Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game Changer? Only if we let it be.

Listening to coverage of attack on Parliament Hill, must have heard the phrases "Canada's loss of innocence" and "game changer" about a dozen times. *Sigh* Recognize that it makes for more exciting news coverage to announce that this is the event of the century, but really, are we expected to change fundamental features of Canadian culture (such as a relatively open Parliament Hill) in response to a single incident involving one (or maybe two or three--it's too early in the coverage yet know how many are involved in this, though not apparently early enough to make pronouncements on how we will have to change all our policies) gunman? And such a poorly planned attack that the shooter apparently didn't know parliament doesn't convene on Wednesdays until 2PM? Again, too early to know if this is a copy cat from the shooting in Quebec, or something he/they had been planning for awhile (possibly to coincide with introduction of anti-terrorism bill?) but either way, it is ridiculous to allow -- nay, to assist!--a couple of fanatics to hijack Canadian culture. Just because they want to abandon the ballot for bullets doesn't mean the rest of us should stampeded towards draconian counter-measures.

One of the first topics that caught my attention back when I started out choosing between sociology and political science was terrorism. I read a lot of the writings of the early anarchists and was fascinated by the conscious, explicit manipulation of mainstream culture through the application of tiny acts of terror. For the anarchists, the purpose of terror is to trigger an over reaction that makes the oppressive apparatus of the state visible to the majority. Thus, one idiot with explosives in his shoes leads to everyone having to take their shoes off in American airports for the next five decades. Does this measure really make us safer? It certainly doesn't make us feel safer. On the contrary, it makes everyone feel more nervous. So, score huge one for the terrorists. What the coverage of terrorists seems to miss, is the changes the media is advocating for are the changes the terrorist set out to trigger. Politicians like to say they don't negotiate with terrorists; but what they don't say is they cave completely and do exactly what the terrorist scripted for the politicians.

Or, if one tends towards the cynical, one could argue that (small c) conservative policy-makers have wanted to beef up security and cut down on democratic traditions for a long time, and simply use these incidents to forward their own agendas. Naomi Klien's "The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism" outlines a number of case studies. Attempts to use this incident to forward a conservative agenda must be vigorously resisted. Up until this week, there have been two political assassinations in all of Canadian history. If we count the two Canadian soldiers killed this week in that category, that brings the total to 4 in 200 years. I don't think that requires us to change to an American-style defensive posture just yet. And, I would like to note that the police / security response on Parliament Hill today was exemplary. If that is the best the terrorists can do, we have nothing to worry about. Our guys won handily.

Another thing that bugs me about the coverage of the Parliament Hill /Quebec shootings is the recriminations over why our security establishment hadn't discovered and stopped the plot ahead of time. Really? Short of hiring only telepaths for the job, how the hell were they supposed to have stopped it ahead of time? Short of arresting everyone who ever read an IS Facebook post or attended a Mosque? (Assuming these were IS supporters...early days yet on the full story). Two soldiers are killed, and I hear reporters calling for the allocation of massive resources to security establishment to allow them 24/7 monitoring of minorities so that they can, in the words of one reporter, "preemptively arrest" individuals the police think might someday do something. Head::Desk. Yeah, let's constantly monitor everyone everywhere to prevent the future deaths of another couple of soldiers in uniform...but no one seems very interested in dealing with domestic violence that kills at least one Canadian woman every week. Or the even less well recognized problem of domestic violence against men. You want to monitor assholes, then start with the statistically significant problem of domestic violence, or missing aboriginal women, or elder abuse, or whatever, not the vanishingly small problem of domestic terrorism. A Canadian soldier is twice as likely to be hit by lightening then killed by a terrorist attack in Canada.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Aurora Award 2014

Surprised and delighted to have won an Aurora Award this year [for “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto and subsequently published in Recent Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Selected Papers from ACCSFF. Allan Weiss, ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2014 (in press).]

All this year's winners (front) and presenters (backrow).
My turn to present: Rich Leblanc accepting on behalf of On Spec Magazine

Legendary author William Gibson, who was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame (along with Spider and Jeanne Robinson; Spider is second from right in first photo) and me, showing off my Aurora Award.

Another highlight of the Aurora Awards ceremony (presented this year at V-Con 39 in Vancouver) was when Al Harlow (Lead singer for Prism) presented the Aurora Award for Music, which went to Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity — in, you know, space. Thought getting Al Harlow as presenter was pretty cool.

Also glad to see Frank Johnson (in tux in middle of first photo) receive recognition for his trophy design and 23 years of making them for the Association. I often felt that the trophy's unique design significantly added to how seriously people take these awards —makes it really worth getting one.