Muckraking LinkBlogging

You thought feelings got hurt in the comics business… a fired classical music critic sues the newspaper that removed him and the orchestra that complained about his negative reviews. Donald Rosenberg frequently criticized the orchestra, especially the music director. Orchestra officials then banished him and started pressuring his editors for more favorable coverage.

The defense? Free speech. “The Cleveland Orchestra responded with a forceful defense of its right to criticize the critics, saying it was expressing opinions”. But when it comes to trying to get someone fired or otherwise end their livelihood, does that cross a moral, if not legal, line? The critic’s suit charges “defamation… tortious interference with his job … age discrimination and violating Ohio’s free speech principle.”

Speaking of morality… a leader of a comic industry non-profit group is obviously feeling attacked because of her stance against the CBLDF. (Unfortunately, she has since locked her blog, so none of these links are available.) The particular images in this free speech case make her feel “kinda sick”. (Note also that this took place in Australia, so the American CBLDF isn’t even involved.)

She “feels oppressed” because people are trying to explain to her that free speech doesn’t mean only supporting the speech you agree with. So she drags out the sarcasm cannon, charging her critics with hypocrisy because they complain about sexist images. One might conclude she doesn’t understand the difference between wanting to make something illegal and wanting to cause others to think about the effects of their work…. or it’s not convenient for her to pay attention to that distinction. From her later comment in the same post:

while me and other people want to build a bridge on issues like homosexuality, religious tolerance, diversity, etc — you people come along with this illustrated child porn thing, like a sledgehammer. It’s such an insane, sensational, indefensible, bullshit thing — and it drowns everything else out. …

I know what I am saying may sound like an anathema to you, but you and everybody who agrees with you can choose to ignore what I say and press on. I really don’t care.

Those are lots of posts from someone who doesn’t care. But then, she recently faked a feud, so I don’t want to assume I know what her real motive or belief is. Maybe this is another stunt to draw attention to the issue using some kind of reverse psychology.

Taking her comments at face value, as someone who was part of Friends of Lulu during Dave Sim’s original attacks on the group, back in the early 90s, this makes me sad. Sim felt that FOL didn’t support free speech, and now their president is making his then-erroneous assumptions come true.

Let’s move to something even more unbelievable, and sexism we can all agree on: a comic store clerk refused to sell a woman a comic because it’s too violent, although he was fine with letting her purchase it when he thought she was buying it for a boyfriend. I’ve heard of idiot clerks trying to steer women to comics based on stereotypes, but to refuse a sale to an adult? That flabbergasts me.

36 Responses to “Muckraking LinkBlogging”

  1. Ray Radlein Says:

    Wow. Three stories, three depressing WTF? facepalms.

  2. Ed Sizemore Says:

    How would you compare what the orchestra did with what Propostion 8 opponents in California did in outing supporters of Propostion 8, partcularly in the entertainment community? I’m think of Scott Eckern, who had to resign as artistic director of the California Musical Theater {}. Did the opponents of Proposition 8 cross a free speech line? I think they did. But I’m very interested in seeing arguments from the other side.

  3. Nat Gertler Says:

    “She “feels oppressed” because people are trying to explain to her that free speech doesn’t mean only supporting the speech you agree with.”

    No, she felt oppressed before that, as the post made clear. She felt oppressed because she knew that people would disagree with her, as though she’s supposed to have some right not to be disagreed with. Then she acted more oppressed when people answered questions she asked in her blog. And not feeling oppressed enough, this self-proclaimed superheroine painted those disagreeing with her as having called her a fascist, despite the fact that they, well, hadn’t.

  4. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I have to disagree with Valerie. For example, I think that Lost Girls is absolute filth. I find it is so distasteful, that it makes me not want to read anything with Alan Moore’s name on it. But, he has every right to publish this book and sell it to consenting adults. Just because I find a book abhorrent is no reason for me to want to make it illegal. I like how Gaiman points out the judge has inadvertently given human rights to fictional characters. That should fact alone should point how ludicrous the judge’s and Valerie’s position is on this.

  5. Melinda Beasi Says:

    The thing at the comic book store seriously blows my mind. I really can’t even wrap my brain around it. Wow.

    Ed, it’s interesting that you brought up the Scott Eckern thing. I have really mixed feelings about that, and I haven’t been able to quite sort them out. On one hand, having worked in the musical theater industry for a very long time, I know that it is one of the few arenas in which people can truly expect not to encounter homophobia, at least from the top, which is pretty important to a lot of the people in the business. And it can be incredibly jarring when you *do* encounter it there, and certainly might make a lot of people really uncomfortable about working at that theater. I personally think I would have been uncomfortable working there, because the artistic director of any theater sets the tone for everything that happens, onstage and off, and because it is the nature of art for people’s personal beliefs and passions to become a part of it. So on one hand, I can understand a bit how it happened, why people would have been upset, and so on. I don’t think it was out of line for people to be *upset* about his support for Proposition 8, or to express their dismay about that, and even their reluctance to work with him. I can even understand how the theater’s board might have thought, “holy crap, nobody is going to want to work with this guy, the organization is DOOMED,” too. It’s not the most stable business in the world, and it’s hard enough to keep theaters afloat as it is. And honestly, even without the public outcry, it’s a really small business, and word gets around… pretty soon they notice that they aren’t getting the same level of talent coming in as they used to, the productions suffer for it, the patrons start to notice and… well, it would have taken longer, but they might have been doomed anyway with him at the helm. So on some level, it all makes sense to me. But I’m still pretty uncomfortable with it, and I wish people would have approached it on a personal level with him as an individual rather than on a public level, because as abhorrent as I find the guy’s views (and now unimportant I think it is, generally, to protect bigotry), it really bothers me that he was forced out of his job the way he was.

    Wow, I’m longwinded. So all of that was really just so say, “I sort of agree with you, but I keep waffling.” :) This is just the first opportunity I’ve had to discuss this anywhere, now that I’m pretty much out of the business. Heh. I hope it’s okay for me to chime in on that.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Ed, that’s a very interesting question, but I don’t think the two situations are analogous. The Cleveland thing is about not liking someone’s negative reviews; the other exposes hypocrisy in a situation involving civil rights. If the orchestra leader was Jewish, say, and the critic in the first case was secretly a member of an anti-Semitic organization, then we’d have more basis for comparison.

    Melinda, you’re welcome to share that perspective, and thank you for showing us more about expectations in that world. And thanks for the history of the other situation, Nat.

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, I guess I see them as analogous because they both involve groups trying to silent those that disagree with them and using the person’s job as the weapon. In the case of the music critic, his job was directly related to his voicing disagreement. In the case of Eckern, the relationship between job and opinion are indirect. In both cases, it’s a group saying, “I don’t like the way you think, so I’m going to get you fired as a message to others that think like you.” I’m willing to concede the connection maybe tenuous at best, but in my mind I can’t help but seeing them on the same continuum.

    Melinda, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your honesty and your insight.

  8. Johanna Says:

    I thought the playhouse situation was a boycott — people saying they didn’t want to work with someone who was bigoted against “their kind” — while the orchestra situation was a case of pressuring someone’s boss to fire them. Again, I don’t think those are quite the same thing. In the orchestra case, the critic’s job is to comment without fear of reprisal (although that’s getting harder and harder to do).

  9. Hope Says:

    That last item reminds me of a comic shop where the owner frequently thrust cute talking-animal kids’ comics at me, despite the fact that most of my purchases were Japanese horror manga and scribbly indie comics. :/

  10. Johanna Says:

    I always got steered to Sandman and Elfquest, even though I was looking for obscure superhero back issues starring the Huntress. In your case, it sounds like some people hadn’t figured out that there’s a difference between comics for kids and comics for women.

  11. Najika Says:

    The sad thing about the second story is that the person in question is a writer herself. If anyone in the world should appreciate the importence of free speech it should be her. It would be poetic justice if her work gets published and some over-zealous parent somewhere finds it objectionable and raises a big fuss.

  12. Johanna Says:

    That’s already come up (unless she deleted the comments that mentioned it). She’s working on Cloak & Dagger, which could conceivably be seen as excusing drug abuse (that’s what gives the underage kids their superpowers) and features a woman wearing a cleavage-bearing costume cut down below her navel. But no one has sex, so it’s ok, I guess.

    That was probably too bitchy of me. Given some of the comments she’s made about her history, I can understand why the idea of children being sexualized before they’re ready for it could be very painful for her. But I think there are better ways to work out that trauma than pretending that that kind of thing is completely inappropriate for any and all fiction.

  13. Suzene Says:

    Wow. I’ve enjoyed Val’s blog, and that’s a level of fingers-in-ears-la-la-la that I wouldn’t have expected from her.

  14. Andre Says:

    A critic can’t do his job if he can’t tell it like he thinks it is. However if he has a vendetta his boss needs to figure that out and take corrective action.

    Val would have got a round of applause if she had just talked about how that subject makes her feel without ever bringing up censorship or prison and all of its charms. She fails to address any concerns outside of linking to one report that said that playboy = rape and shouting “It’s drawn kid porn!” over and over.

    I would pay money to watch that happen with my wife. She needs her comic fix and was in the army.

  15. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Linkarama@Newsarama Says:

    […] Draper Carlson, who maintains the blog Comics Worth Reading, put it in perspective in a Friday post, by framing it thusly: “a leader of a comic industry non-profit group is obviously feeling […]

  16. Rich Johnston Says:

    Why should Friends Of Lulu support free speech?

  17. Johanna Says:

    The point we tried to make to Dave Sim so long ago was that Friends of Lulu is not anti-free speech. (Some assume that feminism = censorship, erroneously.)

  18. Anun Says:

    I guess I could figure out my stance on Valerie’s current crusade more if I knew where she stood on Phobe Gloeckner’s work. I mean, that is blatant depiction of child sexual abuse, but I can’t imagine labeling it porn for one second.

    I hate sliding into moral relativism, but sometimes, it is all relative. Kids have sex underage. Is it exploitative to acknowledge it or is censoring to not discuss it in a work like A Child’s Life? I’m kind of torn here.

  19. Joe Says:


    Valerie’s stance on Phoebe’s work doesn’t really matter. She is calling for drawn depictions of children to be legally treated as photos of actual children. If she had her way, she wouldn’t be the one determining what is art and what is pornography. It would be the people who decided to rip apart Girl, Interrupted in New Rochelle or the people who banned the Tin Drum in Oklahoma.

    That’s what is so sad about what Valerie is saying. I can agree with her that the Simpsons porn she is talking about is abhorrent, and the person who was caught with it should be shunned socially if he was using it to get off. She just doesn’t seem to realize the magnitude of what she is advocating. I think you really have to have lived under a repressive government before you can understand why all the freedoms offered in the US constitution are so important.

  20. Johanna Says:

    Your comment has reminded me of the outcry during the election from people who wanted to wear campaign/candidate shirts and were stunned to hear that they wouldn’t be allowed to vote. That law was made for good reasons, but the people complaining didn’t realize that once upon a time people were pressured in such ways, interfering with a free election. It’s a very privileged position, not realizing what life was once like and only concerned with what THEY want. I like your last line a lot.

  21. Kelson Says:

    Sort of like people campaigning against vaccinations, who don’t seem to understand how devastating diseases like polio and smallpox were less than a century ago.

  22. Hsifeng Says:

    This is interesting. Check out Bentcorner’s comment on one of Val’s posts.

    This reminds me of Geek Social Fallacy #1. It also reminds me of Joel Bryan’s response to one of Ami Angelwing’s blog posts.

    Why is it that in hobby scenes like music, hiking, soccer, etc. society doesn’t expect you to like a hypothetical Cat Piss Wo/Man but in hobby scenes like comics, science fiction, video games, etc, society does expect you to welcome one crashing your party, say yes when one asks to date you, etc? Why do so many wider societies (at least in the West, I’m less sure about the rest) point to us to be the designated friends and lovers for unfriendly and unloving people?

    Now I wonder how many GSF1 carriers are going to complain about Val focusing her charity efforts on helping victims of sexual abuse. After all, focusing on a cause excludes other causes…

    Meanwhile, both ‘isn’t the sight of an adult fucking an 8-year-old sexy?’and ‘I don’t care if even drawn child porn disappears’ are speech. Funny how some people will defend the former speech, but not the latter speech, in the name of free speech.

    It reminds me of how both cutting off a preteen’s clitoris and condemning that behavior are traditional customs of Kenyan cultures (for example, the former is a mainstream Masai custom and the latter is a mainstream Swahili custom), but some people out there will be wishy-washy about the former and proudly badmouth the latter in the name of supporting Third World cultures.

    Also, when I was a kid and Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill were testifying in the Senate, I noticed that a whole bunch of people seemed to assume that siding with Hill against Thomas was anti-black racism (since Thomas is black) and siding with Thomas against Hill was not anti-black racism (even though Hill is black too).

    What’s up with this trend?

  23. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna, thanks for fixing the link I accidentally got wrong! :)

    Also, for anyone wondering which part of Joel Bryan’s long and wide-ranging comment Bentcorner’s more focused comment reminded me of, it’s this:

    “…But at the same time, they can’t explain why a convention must be a Total Asshole Zone. Why should people have the ‘right’ to be cretins and jerks but you’re somehow not allowed to wear angel wings with a bare mid-drift? Why should a harmful, jerk-ass behavior that impacts everyone negatively be protected at the expense of something harmless or even potentially beneficial?

    “If we give in, then the assholes win and they have the conventions all to themselves and once again sci-fi and comic book fans marginalize themselves as fringe weirdos with no social skills…”

    Meanwhile, to clarify another part of my comment in case anyone gets confused (for example, I bet not everyone reading an Anglophone blog is a native reader of English): of course the issues of FGM and sexual harassment involve direct harm to actual people that drawing imaginary people on paper doesn’t! Those 3 situations are not identical. What’s similar about each of the 3 cases (and other cases of people being jerks or worse) is the way some cultural relativists accept it and don’t accept criticism of it despite claiming to accept all values and opinions.

  24. Johanna Says:

    I’m not at all sure what you’re trying to say, but are you making the argument that the tolerant have to be tolerant even of intolerance? Because that way lies madness. :)

  25. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says: “I�m not at all sure what you�re trying to say, but are you making the argument that the tolerant have to be tolerant even of intolerance? Because that way lies madness. :)”

    No way am I arguing that! :) I was describing a certain strain of cultural relativism, not recommending it. I totally agree with you, that way does lie madness or at least stupidity. ;)

    I just noticed that some of the self-proclaimed-tolerant people already are even more tolerant of intolerant jerks (whether they wish kids did want to get fucked ASAP, girls did want to get knifed, employees did want to get harassed at work, people did want to befriend them without expecting politeness in return, or whatever; and wish they weren’t expected to tolerate those of us who don’t want that) than tolerant of the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, getting back on topic, Valerie D’Orazio’s statements here:

    “So I shed no tears for the absence of porn based on underage cartoon characters on the Internet. Nor will I miss feeling like a party to an illegal act every time I do an image search for cartoon and comic book characters.

    “However, there must be a rather sizable number of people actually visiting these XXX cartoon parody sites — not just those who get off on such images, but just regular people looking for some gross-out humor. Will the latter category find themselves roped in with these crackdowns, even arrested? Would having an illustration of a ‘Peanuts Orgy’ on your hard drive be enough to convict you as a sex offender?

    “It would be helpful, I think, for these boundaries and determinations of what is or is not legal to view and download to be clearly delineated and widely broadcast, as to prevent misunderstandings.

    This is what I wrote in my first post on the Simpsons child-porn case. Please note the last two paragraphs.”

    and here:

    “I like the CBLDF a lot, but if they were fighting for the right of a publisher to print images of little children having sex, I’m not interested in supporting that fight. I’m not. I know I would be more popular if I did. But I just can’t do it.”

    gave me the impression that D’Orazio’s not actually trying to get McEwan (the defendant in question) jailed or even fined $3000 and required to enter into a two-year good behaviour bond…but she isn’t actively defending his appeal of the fine and bond either, she’s talking about how she isn’t actively defending his appeal, and that still isn’t good enough for some people. Why do they have that problem with her? I can’t be sure. I can imagine several different possibilities:
    An assumption that a professional in a field must support charitable causes overlapping with that field (comic pros must support comics causes first, medical pros must support medical causes first, etc.), with no ifs, ands, or buts? (this seems likely)
    The attitude “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”? (this seems likely too)
    Playing “Oppression Olympics” on the fine arts team, the male geek team, the white Australian team, and/or whatever?
    Realizing that D’Orazio’s attitude makes her more mainstream, combined with a more-alternative-than-thou attiude or a kneejerk dislike of the whole entire “Big Bad Outside World“?
    Relating to McEwan’s behavior so much that he or she takes it personally when someone criticizes it?
    Something else altogether? (hey, I can’t read minds and imagine every possibility ;) )
    More than one of the above (because not everyone with a problem with her is the same!)?

    Last but not least, this all reminds me that lots of different comics fans and comics pros give some energy, time, and money to causes beyond the niche of comics, whether building homes, donating to food banks, giving blood, helping at animal shelters, pitching in against human trafficking, raising money for oncological research, and/or whatever. :D If you don’t give just like I or D’Orazio or Gaiman does, that’s fine – with so many problems in the world, we gotta divide and conquer. ;)

  26. Hsifeng Says:

    Oops, sorry about the formatting problems! Next time I’ll remember to replace any curly quotes in what I copy and paste with plain quotes and to not use the unnumbered list markup tags. Also, one of the links was botched – it should be “Big Bad Outside World“. Maybe I’m still too accustomed to phpBB forums (that let one edit a post after posting)?

  27. Hsifeng Says:

    Ack, the link was botched again. It should be

  28. Andre Says:

    “gave me the impression that D’Orazio’s not actually trying to get McEwan (the defendant in question) jailed” Its my understanding that is exactly what she wants…
    It is my understanding she wants the trash outlawed.

    If that is not the case then yah very very few people are going to mind.

  29. Hsifeng Says:

    Andre Says:: “‘gave me the impression that D’Orazio’s not actually trying to get McEwan (the defendant in question) jailed’ Its my understanding that is exactly what she wants…”

    Wanting something is one thing, actually trying to make it happen is another.

  30. Andre Says:

    “Wanting something is one thing, actually trying to make it happen is another.”
    … ok but the argument is about her wanting and why she wants to send people that have never hurt anyone to jail for all the unwanted buttsex they can handle with a largely undefined criteria that can change from day to day and county to county.

    If politicians get the support it will happen in time and its up to those that care about art, literature, expression, free press, and freedom to always question why anything NEEDS to be censored.
    If the best argument you have is “its gross and why would you not want it cencored?” then it fails the test.

  31. Hsifeng Says:

    Andre Says: “If the best argument you have is ‘its gross and why would you not want it cencored?’ then it fails the test.”

    Meanwhile, what sort of test does another argument closer to hers, “why should I defend this?”, fail? D’Orazio’s not bothering to help McEwan appeal the penalty he got in court (a $3000 fine, a two-year good behaviour bond, and no jail time), and neither are lots of other people. She says she wouldn’t donate to a fund if it donates to his court case, and lots of other people criticize specific charity efforts too. How much worse is she than everyone I’ve seen donate charity funds to Oxfam or Free the Slaves or Reporters Without Borders or whatever without also chipping in for McEwan’s lawyers and/or fine payments? How much worse is she than everyone I’ve seen question the United Way or the Salvation Army or whatever?

    Something like this actually came up a few months ago on a comics forum I sometimes frequent. I mentioned a superhero-related promo I got from Children’s Hospital Boston’s Blood Donor Center. Someone else criticized one of the restrictions these places have on donating blood. Those of us on the thread who do give blood neither complained about his opinion nor badmouthed him for it. :)

  32. Andre Says:

    She can do whatever she wants to with her money but thats far from making her right on the issue.
    When someone pops up saying gay blood will give people aids it can and will scare people. Best way to fight this kind of magical thinking is with real critical thinking.
    Unless you have a better argument then gross, you need to stop patting Bush on the back and asking him to take a look in peoples bedrooms.

  33. Hsifeng Says:

    Andre Says: “She can do whatever she wants to with her money”

    I agree :)

    Andre Says: “but thats far from making her right on the issue.”

    The issue being discussed sure seems to have become whether or not McEwan is owed support from D’Orazio of all people. Doesn’t “She can do whatever she wants to with her money” make her right on that issue by definition?

    Andre Says: “When someone pops up saying gay blood will give people aids it can and will scare people. Best way to fight this kind of magical thinking is with real critical thinking.”

    I totally agree. :D Real critical thinking, not hyperbole or guilt trips or “if you’re not with us you’re against us!!!” or whatever. ;)

    Andre Says: “Unless you have a better argument then gross, you need to stop patting Bush on the back and asking him to take a look in peoples bedrooms.”

    Just curious, who is this statement addressed to?

  34. Andre Says:

    “The issue being discussed sure seems to have become whether or not McEwan is owed support from D’Orazio of all people. Doesn’t “She can do whatever she wants to with her money” make her right on that issue by definition?” You lost me here so I am just going to say sure.

    In closing despite whatever your argument is here you and I seem to both agree there is a difference in thinking and doing as demonstrated by your argument that she was not actively trying to get anyone thrown in jail she was just applauding it.

    With that I sign off to go make a donation to the CBLDF and hope I never find myself in court trying to defend my taste in web comics like Sexy Losers, or my wife’s interest in yaoi.

    (.Y.) <—- Can you tell me how old those are? Do you think its worth sending someone to jail over? would it be worse if it was drawn better?

  35. Hsifeng Says:

    Andre Says:

    “…Do you think its worth sending someone to jail over?…”

    Neither the Parramatta Local Court magistrate (not maned in the article) who sentenced Alan McEwan to a $3000 fine and a two-year good behaviour bond and zero jail time, nor New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams who rejected McEwan’s appeal against the sentence, would think so.

  36. Hsifeng Says:

    Oops, that should be “named,” not “maned.” Sorry!




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