Free Speech, or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss

Last week there was a brouhaha in the horror fiction community when known fascist David A. Riley (the A is important as there is another genre writer called David Riley who is, by all accounts, a good egg) was appointed to sit on the jury of the upcoming Stoker awards held by the Horror Writers Association(HWA). I wasn’t initially going to write anything about this latest incident as once members of the HWA were made aware of this enough of them raised objections that the matter was resolved. It wasn’t resolved neatly but that’s by-the-by and I’ll talk about that another time maybe.

What has inspired me to put fingertips to keys is a couple of things. Firstly the bleatings of liberals and those who consider themselves ‘libertarians’ (in the American sense of the word) in support of both Riley’s right to hold whatever beliefs he chooses and his right to be an active part of the horror community with those beliefs. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about ‘free speech’ and ‘social justice warriors’* who were oppressing the community and who were ‘the real fascists’.

Secondly it was an interview with David A. Riley on the blog of on David Dubrow, a writer from the USA. I get the feeling that the interview was supposed to show that Riley isn’t a fascist and that us lefties are just getting our knickers in a twist and are all crazy. It did neither of these things.

In this post I want to discuss, hopefully, briefly (and amusingly, to me anyway.) some of these positions before then looking at the Curious Case of David A. Riley itself. So, I would like to present to you: ‘Free Speech, or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss’.

*incidentally, did you know that the term was originally used by us lefties to mock the twitterati and tumblrites who obsess over the virtual world yet do nothing in the real world? I really hate that right wing cocks have stolen it from us so now I’m simply reduced to swearing at people like that.

Free Speech,
or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss

I

Gazing into the Abyss

The liberal looks down upon those engaged in revolutionary and radical political activity from its vantage point high above upon the moral high ground. From its lofty position it see that it can attain the perfect balance between opposing viewpoints, it can find the middle ground, as, to the liberal, all points of view are equally valid. They merely need to be weighed and balanced in order to evaluate what they contain that is of value. To the liberal, the pinnacle of pseudo postmodern expression, there is no right and no wrong. There is only ever the middle.

What the liberal does not see from its intellectually elevated position is that the high ground from which it issues its decrees, the summit upon which it wrings its hands, is naught but a pile of rotting corpses.

The liberal pontificates and presents itself as the voice of reason whilst irrationally defending the irrational and sowing the seeds of its own demise.

The liberal is inherently reactionary.

II

The Grand Theatre of Ideas

In the imaginings of the liberal ideas exist in a vacuum, a void, an abyss, that is completely disconnected from real life. In this black liberal expanse ideas are shouted into the echoing nothing never to reverberate against anything, nor affect anything that exists outside this peculiar social exceptionality. As ideas float around this liberal space-time they are all of equal value and deserve equal space to be heard. Ideas are equal in their inconsequentiality to the liberal.

III

The Sad, Sorry, Sight of Real Life

Unfortunately for the liberal their Grand Theatre of Ideas is as much a myth as any afterlife or Platonic ideal. Ideas are formed by people and as people act upon ideas so ideas act upon people. Some ideas add to the general happiness of the world. Ideas like: “It’s good to help one another”, or “we should cover ice cream in chocolate and tequila”. Ideas like these improve the world and make the world a nicer place in which to live. They serve to mitigate the harsh realities of getting by in a capitalist society.

Other ideas serve only to increase the amount of suffering in the world.

IV

Speech as Action, Words That Burn Books

When certain ideas are seen to be socially acceptable, or even mainstream, then those who hold to those ideas gain the courage to act upon them. When newspapers carry stories supporting those ideas then those words, those ideas, will be acted upon. Without the ideas then there are no actions. Without the words spreading those ideas then actions do not spread. The ideas lead to words which lead to bombed out pubs, beaten people, and murdered kids.

V

Maintaining the Balance, at No Cost

The liberal believes that it is working tirelessly to maintain the balance of society. So that, when the day comes to pass, the feather weighs the same as the swastika. The liberal will stand bravely in defence of those who seek to do ill to the world, who wish to spread ideas of hatred and death. The liberal will stand bravely against those who ask that they not suffer hatred and death.

VI

Tolerance is a Weapon Wielded Against the Workers

We must tolerate the intolerable proclaims the liberal. We must tolerate even the most odious of ideas and individuals. The workers must never act to defend themselves against ideas of suffering and pain. They must suffer all the tribulations of tolerance with stoicism and a stiff upper lip so that the liberal may look down upon its domain in contentment. Safe from the woes below, high upon its mountain, green with fleshy putrescence.

VII

Self Defence is Oppressive

The liberal, ever fearful of anything outside the middle, sees all that is not of itself as equal and indistinguishable. For the liberal, left is as good as right as it careers blinkered down the central reservation of life. An act of self defence is as heinous as the instigating act of violence. Luke Skywalker is as bad as Darth Vader the moment he picks up the lightsabre on Tatooine. The anti-fascist fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto no different to the Nazi troops bombarding them with shells. All is equal, all is equivalent. The liberal strips all context from that which it observes and claims this as philosophical insight. The liberal would counter the terrorising of families and communities with strongly worded letters penned behind curtains drawn tight to the world.

David A. Riley

Now, to Mr David A. Riley.

David A. Riley is a fascist. He was a member of the extreme right wing group, The National Front (NF), which he left in the early 80s. He has, since then, done and said nothing to imply that he has cast aside his old ideology and has, as point of fact, said things that imply that he still holds these beliefs.

Before I go further I want to admit that yes David A. Riley is, in the grand scheme of things, of little concern to the wider world.  He’s a small time horror writer in the world of the genre small presses. However the small time horror genre press is a growing scene, and one that, if it wishes to continue to grow, needs to be open and inclusive. This can’t be the case if odious people like David A. Riley are tolerated and even defended by people within the community. The tolerance of fascists like Riley by the community is effectively saying that community does not want people of colour, Roma/Travellers, queers, trans-people, Jews, nor trade unionists involved as these are all people that are absolutely despised by fascists. Why would I want to sit in a room with someone who would see me and mine dead? Why would anyone?
Now I’ll go through some of the points from the interview with David A. Riley over on David Dubrow’s blog. Here’s the link should you want to go and see quite how insipid the questions and answers were before continuing. http://davedauthor.com/2016/04/20/interview-with-david-a-riley/

On the subject of the National Front Riley says:

I joined in 1973. At that time it was widely viewed as a patriotic nationalist party with serious concerns about the high numbers of immigrants who were coming into the UK at the time. Amongst its members were a number of retired senior servicemen from the Armed Forces, clergymen, teachers and other professionals.

At that time  John O’Brien, a supporter of Enoch Powell, had just left as leader as the party had effectively come under the control of former members of the Greater Britain Movement John Tyndall and Martin Webster. Webster is on record as saying, in 1972, that they were setting up a “well oiled Nazi machine.” Webster who was at this meeting (LINK) with Riley in 1981.

When asked about current membership of the NF he says:

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

Well, this (LINKantisemitic bile was published in August 1983. So, given the long history of the NF with Nazism, Riley’s association with one of the main Nazis within the leadership of the NF and quotes like this

Lovecraft’s anti-semitism, it should be noted, was not based upon a well-researched knowledge of the part played by certain wealthy Jewish financiers, but on plain physical repugnance. The limitation, therefore, of his appreciation of what motivates Zionism, which he never mentions, is considerable.

I find Riley’s claims to have been unaware that he was a member, regional organiser, and parliamentary candidate for a Nazi party to be risible.

When asked if he is a fascist he replies:

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

This is clearly tripe as the leadership of the National Front was composed of Nazis like Tyndall and Webster. The NF has also never been afraid of using violence against their opponents nor against instigating it when they did things like march through the largely black area of London, Lewisham, in 1977. When Riley was a fully fledged member and organiser for the party.

When Riley is so clearly lying about his past, when he is seen still supporting extreme right wing groups like Ataka, when he is still posting on nationalist websites, why the hell would we believe that he is no longer a fascist? He patently still holds to his beliefs and therefore should be shunned by any who want the weird/horror fiction world to grow and flourish.

Bollocks to David A. Riley. Bollocks to Fascism.

Some links for reference.

John Tyndall

Martin Webster

National Front

Greater Britain Movement

More on Riley’s Fascist past and present

 

Kids Today eh?

What is it with kids today eh? With all their Snapchats and video games and YouTubers. It’s like they don’t care about the world around them or about the things going on in it. Isn’t it?

Warning, the above video is full of the colourful British vernacular which some viewers may find offensive.

“Who’s side are you on?”

“We live in the 21st Century, don’t be a racist cunt!”

Well said. Very well said indeed.

Lovecraft and the WFA

The Lovecraft Ezine hosted a brilliant discussion about HPL, his racism, and the WFA last night. As ever, due to time zones, I was unable to watch the show live but managed to watch it this morning. I was, again, impressed with the level of discourse on such an emotive subject and I said as much on the Ezine message board with a small contribution to the debate.

Just watched the show. Great to see a friendly and level headed talk about HPL and racism. I wish I had been able to join in but I would like to make a wee contribution if I may.

When it comes to HPL I would place him within the Modernist literary tradition, especially his later works, and so his views were in keeping with certain segments of that tradition. I’m thinking here people like Ezra Pound and David Jones who were out and out Antisemites and, in the case of Jones, actual fascists.

Of course they were all writing in a time of great political and social upheaval. We have the background of the First World War, the Russian, Spanish and German revolutions, the rise of fascism in Italy, Spain and of National ‘Socialism’ in Germany. The conflict between US and European workers and bosses was as explosive and violent as ever. It was a time of very firm ideological stances coming into direct conflict with one another.

For this reason it is unsurprising that we see contemporary writers falling into these broad left/right dichotomies. For every Pound/Jones/Lovecraft with objectionable reactionary opinions there was an Orwell or a Steinbeck.

I think that what acknowledging and understanding HPL’s bigotry gives us, when we read his work, is an insight into the intimate and emotional core of this bigotry that was manifest in many people -not just HPL. His feelings of fear with regards the ‘other’ and anything that was outwith his understanding of the world via his WASP upbringing come through in more ways that the simple crude racism we see in Redhook or Call of Cthulhu. We see the alien other as something that is beyond the ken of civilised people. We see it as something that is overwhelming and unstoppable. A fear that is manifest in the more forthright writings of many racists and fascists. A fine example of this is the Rivers of Blood speech by notorious British racist Enoch Powell. His talk of an inevitable race war which will see black people slaughtering white could quite easily be fictionalised into a story of impending doom from anywhere outwith civilisation.

Of course, one doesn’t have to read HPL, or any other author, in this manner. It is perfectly possible, and entirely legitimate, to enjoy his work as masterful pieces of horrific and fantastic literature. Being ignorant of his bigotry in no ways detracts from the tales. Being aware of it and understanding it however allows for one to choose *how* they wish to read them. I personally will sometimes read the stories with a critical eye and attempt to gain an insight into early 20th Century culture through the eyes of HPL. Much in the same way that when I was reading Classical Civilisation at university I would read Hessiod and Homer to gain insight into the culture in which the writers lived. Other times (most if I’m to be honest) I will read them as great stories for entertainment.

I do think that this discussion is important and, as others have said, it is one that we will continue to have as more people become aware of HPL and his work. That the discussion is cropping up more and more frequently is a good sign, especially for those of us who wish to have more people to write weird fiction and more people to read it. It means that the bastard child of genre literature is beginning to forge its own way in the 21st Century in the way that SF and Fantasy have been doing in recent decades.

I would also like to bring this fantastic collection to people’s attention. Never Again: Weird Fiction Against Fascism and Racism edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane. It has some brilliant stories and all the profits go to groups working to do away with bigotry.

AMAZON USA  AMAZON UK

And finally. A quote from New Weird Maestro China Mieville. “The good thing about New Weird is that we certainly have less fascists.”

Well, ‘small’ for me. Maybe not for Facebook. 😀

Here’s the show and below are a few more comments on things brought up by the panel during the discussion.

Pete mentioned that many of the current awards have rather embarrassing origins: the Hugo of the Hugo awards regularly ‘forgot’ to pay his writers, the Booker was started by a company that built its profits on slave plantations, the Poe is named after a man who married his 13 year old cousin and so on. He said that if we are to go after the WFA for its connection to HPL and his bigotry then we should go after them all. I can see his point here but the difference, especially with the Booker, is that we are a part of the community that issues the World Fantasy Award. We are not readers/writers of mystery or mainstream fiction. We are of the fantastic. Because of this is is to be expected that we should have a vested interest in the WFA and the community within which it exists. Joe and Matt were both of the opinion that it was entirely up to the WFA committee whether or not it should change. At the end of the day that is strictly true but as the award is part of wider fandom it is only right that fandom has an input into the award.

I do feel that if this debate, the wider one, had begun by someone pointing out that HPL is no longer as relevant to the field of fantasy as he used to be when the various genres of Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction were more closely linked than I don’t think we would be seeing this brouhaha. However because it concerns the man’s bigotry it has gotten people’s back up. This has been, from what I can tell, exacerbated by the attraction of the supposed internet ‘social justice warriors‘ who seem to thrive off one upping one another with how outraged they can be in the various online fora. These folk really get my goat as I have only ever come across them in the online world. Despite years, and years of political activity including anti-racist work I have never seen or heard of any of these people. Like the racist trolls they see everywhere they seem to only exist online. This cartoon sums them up quite nicely.

It is a crying shame that these individuals are so loud. In an age where the vast majority of human debate is carried out online these people get far more attention than they deserve. The fantasy author Will Shetterly has written about them quite extensively and whilst I don’t agree with him on a lot of things he is right about the internet Social Justice Warrior.

Another thing that came up briefly in the discussion was that Centipede Press are releasing a version of The Drowning Girl by Caitlin Kiernan. I’ve been excited by this since I first heard that they were working on it and so imagine my disappointment when I go to have a look at the Centipede website. $250!!!!!! $250! 😥 There is no way on Earth that I could possibly justify spending that much money on a book at the moment. Poverty, and therefore capitalism, suck monkey balls. It really does.

 

Never Again

Weird fiction against racism and fascism.

~Allyson Bird and Joel Lane(eds.)

I spotted this on Goodreads recently and just couldn’t resist.

From the back cover:

Can we ever say ‘Never again’ – and know that the atrocities of the past won’t be repeated in the future? Here are 23 weird and speculative fiction stories against fascism and racism.

In today’s unstable political and economic climate, the far right has gained a stronger political foothold in Europe than at any time since the 1930s. Its combination of racist rhetoric and street violence is a serious threat to our democratic culture and civil rights.

Never Again is an attempt to voice the collective revulsion of writers in the weird fiction genre against political attitudes that stifle compassion and deny our collective human inheritance. The imagination is crucial to an understanding both of human diversity and of common ground.

The anthology brings together stories by leading writers of weird fiction alongside new and radical voices: Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle, Joe R. Lansdale, Kaaron Warren, Rob Shearman, Tony Richards, Andrew Hook, Nina Allan, Gary McMahon, Stephen Volk, Simon Bestwick, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Rhys Hughes, David A. Sutton, Carole Johnstone, R.B. Russell, John Howard, Steve Duffy, Alison Littlewood, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Thana Niveau, Mat Joiner and rj krijnen-kemp.

These stories use imagination to look below the surface of intolerance, scapegoating and persecution – not to sicken the reader, but to reveal the power of human resistance and the need to build a society in which victimisation is a thing of the past.

Never Again is a non-profit initiative aimed at promoting awareness of these issues and raising funds to support human rights organisations.

I’m going to dive into this tomorrow. With all the nationalistic tub thumping and triumphalism that we, in the UK at least, are going to have to put up with over the next few years a dose of socially conscious weirdness should act as a nice counter balance.

Never Again is available from Gray Friars Press for £10(+PnP) or US$18(+PnP) with any and all profits being donated to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Amnesty International and P.E.N.