Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!

One of the kerfuffles that has rolled around lately has to do with a post that Barry Eisler did on J.A. Konrath’s blog, where Barry referenced Michael Stackpole’s consistent rhetoric that writers for NY publishing are like “house slaves” and pointed to another consistent theme in much of the indie-publishing meme which is that those who write for NY publishers are suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

I want to note that Barry was clear enough that these were analogies–he wasn’t making an actual psychological diagnosis of Stockholm Syndrome, and was referencing other people’s rhetoric. He also apologized for the analogy later on, and admitted it wasn’t helpful, and I appreciate that.

But the language of abuse and slavery and Stockholm Syndrome is rampant among self-publishing proponents. Konrath and Eisler are by no means the worst offenders. It drives me absolutely bonkers. The “abuse” I had to put up with from my publisher was two six-figure deals and inclusion in an anthology with a New York Times bestseller. Weep for me.

I haven’t given up self-pubbing at this point, and I won’t. But I do think that traditional New York publishing has value. I believe in diversification, and I wouldn’t have a problem signing a New York contract for a limited number of books under a limited set of circumstances. After all, book sales multiply with the number of books out. Having more books out–and having paper copies of books on more shelves–would grow my audience so that even if I make less on those books, I could actually make more money in total. So I am perfectly open to the possibility of a NY contract as a method of diversifying myself. That’s a business decision. You might disagree with my reasoning, but I’m surely not oppressed.

I have friends who have worked with utterly magical editors, who would sell books to those editors any chance they get. It’s a business decision to get a smaller percentage for the chance to work with someone who will help you produce books at the height of your capacity. I have friends who do not have the time, inclination, or patience to self-publish–and self-publishing requires a very distinct skillset. It’s a business decision on their part to focus on writing.

I recognize that a critique of tone isn’t always valuable. But I think what this incident demonstrates is that egregious tone can lead to substantive problems and a lack of discussion on the salient issues altogether. Excessive rhetoric strips away nuance. It’s very hard to say, “Publishing is like slavery! But, you know, to each their own individualized circumstances! Sometimes, for some people, maybe it’s a decent business decision. Just not for me, you know, and maybe not for lots of other people.”

The result of the tone issue was that people got pissed off and screamed and yelled about rhetoric. Some people said, “YES! GO! SLAY THE INFIDELS!” and some responded by arguing the analogy instead of talking about Amazon and the future of the publishing industry. Some really interesting and important points that Barry made in that post have basically been ignored because of the rhetoric employed on a side-issue.

There are times when there is no nuance to be had, and so I’m fine with shrill tones under those circumstances. Actual slavery should be opposed. Genocide, ditto. Egregious violations of human rights? Very, very bad. But a decision about how to get your book in the hands of readers? That does not rise to the level of “crimes against humanity.” And using that rhetoric to discuss it means that instead of having a discussion about substance, you end up with accusations flying. And that’s a shame.

One final point: in Eisler’s piece, the question of whether authors are abused (if only by analogy) is ancillary to the point of what we think of Amazon’s power. But Barry claims that NY publishing’s cartel would be equivalent to an Amazon monopoly. There are, of course, a few salient differences between an Amazon monopoly and the NY publishing “cartel” (which I put in quotes since I have no direct evidence that it’s a cartel).

  • Economically speaking, cartels are preferable to a monopoly because there is economic pressure to defect from a cartel. There is no way to defect from a monopoly.
  • Economically speaking, what Amazon is doing right now is seeking not only horizontal domination over book selling but vertical integration, whereas traditional publishing is only concerned with horizontal domination, at least insofar as it touches the book supply chain. (I’m aware that most publishing houses are part of a vertical integration of media corporations generally–and that in fact does have real consequences, and ones I’m not happy with. But they are not as of yet integrated with retail sales.) Vertical integration raises a different set of economic risks.

These are interesting questions, and I’m sorry they haven’t been explored.

As a personal matter, I like Amazon–how could I not?–but I’m very aware that the reason that Amazon gave authors 70% was not because they were feeling generous, but because Apple entered the market at 70% and Amazon felt pressure to match them.

I’m wary of any large concentration of power. And I’m exceedingly wary of a large concentration of power that doesn’t have a large concentration of power elsewhere to match it. At this point, I think that Amazon is providing healthy competition. But I also believe that the competition would stop being healthy if we stopped pitting Amazon’s near-monopoly market power in the e-book market against the NY publishers.

And that’s the nuance that’s getting stripped from this conversation by the tone: We can’t talk rationally about relative concentrations of power and the future of the market if we persist in labeling one side as an abuser and the other a rescuer. It’s not an abuser-rescuer dynamic.

So there. Those are my two cents. I respect both Konrath and Eisler immensely (which is not something I will say for all the indie prophets out there)–they’re both clever and thoughtful and successful. I’ve talked to Barry several times in the past, and I really value his insight and intelligence. But I don’t think that the rhetoric employed is actually aiding discussion–which is a darned shame, because I think they have a lot to add to a rational discussion. I wish that they were using rhetoric that would facilitate that discussion instead of hindering it.

93 thoughts on “Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!

  1. But, as with most comedy, it’s 90% delivery, awareness of your audience, self-awareness, etc. The gender of the person making the joke is part of the equation when it comes to comedy — which is why Sarah Silverman is able to “get away” with saying the things she does. That’s part of her charm.

    This I can probably agree with.

  2. @Victoria Dahl: Most of us have some sort of privilege. You and I are white, and as such we benefit from white privilege in this country. Privilege doesn’t mean we’ve done anything wrong or that we’ve been handed everything. It just means that we have not had the experience of being a minority culture. When we use language that assumes white culture as the default, we’ve employed privileged language and we’ve probably alienated people in the process.

    Unthinkingly throwing around slavery or domestic abuse metaphors or cracking rape jokes is another example of privilege. Since their demographic has never had to fear these things, it’s no big deal. To someone like me, who had she shit kicked out of her for a long time by a boyfriend who had me convinced I deserved it and couldn’t do better, it pisses me right the hell off that a guy who’s never had to fear an entire gender using that imagery for something as trivial as a book contract. That relies on a privileged assumption that the male perspective is the default (“domestic violence is abstract”) and it trivializes the pain of victims (“you were too dumb to leave, just like authors are too dumb to reject a contract”).

    I don’t think any topic is ever off-limits, in humor or otherwise, but you can’t use oppressive language or subjects unthinkingly. If you’re not acknowledging their weight and your own privilege when you use them, you contribute to oppression yourself, even if you do it unwittingly.

    That’s what I mean when I use the term. I understand that they don’t endorse inequality explicitly. Their impassioned defense speaks to their not wanting to be seen as racist or misogynist or actively contributing to oppression. But, they are. We all do sometimes.

    Smart men would just accept the criticism, get over whatever perceived slight to their pride they think the criticism means, realize that using privileged language is not conducive to writing persuasively to a wide audience and just move on. Foolish men “mansplain.”

    Don’t be like Penny Arcade where the response far, far eclipsed the misstep. Accept that you didn’t before realize the language is problematic, and keep that in mind for the future. No apologies necessary. Just educate yourself and stop trying to tell people what to think about your words.

  3. Thank you to Courtney, Ridley, and Robin for saying exactly what I wanted to say but haven’t had time to say yet.

    The privilege on display here, it reeks.

  4. @Ridley: The problem here Ridley, is that you yourself are doing the same thing by making it an issue of women vs. men, when that’s just not the case. Although not your intention, your words seem to assume that men are not oppressed or abused.

    When people start to make issues about gender & race, when there was none in the original text, it’s much a bigger issue I think. One becomes part of the problem rather than the solution.

    And looking and Barry’s comments, he seems to have taken responsibility for his words. But people don’t seem to want to acknowledge it.

    Then you guys come up with people “mansplaining”, well, do you like if I called your posts as “womensplaining”? I think not.

    So just about everyone here discussing this issue is guilty of some aggressive/judging behavior, which is sick behavior, and leads to lack of communication. And if there’s lack of communication, then what’s the whole point of this exercise?

  5. I write about publishing. If I’m making offensive comments or analogies, or if any of my guest bloggers are offending people, so what? That doesn’t invalidate the facts. It might show me to be an asshole, but what does that have to do with publishing?

    You’ve answered your own question. Your message doesn’t get through because people are debating your analogies and not the validity of your ideas. It doesn’t matter how right that you are. Just look at how your blog post has been totally sidelined by a discussion on the use of inappropriate analogies. Being a bomb thrower doesn’t persuade anyone; it just invites controversy. As Courtney alluded to, perhaps that’s the intent.

    You could also argue that at some point, worrying about the opinions of strangers and trying to comport yourself so as to satisfy their whims is foolish and unproductive.

    An important attribute of being an attorney is to persuade, yet Mr. Eisler can’t persuade anyone if his analogies diminish the overall argument. I’m not a proponent of political correctness, but I do think you have to know your audience. Being sensitive to the feelings of others doesn’t mean you’re satisfying their whims. It just allows you to persuade with facts, without being bogged down by emotion or tangential issues.

    @Barry Eisler: You asked for an inoffensive theme or term for the advantages of self-publishing. I would say to expand on the idea that authors are their own best advocates. You can be the mosted talented writer out there, but if you don’t hit those sales projections, legacy publishing will let you go. They have to do a cost-benefit analysis and not every writer will survive the test.

    In order for an author to be in total control of the product, pricing and promotion, they have to try the self-publishing route. A safe analogy is comparing legacy publishing to that of a former girlfriend. The girlfriend may be nice, safe and predictable, but sometimes in life, you have to move on and make a change.

  6. @Victoria Dahl: My point wasn’t supposed to be “women wouldn’t find the frog/monkey video funny” or “men automatically will.”

    People differ. People make different kinds of jokes. That’s fine. I don’t go reading jokes that I don’t think are funny, and I think you’re aware that I think that a lot of things are hilarious that are probably not funny to others. You know exactly where I share those things. 🙂

    My point isn’t, “Nobody can ever make these jokes anywhere.” It’s, “when we’re talking about business arrangements in the world at large, it would be nice to use language that was more inclusive.”

    I’m okay with the monkey/frog video. I’m not okay with the repeated analogy that asks me to become a player in that video.

    As for the discussion of privilege–saying someone is using “privileged language” isn’t saying that they’re doing it because they’re racist or sexist. Privilege is a question of the safe spaces that people have.

    I’m privileged in that if I ever get pulled over, the cops are probably going to listen to my story and not call for drug dogs–that’s a privilege of my class and my ability to speak in a certain way and the fact that if anyone twigs me as non-white, they’ll think I’m Asian and so I’m generally “good.” I take it for granted that I’m going to get a certain amount of basic respect when I go into hospitals and restaurants and banks. That’s a privilege I have.

    Having some kind of privilege doesn’t mean that everything I have is tainted or that I’ve never suffered hard times. It doesn’t mean I’ve never been victimized in that way or that I can’t be victimized. Ditto for white men.

    When I say to someone who’s suffering from a bureaucratic snafu, “Just call them up and explain what happened,” I’m making some privileged assumptions–that people will listen on the other end, that they’ll believe what you have to say, that they’ll want to help you out.

    Those might not be true for everyone. “Privileged” is not a code word for “racist” or “sexist” or “insensitive.” It means that some characteristics that people have tend to make them more likely to experience the world differently (and usually better).

    And it is only a statistical tendency–obviously, there are men who have been abused, and men who have been raped, and just as obviously, there are women who haven’t, and women who don’t fear it.

    The language of “privilege” exists as a reminder that our experiences of some particular things are statistically likely to diverge on some characteristics that we might have. It can thus be problematic to define the ground you’re standing on as normal.

    I haven’t been unpacking any of this in the discussion because I assumed that this was something Barry was familiar with.

    At the point when he uses an analogy, I explain my reaction to it, and his response is, “Wow, who would ever think that way?”–yeah, at that point, that looks and smells exactly like privilege.

    Maybe it’s something else, but if there’s a tendency towards a gendered emotional response to something, it helps to try to unpack the privileges that exist, and to think about whether they’re at work.

  7. @Bangabanga: You’re on dangerously trollish grounds, but as to this:

    So please, let’s stop the men vs. women crap… this is not the place. And completely off-topic, and misrepresentative of the whole thing.

    This is not the place?

    This is not the topic?

    Funny. I had thought this was my blog and my topic.

    I’m not going to brook any further unthinking derailment and trollery from you. She who wields the disemvoweler picks the topic.

    Everything else you say basically bears little relation to the conversation at hand, as so far as I am aware, nobody has made the assertions that you’re responding to.

  8. @Bangabanga: personally, I don’t care if they call it womensplaining or not.

    Rape is a brutal, ugly word, and it doesn’t even touch on the act.

    And I’m kind of just fine with being offended with people who want to use it in jest and then not understand why people get upset.

    If that’s womansplaining…fine. That’s my two cents on it. Nobody has to like my opinion, or agree. But I’m still entitled to it…as you are entitled to yours.

  9. @Courtney Didn’t mean to come off as “trollish”, but to my purview I don’t think many here are listening much to what other people are saying, at least to the point of trying to understand them. On both sides of the issues. And of everything going on in here, I think that’s the saddest part in all of this.

    I’ve seen Barry try to understand the “opposition” side of it + coming with rationalizations/explanations as to why he fibbed in the first place, but listening nonetheless to the plight of others. In contrast Konrath, not so much.

    As for the assertions I’ve been making, see Ridley’s post for one. That it’s understanding why she says the things she says, but her posts have been in large about how “men” do X to “women”.

    I don’t think you intended this to be a “battle of the sexes” thing, which is why I made the assertions I made. But you’re right, this is your blog. I was just trying to bring the discussion back to what you were stating in your OP post in the first place.

    But this is my point Shiloh, why are we making the leap talking about rape? And if we’re talking about rape, why does it have to be a women issue?

    All the things Barry mentioned in his original post, are things that affect both men and women, yet somehow all this convo got twisted into something about men vs. women, and on whites vs. minority.

    Just to put some perspective into what I’m saying, I’m man and minority. As a minority, though I applaud people who stand and fight for my rights, I scratch my head when people use the race card where no racism was intended. In my opinion, these sorts of “fights” force people to take sides, unnecessarily, and can become aggressive in defending the position, to the point of lack of communication and you end up with more “segregation” than when you started. Because everyone wants to win the argument.

    Anyways, that’s all I wanted to say. I think a lot of good points are being made, but I think many of the points are being made using the same tactics which they’re chastising.

  10. My big problem was with this statement: “It’s great for you that you don’t have a gut reaction about that, and it’s great that you recognize that you aren’t built that way…but that is why they call it “privilege.” And I’m not going to apologize to you for not having that particular privilege, or pretend that your privilege should be treated as normal.”

    Courtney, your truth is that Barry’s professed insensitivity must be the result of privilege. That it has to be, because no one could just be that insensitive?

    My truth, and the reason I take issue with your statement, is that I’m not sensitive. I’m not sensitive about things that affect *me.* So when Barry says, “I’m sorry. I don’t have that reaction. I’m not built that way.” I get it.

    Because, for example, the very logical reaction to my saying I don’t find rape jokes repulsive…The reaction I see all the time and that nearly anyone would see as the truth… is something along the lines of “My friend was raped and I don’t think that shit is funny and you have very obviously NEVER BEEN RAPED.” Now, hey, this is an easy problem for me. Because I have been raped, it’s not about privilege, and now we can move on to the real truth. I’m not sensitive that way. I’m not built that way. It doesn’t bother me.

    Now, I am *aware*. I’m aware of what I should and shouldn’t say that other people are sensitive to, but it has been a long, hard road of figuring that out. -And Courtney, yes, I absolutely know that you get that, which is exactly why I’m discussing it with you! 🙂 – Because as someone who’s not sensitive, it is a learning curve. It’s a constant learning curve! And one that results in a lot of hurt feelings along the way.

  11. @Bangabanga: Your “point” reminds me of #5 on this list.

    This isn’t a male vs. female issue. This is a privilege issue and like I said, we all benefit from privilege of some sort. The rest of your post is rife with ignorance that I just don’t care to unpack.

    If you want to learn about rape culture and privilege, there’s a wealth of information about it online.

  12. I’ve been lurking for a while, and I’m finally jumping in. I’m not a troll – I enjoy Courtney’s articles and share them with my network. But I’ve been watching this comment thread, and I do think that Victoria and Bongabonga have raised some really good points about where the conversation has ended up. And I say this as a woman, a minority, and as someone who has dealt with the legacy of abusive relationships in a way that has affected me profoundly. But just my two cents…

  13. @Bangabanga: Rape isn’t a women’s issue.

    I’m fairly in tune with that actually.

    Men can, do, and are sexually assaulted.

    But it’s an…’instinctive’ fear for women, for lack of a better word.

    Rape is a societal concern. Period.

    Just as racism is a societal concern.

    And I’m allowed to appalled that these issues were as ‘analogies’ in publishing contracts, where the people signing the contracts have the utmost free will in signing them. Rape victims aren’t given that freedom of choice. Victims of racism aren’t given that freedom of choice. Because they are…well, victims. Their choices were stripped away.

    And “we” aren’t making the leap. The leap was made with the ‘monkey/frog’ bit. Just as the race thing was made with ‘negro league’ comment.

    it wasn’t made by us. Some of us just weren’t too impressed with it when we saw that leap.

  14. @Victoria Dahl: Courtney, your truth is that Barry’s professed insensitivity must be the result of privilege. That it has to be, because no one could just be that insensitive?

    Yes–you’re right. I have kind of assumed throughout this entire discussion that Barry’s been exposed to critical race theory/gender theory/et cetera. He talks the talk. He went to law school at the right time. He’s well-read politically on the left.

    Maybe that’s an unfair judgment on my part, to assume that he’s going to have the same general level of awareness of others I have known who fall into his education/awareness status. Nonetheless, that has been my assumption. I could be wrong.

    But I also don’t think your description of yourself looks like what Barry is doing here.

    Your response is, “I’m not built that way. I’m not sensitive. I’ve had to figure out that other people are, and it’s taken me some time and it hasn’t always been pretty.”

    What I was getting from Barry was, “I’m not built that way. I’m not sensitive. My level of sensitivity is normal, so your sensitivity is extreme.”

    That’s not the same thing. It’s the assumption that his level of sensitivity is the normal one that most bothers me–not the difference in sensitivity.

    Differences in sensitivity are natural. Assuming that your experience is universal…that’s where I have problems. And setting the universal sensitivity level in a spot where a good number of women cringe?

    That’s uncool.

  15. Every individual deal, opportunity, or problem has to be approached by every individual author on the basis of, “What’s best for me, my work, my career, and my current needs?”

    Writing careers have always been very individualistic and idiosyncratic, and that hasn’t changed just because technology and distribution is changing.

    But that’s not a concept that lends itself well to the attention-getting tactics of proclaiming that one’s own business model is The One True Path and any writer not following the same business model is a masochistic fool suffering from psychosis.

  16. I’m with you all the way on this one, Courtney. This is an epic PR fail and Eisler’s damage control leaves a lot to be desired. The way he spoke to you here bothers me more than his original rhetoric.

    You can’t un-say something on the internet, or tell people to carry on as though you hadn’t said it. Too late.

    Also, Be the Monkey? The title alone makes me want to hulksmash. Let’s stop referencing rape and slavery in relation to publishing.

  17. @Shiloh well the first mention of “rape” I saw, was in your first comment. But your usage in context was correct. It was followed by a comment by Robin though in which she talks about “abuse” being a problem word because of women self-publishers. And of course, Konrath then came and made it worse.

    But anyways, I’ll leave it at I agree with much of what you say.

    @Courtney What I saw from Barry, though I may need to re-read, is that he’s not sensitive, but acknowledged that there’s sensitive people and sensitive issues, which he understands, but also brought forward the issue of over-sensitivity. Both extremes are not “normal” by the nature that they’re extremes. It goes both ways. At least that’s what I gathered from what he said.

    Could an explanation for Barry’s lack of sensitivity be because of his training in the CIA? A position in which I would think one has to grow thick skin to combat the horrors of the world, and difficult decisions one has to make. I don’t know anything about Barry, but that may be a reason.

  18. @Bangabanga

    My brother is very physical with his friends. Punching and kicking are acceptable among them. Sometimes when he’s with me, he forgets he’s in a different context and punches me.

    Does it make it okay for him to hurt me and leave bruises because he forgot my repeatedly expressed wishes? Of course not; we evaluate damage by what the victim says/feels, not by the aggressor’s intent. He bruised someone who didn’t want to play his punching game. That is unacceptable behavior.

    The proper course of action, which my brother always does, is to apologize and make amends. At the very least, he must remember that I don’t like being punched and remember not to do it in the future. Someone who didn’t care about my expressed wishes, who continued punching me (even in jest!) despite being warned repeatedly, would be an asshole and would not be my friend for much longer.

    So I’m bewildered why you think it’s acceptable for people to say things that cause painful reactions in their audience, and then defend their right to say such things because it doesn’t hurt them. Intent is not magic; it doesn’t clear up my bruises or ease the fear of rape. It doesn’t matter that my brother is fine with being punched in return; it doesn’t matter that Eisler is fine with hearing such metaphors in return. The offense is in not listening to one’s audience and modifying behavior accordingly.

    It is perfectly acceptable to critique physical or verbal violence or to state that one is not obligated to put up with such behavior. Calling such critique “oversensitive” implies that it’s the criticizer’s fault for not having thicker skin. It says that one’s level of sensitivity is the proper, normal and natural level, and that anyone who deviates from that level is obligated to either put up with constant pain/pressure, or “fix” themself.

  19. @sylviasybil – I agree w/ your conclusions in the brother scenario, but there’s a marked difference between punching one person, and saying something on your own blog and/or publishing something under your name. In one case, you’re forcing your actions on someone, in the other, people are coming to your blog, and/or choosing to buy your book. What bothers me about this conversation is that if a man makes a comment that some women find offensive, there seems to be no acceptable way for him to disagree. Or is there?

  20. @Livia Blackburne: You can’t disagree. It has nothing to do with gender. You can’t tell anyone what they can and can’t be hurt by. All you can do is say you didn’t mean to insult, apologize and not do it again.

    Calling Eisler out for his language isn’t censoring him. He can write anything he wants to write. What the critics are doing is letting him know that he can’t dictate his words’ reception. Intent isn’t a magic wand.

  21. @Ridley – Fair enough. You can’t tell other people whether to be insulted or not. But can we agree that everybody, man or woman, has the right to evaluate objections against his words, decide whether or not you think the objections have merit or are overly sensitive, and act accordingly?

  22. @ Livia – There are plenty of appropriate places for “boys to be boys.” Bachelor parties. Strip clubs. The pages of MAXIM and PLAYBOY magazine. Dr. Pepper 10 commercials. If Joe and Barry want their discussions about the future of publishing to be taken seriously, though, they might want to think about toning down some of the rhetoric that’s turning off women (and minorities). Then again, if they’re only concerned with speaking to their base (Kindle owners, who pop ebooks like Kerouac popped bennies), they might be on the right track: Kindle owners skew heavily male (52%, according to one source), compared to general book readers (who are more than two-thirds female).

  23. @Livia Blackburne: Sure, but it makes you look a jerk. Showing more concern for your own pride than for the feelings of your intended audience is never a wise move.

    I mean, what’s the point? If you can’t control how people react to you, why belittle their reaction?

  24. @Andrew — Agreed that it all depends on who the target audience is, and the choice of rhetoric will affect how the message. My objection was more because I was starting to get the feeling that people were not going to accept any possible response from Barry except for a complete “You’re right that I’m a chauvinistic pig for ever thinking of disagreeing with you.” I’m just arguing for his right to disagree with his critics without being labeled sexist and privileged.

    @Ridley –

    “Sure, but it makes you look a jerk.”

    You have every right to think he’s a jerk. That is your opinion and you’re entitled to it.

    “Showing more concern for your own pride than for the feelings of your intended audience is never a wise move.”

    This is where I have a problem. There is an underlying assumption here that anybody who disagrees with you is obviously prideful and in denial about the truth. Frankly, I also think that the chimp video was no big deal, and I have no pride on the line. I simply disagree.

  25. @Livia Blackburne: Good for you that the video didn’t bother you. Pin a medal to your chest. It’s completely beside the point.

    The issue isn’t whether or not you find that rape joke inoffensive, it’s whether or not you find objections to it invalid because you didn’t have a problem with it yourself.

    Hun, I can’t make you understand this. Either you think people shouldn’t be jerks to people if they want their approval or understanding or you don’t.

    I swear you’re just concern trolling now.

  26. @Bangabanga: Could an explanation for Barry’s lack of sensitivity be because of his training in the CIA? A position in which I would think one has to grow thick skin to combat the horrors of the world, and difficult decisions one has to make. I don’t know anything about Barry, but that may be a reason.

    I’m holding Barry to a higher standard than the norm because he has published a political tract subtitled “Why Democrats suck at communication and how they can get better.”

    He is putting himself out there as a person who thinks he can facilitate communication among groups that have disparate views. So yes, I do rather think Barry should be held to a higher standard.

  27. @Livia Blackburne: I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it was Eisler’s responses here that really made it tough for me to give him the benefit of the doubt. Had he just said, ‘I stand behind my words, but I completely understand why you are offended or take issue with my rhetoric,’ I think he would have regained a lot of the ground he may have lost with the original analogies. He could have kept his pride and his point without belittling those who objected to his analogies. That insistence on norming his own position and diminishing the responses of those who took issue with his language made it a lot worse, IMO. And the irony is that he — IMO unnecessarily — alienated people in sympathy with many of his substantive arguments.

  28. Uhh, okay, so now I’m a troll. But I do agree that we may not be able to convince each other.

    Courtney, this is my last comment, but if you think my statements were out of line, please do let me know off-list. I do feel bad that the first time I commented on your blog was to argue with people, because I really do enjoy your articles and share many of your views on publishing.

  29. @Livia Blackburne: I don’t think you’re out of line. You’re just expressing your opinion. If I think people are trolling, I’ll call them out personally and threaten disemvowelment. You’ve never come anywhere close & I appreciate your point of view.

  30. SilviaSybil said something that resonated a lot with me” “we evaluate damage by what the victim says/feels, not by the aggressor’s intent.”

    Please bear with me while I meander a bit to my point, using something that happened to me just yesterday.

    Some of you may know (or be able to guess from my handle) that I’m Mexican. I’m a legal permanent resident of the USofA, quite fluent in English and with looks and an accent that are often mistaken for Eastern European.

    I work in the food service, mostly with kids that are younger than my own (18 to 24). Most of these kids are also Anglo-Saxon, white, still living at home, working for their entertainment money–not out of need.

    Last night we had a small and irrelevant issue with a group of 4 regular customers who happen to be black. They also happen to have no manners and an amazing sense of entitlement, so it was no surprise when one of them said–half hour after I locked the doors, when they finally decided to leave the staff to their cleaning–“Hey, can I get one of your leftover pastries for free? After all, if you are closed you cannot sell them, right?” To this I replied that no, they couldn’t get one for free and they couldn’t buy one either, as we were closed and had been for half an hour already. The foursome didn’t like my response, and left grumbling about how they were even willing to pay for the pastry.

    I shared this exchange with a couple of co-workers who hadn’t heard it first hand and one of them, a lovely 21 year old blonde, living at home with mom college student, said, “Well, they can go back to Africa then!” (Never mind that these 4 come across as US-natives–no accent of any kind.)

    Taken very much aback, I replied, “Then I guess I should go back to Mexico” My co-worker was absolutely horrified by my reaction–and by her own thoughtlessness. She apologized immediately, but I confess it has made me look at her a bit differently now.

    I know that she didn’t mean to come across as a racist, but she did come across that way–to me, her intended audience.

    Eisler et al may not have intended to come across as a privileged white man, but so far they have to what seems to be a rather large segment of their apparent intended audience.

    Maybe they don’t give a fig because women and men who object to rape analogies are not their intended audience. Maybe they don’t care to modify their style of communication (read: be ‘politically correct’ as Konrath mockingly puts it) to reach those who object to their language choices.

    The conclusion I–a rather casual observer, as I’m a reader without writerly ambitions whose only concern is to continue having books to read that are to my taste–draw here is this: they believe they are already speaking to their audience, to whit:

    –people who are not so sensitive to the casual use of rape analogies in a business context
    –people who are not sensitive to the language of victimization in a business context

    In an unscientific study I just whipped out by reading the comments here at Courtney’s blog, I’ll say that most of that audience are privileged in several ways.

    That’s my uneducated 2 cents.

  31. Courtney wrote: “And using that rhetoric to discuss it means that instead of having a discussion about substance, you end up with accusations flying. And that’s a shame.”

    It’s also an old classic. It’s sometimes known as “schlagworte,” which is German for “hitting words,” language which is used to dull the listener’s critical abilities because the listener is “hit” or “struck,” or even “beaten” by the words and phrases.

    Among other things, schlagworte is a means of discrediting other viewpoints before a debate can even occur.

    This in the instance before us, for example, if I say that there are valid reasons for some writers to chose to license their books to major houses, my position (and anything I say in support of my position) is invalidated even before I speak, because I am “stupid” and a “house slave” and suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome.” The schlagworte style of the original blog has not just stated a position, but has invalidated any other views by pre-defining them as based on a stupid, slavish, psychologically disordered perspective.

  32. @Laura Resnick

    I think that describes more on how Konrath is arguing. From what I see from Barry, he has no problem with choice nor does he discount authors who find success with the big houses, but merely has a problem with a contradictory ideal on the possibility of monolopolies in the publishing industry. In fact, he’s pro-choice as he is pro-competition.

    When he used words like “Stockholm” and “house slave” he didn’t use it in the context of people who publish with the big 6 suffer from these psychological states. He used it in the context of the X amount of people/authors that defend big 6 in a way that contradicts their fear of Amazon.

    I think a lot of people are appropriating these states of mind as if Barry was referring to them in particular, when that’s not the case from what I can tell.

    While the argument of whether these terms should be used or not is quite valid, I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding, in part because the phrases have caused gut check reactions & put people in the defensive.

    So as far as I can see, Barry has no problem with arguments of people who think they’re best served by publishing in the big publishers, so I don’t think his words used affect arguments of pro-choice.

    Though it seems like Konrath and Barry are on the same side of things, I think it’s a mistake to see them as a single unit as I find Konrath’s method of arguing exponentially worse.

  33. Intent versus reality reminds me of an episode in the Simpsons. Lisa and Bart are fighting. One of them (Lisa, I think) is kicking out in front of her. Bart is windmilling his arms. They are both walking towards each other claiming they can’t be blamed for any wounds because they’re only walking while kicking/swinging fists, not actually trying to hit another.

    Bart and Lisa both know they are triggering a reaction. It seems disingenuous to use rape and slavery analogies and then be surprised when someone is offended.

  34. @ Bangabanga – Once you get past the house slave/Negro Leagues/wife-beating/frog-raping rhetoric, I *still* don’t buy the argument that authors who “defend” the status quo (the Big Six) while worrying about a publishing world controlled by one company (Amazon) are “supporting their oppressors.”

    Amazon currently controls 70% of the eBook market, and is angling for even more of a marketshare by A) refusing to license Amazon Publishing titles to other ebook distributors such as B&N and Apple, and B) grabbing additional market share through exclusive ebook deals with other publishers (i.e. DC Comics and the failed deal with Andrew Wylie last summer).

    Amazon is, of course, not alone in using “exclusive” deals to strangle competitors — Apple has done it for years with iTunes exclusive recordings (usually live albums or bonus tracks, so not really a concern for the average consumer). But the Big Six have made good faith efforts to allow their content to be widely available via as many ebook distributors/marketplaces as possible (we can debate agency pricing elsewhere). That’s more than I can say about Amazon’s new publishing effort, which appears to be an attempt to drive e-reader manufacturing rivals out of business.

  35. @Andrew

    I’m with you. At this moment I don’t have a real opinion one way or another, my interest in commenting here was to try and see better discussion on the subject and hopefully try to clear-up some things that seemed to me planted on misunderstanding.

    I for one have no love for Amazon, though I can see how it presents opportunities for some authors. On the consumer side of things, I have never liked their practices which is why I rarely buy from them, at most I use their marketplace system.

    One argument I would make though, is why is Barry considering the big 6 a monopoly? At most, it’s an oligopoly while what Amazon is striving for is a real monopoly.

    I’d like to see where Amazon goes with this publishing system, but I’m quite concerned. My fear is they’re all good and friendly now with it’s authors, but if at any point in time it acquires the power it’s striving for, I think relationships between them and its authors are bound to change.

  36. @ Bangabanga – I should add that I’m *not* anti-Amazon. I also use the Amazon marketplace for used book purchases. I’m an Amazon Prime member and order groceries and various sundries from them. I’m one of the top 1500 reviewers on their site and a member of the Amazon Vine reviewer program. I have a Kindle (as well as other non-Amazon e-readers). My “worries” are regarding, specifically, the way they are using their new publishing venture as a way to defend and increase their ebook distribution system. And that authors who have soured on the Big Six and trade publishers, seeking “refuge” with Amazon publishing (and self-publishing via the Kindle) might be in for some nasty surprises down the line. I’m hoping that Amazon proves cynics like myself wrong.

  37. @Livia Blackburne:

    You’re absolutely right that Eisler isn’t forcing his actions upon anyone, and should anyone actually make that argument I will retract my comparison.

    My analogy wasn’t the force used, it was the offending party’s reaction to the offense. If you want to stay friends with people / have them stay in your audience and engage with your words, you need to consider their reaction. Using words/actions that turn off a portion of your audience is anti-productive. You can either be an adult about it and own up to the fact that not everyone has your level of sensitivity, or you can be immature and imply that it’s everyone else’s fault for not being just like you.

Comments are closed.