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Author Topic: Political bias - moved from Re: PC476: Clay And Smokeless Fire  (Read 476 times)
MJ
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« on: July 06, 2017, 02:20:30 AM »

This story alone just about made me quit listening to Podcastle for good. I wanted to forsake it to every single person on social media. Cursing is accepted in this story, so I feel it is thus justified in a forum reply. I fucking hated this one. It is very blatantly obvious that this author is biased against the American laws and the ways of this wonderful country. I think I will now write a story based on their home/ancestral country and just prove to them how much worse things would be for them. A story that thinly veils law breaking and collusion with illegal happenings, possible terrorism connection...

I regularly listen to Podcastle and Pseudopod, and after listening to a politically biased story on Pseudopod, I am not convinced that the whole of Escape Artist is completely politically one sided. We will probably never hear a story published by them that covers the other side of the scale or somewhere in between. This is very obviously a publisher who wishes to push their values, beliefs and opinions on those that listen. Hmm, sounds like a certain political group, doesn't it?

This story obviously blames the American people for simply being American and defending their values. The author builds on a biased and hate atmosphere that belongs to a group that actually amplifies hate and bias and crime in this country. Now, let us hear about why the habitants in the home are being investigated and arrested. Obviously, it it's from the authors perspective, no one can do wrong, unless they're law abiding, patriotic Americans. Instead, if we saw this story from a realistic point of view, something is clearly wrong within the residence, especially  warranting so many officers.

Podcastle: so being so damn biased and single minded so all of us can enjoy your productions. And please don't tell me you're not, because that would be shallow of you. But, if you insist, send me proof that you do publish stories on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Point me in the direction of those stories...

To conclude, the extreme Onesidedness of this story and the writer completely overshadowed the actual writing. I can no longer recommend Podcastle to anyone, at least not until I've been proven otherwise by the publisher and editors.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2017, 03:12:49 AM »

Hi MJ.  Moderator here.  Are you familiar with our One Rule?  We have one rule here.  Be civil and respectful.  Follow the link to get more details about what that means. 

You're free to disagree with story contents, editorial choices, and political outlooks, but you have to be polite and respectful about it.  And your post failed to do so.  Consider yourself on warning.
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wonderbeast
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2017, 04:27:12 AM »

Podcastle: so being so damn biased and single minded so all of us can enjoy your productions. And please don't tell me you're not, because that would be shallow of you. But, if you insist, send me proof that you do publish stories on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Point me in the direction of those stories...

To conclude, the extreme Onesidedness of this story and the writer completely overshadowed the actual writing. I can no longer recommend Podcastle to anyone, at least not until I've been proven otherwise by the publisher and editors.

PodCastle has always been, and always will be, an intersectional, feminist publication.

I'm glad to hear that you have enjoyed PodCastle and Pseudopod episodes in the past. "Opposite end of the political spectrum" is a bit vague. If you are looking for episodes set in a Christian milieu, PodCastle 336 comes to mind. If you're looking for a story that takes place in a modern, war-torn Middle East, PodCastle 401 might fit the bill.

I wish you all the best with your writing.

--
Setsu Uzume
Assistant Editor, PodCastle
« Last Edit: July 06, 2017, 03:13:58 PM by wonderbeast » Logged

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MJ
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2017, 04:51:19 PM »

Setsu,

I'm talking about stories that are not extreme left-leaning, as this one is. I would like to see stories in your publication that are not left wing and that are not completely feminist in the modern sense of feminism. Where are the stories that lean towards the right, that may be conservative or patriotic or American? I have no issue with foreign or minority stories, I believe they are very important in literature, but where are the stories of American citizens who are PROUD to be American? I didn't see you run anything special for Independence day as you did for Inauguration Day. I would just like to see equality in the political and gender sense around PodCastle.

Also, you pointed me towards a story about the war-torn middle east. I would also like to see if you have stories about modern political issues in that area, as you have done in the USA. Where are the stories about how terrible Jihad is? Or how terrorists sneak around in "middle east countries." The point I'm trying to get across is that if you are so set on pointing out just how terrible the USA and it's new president is, then why aren't you evening the board on both sides. Show how terrible illegal immigration is and how those migrants rape and kill women. Show drug cartels entering the USA. Show terrorism in London, Parris, Germany. Show ISIS and how cruel they are, show which "group" or people most heavily make up ISIS. If there is supposed truth in your stories and a political opinion, show it on ALL fronts, not just the one you choose.

I don't believe it is fair to warn me about getting kicked off this forum simply for pointing out the injustice and unfair balance of this publication. I'm trying to have an open discussion about your issues and how to fix them to keep readers, but I get told I'm "warned." From all of the stories I have read so far on this podcast, I have never come across a story that has the opposite political opinion as this one. That is what I'm saying. It is clearly unbalanced.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2017, 05:59:14 PM »

Quote
and after listening to a politically biased story on Pseudopod

Really, *really* like to see you prove that with actual lines from the story. Don't think it's likely.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2017, 07:39:01 PM »

MJ, if you wan't a story about the proud American man defeating the evil ISIS threat in disguise as an illegal immigrant, go write it. We don't often see stories like that submitted to our publications, and when we do, they're generally not of the quality we seek here on the Escape Artists podcasts.

If it's written, and written well, and works well in audio, we'd probably run it. But we can't simply "show how terrible illegal immigration is" if it's not submitted to us as a well-crafted story.
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I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?
wonderbeast
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2017, 09:20:36 PM »

I'm talking about stories that are not extreme left-leaning, as this one is. I would like to see stories in your publication that are not left wing and that are not completely feminist in the modern sense of feminism. Where are the stories that lean towards the right, that may be conservative or patriotic or American? I have no issue with foreign or minority stories, I believe they are very important in literature, but where are the stories of American citizens who are PROUD to be American? I didn't see you run anything special for Independence day as you did for Inauguration Day. I would just like to see equality in the political and gender sense around PodCastle.

Also, you pointed me towards a story about the war-torn middle east. I would also like to see if you have stories about modern political issues in that area, as you have done in the USA. Where are the stories about how terrible Jihad is? Or how terrorists sneak around in "middle east countries." The point I'm trying to get across is that if you are so set on pointing out just how terrible the USA and it's new president is, then why aren't you evening the board on both sides. Show how terrible illegal immigration is and how those migrants rape and kill women. Show drug cartels entering the USA. Show terrorism in London, Parris, Germany. Show ISIS and how cruel they are, show which "group" or people most heavily make up ISIS. If there is supposed truth in your stories and a political opinion, show it on ALL fronts, not just the one you choose.

Agree with BDoomed. Write it, and write it well.

As far as stories that demonstrate patriotism, or the road to hell being paved with good intentions, we get into the more fuzzy area of both story-as-metaphor and authorial intent. There may indeed be stories we ran that centered on the rise or consequences of xenophobia, or rebellions that think they're righteous when in truth they only destabilize their region; but I might see what you don't and vice versa. Part of what makes fiction rich is how well it balances the narrative and the "point" the author was trying to make. I feel that Star Trek DS9 and the reboot of Battlestar Galactica did a great job exploring the complexities of conquest-rebellion-coup-rebuilding-fracturing-repeat -- but I'm sure others would disagree with me.

Another commenter felt that Clay and Smokeless Fire was too on the nose. One could argue that Makeisha in Time was too on the nose also; but I found it captivating. That story was one of the reasons I wanted to work here.

If I could break professionalism for a moment...

To speak more directly to your concerns (as an individual, rather than as editorial), some of what I've observed is that in the US, the left is concerned about racism and feels the right is doing nothing about it. The right is concerned with terrorism and feels the left is doing nothing about it. Both concerns are legitimate; but they're two different, simultaneous conversations. We're talking AT each other, not WITH each other... so we're coming up with full solutions based on half the data. It sounds like you and I agree that raping and killing women is a problem, but we might disagree on the cause(s) of that problem (and thus, the most viable solution). I would invite you to re-listen to "Color of Regret" or "Clay and Smokeless Fire" and consider whether you might find those stories more resonant or palatable if they were set in a secondary world.

Ultimately we are fellow citizens and owe it to each other to BE good citizens. To some, that means celebrating our strengths. To others, that means pointing out and correcting our faults. We will always argue with each other, just as we will argue with our friends and siblings even though we love each other dearly. PodCastle will continue on its current trajectory. If you're fed up with our platform, or other publications like us, I might recommend Eric Flint's 1632 series, which presents a more nostalgic and uncomplicated view of blue-collar America.

To return to BDoomed's comment, if you (or other writers you know) can come up with a story that speaks to your concerns -- and has professional-level depth, nuance, and craftsmanship -- please write and submit it. If you read one, spread it around social media. The conversation continues.

All the best,
Setsu
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Khaalidah from Vega
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 08:23:06 AM »

I've been watching the comments. Thanks all.
I have one question. I am just curious what MJ means by stories "...that are not completely feminist in the modern sense of feminism."
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K from Vega
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 09:02:52 AM »

Hi MJ,

Quote
I regularly listen to Podcastle and Pseudopod, and after listening to a politically biased story on Pseudopod, I am not convinced that the whole of Escape Artist is completely politically one sided. We will probably never hear a story published by them that covers the other side of the scale or somewhere in between. This is very obviously a publisher who wishes to push their values, beliefs and opinions on those that listen. Hmm, sounds like a certain political group, doesn't it?

Quote
This story obviously blames the American people for simply being American and defending their values.

I don't believe it is fair to warn me about getting kicked off this forum simply for pointing out the injustice and unfair balance of this publication. I'm trying to have an open discussion about your issues and how to fix them to keep readers, but I get told I'm "warned." From all of the stories I have read so far on this podcast, I have never come across a story that has the opposite political opinion as this one. That is what I'm saying. It is clearly unbalanced.

Is that obvious?  It's not obvious to me.  One of the core American values defined in the Constitution is freedom of speech.  That applies to the characters in the story who are American, that applies to the author of the story who is American, and although the ownership of Escape Artists as a whole is not currently based in the US, much of the staff is and I'd venture to guess that a large portion of their distribution is to the US. 

Authors expressing their opinions through prose, editors expressing their opinions through story selection, and you expressing your opinion about what you think about stories on this forum are all forms of freedom of speech.  I'm not sure exactly which political group you are hinting toward it being like for using a publishing platform to express freedom of speech.  But expressing only a subset of political opinions does not make one opposed to freedom of speech.  Quite the opposite.  Freedom of speech does not demand that an individual or a company show all possible opinions on any particular subject--what freedom would that be, if you were required to express all opinions with no leaning toward one opinion or another?  You clearly would not do that yourself, and neither is Escape Artists or any of their podcasts required to.

Every fiction publication shows bias.  There is no way to avoid it, nor would I want them to.  We can argue about whether news outlets can ever be completely unbiased, and that could be a long and interesting discussion for an entirely different thread, but Escape Artists is not a news outlet.  Fiction is biased.  It is generally written from a point of view, the characters express their opinions, the theme implies other opinions.  Editors express their bias in the choice of the stories that they pick.  i.e. Baen Books has a bias toward conservative opinions and military SF, and the readers of Baen Books love them for it, and seek them out for that specific reason.  Tor Books has its own bias, and DAW, and Clarkesworld, and every other publication.  This is by design and it's what makes a publication unique and interesting.  Podcastle has had a feminist bias since it's inception, and they've built the audience that they've built by continuing that tradition.  If they suddenly reversed that stance and became anti-feminist, then that's what would lose them audience, by betraying the expectations of the audience they've already built.  I'm not saying that they should exclude conservative authors, nor to exclude all conservative viewpoints, but I'm also not saying that they should include stories that don't speak to them for whatever reason, (and they don't have to explain those reasons).

So, yes, I'd argue that this fiction publication is biased, because all fiction publications are biased.  If a publication set out to be completely absolutely neutral, I don't think they'd gain much of a following, but in any case "absolute neutrality" is a bias of its own.   

Quote
MJ, if you wan't a story about the proud American man defeating the evil ISIS threat in disguise as an illegal immigrant, go write it. We don't often see stories like that submitted to our publications, and when we do, they're generally not of the quality we seek here on the Escape Artists podcasts.

If it's written, and written well, and works well in audio, we'd probably run it. But we can't simply "show how terrible illegal immigration is" if it's not submitted to us as a well-crafted story.


I run my own publication, and I tend to agree, I haven't seen anything with that particular bias that was compelling and well-written.

Even if there is, if it got published, the publication of it would be its own bias.  So, it wouldn't really resolve any complaint about a publication being unbiased. 
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 09:54:03 AM »

Quote
I run my own publication, and I tend to agree, I haven't seen anything with that particular bias that was compelling and well-written.

Quoting myself, I realize, but I wanted to expand on this a bit.

I'm not claiming that there are no stories as described that are well-written.  Maybe they just don't get submitted to my publication, because the writers of them have discerned my bias from the stories I've published and the articles I've written and so have decided to submit something else or to submit nothing at all.  

It is probable that there are no stories as described that are compelling to me.  The "to me" is very important there, because "compelling" is a very subjective term rooted in the biases of the particular person.  There are certain stories that will probably never be compelling to me because I find their thematic bias appalling even if their writing is the most gorgeous prose I've ever read with the most exciting story in every other aspect.  Let's say someone submits a riproaring comedy romance adventure story that is all rooted in a concept based on a particular minority of humanity turning out to not being human at all.  I love a good riproaring comedy romance adventure story!  But no matter how good every other part of the story is, that thematic bias is probably going to ruin the potential for it to be compelling to me.  Certainly there are less extreme examples, but I just mean that some themes and premises might be completely incompatible with the editorial bias and so might never be publishable at that publication.  That still doesn't mean that the editorial staff are censoring the author, nor that the editorial staff ought to feel obligated to publish it.  
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laurasbadideas
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2017, 02:03:07 PM »

This story obviously blames the American people for simply being American and defending their values.

I realize this thread isn't about this one story, but I was struck by how different this was from my interpretation. I saw it as a celebration of a woman defending her values and, although I didn't think a lot about her nationality, I read her as American: her name is Sylvia; her speech patterns are those of someone who's spoken American English all her life; and she dares the immigration officers to write down her name or beat her up, not to deport her. The only hint that she might not be American is that she sometimes speaks quietly to herself in another language, but I interpreted that as praying in Arabic or Hebrew, which is something that many Americans do.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 02:16:13 PM by laurasbadideas » Logged
Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2017, 01:26:02 PM »

...It is very blatantly obvious that this author is biased against the American laws and the ways of this wonderful country. ...

...This story obviously blames the American people for simply being American and defending their values. The author builds on a biased and hate atmosphere that belongs to a group that actually amplifies hate and bias and crime in this country. Now, let us hear about why the habitants in the home are being investigated and arrested. Obviously, it it's from the authors perspective, no one can do wrong, unless they're law abiding, patriotic Americans. Instead, if we saw this story from a realistic point of view, something is clearly wrong within the residence, especially  warranting so many officers.

...To conclude, the extreme Onesidedness of this story and the writer completely overshadowed the actual writing. I can no longer recommend Podcastle to anyone, at least not until I've been proven otherwise by the publisher and editors.

My wife and I are both employees of the U.S. federal government with jobs that are highly dependent on "American laws and the ways of this wonderful country." We struggle every day with what those laws mean and with doing our jobs in a way that protects the rights of individuals - whether they are Americans or not. We also see firsthand how flawed some of our laws are, and how flawed the people executing them can be.

It is my personal opinion that it would be dishonest and "one-sided" NOT to criticize the U.S. for its behavior, especially as our record has unfolded since the events of 2001. And while I am often frustrated at the way stories critical of my employer, of my wife's employer, or of the police are frequently played in the news, I'm absolutely terrified when people fall into the trap of suggesting that any of these agencies should be immune to criticism.

Using fiction and fantasy to call out the way we look when we send armored storm troopers into a residence to round up children and their grandparents strikes me as a far more patriotic and American action than shouting down a fiction publication for being "biased." When you say of a fictional story, "from a realistic point of view, something is clearly wrong within the residence, especially warranting so many officers," you reveal a bias of your own which you desperately need to re-examine. You're rationalizing the circumstances of an event that makes you uncomfortable as if those circumstances were yours to define.

I see people make that mistake with real-world cases of police brutality and excessive force all the time - you could see it the swirl of rationalization after the acquittal of Philando Castile's killer.

"He had THC in his system."
"He was no saint."
"He must have done something."

And those arguments were made despite ample video evidence of exactly what happened.

It's a tired, transparently biased narrative that is everywhere at all times in our media, and I don't know which is worse: seeing people exhibit that unquestioning pro-empire bias in real cases on a daily and weekly basis, or seeing someone try to rationalize the work of a fiction author who literally created the circumstances in the world that they are trying to explain away.

When you do that, you are not allowing yourself to understand the author's perspective. When someone isn't capable of addressing an author on their own terms, it makes me question whether that reader is capable of defending their own biases and assumptions. In my experience, someone who is unwilling to challenge their assumptions and engage with a story that confronts them isn't on very solid ground to begin with.
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