to be the first one that the victim has heard?

109:

I've written a post trying to wrap up the affair with viewpoints both pro and con. Includes quotes from Neil Gaiman, who is the one who proposed Ross as a host, via a New Statesman article…

Also worth noting that Ross's 17-year-old daughter called Seanan McGuire out on her remarks, and McGuire apologized...

110:

Doesn't look like I really need to reply, but here goes anyhow.

So a fat joke amounts to bullying?

Well, you answered that question yourself.

But a single fat joke at a convention? Is that really bullying?

When it's coming from a stranger, aimed at someone they don't know? I'd say yes. As akicif @108 says it's not likely the first such joke the recipient has heard, it's just as likely that it's not the first time the person making the joke has done so.

And as Charlie says @104, context matters. Jokes among friends aren't the same as a random person making jokes or rude comments whether to someone's face or within earshot.

So a better question is: Do you think that's appropriate behavior?

111:

Saw this article last night, seems appropriate on the subject of behavior.

If He's Sexually Aggressive In Bars, It's Not Because He's Drunk

TL;DR: Guys who act inappropriately aggressive toward women (like groping) aren't doing it because they're drunk, it's because they're jerks targeting people they see as vulnerable. Same can be said for bullys.

112:

This is the problem with social media. The reaction time is way too fast. By the time I heard about this one it was all over bar the shouting, which will doubtless continue.

I think it's a shame Ross got forced out like this, but I expect he'll live.

Moral number one. Consult widely.

Moral number two. Slow down. Allegedly ( I read it somewhere) the kings of Persia had a rule that any important decision should be made twice. First during an epic drinking session, and a second time after everybody had sobered up. Which isn't to say that Twittering is like binge drinking, but everybody involved, including the man himself, would have done better to give it some time. Maybe hand written notes on vellum would be a better transport layer.

113:

This (I assume) was the New Statesman article you mentioned: "Jonathan Ross and the Hugo awards: why was he forced out by science fiction's self-appointed gatekeepers?" by Hayley Campbell.

114:

Another New Statesman article (by Laurie Penny) is coming soon. (I've seen it in draft.)

115:

"Ross has past form for using women with weight issues as the butt of his humour"

Hang on a minute, has anyone even given a single example of this? Or is it just a baseless slur? Given the comments by Ross' daughter (not the most neutral of sources, I admit), I find it pretty unlikely.

Ross has made a few blunders over the years, but on the whole he's a good guy and a genuine fan, and would have been a fine choice for host. It's sad to see that an angry, ignorant minority can be so influential if they shout loud enough. This type of thing is why I hate Twitter.

And opposing Ross because he would have brought too much media attention is downright paranoid. It strikes to me of an elitist view that SF fandom is for 'us', the insiders, and 'them' - the mainstream media and ordinary people - must be kept out at all costs. What kind of attitude is that?

116:

Yeah, I just spent a chunk of time looking for these fat jokes too and the only reference I found was this one:

"He prefers his women to have a fuller figure. "I love fat birds. I, for want of a correct phrase, find women with fat stomachs very sexy," he once said."

Now leaving aside 'fat birds' (idiot), I'm pretty sure he's been targeted for his weight and I'm fairly sure he and Phil Jupitus have mocked each other over it. But this one really isn't easy to fact check.

Likewise, if you drill into most of the other stories and go behind the stories most of the obvious ones are far more complicated too.

117:
"And there's also the question of con-going enculturation. The right way to do it would be to invite him to be a guest of honour at a small-to-middling convention and see how it goes. Not to drop him into the MC role at the most prestigious award ceremony in the entire field, from cold, with no warm-up."

Balderdash. The man hosted the Eisner Awards, the most prestigious award ceremony in ITS entire field, at the San Diego Comic-Con, a convention that gets 125,000+ people in attendance with major worldwide press coverage.

WorldCon gets maybe 5000. It IS the small-to-middling convention. Hell's bells, it's often not even the biggest convention the weekend it's held.

There has been a heavy whiff throughout this of "he's not a REAL fan" by people who immediately leap to defend cosplaying girls as real fans, and "he should be bounced because of past statements" by people who think that having an editor and editorial board at the SFWA Bulletin is the first step to becoming Pravda.

Worst of all, the vocal elements of fandom have made such a dog's breakfast of the reaction that has caused exactly what they claimed to want to avoid, and has painted fans as reactionary, humorless gits-- the sort of stick-up-their-ass types that thinks Star Trek isn't real science fiction, not like that 10,000 copy paperback original is-- that looks a gift horse in the mouth by turning down a celebrity who wants to lend his fame and skill to the cause.

Never been mocked or teased? Dude, we're science fiction fans. We've all been made fun of. Being mocked comes with the territory, from my generation back, at least. "You read skiffy? You like manga? Ewwww...!"

118:

Yes, it's true that he has hosted major award shows, and that's a major plus for Ross, no question about it.

However, comics fandom (or the British comedy community, for lack of a better word) is not (literary) sf fandom. We are overlapping communities with distinct cultures. I don't know if comics fandom is currently going through the same questioning of bullying, privilege, and sexism as we are currently going through. However, back when Ross got established as Eisner host, back in 2007, he did not have the reputation he does have now, and he was very much eased into the role by co-presenting with Neil Gaiman. And I can just about guarantee that any discussion about bullying, privilege, and sexism in comics fandom would be less advanced.

Of course we can bounce people from important posts or offices for things they've said earlier. That's how experience works. No one is going to ask Harlan Ellison to host the Hugo ceremony after his interaction with Connie Willis back in 2006.

Last, never assume that the one being mocked in one context cannot turn around and mock others in another context. On the contrary, the mocking of the previously mocked can be even stronger when they get the chance, sadly enough. Being mocked and oppressed doesn't make one saintly, it might just as easily make one bitter and stunted.

119:

No, a better question is, why do you think it's a better question? Scanning for thoughtcrime are we?

And why do you use "appropriate" instead of "immoral"? If a fat joke at a convention must necessarily be construed as bullying just in case (e.g. just in case the target is a fat, sensitive person for whom it might the final straw), wouldn't it be more appropriate to call it "immoral"?

And some of my earlier comments have been so far beyond the pale that they've been ... removed? Is that because I said some dumb, sorry "inappropriate" things, or because someone has decided I'm an "inappropriate" person?

In response to Charlie: yes, context; yes, imbalance of power. But, as I said in my first post: overshoot of a principle. And overreaction.

Funnily enough, I was just watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest the other night, and it's shocking how old-fashioned the film seems. What's with having a "hero" who's committed statutory rape? And McMurphy is such a misogynistic asshole, the way he treats those girls he invites to the sanatorium, slapping their behinds and all. Thoroughly inappropriate behaviour. And what's his problem with Nurse Ratched? She obviously means well; she's just doing her duty ferchrissakes.

120:

I've noticed a thread here (and elsewhere) that kind of bothers me.

On the one hand: "Privilege blinds you to your own wrongdoings."

On the other: "If you do wrong in privilege, you're an awful person."

Seems to me that the first sometimes precludes the second.

My own experience with my (white, male, hetero) privilege is that it's like being a giant among Lilliputians: you're going to step on people occasionally, even if you're extra careful. I don't kid myself into thinking I have it as bad as the people I step on, but I don't think being insulted helps matters either.

Of course, after the second, and the third, and the fourth time, things start to get more clear-cut. If this Ross fellow's entire schtick is being a "punch-down comedian" (as it was put above), then he was IMO not an appropriate choice for the Hugos. Or anything really.

121:

"If you CONTINUE to do wrong in privilege, you're an awful person" seems to be the aimed-for stance - of course, sometimes there are misses.

Being insulted doesn't help, of course, but there's a constant drumbeat towards more marginalized communities to speak softly and politely and don't interrupt their betters and don't rock boats and never for God's sake make anyone uncomfortable and MAYBE we'll let you have rights. Saying "don't insult me, please" sometimes jumps on that button and gets a snappish response. It's not pleasant, but it's understandable, and objecting because someone is reacting to what you are rather than who you are in that situation would be so full of irony one could shoe horses with it. Plus of course, the power issues; as (according to Google) Margaret Atwood said, "men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

122:

"... and has painted fans as reactionary, humorless gits-- the sort of stick-up-their-ass types that thinks Star Trek isn't real science fiction, not like that 10,000 copy paperback original is..."

You mean they are like Reddit moderators

123:

And the one thing that it is also politically incorrect to mention is that: when surrounded by predators try not to act like prey.

124:

when surrounded by predators try not to act like prey.

That sounds a lot like victim blaming.

Weasels are also preafators.

125:

Scanning for thoughtcrime are we?

gurugeorge, this is a yellow card.

Read the moderation policy and internalize it. Do not comment here again until you have done so. Further violations will result in more of your comments being unpublished and in you being banned from posting further comments.

126:

Dirk, it's a lot harder to "try not to act like prey" when the predators are male hominids, their preferred prey are visibly physically weaker females, and you fit the prey profile. It's not "acting", it's "being".

And, as JamesPadraicR says, it sounds awfully like you're blaming the victims. Don't do that. If it was burglary or car theft you wouldn't blame the victim for living in a nice house or having a shiny car, you'd blame the robber. Why do you apply a different standard to other offenses? The predators are the ones in the wrong, full stop. Try not to lose sight of that.

127:

D'oh! preafators = predators, obviously. Keyboard's acting up.

128:

Since Jonathan Ross does numerous awards ceremonies (apparently without offending the audience, given by his performance at the Eisners, and the fact that he has been invited back - there's a youtube video of his last appearance) I doubt the tabloid press would have been interested in the Hugos, given that they would not have heard of most of those attending. However, due to the abuse on Twitter it is today front page news of the London Evening Standard, so I expect that there will be more tabloid interest than Jonathan Ross alone would have drawn to the event.

129:

I believe Johnathan Ross's behavior with Russell Brand was offensive and that the opprobrium heaped on him at the time was justified.

I also suspect he is a more complex human being who is also likely to be generally decent, this is an opinion I tend to hold about most people by default as there are in my experience so few genuinely evil people in the world.

From what I have heard and seen is a genre fan.

I was initially surprised at the response of fandom but in hindsight he was deeply offensive in the past and I can understand that this isn't a community that can take that chance.

However, the response has seemed, in my opinion, to be mob-like and triumphal. I think the organisers were wrong and I think for the community to reject their decision is correct and right but I think the manner of the response has not been a shining example of the best of the community.

The article in the Evenign Standard (not a quality source I'll admit) below is what has moved me to post (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/jonathan-rosss-wife-jane-goldman-quits-twitter-after-online-abuse-9170364.html) but this has reminded me of some similarly mannered discussions I observed at previous Eastercons.

I am attending LonCon3 but I am nervous of what and how I say in public forums, not because I intend to inflict mental harm on anyone at all but the chance that I might inadvertently be seen to do that and then be pilloried for it makes me rather avoid dialogue in the first place. I have volunteered for the panels but will be avoiding any panel that might put me in that position.

I really don't want to attempt to 'derail' the debate by focusing on the manner of the response but I am interested in the future community acceptable standards for debate and dialogue, so I know where I stand.

I have tried to make clear in this post I agree with the message of the response, choosing Johnathan Ross was wrong for this community so I am not trying to attack that aspect of the response by focusing on the manner of it.

130:

I was saying last night that the 'Ross should go because he might bring negative media coverage' position was a pretty silly one. By now, it's clear that it's backfired completely. As Kradlum noted above, ditching Ross has brought far more negative media coverage than Ross as host could possibly have done. This has made SF fandom look like a gang of bullies. Great job.

The treatment of Ross' wife and daughter is particularly unpleasant; a campaign motivated by well-intentioned, but misguided concerns about misogyny has unfortunately ended up looking pretty misogynist itself.

131:

Agreed, understood... And excellent quote. I'll have to remember that one.

I've just noticed some cases where words like "vile," "disgusting," and "odious" are slung at others with what seems like little thought. I realize people are angry - rightfully and righteously angry - but I don't like other people caught up in the crossfire, especially as it sometimes seems to discourage them from learning more about their privilege issues.

Of course, that could in all seriousness be my own privilege blinding me...

The big problem I see with this paradigm, that nobody seems willing to talk about, is that it requires taking a lot of things on faith. If a woman tells a man that he is doing wrong; and his own moral judgment tells him he's doing right; who is he to believe? There are some anchors (if you're physically hurting someone you're probably doing the wrong thing!); but either party (or both) can be rationalizing, or have a skewed viewpoint. Things get muddy fast, and in truth there is no easy way out, because people's notions of morality [i]can[/i] be skewed, sometimes extremely so. And when I say "people," I am including everyone.

The idea of taking someone else's ethical sensibilities on faith is an incredibly bitter pill to swallow, even for the devoutly religious.

To bring things full circle: some people would consider part of the SF community's behavior towards Ross to be a form of bullying, and would point to evidence in support of that conclusion. Others could tell those people that their skewed POV causes them to draw the wrong conclusions from said "evidence," and might very well be right. But why should the first group believe the second?

132:

"That sounds a lot like victim blaming."

Let's imagine some teenager wanders into a pub in a rough part of town, gets pissed out of his head while exercising his "right to an opinion". He finds himself in the street with a broken nose and missing teeth.

Yes, he is a 100% innocent victim that nobody should blame for being a fucking idiot. He may bask in the afterglow of The Moral High Ground.

133:

See my reply to JamesPadraicR above. BTW, it is a true story and happened to the son of a friend of mine.

Also, by far the largest number of victims of those "hominid predators" are stupid males, not females. The hospitals are full of them every Friday and Saturday night.

134:

Problem is that a woman can attract predators just by being a woman, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not being in the wrong place at the wrong time is impossible unless you want to lead a totally shut-in life, and trying to pass for a man can backfire horribly.

It's not a matter of women being able to do nothing, ever, period; it's a matter of women being unable to avoid predatory men in the long run. In other words, it's about statistics: there are probably fewer predatory men than decent ones, but there are enough that any woman is bound to encounter plenty in her life.

135:

I would like to see some real statistics on that.

IIRC at least one woman out of every eight has been sexually assaulted at some point in her life; some estimates are more like one in three... And remember that, as usual with violent crime, you are most likely to be targeted by someone you know. So yeah, I have trouble believing that the majority of victims of predatory male behavior are male.

(See also my post directly above. In the long run a woman cannot do anything, because meeting the wrong guy in the wrong circumstances is pretty much a mathematical certainty.)

136:

"IIRC at least one woman out of every eight has been sexually assaulted at some point in her life;"

And I would like to see some definition of what that means. Are we including all forms of "unwanted physical contact" in that, or limiting it to forcible rape and attempted forcible rape? [As opposed to giving in to sexual demand through emotional blackmail]

137:

I'm sure we can all agree that, if there's one good thing that's come out of this whole mess, it's that adverse publicity for fandom and the Hugos has been kept out of the mainstream press.

138:

What will also come out of the mess is ever having anyone of public note host the event in future. Unless they can persuade the Dalai Lama, and even then there will probably be a twitter storm from Chinese fans explaining how he makes then feel unsafe.

139:

Dinnae fash yersel' Charlie, I'm outta here. You've made a complete arse of yourself over this issue, and if you're such a petty wee twat as to ban the types of comments I've made, I've no interest in hanging out here anymore anyway. Enjoy your echo chamber.

140:

Dirk, are you saying that by certain behaviour a victim deserves what they get? Re-read what you posted about your friend's son, and that's pretty much what your meaning comes across as. I don't think I need to go into the finer details of how this then extends to attitude towards victims of sexual abuse, and how they may be viewed (and judged)?

People may indeed act like idiots (or dress provactively, or be guilty of being gratuitously female), but that gives *no one* the right to act on that provocation.

Counter example: I am male, I have long hair. To a certain section of the population this makes me fair game for ridicule and on occasion violence (I have had a random stranger in a bar throw a punch at me just for having long hair). Because they consider my unusual appearance provocative, does that make them right to act on it?

(Point belaboured enough, I hope.)

141:

Hey, "Guru"George, I'll say just say what I was going to before Charlie replied.
Grow Up.

Dirk @132 & 133: Just what exactly is the point you think you're making?
Not that I want to drag this on.

142:

Let me give you an exact parallel.
A few years ago I saw a woman in Bedford dressed in a tshirt and short skirt. What made her stand out were the massive scars on her left shoulder and all down her left leg. Since I had been a biker for years I recognized them as what we euphemistically called "road rash". It meant she had come off a bike at fairly high speed, probably dressed like that.

Now, you can answer this question: does the fact that she was inappropriately dressed for the situation make her in any way culpable for her injuries?

143:

Concisely: stupidity gets punished irrespective of ethical issues.

144:

Do I really have to spend time pointing out in detail the difference between the example that you give of someone being injured through their own actions, and the example you gave of someone being injured by another persons actions as a result of their behaviour?

If I do need to spell this out, and the very fact that you seem to think that these two examples are in any way similar, indicates to me that you are completely failing to understand the issue here.

I'll try very briefly anyway:
Example #1: Man is inhured by another persons actions.
Example #2: Woman is injured by her own actions.

Simple, isn't it?

145:

So if a woman dresses provocatively and walks down a dark street alone, she deserves to get raped?

This is the logical extension of your argument here. (And I'm kind of nauseated that you either dont't see that or think it's an acceptable argument.)

Stupidity deserves to be corrected and educated out of the equation. It does not deserve to get punished.

146:

Concisely: stupidity gets punished irrespective of ethical issues.

As usual, your conciseness is what gets you in trouble here. You often make these little comments, that I'm sure make perfect sense to you, but not so much to the rest of us
So, your friend's son was stupid, got drunk and mouthed off to the wrong person, and was punished?

147:

I'm also curious if Dirk feels that his concise summary applies to children? Should a child's stupid decision through lack of information or experience be punished? Is this the best way to stop children and adults being "stupid"? And is there an objective measure of what "stupid" means?

148:

Also, it might be entirely correct to say that this *is* what happens, but I thought thet part of the discussion here was about what *should* happen, not what does happen.

149:

Evolution

150:

What should happen and what does happen are obviously two different things, and that is not going to change until this reality is rendered perfect. Personally, I always assume the worst and prepare for it. That's why I don't have "road rash" despite coming off my bike several times, including once at high speed after being cut up by a car. I always wore denim/boots/leather and gloves even on the hottest days.

Of course, I am in favor of engineering reality. In the specific case of men assaulting women then I rather favor the Singapore judicial system and punishments. However, no doubt someone will now jump in saying how barbaric it is to flog someone to within an inch of their lives or castrate them. The point being, if you want to eliminate this type of crime then you use Game Theory to set the punishment so high as to effectively deter the perps. And if they are not deterred, they never get a second chance.

151:

How do you know the woman was injured by her own actions? I always assumed she was riding pillion

152:

It was still her choice to ride unprotected -- I am assuming that if she was riding pillion, the rider in charge of the bike did not deliberately spill her off at high speed. So we can assume that some sort of accident caused her to come off the bike, but her injuries were as a result of her own actions (choosing not to ride in suitable clothes).

Not sure why you're having a hard time grasping this one (I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you're not trolling or being deliberately obtuse, despite a certain weight of evidence to the contrary).

153:

I'm going to choose to believe that you think that you are answering my last question about objectively measuring stupidity with this one-worder, and are referencing such scenarios as were once the subject of Darwin Awards.

I'm really not going to waste time explaining why this is an awful answer, on almost every level.

154:

I've considered it further and decided that I'm not going to continue this discussion (just on the off chance that Dirk flounces off into the ether again, never to return, until he does).

It's pretty clear that at least one of the following options is true of Dirk's thoughts on this matter:
1) People who act "stupidly" deserve whatever they get.
2) There is nothing to distinguish between someone being accidentally injured as a result of their own decisions, and people being injured as the result of assault by another human being who could choose to assualt or not assault them.
3) Evolution will sort it all out by killing off the stupid poeple.
4) It's fun to troll.

155:

Dirk, yellow card.

Drop this subject. Just drop it before I ban you completely and unpublish your comments.

(I am going out to Ken MacLeod's book launch in a few minutes and I will not be amused if I have to haul out my ipad and start whacking on this thread with my censor's hat on.)

156:

Well, I will sort of be "flouncing off" because I return to work tomorrow after being off a week with flu. BTW, the answer to the above is (5)

157:

"The point being, if you want to eliminate this type of crime then you use Game Theory to set the punishment so high as to effectively deter the perps. And if they are not deterred, they never get a second chance."

Not particularly intending to reply to dirk here, one big problem is that this works very poorly. And it's a problem for everybody who thinks it works, just as they are problems for the rest of us.

People are mostly not deterred by rare events.

Every now and then somebody observes a rare event and gets deterred. Usually not.

So, like, imagine a country ruled by an implacable dictator who hated tobacco. Once a year he had a smoker arrested and publicly tortured to a slow death. Would that deter smoking in his country? Not much. People get the rewards of smoking every time they light up. The chance that they get killed for this particular time are tiny. They might think about it, it might flavor the experience, hardly any of them will quit for it.

Once a month? No. Once a week? No. Once a day? Probably not. People don't change their behavior to avoid punishments which are rare.

If you get caught speeding, between fines and insurance hikes etc it could cost you several thousand dollars. Does that keep you from speeding? If you got caught every time, it would. If you got caught half the time it probably would. If you got caught one time in ten, maybe. As it is? I'm betting no.

There are some men who assault women. If they suffered even a mild punishment almost immediately almost every time, most of them would quit. But they usually get clean away with it. Some people think that we can still deter them if we make the punishment horrendous enough. It would be nice if that worked but it does not. If you make the punishment horrendous enough to kill the victim or incapacitate him so he can't do it again, that will work on that particular perp. But if you depend on changing his mind? No. He will believe he was just unlucky. Which he was, not that it excuses his behavior or anything.

Behavioral psychology tells us that to break bad habits with aversive stimuli they work best if they are consistent and immediate. Rare, delayed torture tends not to work.

158:

Do I smell rationalization?

A big part of the problem IMO is that evolutionary psychology nutters are halfway correct; just not in the way they think. Human evolution has favored behavior on part of normal males that is objectifying, antisocial, and dangerous - behavior that could almost qualify as a limited form of sociopathy.

I can see a number of solutions to this; by my thinking, the sanest is to drum into males from day one that what comes naturally to them is not always right. To instill into them a healthy skepticism towards their own natural tendencies.

We already teach children what constitutes appropriate behavior, we just have to extend that... A lot.

159:

"What happened to thick skins, what happened to, "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me"? "

Enough people who had been permanently harmed stood up to say it wasn't true that people with a working compassion gland started to do what they could to minimise unnecessary hurt.

160:

If society has been set up to make you into prey and punish you for fighting back against predators (by ridiculing, dismissing, bullying, assault etc), what choice do you really have to not "act like prey"?

161:

Must we have another iteration of the rape debate?

162:

"If society has been set up to make you into prey and punish you for fighting back against predators (by ridiculing, dismissing, bullying, assault etc), what choice do you really have to not "act like prey"?"

Put it this way -- if society has done this to you, society owes you bigtime. And what's the chance society will give you what you deserve?

You can accept whatever help you're offered, and you can use whatever initiative you can muster to improve yourself.

You don't have it the worst. Consider the lab rats that have been bred for many generations to survive in cages, being experimented on. They can resign themselves to being in cages, and if one does escape what chance does it have? Probably 90+% of wild-type mice die before they can reproduce. The poor red-eyed white mouse still can do as best it can....

And as RA Lafferty pointed out in Space Chantey, "It isn't all possum and red-eye gravy being a man, either."

163:

There will be no repetitious rape thread here.

Rape apologists will receive a red card, a commenting ban, and have their comments deleted.

(This includes attempts to invoke ev. psych., "nature red in tooth and claw", and "human evolution" as excuses. Hint: for a countervailing viewpoint, see Stephen Pinker and the domestication hypothesis -- evolution prior to the development of transmissible human culture may have filtered out the non-violent, but we are a social species and high levels of violence are incompatible with civilization, so for the last few thousand years the selection pressure has been ferociously weeding out the excessively violent.)

164:

Your understanding of game theory and deterrence is ass-backwards.

Severity of punishment has no bearing on the offender rate: the only thing that affects it is probability of punishment.

We iterated through this in the UK in the 18th and 19th centuries. 18th century: Bloody Code (hanging as the prescribed punishment for trivial offenses -- stealing two loaves of bread -- as well as serious ones like murder) plus virtually no formal enforcement (freelance thief takers, magistrates runners, and ... that was it). 19th century: massive rationalization and reduction in severity of the penal code, introduction of formal policing as we know it more-or-less today. Guess when the crime level fell 90%? Guess why places like Norway (maximum prison sentence: 20 years, plus 4 year extensions for public safety on a per-case basis for the most extreme offenders -- people like Breivik) has a much lower overall crime rate than places with the death penalty for everything (Texas, Iran)?

165:

Yes. With the slight qualification that there needs to be some punishment, even if it's only being shouted at. But then your phrasing covers that: lack of punishment would mean zero probability of punishment.

There also needs to be justice. Punish people for things they didn't do, and they get aggrieved. (I've seen this first hand: my first wife got prosecuted for cutting a hole in a fence, and fined. She was furious, because she hadn't cut that hole. She'd actually cut a different one elsewhere in that fence, but as she'd been apprehended carrying bolt croppers and there was a hole, she got done for it. And she had form - she was on first name terms with some officers.)

How you avoid that, I haven't a clue, except that required clear-up rates are probably a bad idea. But if you punish people for stuff they didn't do, they get upset and go 'well, fuck you'. Funny that.

166:

I was really talking about the tradeoff between punishment and the time/effort/money spent by the judicial power investigating and prosecuting a case. If that is wrong then vast amounts of crime gets ignored in practice, if not theory.

167:

"I was really talking about the tradeoff between punishment and the time/effort/money spent by the judicial power investigating and prosecuting a case."

Yes. Ideally the response to behaviors you want not to happen should be immediate and consistent. As it is, vast amounts of crime go entirely undiscovered, and when criminals are caught they go up to a year or more before any punishment is decided.

The immediate bad result is what happens when they are first discovered, and it happens regardless whether they are eventually decided to be innocent or not.

This may have something to do with why so many people feel a compulsion to avoid the police, and leave crime scenes as fast as they can when they have committed no crime.

168:

Guess why places like Norway (maximum prison sentence: 20 years, plus 4 year extensions for public safety on a per-case basis for the most extreme offenders -- people like Breivik) has a much lower overall crime rate than places with the death penalty for everything (Texas, Iran)?

I imagine that might have as much to do with the differences in their respective histories as their penal codes.

169:

The penal code -- and judicial system -- is a major contributory factor to their history of violence.

170:

"IIRC at least one woman out of every eight has been sexually assaulted at some point in her life;"

And I would like to see some definition of what that means. Are we including all forms of "unwanted physical contact" in that, or limiting it to forcible rape and attempted forcible rape? [As opposed to giving in to sexual demand through emotional blackmail]

Disclaimer: Most of my experiences of digging into this sort of horribleness was in the 1990's when I was a part-time volunteer counsellor, and from conversations with my partner who worked on a rape hotline for a few years around the same time. So this is all from somebody who hasn't worked in the area in some time.

The 1 in 8 sounds about right for UK rape & attempted rape number from what I recall, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#United_Kingdom seems to back that up. The last paragraph of that section is especially telling:

"A survey done by a third party research group on behalf of rape crisis centre The Havens found that almost half of UK men between the age of 18 and 25 do not consider it rape to force a woman who has changed her mind to continue sex. Almost 1 in 4 men claimed that it wasn't rape even if a woman had said "no" at the start. A further 1 in 4 would try to have sex with someone they knew was unwilling. 5% would attempt to have sex if the woman was asleep and 6% if she were drunk.[159][160]"

Which, again, matches my experiences of dealing with these people in the 90's.

The figures in the US are worse. Repeated studies (in 1987, 1995, 2000 & 2006) had at around 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 range. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#United_States

Some of this is likely out of date since I frankly no longer have the stomach to poke into what is quite soul destroying work now that I don't have to for $work. From conversations with a few folk who do still work in the area things have improved a little over the last ten years - especially in the US - but I don't have numbers to hand to back up those anecdotal reports.

There has been some fascinating - for definitions of fascinating in the "deeply disturbing" category - work on looking at the attitudes and types of men who rape and abuse. Especially Lisak & Miller's work in the early 2000s. There's a pretty accessible summary at Meet the predators for those who may be interested.

171:

Bugger. Read this just after sending last post. If I'm de-railing the conversation (further) feel free to trash it.

172:

Yeah, but much higher levels of inequality tend to go hand in hand with harsh penal codes, I wonder if there are the stats available to sort the chickens from the eggs on that one.

173:

The high levels of inequality thing may also correlate with societies that haven't undergone a demographic transition (from high birth rate/high death rate to low birth rate/low death rate) -- to stereotype them, "life is cheap". There's also a correlation with Malthusian scarcity -- most human societies prior to the last century were permanently balanced on a knife-edge between producing enough food for all, and famine; population tended to grow until the inevitable once-in-a-few-years famine killed off those with a weak grasp on resources. And knife-edge societies tended to punish infractions very harshly -- keeping the "useless mouths" alive through hard times implicitly deprived the less undeserving of resources.

174:

Lummee, who said anything about women "having it worst?" Not me, that's for sure.

175:

I didn't say women have it the worst either. I don't know who said they did.

176:

"The high levels of inequality thing may also correlate with societies that haven't undergone a demographic transition (from high birth rate/high death rate to low birth rate/low death rate)"

Where are you getting that from? The UK, which has most certainly gone through the demographic transition, is about the third, from memory, most unequal society on this planet.

177:
You don't have it the worst. Consider the lab rats that have been bred for many generations to survive in cages, being experimented on. They can resign themselves to being in cages, and if one does escape what chance does it have? Probably 90+% of wild-type mice die before they can reproduce. The poor red-eyed white mouse still can do as best it can....

Odd thing to point out since I'd never claimed women had it "the worst." Seems a lot of effort to go to in order to refute something that wasn't said.

178:

Emphasis mine, in case it needed to be said.

179:

michennz, I did not think I was refuting you. Pardon me for giving the impression I thought I was doing that. No, I don't think this refutes anything you said.

As I understsand it, somebody else said to try not to look like prey.

You asked how someone can not look like prey when society has gone to great efforts to train them to look like prey.

I intended to say that it's a hard situation and all of us must deal with it as best we can.

Not at all disagreeing with you.

180:

"The UK, which has most certainly gone through the demographic transition, is about the third, from memory, most unequal society on this planet."

Yes, but when they had their draconian laws they were a distinctly unequal society with high birth and death rates. So it fits his correlation. If they changed the laws but are still very unequal, that fits too. If they changed the laws before the demographic transition that wouldn't fit, but it doesn't have to fit perfectly. Correlations don't have to be 100%.

181:

The UK's gini coefficient has shot up over the past 30 years, with the steepest rise occurring since the conserva-dem coalition was elected in 2010. It went from 0.26 in early 1979 to over 0.40 today -- from Scandinavian Socialist levels to levels approaching those of a sub-Saharan kleptocracy.

In contrast, the UK's demographic transition occurred between 1860 and 1940. (After which, the gini coefficient dropped to the all time low it hit in the 1970s.)

182:

Forgiven, and I apologise for my part in the misunderstanding.

This is a fraught subject; feels run high. Score one for civilised discourse, eh?

183:

Yes, thank you.

Civilised discourse FTW!

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