I’ve finally put my finger on why I am so bothered by the Truesdale petition regarding the SFWA Bulletin–it’s the laziness of it all. Obviously I find the writing appalling, but it’s what that poor writing means that is sad. Maybe it’s because I was raised in Pittsburgh in a working class family, but the way the petition was created and delivered smacks of the worst in Internet slacktivist laziness, where the participants are so minimally engaged in the cause that they can’t even make the minimal effort to contribute to the damn thing they’re signing.
Wikipedia defines slacktivism thusly:
The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed… Slacktivist activities include signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization’s efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services.
And that’s exactly what we have here.We have Truesdale so little invested in the cause that he doesn’t even belong to the organization, let alone not contributing to said organization. The signers are even less invested. I mean, having an extraordinary essayist like Harlan Ellison sign this sad excuse for an essay makes me wonder if he even read it. One can picture Truesdale running in, yelling “censorship,” and then adding names to his list.
The signers of this petition are doing the equivalent of sharing a post on Facebook that one of their friends put up that said, “Share on your wall if you want to raise awareness of this thing.” They share the post and feel good, because, gosh darn it, putting the pink ribbon sticker on their car takes a bit too much effort, let alone actually donating time or money.
If I was informed that an organization dear to my heart was establishing censorship panels, and I actually cared about it, you’d think I’d write the president or someone on the board. I sure as hell would follow up if presented with Truesdale’s meandering emails to Steven Gould. But, no, all of that was just a bit too much effort for the people who signed this abomination of a petition.
If any of these writers really gave a shit about this petition and weren’t just pressing a metaphorical share button then they’d have rewritten the damn thing. But, no, Ellison didn’t think censorship of words was a topic worthy of actually having quality words behind the message. Nancy Kress didn’t. Brin? Nope. And when the petition was questioned for multiple reasons, with the exception of David Gerrold, there was nothing but crickets from the signers. Even engaging in a dialog was too much work.
Like I said, it’s the worst in 21st century slacktivism. Sign my name, press the share button, and then let me go back to what’s really important in my life.
And you know what bugs me about this even more? I actually would love to see that dialog. I’d love to see Harlan Ellison get off his ass and rage about having his words excised by some Hollywood hack and having to fight for the dignity of his art as an illustration as to why the respect for words are important today. I’d love to see Gregory Benford talking about where SFWA bulletin content crosses over from historical fact and into irrelevant sexism. I’d love to see David Gerrold lecturing people on both sides about decorum. Heck, Gene Wolfe could just write a bunch of metaphors on censorship with his amazing talent for language. At least then I’d get new Gene Wolfe writing, and that shit is priceless.
But did we get this? No, we got some hack writer putting together an incomprehensible treatise that muddied the point so much that everyone is claiming to have “won,” and we got a significant number of important writers too lazy to actually write about what was concerning them. They pressed the fucking share button and went back to playing Candy Crush.
Feel free to share this on Facebook. I’d enjoy the irony.