SFWA Sends a Message of Professionalism
Over the past several months, I’ve written a number of posts about professionalism in the speculative fiction field (here, here, and here). Today, at least one of those threads of controversy – the question of Theodore Beale/Vox Day’s continued membership of SFWA – has reached an inflection point.
Today, the SFWA Board communicated to Vox Day (privately, though its recipient proceeded to publish the relevant correspondence on his blog) that upon review of the initial investigation findings, and consideration of his response to those findings, that as a Board they had voted unanimously to expel him from SFWA’s membership. Per Twitter, they communicated that a member had been expelled (without naming that member) to SFWA members via e-mail. And finally, the Board released an official statement confirming the expulsion (here), still without naming the expelled member.
I have no doubt that this has been a long, difficult, and stressful process for everyone involved. Such a decision should never be made lightly, and SFWA’s official statement acknowledges that fact. Difficult or not, I believe that it was a wise decision by the SFWA Board. Many people both inside and outside of SFWA seem cheered by the fact of Day’s expulsion. I’m one of them: I find Day’s views reprehensible and his behavior ugly. But pleased as I am by news of the expulsion, that isn’t the most significant – or even the most important – facet of today’s news. Instead, consider this:
SFWA’s expulsion of Theodore Beale/Vox Day makes a powerful statement about standards of professional conduct in the field of speculative fiction.
SFWA’s Board has demonstrated that bigotry and the abuse of official professional platforms to promulgate the same are considered grossly unprofessional. In other words, SFWA and the professional SF/F world it represents have taken a big step forward to catch up to the standards of professionalism that apply outside of our genre.
That is good news. I’ve already seen some folks on Twitter muttering about how such news is overdue. I can understand – and in many instances share – their frustration. But our indignation today would be neither constructive nor helpful. Instead, I’d rather focus on the most positive and far-reaching consequence of today’s announcements:
SFWA has put unprofessional bigots on notice, and thus raised the professional caliber of the organization and the field it represents.
The organization, its membership, and the entire SF/F community still have work to do. Establishing, communicating, and maintaining standards of professionalism cannot be accomplished by a single stroke of the pen. But today’s announcements make the SFWA Board’s intentions – and the direction of their leadership – plain.
I support a leadership which consigns bigots to the dustbin of professional irrelevancy. I support SFWA’s decision to expel Theodore Beale/Vox Day. And as soon as I am qualified? I will support SFWA and the speculative fiction field with my membership dues.
I am not a member of SFWA, but I support this decision. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of ruining the professional reputation of an organization by association (perceived and actual) with it.
I could not agree more!
Freedom of Speech means having to listen/put up with things you don’t particularly like all the time. Freedom is not decided by one type of people and enforced on the rest.
That is the opposite of Freedom of Speech, as is Censorship.
Amazing people who make there living in these fields are against it!!!
I agree. It is remarkable to find so many people so utterly intolerant and acting like children who cannot see that silencing speech is never the mark of an inclusive or open society or the hallmark of a professional group. Without criticism how are standards maintained? If dissent is not allowed how can one learn new things?
“Defence of dissent” is a bit of a straw man argument here, I’m afraid. Beale/Day wasn’t expelled from SFWA for offering high-minded criticism of the organization (you’ll note that a great many people have been criticizing the organization recently with no one calling for their expulsion). Beale/Day was expelled for behaving in a flagrantly unprofessional manner, in particular for the abuse of SFWA platforms to promote his particular brand of racism.
In today’s day and age, hate speech is no longer acceptable in any professional context. The “freedom of speech” argument doesn’t apply to his case. If he wants to continue his bigotry, he’s free under the law to do so on his own forums. But that kind of unprofessional behavior is – and should be – unwelcome in a privately-run professional organization.
Thank you for your courtesy in responding. I don’t think 52 is old but I’m not used to (yet) expelling people for holding different views. I posed basically the same question at a couple of sites that rejoiced in that man’s expulsion and declared, “good riddance”, because I was curious what the opinion was based on.
I still have a little trouble with the idea of an ‘inclusive’ society that labels people and expels them for being different somehow since that fails to meet the definition of tolerance that I was raised with. On the other hand, the rules of the Mess remained what they were for most of my time in the navy and we simply did not talk about women, politics or religion and this had its origins from a much earlier time when such talk could lead to the exchange of fighting words and dueling was permitted.
Thanks for taking the time.
“Freedom of Speech means having to listen/put up with things you don’t particularly like all the time. Freedom is not decided by one type of people and enforced on the rest.
That is the opposite of Freedom of Speech, as is Censorship.”
Only a government can censor. SFWA is not a branch of the United States Government, therefore Mr. Beale was not censored. He was only voted out of an institution that no longer wished to associate themselves with him.
and you know something, a group of people deciding to exclude persons that do not stand for what they stand for is ALSO protected by the First Amendment.
Amazing that a so-called free speech advocate doesn’t understand how the First Amendment actually really works!
Very Ignorant reply, anyone who can censor speech is a censor. And that includes everyone.
Including your Parents and best Friends, Schools or groups.
Extremely disturbing to find people changing the meanings of words to justify there pseudo Liberal Fascism.
You remind me of P.Z. Myers telling Thunderfoot to come on his Free Though Blogs and say whatever he wants and then censors him immediately.
Censorship is the First Refuge of the Coward.