The Turn of an Unfriendly Card

Woohoo! My first personal Instalanche! Thanks, Glenn!

If you’re new here, you might want to check out all the Angry Bear Columns as well as the first part of my series on the politics of Schoolhouse Rock.

And while this may seem a bit crass, I am a freelance wordsmith looking for new gigs, so why not click on my LinkedIn page and see if I can help you?

Should my purchase of Shadow Complex turn on what I think of Orson Scott Card’s politics?

“Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” — Natalie Maines, The Dixie Chicks

“While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system.– John Mackey, “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare”

“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were.” — Orson Scott Card, “Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization”

I never really thought much about Orson Scott Card’s politics. Why should I? Card was the guy who wrote Ender’s Game, a science fiction classic with special relevance to gamers by the nature of its plotline (a genius child is run through a series of games to prepare him to become a military leader fighting off an alien invasion). I mean, I knew he was a devout Mormon — his five book Homecoming Saga was a deliberate sci-fi analogue of the Book of Mormon and it’s not too difficult to discern the Mormon strains in his Tales of Alvin Maker series — but I was OK with that. I loved the Alvin series and never got past the first book in the Homecoming series because I found it boring. In each case I made the decision based on whether Card’s writing entertained me, not on his status as a Mormon. Why should that matter?

The thing is, recent events have proven that Mormons do matter. The Mormon Church became the center of attention in the controversy over California’s Proposition 8, the constitutional provision that eliminated same-sex marriage in the state. While they were hardly the only organization pushing for passage of the proposition and not all Mormons agree on opposition to same-sex marriage, that cannot be said of Card. He’s a high-profile advocate against it, a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization founded in 2007 to resist the legalization of gay marriage.

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For gamers, this bears special relevance as Card is also connected with the creation of Shadow Complex, a side-scrolling shooter that’s being hailed as one of the best games of 2009, a return to a classic genre and a throwback to the best of the Metroid series. Non-gamers may not appreciate those references or the significance of Shadow Complex, but imagine if Star Wars: The Phantom Menace had actually been good.

That leads to a dillemma for some gamers that’s roughly equivalent to what was faced by Dixie Chicks fans a few years back and shoppers at Whole Foods who disagreed with the political positions espoused by Natalie Maines and CEO John Mackey — should I support something I like with my dollars when the person I’m supporting holds political positions I disagree with? In other words, should I boycott? This is a discussion that began with a user named “Coins” on a popular (if insane) gaming forum called NeoGAF who simply asked if the game should be boycotted because of Card’s political views. The result was a sober and intelligent discussion by NeoGAF standards — meaning that only half the posts read like they were written by an escaped mental patient suffering from Tourette’s.

Oddly enough, all these verbal fireballs surrounding Shadow Complex actually has me running over the issue of boycotts — not same-sex marriage. For the record, I happen to be in favor of it, something that often surprises my liberal friends in Hollywood where I’m referred to as the “right-wing guy.” Of course, this is Hollywood, a place where they’ll tell you with a straight face that the New York Times is part of the vast right-wing conspiracy and everyone to the right of Sean Penn is viewed a potential jackbooted fascist. Boycotts fascinate and disturb me though because it seems to me that they’ve taken on a punitive “wrongthink” quality in recent years. It isn’t so much that boycotts are being organized to protest a particular practice or right a particular wrong but that boycotts now seem to be organized to economically destroy someone who thinks the wrong thoughts and anyone who has the temerity to deal with them.

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22 responses

31 08 2009
Instapundit » Blog Archive » ORSON SCOTT CARD, WHOLE FOODS, and the Shadow Complex boycott….

[…] ORSON SCOTT CARD, WHOLE FOODS, and the Shadow Complex boycott. […]

31 08 2009
Fu Teki Setsu

Marriage is arguably one of the most primary pillars of civilization. Not just our civilization, but all successful civilizations that have independently developed over the ages (at least that I’m aware of). Given the enormous complexity of modern civilization, it amazes me to see the arrogance of people who feel absolutely no fear in making such a profound structural change to the complex system that we rely on. History is littered with terrible examples of unforeseen, unintended consequences of social engineering, especially ideologically driven.

The burden of proof lies on those wanting to make this change, not on those who wish to avoid it. Please: Have some respect for the complexity and unusual success of modern civilization. And have enough humility to know that you don’t really understand it.

31 08 2009
ErikZ

Huh, a great side-scrolling game?

(googles)

Ah. Xbox 360 only. Oh well.

31 08 2009
Michael

If I don’t shop somewhere, it’s a choice. If I convince you to also not shop there, it’s a boycott. I stopped buying/reading John Varley novels (which I enjoyed greatly) because of his radical, disgusting left-wing politics. If you feel any discomfort over Card’s political views, don’t support him by buying his stuff.

31 08 2009
EvilDave

Prop 8 was passed or pushed over the top by black voters who came out to support Obama, not Mormons.
The Mormons just provided a more politically correct target of hate and anger.

31 08 2009
miriam

I am conducting my own, one-person boycott, which includes Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and Sean Penn. When another celebrity comes out for a fashionable cause, I add his name to the list.

My boycott has no effect on anyone whatever except me.

31 08 2009
Opus #6

I love books by Card. I will have to look for this new book and purchase it.

31 08 2009
Gina Marie

I think it is a question of degree and venue.

Natalie Maines chose a concert, outside the US to express her views. A lot of people don’t want to hear about a performer’s politics while they are performing, and they don’t want people to go outside the US and criticize our country. If she’d said the same things in a interview it would have been much better received — and better still if she’d been in Texas. I don’t boycott the Dixie Chicks because of this — but because I’ve never cared for their sort of music. If I did, I probably would have boycotted them.

John Mackey and Orson Scott Card had reasoned op-eds that explained their feelings. I don’t think either flogs their beliefs in the business or writing and I wouldn’t boycott either of them — although again, I’ve never been in a Whole Foods store and I too got bored with Card’s writing, long ago.

Nick Cage goes beyond Maines, consorting, aiding and abetting the foulest of dictators, bad-mouthing his country. I’ve never heard of him doing that in one of his movie performances, but still, he’s gone too far with his actions and I don’t pay (or even watch) any of his work. My VHS copy of “Fast Times” languishes someplace in the bottom of a box in my garage.

I rather like Spider Robinson’s writing — right up until he but a gratuitous slam against Cheney in the preface to Heinlein’s recently rediscovered first novel. One ill-chosen word and it was finis for me… I’ll never be able to trust him to keep his politics out of his commentary again.

And so it goes… such boycotts are, at least to me, individual things, depending on my perceptions of the person, the issue and the venue. It isn’t any of my business to tell other people what they should buy or who they should patronize.

31 08 2009
JD

Exactly right and what is disturbing in the current political climate is what is happening to Glenn Beck. I agree with many of his positions, but not all. I really do not care for the delivery and the sometimes whiny voice. I invoke my rights by turning the channel. I am not one to boycott, which gets back to the whole unseemly aspect of Glenn’s ordeal. Should an advisor to the President of the US gets involved in anyway, shape or form with the economic destruction of a private citizen- how do you put a stop to such thuggery?

31 08 2009
GG

Are you really conflating Natalie Maines’ pandering with Mackey’s editorial in the WSJ? Maines first made her incoherent pronouncement (is she saying the POTUS should never be from Texas? is she ashamed of LBJ too?) at a concert in Britain, despite many performances stateside first. She did so beacuse she knew making such a pronouncement in Texas would have gotten boos, whereas the British anti-Bush folks would eat it up. Initially, associates of the band tried to claim she was misunderstood (as always), and the band tried to let the whole thing blow over. When their fans didn’t buy it, they did the Rolling Stone piece trying to play victim. Mackey in contrast wrote a carefully tought out essay, using his experience in business to provide a reasoned alternative to what he sees as a bad solution. The irony is that the same people who claim their opposition is “shouting” at townhalls were quick to scream boycott when someone presented a formulated alternative. None of the current proposals for healthcare are perfect, and I’m not sure Mackey’s is the best idea. But he made a reasoned argument without making personal slights; that should never warrant a boycott. Maines was an immature brat, shouting presumably an insult (although I’m still not sure) she knew a crowd would applaud, never daring to put her opinions before an audience that might disagree with her.

31 08 2009
Steve

Its all kinds of funny to keep hearing how evil OSC is but then read this on his review of Momma Mia. So I wonder how much anyone bothers to find out what he really means.

“Except for the appalling moment when Colin Firth’s character suddenly reveals himself to be gay. No, it’s not because I’m anti-gay. It’s because they trivialize and ridicule him and homosexuality. His developing relationship with a gay Greek man is never shown or hinted at — it is revealed only as a punch line. As a joke. It’s a slap in the face to all gay people.

Everybody else’s yearnings, everybody else’s personal agonies, everybody else’s love story is worth at least a few moments of screen time. But homosexuality exists in this movie only to be laughed at. It’s as if they’re saying that the feelings of gay people are amusing, whereas the feelings of heterosexuals are important and deep and meaningful.

Their treatment of their one gay character is as appallingly hypocritical as J.K. Rowling’s announcement that Dumbledore is gay. Instead of making us know and understand the character as a gay man, we are slapped with it at the end, as if being gay were just an afterthought.

Because I oppose the legalization of “gay marriage,” I am often attacked as a homophobe. But as a writer, I would never show such disrespect toward a homosexual character as to treat him or her the way Mamma Mia! (and Rowling) treated theirs. Having a gay character, for them, is merely an attempt to show how politically correct they are. In my fiction, having a gay character requires a commitment to treat him or her as fairly and deeply as I treat my straight characters.

Don’t these writers actually know any gay people? I mean know them, as friends, as family members, as colleagues? I can’t believe they do. Because if they did, they could never treat their gay characters with such contempt.”

31 08 2009
JM Hanes

“It isn’t so much that boycotts are being organized to protest a particular practice…”

While I agree that “wrongthink” has increasingly become a target of punitive initiatives, the disconnect between practices and objectives is not new. Consider coal mining country, where the only pressure that miners could exert on “the system,” and on those in positions of influence, was the economically based threat of a strike. Strikes thus became the multi-purpose tool of an otherwise powerless constituency for effect change even in something as seemingly unrelated as public school policy, for example. Where a single demographic is the lifeblood of an industry, the associated devastation is potentially catastrophic.

The effectiveness of such actions doesn’t scale up, however, in more diverse economic circumstances. Substantive results depend on garnering massive support from a sympathetic public — or lucking out with skittish targets (like advertisers) hoping to avoid unwelcome attention. Extending support beyond the few inclined to answer an immediate call is generally a long, arduous process which requires serious commitment to an overarching cause. For the most part, spontaneous boycotts these days only serve to make the helpless feel powerful temporarily.

31 08 2009
stencil

Purchasing food or books is not “support;” it’s the exchange of money for a thing of value. Should Americans refuse to read Shakespeare because he promoted monarchy?
.

31 08 2009
Porkov

most of the people who participated in the creation of the original republic of the united states of america, and the democracy of athenian greece, were slaveholders. boycott them and support communism and fascism and everything else that they are against.

31 08 2009
Card Groupie

The way I see it, boycotts of all political stripes are just an exercise of negative rights. Nearly every Constitutional right we have can be expressed in a negative form. For example, we have a right to freedom of expression; among the forms this right takes is that right to remain silent we all have when we’re being arrested. We’re free to exercise this right at other times too, such as when we refuse to pledge any loyalty or allegiance to a President, refuse to sing songs praising him, and refuse to post anything favorable to him on our blogs. We have freedom of assembly, which includes the right NOT to assemble with KKK members, homosexuals, agnostics, or anyone else we happen not to want in any of our chosen groups. Economic freedom, likewise, includes the right NOT to buy things one doesn’t want, such as GM cars, Michael Moore and Al Gore movies, tofurkey, government health insurance, or science fiction novels by an author one despises.

Now if some people don’t want to buy Orson Scott Card stuff, I say that’s their loss. I’ll merrily buy any of it even if I do think Mormonism is heretical and more than a bit kooky. (I agree with them on that whole Prop 8 thing and homosexual “marriage” not really being marriage, though.) In complex situations such as the ones Angry Bear describes, the political consequences of boycotts are likely to be just as complex; certainly if any of those restauranteers and other people the raging sore-loser queers hounded out of business were in favor of the gay agenda before, you can bet they’re re-thinking their support for it now. The Buycott from Whole Foods supporters is another kind of backlash one sometimes sees against boycotts. There was a similar backlash against the gay boycott of the Salvation Army at Christmas, when a wealthy Christian businessman made good on all the protesters’ printed protest bills with his own money.

In short, every political action produces an opposite (if not necessarily equal) reaction. If people think a certain boycott is immoral, the best way they can oppose it is to buy stuff from the one being boycotted. Along with the freedom to boycott comes the freedom to buycott.

31 08 2009
LAG

Hmm. I think I’ll go buy another copy of Ender’s Game in an oppo-boycott.

31 08 2009
Tatterdemalian

Shadow Complex has, by far, the best action-movie protagonist since Indiana Jones. None of the emo “I’m so awesome I’ll just spout a non-sequitur here and it will be cool because I’m so awesome” typical of games like “Devil May Cry.”

Best line ever: Dr. Sweet, an “interrogator” who apparently earned his Ph.D. at the Bond Villain College of Monologue, is confronted the gun-wielding player in a cutscene, and advances on him with a knife.

“Welcome. You don’t look like a killer to me.”

*BLAM*

Pretty much end of cutscene.

1 09 2009
GayPatriot » Left-wing hatred closer to mainstream of “progressive” movement than is that of their counterparts on the right

[…] Had an interesting exchange with Allen, (AKA the Angry Bear) another LA blogger I discovered through an Instalink.  Allen was debating whether or not to buy Shadow Complex, a new video game, created in cooperation with Orson Scott Card, a devout Mormon who has actively worked to block state recognition of same-sex marriages.  As this blogger notes, Card has not just opposed such recognition but also serves on “the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization founded in 2007 to…“ […]

2 09 2009
Jay

It’s simple, really.

If you want to be able to have frank, open discussions, you are going to have to tolerate alternative views.

If you insist on punishing, or even threatening to do so, you impede open debate. That may not seem like as bad an idea as it really is.

Open discussion is a process of knowledge discovery. By punishing people who are wrong, we discourage discussion, and in doing so we discourage discussion, ultimately leaving unanswered questions and failing to draw conclusions, because frankly, the actual case is never clearly made.

You have to defeat a rival argument (not advocate), openly, for anyone to actually be convinced.

Boycotts are “enemies of the future”. You should not participate in a boycott if you are convinced your ideas will be vindicated. You are slowing their realization.

4 09 2009
Bill Bartmann

Great site…keep up the good work.

7 09 2009
Bill Bartmann

Cool site, love the info.

29 09 2009
Is it Right to Boycott? Peter David Responds to “The Turn of an Unfriendly Card” « The Angry Bear (ALPHA)

[…] That’s what happened with my Angry Bear article “Turn of an Unfriendly Card (Read the original article here.” In the comments I came across a response by none other than Peter David himself who has a […]

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