On Bigots, Bullies, and Conventions

Posted on 26 June 2018

Earlier this month, I resigned my position as Director’s Second of Fantasy Literature at Dragon Con. You can read my rationale at the time, reasoning I still stand behind solidly, on my website here: https://richardfife.com/2018/06/my-resignation-from-dragon-con/

In the several weeks since my decision, I have had numerous conversations with people I deeply respect, exploring my reasoning. The discussions were centrally one of tolerance vs exclusion. See, my obvious stance is that people like John Ringo should not be invited to conventions, whereas others argue that he has a fan base that wants to see him, and we would be exclusionary and elitist to not invite him. That we would be the worst kind of political ostriches, refusing to engage “the other side” if we “deplatformed” him.

Here’s the thing: conservative politics, while I don’t agree with them, don’t outright disgust me. Even if your politics are conspiracy level assertions about chem-trails and deep state plots, if you don’t talk about that and you are a quality writer with something to add, sure, come to any convention I’m part of. I promise not to talk about my liberal views of universal healthcare and subsidized college.

No, what it is about John and many like him that I feel disqualifies him from coming to a convention is his behavior. See, he is a mediocre writer that has a relatively small but extremely enthusiastic fan base, and who has a puffed up opinion of himself. When challenged, he can’t defend himself, and so he attacks the person. He is also a sad, insecure man who thinks insulting and denigrating others is funny, and that when people laugh at his attacks (because they are rotten people too), he thinks it means he is popular and people like him. In short, John Ringo is the very model of an elementary playground bully.

Every convention has a harassment policy. And, even be it ConCarolinas or Dragon Con, I am sure that policy would very quickly eject any attendee that was bullying another attendee. So why should guests be immune to this policy? Why should anyone be not just allowed to attend, but invited to, when they are repeated breakers of said policy?

This doesn’t come down to limiting free speech, or taking political sides, or being intolerant. Intolerance stems from judging a person on factors outside their control. This is about judging a person on their behavior, and be it intolerance itself or simply bullying and harassing, a convention is fully in the right to exclude a person who has a long, recorded history—both at that convention and at others—for the safety and comfort of its attendees and other guests. No one is entitled to come to a convention. No one is entitled to be on panels. These are privileges and honors, and they can and should be taken away from those who show they are not deserving of them.

And yes, John Ringo, whom I hate to continue to reference but who is the center of recent controversies, is a documented bully. He is getting the attention he so sorely desires, and because Dragon Con mistakenly thinks a history of harassment is “politics”, he has been invited—yes, actively invited!—back to Dragon Con while those who called him what he is have been driven off, all in the name of not doing anything and staying “apolitical”.

So, I am going to call to action. If you have feelings about this, think that a serial harasser shouldn’t be held up and celebrated, contact Dragon Con. Let them know your concerns. If a geeky celebrity you like, respect, and follow is registered to be a guest at Dragon Con, ask them what they think of a known harasser being actively invited to the con.
You can reach Dragon Con here: http://www.dragoncon.org/?q=contact-us

Under the department, I recommend sending your concerns to “Guests and Media” and “Fan Track Operations”, as those are the departments directly interfacing and working with people like John Ringo.

Dragon Con has advised John they expect “push back” on his guesting, but that this “kerfuffle” will just pass over. As I said in my resignation, the masses don’t care. I suggest you show them otherwise.

And, to make things even easier, here is an easy template:

Subject: “John Ringo”
Message: I have become aware that John Ringo, a documented harasser and bully, has been invited to Dragon Con as a guest, and that track directors were fired over publicly asserting they would not use him (or others like him) on panels because he is a bully and a harasser. Please withdraw John Ringo’s guest status and bar him from being on panels. This is not about his politics. It is about his behavior. Guests should be held up to the Harassment Policy the same as all others.

Spread the word. We can be upset and emote all we want on Facebook and Twitter, but until you tell the decision makers you are upset, they won’t care. Until you hit them where it hurts, they will continue to support hate and bigotry and mask it by claiming they aren’t political. No position is a position. It is the position of “we don’t care”. They are supporting bigotry and hate. Let them know we don’t.

Boost the signal.

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