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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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use and abuse of the atomic bomb, and other words weighted in history
children of dune - leto 1
So I read about some--disagreements--with insanejournal user bridgetmkennitt's Author List that lists some of the authors that have contributed to RaceFail's failure parts and links to the reason why.

Links to these posts via rydra_wong in this post and this post regarding the above.

A blacklist (or black list) is a list or register of persons who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition.

I'm not getting this. I mean, I will be honest--example, freaking Twilight gets panned thirty ways from Sunday. Everywhere. As a group, journalers and bloggers do this. This is not a magical new thing brought out just to destroy lives and tattoo a virtual swastika on people or something, and I just Godwin'ed myself. It is not a POC retaliatory plot with some kind of dark master group directing from above. This is, to put it plainly, a journaler saying "These people make me uncomfortable in their fiction and in their views, so I am not reading their work in the future, and I will link you to why I feel this way" which is, in fact, a shitload more than I ever do when I hate things publicly in LJ. In general, it's more than most of us do when panning movies, books, or TV shows, or what have you. I spent two LJ entries hating Joan Aiken, in detail. It's not like anyone in the blogosphere is what I'd call shy about saying what they hate and devoting a few thousand entries to it.

As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize them from a certain social circle.

It's the same attitude that was expressed with the "omgtheywillboycottevil!" which again, blew my mind, and not because there was no actual boycott planned, but because the issue was being removed very neatly from "these are problems with writers for Tor/editors for Tor and their views" and "you are plotting against us to force us into the evils of PCness and no longer judging me silently".

And I think the issue comes down to that, actually, when I read backward and ask myself "Why for the love of God would you (plural persons) give a shit about what anyone blogs about?"

The term blacklisting is generally used in a pejorative context, as it implies that someone has been prevented from having legitimate access to something due to the whims or judgments of another.

There are powerful words being thrown like grenades or dynamite. Striking words, words weighted with history, that taste of McCarthyism and Proposition 8 and every way that people in power have attempted to silence people who had none. Blacklist. Boycott. Thought Police. These have been, are, will be weapons of silencing, actions that were taken against, among other things, people demanding social change.

For example, a person being served with a restraining order for having threatened another person would not be considered a case of blacklisting. However, somebody who is fired for exposing poor working conditions in a particular company, and is subsequently blocked from finding work in that industry, may be considered to have been blacklisted.

To use them now--to use them in the blogosphere, among journalers, to toss them out like confetti at a particularly irritating party--is to demean the words and the power they had when they were used, to remove them from the context of their existence--to remove them from the histories of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions who were silenced.

Blacklisting can and has been accomplished informally and by consensus of authority figures, and does not necessarily require a physical list or overt written record.

It strips it of meaning, of what the blacklist was meant to do to people. To call this a blacklist is about as accurate as calling racism just prejudice. To be effective, a blacklist must be backed by the power to enforce it, and the person posting it does not have that kind of power. She has no publishing power--she cannot stop a book from being read. She has no editorial power--she cannot stop their books from being published. She does not own a major bookstore chain--she cannot stop their books from appearing on the shelves. And she does not control the credit card industry, so she cannot stop the books that are bought. What she has is a blog and a strong opinion and the will and desire to share what she thinks and believes.

We've seen so many tools of forcing silence--the outing of coffeeandink because she was too loud, the attack on psuedonyms because too many were willing to speak, the accusations of trolling to discredit those that might think on the words that were spoken, the tone argument that never fucking ends, the murmurs of a POC brigade that forces everyone to agree or else, the oversensitivity arguments, the bad apples argument, now the blacklist/boycott argument, of all things to drag out like the next weapon in the arsenal of sit down and shut up. Each is a redirect away from the question that should have been asked from the start. And it's such a simple question. It's five words.

"What if they were right?"

In a genre based on what-if, this question is ignored.

Redirect. The criticisms were justified. Redirect. We want to talk about the problems inherent in how race is portrayed in sci-fi, media, and literature. Redirect. Stop telling everyone to shut up. Redirect. Stop telling us what we should be talking about. Redirect. Stop threatening us with outing.. Redirect. Stop calling us trolls. Redirect. Stop attacks on the concept of pseudonyms. Redirect. Stop calling this a blacklist/a boycott. Redirect. Stop saying we're a POC mob requiring blood oaths. Redirect. Redirect. Redirect. Redirect. Redirect. Redirect. Fucking redirect because maybe two months of this, everyone will forget what this is about.

This is how it started. And this is how we tell it.

We're still talking. We want to talk about this. We aren't done yet.

One might venture to say discussion is what we do.

Note: I read today during link jumping that blacklist is possibly a racist term. If anyone would link me up to that, I'd be grateful. Wikipedia says it does not have an etymology in ethnicity, but that doesn't mean there isn't one there or hasn't developed one in current use. So my apologies to anyone who is offended by the use of the word; I tried to keep its use in specific context to what was being discussed.

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I found this explanation of the term "blacklist" on Curious word Origns.Thought you might be interested.

blacklist - a list of people contravening rules or conventions
The history of blacklist is closely connected with the expression in 'one's black books'. It's probable first use was in the reign of Charles II, with reference to a list of persons implicated in the trial and execution of his father, Charles I. On his accession to the throne, he hunted them out, executing 13 and imprisoning many others. Particularly in the 20th century, the principal use has been in relation to management and union affairs. However, wider uses are fairly common, for example, a library might have a blacklist of borrowers who abuse the system.

In one's black books - out of favour
The earliest Black Books were official documents; the adjective seems to have had no other significance than to indicate the colour of the binding. For example, there were the Black Books of the Exchequer (about 1175), listing royal revenues, and the Black Books of the Admiralty, containing rules compiled in the reign of Edward III. A Black Book of the 1530s, during the reign of Henry VIII, lists abuses in the monasteries, which were subsequently dissolved, and it is from about this time that a black book became specifically associated with censure or punishment, as it still is.
...From this sense emerged blacklist, denoting people considered disloyal, untrustworthy or deserving of punishment; bad books as a fairly modern variant of black books; and its converse, good books, meaning favour. These last two may also be related to two old expressions from at least 1509: in one's book(s) (in one's opinion) and out of one's book (mistaken).

(Edited because I fail at html.)

Edited at 2009-03-20 09:57 am (UTC)

Oh, you are awesome.

I'm thinking at this point it's less an etymological issue and more a modern uses on how we code for good/evil to white/black et al. Though I'd need to find that post and see if they linked up to a clearer explanation. I can see this argument fairly clearly, but what I'm not sure of is if it's possible to eradicate the cultural context that's pretty much hard coded into every kid from birth at this point.

To be effective, a blacklist must be backed by the power to enforce it, and the person posting it does not have that kind of power.


You mean this is not just like the Spanish Inquisition?

Caveat: I'll admit I'm equally guilty of double standards. When someone I don't like even hints at a boycott, it seems unjust, extreme and oppressive.

That said: The terms blacklist, witch hunt, star chamber, etc. etc. are dramatic metaphors which dance on the edge of Godwin's unless they involve real enforcement power and/or intent to bring real harm, like The Nuremberg Files or a fatwa.

[Side note: I'm really surprised no one has compared bridgetmkennitt's post to the Files/fatwa. If you are going to wet you pants online, at least do it with absolute precision.]

Otherwise the person with the list is being like Homer Simpson, Stephen Colbert, Keith Olbermann or Amelie Gillette. OMG Amelie Gillette, she's like freaking Robespierre with that weekly little chart of hers. Or Chunklet is the Spanish Inquisition.

Bill O'Reilly and Michell Malkin must resort to active harassment before their lists have any power, and even then, it's limited. Michelle Malkin's attack on Dunkin' Donuts did not prove her clout, but that DD caved to silly shit.

Lists are a rhetorical flourish with inherent absurdity, especially if one calls it "The Shit List". Whether one agrees or disagrees, deeming it genuine bravery or vengeance is falling for the Serious Business trope.

I wouldn't have known of bridgetmkennitt's post had not people freaked out about it. It has no power save what people give it, and then it's just for themselves. Even linking with approval or disapproval can't force people to take it seriously.

Using that post as proof people of color must now STFU about RaceFail (which was okay until They Took It Too Far) not only repeats the specific fail, but a general fail. Namely treating a debate where participation was optional as a form of persecution. Racefail isn't an ambush interview - it's a choice to read something, to respond and, for some, to escalate when things heat up.

I'm responding and ranting here at the level I feel comfortable with. Should it blow up in my face or you choose to call me a stinky poopy pants, I will feel a rush of shame of white hot intensity, but I'm not actually on fire.

I wouldn't have known of bridgetmkennitt's post had not people freaked out about it. It has no power save what people give it, and then it's just for themselves. Even linking with approval or disapproval can't force people to take it seriously.


Using that post as proof people of color must now STFU about RaceFail (which was okay until They Took It Too Far) not only repeats the specific fail, but a general fail. Namely treating a debate where participation was optional as a form of persecution. Racefail isn't an ambush interview - it's a choice to read something, to respond and, for some, to escalate when things heat up.

I can't work out if they literally think the fannish community came into being randomly just to persecute them. There's very little here in the arguments that's new to most of us who have been in fandom a while, so why in the name of God they are carrying on with smelling salts is beyond me.

Oh for Christ's sake. Clearly, it is not possible that the reason people have been criticizing Certain Authors is not due to conspiracy, but the fact that they are wrong? And that this is fairly evident to a large portion of the online community?

No, it's a conspiracy.

Authors are never wrong! They sold lots of books, which means they're popular than you, which means they're right! Certainly about social issues, because that's where popularity comes from!

And a conspiracy can be as small as two people! The law says so! It IS a conspiracy!

P.S. where do I sign up for my Fannish Conspiracy newsletter? 'Cos my subscription expired and none of my normal conventions carry it.

Being curious I looked up black list in the OED. The oldest example of its use in there dates back to 1619 and there is no discussion of its derivation so I think it unlikely it was a racist term in its original use.

That obviously does not exclude the possibility it has been used in explicitly racists contexts.

I'm thinking modern uses and the color coding black/white are a problem, and I can see where it comes from with a culture that's very monochromatic when identifying good/evil.

Why must the Zombie Of Fail lurch on? WHY?

Seriously, I was telling my friend who had not heard any of this about the story of RaceFail, and I kept having to say, "Now at this point, everyone thought things were winding down." I said this SO MANY TIMES.

I'm starting to feel like we're being trolled! Things quiet down - and then out of the blue, Sh*t decides to out somebody! Bear decides to tell everyone to shut up right when people were being done! Now haddayr, who has been pretty cool so far, decides to bring up blacklisting! What the hell, fandom?

Edited at 2009-03-20 05:28 pm (UTC)

I don't get it at this point. I mean, it's seriously starting to look more like trolling for attention than anything else.

I don't think the issue with blacklist is with a specific etymology. It's more (and this is super rough, but I think you'll get the idea), blacklist = list of bad people, which gets into the idea of black = bad, white = good. Contrast with whitelist (which I see for example in the context of spamfilters, a list of good things that should get thru the spamfilter).

The black=bad; white=good thing is all over our language (and is never called out in an etymology that I've seen - it's the cultural context, and I suspect it was even in the 1600s though I'm no history expert). It's tricky to get away from, but you know, as a community of writers, seems like a challenge we can take on.

Whitelist as a term was a case of what linguists call backformation, of sorts; if a list of blocked things is a blacklist, then clearly the opposite of blacklist must be a whitelist, because the opposite of black is white and it's still a list.

As mentioned above, the etymology of blacklist comes from the colour of the binding of the books in which they were kept. In derivation it's not at all racist, but I agree with you that the connotations have risks, tying into that black/white motif. (Then again, sometimes black is good - like in finance, where it's in opposition to red.)

The black = bad white = good isn't a matter of racist connotation (I am something of a history expert); if you're going back even to the period in which the term blacklist emerged, nobody in England was nearly as invested in hating people with darker skin as they were in hating the French. The association is more that white is associated with cleanliness and purity (because anything diluting that purity will leave a mark, a stain, less whiteness), while black is dirt and mud and darkness and squalour.

It's why cleaning product commercials tend to feature blinding white surfaces; they look so clean, and show the contrast between dirty and clean so visibly.

To an extent, because it's an element too deeply entrenched in our language and cultural heritage to be eradicated, especially when there are more important battles to fight, this is why I think referring to brown-skinned people as brown, not black, is possibly preferable; brown has no such connotations and associations (whereas black is associated with evil even in some African cultures, I believe).

Then again, my (Afrikaaner) grandfather was once told by a black African (I am unsure of his cultural/racial background; one of the Bantu peoples, but I don't know which), in tones of sincere admiration and praise, that he may be a white man, but he had a black heart.

My grandfather took it in the spirit in which it was intended, because dealing with different cultures requires understanding that sometimes people just don't know that in your culture, they just insulted you hideously.

Wait, what? I'm completely flummoxed by the people objecting to that "shit list". It's her money, she can do or not do whatever she pleases with it. Nobody has a "right" to have their books bought. Published authors make their case in the marketplace-- if their faily comments hurt that case and people desist from buying their shit because of it, that's on *them*, not the buyer.

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I have to respectfully disagree with pretty much all of this. While you cite that word use as a problem in that paragraph, I found the entire entry, especially that paragraph, not just questionable but offensive.

But since we are talking about this particular word, I'll narrow my focus away from the so-called stain of political correctness. I cannot imagine under any circumstances calling my mother a cunt or using that word in her presence for any reason. I don't even like the word in erotica, because it's connotations have so often been used to the disparagement of women. That aside, I won't use it. I respect my mother enough that if that word causes her distress, it's surprisingly easy never to use it. If a group of people find that this word is offensive because it mimics so strongly one of the most offensive racist terms that can be used against another human being, I won't use it, whether or not I agree, whether or not I have any particular emotional investment in a word that's nearly archaic and half a given audience wouldn't understand anyway. I'd make the argument that at some point, this could have been my favorite word and I entirely disagree, and I still would give it up without so much as a thought. I've never cared for it from the first time I heard it spoken and flinched myself before I realized what had been said.

Political correctness has turned into a filthy term for reasons I don't understand. In the form which it is meant to encompass, it asks for respect for the feelings of others in what you say, and to recognize words have power, perhaps most often when used unintentionally. If niggardly makes a person I work with, I interact with, I hang out with, pass on the street flinch, if it can so easily sound like an offensive racist term, it's gone.

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Ah, but authors have an INNATE RIGHT to be read regardless of what idiocy they spout, and people criticizing the authors publically are HURTING that right.

Or something. I must admit, I don't get it at all. The authors make a living from words. If their words are stupid and hurtful, that's a good reason not to read their books. Now, if people were arguing to make their books ILLEGAL, or even boycotting stores that sell them, that would be a different matter. But not reading books by people you don't like = good sense.

Many people have the bizarre notion that freedom of speech means freedom from criticism.

This is very tangential, but I love talking about spam fighting:

Back in the early days of spam fighting email administrators would make lists of spammers to block, and many administrators would share these lists with each other. This was gradually centralized, formalize and automated, becoming what are today known as spam blacklists. ISPs, from the huge to the tiny, choose which of many different blacklists to use, with the blacklists varying on how easy it is to get into the list, how easy it is to get out of the list, and what is and isn't considered spam.

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Thank you for this. I've been struggling to figure out a way to word it, and you hit the nail right on the head.

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Yeah, no. Goodbye.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

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