Saturday, 2 November 2013

The discussion fallacy

Whenever something controversial passes through the media cycle, there are inevitably a variety of responses. Some people are outraged; some people are outraged by the outrage; some people really don't care either way; some people want to examine how the media cycle is manufacturing the outrage in the first place. (Those people are generally sociologists.) And then there's another group: the ones who think that the outrage is fodder for a roundtable debate. I'm sure you've heard it at some point: "I'm glad this happened, actually, because there's a really interesting discussion to be had."

And, well. No there isn't.

Should controversial things be discussed? Yes, absolutely. But the thing about "discussion" is that is generally implies that there are "shades of grey" to be found in the issue being discussed. Depending on what the issue is, maybe there is. But when the issue in question involves violating peoples' human rights- or giving money to people campaigning for the violation of human rights- then no, I don't think there is a discussion to be had. 

Ender's Game comes out this weekend. For those who haven't been following the coverage of Ender and the man who wrote it, the author- Orson Scott Card- has a long history of not just opposing same-sex marriage, but advocating for government overthrow if same-sex marriage was passed at a federal level. He's called gay people victims of child molestation and sexual dysfunction. (He's also a racist.) So in general, he's a pretty foul human being. He's also listed as a producer on the movie. That means that a percentage of the revenue generated by the film will be going into his pocket- and presumably, donated to the National Organization for Marriage, of which he was a member until recently. There isn't any discussion to be had about whether or not supporting the movie supports Card because it's a bald fact. He gets money if the movie does well. Your ticket purchases support him. There aren't any "shades of grey" here.

Now there've been a few other issues raised by people who want to support the film. Some people have said that they want to support the movie because it has prominent female characters. (Note: prominent straight female characters.) Others say, well, what about other authors who hold intolerant views and still have adaptations of their work brought to the big screen? What about SHAKESPEARE? To which I say: Shakespeare has been dead for six hundred years. The man is not recieving any kind of monetary compensation for new productions of The Merchant of Venice. (Although as far as repairing the text goes, it would be pretty hilarious if the big-screen adaptation of Ender's Game featured Ender in a loving, romantic
Apparently the movie also added a romantic subplot.
But they don't support heterosexism or anything!
relationship with another boy. Just to see the look on Card's face.) Absolutely the question of mounting productions of literature that propogate harmful racist/homophobic/sexist isn't clear-cut; but it's not comparable to the Ender issue, because Orson Scott Card is very much alive, well, and spewing vitriol. And if your issue with the boycott is that the representation of female characters is more important than Card's bigotry- well, that's your decision to make. But don't pretend that the harm done by supporting the movie is abstract. You can see the author-cum-producer's views for yourself.

(The studio has also announced their support for LGBT people, and offered to hold a benefit on the night of the movie's release. That's nice of them, but since they're still paying OSC, I'm not really sure how that rectifies the main issue here: that Card is still getting money from the movie, which then may very well be paid towards homophobic organizations like NOM.)

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