Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

The Archon Mess — Context, Anyone?

with 7 comments

For the past several days, I’ve been bemused by the current controversy regarding the Archon science fiction convention and Archon’s disinvitation of Tim Bolgeo as Fan Guest of Honor. I don’t understand why a science fiction convention would first invite someone, then disinvite the same someone, without giving that person a chance for a fair hearing.

I’m also more than a little disquieted by the fact that social media played such a big part in Tim Bolgeo’s disinvitation. It appears that one person — just one — was offended by something Mr. Bolgeo wrote in a private publication, and believed it to be racist and inflammatory. And that one individual, after not getting his way behind closed doors, took to social media to stir up a whole lot of bad feelings in order to get his way.

But what he did was wrong. It’s like a two-year-old having a temper tantrum until he gets what he wants. Most parents know better than to give the two-year-old whatever it is, but some can’t be bothered to wait out the temper tantrum so they give the kid whatever and hope it’ll all blow over.

Temper tantrums of this sort shouldn’t be tolerated.

Besides, considering we are SF&F writers and/or readers, aren’t we supposed to understand that people come in all shapes and sizes, with all different sorts of political views?

I believe firmly that as American citizens, we’re supposed to believe in free speech. It’s the First Amendment to the Constitution, for pity’s sake . . . and it used to be that whether you were a moderate Democrat, like me, or a conservative Republican like, say, Rush Limbaugh, you’d defend the other person’s right to say anything he or she pleased — even if you didn’t like it.

When did it become OK to shout down someone you don’t like in this country? Is it because of the increasing polarization of our politics that we can’t seem to remember that we actually have more in common with each other than not?

In this case, Tim Bolgeo’s free speech rights were shouted down by one person who took to the Internet to get his way. And as far as I can tell from reading many, many good blogs on the subject (including several pro-Archon blogs), Mr. Bolgeo never got a chance to explain the comments Archon found offensive or to put them in any sort of context.

And I’m sorry. Context does matter.

Any writer or editor knows this.

Context matters. So showing a bunch of things out of context isn’t just wrong under these circumstances. It’s deceitful and offensive.

Because my friends Jason Cordova and Stephanie Osborn both know Mr. Bolgeo, and I don’t, I wanted to share with you a bit of each of their blog posts on this particular subject.**

First, take a gander at Jason’s blog, where he lays out just how stupid Archon is for knuckling under to social media pressure in less than 24 hours:

I’m going to tell you a little story about a good man who has been slandered and libeled by one individual who is hiding behind the anonymity of the Internets. That good man? Tim “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo.

You see, a pathetic troll whose name I’m not going to bother typing (because it’s a nickname that the individual hides behind because they’re afraid of owning up to their actions) has, after taking random snippets of conversations and tacky jokes that Uncle Timmy publishes on something called “The Revenge”, managed to get Uncle Timmy uninvited from Archon this year. Archon, apparently, is “listening to the fans” (the one who has slandered and committed libel, but we won’t get into that at the moment) and decided that it was in their best interest to not have Uncle Timmy as their Fan Guest of Honor this year.

Next, take a look at Stephanie’s blog, which discusses just how stupid it is to describe Tim Bolgeo as a racist:

Uncle Timmy is not some redneck unlearned hillbilly. He is a nuclear engineer who made a successful career at the Tennessee Valley Authority, working on nuclear reactors, only recently retired. He is a thinking man. He puts out a newsletter of information, jokes, and other such that he and his readers (I’m one) run across, and he discusses them, and he invites and prints discussion by his readers on that information. Sometimes this involves putting a distasteful story into the newsletter so that he can point out a fallacy. Somehow some anonymous person took a couple of these and twisted them around to make it look like Uncle Timmy believed that tripe AND AGREED WITH IT.

Nothing could be farther from the truth — I’ve had any number of conversations with Timmy, and he is fair-minded, “color blind,” and I have never, EVER, heard the word “bigot” used in the same sentence with his name until today. And yes, I said today. Insofar as I have been able to determine, from the original protest to the revocation of the invitation took less than 24 hrs.

So there you have it, folks. We have another controversy in the SF&F community that’s been worsened significantly due to social media.

And the only good thing about this — the one, single, solitary blessed thing — is that it’s given more than a few SF&F writers, including yours truly, the opportunity to point out the importance of free speech.

But the price was too damned high.

**Note that my blog, Jason’s blog and Stephanie’s blog all are positive uses of social media. I’m obviously not against social media. (I type this reflexive disclaimer due to some of the nonsense I’m already seeing on Facebook regarding the many excellent blogs that have taken Archon to task over this, including Cedar Sanderson’s, Amanda Green’s over at the Mad Genius Club, and Quilly Mammoth’s.)

7 Responses

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  1. And people wonder why I’ve been steadily withdrawing from fan culture…


    May 22, 2014 at 5:27 am

    • I don’t wonder at all, Leo. It’s frustrating. We’re seeing the same fragmentation in SF&F fandom as we’re seeing in contemporary society, and yet SF&F fandom used to be a welcome distraction from same.

      Further, we used to be able to celebrate our similarities more.

      I wish we could get that back, but it probably won’t be an easy process.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 23, 2014 at 1:38 am

  2. Well said! The problem with social media is one person can scream really loudly and then a bunch of villagers, with no knowledge of the facts, pick up torches and pitch forks.


    May 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

    • Thanks, Quilly. I enjoyed your blog heartily also.

      Yes, that is the major problem with social media. It has its virtues, but the limitations sometimes just are mind-boggling. As we found out here.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 23, 2014 at 1:37 am

  3. Tim’s free speech rights have not been impacted one iota. He will continue to be able to spread racist jokes in his newsletter, privately, or in public.

    An honor was taken away from him based on his speech. But free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. And no one is entitled to receive honors.

    One person brought the fanzine to the attention of the Archon fan community, but several people agreed with him that honoring the publisher of the fanzine, and in turn honoring the fanzine, was a bad choice. Some did so publically, and others emailed convention staff privately. The con committee, I suspect, counted how many fans were coming to his defense, and how many were upset, and weighed which choice would have a better impact on attendance.

    Tim was able to respond. He chose to respond on his own Facebook page, and allow his friends and family to defend him on Archon’s page, but his response did get linked to in the comments.


    May 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

    • Thank you for your emendation, John.

      What bothers me about your answer, though, is the other side of the problem — why wasn’t Tim vetted before Archon ever invited him? If this is a legitimate problem — remember, I’ve not read Tim’s newsletter, and I don’t know him personally — then it’s a legitimate problem.

      I’ll grant you that much, and the people at Archon.

      What I don’t grant is the lack of due diligence here. Any convention has to do its due diligence. And that should’ve been done before Tim was invited, shouldn’t it?

      I’m glad Tim’s response was linked in the comments. But if Archon did not call him before doing this — and again, it doesn’t sound to me like they did — why didn’t they?

      Why not talk this out in person?

      Or are you saying that Archon did notify Tim on its own, but because he’d been attacked via social media, he decided to reach out via social media to say what had happened?

      To me, that seems . . . well, oddly just.

      Anyway, thank you for your lucid and cogent response, as it’s the most reasonable thing I’ve heard yet from anyone who is pro-Archon about this whole snafu.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 23, 2014 at 1:42 am

  4. […] to Timmy at all.  To the best of my knowledge, they still haven’t.  Now to add Quilly and Barb Caffrey. Pay careful attention to these last two, as the points they make about freedom of speech are very […]

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