“George Lucas is a Sith.” Of course this is absurd. If someone says that, you’d laugh. You’d laugh hard. If you thought they were serious, at minimum you’d give them a funny look. If they persisted, you’d probably debate them, if you’re the debating type. Wait; I am the debating type. So what does John L Clemmer think about that?
Let’s take a look at it. If a fictional character, especially a villain in a movie believes bad things, are those beliefs those of the director? Is the director trying to change your view to that of the villain? Well, maybe, but that seems like a stretch, except in relatively rare cases where empathizing with the villain is intentional. It’s usually not. That should be obvious. I guess it’s not, for some people.
To be fair, some people like the Empire. Hey, I admit I kinda like the Empire. We may like Vader, and even the Emperor, perhaps because of the “cool badass factor” (I guess?). The Empire is impressive and powerful. But even when someone likes the character of a villain that doesn’t mean they believe what that character does. It surely doesn’t mean the writer, producer, or director does. Think about it. If you empathize with, or even like a Nazi character in a film that in no way means you want to go out and commit genocide. If you “like the Empire” or ironically have fun with the idea that the Empire were the good guys, that doesn’t make you a fascist.
To think people are so simplistic that they get wrapped up in a fictional character’s view of the world and take that as their personal ideology and will act on it… is very strange. But the Empire is a major part of that universe. There is no sane conclusion that you are a Sith because you like the Empire. What about the case where it’s just one character who is evil? And that character clearly is not the protagonist? What if that character is clearly the villain?
If the villain in my books believes some awful things, and promotes some unpleasant ideas, why would that mean that I do? Again, the character is the villain. The character isn’t John L Clemmer. I don’t wake up in the morning with the plans, schemes, hopes and dreams of the bad guys in my books. Does someone really believe that? Do you really believe that? It doesn’t make sense to think that. At all.
Consider the Following
Consider all the science fiction out there. Is there a cohort of writers I’m a member of who are creating evil characters that embody the same viewpoints we hold in real life? Is it some secret propaganda that’s supposed to be subtle? How subtle do I have to be before I’ve gone too far in that direction and it doesn’t work? What if I make a comment suggesting I feel one way and not the other. Could it be a joke? Probably. What if I’m not the one making the comment, and the commenter misunderstood my intent?
“Hmm, what is this author John L Clemmer getting at here?” you might say. I’d like to think I’m a good writer, but that’s some masterful work for me to plant an idea, presented by the bad guy, and have that be effective when it’s not even clear that the idea is supposed to be seen in a positive light. I’ll note that when I present ideas or worldviews of various characters, I do want my readers to think about them. And think carefully. I do have the bad guys present political and social ideas that contrast with what’s mainstream. If I’m crafting a dystopian world, part of what makes it uncomfortable for the reader is the introduction of an environment that’s disturbing and notably different from what the reader might be comfortable with.
Ideas in fiction can be persuasive, sure. But you need to look at context, and how much persuasion, if any, is there. I challenge anyone to make the case that I want an authoritarian state with reduced civil rights, that’s ruled by evil rogue AIs. That’s just stupid.
What About Real Life?
What about in real life? What if someone says things you don’t like? What if they don’t appreciate your point of view. Well, stating some set of facts doesn’t mean someone feels a certain way about those facts. Even if the facts are… not ones you agree with. Ones that make you uncomfortable. Things you don’t want to accept. If something is objectively true and you don’t like it, hating someone else for it is unreasonable. Hating them and calling them a racist propagandist or fascist is libel. It’s stupid too, to libel them just because they might have political positions different than yours. Someone’s opinions on what level of immigration is currently desirable aren’t racist. Especially if the assertion is just to stop immigration, without specifying from where. And some anonymous posts on the Internet that someone claims are mine aren’t just racist because you say they are.
And suppose these libelous assertions about me, author John L Clemmer aren’t even proven? Just inferences? What then? What if some were and some weren’t? Even if some were true, what if the statements were private conversations and aren’t indicative of his behavior in public? Ever? In his public life in any way? Does a passing thought on eugenics, a historical reference in a novel, or a joke about it, make someone a eugenicist?
It was part of history. All this is part of history. It informs our lives, and especially Science Fiction. Classic SF authors are known for their non-PC humor, aren’t they? And again, non-PC jokes in private are private. Without context you know nothing. You just have a pile of words. From anonymous posts. That might be more than one person. That likely are more than one person. And if you never ask but lash out first, how would you know?
You probably see where I’m coming from by now. So, you say: “What does Clemmer think about all this policing of public (and now private) speech?” Well, Regarding my novels, again, remember these are works of science fiction! I’m an author. Look, the things I state in the books as how that world is, aren’t always true in the real world! Look, it’s Science Fiction. Anything can be true in the world the author created. It’s his or her universe. I’d think that would go without saying. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Don’t agree with the worldview of the characters? They’re made up. Not real. I’m not sure an AI can be racist, anyway.
“George Lucas is a fascist because the Empire yadda yadda” is a pretty dumb take, don’t you think?
Again, what about activities in the real world? What if I want to foment change in an organization? Say I join the Libertarian party. (Well, rejoin it.) What if Mr. John L Clemmer has a plan. He sees room for improvement. So, he tries to fit in with the current positions of the party, to be accepted, and then later make changes from within? What if my positions on immigration don’t match the group’s, but perhaps do align with a plurality of the electorate’s?
Without context and understanding what someone is trying to achieve, you aren’t being fair in maligning them for being part of an organization.
Let’s think about it. Just because someone knows someone who knows someone that doesn’t mean the person agrees with the last person or should “disavow” because of some distant degree of separation. If John Lee Clemmer’s best friend’s brother is an awful person, does John have to get rid of his best friend? Why? He tolerates this brother perhaps because they are like an extended family. Would we seriously consider telling him to “disavow” and break it off with his own family? Well, sometimes, perhaps, but just because of what this guy’s brother thought or said? Not because of any criminal act? Seems very odd and selfish. And short-sighted. I’d be more inclined to give advice and set a good example.
Suppose, hypothetically, that I associate with people you hate. In a group, even. Look, I can agree with some things a group, organization, or political party has ideas on, without agreeing with all of it. Not agreeing with every position every member has is expected. That’s the nature of groups. Some members may not be as good a person as I am. That doesn’t make me a bad person. Trying to steer a group in a better direction makes me a good person.
It’s an irrational position that all groups are homogenous and everyone thinks (or has to think) the same way. Promoting some of the good ideas a group has doesn’t equal propaganda. It wouldn’t make me a propagandist. It’s kind of insulting and unrealistic and dogmatic, aggressively asserting someone agrees and supports the positions of a group, and if they don’t, they have some obligation to bail out and “disavow”? An outside demand from some aggressive attacker shouldn’t have that sort of weight.
Differences of opinion should be acceptable within an organization, and you shouldn’t have to bend to the will of some outsider. What if you’re trying to create positive change in that group? Are you not allowed to try to make that change?
Trying to create positive change by being active somewhere and supporting that group likely means that there is something negative that you want to change. You have to jump in and try to effect that change. Attacking from the outside isn’t an effective way to foment change. Are left-wing groups having huge success attacking right-wing groups that way?
Not asking someone what they believe before just jumping to conclusions is small-minded and disingenuous. You’ve pre-judged them based on what you’ve seen and deduced. What if you’re wrong? Until you have an in-depth conversation with someone, I’d suggest you’re likely wrong. Casual conversation, statements without context, and jokes, especially on the Internet, are very easy to misinterpret. No matter what you think you know, no matter what it looks like, you can’t know unless you engage in honest and open communication and find out what’s in someone’s mind.
“Well, this Clemmer guy sure sounded nasty when he said that thing.” Did I say it to you? Oh, you saw an out of context snippet on the Internet. That’s attributed to me with only circumstantial evidence. By inference. Great. So now I’m guilty of wrongthink and an evil man because of things you think I said. Do you even have the right person? Is that me? Can you be sure? No, because it’s the Internet. Anonymous posts can pretend to be anyone.
Finally, if you don’t agree with someone, does that mean it’s OK to attack them? Are they clones of everyone they know? Must they have the same views as everyone they associate with? If some people they know, and perhaps aren’t even friends with, just have views you hate, does that make them a bad person just for knowing these other people? This is clearly guilt by association. You can tolerate different viewpoints, and have to, the larger your social group is. Perhaps I’m more tolerant, thanks to my background, in associating with people I don’t agree with one hundred percent on everything. I’m likely to even associate with people that have views that would never fly with the population in general. People with challenging and different ideas are part of the rich tapestry of experience.
This current obsession and worry with people getting “sucked in” or “influenced” is just authoritarian suppression of speech and writing. I do miss the old days when you could be anonymous on the Internet and say literally anything you wanted. Sure, it was harsh. It was sometimes vile. It was disturbing. But this coddling on the one hand, and aggressive suppression on the other hand, disturbs me greatly. It’s a failure of parenting and of schooling that might be leading us here. I’ll leave that analysis for another post, I think.
John L Clemmer on Hate Speech
“John Clemmer supports hate speech! I knew it!” Um, no. I don’t even agree with the concept of hate speech. We already have laws for that. Inciting violence is already covered. And so on. This idea of hate speech and that it should be attacked… well, the attackers are often using the same sort of hate speech. They get away with it because public opinion or perception of what’s acceptable are, for the moment, on their side. This sort of legislation and aggressive attacking of unpopular speech can be used to suppress dissent. If you don’t like an idea, don’t attack the person stating that idea with libel and slander. That leads down a darker path than you know.
If someone says some things that make you uncomfortable, how is it OK to smear them online because they have viewpoints you don’t agree with? Or even viewpoints you feel are offensive? I was a long-time listener of Neal Boortz, and despite him being from a very different generation, some of his views really resonated with me and still do to this day. “You don’t have a right not to be offended” is one of them. If the speech of John Lee Clemmer offends you, the appropriate response should not be to try to ruin his life.
If the writing of science fiction author John L Clemmer disturbs you, don’t read it. Speak your own views positively. Don’t try to drag someone down with name calling. And if you don’t like who you say they associate with? Why is that any of your business? Are you the National Enquirer? Leave people and their private lives alone. Don’t malign and defame them because of what you think. Thugs. Bullies. In the city of Atlanta the urbanite bullies might hold sway. In someplace like Smyrna people might be more inclined to feel a different way. People out at UGA might feel differently.
Guilt by association is childish and stupid. If someone has views you hate, you should grow up and accept that some people don’t think the way you do. Instead, you hate them and they’re evil because of their beliefs? So by that logic it’s OK to try to wreck their life? No. That’s a terrible worldview. It’s vicious, malicious, and morally repugnant. Don’t like someone’s beliefs? Present your own beliefs and argue why those beliefs are good and right and worthy of respect.
Hiding behind anonymity yourself and attacking someone with flyers sent to their neighbors, and put all over the cars at their office? Without ever talking to the person you are attacking, even briefly? Wow. That’s really evil.
Finally, if you don’t agree with someone, does that mean it’s OK to attack them? Are they clones of everyone they know? So by that logic is it OK to try to wreck their life? No. That’s a terrible worldview.
(To reiterate, author John L Clemmer does not believe George Lucas is a Sith…)
Cross-posted to https://johnlclemmer.com/about-me
Check out the latest blog posts by author John L Clemmer here.