At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.
In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.
When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination.
First, what you’ll find throughout the discussion is a great deal of virtue-signaling. Virtue-signaling is the same as moral preening (my favorite euphemism) or polishing one’s moral bona-fides. When you loudly proclaim on social media how awful something is to display how virtuous you are for proclaiming on social media how awful something is, that’s virtue-signaling. The thread is chock-a-block with virtue-signaling about how awful Riley’s views are, how the organization mustn’t be tarred with his brush, how the HWA is”problematic” for not sprinting away from Riley fast enough (as if the mob can ever be outrun), concern-trolling about the HWA’s reputation, and other instances of moral preening.
Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell.
Finally, this comment from Kate Jonez (highlighted at File 770) caught my attention:
Like many other organizations the HWA has chosen to support free speech. This forces them to accept situations that many members would prefer not to accept. The HWA can and has removed jurors who can be documented as instigating violence or making threats, but vetting jurors’ political background is outside the scope of a writers’ organization. Who else should be removed? Should the HWA remove people who’ve spoken out against Syrian refugees, anyone who has a negative position on Affirmative Action, anyone been accused or convicted of domestic violence, anyone who has voted against gay marriage? I personally would be happy never to hear opinions from people holding these views. I don’t think people who think this way are capable of making informed decisions any more that white supremacist/fascists are.
As horrifying as this quote is, what you won’t find is anyone disagreeing with it. To the SJW, the quality of your work doesn’t matter. It’s your opinions that matter, and if you have the wrong opinions, well, you’ve got to go. Disagreement is hate. To Kate Jonez, if you disagree with the unqualified good of Affirmative Action, you can’t be trusted to judge a book properly.
I disagree with the unqualified good of Affirmative Action. I have spoken out against accepting more Syrian refugees into my country. I suspect that many of my views would make Kate Jonez horribly unhappy if she were to hear them, and according to her and her fellow travelers, I’m incapable of making informed decisions.
Keeping O’Sullivan’s Law in mind, the lack of pushback against Kate Jonez’s thinking is disturbing, but not surprising, and the HWA is likely to continue in this direction. Riley’s case is the canary in a coalmine. What we’re going to see is an expansion of what’s considered badthink to include all manner of opinions that stray from SJW boilerplate. It’s inevitable. Your writing career will be put in jeopardy if you express the wrong opinions, if it hasn’t already.
First they came for the Hugos…well, you know the drill.
Riley has since resigned from the Stoker jury.
Later this week I will publish an interview I conducted with David A Riley that discusses this dust-up. It’s really quite illuminating.