A Worldcon fuss I wasn’t aware of

I am still supposed to be writing the next Debarkle chapter but in the process I have got lost down a rabbit hole of reading 1970’s fanzines. So today’s post sort of feels like a standard post I’ve written here before (I read something at File 770 and then add my own 2-cents) but this time we are all wearing flared trousers and garish shirts. The thing is, if I had known about this one I’d have worked it into Part 1 of Debarkle somewhere because it feels like it touches on lots of points.

The starting point was File 770 issue number 5 (June 1978) and a column by Dan Goodman about Harlan Ellison and his issues with being Guest of Honour at Iguancon.

“Could he have known?
A Statement of Ethical Position by the Worldcon Guest of Honor has been widely published. In it, Harlan Ellison says (among other things) that when he accepted as Iguanacon’s Guest of ‘Honor.” he had no foreknowledge that Arizona’s non-ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would become an issue. Perhaps He didn’t foresee. it. But he could have……All he needed to do was to read and think.”


The column goes on to explain itself but assumes people are familiar with the background — which decades later and half a world away, I wasn’t. In fact, the background exposed a massive hole in my general knowledge of US politics because I was wholly unfamiliar with the Equal Rights Amendment, never mind how the politics of ratifying it had its own Worldcon mini-drama. I’m sure American readers here know the story but for the rest of us here is Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment I feel like I should know all Harlan Ellison related stories but also that there may be far too many of them.

The Worldcon part was that Ellison was scheduled as the Guest of Honour at the con which was to be held in Arizona but then Arizona refused to ratify the amendment.

I can’t find the text of Ellison’s statement online anywhere, although I believe it was published in multiple places including Locus #207. The fanzine Karass #36 had a longish piece with quotes from Ellison:

‘Iguanacon: The 1978 Worldcon to be held in Phoenix now seems to be in for its share of problems. Professional GoH Harlan Ellison has announced that he will use his position as the GoH to support the ERA (Equal Rights_Amendment). Since “Arizona has not ratified the ERA”; he will use his position to make the convention “a platform for heightening the awareness of fans and Arizona as a whole…I will do this because I feel I must, but in a way that will minimize any crippling of the convention.” However, he also says “I suggest fans coming to the convention, figure out ways to withhold money from the state as much as possible. The Convention Committee should assemble a list of acceptable campsites for those fans who prefer to stay elsewhere than in the convention hotel. I will be one of those people; You are invited to stop by my tent, wherever it might be. But more: bring your own food. Set up feeding arrangements with local fans. Don’t shop in the stores. Spend your money with the out-of-state dealers in the huckster rooms but stay away from the tourist facilities.”

https://fanac.org/fanzines/Karass/Karass36-001.html (text retrieved using OCR with some clean-up)

Anyway, I don’t know if Ellison did stay in a tent and I also apologise to any blogs that I read who have probably discussed this incident in-depth at times when I probably should have read about it earlier!

This has been an episode of Camestros learns things he should already know by reading stuff.

ETA: Thanks to Mike Glyer who provided a link to Ellison’s statement https://fanac.org/conpubs/Worldcon/IguanaCon%20II/Iggy%20PR%203.pdf#view=Fit

The statement itself is a bit of a mixed bag, Harlan’s plan is not well thought through. However, I do quite like the grandiose ending even it is a bit mean to sitcoms:

“Can we continue to deal with sf as merely escapist fiction, pointless, mindless entertainment, no nobler than trash novels or tv sitcoms, when we howl in outrage at reviewers and critics who accuse the genre of being no more than that? Can we permit the gap between what we say we are, and what we really are, to exist? Or is this, perhaps, a moment when we can make a brave statement with our fiction, our literary love, our bodies, and our annual World gathering? Arizona, the WorldCon and I offer you this opportunity”

Harlan Ellison

69 thoughts on “A Worldcon fuss I wasn’t aware of

  1. To your specific question whether Ellison stayed in a tent… They set up a tent in the common area of the convention floor of the hotel, and Ellison occasionally spent time there typing on a typewriter. In theory, he slept in a camper shell on the back of a pickup truck that was parked at the corner by the hotel. (According to scuttlebutt he was showering etc. in a hotel room where some committee members were staying.) The arrangement seemed rather accessible to pranksters, but I knew if I bothered Ellison he would end me. Maybe others were equally wise.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I remember hearing about this – I’m not sure how long ago or where. I certainly wasn’t receiving fannish news in 1978.

    Certainly this incident was mentioned fairly often in discussions of Ellison’s treatment of Connie Willis; I may have heard of the 1978 incident before then, but if I hadn’t I would have learned of it when various people used the ERA incident as a defense of the Willis assault.


  3. Ah, Arizona. I’m a lifetime resident and am just a little too young to remember a stink about the ERA. But 10 years later we shot ourselves in both feet with the MLK holiday fiasco. About the only positive I remember from that situation is that AZ ended being one of only two US states to establish the holiday via popular vote. Back then there were enough Republican voters who were actual fiscal conservatives who hated the fact that a Super Bowl got pulled over the legislature pulling the holiday in the first place.

    These days with the crap going on over the 2020 election and the insurrection, I doubt there are many Eisenhower/Goldwater style Republicans left here…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That was exactly the right call: money talks and it’s about the only thing ranking Republicans can hear.
      Plus there were a lot of people who didn’t care one way or another but wanted an extra day off.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a rather oblique connection but the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly played a singular role in defeating (or at least permanently stalling) the ERA. Her son Andrew would later start Conservapedia as he alleged that Wikipedia skewed too far left and because he could integrate it with his homeschooling activism. This lead in turn to the founding of Rationalwiki by people associated with organized Atheism and Skepticism or in other words: Rationalwiki’s raison d’être was to make fun and debunk Andrew Schlafly (or as the called him ‘Assfly’). The people behind RW later became further involved with the Online Culture Wars and there was considerable mission creep.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I heard from an interview, Harlan debated Schlafly on the ERA. Id not know when, where, or the venue. Harlan used to have gargoyles in front of his house representing figues he did not like and Schlafly was one of them. In the 80s Ellison decided to sell the Gargoyles off and I know a friend tried to buy Schlafly (I forgot if he was successful).


  5. I have never heard of this particular uproar, though I was five when it happened and busily trying to figure out what this cool looking Star Wars thing that was all over the media at the time was.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ellison believed strongly on equal rights for women. He just didn’t think the equality part applied to himself, that he needed to change his behavior or, say, not grope someone, for a joke or otherwise. Because women were supposed to put up with it way back in the 1970’s from the same guys who were also supporting the feminist movement and the ERA. It’s that sort of hierarchical double-think that we still have today — equal rights being seen as a good thing for women (or BIPOC or disabled folk or queer folk, etc.) but not when it means marginalized people can speak back to them personally and make them feel bad or less powerful. Happy to help and direct others but not to listen and follow. And so the walls of discrimination stay up, propped up in large part by people who say they should come down but freak out about their own status and reputation when people start really pushing out the blocks. There’s no easy way to fix that, sadly.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. When Ellison reviewed The Handmaid’s Tale for F&SF, he chose to embed the review in a long rant about how feminists may decide he’s saying something objectionable but that’s because they’re so damn hair-trigger: he’s a loyal supporter of the cause, championed the ERA (mentioned the Arizona thing at this point) and yet they still get PO’d at stuff he says.
      I have no memory of the review itself so I have no idea whether he said something sexist or if he just saw an opportunity to make it all about him.
      His review columns in that era led me to conclude he’d moved from angry young man to grumpy old fart without noticing it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yep, Stage 3 bigotry: you’re ruining here. A lot of people might believe that marginalized people don’t deserve to be banned from the room but shouldn’t have a seat at the table. Others believe that the marginalized should be allowed in the room and take a seat at the table. But when you bring up that the seat isn’t level and equal, when you say they have to give up status or cultural reputation as the good, meritorious and knowledgeable person and instead listen to the marginalized and let them take that seat equal to them, they are not willing to do that. They want to keep their dominant seat at the table and they want to keep their reputation as the superior, good, meritorious, BENEVOLENT person.

        Harlan Ellison was feted most of his life as a lit genius and a lion of SF and fairly successful in Hollywood. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have lots of troubles in his life but he was praised constantly as he got opportunities for being a white man that others were not given because they weren’t. He understood that in principle, so supported the ERA. As long as equality for women was abstract as a basic legal right, it was fine. But if women could personally criticize him instead of praise him, if they didn’t view him as the good, meritorious, super smart person his identity rested on and said instead that he was saying or doing things that harmed them, then that was not okay. He was willing to have women have a seat at the table. It just had to be a lower, deferential seat than his. He knew better than they did about their own oppression (mansplaining.)

        For people in dominant groups, no matter how well meaning we are on our power axis, this is simply normal life. We have a higher seat we don’t think about having and we supposedly got it on our own merits, hard work and specialness. When large numbers of people point out that’s not a true reality, many people in dominant groups would rather do anything and push any justification rather than deal with it. They don’t want to hurt people, but they don’t want to lose status. And if it is explained that the status is the problem and they need to listen to others, let them have power and follow their lead to dismantle the uneven system, or people will be hurt, they’ll denounce and deny. And many of them ultimately will state that they will keep status and hurt people.

        Trying to get them to give up that status — super hard thing, especially in a crisis like the pandemic. It takes massive amounts of people refusing to shut up and creating pressure on the social system, the government, the workplaces, etc. to get people to back away from behaviors and words that harm people and create inequality, from what was normal life. And even then, it takes constant re-consideration of dominant people to watch we don’t fall back into it without thinking. Which is very tiring when you haven’t had to do that as a dominant person on that axis. Not as tiring as what you get when you are on a marginalized axis and have to watch dominant people like privilege powder kegs that could go off at any moment, but enough that you get a lot of whining from dominant people that they’d like to stop changing now and having to listen to the people they used to not have to listen to. People who always seem to be mad at them when what the marginalized are really doing is trying to knock out a still giant wall of prejudice and discrimination.

        Wall propping is insidious because it seems rational and reasonable to the dominant because it’s part of their whole world view. If you’re a white person and you’ve ever nattered that Black Lives Matter has a messaging problem and should change things, it likely seems like a reasonable, helpful thing to say. But it’s actually domination and propping up the wall that BLM and black people are trying to pressure down. Men getting behind women and letting women talk and talk critically of men — super hard to do. White people getting behind Black people and letting the Black people talk and talk critically of white people — super hard to do, etc. Especially when you are the person they are talking about, or one of your friends.

        We just witnessed this with this software company. Its two white man founders have a liberal bent, supported civil rights causes outside their company. But when discrimination issues came up within their company, when the focus was personal and on their and their business’ behavior, they dramatically announced that their employees better stop talking in the company about civil rights issues (excuse me, “political” issues but really only civil rights ones were being objected to,) or they could leave. Because those conversations “spiral out of control” as a “distraction” — i.e. the dominant get told things about themselves that they don’t want to hear. So they shut those people up rather than look at giving up status and rep for more equality. Same thing has been happening at Google and other tech companies where women are still only an astonishing 12% of the work force and Black people are barely there.

        All discrimination is a matter of someone with a dominant axis not wanting to be viewed as a “bad” person and have to give up an advantage/power from their society they are used to. So they hurt people to try to stop that. They try to shut down the conversation or at least salvage their own reputation in the process. It’s a normal defensive reaction but it is also a system that is taught to us and we can work at unlearning. What is “normal” can change.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. (WordPress did its weird “you must log in to post” thing and them didn’t appear to post my reply, so apologies if this knocks it loose and it drops twice.)

      Back in the 60s and 70s theories about “free love” were being tied explicitly to feminism, the idea being that women should not be constrained by repressive conservative mores but empowered to make their own sexual choices and do so in the same way men did. The problem was that this principle was applied very superficially—in theory, everyone was equal; in practice, there was a complete disregard and denial of structurally embedded privilege and power, and that facilitated sexism at an applied individual level.

      The result was that a lot of progressive men embraced feminism while at the same time failing to see how their own personal behaviour oppressed women. (Doublethink is a great word for it.) A lot of women didn’t see it either, because we didn’t have the analytical framework to identify it. As that framework was developed women began to understand the contradictions between theory and practice, but a lot of guys refused to move beyond the original simplistic ideas because hanging on to it allowed them to feel good about themselves as men supporting feminism while still continuing to do what they wanted in individual relationships.


    3. (Apologies if this post drops multiple times, WordPress is refusing to let me post without logging in and is not doing what it says it’s doing when I do… sigh.)

      Back in the 60s and 70s theories about “free love” were being tied to feminism, the idea being that women should not be constrained by repressive conservative mores but empowered to make their own sexual choices and do so in the same way men did. The problem was that this principle was applied very superficially—in theory, everyone was equal; in practice, there was a complete disregard and denial of structurally embedded privilege and power that facilitated sexism at an applied individual level.

      The result was that a lot of progressive men embraced feminism while at the same time failing to see how their own personal behaviour oppressed women. (Doublethink is a great word for it.) A lot of women didn’t see it either, because we didn’t have the analytical framework to identify it. As that framework was developed women began to understand the contradictions between theory and practice, but a lot of guys refused to move beyond the original simplistic ideas because hanging on to it allowed them to feel good about themselves as men supporting feminism while still continuing to do what they wanted in individual relationships.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Kind of a tangent, but you can really see this mindset in Game of Thrones — not surprising, since this is when GRRM grew up. Men and women are equally eager to jump into bed with each other; there’s also a lot of rape, but with little thought given to the consequences for the woman. Some parts of it read like a book written during that time.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. The sexual revolution and the whole “free love” movement were important in throwing out overly repressive sexual mores. However, they often didn’t take consent issues into account and didn’t realise that the right not to have sex was as important as the right to have sex. This manifests itself e.g. in the fact that many people of all genders who came of age during that era just don’t get #MeToo. The dark side of this were calls to abolish the age of consent altogether, which occasonially popped up in the leftwing media or even the programs of leftwing parties at the time. Nowadays, everybody involved has distanced themselves from those calls, but at least in Germany, the far right still uses the fact that the Green Party had “Abolish the age of consent” in its program very early on against them.

        And yes, the consent issues in many SFF works (cough, Pern) as well as other genres (e.g. the rapey bodiceripper romance of the 1970s and 1980s, many of which were written by self-proclaimed feminists) are an outgrowth of this. Good call in GoT, which still displays some of these attitudes.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It’s not like the previous generation has been much better. Isaac Asimov was groping women well before the sexual revolution.
        And the horrendous amounts of pastoral rape and harassment in right-wing Protestant churches that think consent is irrelevant doesn’t owe much to free love either.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Having read some histories of second wave feminism I was aware of the debates in the USA around the ERA and its ultimate failure to be ratified. Because of the latter most of them take a fairly pessimistic view of the whole affair. I had no idea there were discussions like this and proposed boycotts. They seem like such a modern thing. I am not sure whether to be pleased or dismayed people were doing this kind of thing 50 years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “So today’s post sort of feels like a standard post I’ve written here before … but this time we are all wearing flared trousers and garish shirts”

    I was wondering why at some point earlier today I suddenly found myself wearing flared trousers and a garish shirt! Thanks for clarifying and I hope you’ll use your blog powers wisely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I might not have objected to the sudden appearance of those curly sideburns if I hadn’t just gotten my first short haircut since the barber shops reopened!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I heard about this when I came into fandom in 1981, since it was the recent past then.

    The Fancyclopedia article on “The Anvil of God” neglects to mention:

    that the Anvil was also crossed repeatedly at NASFIC in 1987, with the old name

    that Westercon 1996 in El Paso (one of the best small cons ever!) featured a plaza between hotel and convention center which was promptly dubbed “The Anvil of a Lesser God” since it was both smaller and the temperature was cooler

    Fen respect tradition.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. There is a 9-episode docudrama series about Phyllis Schlafly and the USA’s proposed Equal Rights Amendment. “Mrs. America,” starring Cate Blanchett as Schlafly. As someone who lived the era, the promo ads looked very tempting, but as always there is too much television.

    Glancing quickly at the summary online, it looks like the series argues that the fight to oppose the ERA gave impetus and structure to the 1980 Reagan campaign. I’m inclined to agree with that viewpoint, again based on living through those times as an adult (technically).


    1. I saw it and liked it — it had a whole lot of back-story I wasn’t aware of. One thing I didn’t know was that the ERA was well on its way toward passing until Phyllis Schafly heard about it and decided to make it a cause. It also shows the beginning of the match made in hell between politicians and evangelists, when Schafly meets an evangelical woman and wants to get her hands on the woman’s enormous mailing list. Also — Schafly had a gay son.

      I’ve heard some complaints about how true to history it actually was, but it seemed pretty factual to me.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The parts about Schlafly’s prominent role in stopping ratification as well about her gay son are definitely true.

        The part about the mailing list could very well also be true. US conservatism is nothing but graft and lists of E-Mail addresses still play a major role in fundraising. They also provide conservative activists with a comfortable lifestyle. It might have been one of the reasons for Trump’s run for President, i. e. he wanted in on the racket.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. According to Schlafly in the early 1970s, life as an American wife and mother was the ultimate utmost: your husband had to be out there working like a dog, you got to sit back and be pampered! Your husband might struggle years to achieve success, but the minute you popped out your first baby you were a success! Her opposition to abortion (at a time when lots of non-Catholic conservatives thought it acceptable) was in the same vein: American women had the privilege of being wives and mothers and feminists were trying to take that away from them!

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I was old enough to follow the ERA fight with great interest; I was one of two people at my school who openly supported it (very red state area). The other dude was one of the most militant hawks I’ve ever known, convinced we should stay in Vietnam indefinitely if that would stop the Commies. But he was also strongly pro-feminist.
    Schlafly, like a lot of female antifeminists, built a career around insisting the rest of womankind not have careers. As she was the public face of the ERA opposition, I’ve never gotten over my deep loathing of her (her later statements that husbands are entitled to marital rape and only sluts suffer sexual harassment didn’t help my distaste).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have a similar loathing for the late Mrs. Schlafly, and a matching one for her sprog Andrew, who has managed to be equally repellent and twisty among the fundie/homeschooling lot, if less effective in the broader society. The elder Schlafly was, as you say, pivotal in sinking ERA under a tide of crude but widely distributed disinformation, and, as an N.O.W. member since the 1970s, I’d like to live long enough to see that wrong righted.

      Back around 1982, I looked forward to seeing Mother Jones editor Deirdre English figuratively mop the stage with Mrs. Schlafly during a scheduled formal debate at San Francisco State University, but a small group of noisy Spartacist League (Trotskyite) interlopers kept yammering from the audience and, predictably, college administrators lacked the backbone to throw those hecklers’ worthless asses onto the sidewalk, so the hecklers got to enjoy a veto: The underway event got cancelled. (Draw your own lessons, but my own takeaway was to imagine the salutary effect of my joining forces with other audience members to perform the peaceful removal we”d all vainly hoped SF State officials would carry out, and vowing to do so next time.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember Andrew Schlafly’s “Conservative Bible Project” which sought to translate the Scriptures in ways that would show Jesus’ message was all about the free market. For example, instead of the socialist word “laborer,” they’d use “volunteer.” And footnotes to any discussion of caring for the poor would explain that nobody in the modern world is “poor” like the peasants Jesus knew, so that no longer applies.
        In discussing her family, never forget her niece/clone Suzanne Venker, who’s built a successful career out of the same sort of misogyny: Women wouldn’t be harassed at work if they didn’t look sexy and flirt so much! Independence is so damn hard — being submissive to your lord and master is easy! Professional women lose their femininity and can’t be proper wives! Wasn’t it better back when we didn’t have jobs but men stood up when we entered the room? Etc., etc. All delivered with the pretense that she’s speaking truth to power rather than shoring power up.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Phyllis was the opening act in what became the standard authoritarian campaigns that led to Trump. She was a woman who built a massive political media career, an empire that could employ most of her family, by going around and saying that women shouldn’t work and have careers. The hypocrisy and double-think of it was pointed out over and over but the media and authoritarians didn’t care. They were perfectly happy to have women work — and be exploited for lower pay and be sexually harassed, etc. They just wanted to keep up the system of men being treated as superior and dominant and controlling wealth and legal power. And Phyllis helped with that, using the same arguments that had been used against the suffragettes decades earlier.

        If you help them, they’ll let you be the exception and make money off of it as long as you play ball. Phyllis was the original “cool girl”.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Cora: Schlafly had seven kids total. John is the gay one. Despite being gay, John has worked to oppose most gay rights movements throughout his lifetime. He didn’t come out until he was outed in several news sources in the early 90s. I believe he was supporting Pat Buchanon’s presidential bid at the time.


  12. It’s worth noting that the ERA eventually failed. There is actually a movement to get Congress to remove the time-limit on the amendment to give it another shot at ratification, but I think that’s entirely for show: it’s just not going to happen.

    The trouble with boycotts is that they almost never attract enough support to work. Typically, the target can’t even measure the impact, or the impact falls on people who either can’t help or who were on your side in the first place.

    The most effective boycott I was ever part of was the one gay people mounted against the Coors Brewing Company in the 70s and 80s. The Coors family were very visible and active in the anti-gay movement, and we returned the compliment by boycotting their beer. This boycott was almost air-tight: for about two decades, virtually all US gay bars refused to stock Coors. Because of the role of bars in gay life back then, we were a much bigger chunk of the market than our numbers would otherwise suggest. (It helped a lot that we weren’t the only ones boycotting them; organized labor was a big part of it too.) Not only did Coors feel this–the company’s share of the California beer market slid from 40 percent in 1977 to 14 percent in 1984–they were desperate to fix it.

    But there was nothing they could do. The family weren’t part of the management of the company anymore, and they didn’t seem to care about sales. After two decades, the boycott slowly fizzled out–particularly after Coors made their peace with labor. But the family was funding new, homophobic “foundations” as late as the mid 1990s. In fact, they still are–it’s just that such groups have almost no influence now because of changes in the rest of society.

    It was the biggest, most effective boycott I ever participated in, and yet for my issues, it was a total failure. (I still won’t drink Coors beer, though.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s telling how little influence anti-gays have that Alabama just axed anti-gay language from its sex-ed standards.
      Small wonder Republicans are piling on the anti-trans train instead. When you lose Alabama …

      Liked by 3 people

    2. The boycott of The Sun tabloid newspaper in Liverpool had a lasting effect in the city but didn’t impact the newspapers bottom line.

      One aspect of a boycott for a campaign is simply to give something for people to do – a focus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only boycott I was ever part of was not very succesful, since it was the first movie from a succesful film franchise. My mother asked me to not see the Mission Imposible movie, because an organisation in her party didn’t want peple to go there, because of Scientology,

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I remember that boycott. I also remember that I found it a bit weird, for though I don’t like Scientology, Cruise and other Scientology affiliated actors had made plenty of movies before and no one cared. That said, Cruise’s open support of Scientology has hurt him, because around that time that Cruise went from “hot Hollywood star and box office draw” to “Oh not him again.” I’ve heard people recommend “Edge of Tomorrow” (which is the only good film Cruise made in ages) with the words, “Yes, I know Tom Cruise is in it, but he dies a lot.”

        Regarding boycotts, as teenagers a friend and I staged a two-person boycott of Time Warner in the late 1980s/early 1990s, based on a TV news report about Warner becoming the biggest media company in the world and way too powerful. That news report implied that Time Warner would have way too much influence both over which books, movies, comics, TV shows, etc… we would get to see and that it might also exploit its influence politically. A comparison to Hugenberg, the Weimar Republic era newspaper magnate, who faciliated the rise of Hitler (we’d just learned about him in school) was drawn. I was very alarmed by this news report, because I feared that Time Warner might force us all to watch Batman, Batman and nothing but Batman (that was the time of the massive media campaign for the Michael Keaton Batman film) and that they might install the next Hitler, too (kind of ironic, because Warner was the most vocally anti-Nazi Hollywood studio even before WWII). So if Warner wanted to be the Evil Empire that rules the world, I was going to oppose them by boycotting them. I roped in a friend, too. I don’t know for how long I boycotted Warner, though I recall that I felt uncomfortable about buying something in the Warner Bros store in London in the mid 1990s, i.e. several years later.

        In the end, Warner never turned out to be the menace we feared it would be. It was Rupert Murdoch who used his media empire to influence politics and Disney who bought up every media property under the sun and then stopped paying creators. I would love to see that news report again to see whether it was really that alarmist or whether I simply misinterpreted it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. He’s always had a good eye for what movies to make. A friend of mine pointed out that while the Mission Impossible series has little to do with the TV show, it’s been a success when so many similar reboots (Get Smart, Man From UNCLE, I Spy) have tanked.


      4. Well, currently people on Twitter are calling for a boycott of the German crime drama “Tatort”, because they disagree with a video one of the stars made, in which he criticises the German anti-covid policies and the media response.


    3. But they aren’t entirely a failure, though. It’s just that things like massive boycotts create change on a slow, glacial scale. A boycott may seem to fail in its primary objectives at the time, but the existence of the boycott, of large groups of people shouting about the problem, taking action that has some economic effect, that starts to affect how people talk about those issues. More of them feel less easy talking and acting the way they had before because the abnormality and harm of the anti-civil rights position has been exposed. The anti-civil rights position loses followers, not that it doesn’t still have ones and ones with money who can leverage power but much less than before. And the marginalized, having boycotted and spoken out before, are more willing to do it again and again on other issues and incidents, continuing the pressure, from the arts to the banks. Companies respond to that, very slowly. They get pressured from below by younger employees who are used to the marginalized speaking out about civil rights issues more because of the boycott. They get used to seeing the marginalized as not completely powerless and therefore customers they may not want to thoroughly squash.

      Because of the boycott, other attempts pile on top of it and it builds and builds and the society starts to change. The Coors boycott helped lead to marriage equality, the end of the military ban on gays openly serving, and many civil rights changes for queer folk after it. Which causes folks like the Coors family to dig in with ever more desperation and anti-civil rights politicians to desperately persecute queer and trans folk to try to keep such discrimination normal and legal in the society. But people know how to organize, to speak out, to push on the issue despite the dangers. And what is normal in the society does change.

      As my kid says, “it’s too slow.” But any speaking out for civil rights is never a failure. It ripples outward.

      Liked by 2 people

    4. There’s this idea that boycotts are only about what you are boycotting and even then only about economic impact. I do not agree.

      Boycotts are about mobilization, awareness, spreading information, getting newspaper coverage, shaming others into not following, keeping people together and so on. The effect on the target is only a small part of a boycott movement.

      The most effective one I have participated in was the boycott of apartheid South Africa.

      Liked by 5 people

  13. Cora, it was Phyllis Schlafly’s eldest son John F. Schlafly who was “outed” by the San Francisco Examiner in September 1992 — not Andrew, who is another of her six children.

    I did not pay any attention to this at the time, but violating the personal privacy of a public figure’s child, solely because you dislike the public figure, seems plainly immoral behaviour: AFAIK, Schlafly “fils” was involved in his mother’s political wranglings (up until that point) only in being paid by her lobby Eagle Forum to be an attorney for it. Since the “outing”, John has reportedly doubled down on his mother’s cause, but that is a different subject.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Perhaps coincidentally, there is a “where are they now” piece about Phyllis Schlafly’s children:


      Which says that “John still continues her column, Phyllis Schlafly Report, with the help of his brother Andy”.

      Doubling down, indeed.

      A while back, I spotted a bottle of beer with a “Schlafly” label. As the article notes, the Schlafly who started that brewing label was Phyllis’ nephew by marriage, Tom. Phyllis, and yet another son, Bruce, actually sued to block the trademark that Tom registered. And, as it says, they failed.


    2. I had to go look things up because your comment made me think I had misremembered. I had not.

      At the time he was outed, John Schlafly was 41 years old. He was not a child.

      John Schlafly was also a lawyer and retained by the campaign committees of more than one anti-gay politician at the time.

      I firmly believe that it is unethical NOT to out people under those circumstances.

      And he was pretty anti-gay before being outed, so I’m not sure I buy the doubling-down claim.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @fontfolly: What I read online was that, at the time, his work was 100% asaff lawyer for Eagle Forum. This is not something I follow closely; in fact, I didn’t even bother to look up the fellow at all until Cora asked that question. If you have sources for your information that he’d been “retained by more than one anti-gay politician” prior to September 1992, I’d be interested to see that.

        Obviously, persona; moral standards differ, but your hypothetical “did some work for an anti-gay politician” strikes me as a very morally questionable excuse for involuntarily outing someone, in a way that “was an anti-gay politician who voted against civil liberties” is not. (Side-observation from my wife Deirdre, FWIW: “Most politicians were anti-gay at that time.”)

        Also, I cannot see the person’s age having even the slightest relevance. IMO, it would be equally scummy conduct if such a person were 80 years old. But hey, you do you.


      2. I remember Barney Frank said he opposed outing his fellow legislators, but if a closeted gay Republican chose to use “gay” as a smear tactic against their opponents, he’d name names.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Given that openly gay people have worked against queer civil rights/themselves since the 1990’s, outing someone who is homophobic doesn’t really do anything. Sure it’s hypocritical of them, but they don’t care, as witness many homophobic politicians and leaders getting caught and criminalized for it (bathroom stings, etc.) but still doing work in the right wing spheres afterwards. The authoritarians just adjust the rhetoric to hand wave it away for those particular people and if those people are dedicated to the destruction of their own civil rights in service to an authoritarian political agenda, outing them doesn’t stop that. It just makes right wingers more scared and determined to stop queer people from being able to have any social power and legal rights to prevent such situations.

        Witness the Log Cabin Republicans who started out trying to get the Republicans to be less persecuting of queer folk, failed miserably and by 2000 were basically undermining gay rights while stanning for anti-queer Republican politicians. Witness lesbian anti-trans journalists and politicians using persecution of trans people to get ahead and enlarge their personal platforms in the U.K. Being outed or out makes them a target certainly but it doesn’t prove to the world that they are wrong to repress queer civil rights, including their own.

        So if we take it as a basic human civil right that gay people should be able to decide when and if they come out to the public and that outing them by force is harmful repression, and if it is a fact that outing a homophobic right wing gay person doesn’t really do anything to stop them persecuting their fellow queer folk, then trying to separate out the right wing, homophobic closeted gay folk from the other closeted gay folk and saying the first group forfeited their rights and can be repressed while we support the others — that’s not really support for queer civil rights. It’s not fair game; it’s just a different kind of repression. The goal is to create societies where it’s okay for them to be out, not give them more reasons to stay closeted.

        That being said, I’m not going to crack down that hard on someone who outs a right wing closeted homophobe seeking to oppress gay people. But I’m not going to condone the action either, because it’s not really a civil rights campaign if it’s a contest as to who can hurt gay people worse.


  14. @frasersherman, that’s exactly the sort of position I was opining does seem quite morally defensible — “outing” a politician who’d been hypocritically abusing closeting’s protection to harm others on grounds of (real or asserted) gayness.

    In any event, it’s equally true simply that Views Differ[tm] on matters of personal morality, but still I await with interest @fontfolly telling us what specifically is meant by “retained by more than one anti-gay politician”, particularly in the context of 1992, when most significant American politicians could still be credibly claimed to be “anti-gay” to some degree or other. Sources I consulted before my earlier post said the gentleman in question had been employed, during that period, as full-time staff attorney for Eagle Forum, his mother’s political lobby.

    I’m lastingly suspicious of self-righteous “it’s great to do dirty deeds against Person X, because he/she is a bad person” claims, especially those justified by vague claims of fact with no source citations provided. Frankly, being better than that is a bar so low, one can barely limbo under it.


  15. Similarly, I despise the idea it’s okay to call a right-wing woman a slut, whore, bimbo, etc., etc. As someone once put it, if you can’t insult Ann Coulter without using slurs or taking shots at her looks, you’re not as smart as you think.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed on that. Coulter has been the target of a lot of transphobia-rooted slurs, and really, there are a whole lot of better and more relevant things to use against her.

      (Margaret Thatcher was the target of similar ‘humour’. That was one of the times when Spitting Image stopped being funny.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. frasersherman: I despise the idea it’s okay to call a right-wing woman a slut, whore, bimbo, etc., etc.

        This sort of thing absolutely infuriates me. I get so angry at people making comments about Kayleigh McEnany’s and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks. Surely the fact that they spent years propagating blatant lies and encouraging sedition on behalf of their lying, seditious boss is more than enough to condemn them.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. ^^^THIS

      I have argued with people over this very subject. Ann Coulter is a despicable person, but there’s more than enough ammunition in the things she has said to call her out. You don’t have to touch her looks or stoop to sex-based insults.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.