Having weighed in on the Orson Scott Card controversy earlier this year, when he was hired to write Superman, I feel compelled to weigh in now that he’s issued his non-apology apology.
The controversy earlier this year centered around his being hired to write Superman, which some felt was incommensurate with his repeated homophobic statements and his involvement with the National Organization for Marriage, which (despite its name) opposes gay marriage. A boycott was organized, which was attacked as censorship and itself being intolerant (which prompted my own editorial). Finally, Chris Sprouse, the artist for that Superman story, withdrew from illustrating it, and the story was put on hold. It has yet to appear.
Now, Card’s most famous sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game, is being adapted as a big-budget movie slated for 1 November release. And the whole story’s repeating again, threatening to be an even bigger, Hollywood-sized story this time around. The LGBT group Geeks OUT has started a boycott, with planned “Skip Ender’s Game” events in major U.S. and Canadian cities.
Movies are big business, much bigger than comics. And so Card, whether in response to Hollywood encouragement or not, has issued a statement to Entertainment Weekly, apparently designed to head things off at the pass. It’s something of a disaster:
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.
Card’s right, of course, that the Full Faith and Credit clause, which requires states to respect each other’s contracts, including marriages, will eventually allow gay marriages to be recognized even in states that don’t perform them. But that was true before the Supreme Court ruling too. And I’m not sure how that ruling (or those two rulings, one on the Orwellian “Defense of Marriage Act” and the other on California’s Proposition 8) render the issue “moot,” though. Most states still don’t perform or recognize gay marriage.
And it’s not as if legal discrimination against gays doesn’t still exist. To take just one example, it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay in 29 states. Or rather, if the employer thinks someone might be gay. After all, he or she doesn’t have to conduct an investigation. So if you’re straight but maybe dress a little too well, or you mention Logo’s show Felt at work or something, odds are your employer can probably fire you too. Which is just another example of how we’re all in this together, and gay rights are everyone’s rights. These issues certainly aren’t “moot.”
Nor has Card’s homophobia been limited to gay marriage. To pretend that’s been the only issue, or that that whole gay thing isn’t operative anymore, now that the Supreme Court said the Feds can’t just choose to ignore the legal marriages of the states, is so silly that it’s hard to imagine Card actually believes such things. It is, however, convenient for him to pretend so, in the months prior to his movie’s launch.
That’s all deeply manipulative, cynical business. But there’s an even deeper problem with Card’s statement. He just can’t resist adding that snide bit on the end there. In which, rather than apologizing or saying he won’t write such terrible things about gay people anymore, Card decides to preemptively attack as intolerant anyone who might boycott him. Again.
You know, like for what he’s said. And done. For which he hasn’t apologized, nor said he won’t do again.
Let me translate his statement: “I fought tooth and nail to deprive loving Americans of equal rights. I demonized them as pedophiles and the cause of civilization’s collapse. Well, shucks, looks like I lost! Now let’s watch those dirty child-rapists to make sure they treat me right!”
This is, of course, beyond offensive. It’s outrageous. But I can’t ignore the fact that it’s part of a growing trend in conservative circles.
Step 1: Lie about facts. Demonize your opponents. Show that you have absolutely no conscience in terms of how savagely and falsely you pursue your agenda.
So you could, for example, join the National Organization for Marriage, which spread the most vicious sort of lies (such as that old fear-mongering lie that school kids would be instructed in how to become homosexuals) in order to get California to pass its Proposition 8, which stripped an entire class of citizens of rights they previously had. You can lie about what marriage “has always been” (um… a transfer of ownership of a woman from her father to her husband, who has lots of other wives?). And you can demonize homosexuals as perverts whose rights would mean nothing less than the downfall of Western civilization.
Keep in mind that this isn’t simply overzealous behavior. It’s hostile to the rudiments of how America (and all civilized, secular nations) work. Religions don’t get to impose their views on others. If you don’t like gay marriage, there’s an easy solution: don’t belong to a church that performs them. But you don’t get to ask the state to enforce your religious views by law. That’s not how this works. If you do this anyway, you’re really no different than someone who says only marriages performed by their church should be recognized by the state because all those other churches have gone astray.
Or you could claim that Obamacare has death panels in it, or that it costs too much (it actually saves massive amounts of money, as all independent analysis confirms), or that it’s somehow a state takeover (despite being a Republican plan designed to avoid a state takeover).
Or you can claim that Obama’s a Kenyan-born socialist.
If you’re really evil, you can legislate that doctors have to repeat your lies (about how abortion causes cancer or infertility or monkey AIDS or whatever) to their patients, or immunize them from doing so. And you can do this while you pass laws that openly violate the Roe v. Wade decision, which will necessitate your state to incur vast bills in order to defend your blatantly illegal legislation.
As I write this, I’m watching yet another commercial from a Republican politician calling to abolish the I.R.S. because of its “chilling” targeting of conservative groups. Never mind that this never happened: a Republican I.R.S. official created search terms, including both liberal and conservative ones, in order to identify groups applying for protected tax status that were, in defiance of the requirements for that status, primarily political in nature. That’s it. The groups got approved anyway, even though they shouldn’t have been. But facts don’t matter to this Republican politician. Nor, really, is abolishing the I.R.S. the agenda — a crackpot idea that will never pass. That’s how disingenuous this is. The point is to elevate this politician as a national candidate by establishing his conservative bona fides, and the only way to do that today is by demonstrating a willingness to spread vicious lies and a commitment to crackpot ideas.
Such examples abound, but they’re all united by their hostility to facts and evidence, as well as their frequent illegality and their even-more-frequent hostility to basic ethics.
Step 2(a): If you win, celebrate victory! America has spoken! That’s why we’re the greatest country in the world! Yay!
But you probably won’t win, because you don’t believe in facts or science anyway, and people who think praying the oil away after the Gulf oil spill is a reasonable strategy aren’t likely to make the best strategic choices. (Cf. “Romney shambles.”)
Also, you probably won’t win because you’re part of a dying reactionary breed fighting the tide of history (see also: scapegoating of Hispanic immigrants), and that’s not a tenable position. These racist, hateful positions helped for decades, when all you had to do was hint that your Democratic opponent liked “welfare queens” (or gays, Mexicans, rehabilitation, not starting unnecessary wars, etc.), but those are all now losing positions, and you’re hopefully gonna have to lie in that bed you’ve made for a long time to come.
Step 2(b): You lost. Now, pretend that all sides are equal, like this has just been a game of checkers or something. Completely ignore that you behaved in the most unethical manner. That’s just how politics is played, doncha know! Pretend that “everyone gets heated” in these political debates, so that your systematic, illegal, illogical, and hate-filled discrimination gets mixed up with people saying things like “no more blood for oil.” Say there are “extremists” on both sides, and never mind that your side was based on contravening the Constitution and demonizing people with nothing but ideology and twisted logic.
At all costs, blur the distinctions between both sides — because otherwise, you might be held accountable for what you’ve done.
For example, if you’ve campaigned for torture and had videotapes leak showing your soldiers laughing while they machine-gun reporters, you really want to pretend that was all just a polite disagreement. Because the alternative is, of course, being put on trial.
And if you’re really a son of a bitch, if you’re really the lowest of the low, then you can go a step further and put the onus on those who opposed your anti-democratic positions and your lying, scapegoating tactics.
For example, let’s say you decide on the day of Obama’s inauguration to oppose everything he wanted to accomplish, to such an extent that when Obama endorses a Republican bill, the Republicans who wrote the bill suddenly say they’ll vote against it. Let’s further say that you do this while the economy’s suffering, and you keep relentlessly and unnecessarily hurting the economy over and over again by playing with the debt ceiling, cutting government jobs in the midst of a recession, and failing to take any action on Obama’s jobs bill while you nonetheless claim you’re all about the jobs (not, say, abortion). Then, when you lose the next election (despite not thinking it’s going to happen, because you’re watching FOX News and don’t believe in science), tell voters that you’ll be watching to see whether Obama works with you.
Or you could say — just for example — that you’ll be watching to see how the forces of “tolerance” treat you, now that they’ve won. As if the real question now is whether they’re hypocrites.
Not, you know, whether you have any concept of history or American values or religious tolerance or how equal rights actually work.
So, having acted intolerantly and intolerably, Card now has the gall to ask for tolerance. And to suggest that, if he’s held accountable for his actions in any way (even, presumably, through a citizens’ boycott of his work), it would somehow be proof that the forces of fairness and tolerance really aren’t any better than him after all.
It’s this shamelessness in defeat that most angers me about American politics today. And worse, that the media seems to go along with it. You can understand how someone wouldn’t want to be accountable for their own actions. But it’s hard to imagine any sane, objective person going along with this.
I’m sick of people like Card fighting like politics is a field where anything goes (I’d say like love and war, but conservatives like Card want to legislate love, and there have been rules to war, despite Dick Cheney’s many attempts to strip them away, going back at least to Homer’s depiction of the treatment of Hector’s body) and then pretending, when they lose, like it’s up to the side they demonized not so much to play fair (which they have) but to now do what the party that’s behaved unethically wants — in Card’s case, for those he’s injured and those appalled by this to fork over their money anyway.
The issue, Mr. Card, isn’t that you lost. It’s that you tried to contravene the Constitution of the United States by depriving one class of Americans their equal rights, despite this same class having already suffered so much and having never once tried to deprive you of yours. And that you pursued this goal with the most relentless and unethical lies and fear-mongering, justifying your hatred and your anti-American agenda under the guise of democracy and religious tolerance.
In pursuing his ideological, anti-equality agenda, Card openly came from a religious perspective. Even in defeat, he’s still cloaking himself in religion — specifically, the way in which we seem to have a special tolerance for the religious, as if their views require them to impose themselves on others, even when it violates the Constitution and American principles.
Of course, we don’t extend such tolerance to Muslims who seek to impose their interpretation of their religion upon other nations’ governments. But when Christians (and Mormons, if you see a difference) do it in the United States (or African nations, where they’ve encouraged at least one death penalty for homosexuality, and where George W. Bush tied foreign aid to evidence-free, abstinence-based policies), we somehow give them a pass. They can’t help it, you see.
So instead of demanding they change, or stop abusing the basic rules about how a secular state functions (which is what guarantees their own religious liberty!), we expect no better. And we get no better.
That’s why Card, like so many others, has to put the onus on those he’s spent years demonizing. If he doesn’t change the subject and put the victims on the defensive, we might actually examine what went wrong here, or how laws could be passed that were so blatantly discriminatory that even this current, right-leaning court would say so. Or why we would tolerate such behavior, when it goes against how a secular, religiously tolerant state works.
Just to be clear, my problem isn’t with all conservatives, just those who act in such an unethical manner. And especially those who do so and then, in the wake of defeat, take that as an opportunity to make equally unethical demands of the victors.
Nor is my problem with the religious, nor any one religion in particular. Many religious people still respect America and the secular society in which they live. And thus, while they might not approve of pornography, don’t want it banned. They might not approve of gay marriage or liquor or extramarital affairs or wearing pointy hats or worshiping gods other than their own, but they don’t want these prohibitions forced upon their neighbors. Nor would they countenance this, because it makes shame for their religion and opens the door for some other religion or sect thereof to impose upon them.
But let’s be clear here: Card wanted gay couples to be treated unequally. To not be able to visit one another in the hospital. To not be able to inherit from each other. To not be able to be covered by the same insurance policy. To not get one another’s social security, no matter how long they lived together. To not live together in family housing on military bases. To be prohibited from participating in dozens of other rights given to married couples. But most of all, to not feel that they were married, or to tell their children that their parents were married — not bullshit, fake married but actually married, in the eyes of the law, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that.
But in Card’s phrasing, this was all a polite disagreement. “Those who disagreed with them,” he writes in strained and passive prose, hiding behind pronouns (and even then avoiding “me” or “I”), as if this was all a little fencing match in which we let our opponents retrieve their fallen rapiers. Not, you know, a blood sport in which anything goes and any vicious lie can be justified in pursuit of a goal, nor that Card’s goal itself has now been judged to have been in violation of the very rules by which the political game is played.
Has Card, then, repented his view that civilization will collapse if we go against “traditional marriage” and allow those possible pedophiles (who only think they’re gay) equal rights?
Or does this mean that he never believed civilization at stake in the first place?
Or maybe Card still thinks civilization’s about to collapse. But he wants to make as much money as possible, even while civilization falls, by heading off any boycott of his movie.
Presumably, he also thinks those who are so tentatively in charge of this civilization, who have realized that the logic of gay marriage rights is inescapable, are misguided barbarians steering society into ruin. And who, despite their rhetoric of tolerance, are actually oh-so-intolerant of his religious views.
What he, like so many of his ilk, completely misses is that no one gives a shit about his religious views. We care about his religiously inspired actions, which sought to impose his views, by means of the law, upon others, in defiance of one of the most basic principles of Western civilization from the Enlightenment onward.
Once again, the problem isn’t Mr. Card’s bigoted views. The world’s filled with bigots, who are entitled to their backwards and disgusting thinking. But bigotry isn’t any prettier or more acceptable when it’s religiously inspired. And when you take your bigotry and try, in defiance of American principles, to impose it through law, you don’t get to impeach those who oppose you as somehow bigots or intolerant themselves. You don’t get to say your religion made you do these immoral and disgusting things, nor that people who rightly hold them against you hate your religion.
Presumably, what Mr. Card refers to as the test of the victors’ “tolerance” is whether they’re willing to give him money, after all that he’s done. If they don’t, or if they encourage others to boycott his work so as not to fund this particular unapologetic bigot, Card would have us believe that they are the real bigots.
In Card’s world, black is white, and up is down. Card twists words to mean their opposites. Victims suffering from discrimination are out to destroy civilization. Their victimizers are the true victims. Those who condemn bigotry are themselves bigots. Religious tolerance means not tolerating others’ practices but tolerating religion’s right to impose itself, if it can, upon others. Tolerance isn’t defined by how we treat the powerless, minorities, or the weakest among us, but how we treat those who have abused their great power and broken the rules of civilized, secular society — and who, unable to pervert the state to their own petty ends, now demand angrily that they not suffer financially for their misdeeds, which they refuse to acknowledge while making no promise not to repeat the same behavior again. Even civilization itself doesn’t mean these hard-fought values, of secular society and religious tolerance and minority rights and reason-based discourse, but rather some religious model of an eternal and unchanging family unit that bears no relation to families throughout history, nor today, nor is required to hold such resemblances.
Card’s world is through the looking glass. Logic need not apply. History, see logic.
What effrontery. Bad enough to fight tooth and nail against equality, using any means at your disposal, including lying and scapegoating, and to display such hostility towards the fundamental rules of religious tolerance. But to demand that people not hold this against you by choosing not to buy your product… simply beggars belief.
Why, to say that is to say that there should be no consequences. That the real wrong isn’t all he’s done, but far poorer and less famous people organizing to prevent this bigot from being quite so enriched. As if that weren’t a perfectly responsible act of free speech — and a hell of a lot closer to a polite fencing match, respecting the rules of the game, than what he has attempted.
As bad as Card’s words and deeds were, pretending it’s all “moot” and preemptively slurring those who might get in the way of his personal enrichment feels worse.
Honestly, I felt squeamish before about endorsing a boycott of Card. I spoke up against those who would condemn such a boycott. Now, I can’t wait to sign up.
If Mr. Card is so unabashedly shameless, the least we can do is to shame him.