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Writers’ Union of Canada editorial sparks anger

13 May 2017

From Globe2Go:

The Writers’ Union of Canada has issued an apology and the editor of its magazine has resigned after publishing an opinion piece titled “Winning the Appropriation Prize” in an issue devoted to Indigenous writing.

“I don’t believe in cultural appropriation,” began the editorial by Hal Niedzviecki in the spring issue of Write magazine. “In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities. I’d go so far as to say that there should even be an award for doing so – the Appropriation Prize for best book by an author who writes about people who aren’t even remotely like her or him.”

Some people were enraged, and the fallout was swift: TWUC issued an apology, a board member resigned, TWUC’s Equity Task Force issued a list of demands – and Mr. Niedzviecki left his position.

“I had no intention of offending anyone with the article,” Mr. Niedzviecki told The Globe and Mail Wednesday, after resigning that morning – his choice, he says.

“I absolutely understand why people are upset. I think that I was a little tone deaf, and I was failing to recognize how charged the term cultural appropriation is and how deeply painful acts of cultural appropriation have been to Indigenous people.”

. . . .

The TWUC Equity Task Force issued a statement, saying it was “angry and appalled” by the column, and shocked that it was approved by a TWUC editorial committee – saying it was an indication of structural racism, “brazen malice, or extreme negligence.” It issued a list of demands, including that the next three issues be turned over to Indigenous and other racialized editors and writers, affirmative action hiring for the next editor and future office staff and a future issue dedicated to bringing historical context to the issue.

Link to the rest at Globe2Go and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

A friend of PG’s was, long ago, the editor of an underground newspaper in Washington DC. Underground newspapers were part of the antiwar movement, cultural upheaval and general hellraising that went on during the Vietnam War period in the late sixties-mid seventies of the last century. Underground newspapers printed “news” and opinion that establishment papers were not printing. Such news was invariably inflammatory and reflected an alternate view of contemporary events.

PG and his friend were talking about the friend’s journalistic endeavors during this time and the friend commented, “Whenever we didn’t know how to respond to somebody (with differing views), we called them a nazi and they always froze up and freaked out. It worked every time.”

Name-calling is a propaganda and political control technique that certainly predates the 1960’s.

The name-calling technique links a person or idea, to a negative symbol. The propagandist employs this tool to persuade the audience to reject the person or idea on the basis of the associated negative symbol.

During the Inquisition, for example, successfully branding a political, business or social rival a heretic could make anything the person said or proposed completely unacceptable. Indeed, the only safe response to a heretic was to totally avoid him/her because of the likelihood that the heretic and his/her associates would be executed or otherwise severely punished. Galileo’s opponents branded him as a heretic for supporting heliocentrism in 1633 and his scientific discoveries became completely unacceptable thereafter.

Leon Trotsky, one of the heroes of the Russian revolution of 1917 and its brightest theoretician, was, for a period of time, second only to Lenin in the Soviet political hierarchy. After Lenin died, Trotsky contended with Stalin for leadership of the Communist party and the state. Trotsky lost that battle, was exiled and later assassinated. Trotskyism was anathema to Stalin’s continuing dictatorship. Branding anyone as a Trotskyite effectively removed that person from Soviet society and was often good for an extended visit to the Gulag.

During the 1960’s, Cultural Revolution in China utilized “counter-revolutionary revisionist” as a negative brand. Such a person would also invariably be guilty of practicing one of the “Four Olds” – old customs, culture, habits, and ideas. Once someone was categorized as revisionist, society could be certain that anything such a person said or did was tainted with the curse.

PG is not an expert on theories of cultural appropriation in either Canada or the United States, but much that he has read of this and other Social Justice activities currently being applied in various culture wars reminds him of the propaganda techniques described above.

Indeed, “Social Justice” has, for PG, a distinct Maoist/Stalinist ring to it.



Books in General, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

84 Comments to “Writers’ Union of Canada editorial sparks anger”

  1. ‘No one can write about us other than us!’ Chanted the special snowflake warriors as they attack any that say otherwise like a blizzard.

    To some ‘cultural appropriation’ is the old nazi and there will be those that will take offense whether offense was actually being intentionally offered or not. (Yes, I know you can’t give offense only take it, but there seems to be a lot of very thin skinned ‘I are a special snowflake’ types out there these days.)

    I did find it interesting that they already had an ‘Equity Task Force’ built right in that didn’t go and veto this opinion piece before it was released. (I’d be more inclined to believe they didn’t see a problem with it either — until the blizzard hit them and now we find them doing damage control …)

    I myself am in the write what you like boat, if they can’t correctly guess your age/sex/color/religion from the story then you must be doing something right.

  2. I’m not sure whether we’re talking about “social justice” or “political correctness” here. I don’t know what an acceptable definition of “social justice” might be, but I do know about political correctness and I don’t like it. Political correctness distorts truth and achieves nothing. And I DO like to know what is true, whether it is palatable or not.

    I’m on the side of the editor who wrote that article and subsequently quit. I’m a Canadian author who has written about First Nations characters, and the First Nations people whom I know are perfectly okay with how I handled it.

    • Social justice is injustice, full stop the end.

      There is a reason why Justice is depicted as a woman holding a scale, with a blindfold over her eyes. The scale is to signify that judgment is based on the crimes committed by the individual. The blindfold signifies that your race, gender, and other identifiers do not matter. Social “justice,” so-called, is when we remove the blindfold and throw away the scale.

  3. This should be a grim reminder of the benefits of New Criticism. Perhaps the less we know about the author, the better. Thank Amazon that we have KDP!

    I do wonder, though. Imagine that an editor receives a bamboopunk fantasy trilogy proposal from an author whose identity is unknown (set up as a DBA or whatever). The trilogy is a sure thing–millions of dollars to be mined from it–and it’s strongly influenced by a mix of Polynesian and Galápagos folklore. Well, what happens if, upon publication of the third book, the author “comes out” as an old white guy. Does everyone get so offended that they commit suicide?

    It was an OPINION PIECE, people. Or are we not allowed to have those?

    • “It was an OPINION PIECE, people. Or are we not allowed to have those?”

      ‘Only if it agrees with US’ says the special snowflakes.

      And like snowflakes, no two are alike, so by merely opening your mouth to speak you can’t help but to give some of them something to be offended about.

      (In my case, please continue to speak, it helps me smoke out the crazier snowflakes. 😉 )

    • bamboopunk fantasy trilogy

      Let’s go back to this part! If you have names, titles, feel free to share 🙂

    • Precisely! An OPINION piece. No more, no less.

    • Felix J. Torres

      They don’t commit suicide but they tar and feather the old white male and flay him to within an inch of his life to make an example of him.
      Or they would if they dared confront him face to face. Being an old white guy he might be packing. 🙂

      Some attacks are cheaper than others.

      • Never kick an old dog — even if he’s down, he may still have one good bite left in him — more worrying he might have ‘friends’ that will do more than bite … 😉

      • Some attacks are cheaper than others.

        I loved it when the animal rights people were called out for their practice of throwing paint on old women who wore fur coats, yet ignoring the leather-clad Hell’s Angels. After all, if it is morally necessary to attack people who wear animal hides, then shouldn’t both groups be subject to attack? Why attack old women and not young men? T’was quite the mystery. Quite the mystery indeed …

  4. You cannot appease these “social justice” types, either. If you apologise in any way, they will take it as a sign of weakness and attack you even harder. They will not negotiate or compromise. They will not accept the olive branch or agree to disagree. The only way to deal with them is to mock them mercilessly while simultaneously eviscerating them with facts and logic.

  5. Paula Altenburg

    I have a degree in Social Anthropology. I write fiction. FICTION. Do I mine from the knowledge gleaned from my hugely expensive education? Why yes, I do. Do I consider myself appropriating someone else’s culture? Absolutely not. I wasn’t really that good a student. If I was, I’d have a PhD and be writing academic papers. Does George R.R. Martin get taken to task for cultural appropriation? Or Guy Gavriel Kay? Because I’ve only ever seen them praised for being well-read and well-educated–which they are.

  6. My goodness. I thought “social justice” (note that I did not capitalize it as PG did) meant that you believe in justice for everyone, and not just those who are [fill in the blank].

    As to political correctness, to me that simply means not assuming that all of us are fine with things the way they have always been–which left out a lot of people.

    I’m sure everyone recognizes that this name-calling and propaganda you speak of applies just as much to the label Social Justice…even without adding the scary suffix of “Warriors”!

    • Social Justice Warriors should be recognized for all the good work they do. They really are warriors. They are morally and intellectually superior to the rest of us, and have a sensitivity to cultural nuance lacking in most people. We all need them to tell us how to live.

      Without Social Justice Warriors, we would be saddled with the free and open exchange of ideas. Inappropriate ideas would be spread through the land, and people would be exposed to them even if they don’t like those ideas. Even if we choose not to listen to such ideas, we would know that others are listening.

      This is a dangerous world. Thank God we have warriors who will stand between us and unapproved ideas.

  7. The apology offered was at the very least, insincere and vapid, and was merely designed for the apologee to save what little face he has so that eventually he can continue his career. Social justice warrior have corrupted all facets of life, from the private sector workplace/life/entertainment/literature/movies/medical field (first hand knowledge of that last one I have) to the public sector, where careers are often destroyed at the whim of anonymity. They care not what destruction they wrought, only that ultimately, they are right, and you are not.

  8. Andrew Claymore

    Apologizing is what got him fired. The Star Wars franchise never apologizes and folks let them be. Then again, perhaps nobody has ever given much thought to the dastardly sneak attack by the Japanese accented trade federation, for example.
    It tends to be the small writers with honest intentions that land in hot water because they’re easy targets even though little is changed by going after them.

  9. There was an editorial in Quill & Quire at about the same time which took the opposite position, that white writers must understand that they are uniquely incapable of writing about anyone that isn’t exactly like them, that non-white characters are properly reserved for non-white writers only. I was going to send PG a link, but there was no version accessible online.

    • Felix J. Torres

      So it’s back to the 50’s?
      Orthodoxies converge on the wrap-around!

      Too bad it’s not online to be cited when somebody plays the diversity card.

    • What bothers me most about this? It completely contradicts the “We Need Diverse Books” Movement. How are we ever going to have diverse books, with a wide range of characters, if no one can ever write about characters who AREN’T EXACTLY LIKE THEM! If I want to write a book with a character who has a mental illness or a disability, is that not allowed unless I have that same struggle? How sad that so many people don’t get to see themselves represented in books or in publishing, and instead of encouraging writers to broaden their horizons and write diverse characters, we’re punishing anyone who takes a risk!

  10. The amazing thing is not that there are people like this. It is that they have gained such power and influence. The Emperor is truly naked, and thankfully it seems that people are finally starting to point this out.

  11. For people who don’t see why these sort of politics are a problem, I’ll expound on what PG was getting at (I think).

    These concepts are incredibly Marxist, as PG has pointed out. It’s just not easy to see it, and even harder to see why it’s bad. Anytime you have group guilt, oppressor/oppressed, haves/have-nots…be wary.

    The most destructive regimes in the history of the world, far worse than the Hitler regime (which was merely racist, scapegoating a small number of citizens), were the Stalin and Mao regimes. They both killed, at least, an order of magnitude more of their citizens.

    Marxists gain their power by demonizing entire groups of people as ‘the oppressor’ and subsequently seeking ‘social justice’ for the alleged crimes. Hundreds of millions died.

    Basically anyone who owned anything was stripped of it and/or killed, because having something means you must have tore it from the backs of the oppressed. All gains are ill gotten. Speaking against this paradigm was often a death sentence.

    In modern Western terms, the current oppressor isn’t the Jew or the Bourgeoisie or whoever Mao demonized but rather it’s the Straight White Male. They are the modern stand in. Sometimes it’s white people in general. Whatever is convenient.

    Look around at all the people you know. They aren’t oppressors and oppressed. They are just people. Every one of them living out the tragedy of human existence. Each one radically different from the other, a free thinking and acting individual.

    If you follow identity group logic, however, these are either oppressed victims with no real chance at life because of the evil white man. Or they are the evil oppressor. No room for the individual. No room for the hard worker, the smart innovator. It’s all collective guilt and collective victim-hood.

    If you think society actually is set up that way, oppressor and oppressed, then you’ll have to explain the success of American Asians and Jews. They don’t fit the group oppression model, though you might argue Jews and Asians should be counted as ‘white’. Whatever. It’s all silliness. It’s also dangerous if taken too far.

    • This exactly. Stalin and Mao were objectively worse than Hitler in every measurably way. Nazism is evil, but Communism is even more so.

      • “After all, even Hitler didn’t gas his own people.”

        — Spicy McHides in Bushes

        Defending Hitler is probably not the most persuasive way to win a debate 🙂

        I agree, though — despots and authoritarians, leftist or rightest, are despicable and dangerous. And using harassment and intimidation to silence those opposed to your viewpoint is a VERY dangerous thing for a society committed to free expression … it shows a tremendous lack of conviction in one’s own belief if you can’t tolerate any opinion that differs from your own. Witness “the_donald” on Reddit … so many very special, militant snowflakes.

        • I really despise the way that Hitler and the Nazis have become the ultimate Boogeyman in our culture. Hitler was real. The Nazis were real. People not unlike ourselves put them into power, and stood by silently while they committed their crimes. When the Nazis are little more than cartoon villains–or worse, half-forgotten figures in the dusty, unread history books–that is when they will return.

        • There’s not really any debate. I don’t debate. Debates are about trying to seem right, trying to be persuasive. It’s a fool’s game. I seek truth and perspective. I don’t mind being wrong. It’s a totally different motivation.

          Hitler was better by an order of magnitude than Stalin or Mao. Anyone saying otherwise is selling some ideology. That’s not to say either is any good.

          Hitler’s shtick is much easier to understand though. So he’s the more popular boogeyman. Scapegoat a minority, set yourself up as the protector. It’s easy to see how bad this is.

          Marxists are harder to fathom, sneakier, more insidious. Most don’t even realize how dangerous the road they are walking really is. You are the victim of oppression, so let us destroy our oppressors! Seems great, except for down that road you’ll find the worst atrocities ever committed by man. The solution under that paradigm is to tear everything down. Since the whole system is merely a tool to oppress the (insert group here). And people starve by the millions.

          And we haven’t even touched on Pol Pot.

      • As a note: Mao killed 100 million of his people, Stalin killed 50 million of Soviets (Russian, Ukrainians, Jews, and everyone in the Soviet empire) and Hitler killed 11 million (war victims not counted)
        How many people will be killed in USA in the future in the name of Social Justice?

        • Felix J. Torres

          A lot less.
          Americans own lots and lots of guns for that very contingency. Plus lots of copies of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Homebrew explosives are way too easy to make.

          And that is before getting into the culture of the military.

          • Germans had guns too, until Hitler convince them to give them away. He was going to protect them.

            • Felix J. Torres

              And you think the 400M legal guns in the US can be had for the asking?
              That paranoid scenario is precisely why they’re stockpiled.

              • There are many ways to kill your political opponents even if they are armed. Civil war, nationalize the industry, make it illegal to manufacture guns, and specially ammo, divide and conquer, starvation just to mention a few. And in the killing process there will not be a few versus many, but many against a few. First put in jail all the bankers and Wall Street villains. The economy will collapse. Blame the greedy capitalists, and nationalize major industries, followed slowly by more and more nationalization. Farms too. Most of the media today is leftist, imagine if they are controlled by the government. Repeat a lie many times and it becomes the truth. I lived in Communism, I know how they operate.

                • Felix J. Torres

                  I hear you. And all those things happened.
                  But times change. Technology changes things.

                  The internet changes things and governments controlling the message isn’t as easy as it used to be.
                  So yes, the mainstream media is mostly peddling leftist propaganda. But the single largest mainstream media peddler found more profit in right wing propaganda.

                  And the US is a country founded on anti-government principles and there has always been resistance to central power. And, like it or not, political violence has always been part of the equation from the whiskey rebellion to the political assassinations.

                  Dystopias are fun reads and popular these days but getting there from here is no triviality in today’s world. The country is so fractured that every single move of the government is scrutinized for worst case intent.

                  There are (theoretical) ways to successfully take over the US but central government overreach as depicted by the panicky HANDMAID’S TALE (which pops up every time a republican president gets elected) is only viable in fairy tales.

                  Too much power is spread out among too many jurisdictions with too diverse agendas for an auto-coup scenario to work. Note how Obama’s rule by decree agenda was derailled by a handful of states or how Trump’s dinky little travel ban can’t get past one Hawaiian judge. The country was designed to be barely governable.

                  The barely plausible approaches would need to be more science fictiony, more in line with the old JERICHO TV show than anything else. Not something the central government can get away with.

                  The real threats are, as I said, from letting mob pressure dictate individual behavior. And even those are detected and resisted.

                  “Americans are a fractious lot” is as true today as in DeTocqueville’s day. Not going to change any time soon.

                • Felix J. Torres

                  Let me try to put it another way:
                  The American republic is designed to resist and constrain government excesses. It is the excesses of individuals and “social movements” that need to be monitored and challenged when they cross the line.

                  Like the moralizing temperance movement that tried to legislate morality and created the mess that was Prohibition. When citizens try to intimidate other citizens into conforming to their values against the own judgment and interests, that is the time to worry. Bad things follow.

        • Rex-84. Look it up. The camps have already been built.

    • Let’s just hope none of this crap takes root. Drawing the line at liberal speech protections is probably the best way to combat it.

  12. Is it wrong of me to hope that an angry social justice warrior gets hold of my series and gets all bent out of shape over something? I mean, free publicity! Conflict! Sales!

    • Not at all. 😉

      Heck, you’re even free to hope every one of those idiots buys every one of your books to burn if they like — and then buys them to burn next week, and the next. (Not saying your books ‘should’ be burned in the first place, but think of the money rolling in from them paying to have the privilege! 😉 )

    • Felix J. Torres

      It seems to be working out beautifully for that Milo whatshisname guy. He got tons of publicity, a slam dunk broken contract lawsuit, and he’ll selfpub the “banned” material.
      All he needs to do now is time the release of the book to the settlement.

      Now, a real provocateur would sue some of his detractors for tortuous interference. Drag them and the publishers into court. Make them swear it out.

      But he won’t. He just wants the money.

      But one of these days…
      One of these days they’ll target the right guy and…
      “Pow! To the moon!”

  13. Freedom of speech is definitely being eroded in the country I live in, and I reckon it’ll soon be illegal to talk about the orthodox religious positions on issues such as homosexuality.
    As for hate speech, well just let people say what they want to say Whether it’s about whites, blacks, gays or jews, The government has no business getting involved.

  14. I dont see this as ‘social justice’ issue. I see it as a kidnap of the term.

    the phrase I think fits, is ‘identity politics’ that says x group has been more oppressed than y group. you have not lived til you see the sharp elbows not only amongst tribes when a govt grant is in the air, but also between minority groups when it is perceived there is some money, prestige, granting of something or other to be had but only by one minority group. The scarcity of the ‘gets’ is part of the issue. And… It can get truly ugly between groups by clan, tribe, race, econ or other.

    It cannot be that people cannot write about whatever they are called to. That cant seem right. But what underlies it all, I think, is far more complex

    Identity politics is rampant amongst some groups; some vilify anyone who doesnt have enrolled status [which is a governmental blood quantum for instance in the usa, with the government of all entities defining who will and will not belong…

    although I hear distant thunder of trump gutting the BIA, bureau of indian affairs which will cause mayhem as for some govt recog tribes huge amounts of their budgets depend on federal monies]and tribal identity within each group can be cruel handed, including some who are mixed blood, although highly likely with russians and french ‘explorers’ in canada and us, not to mention the brits, as well as the Spanish all over the place, prob no one is ‘pure’ blood anymore.

    DNA would tell the tale. If govt required that, many likely would not qualify for govt benefits nor enrollment perhaps.

    The thing about stories, is that many a person writes about their tribe; few are published, and if so, by small presses, with often poor distrib. The few who are ‘native stars’ are few and far between.

    More than anything I would note what happened to author of Henrietta Lacks book/bestseller about an african american woman whose cells were used from a biopsy to further research by john hopkins. The infighting that erupted in the family is still not settled. The author was euro american. But somehow that made a difference to some.

    I get that every group on earth has been plundered and overrun and slaughtered. But one would have to know history of the world well, to note that there is no corner on the market of holiness, suffering, and injustice of the many by the few.

    The person who wrote the piece as editor, wasnt tone deaf I dont think. I think he was trying to make fun of something that in personal opinion would be common, but as editor of the whatever, perhaps and obviously now, not.

    I truly hope for this sort of blockade, to come clear and in peace, but I sense as long as money and potential fame is involved, it will carry a negative by some whose world is different. yet i wonder too how most of us from my clan live in two worlds, most of the time peacefully. I wonder if that can continue in peace if we are forced to join as PG put it, a way of seeing, saying and being that toes/tows? the party line thought up by the few for the many.

    AIM when Russell [Means] was alive, left a legacy of same as this article speaks of; only native, no others re everything.

    There are government laws protecting making of native jewelry by only natives, there are government laws about no one being allowed to possess an eagle feather etc found in the field if one is not native. Oddly the middle easterners who bought up stores in santa fe for instance were bringing in ‘native jewelry and artifacts via china’ by the droves and selling sterling and turquiose so cheap the old time traders and art dealers and native people could not compete.

    I dont know where it starts or end. With respect, I think. But some define that idiosyncratically to my upbringing. Dont know. Wish we could ease things for everyone. I think of Creator being told, dont paint that bird, dont coil that snake, dont make that cloud, that all belongs to a far far older Maker. I dont know. wish I did.

    I wish our friend Tony [Hillerman] was still alive. He’d know. He wrote how many novels based on Diné/ Navajo reservation police. Tony, send us a dream.

  15. I think that’s johns hopkin medical school/uni

  16. I’m a bit disturbed at the strength of the vitriolic responses here. Let’s sort out a few terms. Social Justice is the work of attempting to make the world a better place to live in for everyone, not just the people at the top. Yes it means some people lose privilege, and some of those think they are being persecuted.

    Political Correctness is the short hand language forced on people in lieu of expecting people to think for themselves about language/power/identity. if you fight PC because you want to be able to insult people and be racist/sexist etc, like you used to be. You still don’t get the point.

    Appropriation is a hard one as it appears every person who uses it means a different thing. Let’s start with the obvious. A vodka company who uses Inuit language, symbols and sexed up Inuit clothing to sell their product. They had no interest in the people they were using apart from making money.
    A slightly harder one, but I read a great article on native headdresses. In Canada we have what is called a “Stolen Valour” law, essentially saying it is a crime to pretend to have served in the military if we haven’t. That’s pretty simple. We can just pick up medals on ebay and start wearing them around. Headdresses in most First Nations cultures are earned, as are peace pipes and other ceremonial items. If we wear them without having earned them, we are really stealing valour.

    To move on to writing.
    Having a character from another cultural group is not cultural appropriation, though if we stick with stereotypes and tropes about that group, we are bad writers.

    Having a leading character from a culture not our own is a more difficult call, but I think it is possible to pull off without being accused of appropriation. The culture of the character needs to be integral to the story. Making a character Cree without having a good reason for it is problematic. Making that character a stereotypes is more so.
    This is where research and beta readers come in.

    I expect writing in first person from another cultural POV would be very hard to do without annoying some people, but then, any good author should expect to annoy a few people.

    So what is appropriation in art or writing? It is, for me, the casual use of another culture without consideration of the the nuances of the culture and primarily to make money.

    The issue I have with the ‘Appropriation Awards’ is they make fun of something we’re still trying to figure out, and muddying the water. It resulted in exactly the conversation above, with people sneering at the concept itself and making legitimate discussion of the topic harder. Do I think people should have been fired/quit over it?? I’m not sure. I would have preferred some discussion and learning. Too many people quit instead of dialoguing about mistakes.

    There were a few comments about Free Speech. PG can correct me here, but that applies to criticism of the government. Freedom of Expression is probably what you are looking for. You can say whatever you like (within the Hate Laws if you’re Canadian), that does not mean anyone needs to give you a platform to say it from. A magazine/organization has the right to dismiss someone who embarrasses them, or fails to represent the philosophy of the organization while speaking for them.

    I guess I’m suggesting a knee-jerk reaction from any side is not helpful. Critical thought and dialogue is much more useful, unfortunately it is more work, so many default to name calling and virtual signalling.

    • Hi Alex, I found your example of the military medal pretty interesting and I will be interested to see how other commenters react to it.
      For me, The concept of cultural appropriation has always been and unusual one because nobody really seems to know what it means.
      For example, there are people unironically claiming that eating food of a culture which is not your own is cultural appropriation, which is a shame for me as I quite like pizza Curry and Mexican tacos.
      As for writing about experiences not our own, here’s an example.
      I remember there was a writer of gay romance fiction Who used a Mail pseudonym when writing, and this person was widely praised because many people could identify with the characters and settings presented.
      When it was revealed that the ortho was female, The same people who had enjoyed the work when they thought it had been written by a man claimed that the books were no appropriation and went after the author On social media.

      • There are nuances to the stolen valour statutes. Simply wearing an unearned medal is not a crime. The crime lies in claiming the medals are earned. Accepting benefits that accrue to those who have earned the medal is judged as falsely claiming to have earned the medal even if no explicit statement is made.

        To extend to First Nations, it is no crime for someone to falsely claim to be Hohe Nakota, for example. It is a crime for someone to claim the tax status of being Hohe Nakota if one is not. In the case of headdresses, there is no explicit law reserving benefits associated with the awarding of a headdress. However, demanding or accepting benefits because of the status of being worthy of a headdress is a crime under general fraud statutes, whether those are traditional benefits or benefit or consideration founded on false status. Fostering and failing to correct a misapprehension is judged as a statement of claim of status.

        As with medals, the simple act of wearing an unearned headdress is not an offense. Some may consider it offensive, but that is not a matter of law. On the flip side, there are a few voices, including some not in any way associated with any of the cultural groups in question, who consider the wearing of feathers in the hair in any form to be an example of offensive cultural appropriation that must be stopped by shame or statute. This is nonsense that must be called out as such lest we let the lunatics run the asylum.

        • Well, I don’t know how many US Army vets Are on this forum but I have seen references to past service, so hopefully someone associated with the army Can answer this question for me.
          Would you feel uncomfortable if someone decided to wear a medal of valour as a fashion statement?

          • Anon, there is a difference between offending someone and committing an offense.

          • Would you feel uncomfortable if someone decided to wear a medal of valour as a fashion statement?

            No. But I know many who don’t like it.

            They object to people wearing unearned medals because they signify an individual accomplishment. Some in the military are entitled to wear a given medal. Some are not. It depends on what an individual did.

            They don’t much care if anyone wears a green field jacket. It doesn’t signify anything. The government sells thousands of them at liquidation sales.

            • I guess that in the same way, some cultural artefacts symbolise Something greater, and even if you don’t believe in what the US Army is doing, you can still respect the soldiers by choosing not to wear a fake medal.

              • The pretense is that the wearer accomplished deeds that merit the medal. He didn’t. It is a claim of individual past action.

                A sombrero or serape do not make a claim that the wearer accomplished anything. Wearing a medal from the Mexican army does.

          • I could say this Anon. Ethics is higher than the law. Violation of ethics often seems a characterlogical issue, meaning a negative.

            Wearing solemn military medals to work that one has not earned, say a purple heart, will immediately elicit inquiries from us vets about where/how/when as an offer of recognition and brotherhood.

            If the person lies, saying earned as Capt. in nam, when in fact they never left peoria, AND if they were actually once equiv of pvt1c in any military branch, and they say because of their wound they are rep for a non-existant veterans’ org raising money for wounded warriors… with either a dishonorable or honorable discharge, you can bet that legal minds will look into the matter of impersonating a military officer.

            The legal issue will be impersonation in order to mislead for gain.
            The ethical issue will be trying to steal honor and influence through abject deception.

            If the person were also a licensed professional, such as md, nurse, shrink, architect, plumber, etc, their license with DORA may be charged against by state grievance board [in usa]

            There is also a syndrome of pathological impersonation which is related to megalomania, which is a disorder of inflated sense of self which does not match reality, so person makes up narrative out of whole cloth to match his/her fantasies and delusions. Including making claims to various honors and accomplishments which have never been made.

          • Scott McGlasson

            Veteran here, from a family of career soldiers.

            If someone pins a medal (whatever medal you want to plug in here, up to and including the CMH) on their civilian outfit, there’s no issue, no “stolen valor”. If someone puts on an actual uniform and puts those ribbons and medals on, then attempts to get, for instance, a military discount at a store or lowered airfare, etc, etc, then there’s a problem.

            If some hipster wants to ironically wear a CMH upside-down on his skinny jeans pocket, I’m more offended about the skinny jeans than I am about the medal.

            • Okay, so what if a lot of people suddenly start wearing Vallour medals, let’s say a celebrity wheres one In a public performance and because of that a lot of teenagers start wearing them, wouldn’t that devalue The medal?
              To me, someone wearing a military medal Shows that they have fought and bled for their country, and maybe even sacrificed something for it. Even if someone doesn’t respect the US Army, they should perhaps consider respecting the individual soldiers by not making their medals into simple fashion statements, because these things are symbols.
              A bit like North Korea deciding to raise its own stars and stripes flag.

    • Felix J. Torres

      It’s not kneejerking.
      And it’s not about goals but about methods.
      “We mean well” doesn’t carry much weight with people committed to free expression and open exhange of ideas. There are plenty of people here spread all over the spectrum. We discuss matters openly and consider the subtleties of the various positions. But you’ll find no friends of censorship or shouting people down.

      Pretending everything is a “settled issue” or a “consensus” and then stifling dissent through shaming and name-calling might change what people say in public but it doesn’t change what they think or how they act. Instead, they keep *you* in the dark, “safe” in a bubble free of differing opinions until you run into something like the last election. Or the recent media poll reporting that 52% of voters would still vote for the current incumbent, media vitriol or not.

      The real world is a wee bit different than you’ve been led to believe. How things are done is just as important as why. And listening to the opposition is at least as important as lecturing them. Otherwise you just shout past each other and nobody learns anything.

    • Suburbanbanshee

      Um… If it is bad to have a character happen to be Cree “for no good reason,” that means that being Cree is not normal and human.

      Nobody will worry about why Bob is Irish-American or make him only fight banshees, so why should Bob not be Cree and do normal Canadian or American things? I mean, sure, if things come up, you should include culture. But First Nations culture is not a prison or a theme park.

      • Thank you. I never understood the “X for no reason” notion; it’s dumb on its face. Can Bob only be a Cree if he has Cree-related problems and no other? Is Bob less of a Cree if he’s living on Mars and trying to figure out who is sabotaging the domed city he lives in? Are we to believe that no Cree would ever do that?

        “X for no reason” bull is typically used in the context of wanting people to write “issue” books about the problems and travails of being X, rather than write about a character leading a normal life or having adventures and just happening to be a member of X group.

        Nope. I reserve the right to have my characters belong to any group I want them to. I will not ask permission. I will not apologize.

      • …so why should Bob not be Cree and do normal Canadian or American things?

        It is necessary so Social Justice Warriors can engage in moral exhibitionism.

    • I guess I’m suggesting a knee-jerk reaction from any side is not helpful. Critical thought and dialogue is much more useful, unfortunately it is more work, so many default to name calling and virtual signalling.

      Sure. But that’s not the field on which this battle is being fought.

    • “Social justice” is a vague, amorphous term that basically comes down to using the government to make people do what we think is right. It’s about stealing wealth from the “privileged” (another conveniently vague term) to buy the support of the underprivileged and make them dependent on government handouts.

      Guess who was “privileged” in 1930s Germany? The Jews.

      “And that when all this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins,
      Where all men are paid for existing, and no man must pay for his sins,
      As surely as water will wet us, and as surely as fire will burn,
      The gods of the copybook headings with terror and slaughter return!”

      • The hand of vengeance found the bed
        To which the purple tyrant fled
        The iron hand crushed the tyrants head
        And became a tyrant in his stead.
        The grey monk William Blake.

      • Small point of clarification. What fascists do is scapegoat a small minority, blaming them for the nation’s problems. There’s always at least a little truth to it, but it goes too far. You’ll see that today in the West concerning immigration. The essential thing is a small group who aren’t really part of our nation.

        What social justice people do is scapegoat like the Marxists do, based on class. In the west, especially in the US, race and class get conflated. So you scapegoat white people.

        Funnily enough. In the US at least, Jews are counted as white now in most instances. Certainly for purposes of the oppressed/oppressor dynamic central to the social justice world view.

    • Unfortunately those aren’t the real or functional or popular definitions of those terms, or there wouldn’t be any problem at all.

      Screwing the definitions like that is a good tool though, it allows you to define the opposition as bigoted. It’s a straw man. X is good so those critical of X must be bad. And you control the definition of X, so you control who is bad.

      It’s like magic. 🙂

      Note I don’t disagree with you Alex, necessarily. Just think about it. Do you really think people with legit beefs are just misinformed about the definitions!?!

      • Alex I don’t know if you are still reading, but a really good example of the definition thing is with feminism.

        Currently a minority of people in the west, even women, call themselves ‘feminist’. But how can that be? Isn’t feminism merely the belief that women deserve equal rights?

        Maybe. But if that were the definition then everyone would call themselves a feminist. But no, when you break it down nearly everyone is an ‘equity feminist’, an equal rights person, so why isn’t everyone a feminist?

        It’s because, like political correctness or social justice there’s a set of specific doctrines underlying the definition. People respond to that.

        I realize all of this stuff is politically charged, and people will respond with emotion, but I’m not incorrect. Though I may be wrong headed. That is always a possibility.

  17. At first the social oppressed wanted to belong. Today we all belong, including me, and no one is excluded. However, don’t you write and speak about my people. Only my people can speak the truth.
    Isn’t this reverse racism? I heard that some chapters of Black Lives Matter do not accept anyone who isn’t black.
    We’re not coming together, we’re more divided than ever.

    • There is no such thing as “reverse” racism. There is only racism. And yes, Black lives matter is one of the most racist groups in America today.

  18. And here I thought Justice was blind…

  19. Like Alex McGilvery, I’m concerned that the nuances of a very complex debate are being missed. I think we can all agree that freedom of expression is extremely important. I hope we can also agree that with that freedom comes responsibilities. I wouldn’t insert a pornographic scene into a story intended for three-year-olds. Likewise, because I write stories that my readers believe bear a certain resemblance to reality, I like to be accurate in portrayals of groups that appear in my novel.

    As a writer, I find it helpful if someone from a group I’m writing about says, “This type of characterization is problematic because . . .” and then describes for me the long history of the use of that characterization that I may not be aware of, simply because I’m not from that group. So, to use an imaginary example: If I had a heterosexual character call a gay character “queer” in my 1970s novel, and I didn’t realize that the word back then was highly pejorative, I’d find it helpful if someone pointed this out to me and suggested that I should do more research on my topic (because if I’m writing about gays in the 1970s and didn’t know *this*, then I sure need to do more research).

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t find it helpful if someone simply screamed at me, “Don’t you dare write about my people! You have no right!”

    So there are different ways that the discussion on appropriation can be approached. I’m sorry that the folks here have evidently only encountered it in a damaging fashion.

  20. Might not be the same all over, but most of my native friends and family like it when their culture is portrayed in mainstream culture. Try not to screw it up though. It’s important to be authentic at the minimum, some won’t be happy unless the portrayal is overwhelmingly positive.

    Don’t shy away from it though. Keeping native populations in the collective popular consciousness is important.

    • I agree Jo. Most of us like portrayals of ourselves and our group[s] that are accurate, tell a good story, maybe have some humor too, have a trickster in it, but there can be a villain, for anyone who has even visited any ethnic enclave, knows each group has their monster[s] and their saints. Some groups who have been crushed, will likely object to portrayal of a murderous character as the only representative of their group in the book. But there’s a reason for that, that doesnt often be called out; a distinct group that is already traumatized in recent time, for instance, will have many persons who will fear the public who reads such a book, will believe it as call to action to hunt and kill them. Such is the outcome of untreated post trauma in many.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Like so many things: you need to do your homework.
      Professionals sweat the details.

      On the other hand, blocking everybody because of a handful of misguided/sloppy efforts (or worse, the fear of such) helps nobody.

      And in this case, good intentions or bad aside, the bottom line is a person got hounded out of their job and their reputation probably irreparably harmed.

      You either agree with that or not.
      There are nuances to the matter but they got steamrolled by the outcry.

  21. Steve Hockensmith

    Quote #1: “The name-calling technique links a person or idea, to a negative symbol. The propagandist employs this tool to persuade the audience to reject the person or idea on the basis of the associated negative symbol.”

    Quote #2: “Indeed, ‘Social Justice’ has, for PG, a distinct Maoist/Stalinist ring to it.”

    Ahh, irony. Gotta love it. Or not.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Yeah, “tag’em and bag’em”.

      Demonize and destroy.

    • Steve is saying that calling something Maoist/Stalinist is indeed name calling. So accuses PG of being a hypocrite.

      Steve you might be correct. But some name calling is accurate. Some is not. Some is propaganda. Some is truth. Some name calling is descriptive instead of pejorative.

      It’s a constant dialog.

      • Felix J. Torres

        Most marxists are proud of it and don’t consider the term offensive.

        Of course, other movements prefer to obscure their philosophy and rebrand themselves, preferably with a label with a positive history or, better yet, from the history of the opposition.

        • Right. Even the most knowledgeable scholars in the oppressor/oppressed dynamic might not realize the Marxist underpinning. They’ll call themselves feminists, social justice warriors, post modernists, etc…some of it is actually helpful in the constant reform and dialog in society.

          A little Marxism is good. Concern for not oppressing people is good. When it gets to demoninzing whole groups and calling for tearing down the existing order or whatever, that’s super bad.

        • Progressive –> Liberal –> Progressive –> Social Justice Warrior

  22. Wow, way off the mark on this one 🙁

    The article sounds ridiculous on multiple levels, starting with the fact that it doesn’t seem to understand what cultural appropriation means. Much like this post.

  23. Oh boy, some of you sure have grabbed the wrong end of the stick on this one. Clearly, one of the reasons this story blew up in Canada was people shooting their mouths off without bothering to read Hal Niedzviecki’s article. But you’ll never understand why Niedzviecki touched the raw nerve he did until you accept that not everybody who mouths the words “freedom of speech” is sincere, any more than every country that calls itself a “democratic people’s republic” is.

    The Canadian publishing industry has always been an elitist, incestuous old-boys-and-a-few-girls network. Take everything you hate about the big New York publishing houses, shrink it to 10% of the size while keeping everybody’s ego just as inflated, then add in craven squabbling over taxpayer subsidies. *Those* are the bad guys in this story, okay? In order to help justify their government handouts, publishers will begrudge a few token slots to minority writers, but only if they write about stereotypical minority topics that make the publisher appear oh so diverse. An aboriginal writer has practically zero chance of getting published unless they write about poverty, alcoholism, and despair in aboriginal communities (or unless they somehow manage to become personal friends with a publishing executive without letting on that they’re aboriginal).

    So you can imagine how jealously many minority writers regard the few crumbs of the subsidized pie that they’ve been allowed to compete over. But way too often, self-serving cultural elitists come along, hypocritically pretending to be color-blind, claiming that a downtown Toronto hipster can write about poverty on a remote northern reserve just as well as somebody who’s actually lived on a remote northern reserve. Granted, that’s occasionally true. But whenever an elitist author or publisher starts pontificating about how everybody should be open-minded and post-racial, what many minority writers in Canada hear is that somebody wants to bulldoze the only ghetto they’ve been allowed to live in without giving them anywhere else to go — they know full well that the allegedly open-minded publishers *still* won’t buy an aboriginal author’s latest political thriller about the Middle East.

    I have no idea what Hal Niedzviecki’s motives were in writing his opinion piece. Probably he’s a truly decent and sincere guy. But it isn’t at all surprising how what he wrote — in the token issue of the writers guild magazine devoted to indigenous writing, no less — would be interpreted by many as saying “Let’s get rid of token issues devoted to minorities, without bothering to let them into our non-token issues either,” and even “The next time my publisher needs to placate the government by putting out a novel about alcoholic despair in a remote northern reserve, they should come to me and my friends in our Toronto coffee-shop. They don’t need those pesky minorities for *anything*.”

    Yeah, it sucks that Canadian publishing works like this. Somebody in a remote northern reserve should be able to write and publish a political thriller about the Middle East if they want to. A Toronto hipster should be able to write about alcoholism in a remote northern reserve if they ever get bored with writing postmodernist meditations about Ashkenazi circus dwarfs with leukemia. Feel free to try to sell them your libertarian magic wand as a way to make the world work that way by Tuesday. But at least try to understand where they’re coming from in the world that exists today.

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