Saturday, December 31, 2016

Call and Irresponsibility: Online Censorship and Attacks on Gay Authors

As we dive butt-first into a new year, I was going to repost one of the lovely retro New Year's Eve scenes from my past two books, Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love

But you'll have to check my older posts, or read the books themselves, to enjoy those. It's not that I'm being cautious, but more justifiably outraged by the level of Orwellian idiocy now taking place when authors dare to share their political views.

The simple act of publishing one's thoughts and opinions these days has taken on an absurd level of what I term 'call and irresponsibility.'

Author Kevin Sessums achieved headline news when his post critiquing Trump supporters was only hours later deleted, and his use of Facebook withheld by the bot-like underlings of the social media behemoth.

An excerpt of Sessums comments:
“Matthew Dowd who holds Trump and his followers to the standards of any other politician and hers. But as those who do hold Trump to the standards of any other person have found out on Twitter and other social media outlets these Trump followers are a nasty fascistic lot. Dowd is lucky he didn’t get death threats like Kurt Eichenwald. Or maybe he did and refuses to acknowledge them. If you voted for Trump and continue to support him and you think you are better than these bigoted virulent trolls, you’re not. Your silence enables them just as it did in the racist campaign that Trump and Bannon ran. In fact, hiding behind a civilized veneer in your support of fascism I consider more dangerous. We’re past describing you as collaborators at this point. That lets you off the hook. You’re Russo-American oligarchical theocratic fascists.”

Sorry he used such big words, Trumpies. But it's a fact; not that you deal in facts anymore.

That Sessums is an award-winning author and veteran editor had no bearing for the drone-censors of Facebook. Fortunately, his notoriety gained him attention, outcry from friends and fans, and his ability to post on Facebook was restored.

But even comments about the censorship got censored. As yet another colleague, actor-director David Drake wrote, "they fucked with the wrong faggot," even he got censored.

AIDS activist and ACT UP alum of note Peter Staley, who dated Sessums years ago, bluntly replied, "Fascist faggot! (These two words seem to be very risky here.) You going to block me too, Facebook?"

Staley is no stranger to daring risks made to put forth a bold statement. He's prominently featured in the film and book, How to Survive a Plague, and was an inspirational compatriot in the 80s and 90s ACT UP days.

"This might become the new normal if we don't fight back," Staley reminds us. "Trumpsters will file complaints with FB to get us blocked, and FB won't defend us unless we raise bloody hell. I'm asking my friends who work at Facebook to please investigate this stupid decision."

That he defies the status quo, and the technocractic dictatorship of social media, is admirable, and he doesn't have to worry about being censored, for now. Like Sessums, the attention gained from his being censored only makes his point more clearly.

Wrote Sessums: "This is getting truly Orwellian and even though Orwell warned us about overusing the term 'fascist' we are entering an era in America than can only be described with such a term. Now will the Orwellian darkness deepen and will I once more will be banned for quoting someone quoting me about my first being banned last night? Resist."

But a friend of Staley's, Scott McCoy, replied to his comment with a truth: 

"Remember that you are communicating on a corporation's proprietary communications platform. You have no freedom of speech here. In fact, Facebook owns everything you post here and you consented to that when you created your profile. We are now living in an era where a huge portion of our speech takes place on social media owned and controlled by someone else."

So, absurdly slanted reviews about your art aren't yours, and neither are they the property of the attacker or critic. And neither is the text of this post which I wrote. Got it?

Author David Ehrenstein puts it eloquently in his latest blog post:

 Orwellian” is what Roland Barthes would call “an exhausted signifier.” Far more apropos is Gilliamesque, as in comic absurdity the likes of which are depicted in his film Brazil.

Slate's William Saletan puts it bluntly: the only enemies Trump sees are Americans.

"Why would a man who has just been elected president attack his countrymen this way?" wrote Saletan. "One reason is Trump’s petulance. Another is his defensiveness: He got only 46 percent of the popular vote, trailing Clinton’s 48 percent. But there’s a third reason, and it’s more serious: Trump lacks the grace and wisdom to transcend old battles. After the Republican primaries, he couldn’t stop ridiculing his vanquished rivals. (Thursday night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he bragged again about his victory margins in the primaries.) Now he’s doing the same to everyone he beat in the general election. The nominee who couldn’t unite his party has become a president-elect who can’t unite his country."

So are we supposed to unite behind this petulant jerk, after eight years of his supporters maligning President Obama with racist, homophobic and misinformed hatred for a man who has been valued worldwide as one of the greatest presidents in modern history?

Saletan once again: "Trump is a man of low character. He showed this throughout his campaign, and he has continued to behave this way as president-elect. Having such a man as president poses moral, cultural, and legal problems."

How we are supposed to just ignore this, abstain from critique and shut the heck up under Trumpist threats?

But even before the Trump nightmare began, other gay authors have repeatedly been censored.

Perry Brass couldn't even get the book cover of his novel on Facebook without censorship struggles. Four years ago, posts about his book The Manly Art of Seduction got banned merely for its title.

“They gave me no warning and I have received nothing from them to explain what they have done,” Perry Brass told Gay City News. Brass’ book was banned four years ago, with the company telling him that the word “seduction” was not allowed on Facebook. A search on that word on Facebook produces many pages for books, nightclubs, magazine articles, and other content that use “seduction” in their names or titles."

Brass still has a page about another of his 19 books, King of Angels. But the hypocrisy of a random complainer being allowed to dictate what is or isn't allowed remains problematic for authors like Brass.

And on the blogging front, recently, prolific gay author Dennis Cooper had his entire archive of posts deleted with no recourse, until repeated complaints and demands got it restored. 

But for us little folks, who don't get The New Yorker or major publishing industry representatives to take up our cause, the preemptive problem is self-censorship. Shall we cower in fear and not type what we want to?

This may be just the beginning. Trump reps, like the harpy-like Kellyanne Conway, have warned critics that they will be 'dealt with', that they 'need to be careful' what they say about this bloviating, tweet-addicted puppet of the alt-right, aka fascists. She also absurdly attacked those who want to "delegitimize" Drumpf's fraudulent Russia-aided 'victory.'

But sorry, Trump himself delegitimizes himself with every word. As always on-target comic Patton Oswalt tweeted, in response to Trump's divisive New Year's Eve hate-tweet, "This sounds like something The Joker would say right before releasing a swarm of killer bees into Gotham."

Books, covered
In publishing, authors who speak their minds, pro- or anti-Trump, get attacked, or in one absurd case, hugely profitable book deals.

After a gay couple, Daniel Goldstein and Matthew Lasner, were kicked off a plane for telling Ivanka Trump that her father was "destroying our country," rightwing trolls flew to the Internet to not only hound the author-professor and lawyer as a pair of "gay moonbats." They published their address and phone numbers. They demanded that they both be fired from their jobs, and many (allegedly) maliciously trolled the review section of his book listing with insipid plane-related puns to drive his book into negative-review purgatory. Those troll reviews seem to have since been removed.

Granted, some disagree with the way the Trump's daughter was scolded, and tweeting about doing so exempts one from privacy. Others say, "So what? She's shilling her jewelry on TV. She's been default-bumped up to faux-First Lady." But WTF were they doing in coach on JetBlue?
Fascist clown Milo

To be fair, the actions, not the books, of Lasner are the point. And even rightwing fascists get censored, sometimes. Milo Yiannopoulos, a loudmouthed obstreperous gay professional blatherer, got banned from Twitter for fomenting hatred and supporting an anti-transgender, white supremacist attitude. He basically incited bigotry, allegedly.

But that didn't stop Out magazine from giving plenty of page space for the bad dye-job one-man machine of vitriol. 

Simon and Schuster publishers just inked a $250,000 deal to let this jerk rant further in a book he has yet to write.

From EW: "Among other exploits, Yiannopoulos is known for orchestrating a racist online harassment campaign against Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, and subsequently being slapped with a permanent ban from Twitter.

Many authors, including some who have contracts with Simon & Schuster, have condemned the deal. “I’m looking at my @simonschuster contract, and unfortunately there’s no clause for ‘what if we decide to publish a white nationalist,'” Danielle Henderson tweeted.
“This is a major bummer to me as one of your gay authors,” wrote Tim Federle.
Almost immediately, book review publications have vowed to not only pass on this Milo creature, but also have stated their refusal to review any Simon & Schuster books.

The Chicago Review of Books denounced the book deal as a "disgusting validation of hate."

Is this a justified blanket refusal, or obstinate censorship? Nobody in publishing is preventing Milo from shooting off his foul mouth. He's been given ample opportunities, other than a few canceled university speeches, where he incites protests and acrimony. 

Opponents just choose to ignore and resist it. More than 400 advertisers have abandoned the fake news rightwing website Brietbart, where Milo's an "editor." But of course, the question comes to mind, why the heck were they advertising there in the first place?

I'm thinking about the authors who will never be published by the likes of Simon & Schuster, say, 25 who deserve a $10,000 advance, or 250 who would be happy with a $1000 advance. Just like any indie author, S & S can choose to publish whatever they want. And we are free to choose not to patronize them.

This year, we have lost dozens of artists and celebrities who made our culture so much fun - David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael and many more. And as we mourn the loss of artists and people who inspired us, we also mourn the loss of logic, justice, reason and civil public discourse. 

The illusion of a just republic has been shattered by bigoted buffoons and cartoonish villains. We either resist, or we become the subjects of another comic book panel in this ongoing dark and ugly fascist farce.

1 comment:

  1. What a story: things get weirder and more awful than even I have thought. The real shit sandwich is that Simon & Schuster is going to pay Milo Yiannopoulos a quarter mil bucks for being . . . what? I guess Random House is getting desperate for the next Ann Coulter, even if he comes with queer balls. In the immortal words of Kathy Griffin: "He can suck my dick!" Maybe Milo is simply the love child of Peter Thiel and Donald Trump: in that case, send him back to nursery school. Perry Brass, author of The Manly Art of Seduction, and the Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love.