In discussing how authors navigate politics in social media, an anonymous author chimed in about closed-minded he/she believes the online writing world to be to anything other than liberal perspectives.
Is the writing world closed off to opposing views? Have we created our own echo chamber?
I’d like to print that author’s comment (nearly) in full, and then respond to some of the points. Please leave your own thoughts in the comments section.
Nathan, I doubt this is news to you, but the writing community is largely liberal.
Somewhere along the way, we have decided that any view that differs from the liberal point of view is not only uneducated, but abhorrent. Whether intentional or not, we have effectively silenced all opposing points of view. And we now spend all of our time agreeing with each other and patting each other on the back for being so open minded and accepting. After all, there is no one left to really challenge us, no one left to “tone police” us.
Since you asked, these are some things off the top of my head that I’d like to challenge in the writing community, but cannot without risking my career and/or being verbally attacked with a gang-like mentality:
1) The validity of the “tone policing” argument
2) That discrimination against conservative views in the writer community is not only acceptable, but encouraged
3) The use of the acronym WHAM and what it means
4) The collective reaction to this election in the writing community, and the idea that this somehow proves what we’ve known all along: conservatives are racist/sexist/bigots/etc
5) That there are people in the writing community who we regularly silence through group intimidation
6) That we sometimes use labels like racist, sexist, bigot, etc irresponsibly, and that admitting this does not negate that racism, sexism, bigotry, etc exists
7) That we ignore all demographics that aren’t related to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and a few select religions
8) That when we talk about politics, it’s only in relation to social issues
9) How we refuse to accept that this election was about anything other than what we hold dear (social issues) when there were multiple important issues that we may have chosen to ignore
10) That whole safety pin thing and what it unintentionally symbolizes
11) That we are more focused on being right, and less focused on effecting change.
12) That we are frustrated, baffled, angry, scared, etc by the outcome of this election, but refuse to self-reflect on this, when we spent the last year weeding out any dissenting view or opinion in the writing community and surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who won’t challenge us on some of these positions
13) How insulting and painful this collective reaction must be to an entire demographic (you know, conservatives, who we pretend don’t exist in the writing community)
14) That we are starting to all sound the same, recycling the same thoughts and vocabulary, and our work will reflect this
I’ll stop there I guess.
You said in your post that there is an expectation that authors openly engage in advocacy. Advocacy for *what* exactly? Are saying there is an expectation that we all advocate for the same things? Because we all agree, right? Even Mary Kate said it. Now, if you don’t agree, you can’t even remain silent to avoid scorn. If you are on the “right side” and aren’t “brave” enough to speak out about it (amongst all of us safe, like-minded writers), you will be unfollowed. It’s a great way to weed out the undesirables. Speak up, or we can assume you don’t agree with us. Brave, indeed. (And maybe vaguely creepy, a la President Coin)
Some of my thoughts:
- When I said it felt like there was almost an expectation that authors would openly engage in advocacy, I didn’t mean simply liberal advocacy. More that it seems like authors are now encouraged to share their views, whatever they may be, and there is pressure against remaining silent.
- While I agree that the publishing world is liberal in the sense that if you examined the voting habits of authors and employees within the publishing world and the public pronouncements on social media they would skew liberal on the whole, I don’t know that the effect of that political liberalism necessarily translates into the way books are published and marketed. At the end of the day, the publishing world is way, way more capitalistic than it is political. You still see things like: 1) Contemporary YA books by male authors packaged and marketed differently than contemporary YA books by female authors; 2) Lack of racial diversity in the industry and in the books it publishes and especially how it markets, necessitating an entire movement to embrace and promote diversity in young adult literature, not even as a political end but simply so the diverse world our young people live in is accurately represented; 3) A self-perpetuating myth that “boys/minorities don’t read”; 4) There are plenty of politically liberal editors publishing books by the Ann Coulters of the world.
- While I don’t doubt that one risks a social media ****show espousing an unpopular view, I’d be surprised if an author had their book dropped simply because of their political views. I don’t want to name names, but I can think of several prominent YA authors off the top of my head alone whose views most liberals would consider abhorrent.
- You won’t hear any arguments from me about the ill effects of witch hunts, but at the same time, I’m also not in favor of totally consequence-free speech. If you say something publicly, you should be prepared to defend it or apologize for it.
- Um…. sorry but what does WHAM stand for? Someone help me out.
A few things:
1) I've been around for a few elections, enough to see that the same issues come up again and again: healthcare, jobs, taxes, and war. This year, however, we had a new issue: human and civil rights. I attribute this to the rise of BLM, of millennial culture (strong bent towards progressivism), certain high-profile incidents (Orlando, Brock Turner), and our actual Presidential candidates: a virulent bigot and a woman. To liberals, this conversation about social inequities has been long overdue. And unlike the economy, it isn't the sort of conversation that is guaranteed to come up again four years from now). So there was an urgency to address it with this election, an urgency that gave it a higher priority (for liberals) than the economy (which we hear about constantly, whether there's an election or not). I think this quote from MLK captures the general feeling:
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
2) A majority of people (mostly Right, some Left) do not understand the terms "racism," "misogyny," "homophobia," etc. They seem to think these terms refer to a conscious, intentional malice on the part of an individual. They don't. An act of racism (any "-ism") is simply one that harms a vulnerable demographic (in this case, POC). It does not have to be conscious, it does not have to be intentional, it does not have to be physical, and it does not technically have to be an action (it can be inaction). So I see a lot of people denying these labels NOT because the labels are misapplied, but because people do not understand what they mean. When someone says "All lives matter," they may not be saying it with conscious malice, but the fact is, it is a racist statement. Because it denies that we need a BLM movement, that there is a unique and alarming threat to Black lives on a systemic level. Pointing out that the statement is racist is not an accusation; it is an observation. It makes no claims as to the speaker's intent. Intent is irrelevant.
3) I've noticed a lot of conservatives complaining (ironically) about being "silenced." This is a coinage from the progressive side of the internet meaning: a rhetorical tactic designed to quash dissent. The problem with conservatives using it is that they are applying it to any situation in which someone holds them accountable for saying something racist/misogynist/homophobic/etc. It is not a "silencing" tactic because the goal is not to silence. The goal is to instruct, to edify, to challenge. By and large, conservatives have chosen to reject that challenge and respond with knee-jerk defensiveness.
(Continued) One last point!
4) This is not to say that liberals have not been vicious on social media. My personal opinion is that it is backlash against a brutal campaign of online harassment that has gone ignored by mainstream media and the police alike, and perhaps, in some twisted way, it is an attempt to demonstrate to privileged folk what it feels like to be a marginalized person firsthand. Unfortunately, the people being put through the ringer this way seem to be coming out of it no more enlightened than they were before. I do have to chuckle, however, whenever I see white people raging about being treated like statistic, rather than individuals. But the point is, I would like to see it generally acknowledged that this is backlash, not unprovoked aggression. It doesn't justify it, but it might help with resolving it. I don't see it going away unless the underlying cause is addressed.
I feel like I should start with "long time listener, first time caller, Nathan" 🙂
For several reasons I have remained silent throughout the entire election, almost all of them going back to the fact that I am very conservative. It is very hard to have a discussion with anyone with liberal views who does not take personal offense to the fact that I disagree with them, just going to put that out there.
All of that aside, it's interesting to me that people repeatedly point out all of the awful things that Trump has said, cry foul, and accuse us that voted for him of supporting racism/sexism/etc. I am not a Trump supporter. But I am a conservative and I did vote for him. And I have a lot of problems with Hillary. Why does that never come up? Why are the liberals up in arms because I voted for someone (whom I disagree with on several issues) but they're okay voting for a criminal? Are you saying that you condone criminal activity? And please please please do not try to tell me that it is all lies and she is so innocent – blah blah blah. We all know she is a criminal. And that would be why the liberals are now crying for a pardon from President Obama before he leaves office. Funny that on one hand you're trying to say that she's innocent and on the other trying to ask for a pardon.
The very nature of a conservative is quiet. For the most part we aren't yelling and screaming for what we believe in. I'm listening when you accuse me of being all of the things that Trump may or may not be and I haven't accused you of being a criminal yet. Is that fair? You were willing to overlook that part of her character to achieve the political ends that you thought were important. Why is it so unreasonable that I would be willing to overlook part of his character?
I am a quiet conservative. I always have been. But I am tired. I am tired of liberal intolerance. I am tired of having to stay quiet to keep the peace because the other side is incapable. And for the first time I'm willing to say it. Thanks for giving me an outlet.
Nathan Bransford says
Thanks for chiming in. I agree that it is difficult to have a conversation these days with tensions so high, but hopefully we can try.
"We all know she is a criminal."
How do you know this? What is your evidence? Do you see how I might be reluctant to accept this at face value in the absence of evidence?
What if I said, "Bruce Willis is in fact a robot disguised as a human. How do I know this? *We all know he's a robot.*" Would you believe me?
And if supposed criminality influenced you so much, how do you square this with the fact that Trump was recently forced to settle a fraud lawsuit for $25 million?
Hope you'll indulge me these questions. Genuinely trying to understand how people think about these things.
Wikileaks provided us with so much proof of the secret emails she was pouring through her private email servers – hundreds of emails marked secret that she moved through her personal servers. That is a federal crime. A federal crime that has sent more than one person to prison and there is proof that she did it. The Clinton Foundation is illegally operating as a 501 (c) 3 charity among other alleged activity some of which is criminal and some of which is just unscrupulous (at best). Please note – it's been openly acknowledged that it's been proven to be an illegal 501 (c) 3, also openly acknowledged that it's not been prosecuted. Should I keep going or can I stop now? I'm on my phone 🙂
I guess I reconcile it because Trump has never once tried to hide his character. He is pretty up front about himself. I feel like what you see is what you get with him and I feel better about that.
(Also a settlement is in no way the same thing as a guilty verdict in court of law.)
Nathan Bransford says
What do you make of the fact that FBI Director Comey didn't charge Hillary despite access to all those emails and information, despite, given the timing of his last revelation, it appears he's no fan of hers?
And if a settlement isn't the same thing as a guilty verdict, isn't no charges even less than that? Still not sure of how you're scaling.
And Trump Foundation vs. Clinton Foundation?
Re: He is pretty up front about himself, this cartoon kind of cracked me up along those lines. (Not expecting you to agree with the sentiment of it obviously, but that's kind of my reaction to the idea that he's better because he's a known quantity.)
Anyway, doubt we'll necessarily agree on this one but I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. Happy to continue the discussion if you want or we can just leave this one here.
My last response, I promise 🙂
I just want to say thanks. It's been really nice to be able to disagree with someone and still feel like adults. I just can't understand how you are seeing a six while I'm seeing a nine but I can appreciate that you are standing there trying to figure how in the world I can't see your six. (If that makes and sense!)
I REALLY enjoy reading your blog, Nathan. I appreciate your advice and unknowingly you have shaped my publishing journey, so thank you for that.