On being boycotted

• July 28th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Story-telling

A reader (John) disliked my recent post about the Trayvon Martin case, saying that my summaries are missing some key points.  ‘Ugh,’ he begins!  He says he enjoyed Dark Eden but doubts if he’ll read any of my other books, and he advises me to keep my opinions to myself:

I have never understand why athletes, public figures and those that depend on the support of a broad audience interject their political/cultural opinions into the public arena.  They just anger 50% of people who may otherwise purchase their product.

Two things about this I found a bit depressing.

Firstly, the idea that I should conceal my views on politics and culture in order to get people to ‘purchase my product’, particularly since my ‘product’ itself deals with politics and culture.  I find that a bit ‘ugh.’

Secondly, the idea that we should avoid the work of writers whose political or cultural views we disagree with.  A book that hugely impressed me when I first read it as a teenager was Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the book about a libertarian lunar society whose motto was TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch).  I didn’t agree then, and I don’t now, with Heinlein’s Tea Partyish politics, but it didn’t stop me appreciating, and wanting to emulate, the brilliance of the world-building.

One of the first accolades I received for Dark Eden was the book being selected as the ‘Big Read’ for the Greenbelt festival, and being asked to go there and give a talk about it.  This is a Christian festival, and I made no secret of the fact that I am not a Christian, but people were still interested in what I had to say about the Eden story, even though it obviously meant very different things to them than it does to me.  And God bless them for it!

*   *   *

In fairness to John, though, when I look back at my post, I can see it is unbalanced.   Clearly there was some kind of fight or scuffle between Trayvon and the man who shot him, and I can see that, given the bizarre context of a country where it is okay to carry a gun, it is possible to argue that self-defence was a factor in the shooting.

But why not also, then, in the case of Marissa Alexander, who fired a shot which didn’t even hit anyone?  Of course I don’t know the detail of the cases, but I find it hard to imagine any additional detail that would justify a twenty year sentence in the latter case, if a complete acquittal was justified in the former.

There are many studies that show how, in predominantly white societies, the behaviour of black people is much more negatively connoted than the same behaviour by white people.  Look at this video which compares the reactions of passers-by to a young white man who appears to be stealing a bike, and then to a young black man doing exactly the same.

5 comments on “On being boycotted”

  1. Colin Gavaghan says:

    Hi Chris,

    Although I’m not an expert in Florida law, I have taught criminal law here in NZ for 4 years, including a module on self-defence. As you can probably imagine, I’ve found myself a wee bit exasperated by some of the media reporting on the legal aspect of the Zimmerman trial. I’d be happy to explain those if you’re interested, but it may be a bit dull & detailed for present purposes. But to summarise very briefly, I’d say the problem does not lie with Florida self-defence law (which is pretty standard in international terms), but with a paranoid, gun-saturated culture.

    Wrt the Alexander case, I don’t think the facts have been publicised to the same extent, but one transparent – and rather grisly – difference between the two was the presence of a prosecution witness who could refute the defendant’s version of events. It’s a horrible irony that, had Marissa Alexander killed her ex, she may have had a better chance of securing an acquittal.

    Another thing that strikes me is the great capacity for grotesque unfairness that follows when minimum sentencing laws exist.

    I hope you appreciate this post, otherwise I’ll be sticking all of your books straight onto eBay. 😉

  2. Chris says:

    Yes, I can see that (a) a gun culture (b) minimum sentencing laws do both contribute here, Colin. Self-defence more likely to be lethal. Long sentences more likely if there’s a guilty verdict.

  3. Cat Vincent says:

    It must be said, however, that Greenbelt folk are the nicest, most inclusive bunch of Christians I ever met. My wife, the artist Kirsty Hall, ran their art show for two years – making no secret of her Pagan beliefs. It was not even the slightest issue to them.

  4. Chris says:

    The ones I met seemed pretty nice to me, Cat! But then, some of my best friends are Christians!

  5. TW says:

    You really cant compare the two cases.

    Without spending too much time, it boils down to this:

    The evidence presented in court seems to indicate in one case deadly force was used to stop an assault, and in the other it was used to stop an argument.

    BTW reading some of the evidence not presented by the media in the Alexander case…I am leery of saying she fired a “warning shot”, I’d almost say she was just a terrible shot. With that said, it doesnt seem to matter because under Florida law, a “warning shot” seems to have no legal difference than actually shooting with intent to injure.

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