The Riots of The Faithful
May 27, 2005 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Orson Scott Card on The Riots of The Faithful: So Newsweek prints an uncorroborated allegation about American interrogators flushing Qurans down the toilet in order to get fanatical Muslim prisoners to talk, and there's rioting and death all over the Muslim world. There are several lessons to be learned from this incident, some trivial, some quite important...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (102 comments total)
 
Orson Scott Card is a cock.
posted by interrobang at 6:29 PM on May 27, 2005


"It's Smartland. The nation of the newsmedia people. That's where they live. Not in America. These newspeople generally don't even know anybody, apart from 'sources,' who serves America in the military. Smartland consists of a very different crowd."

Is this guy serious or is my sarcasm meter irreparably broken? I stopped counting the logical fallacies after I hit a dozen in his first two "points" alone. I honestly don't know where to begin on this dreck.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:33 PM on May 27, 2005


Sometimes you're lucky and a big country comes along and liberates you.

I wish I didn't know more about this asshole than "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead". Learning what this fucker is like in real life has ruined my childhood.
posted by interrobang at 6:37 PM on May 27, 2005


Related: Juan Cole on Why Jacoby is Wrong.
posted by mlis at 6:39 PM on May 27, 2005


interrobang, actually learning what he's like in real life should be quite instructional for you to think about your childhood. Ender's Game is not a politically neutral novel. It sure as heck isn't morally neutral.
posted by Nelson at 6:40 PM on May 27, 2005


The "smartland" thing, when referring to the press and not liberals or coast-dwellers in general, is actually kind of true.

But of course his imagination doesn't seem quite vast enough to grasp that the 'liberal media' isn't.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 PM on May 27, 2005


Yeah, I know, Nelson. Rereading it fairly recently made it completely obvious that Card is gay and hates himself.

I just hate reading his essays because he's such a powerful writer, and he's using his powers to be a self-righteous asshole instead of a writer about sensitive, caring characters.
posted by interrobang at 6:45 PM on May 27, 2005


Which fairly talented and creative writer is more dangerously bat-shit insane: Orson Scott Card or Dave Sim?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:45 PM on May 27, 2005


Don't even get me started. Remember the anti-gay article linked here a while back? Card is delusional. He also abandons any pretense at logical discourse in order to write these shrill harangues of his. He has no idea what he's talking about, the truth doesn't matter, and he's too busy making shit up to realize how his logic doesn't even support itself.
posted by shmegegge at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2005


Nevermind, I'll begin here:

How long did it take for the people to be utterly disenchanted by government-by-fanatics, who see every opponent as evil and make every political decision an article of faith?

How anyone can pen a polemic like this against the American left -- I'm sorry, I mean the residents of "Smartyland" -- from W's side of the aisle with a straight face is absolutely beyond me.

... a new religious movement -- politically correct puritanism -- is perilously close to seizing control of the governments of most of the major nations of the West.

... and it's being pushed by people on the left? Hahahaha. Ha. Send me whatever pharmaceuticals this man-boy is on, because that must be one killer trip, bro. I'm never read his sci-fi, but is there any particular reason I should pay attention to his political opinions? Because to me, he sounds like washed-up Limbaugh-lite.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:47 PM on May 27, 2005


For a middling-to-good 1970s scifi author, he sure has the worldview of a middling-to-good 1950s scifi author.

Which is to say: this guy is way, way out of touch and clearly hasn't bothered to check in with reality in a few decades. Why do we care about what he has to say?

I feel exactly the same way about David Galernter. He was an OK computer science prof, I hear; I never had his class. But why the hell do we care what he thinks about politics?
posted by gurple at 6:50 PM on May 27, 2005


Wow. What a tool.
posted by BadSeamus at 6:51 PM on May 27, 2005


first off: I agree with interrobang. I don't want to relive the moment that I realized that OSC was both the author of an excellent book and a jerkwad.

His real problem (in the first point) is with the American people. My response is twofold: One, get over it. My anger with "the masses" after the 2004 election was physical. Two, if the people irratate you, move or change them.

In his second question, Card asks who benefits from the publication of the truth. This is a stupid question. Granted, in this case, Newsweek may have messed up and printed non-truth, but Card is not talking about journalistic proceedures, he is talking about morality. I believe that serving the truth is an unquestionable virtue, no matter who it hurts.

What kills me about the people who rail against "elites" are the charges they randomly level against these windmills. They say that they are godless, suburbinite-hating amoralists, but they don't know this. Card says he knows these people, but he doesn't say where he knows them from, because They don't exist! This instinct to hate the invisible string-pullers is weird to me. Why can't they see that the thing they hate is no more real than the Sandler-loving/Passion watching masses. (BTW, is that a weird demographic to be citing?)

Thirdly, Card spends a lot of time talking about Christans and Muslims, as if he were some kind of authority. He is a Mormon, and a real serious one at that. Mormons consider themselves Christians, and that is fine with me, since I am neither. But it is important to note that if the target audience of this article is the Christian right, then they don't consider you a Christian, Orson.

posted by SkinnerSan at 6:53 PM on May 27, 2005


PZ Myers wrote a good bit about Scott Card here:
This time, he is
irate that people would actually like the Jedi religion.
It's one thing to put your faith in a religion founded
by a real person who claimed divine revelation, but it's something else
entirely to have, as the scripture of your religion, a storyline that
you know was made up by a very nonprophetic human being.
Wha...? Your irony meters may have been spared if you didn't already
know that Card is devoutly religious. Your meters are glowing heaps of
radioactive slag right now if you knew that Card is a devout Mormon.</blockquote?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:54 PM on May 27, 2005


---->
But what 'Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk. What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam. It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an 'insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to 'martyrdom."


Give that man a gold star.
posted by dhoyt at 6:57 PM on May 27, 2005


Oh, yeah, the Mormon thing... I was REAL unhappy when I became old enough to understand that the Alvin Maker series was just a bunch of Joseph Smith stories retold with magic and such. REAL unhappy. Kind of like how I felt about Narnia at about the same time.

Certain stories and people should just go in a nice drawer at some point before childhood ends and stay there.
posted by gurple at 7:01 PM on May 27, 2005


I'd have thought about it, dhoyt, if he didn't put quotes around 'insugency'. That's just childish. Is he trying to imply that they aren't "Rising in revolt against established authority, especially a government."? That's news to the folks recovering from lost limbs in any nearby veterans' hospital he might care to visit.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:03 PM on May 27, 2005


OK, someone give me a box of closing tags for my birthday and I'll be your best friend.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:04 PM on May 27, 2005


This is moot anyway, since the whole "Newsweek made up the Koran-flushing" business has been proven false, and is nothing more than a way for the Bush Administration to blame the "Liberal Media" in order to distract away from their disastrous war.
posted by interrobang at 7:06 PM on May 27, 2005


Card is making the same mistake of many in the West by equating terrorism with Islam, and the war on terrorism with a war against Islam.

It is a sweeping generalization that is undermining our already poorly planned "mission."

(If, in fact, there is any mission at all save for manipulating oil flow and revenue.)

And when he closes the article off by saying that Christians are under attack in American Universities...I almost fell off my chair.

What's very disturbing is how many people in scAmerica read this tripe of his and gobble it up whole.
posted by rougy at 7:08 PM on May 27, 2005


Has anyone verified that those riots were solely caused by the Newsweek article? I thought I read a CNN article that said as much may be the case.
posted by mischief at 7:16 PM on May 27, 2005


This is the same Orson Scott Card that wrote reasonably decent books?

What went horribly wrong between then and now? If he's just trying to get his name back in the press he's succeeded. The problem is that he's done it by coming across as a complete and total moron.

I'm starting to think more and more that celebrities (if you could even call him that) should stick to celebrity-ing and stay out of the politics.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:20 PM on May 27, 2005


From Hollywood to newspeople to the soft-subject professors in our universities, the culture that makes people like Osama bin Laden want to blow us up or crush us into dust is the culture of the R-rated movie, the anti-religion intellectual, the glorified abortionist, the babies-without-marriage crowd, and the what-me-worry media elite.

He left out the homosexuals.
posted by euphorb at 7:30 PM on May 27, 2005


I've got 20 bucks says he's outed by 2007.
posted by callmejay at 7:33 PM on May 27, 2005


gurple writes "For a middling-to-good 1970s scifi author, he sure has the worldview of a middling-to-good 1950s scifi author."

I think you vastly underrate the morality and clear-headedness of 1950's scifi authors. Card comes off as a middling-to-good 1870's bodice-ripper fiction author.



thedevildancedlightly writes "This is the same Orson Scott Card that wrote reasonably decent books?

"What went horribly wrong between then and now?"


I feel so sorry for you. You're about to have what the others in this thread have been lamenting... the revelation. You see, this is the same man who wrote Ender's Game. Nothing has changed except for the number of gray hairs. This is also the same man linked to here. That link is the actual MOMENT that I decided I needed to have a MeFi account. So I could at least voice my condemnation of that kind of bigotry SOMEWHERE.
posted by shmegegge at 7:37 PM on May 27, 2005


what I meant when I said "This is the same man who wrote Ender's Game" by the way, was that Ender's Game is actually a different novel than you thought when you first read it, and these articles are an indicator of just how.
posted by shmegegge at 7:40 PM on May 27, 2005


God, that piece sounds just like the crap angry righties were spewing just after 9/11. I mean, "...Newsweek kills people with a false story that is actually a lie (unlike anything President Bush ever said about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction)..."?

That's not just a tool, that's an ostrich. I don't want to blame fundamental Mormonism entirely, but it sure is handy.
posted by mediareport at 7:48 PM on May 27, 2005


Anyone who has ever been to a gathering of SF writers knows better than to believe that even good writers have much of a grasp on anything relating to real life.
posted by Peach at 7:49 PM on May 27, 2005


Uninformed prick writes column, film at 11.
posted by fungible at 7:56 PM on May 27, 2005


Even if the allegations about Quran desecration were completely and absolutely verified, why in the world would you publish the information during wartime? It's not that the Media themselves regard the Quran as sacred. It's just paper to them.

Well, I'll answer that question, so that we know and can do something about it. The american people, ultimately, are responsible for this crap.

Does OSC even realize that people are released from Gitmo at some point? and that they tell stories? The Muslim world has known about all of this for years.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on May 27, 2005


I'm a really big fan of "Ender's Game" and I look forward to the movie--hope they don't fuck it up.

That said, OSC is a prick. His Islam and gay-bashing are shrill and rambling. He almost made a few points with me but left me in the dust on his way to Crazyville.
posted by zardoz at 8:16 PM on May 27, 2005


Don't write off Orson Scott Card as shrill. I believe that he's a bigot, that he's a homophobe, but it's too easy and too incorrect to label him shrill. He's a capable writer. He's using his abilities to produce words who's resonance won't only resonate with the typical wingnut who listens to Limbaugh and reads Coulter.

Also, having read at least most of the Ender series I don't understand how anybody could be surprised at his viewpoints. I enjoyed the first book but everything after it read more and more like a morality play (and I hated the mystical bullshit he brought in to a science fiction story as well)
posted by substrate at 8:19 PM on May 27, 2005


Please, Mormonism is just a twisted, distorted, and disgraceful version of Freemasonry turned into a "religion."
posted by keswick at 8:21 PM on May 27, 2005


Wow am I happy that I could never finish one of Orson Scott Card's books. Sort of like Rush Limbaugh without the drug addiction and the round-about tortured excuse for logic.
posted by arse_hat at 8:30 PM on May 27, 2005


The SF livejournals have been passing around this excellent essay on Ender's Game by (SF writer, and writing professor at NC State University) John Kessel: Creating the Innocent Killer.

No, Ender's Game is not a politically or morally neutral book. This illusion that good people can do horrible, awful things and still be Good People because their hearts are Pure is one of the roots of the complaisance towards what's going on in Iraq.
posted by Jeanne at 8:31 PM on May 27, 2005


Joseph Smith was a mason, he self declared "worshipful master" status and used the fifth royal arch degree as the central feature of the mormon temple ceremony .Real masons dressed as indians martyred joe for revealing the masonic secret he swore blood oath not to reveal .
posted by hortense at 8:39 PM on May 27, 2005


Jesus, this guy is a dick.

Has that been stated already?

Anyway, this guy is a dick.
posted by Relay at 8:40 PM on May 27, 2005


morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick,
dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.

How many dicks was that?

A lot.
posted by arse_hat at 8:53 PM on May 27, 2005


I know everybody here is going to hate me for saying this, but just because he's a wingnut (and dislikes things that reasonable people oughtn't admit to disliking) doesn't mean his points are necessarily invalid. Let's revisit his main points, isolated from all the stuff that pissed everybody off so much:

1. The media are no better than government at exercising unchecked power.
Who wants to disagree with this one?

2. Too many people in the "American" media have lost any concept of loyalty to their country.
I don't know what the air quotes mean here. I do think, though, that the media generally is antagonistic toward government (see also: BBC), and I think that the drive to uncover the truth has begun to give way to the drive to scoop the other news organizations and stick it to the government.

3. Muslims in Muslim countries can dish it out, but they can't take it.
His baby analogy is provocative and disrespectful, but not wrong. The same charge could be levelled against the US, too. We want respect from them (as in, "you don't get to destroy us because you think we're bad"), and they want respect from us (to be treated like peers). It's a two-way street.

4. Islam has produced great leaders.
I think he's trying to say that there's nothing intrinsic about the conflict between the two cultures, and that the people currently representing the Muslim world in the eyes of the citizens of the West are just violent, nasty people. The Muslim world doesn't need to settle for that.

5. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
This shouldn't be terribly controversial. Of course, he's saying that everyone in the house should just get on one side, and most of the Mefites here think the opposite. But is he wrong? Is there any way that we can resist the homicidal maniacs with bombs if we can't put aside internal conflict?
posted by dammitjim at 9:04 PM on May 27, 2005


arse_hat writes "morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick,
"dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.

"How many dicks was that?

"A lot."


And then she meets this Saddam Hussein motherfucker...
posted by Joybooth at 9:10 PM on May 27, 2005


I think OSC, or any Mormon for that matter, has a perfectly good reason to look down on people of other faiths. They know the secret handshakes to get into heaven. You think the Muslims know that stuff? Hell, the Muslims don't even wear the right kind of underwear.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:12 PM on May 27, 2005


"1. The media are no better than government at exercising unchecked power.
Who wants to disagree with this one?"

I do. The government has powers the media can never have. The media can only exist with the consent of the government. The media, even if you say they have "unchecked power" have a variety of views spanning the political spectrum. The government has fairly solid control of it's political mouthpieces. The media get judged on their veracity every day while the government (at all levels) only gets judged every 4 years or so.
posted by arse_hat at 9:13 PM on May 27, 2005


In my book, he's a jerk and a pretty darn good writer. Much as I really, really, really liked Ender's Game, I've always felt the middle two books--Speaker for the Dead and Xenophobe were even more accomplished books as legitimate "novels", in terms of the emotional and moral complexity of their characters and situations.

Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that the one of the core skills of a novelist is to be able to portray characters that are well outside their personal mindset. Authors are routinely lauded for their convincing portrayals of the internal landscape of a serial killer, or a dead girl, or any number of other characters that couldn't possibly be part of their own personal experience. It's part of the job requirements.

In OSC's case, I think you've got someone who has a real knack for imagining characters of a pretty deep, nuanced moral complexity, even though he's apparently not that way at all himself. I just can't imagine any of his better-written characters delivering such a shrill screed, even though he apparently does it on a pretty regular basis.

Wouldn't be the first time an author wrote characters that were better to read about than he or she was in real life--if all books were bounded by the reality their authors, we'd have a much poorer body of literature.
posted by LairBob at 9:16 PM on May 27, 2005


dammitjim: I do think, though, that the media generally is antagonistic toward government

Proof please. And citing BBC doesn't count, since this is about "American" Media.
posted by papakwanz at 9:16 PM on May 27, 2005


orson scott tard
posted by reflection at 9:19 PM on May 27, 2005


"5. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
This shouldn't be terribly controversial. Of course, he's saying that everyone in the house should just get on one side, and most of the Mefites here think the opposite. But is he wrong?"
Sure he is!!!! You may want to look at the wonderfully successful run of Western Liberal Democracy. Maybe read Hobbes.
"Is there any way that we can resist the homicidal maniacs with bombs if we can't put aside internal conflict?"
I don't see the "homicidal maniacs with bombs' as all that big a deal. Automobile accidents kill far more folks than terrorism. Perhaps a war on that would be nice? Lot's of folks die from a lack of medical care. I'd like to see my tax dollars go to that rather than trying to fight some wiener with visions of virgins in his head and a Koran in his shirt trying to blow me up.

posted by arse_hat at 9:22 PM on May 27, 2005


(A little off-topic, but has anyone else read some of his earlier books, such as Songmaster? Quite an interesting addition to the theory that he may be a self-hating gay man. Two male characters - both "good guys", one the main character - have consensual sex. The main character, as a result of conditioning he has unknowingly received, has his entire sexuality completely and painfully destroyed by it. I believe the other character commits suicide. Just something to chew on.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:23 PM on May 27, 2005


My wife really, really, really, likes Ender's Game.
She's been urging me to read it.
I still might (after I get through reading Chaos by James Gleek, again), but I'm afraid knowing this about the author might spoil it for me.

I'm not going to point out these articles, and just let her keep loving the book.
posted by Balisong at 9:23 PM on May 27, 2005


sorry. missed a close tag there.
posted by arse_hat at 9:23 PM on May 27, 2005


Is there any way that we can resist the homicidal maniacs with bombs if we can't put aside internal conflict?

Yeah, that democracy thing was just a phase.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:24 PM on May 27, 2005


Personally, I think there should be legal consequences for editors and publishers and reporters so abysmally selfish and stupid that they would run with a story that they knew would provoke outrage in Muslim lands, without first making sure it was true.

ah, but it was true ... there are other sources than newsweek that have reported this

Our country is at war.

then why hasn't congress declared it? ... you know, like the constitution says it's supposed to?

how do you expect me to be "loyal" to a government that doesn't follow its own rules?

It's Smartland. The nation of the newsmedia people. That's where they live. Not in America.

so what are you saying? ... you have to be dumb to live in this country? ... fuck you

The fact is that most Muslims in Muslim countries did not riot. Most of them were appalled and frightened when so many of their fellowcitizens went crazy in the streets.

But those aren't the people who shape the image of Islam. It's the rioters who make the news and get the airtime.


this is strangely reminiscent of something i used to hear in the 60s about black people ...

Which should mean that we are like Saladin. After all, without even being asked we waged and are waging the most humane major war in history. Our efforts to save the lives of our enemies have cost us many casualties that we need not have suffered -- who does that?

it's a minor war, idiot ... and the totals of civilian casualties belie the "humaneness" of it

you are right about one thing ... we weren't asked, we just went right ahead and did it

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

then why all the divisive rhetoric? ... we're not shutting up, we're not going away, we're not keeping our heads down like meek minorities who don't want to be "uppitty" ... we're people who actually practice our freedoms, not just pay lip service to them as we mouth quasi-fascist rhetoric
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 PM on May 27, 2005


"Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that the one of the core skills of a novelist is to be able to portray characters that are well outside their personal mindset."
LairBob, I think the problem is OSC does not show us characters but rather, tells us who is good and who is bad. I never find his people to be anything more tham placeholders for his axe grinding.
posted by arse_hat at 9:29 PM on May 27, 2005


OSC is one of my favorite writers yet I really hate him as a person. I loved Enders Game and the next two books in the series, but it went downhill after that. I also loved Songmaster.
posted by mike3k at 9:35 PM on May 27, 2005


The worrying thing about Card is that he's getting increasingly shrill. And his shrillness curve seems to be inflecting up, accelerating to the point where I expect him to experience some sort of personal Singularity (a nervous breakdown? coming out of the closet? something big...) any time now.

His opinions on gay marriage were disgusting enough; his review of the new Star Wars movie was simply nuts (taking issue with fictional characters having a religion that is, you know, FICTIONAL -- unlike his own, which he somehow thinks is reality-based); but now he's more worked up about insufficiently-sourced reports of Koran abuse than he is that our nation now routinely practices torture.

His screeds are sounding more and more like cries for help.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:35 PM on May 27, 2005


Too many people in the "American" media have lost any concept of loyalty to their country.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, sorry, you were serious? If the American media were to find a video with Bush highlighting his plans for world conquest and the establishment of the glorious new 1,000 year regime (almost used another 'R' word, but that's a bit godwiny) they'd probably release it under the headline "President unveils exciting new plan for world peace..."
Immediately followed-up with the headline "White House denies video ever existed, so y'all can forget yesterday's headlines. We're really, really sorry and we promise never to doubt the president ever again."
posted by kaemaril at 9:38 PM on May 27, 2005


I wonder if the comparison to Dave Sim is apt ... is he getting crazier and crazier while his writing gets worse and worse as a result? (I've found most of his recent output unreadable, especially when compared to his earlier stuff.) Or was he simply always like this, and used to be able to write decently in spite of it? Anyone know? I can't imagine him writing anything with a sympathetic gay character like the one in Songmaster these days, even taking into consideration that character's suicide and all that.
posted by kyrademon at 9:42 PM on May 27, 2005


arse_hat writes "I never find his people to be anything more tham placeholders for his axe grinding."

That's as may be, for you. Personally, as much as I dislike his politics, I thought that the depiction of the various families and their personal conflicts, in Speaker for the Dead and Xenophobe especially, were convincing. Even in his other books, like the "Maker" series and the other series that's basically a Mormon allegory ("Homecoming" series, maybe?), I've found that he creates characters that I think are at least as complex and compelling as most of the other sci-fi I read (and I read a lot), and--more to the point--apparently a lot more complex and compelling than he is, personally. I've also really liked the fact that he's not afraid to kill off a major character, after he's invested a lot of effort in fleshing them out. In all too much genre sci-fi/fantasy, you read through the "exciting" parts with no real fear an important character's going to be killed, but in Card's books, it's always a possibility, and that adds a lot, for me. (He's not the only one who does that, of course, but it's still a real weakness of the genre.)

Basically, I think he's got a real knack for it, as an auther...it's just that that knack may not be founded in the principles and mindset I'd like it to be. It may just be a knack.
posted by LairBob at 9:43 PM on May 27, 2005


LairBob, I never found OSC to be that compelling in his characterizations but it has been a number of years since I tried reading his stuff. I may have to pick up a book at the used book store.
posted by arse_hat at 9:51 PM on May 27, 2005


I love Dave Sim, and own the graphicnovels from Cerebus through Jaka's Story.
Haven't read much past that. Truly insane and talented.
Insanity seems to be a downhill slide for most, tho.
posted by Balisong at 9:58 PM on May 27, 2005


arse_hat: The media, even if you say they have "unchecked power" have a variety of views spanning the political spectrum.

Broad representation of different views doesn't acheive balance in this case. The people running the media don't consider the consequenses of their influence.

papakwanz: Proof please.

You want proof that I think antagonism is evident? No, you want proof that it is evident. That's hard... the recent Dan Rather mess immediately springs to mind.

arse_hat: Automobile accidents kill far more folks than terrorism.

Well, nobody's saying that car accidents are okay. But car accidents don't happen because the cars are trying to kill us. And road deaths don't escalate into world-wide conflict. There's really not a valid comparison there. Should we suspend foreign policy until we make the highways safer?

Space Coyote: Yeah, that democracy thing was just a phase.

Democracy is fine, and competing factions within government - and society in general - are what drive improvements and progress. But sometimes overt partisanship gets in the way of decisive action.
posted by dammitjim at 10:02 PM on May 27, 2005


Some time after I discovered the awful truth about Card, I read a few of his less popular novels - mostly out of curiosity but partly to see just how bad it was. Even back in the Ender days his fiction was pretty far out there. Songmaster treats the reader to a graphical description of a homosexual man having his penis amputated as punishment for his sex life. Treason's male protagonist has a genetic problem that makes him grow other body parts, including female breasts. The hero hacks off his own breasts at one point in an attempt to pass for normal. The man definitely has some dark stuff going on in his head.

(On preview, kyrademon - I'd forgotten about that part of Songmaster. I believe the character who commits suicide does so after he loses his penis).
posted by rhiannon at 10:03 PM on May 27, 2005


Jaka's story is well before Sim's writing goes seriously downhill. He first starts going nuts in a way that affects the story seriously, I believe, around issue 186 - which I think is actually somewhat before Jaka's story. But even for many years after 186, his gradually increasing personal misogyny and paranoia at first have surprisingly little effect on the story line - Jaka remains a strong, intelligent character, for instance, despite his statements that women essentially have no intelligence (and I do not exaggerate.) But slowly, the personal ideology seeps into the writing, sometimes subtly and sometimes boldly, until the last storyline is pretty much an insane, shrill, dull, anti-woman, arguably anti-semitic, rant about Sim's strange personal interpretation of the Bible (written mostly as a conversation between Cerebus and Woody Allen, and no, that doesn't make it interesting.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:06 PM on May 27, 2005


rhiannon - oh, yeah. I had, in turn, forgotten about the penis amputation. Strange thing to forget ... but it's been a very long time since I've read it. Anyway - yeah. Whoa.
posted by kyrademon at 10:08 PM on May 27, 2005


dammitjim
"Broad representation of different views doesn't achieve balance in this case. The people running the media don't consider the consequences of their influence." I'm not even going to argue the part about the people running the media, I mean come on, do you really think Rupert Murdoch has no agenda? But further, what the hell does it matter how deeply felt the opinions of the owners of the means to communication (think the aforementioned Rupert and Matt) are as long as the opinions are available? The government, however shallow or deeply felt their opinions, have much more control of the dissemination of information from their followers and minions.

"Well, nobody's saying that car accidents are okay. But car accidents don't happen because the cars are trying to kill us. And road deaths don't escalate into world-wide conflict. There's really not a valid comparison there. Should we suspend foreign policy until we make the highways safer? " No, no one is saying that car accidents are okay but I AM saying car accidents are far more important than terrorism and our attention and spending would be better severed addressing it.

"Should we suspend foreign policy until we make the highways safer? " No, but we need to put it into perspective and prioritize accordingly.

"Democracy is fine, and competing factions within government - and society in general - are what drive improvements and progress. But sometimes overt partisanship gets in the way of decisive action. " What you are talking about is not democracy. Sorry.
posted by arse_hat at 10:22 PM on May 27, 2005


better severed = better served. I need to stop following MeFi and working at the same time.
posted by arse_hat at 10:25 PM on May 27, 2005


"The fact is that most Muslims in Muslim countries did not riot. Most of them were appalled and frightened when so many of their fellowcitizens went crazy in the streets.

But those aren't the people who shape the image of Islam. It's the rioters who make the news and get the airtime. "

As much as I absolutely hate having to say this, I have to agree with Card on the above points. The vast majority of the Muslim world condemns all the terrorism and violence that is wreaked in the name of their religion. Unfortunately, as Card points out, they don't get much airtime; keeping the attention focused on the terrorists keeps everyone's eyes off what the man behind the curtain is really doing.

That said, Card is one of the most filthy and hateful human beings it has ever been my misfortune to know about.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:08 PM on May 27, 2005


I know everybody here is going to hate me for saying this...

Wow, what a remarkable way to initiate a martyr complex before anyone's even replied. It's okay, though, because no one hates you for saying it.

1. The media are no better than government at exercising unchecked power.
Who wants to disagree with this one?


Sure thing. The media doesn't have unchecked power. They're free to report the truth. They get punished if they don't. Turns out the Quran thing was true, but Orson conveniently forgets that. The media also, for instance, does not have the ability to initiate a pre-emptive strike on a country based on falsified claims that said country has Weapons of Mass Destruction. Oh, and most importantly: The media is not an organization. It does not get together and decide how to act in its own interest. They're individual newspapers, periodicals, journalists, etc...

2. Too many people in the "American" media have lost any concept of loyalty to their country.
I don't know what the air quotes mean here. I do think, though, that the media generally is antagonistic toward government (see also: BBC), and I think that the drive to uncover the truth has begun to give way to the drive to scoop the other news organizations and stick it to the government.


I can understand why so many people don't understand this distinction, but it's the job of journalists to stick it to EVERYBODY, especially those in power. This isn't to say that the media is supposed to antagonize and lie, but right now the only lies being told by journalists are those paid for by the government. If an administration cheats you, who's supposed to tell you? If a crime goes unpunished for immoral reasons, how are we supposed to know? Who keeps the people in the know, and therefore empowered? The media. What is the last, quickly eroding, line of defense the average joe has against the tide of misinformation coming from our government? The media. That's their job. It is at the very heart of service to Democracy that they do this job. That's WHY we have the freedom of speech. More than for you or I, that right is there for journalists to expose corruption and immorality in our government. To try to control or silence the media in deference to government out of some warped idea of "patriotism" is actually a weapon of despotism, not democracy.

3. Muslims in Muslim countries can dish it out, but they can't take it.
His baby analogy is provocative and disrespectful, but not wrong. The same charge could be levelled against the US, too. We want respect from them (as in, "you don't get to destroy us because you think we're bad"), and they want respect from us (to be treated like peers). It's a two-way street.


This is just stupid. Not you, him. No one can "take it." No country just grins and bears it when treated unjustly. They do what they can, they beg for help to do what they can't, and they flip out when that's their only option. This statement is akin to saying "Blacks can dish it out but they can't take it. Evidence of this is that even though they shoot people, they can't take a little beating from 6 LA police officers for no reason without staging a riot a la Rodney King." It's not only ignorant, but dangerously bigoted while hiding behind a victim demeanor.

4. Islam has produced great leaders.
I think he's trying to say that there's nothing intrinsic about the conflict between the two cultures, and that the people currently representing the Muslim world in the eyes of the citizens of the West are just violent, nasty people. The Muslim world doesn't need to settle for that.


And then the rest of his article rails agains muslims. This is a nice way of saying, "I don't hate Islam, just Muslims."

5. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
This shouldn't be terribly controversial. Of course, he's saying that everyone in the house should just get on one side, and most of the Mefites here think the opposite. But is he wrong? Is there any way that we can resist the homicidal maniacs with bombs if we can't put aside internal conflict?
posted by dammitjim at 12:04 AM EST on May 28 [!]


One way would have been not to swell their ranks with converts by unjustly invading an uninvolved country. Another way would be to actually declare war on something SUBSTANTIAL, rather than an abstract concept. Another way would be to foster justice and democracy, rather than fear, persecution and torture.

The dangerous thing about rhetoric is that it encourages you to think about the statements, not the argument. His words sound nice and any individual statement makes sense out of context. But as an argument, as a contextual point, it's utter bullshit and bigotry.

posted by shmegegge at 11:12 PM on May 27, 2005


It's Smartland. The nation of the newsmedia people. That's where they live. Not in America.

So America is, like, Dumbland then?
posted by spazzm at 11:24 PM on May 27, 2005


But those aren't the people who shape the image of Islam. It's the rioters who make the news and get the airtime. "

What is appalling about the riots is that people's right to demonstrate is so badly handled by the forces of order in these countries as to often end in deaths. These deaths are then used by the Western media to perpetuate our stereotypes concerning those breeds so benighted as to embrace a religion other than our own.
posted by TimothyMason at 11:29 PM on May 27, 2005


I'm not surprised a Mormon would end up a Sci-fi writer. After all , they're raised on the stuff.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:30 PM on May 27, 2005


Well said, shmegegge.
posted by Balisong at 12:28 AM on May 28, 2005


I’ll try to keep this short:

1. The media are no better than government at exercising unchecked power.

The current American media is essentially an arm of the government. The problem is that media is not a counter-balance to government, but instead a complacent sounding board.

2. Too many people in the "American" media have lost any concept of loyalty to their country.
I don't know what the air quotes mean here. I do think, though, that the media generally is antagonistic toward government


They’re supposed to be, especially when the government is working against the interest of the people.

3. Muslims in Muslim countries can dish it out, but they can't take it.
His baby analogy is provocative and disrespectful, but not wrong. The same charge could be levelled against the US, too. We want respect from them (as in, "you don't get to destroy us because you think we're bad"), and they want respect from us (to be treated like peers). It's a two-way street.


A sweeping generalization, and an infantile one at that.

4. Islam has produced great leaders.

Bear in mind that this little insight was inspired by a MOVIE that he saw this week, “Kingdom of Heaven.” This was a bullshit introduction for this bullshit conclusion:

After all, without even being asked we waged and are waging the most humane major war in history.

100,000 dead and counting.

5. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Is there any way that we can resist the homicidal maniacs with bombs if we can't put aside internal conflict?


Homicidal maniacs with bombs also drop them from expensive aircraft, high over head, or they launch them from expensive ships thousands of miles away.

This house will be long divided, and the sooner it falls, the better.

A house without justice does not deserve to stand.
posted by rougy at 12:51 AM on May 28, 2005


Loved the dick dick dick dick's books.
glad I didn't know then what I know now.
thanks jeanne for the excellent essay Creating the Innocent Killer.
posted by pointilist at 2:16 AM on May 28, 2005


See, I found that "Innocent Killer" essay to be equally shrill and specious. Just like Card's essays that we're decrying right now, I thought it totally ignored pretty obvious moral complexities for the sake of making an exaggerated point that followed a personal agenda.
posted by LairBob at 3:55 AM on May 28, 2005


My wife really, really, really, likes Ender's Game.
She's been urging me to read it.


Let me second your wife's urging. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are very, very good sf books. I think the people here who are grudgingly calling him a halfway decent writer or whatever are letting their esthetic judgment be affected by their politics. I knew about his crazed bigotry before I read his books, but I learned a long time ago that the ability to write has nothing to do with being a decent human being -- in fact, many of my favorite writers were complete assholes. Accept that fact and get on with enjoying literature for its own sake.
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on May 28, 2005


Which fairly talented and creative writer is more dangerously bat-shit insane: Orson Scott Card or Dave Sim?

I find Dave Sim's rants entertaining and intellecually stimulating while utterly batshit insane. OSC's Ornery pieces are dull, by-the-numbers political columns with nothing new in them, but they reflect a set of beliefs held by many people in this country. Sim's delusions are more part of a personal system for the most part. So Card's more dangerous, Sim's more batshit.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:54 AM on May 28, 2005


Card was one of my favorite writers when I was in high school, but I gradually lost interest in his books when I started noticing that he had a repetitive formula that he loved to work with of putting a highly sympathetic character in a painful, unescapable situation. He did it in Ender's Game and and Alvin Maker (which I enjoyed until it got so deep into Mormon allegory that I couldn't understand it anymore).

Later, some things in his books did disturb me quite a bit. One of my friends railed against a scene in Alvin Maker where the central character heals an African American friend by using his own genetic code, which ends up lightening his skin. My friend claimed that this roughly follows an old Mormon belief that Black people were dark because they had sinned against god and that as they became more virtuous, their skin would lighten. Has anyone ever heard of this?

Another one of his more stupid bits was a book called Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus where he posits that if it had been the Indians who had crossed the oceans to meet the Europeans, they would have conquered them and killed them in a much more bloodthirsty way so it was actually a good thing that the Europeans came over first and killed them before they could get killed.

This is all roughly speaking, of course. I read those novels many years ago and haven't thought much about them since.
posted by rks404 at 7:48 AM on May 28, 2005


Interesting - googling "mormon skin color" brings up some fascinating web pages describing the debate around religion, race and changing attitudes.
Not white, not delightsome. The Curse of the Negroes
God and Skin Color
Is Skin Color a Curse From God

I don't know anything about Mormonism and can't attest to the veracity of these sites, but would be interested in hearing from anyone more knowledgable about this controversy.
posted by rks404 at 8:17 AM on May 28, 2005


Orson is spot on here.
posted by shoos at 8:49 AM on May 28, 2005


I think the fact that black people were prevented from full participation in the Mormon church until 1978 speaks for itself.
posted by euphorb at 9:42 AM on May 28, 2005


Where are these Muslims who think such riots are wrong? If they're in the majority, they're a silent majority.
posted by Sassenach at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2005


I still like Ender's Game and Atlas Shrugged, despite my view on the authors' personal politics.

One point OSC makes in the Ender books, is that it took an alien invasion/attack to unify Earth politics...an interesting idea.
posted by schyler523 at 11:35 AM on May 28, 2005


...despite my view on their respective authors' personal politics.
posted by schyler523 at 11:37 AM on May 28, 2005


Why do we let mental defectives have access to publication?
Oh, wait..yeah.
...oh, wait....oh. huh. So, people can say things then without censorship? Oh, but wait. No. Um. Oh, so confused.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:40 PM on May 28, 2005


I wrote a post earlier and Mefi crashed.. Grr..

To be honest, I don't think this piece was all that appalling, just rife with common misconceptions.

I'm much more annoyed by the current direction of the Ultimate Iron Man mini series - Tony Stark's cells are all neural cells that multiply rapidly? Isn't that like.. A body made up of brain cancer? Clever.

Can anyone answer me the following:

1. What has been the official US govt reasoning given for the "rioting" in Afghanistan?

2. What is the difference between a riot and a protest?

3. How did the people who died in Afghanistan die?

4. Why is it silly to expect people to protest against terrorists, but not government policy?
posted by Mossy at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2005


I still like Ender's Game and Atlas Shrugged, despite my view on the authors' personal politics.

I can see this with Ender's Game, but it seems to me that Atlas Shrugged is inseperable from Rand's personal politics. Do you just consider it a good story with a lot of philosophy that you don't agree with implicitly and explicitly informing every word the characters speak and every action they take?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:42 PM on May 28, 2005


My favorite bit from KOS, regarding the liberal elite living in Smartland:

Gotta say, these weird political insults are getting weaker by the month. Next we'll be called "world-threateningly handsome".
posted by fungible at 6:40 PM on May 28, 2005


Going by this essay by Orson Scott Card , I don't think he's a leftist either.

And the Islamic "homocidal maniacs with bombs" would bother Americans a lot less if the US would quit bombing, invading, conquering and occupying their countries. Remember, as far as they're concerned we're homocidal maniacs with bombers, tanks, Humvees, cruise missiles, nukes.....
posted by davy at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2005


Our reporters caused riots by reporting what really happened.

Similarly, women wearing hot miniskirts cause rape.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:30 PM on May 28, 2005



1. What has been the official US govt reasoning given for the "rioting" in Afghanistan?
2. What is the difference between a riot and a protest?
3. How did the people who died in Afghanistan die?
4. Why is it silly to expect people to protest against terrorists, but not government policy?


1. the US STATE DEPT: Afghan Riots Not Tied to Report on Quran Handling, General Says
2. riots usually involve violence and property damage etc--protests are usually more peaceful and contained by authorities.
3. i'm guessing they were shot by us or whoever we've trained to be soldiers/police there.
4. it's not silly--altho there is talk we provoked the unrest by spreading the Newsweek story in Pakistan.
posted by amberglow at 8:54 PM on May 28, 2005


Faint of Butt: Which fairly talented and creative writer is more dangerously bat-shit insane: Orson Scott Card or Dave Sim?

Fantastic question!

LairBob: Just like Card's essays that we're decrying right now, I thought it totally ignored pretty obvious moral complexities for the sake of making an exaggerated point that followed a personal agenda.

I'm not sure. I see a lot of moral complexity in Ender's Game myself, but reading the essay (if you can call it that) I wonder how much of that complexity comes from me rather than the book.

PinkStainlessTail: I find Dave Sim's rants entertaining and intellectually stimulating while utterly batshit insane. OSC's Ornery pieces are dull, by-the-numbers political columns with nothing new in them, but they reflect a set of beliefs held by many people in this country. Sim's delusions are more part of a personal system for the most part. So Card's more dangerous, Sim's more batshit.

Okay, I totally didn't expect that question to be answered... Well done!
posted by Chuckles at 9:33 PM on May 28, 2005


2. riots usually involve violence and property damage etc--protests are usually more peaceful and contained by authorities.

Here is a newspaper report - which mean it is a simplistic account of a complex event - in which we catch a glimpse of one of the ways is which a protest can become a riot. What actually happened in Afghanistan is moot. But it is easily predictable that where there are brutal police and security forces, protest will become riot, and that protest will be used in ways that the protesters themselves did not envisage. Why, it even happens in good old western democracies like the USA and France.
posted by TimothyMason at 12:35 AM on May 29, 2005


I tried very, very hard to forget the Card editorials I ran across in tenth grade. But when he pulled the whole "gay people were all molested" thing I sold all his books. I almost cried about it, but I couldn't stand to see them on my shelves anymore.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:54 AM on May 29, 2005


It's arguable that Orson Scott Card isn't the embodiment of Mormonism. That's as reductive as what Card says about the residents of "smartland."

I definitely see his increasing kookiness as some sort of attempt to reconcile some irreconcilable internal tensions. I just don't get how he makes stock use of all sorts of voyeurism, darkness, violence, etc. in his books then becomes this raging conservative in his non-fiction writing.
posted by mecran01 at 1:21 PM on May 29, 2005


Card wrote a writing guide in one of the Elements of Fiction series. I forget which one -- perhaps the sci-fi genre one. Anyway, it was good, but I remember distinctly his point about the discomforts of revealing things about yourself when you write. Just saying.

I am attempting to put the incredible egotism of another sci-fi author aside so I can honestly evaluate his work which, so far, I like. (which I simply can't do with Harlan Ellison, the tremendous egomaniacal prick that he is)
posted by dreamsign at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2005


Later, some things in his books did disturb me quite a bit. One of my friends railed against a scene in Alvin Maker where the central character heals an African American friend by using his own genetic code, which ends up lightening his skin.

Healing isn't what's going on in that scene. What Alvin does is change Stuarts genetic code so that "Finders" (who have the power to track people remotely by genetic code if they have some material -- nail clippings, hair, etc -- in their possession) can no longer track him. Alvin figures this out, and so changes some of Stuarts code to be more like his.

This is also taken to be a somewhat bitter event, as Stuart loses some of his own gifts in the process, even though he gains a hint of Alvin's.

My friend claimed that this roughly follows an old Mormon belief that (1) Black people were dark because they had sinned against god and that (2) as they became more virtuous, their skin would lighten. Has anyone ever heard of this?

I can't give you a complete historical treatment of this, but I can tell you how well this would line up with the general beliefs of the current Mormon population

#1 lines up somewhat, though it's worth mentioning that
it's not that an individual does something bad and "poof," he's brown. The idea goes that at historical points where a faithful culture and a culture antithetical to faith existed, God brought about skin color distinctions to highlight differences and discouraged the two groups from mixing. But...

#2 Almost no one believes. The Book of Mormon is replete with examples of "Lamanites" (dark-skinned descendants of the unfaithful Laman) who live more faithfully than the "Nephites" (light-skinned descendants of the faithful Nephi). By the time of the occurance of the ministration of Christ comes in the Book of Mormon, no distinction is made is made on skin color, and after the ensuing apostasy, social decay, and descent into warfare and chaos, there's no racial distinction between the two groups, only ideological. That point of arrival pretty much matches up with the cultural attitude you're likely to encounter among Mormons, and hear preached over your average LDS pulpit.
posted by weston at 8:00 PM on May 29, 2005


Something else about the essay: Card's rhetoric is hash, and like most critics surrounding the Koran desecration event, he has yet to satisfactorily explain why we bring up Muslim indiscretions and poor behavior as part of the discussion. To illustrate what, that America has a more progressive society than the Arab East? Everybody who didn't already know that, raise your hand, so the purpose isn't to inform. So what is the purpose? An attempt to excuse any of our behavior ("well, what THEY did was WAY worse")? An attempt to get us really worked up at those Muslims, so our resolve is steeled to try to change their culture and ways by military force?

However, there are some really good points in the article. Props to the readers who did the work to sift through and find them. No props to Uncle Orson for making them that much work to find.
posted by weston at 8:08 PM on May 29, 2005


Someone upstream seemed surprised to find that OSC is not a leftist. Thats absolutely correct. You have to realize first and foremost that what you are reading here has nothing to do with the author of Ender's Game. He is writing a weekly column for a newspaper about foreign affairs, not a sci-fi novel. Realize also that OSC is no mindless drone of the Mormon church. All the people who are going off on how weird the Mormon church is: I am sure he would probably agree with you on many of those things. But he was raised Mormon, and he has great respect for family and religion, very little respect for those people who attack the core values of the Heartland.

And I think we (those of us on the left) should all take a good, long look at this and his other essays. This is what the intelligent right looks like. Being a devout OSC fan (think ive read damn near every single one of his books) his political column definitely took some getting used to (ive been reading it now for a few months). But read it you should, before you dismiss him as an idiotic dick and pat yourself on the back for being so brilliant. What do you guys think some way-right flag-waving-farmer in the Heartland would think if he read a typical meta news discussion? He would take one look at it, call you all ignorant dicks and shut off his computer. And that is exactly what most of you have done here. When intelligent people who hold different opinions cannot communicate reasonablly, what has become of our democracy? It has gone to shit. Democracy is based on discussion, and I am not talking about two people who already agree sitting down to congratulate each other on how smart they are. I am talking about people working things out and being exposed to ideas they do not agree with, and still having respect for those who can explain their viewpoints logically even if you cannot come to agreement.

I can't say I agree with some of what he has to say, and I definitely think he should have done some fact-checking before he called the Koran-burning story uncorroborated. But I still respect him as both a writer and as a person. I have learned to look at things slightly differently from reading his essays, and I will continue to read them even when I don't agree with him, because we need more of that.

For those still shocked that their favorite childhood writer is a very different person than they expected, read a Salon writer's interview with him a while back, which was also discussed here on metafilter, although I can't find the link.

And finally, the sequel to Speaker for the Dead is titled Xenocide, not Xenophobe.
posted by sophist at 8:03 PM on May 30, 2005


sophist, this is not what the intelligent right looks like. OSC's screeds appeal to the same segment that Coulter's do.

And how you can possibly respect the man after his views on gays, and gay marriage... that's disgusting.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2005


And how you can possibly respect the man after his views on gays, and gay marriage... that's disgusting.

Go look at the actual article. It is clear that what he is speaking against is the power of the courts to make sweeping changes to law, without oversight from the public or democratic processes. He opposes gay marriage, yes. If that in itself is disgusting to you, then you are extremely sheltered. Just because someone opposes the institution of gay marriage does not mean they are a homophobe, and if you don't understand that then go read what he said.

I believe he is a deeply religious and moral person, although those morals may differ from yours or even my own, if you take the time to actually read what he is actually saying I think you may understand where he is coming from.
posted by sophist at 12:34 PM on May 31, 2005


He's written several articles on the topic, of varying levels of radicalism.

The dark secret of homosexual society -- the one that dares not speak its name -- is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

I agree that he's a deeply religious and moral person. I do understand where he's coming from. That doesn't mean I'll ever be non-frustrated enough to read his stuff again.
posted by Tlogmer at 6:14 PM on June 1, 2005


he was raised Mormon, and he has great respect for family and religion, very little respect for those people who attack the core values of the Heartland.

Ah, those laudable core values of the "Heartland." What are they again?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:59 PM on June 7, 2005


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