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Posts for July, 2013

NYT gets it wrong on Ender’s Game controversy

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2013

It would be difficult to be more wrong on the controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card and the upcoming movie Ender’s Game than is the New York Times. The article, by Michael Cieply, not only misses the point, it does so in a way that is condescending and, at times, astonishingly stupid.

Before you even get to the article, the headline declares: “Author’s Views on Gay Marriage Fuel Call for Boycott”. Not even close.

But often headlines are misleading. So let’s turn to the article itself. Which starts this way:

At last count, 667 people, give or take, have screen credits on “Ender’s Game.”

One of them turned into a problem this week.

Oh, was it plasterer Ken Lewis Jr.? Or maybe property and set master Twig Leveque? Or any of the other 640-something people you’ve never heard of?

No. Of course not. And Cieply’s suggestion that it was just one of the 667 people with screen credit is disingenuous.

The concern is about the author of the book, creator of the characters, and producer of the move, Orson Scott Card.

And the problems don’t stop with Cieply’s downplaying of the level of connection with the movie, he also distorts the cause of the concerns. The article describes the problem using

At issue is the author of the novel on which the film is based, Orson Scott Card; his views on homosexuality; and his public stance against same-sex marriage.

Some of the views to which Mr. Jarrett and others object have been posted by Glaad as part of a Web-based “accountability project.” It cites published articles in which Mr. Card argued against the acceptance of homosexuality by Mormons, for instance, and contended that gay behavior often begins with sexual abuse.

Well sure. Those are some of the “views”. But there is no one protesting because Card said that the church he attends should not be pro-gay. And if his sneers were limited to misunderstanding the etiology of sexual orientation, we wouldn’t even know or care.

And, while Cieply quotes the head of the protest as saying “It’s very, very clear what he said and what he stands for”, Cieply never, ever, uses a single example of what Card has said. Not, for example, these quotes which were included in an LA Times article on the same subject:

Card repeatedly has spoken and written about his opposition to gay rights and gay marriage. He has been active in the National Organization for Marriage, which recently wrote to supporters, “If we do not fight back against these governmental attacks on our fundamental right to act in the public square in support of the truth of marriage as God created it, then none of our cherished liberties and rights are safe.”

Writing in 1990, Card said, “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”

In the Mormon Times in 2009, he wrote, “Married people attempting to raise children with the hope that they, in turn, will be reproductively successful, have every reason to oppose the normalization of homosexual unions.”

But while Cieply didn’t have time or space for any actual illustrations of Card’s actual language, he did find time to tell us that there are only 2,000 people boycotting, that there are a lot of obscure boycotts of movies “that somehow offend them”, that Lionsgate has also promoted movies with positive gay images, and that someone somewhere wrote something that claims that Ender’s Game isn’t homophobic. So there.

Cieply may have set out to report the story about a cultural pushback against the promotion of a movie over controversial statements made by the story’s author, but at some point he decided that his story was about how silly, pointless, and unjustified the objections were. Which is fine for a blogger or a columnist, but as a piece of journalistic reporting, this article fails miserably.

It’s Only McCarthyism If We Do It

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2013

That’s what Maggie Gallagher seems to believe:

Gay marriage advocates are trying to build up a boycott of Ender’s Game because of Orson Scott Card’s personal views on marriage. It seems very strange to me that so many artists and people on the left are supporting the idea that to make art in the mainstream you have to have the right political opinions. This used to be considered the heart of McCarthyism: loyalty oaths for filmmakers as the condition for working in the film industry. (These were imposed by the industry, not the government, remember, in response to public pressure).

It was just a little more than a year ago that the National Organization for Marriage, of which Gallagher is board chair, called for a boycott of Starbucks. I’ve grown to believe that organized boycotts are almost always futile in achieving their aims. That said, I do believe that we are all free to spend our money however we choose. I don’t purchase gasoline at Exxon on Mobil, and I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. And if the gross receipts for Ender’s Game opening night are going to be looked at as some kind of an economic referendum for Card, then I can safely say that I won’t be seeing the movie. It’s my money, and I just don’t feel like paying Card a dime of it, and I hope none of my friends or family members will either.

But if they do — if they want to see the movie because they loved the critically-aclaimed book, or because they’re interested in the star power of Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Aramis Knight, Hailee Steinfeld, Jimmy Pinchak, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin — then that’s no skin off of my nose either. Evil people are capable of producing great art, and it’s not axiomatic that their personal evil compromises that art, although I also think that it’s rare for that to occur. I’m not familiar with Ender’s Game to know whether it is tainted with Card’s vindictive viewpoints or not, although I am aware that it does infect other books that he wrote later.

But where I draw the line is here: ten years ago, Card wanted my very existence made criminal. Five years ago, if California had decided to legalize my marriage, he wasn’t just going to disagree with the outcome. He vowed “to destroy that government and bring it down.” So we’re not talking about a civil discussion over afternoon tea. Card has portrayed these issues in a stark struggle-to-the-death choice: it’s either us or him. And now he and his allies are crying foul because some of us are taking him at the very standard he established.

But in the final analysis, this isn’t a question of art or politics. It’s a question of commerce, as Gallagher helpfully clarified today:

But here’s what I believe about boycotts:

It’s fair to boycott a corporation as a corporation for something that corporation does as a corporation.

I think it’s unfair, destructive, and wicked to boycott a whole corporation because of the personal beliefs of one member of that corporation.

I think its repellent to boycott or blacklist an artist because of his personal views. It’s the heart of McCarthyism to me.

That said, people are free to buy tickets or not if they feel differently.

McCarthy, it must be remembered, was a powerful U.S. Senator who threatened to bring the power of the Federal Government down on Hollywood if it didn’t purge “communists,” however McCarthy alone chose to identify or define them,  from its midsts. That’s very different from citizens urging fellow citizens to refrain from buying something.

But setting aside Gallagher’s historically myopic view of McCarthyism, I think her attempt to draw a distinction around Card as an artist is unrealistic. I don’t see many homophobes going to a Lady Gaga concert, and I do see a lot of anti-gay activists denouncing pretty much whatever she does. When k.d. lang came out, she was met with boycotts of her records by country music stations across North America. Outside of the LGBT political arena, we can all recall the backlash against the Dixie Chicks when Natalie Maines took a distinctly anti-Bush stance at a 2003 concert in London. But despite the backlashes, art was never repressed. Card, Gaga, k.d., the Chicks were then and still are free to make their art with whatever points of view they see fit.

But when they sell it, we enter the land of commerce, and we are all free to decide whether we want to buy what they’re selling. And my money just won’t go from my pocket to Card’s. It’s as simple as that.

The Geeks Strike Back

Jim Burroway

July 10th, 2013

Sci-fi writer, anti-gay extremist and NOM board member Orson Scott Card grumbled that people were remembering some of his anti-gay extremism — for instance, that he once called for the violent overthrow of the government if California’s Prop 8 was to fail at the box — and complained that it threatened a potentially lucrative opening for Ender’s Game, a movie based on his book for the same name. Amid growing calls for a boycott, Card decided to peg the movie’s box office success as a measure of pro-gay tolerance. Geeks OUT, a group of LGBT comic and sci-fi enthusiasts who are calling for the boycott, has responded to Card’s challenge:

The Bill of Rights protects your freedom of speech but it does not protect your right to a blockbuster opening weekend.

NOM Board Member and Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card’s tone-deaf plea for “tolerance” from pro-gay marriage forces, first given to Entertainment Weekly, struck such a sour note with so many because it seems to miss the point entirely.

This is not and has never been about a much beloved sci-fi novel. Leaving aside the fact that Card thinks gay civil rights didn’t exist in the mid-80s, which is pretty insulting to the post-Stonewall generation frontline against a little something called AIDS—this is about us, here and now. This is about our community refusing to financially support an extreme anti-gay activist. …

…Orson Scott Card, we can tolerate your anti-gay activism, your right-wing extremism, your campaign of fear-mongering and insults, but we’re not going to pay you for it. You’ve got the right to express your opinions and beliefs any way you choose—but you don’t have a right to our money.

How many homophobic billboards and absurd “Gathering Storm” ads would a new fortune built off of Ender’s Game lunchboxes buy for NOM?

There are a couple of things I find fascinating. First, Card wrote, “With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.” Moot? I wonder if you’ve bothered to tell NOM that? Also, I think it’s safe to say that Card’s response has done wonders in elevating Geeks OUT’s public profile. I before this all hit, I wonder how many people had ever heard of Geeks OUT before.

Geeks OUT ends their statement asking Lionsgate, the actors and production crew, “How do you cut this guy a check?”

Orson Scott Card Calls for Tolerance — For Him

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Geeks Out, a group of LGBT comic and sci-fi enthusiasts, is calling for a boycott of Ender’s Game, a movie coming out in November based on anti-gay Mormon writer and NOM board member Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel by the same name. Card has responded with a statement to Entertainment Weekly asking for “tolerance” for Card’s radical anti-gay positions:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Orson Scott Card

Card’s idea of tolerance only flows one way. When California’s Prop 8 campaign was still looking close, Card called for the overthrow of the government if Prop 8 failed:

 How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

And to give you an idea of what Card considers tolerance, he wrote this in 2004:

But homosexual “marriage” is an act of intolerance. It is an attempt to eliminate any special preference for marriage in society — to erase the protected status of marriage in the constant balancing act between civilization and individual reproduction.

So if my friends insist on calling what they do “marriage,” they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.

Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.

They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.

And why, according to Card, do we want to marry?

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

It’s that desire for normality, that discontent with perpetual adolescent sexuality, that is at least partly behind this hunger for homosexual “marriage.”

But hey, now that he has a major motion picture starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley on the line, Card wants you to show him how tolerant you are. And it now seems that the only way to do that is to not only keeping silent about what he has written about you, but to actually hand over some of your money to see his movie and buy his action figures.

Right. I’m not a fan of boycotts, but I just don’t see that happening.

At any rate, Card — and Summit Entertainment, the Lionsgate subsidiary which is trying to figure out how to promote Ender’s Game — is definitely feeling the heat:

Now Summit  faces the tricky task of figuring out how to handle Card’s involvement. The first big challenge will be whether to include him in July’s San Diego Comic-Con program. Promoting Ender’s Game without Card would be like trying to promote the first Harry Potter movie without J.K. Rowling. But having Card appear in the main ballroom in front of 6,500 fans could prove a liability if he’s forced to tackle the issue head-on during the Q&A session.

“I don’t think you take him to any fanboy event,” says one studio executive. “This will definitely take away from their creative and their property.”  Another executive sums up the general consensus: “Keep him out of the limelight as much as possible.”

Orson Scott Card Joins NOM Board

Jim Burroway

April 21st, 2009

The National Organization for Marriage — the folks who brought you the much-mocked “Gathering Storm” ad — have taken on a real nutcase as the newest member of their board of directors. Joining the board and representing the LDS church is science fiction author and Mormon Times columnist Orson Scott Card. He replaces Matthew Holland, who is the son of a member of the LDS church’s Quorum of the Twelve, who recently stepped down from the board.

Last summer, Orson Scott Card called for the overthrow of civil government if California’s Proposition 8 had failed. Writing for the Mormon Times, he said:

Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down …

In 2004, Card tried to address the argument that same-sex marriage would somehow diminish his marriage. That’s an argument that many anti-gay activists have had a hard time articulating. Most would concede, “Well, of course it wouldn’t affect my marriage,” but Card was game to give the argument a go. Claiming to have “gay friends” of his own, this is what he came up with:

But homosexual “marriage” is an act of intolerance. It is an attempt to eliminate any special preference for marriage in society — to erase the protected status of marriage in the constant balancing act between civilization and individual reproduction.

So if my friends insist on calling what they do “marriage,” they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.

Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.

They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.

He also thinks he understand why we want same-sex marriage. Raising the most-gays-are-gay-because-they-were-molested canard, he writes:

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

It’s that desire for normality, that discontent with perpetual adolescent sexuality, that is at least partly behind this hunger for homosexual “marriage.”

So this is just a small glimpse into the psyche of NOM’s newest board member. Maybe that explains the “Gathering Storm” ad. Scott may well have provided the script. Meanwhile, the parodies keep on coming:

Sci-Fi Writer Advocates Overthrow of Government If Prop 8 Fails

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2008

Do you think shootings in Knoxville are a one-time thing? Science fiction author Orson Scott Card wants to take it up several notches if California’s Proposition 8 fails.

In an astonishingly paranoid and incoherent op-ed appearing in the July 24 Mormon Times, Card zig-zags from one point to the next, somehow drawing in property rights, the color of grey and the properties of asphalt before he’s finally is able to get around to his point, which apparently is this:

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Card is a very well-regarded science fiction writer. His novel Ender’s Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead both won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, making Card the first author to win both of science fiction’s top prizes in two consecutive years. This makes this rambling screed all the more remarkable. It’s not only abysmally constructed logic, but it’s horribly written.

But at least he’s consistent. His manifesto from 2004 was much longer and even more rambling. And that one is a mere reflection of what he wrote in 1990:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

Since I’m not much of a science fiction fan, I’ve never read his books. I don’t know what kind of world he conjures in his works of fiction. All I know is that what he’s trying to conjure in the real world is far darker than anything I’ve seen in quite a while.

[Hat tips: Nick Literski and Jody Wheeler]