“So what was he thinking?”
May 12, 2017 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Editor quits amid outrage after call for ‘Appropriation Prize’ in writers’ magazine by Deborah Dundas [The Toronto Star] “Hal Niedzviecki has resigned as editor of the Writers’ Union of Canada magazine after sparking outrage with an opinion piece titled “Winning the Appropriation Prize” in an issue devoted to indigenous writing. In it, he states that he doesn’t believe in “cultural appropriation.” “In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.” Niedzviecki, who has been the editor of Write for about five years, later wrote: “Set your sights on the big goal: Win the Appropriation Prize.” In the same editorial, Niedzviecki goes on to note that most Canadian literature is written by people who are “white and middle-class,” and exhorts those same white, middle-class writers to look outside of their own community and write about “what you don’t know” in an effort to “explore the lives of people who aren’t like you.””

• On Glibness And Diversity In Canadian Media by Scaachi Koul [Buzzfeed]
“In response, at around midnight on Twitter, a group of white editors, executives, and longtime columnists for some of Canada’s largest mainstream publications started collecting money for an “Appropriation Prize” similar to what Niedzviecki suggested in his piece. Ken Whyte, formerly the president of Rogers Publishing, started it off with $500. Anne Marie Owens (editor in chief of the National Post), Alison Uncles (editor in chief of Maclean’s magazine), Steve Ladurantaye (managing editor of CBC News), Steve Maich (head of digital content and publishing for Rogers Media), Scott Feschuk (Maclean’s columnist), and Christie Blatchford (National Post columnist), amongst others, all volunteered to fork over hundreds of dollars for a prize that would reward people for culturally appropriating in their work. Walrus editor Jon Kay didn't offer money but retweeted Whyte's call and objected to Niedzviecki's resignation. See? Free speech!”
• A Bunch of White Canadian Editors Really Love Cultural Appropriation by Sara Hagi [Vice]
Speaking to The Globe and Mail Niedzviecki expressed how he, "had no intention of offending anyone with the article," while also telling the paper he stepped down from his position voluntarily. He admitted he understood why people were upset and said he failed "to recognize how charged the term cultural appropriation is and how deeply painful acts of cultural appropriation have been to Indigenous people." Like all media controversies, this could have ended pretty quickly. While TWUC released the only type of statement they could have after messing up that badly, Niedzviecki could've offered a lengthy and selfless public apology alongside his resignation. But it didn't take long for white Canadian writers to jump to Niedzviecki's defense. The Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzetti offered the lukewarm argument of the piece being insightful—in that it created a debate. The National Post's Christie Blatchford went full Blatch and argued that Niedzviecki was being "silenced" and that he joined the ranks of white people who've been bullied into apologizing (something he actually never did publicly).”
posted by Fizz (64 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you want unfiltered reaction on this issue from Canadian Indigenous perspectives then follow Tanya Tagaq, Kim TallBear, or Jarrett Martineau.
posted by Rumple at 5:46 PM on May 12, 2017 [20 favorites]


One is not a very good reader if one thinks that "write about people who are not white and middle class" is the same as "cultural appropriation". Ugh, seriously, would it kill a grown adult with some cultural power to, like, google a little bit before writing something? An hour of reading is worth a pound of cure.
posted by Frowner at 5:49 PM on May 12, 2017 [53 favorites]


Tanya Tagq: "I'm going to start a boy band and call it Small White Man Penis and then pen a book about being a white man in Can Lit and win the sunrise"

Don't know what to make of this, it sounds like a not-half-bad idea to me?
posted by Coventry at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2017 [15 favorites]


And I mean, talk about assuming your audience. What does it take to write such an essay for an indigenous writers' issue?
posted by Frowner at 5:51 PM on May 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


Half of these issues could be solved by applying the Wil Wheaton rule of: "Don't be a dick." I mean, appropriate title is appropriate- what was he thinking?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:01 PM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Wow, the people who contributed to that prize are like a whose who of Canadian terribleness.

There might be a valid point buried in there somewhere about white writers expanding their horizons to include characters that are neither white nor caricatures of other races, but you'd think a professional writer would manage to make it in a way that doesn't come across as offensive and awful.

Appropriation of traditional First Nations stories is not just an abstract concept. There is a history of First Nations stories literally ending up outside the legal control of the people whose history they are because of the way they were studied and recorded by white scholars.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:05 PM on May 12, 2017 [24 favorites]


That is like some industrial-strength stupid going on there. I can see that guy thinking "I would like to say something glib and clueless. What is the most offensive venue in which I can state this super dumb opinion?"
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:11 PM on May 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


“In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.”


Unfortunately, imagining is the furthest a lot of people go.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Thanks for sharing those twitter handles Rumple. Much appreciated.
posted by Fizz at 6:18 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


White people remain fucking clueless why why why. I want other white folks to be the pallbearers at my funeral so they can let me down one last time.
posted by supercrayon at 6:38 PM on May 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


Emily Keeler, VP of PEN Canada (I'm quoting the entire Twitter thread for those who can't/won't handle Twitter):
"The reason I think freedom of expression is an urgent cause is because I believe that words and language have real power. Power to change minds, to affect lives and to create new ways of thinking about and perceiving the world. To make space when there was none. Because of this power, because freedom of speech isn't just making senseless noise, what we say when we use this right also matters.

Hal Niedzviecki's decision to leave his part time post as editor of the Writers Union's magazine was his decision to make. For the record, as a writer and editor, I agree with the premise of the column he wrote—writers can and should work with all the doors open, should feel free to intimately examine consciousness and experiences through art that are further afield, beyond the limits of one's own. I also think Hal has done a lot of great work building places, like Broken Pencil, where a truly diverse range of authors can come together.

But I also think he failed, with this column, to think through the power of the language was using in writing this contentious piece. The phrase 'cultural appropriation' is not neutral. And it does not precisely describe the freedom that writers must have to imagine vistas they've never personally seen. This imprecision in his choice of language here demonstrates some of the power that words have. His glibness here perpetuates a system of Colonial thinking that I believe he was hoping to more constructively address by devising and commissioning an issue of the magazine devoted to the specific conditions of Aboriginal writing and writers in this country.

And to see his mistake celebrated by some of this country's most powerful journalists is incredibly disappointing. I'll say it again: words have power. And using the phrase "cultural appropriation" is exercising that power to send a particular message. This piece of data from David Topping's ongoing survey of Canadian journalists also sends a message. [What's missing most in Canadian journalism right now]. As a writer, reader, editor, freedom of expression advocate, it's challenging to see so many people I respect pretend words are meaningless. Especially as a cover for what strikes me as an unwillingness to calmly listen and to think through a situation. Freedom of expression can never be expression without literally any consequence. That wouldn't be freedom—it would be screaming in a vacuum. This is a given, but I'll say it: the people who were hurt, disappointed, aggravated, by Hal's piece have every right to express their views.
posted by maudlin at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2017 [46 favorites]


Niedzviecki expressed how he, "had no intention of offending anyone with the article,"

What a fucking idiot.
posted by rtha at 6:53 PM on May 12, 2017 [9 favorites]


I do think that things sometimes get overeagerly labelled as cultural appropriation that are not only not harmful, but actively beneficial. There is a lot of good to be had in cultures borrowing and learning from one another, and it can and should go both ways, even when one of them is a heavily privileged culture.

So, I mean, I'm able to stretch my empathy just about far enough to see what I imagine to be Niedsviecki's intended point on the horizon: artists from every culture should be free and even encouraged to explore other cultures respectfully in their work.

Of course, even if things that fall under that umbrella sometimes unfairly get shit for being appropriative, that shouldn't distract at all from the far larger bulk of actually shitty and harmful appropriation.

The most shocking thing really is the sheer arrogance for a white dude to come upon this issue that is fundamentally about minority voices, encounter a version of the argument that sounds dumb to him, and then, rather than considering that maybe he's not got the full story, decide that it's his place to tell everyone else how it is.

On preview, I'm repeating much of what Emily Keeler said in maudlin's quote.
posted by 256 at 6:57 PM on May 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


Semantics is such a huge deal. He shouldn't have used the phrase "cultural appropriation" without really understanding it.
posted by amtho at 7:04 PM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


"“Speaking to The Globe and Mail Niedzviecki expressed how he, "had no intention of offending anyone with the article," "

Lies; he wouldn't have done it if he didn't think it would offend people and create a stir.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 PM on May 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


Semantics is such a huge deal.

Well, words do have power, but if you want to control that power you should have some idea what they mean before you say them.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:29 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I do think that things sometimes get overeagerly labelled as cultural appropriation that are not only not harmful, but actively beneficial. There is a lot of good to be had in cultures borrowing and learning from one another, and it can and should go both ways, even when one of them is a heavily privileged culture.

Yes, this. Agree 100%.
posted by tunewell at 7:47 PM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Semantics is such a huge deal.

Yeah, when you use language, the meaning is often important.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:49 PM on May 12, 2017 [10 favorites]


I have only lived in Canada for around 9 years, but even so I feel comfortable in saying that writers who blithely stay ignorant about the reality of cultural appropriation ln relation to indigenous cultures, and, who write rubbish like Niedzviecki did, have really worked hard to feel that way and to stay ignorant of the horrors wrought (and still being wreaked) on the Native nations of Canada, especially in terms of their culture.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:56 PM on May 12, 2017 [27 favorites]


I had second thoughts about Tony Hillerman 25 years ago, though I read the books anyway.

But now I wouldn't, and I doubt he would write them.
posted by jamjam at 7:59 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


If only there were some way to get stories about other peoples, other cultures, and other identities besides white people trying to imagine what these mythical people might be like.
posted by straight at 8:24 PM on May 12, 2017 [26 favorites]


Wow, the people who contributed to that prize are like a whose who of Canadian terribleness.

I had higher hopes for Andrew Coyne and Scott Feschuk.

So ungenerous. I think there is a discussion to be had in Canada about what is cultural appropriation and what is not, but these writers are just trying to shut down the conversation, period.

It should be said that Amanda PL did not *appropriate* anything; she is a plagiarist. She ripped off artwork.

Joseph Boyden did not *appropriate* anything; he's a plagiarist, too. With a weird bit of Grey Owl fantasy thrown in there.

Anybody defending this sort of behavior is an idiot.
posted by My Dad at 9:05 PM on May 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I was seething about it this morning on Twitter and had at least 2 different angry versions of a post typed out before I took a deep breath and just decided to listen, retweet, follow, support. I'm so fucking grossed out by the whole thing.
posted by chococat at 9:28 PM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I refuse to link to it, for fear of giving the guy one single click's worth of traffic, and therefore delaying the man's firing or retirement by one more day, but George Will has a column up on the Washington Post right this moment (weird coincidence, I know, right?) entitled "The Left's Musguided Obsession with 'Cultural Appropriation'."
posted by newdaddy at 9:33 PM on May 12, 2017


He failed to understand the difference between culture appropriation and cultural exchange. White and middle class writers learning about other cultures and including them as real dynamic people with respect for their cultural background is a good thing. Black men with strange powers that heal white prison guards or help white guys with golf, maybe not so much.
posted by gryftir at 10:45 PM on May 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


I had second thoughts about Tony Hillerman 25 years ago, though I read the books anyway.

But now I wouldn't, and I doubt he would write them.


Really? I have not encountered any Native Americans complaining about his work, and thought they generally approved of it. Can you show me otherwise? I know a lot more about Navajo and Hopi culture than I ever would have, without reading his novels.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:59 AM on May 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


I have less patience for humoring these "isn't political correctness the real enemy here?!" conversations ever since actual cartoon villain white supremacists took over the US government.
posted by Emily's Fist at 5:11 AM on May 13, 2017 [20 favorites]


I had second thoughts about Tony Hillerman 25 years ago, though I read the books anyway.

But now I wouldn't, and I doubt he would write them.

Sounds like the whole Navajo Nation would be mightily pissed off if that were the case.
posted by tully_monster at 5:29 AM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]


Could someone point me to a good working definition of cultural appropriation? Ideally one that suggests where to draw the line between acceptable inspiration and unacceptable appropriation?

Does cultural appropriation only apply to novelists, and if so, why?

Should white storytellers only tell stories about Europeans? For example, should Disney stop making princess movies about non-Europeans?

If I write a non-European character, am I culturally appropriating? How about if I tell a story about a European in a non-European country? Or does it become cultural appropriation only when the main character is non-European? (And if so, doesn't that mean we wind up with more movies in which a white dude saves all the brown people?)

For clarity, I don't doubt that we need more non-European voices; I'm asking what creators of European heritage are supposed to do.

Please don't assume I'm making an argument here; it's practically impossible not to sound tendentious asking these question. I honestly would like to know where you guys draw the line.
posted by musofire at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Semantics is such a huge deal.

Well, words do have power, but if you want to control that power you should have some idea what they mean before you say them.


The real hazard is that he _thought_ he knew what it meant. He's educated, knows how to be culturally sensitive in certain contexts, probably has made a stand or two against racism or classism or both. It's natural for him to feel confidence in his understanding of cultural issues.

Just like a doctor will feel confident in his or her knowledge of science, but will miss some obvious points that could mean life or death or a life of suffering for someone.

We _need_ them to feel enough confidence to go out and fight those little battles every day, but we also need them to be unconfident enough to question their own knowledge...when? That boundary, the edge of where they can assume they're right and just go out and do what they know is right, is not well defined.
posted by amtho at 6:39 AM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


He failed to understand the difference between culture appropriation and cultural exchange. White and middle class writers learning about other cultures and including them as real dynamic people with respect for their cultural background is a good thing.

My (white and middle class) daughter is a high school freshman in a racially mixed, public, urban high school. In her humanities class they're talking a lot about cultural appropriation and it's causing her to question a lot of things. I keep poking at it, trying to get her to really think about this distinction- "Hey, when your choir sang 'Ain't No Grave', was that cultural appropriation?"

I think the fact that (some of?) the majority culture has an awareness of this is a really big step in the right direction. I also think this next step, figuring out how to "not be a dick" without shutting yourself off, is important too.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]


He failed to understand the difference between culture appropriation and cultural exchange.

There's another thread on this very internet website where a musician co-writing with, crediting, paying, forming lifelong partnerships with and recording with musicians from outside his cultural background is described as "appropriation" so I don't think it's safe to assume that the term is used with the same meaning by everyone who levies it as a criticism. In my experience there isn't a clear definition of the term - I've seen it used to mean "taking credit for and profiting from the creative work of people who cannot do so because they are prevented from doing so by oppressive mechanisms" and I've seen it used to mean "paying tribute to and collaborating with people one admires from another cultural background than one's own." So the confusion seen here is not that surprising.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


For clarity, I don't doubt that we need more non-European voices; I'm asking what creators of European heritage are supposed to do.

I think white artists just need to be okay with the fact that as long as white people totally dominate popular culture, some people are going to resent your work just because you're yet another white person. And especially if you're making work based on the experiences of people of other backgrounds that gets more recognition than work of people from those backgrounds.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't make art that tries to incorporate those other experiences. You just have to have the grace to acknowledge that people will vent about you frustrations they have with the white supremacy in our culture, and not get all defensive and insist that they express those frustrations in a precisely fair and accurate way.

And maybe with the lack of defensiveness that comes from thinking maybe it's not all about you and your work in particular, you can really listen and see if maybe they don't have some valid criticisms of things you did screw up or could have done better.
posted by straight at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2017 [18 favorites]




While affirming that this guy acted stupidly, I do think there's some widespread mutual misunderstanding that facilitated his stupidity.

Cultural appropriation isn't always bad (or, if it's not bad it's "cultural exchange," different people use those two differently.) Disrespect, racism, and sacrilege are all bad, and cultural appropriation often includes those things, but there are examples of cultural appropriation that are completely harmless. Westerners wearing wearing or collecting kimonos is an example of that; while there has been controversy at a couple American universities about that issue, very few if any actual Japanese people seem to find it at all problematic or even understand why it might be. So when people identify something as cultural appropriation and use that as their central argument for why it's objectionable, it confuses the main issues.
posted by bracems at 11:15 AM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Would it be reasonable to define cultural appropriation as when a European or white creator is claiming to authentically represent the experience of being from a non-European or nonwhite culture?

Though we'd still lose some (I think) pretty neat stories like, say, Anansi Boys and the Hillerman novels.
posted by musofire at 12:07 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Would it be reasonable to define cultural appropriation as when a European or white creator is claiming to authentically represent the experience of being from a non-European or nonwhite culture?

Depends on what you mean by claiming. Artists of any type that make claims about their own work are usually not making very interesting work. The most interesting and powerful art is usually made by people who are too busy making things to spend time doing theory about their own work.
But if you mean that by including a character that isn't obviously a stock stereotype a writer is "claiming" to "represent" a culture, that's a big assumption to make about the writer who hasn't explicitly said that's what they're trying to do. For example, Gaiman, whose work you mention above, has always liked and explored mythology and is a lifelong student and lover of mythology. I am not sure his goal has ever been "authentic representation" - he seems to have other goals around making fiction that explores and celebrates mythology and how humans make and react to it as it moves across time and culture. From my POV he seems to respect his subject matter and approaches it with humility, love and joy.

Also "authenticity" is a problematic concept as well - is there any such thing at all? And if so, by whose standards do we judge authenticity? What if two representatives of the same culture disagree?

There's no way to avoid awkward, messy and sometimes disappointing conversations around art, and especially not when people of different cultures or traditions are conversing. Better to do as advised a few times here already and accept that one might screw up and acknowledge it and learn from it.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


It certainly makes me feel better about all the pleasure I got from reading Hillerman to know that some Dine like him, but here's what concerns me:
I had an email earlier today, asking if I recommend Tony Hillerman's books. I've skimmed some of them and didn't like what I read. Though I've not analyzed them, I do not recommend them.

Larry Emerson, Dine (Navajo) said this about Hillerman:
"Tony Hillerman privileged & authorized himself to write about Navajos & in doing so appropriated, re-imagined, and recreated "Hillerman Navajos" at the expense of Diné realities. Hillerman created a new domain [read dominion] of knowledge while cashing in at the same time."
I met Larry a few years ago when he was a post doctoral fellow here with us (American Indian Studies, University of Illinois). Consider his words "...at the expense of Dine realities." Hillerman wrote mysteries that sold well, but what do his books do for the people he wrote about? Glancing at the titles, it is clear he liked writing about sacred aspects of the Dine people, but what are the Dine realities Emerson refers to? You might read Navajo news media to get a sense of their realities, the things they contend with. Here's some sites to read: ...

And here's what Sherman Alexie had to say about him:
Alexie: They have room for about seven of us (laughs). There is not a whole lot of room, but I guess there’s not a whole lot of room for anyone. But someone like Tony Hillerman, who writes good mysteries but works with expected images, has sold many books. Any one of his books has probably sold more copies than all of us other Indian writers put together.

Rail: So there’s usually one commercially chosen writer that is also marketed heavily?

Alexie: Yes, also because he’s easy to market. Tony Hillerman’s books don’t really question any assumptions about Indians, they work within those assumptions. And so, are they enjoyable? Sure. But they sell well because they don’t question anything. And the more questions a piece of art contains, the less likely it is to sell well. And that’s going to happen, that’s natural. But the sad part is that this process excludes people from the very communities that are underrepresented. So it always ends up that Tony Hillerman ends up representing all of us. It’s not his fault. It’s that the media is not interested in the alternatives.
posted by jamjam at 1:51 PM on May 13, 2017 [9 favorites]


Tony Hillerman’s books don’t really question any assumptions about Indians, they work within those assumptions. And so, are they enjoyable? Sure. But they sell well because they don’t question anything. And the more questions a piece of art contains, the less likely it is to sell well. And that’s going to happen, that’s natural.

Whatever you think about appropriation or not, this is a pretty facile explanation for the success of Hillerman's books. It may be convenient to Alexie's argument and assuage his sense of justice, but there are many reasons why any work of art is popular. Some works of art that question things do very well, and some that don't, don't.
posted by anothermug at 3:12 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Christie Blatchford took the gross side of an issue involving indigenous peoples? No way!
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:50 PM on May 13, 2017 [9 favorites]


The question of how to interact respectfully with a culture that yours has historically had power over, especially when the market continues to reproduce that privilege, is so difficult and complicated. I don't always fully agree about the subject with people with whom I otherwise tend to align in cultural politics. Yet it seems that the white folks who do get worked up on the subject always manage to do so in ways that shriek racism and arrogance, to the point that I feel uneasy expressing a point of view that shares even a few values with theirs.
posted by praemunire at 7:15 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the writers who signed up are even aware of what the current WUC discussion about "cultural appropriation" is all about.

When Ken Whyte made his tweet offering money for the prize, a number of writers immediately replied.

My sense is they're thinking this is more of the "SJW on campus" controversy or something. They may not even be aware of the issues of indigenous cultural appropriation.

Which is pretty damning in and of itself.
posted by My Dad at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2017


Though we'd still lose some (I think) pretty neat stories like, say, Anansi Boys and the Hillerman novels.

But that's not even the issue. The issue seems to be: are indigenous writers allowed to even be highlighted.

Remember, the thing that set this all off was NOT that indigenous writers are somehow trying to prevent others from "appropriating" their voice. Instead, it's all based on Hal Niedzviecki's insensitive and ungenerous opinion piece in a magazine devoted to indigenous writing:

“Hal Niedzviecki has resigned as editor of the Writers’ Union of Canada magazine after sparking outrage with an opinion piece titled “Winning the Appropriation Prize” in an issue devoted to indigenous writing. In it, he states that he doesn’t believe in “cultural appropriation.”

This is a completely manufactured controversy by white writers, nothing more.
posted by My Dad at 9:39 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm still hunting for a solid link/confirmation, but it's all over twitter that Jonathan Kay has stepped down as editor for The Walrus magazine.
Jonathan Kay resigned as editor-in-chief of The Walrus last night, sources confirm.— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) May 14, 2017

posted by Fizz at 8:55 AM on May 14, 2017


Half of these issues could be solved by applying the Wil Wheaton rule of: "Don't be a dick." I mean, appropriate title is appropriate- what was he thinking?
I respectfully disagree; having helped put code of conduct guidelines in place for a professional conference, the problem with "Don't Be A Dick" rules is that well meaning but ignorant people don't realize that certain actions or behaviors constitute "being a dick," and real problem people are happy to argue from first principles about the definition of "dick" while the rest of your community bleeds out.

"Don't be a dick" sounds good, but at its heart it is usually driven by a longing for homogeneity — a wish that everyone just agreed and we didn't have to hash through all these things and uncomfortable, disruptive perspectives no accepted ideas or behaviors didn't intrude.

It's almost always offered in good faith, but is (IME at least) never sufficient when real issues arise.
posted by verb at 11:10 AM on May 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


And Jonathan Kay's highly bigoted mother, Barbara Kay, has being coming at Jesse Wente with racist diatribes all day. Apparently poor little Jonny Kay can't handle actual debate without needing to call mommy in.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


Confirmed: Walrus editor Jonathan Kay quits amid free speech uproar: ‘I have been censoring myself more and more’ [The National Post]
““What takes priority,” Kay wrote for the National Post, “the right of artists to extend their imagination to the entire human experience, or the right of historically marginalized communities to protect themselves from possible misrepresentation? Personally, I land on the free speech side.”

Professionally, Kay was jobless Sunday, and paused in the produce section to provide an explanation.

“From the beginning, it was obvious that it was going to be difficult for me to balance my instincts as a National Post-bred opinion writer with the more staid responsibilities associated with the leadership of a respected media brand,” Kay wrote in an email. “In recent months especially, I have been censoring myself more and more, and my colleagues have sometimes been rightly upset by disruptions caused by my media appearances.

“Something had to give, and I decided to make the first move. I took no severance.””
posted by Fizz at 5:29 PM on May 14, 2017


And Jonathan Kay's highly bigoted mother, Barbara Kay, has being coming at Jesse Wente with racist diatribes all day.
What a fucking horrible person.
Also, I can't believe I actually had some respect for Andrew Coyne at one point.
posted by chococat at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Barbara Kay has some connections with Ezra Levant does she not? In anycase, what a shit show.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:51 PM on May 14, 2017


In a statement e-mailed to The Globe and Mail on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Kay said of his Walrus job: “It was a great opportunity. But I was getting tired of being taken to task on Monday morning for stuff that I said on the CBC or tweeted. I noticed that I was starting to censor myself. And that’s the sign when any writer has to move on. Amazing people at that place, and I wish them every success.”

Poor kitten. "Taken to task!"

FWIW, here's the CBC debate with Jesse Wente and Kay.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:22 PM on May 14, 2017


In a not at all surprising turn of events, Jonathan Kay does not appear to know what the word censorship actually means. Or freedom of speech.

The cultural appropriation debate is not about freedom of speech -- nobody(*) is suggesting that cultural appropriation be literally illegal. They're simply suggesting that if you're such a self-involved jackass that you can't or won't stand aside and let indigenous voices tell indigenous stories then the world is going to mock you for your lack of insight. It is just, as Randall Munroe put it, that people listening think you're an asshole and they're showing you the door.

(*) There are some caveats on this re: things like trademark and other intellectual property protection for specific indigenous symbols that would make it a legal problem for non-indigenous people to use them, but they don't really apply to the world of fictional stories featuring indigenous characters.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:34 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


1st Amendment reference which obviously doesn't apply here, but same principle and this still works as a tl;dr: obligatory xkcd.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:36 PM on May 14, 2017


Jinx, jacquilynne.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:37 PM on May 14, 2017


Rick Harp:

My take on cultural appropriation: writing about shit you don't understand for an audience that doesn't know any better.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:43 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Here's a quote from a Sociologist I follow on Twitter:
@ztsamudzi
Cultural syncretism =\= cultural appropriation. Syncretism lends itself to cohesive multiculturalisms, appropriation is about power.


Adding that distinction to the conversation doesn't make it any easier to see which is which, but it does at least clear up what CA isn't.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:58 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Jesse Wente was just on Metro Morning and it is an absolute must-listen. Arguments about what appropriation is and the ridiculous notion that this is about "free speech" crumble when you hear the real pain that this is causing.
posted by chococat at 5:40 AM on May 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Why is it so hard to always, always keep King's line in mind, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will"?

When I first heard of this yesterday, it was with an explicit quote of Niedzviecki's plea for cultural appropriation as a form of license to go outside of one's personal culture, ethnicity, and gender, My first reaction to his list was "that seems reasonable" (Guess my a/s/l! Guess what artistic form I engage in professionally, if at a D-list level! Go on!), but right on its heels was "but if it was, people wouldn't be upset with him".

When I'm trying to avoid one half of King's formulation, it's been useful to me to believe that, when someone is upset, they've reason to be. Turns out I'm right in that belief at an amazingly high percentage.

(Which to be Canadian as possible about it under the circumstances, unlike a lot of those acting badly here: Sorry).
posted by Quindar Beep at 11:14 AM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]






'I invited these Indigenous writers ... and then I insulted them:' Hal Niedzviecki on appropriation uproar
Yeah, the headline sounded promising, but it turned out to be an "I'm sorry you were offended" kind of thing. It really doesn't sound like he understands why people were so upset. He's just apologizing for upsetting them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:44 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]




Niedzvieckian’ Prize Goes to Writer Most Burned by His Own Hot Take


Here’s my take. From this day forward there should be a prize called the Niedzvieckian.

To win, the year’s most Niedzvieckian take must:

1. Insult a large group of people for their concerns.

2. Not show any interest in understanding their concerns.

3. In making the insult, betray one’s implied good faith relationship with the group insulted.

4. Pretend to start a dialogue when it really polarizes and shuts one down.

5. Be embraced readily by the most privileged people related to the take.

posted by Rumple at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


More fallout at CBC. Also, someone's crowdfunding a literary award to support emerging indigenous writers.
posted by oulipian at 2:35 PM on May 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The crowdfunding target was $10,000 and they've raised over $50,000 already.
posted by Rumple at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


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