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March 19, 2003

SF professionals against the war
Posted by Teresa at 02:00 PM *

The statement:

We, as science fiction and fantasy professionals, hereby register our opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. Some of us are opposed because it is a violation of international law. Some are opposed because it is contrary to the ideals that America strives to uphold. Some think this war is simply wrong. We all call on those in power to prevent it.
Michael Swanwick is keeping the list. What you see there is just his first approximation. He’s still collecting names.
Comments on SF professionals against the war:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 05:05 PM:

"Quite simply, I'm doing this because SFWA won't."

Or, to be totally accurate, because SFWA can't.

#2 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 06:13 PM:

Just wondering.

What impediment is making it impossible for SFWA to compile and publish such a list (and, I'd presume, the obviously other list -- one that I'm
*far* more interested in seeing.)

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 06:19 PM:

SFWA is a tax-exempt organization which cannot legally take any political position.

#4 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 07:24 PM:

Untrue. It is true that 501(c)(3) non-profits (charitable, literary, and educational) are barred from political speech, and 501(c)(4) non-profits (social welfare) are mostly, but not completely barred from political speech and activity.

SFWA is neither. According to its bylaws, SFWA is a 501(c)(6) non-profit (business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, and boards of trade.) And, the IRS allows the following activities for 501(c)(6) orgs....

* Promotion of professional activities includes certification of individual credentials, advertising (e.g., 93See your dentist today.94), assisting professionals to earn higher salaries.

* Trade association activities include advertising products (93Got milk?94), helping businesses earn more profit.

* A 501(c)(6) may engage in unlimited lobbying.

* A 501(c)(6) may engage in political activity, but must pay a 35% excise tax on the total amount of its direct political expenditures.

* A 501(c)(6) may engage in the same types of charitable, educational, and literary activities permitted for a 501(c)(3).

So, if SFWA gave money to a political candidate, that amount would incurr a %35 tax. But otherwise, SFWA is not restricted in political speech. It could call for More War, Less War, or More Cheese.

This tends to work well for SWFA, which could not, for example, campaign for tougher anti-piracy laws if it were a 501(c)(3). But the statement that SFWA cannot publish a list of members without endangering it's non-profit status is untrue. At worst, they would be liable for a %35 tax on the cost of posting the list on a website, but that's very, very doubtful.


#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 08:38 PM:

"But the statement that SFWA cannot publish a list of members without endangering it's non-profit status is untrue."


But the call is not for publishing a list of members; rather it is to take a particular position as an organization. Which it cannot do.

Even if it were possible to find a position which both Michael Swanwick and Jerry Pournelle would sign off on.

#6 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 09:38 PM:

The organization *as a whole* could, if it so chose, take the position that the Iraqi War is bad for the publication of SF&F, and choose to list authors who agree with that statement. This sort of political activity is *specfically allowed* to 501(c)(6) organizations.

Of course, SFWA won't, for the exact and correct reason you listed.

But, we're back to my point. SFWA is able, but unwilling, to do so.

And, for the record, I happen to think it is almost certainly wise that SFWA chooses not to do so. However, in my limited dealings with SFWA, I fully support any proposition that Plunges All SFWA Into War. (As if that's hard.)

#7 ::: Sam ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 03:54 AM:

if only heinlein were alive.

#8 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 06:28 AM:

Those of us who are members in good standing of SFWA know that the organization does NOT have a political stance that is monolithic. I join other groups for that. SFWA takes stances on writerly issues.

Besides, a strong and outspoken fourth of our membership (at a guess) is not anti-war. Should we kick them out of a writer's organization because we disagree with their politics?

I didn't join the Writer's Union lo these many years ago, because there was a leftwing line on writer's issues I was asked to uphold. (At least in our local cell.) And though I am left wing, and have credentials that go back to the 60s!) it did not seem to me that a writer's union that would not allow dissent, discussion, or even witheld membership to those who disagreed with its political agendas was a group I wanted to align myself with.

Ditto SFWA. It gets into real world politics, I get out.

Jane

#9 ::: Ry Cscn ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 10:12 AM:

t's dsppntng thng t s tlntd bnch f SF prfssnls dsplyng th sm lvl f wsdm s hllywd ctrs nd pp mscns.

frnkl dn't gv ft rts ptt wht ny f ths ppl thnk bt th crrnt pltcl sttn. Th nt ffct n th rl wrld s lss thn zr. Ths srvs nl t prch t th cnvrtd, nd lts ths ppl dsply thr 'frk flg' s lk mnds cn bsk n th glw f grng wth thr fvrt thr.

f ny f ths SF prfssnls thnk tht thy cn nflnc szbl nmbr f ppl frm thr xtrml lmtd bll plpt, thy hv hghl nfltd sns f slf-mprtnc.

rrl hv prblms wth thrs xprssng pltcl thghts n thr wrk; n fct t cn b mst njybl n SF cntxt. Ths llws m t rd wth plsr th pltcll tngd wrks f Kn McLd, J Hldmn, Ptr F. Hmltn, Jrry Prnll, nd Rbrt . Hnln.

nl whn 'm brwbtn wth pltcl dgm, .. th ncssnt "Mn bd, Wmn gd" prchng f Shr S. Tppr's ltr wrks, s my ntrst n bk dvrtd.

S d s ll fvr SF prfssnls… kp yr pltcl thghts nd pnns n crrnt vnts n yr wrks f fctn whr w cn njy thm rgrdlss f r wn pnns. thrws, kp thm wthn yr wn ncrsngl nslr cmmnty whr y cn ll pt yrslvs n th bck fr bng s mch smrtr thn th nwshd msss.

Fnlly, d ny f ths thrs knw nyn wh hs lvd ndr th rl f Sddm Hssn? Hv ny f thm vn spkn wth smn wh hs sffrd ndr hs Bthst rgm? f thy hd, prhps thy wld rlz tht mllns f nncnt rqs cn't wt fr r mltry t lbrt thm frm yrs f pprssn.

Th nl qstn hv fr ths SF prfssnls s ths: Wll thy ss n plgy f mllns f rq ctzns r lbrtd wth mnml lss f cvln lf?

Chrs,

Ry

#10 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 10:36 AM:

Besides, a strong and outspoken fourth of our membership (at a guess) is not anti-war. Should we kick them out of a writer's organization because we disagree with their politics?

Of course not. I've never said anything like that. What I objected to was Mr. Macdonald's assertion that SFWA *could not* publish such a list. SFWA could, if it chose, do so, without endagering non-profit status. If SWFA felt that the war was endangering (or would support) the business of writing SF&F, they could take whatever political steps they felt needed to try and prevent/support that war. This is not only not wrong, this is exactly what 501(c)(6) organizations were envisioned doing. The only caveat is that they are liable for a %35 excise tax on direct political expenditures.

And, as I said, I think it's *wise* that they chose not to do so. I also hold Mr. Macdonald in very high respect, merely disagreeing on one factual point.

It's a disappointing thing to see a talented bunch of SF professionals displaying the same level of wisdom as hollywood actors and pop musicians.

And it's so typical of the fascist right that anyone who dares disagree with them is deserving of nothing but contempt, at best.

Which is why, of course, we're merly freaks for not slavishly following a selected president into a war which will only decrease the security of the US, at the cost of almost every single one of our allies.

Cheers,

Ray

Go to hell. I reject your pretense at civility -- your text clearly shows you have none.

#11 ::: Ray Ciscon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 11:41 AM:

Ouch!

Gee Erik, you really put me in my place. I've never been called a fascist before, so coming from someone as civil as you, I'll take that as a compliment.

It's good to see that people can disagree with you and receive respect and civility. You are not at all like those neaderthals on the right who would damn to the underworld any who don't toe their political line.

Sincerely,

Ray

#12 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 03:49 PM:

One thing about which I do agree with Ray is the unspoken assumption that presenting the list in terms of We Are SF Writers Against The War is more meaningful in and of itself than We Are Individual Citizens Against The War.

I feel the same way about entertainment celebrities. Just because you're famous doesn't make your political position inherently more valid than anyone else's.

You may now return to your bickering.

#13 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 03:58 PM:

I second Rachel's motion.

I also want to add that by defining one's affiliations in such a way thereby implies that ALL members of that group are of the same mind. Not all SF writers are anti-war, any more than all journalists are biased.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Yes, Holly.

Rachel, if it doesn't matter, why bother to argue about it?

Mr. Cscn, I'll allow lame sarcasm as long as you don't make a habit of it; thus the survival of your second comment.

#15 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 03:30 AM:

In my experience, anyone who has to resort to cutesy punctuation tricks or pretentious spellings to get attention generally doesn't have anything to say worth hearing, and even if they do, I don't have the patience to put up with it.

As for why anyone should pay attention to X-against-the-war or Y-for-it, there are certain professions--notably all facets of the arts, but also such professions as teachers, soldiers and the clergy--where the trade-off for generally low wages and insecure job futures is a certain amount of societal respect and celebrity. That can be traded on, and as such, pronouncements from authors, actors, priests, teachers, police, soldiers and so on (especially highly decorated ones) hold more weight than do the opinions of mechanics, accountants or greengrocers.

Such respect is also why you see "Mothers for this" and "Grannies against that."

You can, of course, discount the moral authority of any of these groups, but it doesn't change the fact that society as a whole does listen to them. It's almost atavistic. "Science Fiction Professionals" is code for "bards," and "grannies" is code for "wisewomen."

If the bards and wisewomen decry a war, it is an ill omen indeed.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 07:47 AM:

Kevin, if you're referring to Ray's disemvowelled state, you must acquit him of any cutesy intent; it wasn't his idea.

#17 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 11:56 AM:

What happened then? Was he mugged by rampaging Hawaiians? Or fell prey to a Welsh spellchecker?

#18 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:24 PM:

Okay, sorry, I have to snicker at the Welsh spellchecker remark.

#19 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 02:27 PM:

Kevin: local custom hereabouts is that when comments get too rude and/or confrontational and/or inflammatory, thy tnd t ls vwls. Lk ths.

It seems to have a salutory effect on the trolls, of whichever species.

#20 ::: Jennie ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 03:32 PM:

As for why anyone should pay attention to X-against-the-war or Y-for-it, there are certain professions--notably all facets of the arts, but also such professions as teachers, soldiers and the clergy--where the trade-off for generally low wages and insecure job futures is a certain amount of societal respect and celebrity.

Teachers get societal respect? Teachers get celebrity? Dear heaven, Kevin, where do you live? Where I'm from, the vast majority of the population seems to regard them as little better than overpaid babysitters!

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