So in the Jim Hines post on the Sad Puppies IV list (which I referenced last post), Hines quotes conservative SF author John C. Wright ranting about “They will never cease to abuse, demean, and insult us, and desecrate everything we love, and to slander and libel us with mouth-frothingly stupid and freakishly counterproductive lies” (something Wright should be familiar with). In the comments, his wife says that Wright is really much more reasonable, it’s just that he’s taken out of context and that people imagine his words being spewed with outrage and spittle instead of read in a calm, measured tone. And when he says things about “the left” he really only means some leftists, not all of them (I presume that would include this post on how us liberals hate the idea of beauty).
First off, as someone who’s read several of Wright’s posts (such as the one where he compares having a Muslim in the Avengers to having a Nazi on the team), no, context does not improve him. Nor does reading his posts in a calm measured voice (like his outrage there was a gay relationship in a popular cartoon show) create a new understanding.
And “he doesn’t really mean it” is never a good defense against criticism. If I wrote that everyone who belongs to the Catholic Church is giving their consent to pedophilia it doesn’t matter whether in my mind I was saying “some Catholics, specifically the ones who think any criticism of the church on this issue is religious bigotry,” (and yes, I’ve known a couple of those). I condemned all Catholics in print, my headcanon about what I really meant is irrelevant if people decide I’m a bigot (note: I don’t believe all Catholics are morally responsible, nor have I ever written so—this is a hypothetical example only). With maybe an exception if I write a follow-up clarification/apology, and I mean an actual apology, not one of those “I’m sorry I offended everyone who didn’t get I was being funny/I apologize to all the sensitive PC people who took issue with my words” things. And I still have to avoid saying the same thing again (Wright’s consistently expressed the same views about gays, the Left, etc.)
I’m quite sure there are plenty of people who don’t mean what they write. I often get the feeling some conservative pundits are more about giving the hard-core bigots in their audience some red meat than true believers themselves (I do not include Wright in that category, I do believe he’s completely sincere). Doesn’t matter. You write it, you own it. You publish it under your name, you own it, even if you didn’t write it. After Pat Robertson got some flak for the “Jewish bankers are taking over the world” book, The New World Order, one of his associates said Of Course Robertson didn’t think that—he had a ghostwriter, and didn’t review the work.
Too bad, so sad. lt’s Robertson’s name on the book, it’s his book. Even assuming that the ghostwriter story is true, it’s no excuse. Just like politicians can’t get off the hook for speeches by saying that they didn’t write it, they shouldn’t be held accountable for the words (I think I have heard that defense once).
If Wright takes it back, fair enough. But he (or anyone close to him) can’t take it back without you know, actually taking it back.