Also on Colorlines this week, my interview with sci-fi writer and fellow straight white dude John Scalzi, about how nerds are simultaneously more and less able to understand oppression. A couple leftover thoughts:
Scalzi’s prideless assessment of his video-game-difficulty metaphor as ‘facile’ in light of life experiences like this one, and his call for subtlety and empathy when reaching out to people, struck me as the best sort of humility. From experience, it’s too easy for dudes like me to treat their good politics the way Reddit treats atheism, i.e. like a cudgel.
I always ask my white dude interviewees to shout out some contemporaries we should check out, and Scalzi’s answers got cut for space. For the record, he named Nalo Hopkinson, N.K. Jemisin, and Cat Valente, and pointed out that both Valente and Jemisin have been enabled by social media to be loud and public about social justice issues, both inside and outside their fiction and irrespective of a publisher’s support. I’m gonna stick that trend story pitch in my back pocket.
And finally, we got a little more into it on comment moderation, which was interesting to me:
Do you find that the commenters are disproportionately straight white men – people who are sociologically conditioned to insert their opinion into a conversation?
Well, the site has 50,000 readers per day just as the natural population, and our regular commenters are a relatively diverse group. It is true, though, that left to their own devices, the loudest and most obnoxious people will crowd out reasonable discussion, or discussion from all points of view. Which is why I go out of my way, when someone’s being patently obnoxious, to take out what I call the Mallet of Loving Correction and get rid of them. You can’t have that back-and-forth if someone is threadcrapping.
Is good comment moderation an act of social justice?
It could be. I don’t look at it on such a grand scale. I want a multiplicity of voices, I want a space for people to discuss things, that they can be challenged and have heated responses, but at the end of the day, they can make themselves be heard. Does that relate to social justice? It does in that, hopefully, people feel like my site is a place where they can be heard. Being heard is an incredibly important thing. Now, the thing about moderation is that it requires a huge amount of time on somebody, which is why I think comment moderation is a bit of a lost art. I spent my whole day doing nothing but sitting on that thread, making sure it didn’t blow up.
Scalzi’s reticence to name the social justice element in the work he does to create a safe environment for conversation, coupled with his reticence to name the social justice element in writing sci-fi universes that are legitimately diverse, makes me think. Is there a need for a companion blog to Microaggressions — call it Microassertions, someplace where people can catalog the little things that made them feel more like a just society is on the horizon, to legitimize them as important? I think it could be a good thing. Someone who isn’t me, i.e. a straight white ablebodied cisgender man, should consider it.