OSC, DC, and Freedom of Speech: it’s not what you think it is
Another day, another brick in the walls on all three sides of this debate.
They are as follows:
1. People who look at Orson Scott Card and are repelled not that he holds abhorrent and hateful beliefs, but that he takes abhorrent and hateful actions and writes hateful and abhorrent works of fiction to propagate them and enact legislation to support them. These include: people who are signal boosting about Card’s beliefs, statements and acts. People who are actively boycotting and encouraging other to boycott the DC Digital First Superman books. People who are petitioning DC Comics for Card’s termination from the project. There is some crossover with category #2 Go google if you need to.
2. People who are very uncomfortable about endorsing a witch-hunt atmosphere for Card’s acts and beliefs as long as his work for DC does not contain homophobic screeds. These people are further grouped into:
A. Those who are anti-censorship, pro-Free Speech, and consider that artists have always had to fight the heavy hand of the government. This group crosses over with category #1.
B. People for whom there is nothing particularly at stake, Who intellectually find Card’s stance wrong but don’t feel invested in whether or not he writes Superman, and who feel that calling for either a boycott or termination is excessive and dramatic.
There are important questions being raised about free speech, the limits thereof, and what could be considered a slippery slope. I will explain why the assumption of the existence of a slippery slope itself is an error, in a minute.
3. People who don’t care about Card’s personal ethos or acts, or who will buy the books because they are Superman fans, without any compunction because THEY WANT TO. They are most likely to rationalize and then attack on forums, when called out on their cognitive dissonance. They may also agree with him. That’s a little scary.
The first amendment is all kinds of simple. The entire document is less than 5000 words. Rulings interpreting it are where it gets mucky.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I’ll walk everyone through this: The US House of Representatives is not permitted to create a religion of the state, prevent a religion from being created by the people, interfere with free expression of the people or press, prevent people from peacefully protesting or petitioning the government to fix what they think is wrong. Yes, this includes submitting a petition to build a Death Star.
Why it exists is to prevent tyrannical totalitarianism where dissent is punishable by death. (nb: dissent is not treason.)
Anyone who is prefacing their interpretation of the situation, opinion, etc., with infringement of Free Speech is quite frankly: WRONG.
Here’s why: The Constitution ONLY applies to the interactions of the citizenry with the government. That’s it. Now, where the government enacts law that protects people from discrimination, private companies and citizens have to abide by that law, but only those laws enacted by congress must be observed. This is why employers can establish dress codes, refuse to hire people with visible tattoos or piercings, and in some states they can even refuse to hire LGBTQIA individuals or fire them for being LGBTQIA.
Free speech does not guarantee you a platform, and does not guarantee you freedom from consequences of that speech. If you are an anti-war protester and you get arrested, or you appear in media forums and a future employer doesn’t consider that your actions are harmless: you’re shit out of luck. Employers can refuse to hire you for bad credit, if they think you’re not the person to do the job of representing their company and you have no recourse.
This is why I have no problem with petitioning DC to fire Card: the issue is not one of free speech. No one’s suggesting laws be made to prevent him from opining or acting on his beliefs within the law. No one’s suggesting laws be made to prevent him from seeking or gaining employment because of his beliefs. All people are doing is exercising their right to free speech and asking a corporate entity to (probably) enforce their own company policies and not permit someone who has not merely espoused hate speech, but who has in fact ACTED with vigor to enact discrimination, slandered the LGBT community by conflating them with pedophiles and advocated armed insurrection against his government if full equality is enacted by congress. (tip: the 14th amendment guarantees full equality and we’re doing it wrong.)
The National Organization for Marriage is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s List of anti-LGBT groups. For clarity, this is the legal organization that all but shut down the KKK in the US. The Klan still exists, they can march and publish, and engage in hate speech, but Morris Dees got their HQ deeded to the mother of one of their victims. Hate Crime is real. Do I think we should differentiate between Bias-based crime and other crimes, legally? That, I don’t know. That is a little bit of a slippery slope, to me. Attempting to punish people for their thoughts is pushing it. A murder is a murder. Matthew Shepard is dead regardless of why, but the why is the motive. He, as a gay man was perceived as, “Other,” “Deviant,” “Abomination,” and a whole slew of other things that Orson Scott Card promulgates in his rhetoric. Yet he is free to do so. Which is fine. We don’t have to like what he says, but it’s to deal we make to ensure our own freedoms.
Yet, again: No one is suggesting Card be restrained by the state for his thoughts, words, or deeds thus far. We are simply suggesting that perhaps he should not be employed to write an established character, particularly this one. (I personally don’t think it matters what character he is hired to write, this is not a job he should have. He wrote Hamlet’s Father as a retelling of Shakespeare and turned it into an obscenity.)
No one has suggested he is not free to create and seek publication of his own works, even. I’ve been boycotting him for years, just as I boycott Stephenie Meyer who (also a Mormon) tithes her proceeds from the Twilight franchise etc., to the Church of Latter Day Saints which also supports anti-LGBT causes. I boycott them the way I do Chik-Fil-A. I do it because if my choice is between action and silence in the face of hatred and bigotry, I must act. It’s basic human decency. What someone thinks or says may or may not have a direct impact on human lives, true enough. What they do, does. Card’s income is tithed, he directly supports and sits on the board of a hate group that funded the Prop 8 work in California. He is directly part of the reason marriage equality in California is not an active reality. They fight adoption rights, so that LGBT couples can’t adopt or formalize parental relationships where one parent is considered the biological parent and the other would have to be an adoptive parent. The anti-LGBT DEATH PENALTY law in UGANDA is funded by these kinds of groups. Bullies are empowered by these groups and young people are effectively bullied to death.
I can’t not object. I can’t not boycott. The only reason I haven’t signed the petition is I would rather DC lose money over hiring Card in the first place. I want it to hurt them, in a way they understand. That hiring someone who actively promotes an agenda, funds it, and succeeds in continuing to keep the LGBT community as less than equal because he believes they are subhuman is WRONG.
None of this has to do with law. None of this has to do with Free Speech.
This is the free market in action. This is capitalism.
We are not obligated to buy the product. We are not obligated to support that which we find repulsive.
It has been raised that a lot of bad people made great art. This is true. Nearly all of them are already dead and have been for decades if not centuries.
HP Lovecraft isn’t going to profit from people buying his books. Further, Lovecraft and many other examples did seem to keep separate their creative and private lives. Card does not. Card uses his creative life as an opportunity to promote the idea that all LGBT people are child molesters and that being molested is what makes someone LGBT.
Whether or not he does so in the pages of DC comics is not the point. Suppose someone reads those books and then reads Hamlet’s Father, what will they be led to believe then? What if it’s a child, who then looks at their gay family friend and because they’re gay, reports them as a pedophile? What if they simply begin to despise gay people and upon discovering their best friend is gay, bullies and torments them until they commit suicide?
Bigots aren’t born, they’re grown. My conscience says that within the bounds of the law, we have an obligation to stand up and say no. We have a moral and ethical obligation to shake off the bonds of apathy and say, “This is wrong.”
A couple of young children, (the boy was named Adolph Hitler by the parents) were removed from their home a couple of years ago because of the parents creating such a profoundly bigoted environment that the state deemed it child abuse. I think that is both right and wrong. The children deserve to be spared growing up in an environment where they are taught to hate, but the parents had broken no laws and were not otherwise harming them.
There are grey areas, but the outcry against Orson Scott Card is not one of them.
The government has no involvement, but for as much as people kick and scream about the Westboro Baptist Church, they are less harmful than Orson Scott Card. Fred Phelps makes noise and offends families at funerals. Orson Scott Card ponies up large amounts of money, his voice, and sees hundreds of thousands if not millions of people denied the right to marry, denied the right to be free of employment discrimination, denied the right to be equal human beings.
A couple of years ago, Amazon had a listing for a book that was a handbook for pedophiles by a pedophile. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/11/pedophiles-guide-stirs-amazon-controversy.html Amazon took the listing down because of public outcry, again: the free market at work. It was bad for business to keep the listing, so they removed it. While the book may also have violated law, the author cried censorship.The government didn’t prevent it’s publication, nor its sale. Amazon did. They are not required to carry products that negatively impact its business. No store is required to carry a product their customers don’t want.
Freedom of Speech is not what you think, and it is an argument that doesn’t apply here. No one is infringing on Orson Scott Card’s 1st amendment right, we're just refusing to stand idly by and let DC provide funding to hate groups, for readers to provide funding to hate groups without calling bullshit.
Follow your conscience, but ask yourself what you’ll say to your LGBT friends when and if the Supreme Court upholds Prop 8. When the next state has its own Prop 8, what will you do knowing that if you bought those books you contributed to it?
Take the blinders off. Do not knowingly fund hate.