No More Memory Holes

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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August 28, 2015

So remember how Sasquan decided that even though Lou Antonelli violated their Code of Conduct they weren’t going to enforce the Code of Conduct because David Gerrold didn’t want them to?  Turns out that Gerrold wasn’t the only one feeling harassed and intimidated–and he wasn’t the only one to report it.

Meg Frank, the Events Deputy Division Head also reported same against Lou Antonelli and was told by the head of operations, Robbie Bourget, that she had not been harassed and one of the vice-chairs, Glenn Glazer, attempted to guilt her into backing down.  Instead of backing down, Meg Frank resigned a week before the convention.  Frank has provided a PDF of emails to back up her assertions.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not.  Here are a some screencaps from the Journeymen of Fandom group on Facebook in which it is clear that Robbie Bourget sees the rehabilitation of offenders back into community as a higher priority than attendee safety:

bourget 1

bourget 2

And here’s Glenn Glazer defending Robbie Bourget when she comes in for some criticism in the same thread. He is clearly putting his personal alliances and friendships over that of the convention. If he doesn’t know you, your opinion and experience are irrelevant.

glazer 1

Edited to add: If you’re interested in the full context: Facebook discussion.  If you’re not Facebook-enabled: screencap (right click and open in a new tab/window). Since someone was complaining about that (screencap–again, right click, open in new tab/window).

Oh, but Sasquan is over and done with! There isn’t anything to be upset about!

Not true.  Both these individuals are heavily involved in con-running and they have the potential to sidetrack and hijack the enforcement of Codes of Conduct in favor of offender rehabilitation in the future.  Robbie Bourget was co-chair of Anticipation, the last Worldcon held in Montreal (note her co-chair). And this is what she had to say in 2012 on the SMOFS mailing list on the subject of harassment and codes of conduct (click to embiggen):

And lest we forget, someone just last year thought this was appropriate to send to the the Sasquan mailing list when they were trying to figure out what their Code of Conduct should be–that someone felt that they could send this to the mailing list speaks to the general mindset of the organizers (click to embiggen):

sasquan mailing list harassment

 

So, yeah. This is a thing. I have no idea how to remedy it except that we can’t keep letting these incidents be forgotten. We can’t be complacent and we can’t pretend that there’s no responsibility to the membership outside of legal requirements. I do recognize and understand that running a convention is a lot of work and is often thankless. But the safety of the members should be one of the top priorities of the convention committee and I simply cannot understand why–so often–it isn’t.

No more memory holes.

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22 Comments

  1. Jude

    And Bourget proves YET AGAIN that “legal definitions” are useless in terms of removing missing stairs from a community. She claims to be “trained” in recognizing harassment and abuse, and yet, as far as I can tell, her “recognition” is entirely based on a legal definition of evidence and proof, and is therefore completely ignoring the actual human toll serial harassers inflict.

    Bet she’d tell a woman to her face that she couldn’t possibly have been raped because there’s no evidence.

  2. Beth N.

    @Jude I thought the same thing. A code of conduct is not, and shouldn’t be, identical to the law; otherwise, why have a code of conduct at all? I don’t envy a con com’s need to deal with harassment that doesn’t leave a trail of evidence that would stand up in court, but it IS a need.

  3. Sigrid

    I am :head-tilting: at this whole situation for a couple of reasons. I find myself in conflict with myself.

    1. I believe with all my heart that the convention must serve most people most of the time as best it can.

    2. I believe that most people are acting in good faith as far as they see it.

    3. I believe that when competing claims are set before a committee, said committee must select a method of assessing and arbitrating those claims.

    4. I believe that conventions are not courts, they do not have trained investigative arms, nor is there a canon or common law. Conventions have culture and precedent and rules and history.

    5. … culture and precedent are often dependent on interpersonal relationships and reputation.

    I don’t think it is right or just or fair to arbitrate harassment and/or safety claims based on interpersonal relationships and reputations.

    I do not believe any convention of which I have personal experience is trained or equipped to start running on a legal model right now, immediately, as we speak.

    If we want* to transition to a legal model, what are we going to do in the meantime? How is the interim to be handled?

    It’s one thing to say that Robbie and Glenn treated Meg badly. I think they did. I am appalled that Meg was forced to resign because Worldcon did not take her statements seriously.

    … But, oh, dear gods, I’m not completely certain that I would have done better were I in their shoes. I hope I would. I like to think I would do better. I like to think I would support and back up someone who felt unsafe by Antonelli SWATTing Worldcon. I like to think I would take the right stand.

    But.

    But if Person I Have Known For Twenty Years, and who in-my-experience is a decent person who sometimes makes mistakes, said something asinine about violence at CONvergence…

    And he apologized…

    And I was running the con…

    And another volunteer said they still felt unsafe and threatened by his statement….

    …dear gods, I don’t know that I could strip personal relationships and knowledge out of my decision.

    And …. and I don’t know that we as a community have a way of adjudicating competing claims without taking personal knowledge into account.

    *want — And I’m not sure everyone wants to move to a legal model, either. I think there’s genuine room for discussion on What Our Ultimate Goals Are, here. Trial and conviction? Arbitration? Mediation? Remediation? Fiat? It gets complicated.

    … I will not digress into pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon community-oriented fine-based law, here. I just won’t.

  4. Sarah

    And this would be the reason we have the “system” that’s criticized in that article “The Missing Stair” – because this is the only thing that can be done about a harasser when the Powers that Be won’t do anything about harassment, even to the point of not enforcing their own rules when they have rules in place. We can network and warn one another about the presence of a harasser who should be avoided at all costs, and that’s about it. I’ve been harassed, including sexual harassment, although not in the context of a convention; reporting incidents to authorities, even repeated reports with details of lurid behavior, got me NOWHERE. So it doesn’t surprise me to see harassment getting blown off as not a big deal, yet again.

  5. David Dyer-Bennet

    Whoa, they didn’t take Meg’s claims seriously? Well, they added uniformed security and planned a pre-ceremony sweep for suspicious packages and were coordinating with the Spokane police department. That’s not precisely doing *nothing* about the situation.

  6. Veronica Schanoes

    Question: why would we want to transition to a legal system? The US legal system, at least, is notoriously terrible at dealing with issues of harassment, sexual and otherwise.

  7. Veronica Schanoes

    Well, they added uniformed security and planned a pre-ceremony sweep for suspicious packages and were coordinating with the Spokane police department. That’s not precisely doing *nothing* about the situation.

    So it was serious enough to warrant doing all that, but not serious enough to warrant banning Antonelli? That’s some pretty impressive double-think.

  8. Walter Daniels

    So, Ms. Luhrs, you are “fine with the way *Patrick Nielsen-Hayden* treated L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright (John C. Wright’s wife) when she went to offer an Olive Branch? She was subjected to a “loud, public tirade” against *her husband.* (It was reported in multiple places.) Of course, you’re “all right” with the _disgraceful_ behavior of the Hugo Award audience, which is also _documented_, because it was _by your side’s supporters_. The Award Ceremony behavior would have been appropriate *for a group of _Kindergarten_ children,* not a group of loudly, self proclaimed, “tolerant” adults.
    Lou Antonelli, based on _documented_ behavior (by “tolerant” adult supporters) expressed a fear. Fortunately, he was “wrong,” in expecting it. The *problem” is that there _was a time_ that such behavior as has been _documented_ would never have even been *conceived of.* Those acting that way would have been _shunned_ (literally) and been barred from all Con’s. (I’m including actions/statements by The Nielsen-Haydens, Irene Gallo, and others.) Yet, it is *only* those that such _dislike_ who are criticized. Statements like a man married to a _Black_ Woman (for over 20 years), is accused of _Racism_. A _Portuguese_, Female author (who writes about _Gay_ characters), is called a “Racist, _Sexist_, _White Male_.” Both are called “Nazis,” even though Sarah A. Hoyte despises them as much as the Communists she knows so well (from Portugal).
    Please, get the actual _facts_, not what “your side” tells you is happening. It’s the “Sad Puppies” who have been saying, _from Day One_. Read what is written, and _decide for yourself_, while the “Anti-Puppy” group has been saying. Don’t listen to them, do what _we say_ is right. I presume that you are an intelligent, _adult_, Woman, which you should be reading/listening to *both* sides, before making up your mind. If your decision (as it appears to be) is that “you don’t need to do that,” I feel sorry for you. You have forfeited one of the Hallmarks of being an adult. Allowing others to “tell you what to think” is the action of a child.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Walter, you’re adorable. I only let your comment through because it made me laugh in its over the top frothy ridiculousness. Nice set of Puppy talking points you’ve got going there. They send out a memo or something?

  9. David Parsons

    A “loud public tirade” as reported by several sources, notably not including Ms. Lamplighter. And this is equivalent to SWATting just how?

    I’m sure that Mr. Antonelli is a wonderful person in many ways, but he went well past the bounds of acceptable behavior when he contacted the police here.

  10. Veronica Schanoes

    Given that there was a time when being a known child molester didn’t get you barred from cons, the idea that calling someone a racist would have just makes the spec fic “community,” such as it is, look like a shithole.

    Fortunately, I don’t believe a word out of your mouth.

  11. Ian

    @Veronica Schanoes:

    Ms. Frank raised two separate, but related concerns: a) Mr. Antonelli’s behaviour and the risk of future harassment by him, and b) the risk – aggravated by Mr. Antonelli and other factors – that someone *else* would call in a bomb threat or otherwise try to disrupt the Hugo ceremony.

    The convention acted on the latter point. The dispute was over whether the process and actions taken on the former.

  12. Veronica Schanoes

    In that case, the notion that the con did nothing in response to Frank’s concerns is accurate.

  13. Greg M.

    Natalie, I *am,* in all _modesty_, one of the best users of “quotation marks,” and _italics_ and, apparently, aster*isks*, one of the finest _quoters_ and “asteriskers” working _today._

  14. Ian

    @Veronica Schanoes:

    The email chain ends with Frank’s stating that she’s making a formal harassment complaint of her *own* against Lou Antonelli on the basis that Antonelli’s letter to Spokane police re: David Gerrold. Note this is different than Frank asserting simply that she felt unsafe with Antonelli attending, but rather it was an accusation that Antonelli, with his letter, had harassed her and, effective, everyone at the con.

    It’s not clear what happened from there, but one can assume the complaint was either retracted because Frank didn’t think it would be taken seriously at that point, or the committee found Antonelli had not harassed Frank, just Gerrold.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the committee heard the complaint and rejected upholding it. I think it would be fairly extraordinary to find an action had harassed *everyone* at at convention unless it create some widespread disruption or threat.

    I think the issues is more how the members of the committee dealt with this when Frank first raised her concerns that Antonelli’s action affect more than just Gerrold.

  15. Fred Davis

    @David Dyer-Bennet: Wait, WHY did they do sweeps for suspicious packages? Other than “local police departments have way too much funding for COIN operations”, obviously? I’m not seeing where “bomb threats”/”actual bombing” was ever anything more than a phantasm put forth to justify not banning antonelli.

    Like, if his not being banned was “for the safety of the con”, what other terrorist groups should worldcon make sure to get attendees from? Maybe add “best terrorist organisation” to the Hugos if “person A might detonate a bomb at the con AND THEREFORE they can’t be banned” is the level of nonsense masquerading as “logic” among con runners.

  16. Fred Davis

    @Ian:

    The email chain ends with Frank’s stating that she’s making a formal harassment complaint of her *own* against Lou Antonelli on the basis that Antonelli’s letter to Spokane police re: David Gerrold. Note this is different than Frank asserting simply that she felt unsafe with Antonelli attending, but rather it was an accusation that Antonelli, with his letter, had harassed her and, effective, everyone at the con.

    If you read the full context for that, she’s does that because the higher ups in the email chain were repeatedly stonewalling her with the “well Gerrold didn’t want action taken” line (even after she repeatedly made it clear that Gerrold wanted the con to take action against antonelli) – so if they needed a formal complaint about lou antonelli’s presence making them feel unsafe and asking the con to take action against antonelli, well she gave them one.

    It’s a fairly simple bit of bureacracy wrangling.

    And they still stonewalled, because “muh bomb threat” (or, more honestly; “muh a priori decision to not ban Antonelli”)

  17. Aaron

    @Walter Daniels: Oh Mr. Daniels, you really need to learn what “multiple sources” means.

    The alleged exchange was reported by Ms. Lamplighter to her husband, who then wrote up a secondhand account that even Ms. Lamplighter has said was inaccurate. Mr. Wright’s account was then repeated by other members of his Puppy crew. That’s not “multiple sources”, that’s one source repeated (inaccurately) several times.

    Given that you don’t understand what “multiple sources” means, perhaps you should reconsider telling other people they should get the “actual facts”. You do not seem to be able to determine what are and are not reliable facts, so maybe you should do some homework before you try to post your _, “, and * laden screed again.

  18. Ian

    @Fred Davis:

    As raised by Frank, Gerrold had asked the committee to continue with the harassment procedure even after he had accepted Antonelli’s apology.

    But Glazer then clarified that he had received *further correspondence* from Gerrold, after the committee had initially ruled to revoke Antonelli’s registration, asking them *not* do so.

    Respect for the wishes of the target of harassment is, obviously, very important, and, at the same time, must be balanced against the need ensure attendees are protected from future harassment.

    The committee – or, at least, those members on the email chain – apparently believed strongly that the action they took to deal with Mr. Antonelli’s harassment against Mr. Gerrold was appropriate both for Mr. Gerrold himself and to keep the convention harassment free moving forward.

    I believe where this became complicated was that Glazer, et al., thought Frank was trying to argue over whether the committee had properly dealt with the Antonelli/Gerrold harassment complainant, when Frank was – effectively and, ultimately, formally – raising a complaint of her *own* on the basis that Antonelli’s actions constituted “SWATing” and were, therefore, harassment of everyone attending the convention, including herself.

    There’s a big difference between those two things. In any harassment case there could be members of a convention who think the action taken should have been harsher. The committee has to balance the rights of the target of the harassment, any others directly affected and what’s best for the con as a whole. Obviously, they can’t just go with the harshest action that any one member may want – particularly any one member who was *not* themselves the victim/target of the harassment in question.

    So, saying “this wasn’t just harassment of Mr. Gerrold it was harassment of me too” puts the issue in an entirely different light. In that case, you have to decide whether there was harassment of the person in question, and, if so, take action that recognizes they were the target of harassment themselves, not just a bystander.

    It is truly sad that confusion of this sort reigned in this conversation.thread and it appears to have escalated to a point of no return before anyone realised what Ms. Frank was really getting at.

  19. Ian

    @Fred Davis:

    Frank put forward the risk of fake bomb threats which she believed Antonelli had aggravated.

    Glazer, et al., put forward the spectre of an actual bombing. I agree that was a silly thing to suggest, and absolutely inappropriate to use as a argument for letting Antonelli in.

    I think there was genuine and understandable confusion here on both sides, but the one truly *dumb* thing the higher ups put forward was suggesting it would be helpful in placating any Antonelli supporters who *BOMB THE EVENT* to let Antonelli in. If that sort of nonsense is considered when weighing a harassment complainant – “don’t ban a harasser, or his minions might escalate to terrorism!” – it, literally, benefits and encourages the worst of humanity.

  20. Veronica Schanoes

    The committee – or, at least, those members on the email chain – apparently believed strongly that the action they took to deal with Mr. Antonelli’s harassment against Mr. Gerrold

    What actions were those, precisely?

    It doesn’t matter. They can believe in pink space unicorns. What matters is whether it was consistent with policy, and whether that policy was sufficient.

  21. Ian

    @Veronica Schanoes:

    They initially revoked Antonelli’s registration to convention.

    After Antonelli apologized, retracted his letter to Spokane PD and the target of the harassment, David Gerrold, said he supported reinstating Antonelli’s registration, the committee did so with the warning that staff would be alerted to the existing incident, keep tabs on Antonelli’s behaviour going forward and any further incident would be grounds for being banned.

    This does seem to be well within Worldcon/Sasquan’s anti-harassment policy, but – again – Ms. Frank wasn’t just arguing that the committee should have gone further in handling the Antonelli/Gerrold complainant. She was also arguing that Antonelli’s actions harassed and other convention goers in addition to Gerrold. I think that’s the question that should have been dealt with and that seems to be where the system brokedown.

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