So Jonathan Ross was invited to host the Hugo Awards at WorldCon in London, but was forced to withdraw following a storm of outrage on Twitter. Since a tweet of mine got quoted by Bleeding Cool and makes it look as though I was part of the Twitter mob with torches and pitchforks, I thought I needed to make it clear where I stand.
The way so many people had a problem with a household name TV presenter from hosting a major science fiction awards ceremony must be seen in the context of the SF world’s ongoing civil war. On one side there are those believe the genre needs to be made more inclusive towards people who are not white and male, and it’s time to end the racism and sexism that has bedevilled the genre for years. One the other side are those who are concerned about threats to freedom of expression, and witch-hunts against individuals. It doesn’t help that there are a few unpleasant and poisonous individuals on both sides, whose behaviour reinforces the other sides’ conviction that they’re right.
I am not a fan of Jonathan Ross. Given some of his past behaviour, including his reputation for cruelty-based humour and his apparent attitude towards women, inviting such a divisive figure to host a flagship event was always going to be problematic. When one of the organising committee resigned in protest to his invitation, that ought to have been a warning sign that he might not have been quite the right person.
But the way events panned out, nobody comes out of this with any credit. The decision to invite him as host was spectacularly tone-deaf given the ongoing divisions in the SF world. But that doesn’t excuse the people who went on Twitter and attacked him personally with quite unnecessary levels of vitriol. And Ross himself didn’t respond to those attacks with good grace. The whole affair from beginning to end is a spectacular fail by the SFF community as a whole.
The public face of the SFF community is diminished by this. Anyone gleefully celebrating “victory” rather than seeing the whole affair as a tragedy needs to take a long hard look at themselves.
Addendum: There’s a lot of (mostly) level-headed discussion on the subject on Charlie Stross‘s blog.
Further Addendum: And a very insightful post from Foz Meadows laying a lot of the blame on the LonCon committee for the ham-fisted way they handled the initial announcement,