By Saito Takauji
I’m going to quote someone much wiser than I to start: This is why I don’t like to wake up before noon.
For anyone who missed it, the gist is this: A person (not going to use the phrase ‘gentleman’ here) spent yesterday joining every SCA Kingdom FB group he could, and then spent this morning spamming all of them with a letter written by Countess Brithwynn Artur of Trimaris.
Important to note is that Countess Brithwynn is the founder (as far as I can tell) of the Revolution for the Dream SCA FB page. The letter she wrote is essentially the thesis and mission statement of that group–that modern politics are driving people out of the SCA, that Conservatives are being targeted, that it is a small number of “woke” (always used pejoratively) and far-left (also always used pejoratively) members who are doing the targeting. And that the Board is either part of it or a tool of it, depending on who posts, especially with the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and officers.
I’m not going to respond to everything in that group; instead I’m going to focus on the letter specifically and then on the broader issues as I see them. This will be publicly posted and shareable, and I will not turn commenting off. My comments, as I’ve always maintained, are like the House of Commons; if you can’t stand up to the debate, don’t get in it. I still get people yelling at me for a post I wrote like four years ago.
- The Letter
I do think we need to thank Donald Trump for one thing, if only one thing: He has given us the defining word for our era. What began as Colbertian “Truthiness” (the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true) has become outright Fake News. We live in a time when it is easy for someone to log on to Social Media and post “Something Horrible Has Happened and The Media Won’t Report It!” even if it didn’t happen.
See, for example, noted conservative provocateur and man desperately trying to commit federal felonies Jacob Wohl staging a fake FBI raid on his partner yesterday for publicity (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/a-fake-fbi-raid-orchestrated-by-right-wing-activists-dupes-the-washington-post/2020/09/14/c07ccc7e-f6c1-11ea-be57-d00bb9bc632d_story.html).
So when I am reviewing posts on the internet, I have three broad categories that I filter things through based on what I’m presented. These categories do a decent job of letting me get a handle on what I’m seeing, although it is far from a formal classification system. Those three categories will do us well in reading Her Excellency’s letter. They are:
First, my old trusty standby: “Actions have consequences.” When you choose to put something into the world, people will encounter it and react to it. They may react to it in ways that you didn’t expect, or don’t like. They may even decide not to have anything further to do with you because of it. This is not a bug, it is a feature–and that feature is called Freedom of Speech. A subcategory of this is “Why are you asking for a third party or the government to get involved in a private relationship?”
Second is the category of “If this happened, the fact that you are not citing any sources or accounts makes me believe you are either misreading it or deliberately changing facts about it.” The best examples of this in recent times are when a person goes to a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and claims to have been harassed, only for it to come out later that they were either wrong or lying. Such as “surely this milkshake can’t have been disgusting, it must have been a tampon put in it to harass me” for the first and “Someone wrote ‘Pig’ as my order name, even though further evidence shows I would have had to put that as my own name in the app for it to happen” for the second.
And finally third is the outright category of “That didn’t happen.” Things that are so patently false that they can simply be tossed away without much concern, unless someone comes up with some really amazing documentation for it actually occurring. This category includes the aforementioned Mr. Wohl’s claims about Elizabeth Warren and her penchant for extra-marital affairs which left Marines broken physically and spiritually.
With those categories firmly in mind and a devil-may-care, damn the consequences attitude, let’s turn now to the letter in question.
“The time has come to end this hunt against those of differentiating opinions…”
And we’re off to the races. When I teach my college class, we emphasize the classic essay structure wherein one starts with a thesis statement, supports it, and then makes an argument. This gets close enough, I suppose, although a stronger thesis statement would be ‘There is a hunt against those with different opinions in the SCA,’ followed by facts, and then the argument it is time to end it. Note: It is entirely possible that this was an accidentally repeated paragraph, since it appears at the end as well; if that is the case then I withdraw my comment here, because this paragraph actually makes a decent (if factually deficient) conclusion.
Differentiating opinions would be opinions making a difference between themselves and other opinions known; what Her Excellency means here is ‘different’ opinions. You differentiate between two students with the same last name by using their first name, because they are different students.
“And the only way I can see this happening is to start bringing punitive actions against those people who engage in such activities.”
Her Excellency doesn’t note exactly what the activities are yet, although that will come later in the letter; here we’re left to simply associate it with the “hunt”, as if there are rogue bands of apocalyptic warriors roaming the SCA countryside.
“As such, I am calling on you, the Board of Directors of the Society for Creative Anachronism to reinforce our rules of engagement and help the general populous regain peace and acceptance from the people who feel these activities are unacceptable. If no change occurs you will continue to see membership decline and lower turn out at events. With a slow death to a once beautiful society.”
Note that here is the first instance of both the first and second categories I mentioned above. The first comes in to play when Her Excellency asks the Board to help the “general populous [sic] regain peace and acceptance from the people…” That is not a power of the SCA Board of Directors, or any Board of Directors. The SCA can enforce rules preventing certain kinds of conduct, but it cannot restore peace between people–that’s a matter for the people. In the law we would call this dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The second category comes in the implied threat that this will cause members to continue to flow out of the SCA in a great river. It is largely a misstatement of facts to say the SCA has been losing members until the pandemic; based on the numbers available from the SCA itself, membership numbers basically remained stable year to year 2018 to 2019 (29,661 in January of 2018 to 28,769 in December; 29,197 in January of 2019 to 28,482 in December). The SCA has been losing paid members slowly until the pandemic, when it dropped precipitously. As for events, Pennsic did see a drop from 2017 to 2018 (the last year for which we have numbers) of roughly 100 members; but that was still up roughly five hundred from 2013.
The SCA has been losing members; the data does not deny that. But consistently the rate of loss and amount of loss have been overstated (until COVID-19); compare the 2019 numbers to the 2015 numbers 0f 30,991 at its highest point. 2000 members in four years is nothing to dismiss, but it is also not the immediate apocalypse it is sometimes portrayed as.
But this statement also commits the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, “it follows therefore it is because of.” This claim implies that it is the SCA’s DEI movement and “hunting” for people that is causing members to flee, and that if these efforts continue it will be primarily this that drives them away; there is zero evidence this is the case, and she does not offer any except anecdotally.
Also, as a nitpick? A city can be populous, but the people of the city are the populace.
“There seems to be a great deal of tension between those few who regard themselves as progressive and politically aware and the rest of the participants in the Society who are also aware yet respectfully leave their politics at the door.”
The SCA was founded by students in Berkeley, California, in 1966. As part of their first event, they walked up and down the street loudly protesting modernity. In a worldwide organization which still includes all of California and New York City, as well as a country that (according to Gallup polls) identified as 31% Democrat as of August 2020, I don’t think it is reflective of reality to assume there are “those few” who regard themselves as progressive in the Society. This statement seems to be very intent on creating a dichotomy of “those few ultra-liberals” and “the rest of the Society”, which I do not believe is reflective of the actual makeup of the Society–which I firmly believe is actually reflective of the countries in which it resides.
The concept of leaving politics at the door will have its own whole section of Part II, so we’ll leave it for now.
“I have personally witnessed members of the populace attack members over their social media posts, and I don’t see this as an appropriate, honorable, or a chivalric way for someone in the Society to comport themselves, especially online where there is an implied level of anonymity behind which the aggressor may hide.”
I have no doubt this happens. I’ve seen it, on both sides. And that’s important, because I can tell you for sure in my Kingdom there are people who come out swinging when I post something liberal just as often as people come out swinging on their pages when they post something conservative.
But remember about Category 1? What Her Excellency proposes here is, in essence, that the SCA police the social media posts of private individuals who are using a non-SCA controlled third party website to express their views. Not only that, but she is requesting the Board do so when the people being “attacked” are conservative–while widely sharing her own attack on progressives in the SCA (the letter was public even before it was shared).
And an important refrain: The plural of anecdote is not data.
Also in a note of irony: I am posting my response to this through my Facebook page, which has my real name on it. The person who spammed the letter to every Kingdom FB page only has his SCA name on his page. An implied level of anonymity behind which an aggressor may hide indeed.
“For approximately 45 years, the Society flourished by giving all newcomers the universal admonition to keep modern politics and religion out of the game.”
It’s Anno Societatis 55, which implies that Her Excellency is either not sure of what year it is or that we didn’t flourish in the first 10 years.
“More recently, and especially since Donald Trump took office, the aforementioned group of players have grown more open and bold with their abuse of other players with whom they do not agree. Indeed, there seems to be little justice for members who get harassed and subjected to ad homonym [sic] attacks when it comes to being a Republican, a Trump supporter, a conservative, or a Christian.
I have always been under the impression that the SCA does not engage in these aspects of the modern world and ostracizing players for their personal beliefs or convictions in the modern world has strictly been taboo.”
Ad hominem, not ad homonym.
Here is where we start to see an outright misrepresentation of how things have been in the SCA, our history and our growth.
The first issue here is that it represents the major issue of the whole letter and its oeuvre: The conflation of “the SCA” with “the people in the SCA.”
The SCA does not engage in modern politics, and does not ostracize players for their modern political beliefs. Members of the SCA can, do, always have, and always will. Because the map is not the territory, and “the SCA” is not the same as “people in the SCA.” One is a 501(c)(3) corporation, the other is a group of people with whatever rights to free speech their respective creators have endowed them with and their countries recognize. One is required to be apolitical, and the other is by definition free to not be.
When someone attacks another person for posting their political beliefs, that is not the SCA doing it. And the question of what the SCA should do about it is a difficult one. But it occurs to me that there is likely a significant amount of overlap between people who say that what someone did after an event or not at an event can’t be held against them when it involves sexual assault, and who are now clamoring for the Board to punish people who were mean to them on the internet.
And the idea that the people of the SCA have never ostracized players for their personal beliefs or convictions is frankly bananas. The SCA has existed during the Vietnam war, the Reagan administration, both Gulf Wars, 9/11, the Obama administration, and the Trump administration. It has existed during the AIDS Crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the Stonewall Riots for God’s sake. You don’t think at any time during that long history there were people who refused to speak to one another or friendships ended because of politics?
I have heard a Peer state outright that she would speak against someone in a Peerage circle if they were rude 20 years ago at a party; you don’t think people were ostracized for far more contentious things?
And even those things which are on first glance rooted in “SCA” issues have their roots in real world ideology. Do we think that the earliest women who wanted to fight in the SCA weren’t feminists, and that the responses to them were not rooted in misogyny? Do we think that every single person who spoke against same sex consorts only did so on the grounds of historical accuracy, and none of them from a position of homophobia?
Also important here is that these are vague references without citation to either specific incident or actions taken. The SCA has a policy about bullying and harassment. If Her Excellency witnessed this did she report it up the chain of command? Later on she comments that when such things are brought up to the Board that:
“…the answers we get feel like they are long on excuse and short on results, they are placid at best.”
That claim requires specific evidence, because it is always going to be a fact dependent analysis. You cannot say “we were abused and the SCA did nothing” without presenting the evidence of both; because what you feel is abusive may not rise to the level of violating the policies regarding harassment. And you can argue that those standards should change, but you cannot do so without showing specifically how those standards failed.
“As a result, there is a large portion of the Society who no longer feel safe or even welcome in the game and are being pushed out by progressive players.”
As our friends at Wikipedia say, citation required.
Also note again the concerted effort to create a distinction between “small group of progressive players” and “everyone else.” First to imply that, as above, the majority of the SCA is not progressive, and second by implication that the progressive members are all abusive.
And note how imprecise the terms are. A “large” portion–neither named nor numbered. What constitutes a “large” portion? Is that a majority? A plurality? A significant percentage? What is she basing these numbers on?
The plural of anecdote is not data.
“Lately, it seems as though the governing members of the Society are condoning the actions taken by the extreme left-leaning members of our Society. Peers are pressuring their students to either support BLM or risk losing the support they need to gain the next level of achievement in the Society, or worse still, losing their place within their SCA family.”
This is a particularly interesting passage because of what it seems to imply about the Society. No one can possibly say that Peers are not ranking or important members of the Society, but it is also not at all accurate to call them the “governing” members of the Society. Sir Manfred is just one knight–even if he be KSCA OL OP OD, he is still just one peer; he has the voice and influence of a Peer in how the governing members of his Kingdom and the Society act, but he is not in any legal or actual or effective sense a “governing member” of the society. Her Excellency is here once again committing the sin of conflating “members of the SCA” with “the SCA”; a Peer who holds no office or crown or seat on the Board is just a member, not a “governing” member.
This also strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Peer/Student relationship, which the beginning of the next paragraph elaborates further upon:
“I have seen with my own eyes Peers terminating their proteges and apprentices for a difference of political opinion and stating that while they respect that person they can no longer be associated with them because they voiced their opinions on Facebook, of all places.”
The Peer/Student relationship does not appear in Corpora, the Bylaws, or any other governing document of the Society. It is not regulated, explained, expounded, or limited by any official body of the Society. This is because that relationship is not a legal one, but a private one between two individuals who have decided to enter into it.
Note that the word ‘family’ was used in the first paragraph on this topic, and it’s important to realize that’s what it is. And the same truths hold in the Society as they do in the real world: Family is voluntary, and the familial relationship may be terminated by either side at any time. Many of us know family members who are estranged from one another, or people who have completely left their families and even changed their names.
This is perhaps the worst conflation of “members” with “the SCA,” because it is insisting that a breakdown of private communication and relationship is a matter for the Board of Directors to be involved in. And not only for the Board to be involved in, but for them to actively take a role in stopping or to act punitively against when it happens–remember the introduction to this letter, where Her Excellency calls for the Board to be punitively involved in these matters.
I have peers. One of them likes Ouzo. I think that Ouzo tastes like gargling Willy Wonka’s taint. Having posted that, said peer is completely within his rights to reach out to me and ask me several questions (like how I know what that tastes like or why I felt the need to say that). But he is also well within his rights to say that while he still respects me he cannot associate with me because of my opinion on the nasty licorice water which is probably what durian tastes like in Candyland.
How else would you want it to work? How else could it work and possibly make any sense, and work in a way that would entice any Peer to take any student? Imagine if I was a peer and I found out that the student I took was a holocaust denier. Would Her Excellency require me to continue to spend time with this person, teach them, and hold them out to be a member of my household when I knew this about them simply because it is a modern of “mundane” politics? Were I to kick them to the curb, would Her Excellency say that the Board of Directors should be able to get involved and punish me for removing someone from my household who denied the suffering of my people? You might say that is an extreme example, but it isn’t–it’s just an example, especially in today’s society and today’s world.
Fundamentally this is a woman who identifies as a conservative arguing that a private corporation should be able to enact punitive measures against private members who have a friendship break down, or a disagreement so strong that they cannot continue to represent themselves as being family. That position argues for a fantastic overreach that would have the Board litigating disputes between mentors and mentees regularly, and having to almost inevitably come down on matters of personal politics and beliefs. In other words, the very kind of things that Her Excellency currently says is killing the SCA and driving away people in droves.
It would also, of course, cut both ways. It is not just a conservative student who could have a “progressive” or “ulta-left” peer punished. I think Her Excellency would find as many conservatives plagued by students who they disagreed with and who posted non-stop politics that they could not distance themselves from without Board disapproval as she would find the opposite.
This fundamentally comes down to Category 1 I listed above, and something I’ve spoken at length about before: Actions have consequences. If you choose to put your opinions on the internet where everyone and their mother can read them, you choose to deal with the consequences of those actions. If you choose to take on the burden of citizenship and be politically active and vote, you choose to deal with the consequences of that. Her Excellency puts herself in the same situation as those people who signed the Harper’s Magazine letter against “cancel culture” a few months back but were to have been found calling for others to be criticized for their speech: In favor of freedom of speech for their views, but not in favor of freedom of speech for anyone to respond to them.
Every conservative member of the SCA has the freedom to state their beliefs proudly and openly. And every liberal member of the SCA has the exact same freedom to decide how they feel about that view, and how they feel about a person who espouses that view. That’s not discrimination: It’s being an adult.
Like I said before, I still get yelled at for long ago posts on this very website. I got a comment in June of 2020 about an article I wrote in 2015 that started “Sorry about that dip shit…”
You play the game, you win the prizes; stupid or not.
“This is appalling, we have members of Royalty who are being held accountable for the actions of these protagonists, and while some Royals may condone this action, their [sic} are also some who feel at a total loss as to what they should do in these perilous times.”
Not entirely certain what this sentence means, but I feel like it belongs in the [Citation Required] camp. If there are Royalty who have been sanctioned because of the actions of members of their Kingdom, I would definitely like to see the documentation for that–even just their side of it.
I am not unsympathetic to part of this–we live in particularly difficult times. The SCA is a primarily (but not exclusively) American institution, and America is in the throes of many things. As the Royalty for a pretendy fun time game it can be difficult to know what to do, especially when one is in the position of being Royalty for far longer than anyone in the SCA ever has been.
The answer, however, cannot possibly be “get involved in personal disputes on people’s personal Facebook pages.” If that’s what the Board is asking for then Her Excellency should consider posting that. And not asking the Board to do the very same thing she is advocating against when she says that some Royals may condone these actions, perhaps?
Facebook and other social media outlets like Reddit have opened up a free for all platform within the members of the SCA to be as toxic as humanly possible…”
You know what, credit where credit is due, I agree. Social media has had a deleterious effect on the SCA by exposing us to the constant and ongoing inner lives of our fellow members. Once upon a time we had no way of knowing whether someone a King elevated to the Order of Defense was a horrible racist and worst person, and so no way to call on that person to do better, and no way to know that the King in question would double down on not doing so and lead to open revolt among members of his Peerage.
(That would be Baldar, whose most recent reign was Baldar VII and Brithwynn, the very Her Excellency who authored the letter).
We now are able to see so much more about what our fellow members eat, think, and spend money on than ever before. And we are thus forced to make more moral and ethical decisions about other members than we ever did before. And indeed about our fellow citizens, family members, and co-workers more than ever before.
And while that’s terrible, it still comes down to a simple volitional act: They choose to post those things. The person who spammed the letter chooses to post about how he believes COVID-19 will disappear at the election, and Her Excellency chooses to post this letter originally. That volitional act, as I keep harping on, has consequences. When we choose to act, we must accept that we will be acted upon in return or we declare:
- We do not understand how adult interactions work;
- We do not understand how freedom of speech works; or
If you never want someone to decide not to interact with you about politics, don’t choose to post politics. If you do, accept that other people will be able to judge that in return. Because that is literally reality, and adulthood, and freedom of speech. It cannot be freedom of speech if you are allowed to put whatever you want into the world, and other people are not allowed to respond in kind. That’s not freedom of speech, but rather a specifically targeted form of tyranny.
Let’s move through some specific claims quickly as we barrel into the conclusion. Her Excellency claims that:
- Doxxing is currently accepted in the SCA (as long as it is against conservatives) and when it is reported to the Board it is ignored;
- Landed Barons are “using their position” to speak out about ridding themselves of conservatives, including the suggestion of stealing knights chains to melt them down;
- DEI Officers are encouraging the populace to “get involved” with political groups and “Black Mamas Bailout” fund on official forums;
- There is a prejudice against the Chivalry with the assumption “they are somehow responsible for a majority of the racism and white prejudice in our Society.”
I do not know anything about the specific incidents Her Excellency is referring to. I don’t know whether they exist or not, but I suspect that we are dealing with at least my Category 2 if not Category 3. If someone has specific screen shots of these incidents, and specific evidence of them being ignored when reported to Society Officers and the Board, I would dearly like to see it.
I also want to address the chivalry issue. I don’t think it is that the Chivalry is seen as being inherently racist or the source of racism and prejudice in the Society–I think that the reason we have seen more discussion of the Chivalry is because they are the ones who most often win Crowns. Trim-gate involved a Crown. Baldar was a Crown. The creepy sex cult guy in Atlantia was a Crown and supported by a Crown. All of them are or were (at the time) Knights. The downside of being the group that is most likely to sit on the throne is that when people on the throne are visibly, audibly, and actually complete monsters, that is going to bounce back on you more than if they also happen to be Pelicans, Laurels, or Defenders.
Now we roll to the conclusion:
“The SCA has always stood for Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity and yet somehow we’ve gone astray and now revere virtue signaling and political activism.”
Virtue signaling, for those who are not aware, is what Conservatives call Liberals who they think are only acting virtuously to gain points for “woke”-ness. Inherent in that accusation, of course, is that what they are signalling is a virtue–like Chivalry, Honor, or Integrity.
There’s a lot here, but I think it deserves its own separate unpacking in Part II. But notice the implicit accusations here–that people who are calling out racism, that are pointing out the inherent disconnect between a society of Chivalry and anti-semitism/homophobia/transphobia/misogyny/racism are, and that are pushing for the Society to do more to address them are not upholding the virtues of Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity. It makes me wonder how Her Excellency would define those traits, if they are so hollow as to exist only when applied to SCA concerns.
“With regards and in service to the dream,
Countess Brithwyn Artur of Trimaris.”
I appreciate her willingness to sign her name to it and own it. I will do the same courtesy at the end.
- The Bigger Issues
So much of this letter represents the ongoing culture war in the U.S. that it might as well be held up as a microcosm. Social media is ruining us, but what’s really ruining us is when people apply consequences to my actions; cancel culture is wrong, but I want a corporation or government to punish the people doing it; I can’t go anywhere and be who I want to be, except all the places I can absolutely go and do that with other people who completely agree and pat me on the back (aka Parler).
But in the SCA it is particularly galling because, as Her Excellency points out, we are a Society which is supposed to be founded on better things.
This part is to speak about those issues that arise out of her view, and ones that may be repeated by people who are not necessarily fellow travelers along her road to speaking at the next RNC.
a. Use Our Structures
In my response to the letter, I expressed doubt as to whether or not some of the events happened as they were depicted–or even if they happened at all. But let’s assume that there are incidents like the ones that Her Excellency depicts:
Look, I’m on their side. I donated to bail funds, I’m a regular donor to both the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hell, I’ve been a regular donor to NPR. But if a landed Baron is sitting ex cathedra and telling people to do something political, then absolutely report him. And if he doesn’t stop, use our structures.
If an SCA officer or member is directing the doxxing of another member, regardless of why, then report them.
If a DEI officer is advocating a political position from an official account or on an official forum, then report them.
It’s that simple. And if the Board refuses to do anything about it, publish and publicize that as well. God above knows that everyone else who has ever had a problem with the Board has published their grievances, and even started websites to attempt to recall the Board. Be one more person doing that, except this time for a good reason.
That’s one reason why I have suspicions about the events as reported. As Calontir recently saw, when someone has an issue with what the Board is doing it is rare for them to keep it quiet. If these things had happened as written we would not be hearing about them for the first time in a letter; we would be seeing a foaming tide of discontent across Kingdoms.
Part of using our structures, then, is trusting that things are working rather than broken; and trusting that when things have broken down they are doing so in a limited rather than being indicative of a great conspiracy to drive people out.
b. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Is Not Going Away (and Shouldn’t)
Having been working with corporations since I sold appliances for Sears for the first time in 2011, I can tell you that corporate America is at least committed to appearing committed to DEI measures for the ongoing future. As part of my annual training at Bellevue University I am required to take non-discrimination refreshers. As a member of another organization I not only have to take annual DEI refreshers, but they go out of their way to emphasize how the DEI principles align with the core values of Integrity, Respect, and Excellence.
Increasingly DEI is being seen as a major strategic advantage in both the business and national security spheres as well. The United Kingdom Cabinet Office published a guide explaining why diversity and inclusion is a matter of national security (https://www.fairplaytalks.com/2019/03/27/head-of-civil-service-di-is-a-national-security-issue/), U.S. based foreign policy writers view it as being America’s untapped advantage (https://inkstickmedia.com/diversity-is-americas-untapped-competitive-edge/), and a former intelligence analyst turned law professor writes about how it enhances the Intelligence Community (https://commons.law.famu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=famulawreview).
Civil Air Patrol training on DEI specifically focuses on how a lack of diversity creates blindness. This is echoed in much of the literature on the subject. Without the diversity to bring in differing viewpoints and the inclusion to see that everyone has a seat at the table, we end up with people who all have the same cultural blind spots. Time solidifies these into institutional blindspots, leaving us exposed when something challenges them. How many times have we wished our organizations had taken a broader view on issues that would have left them less exposed when the world shifted?
And it is not hard to see these benefits to the SCA as well. New people of broad backgrounds bring in the opportunity for learning we otherwise would have missed. And it pays dividends in unexpected ways as well. The SCA has benefitted from a wealth of scholarship on Europe and the rest of the world from traditional and non-traditional academic sources, and our evolution as an organization has always come from new people bringing in their experiences and background. Without it we stagnate and die, the slow death of a beautiful organization that Her Excellency was so worried about before.
c. We’ve Never Left Politics at the Door
If I were an observant Jew, I would be functionally unable to participate in the SCA; and would be incredibly hard pressed to advance if I did.
SCA events are almost always on Saturdays unless they are wars or multi-day events; but in the Kingdoms I’ve lived in even a “multi-day” event that isn’t a war means “Almost everything major is on Saturday except for some tournaments, classes, and hang outs.” I could not, therefore, attend any of the following events in my Kingdom which have most of their activities on Saturday before sundown:
- Crown Tournaments
- Kingdom Arts and Sciences
- 12th Night
- Royal University
- King’s Company of Archers
- Kris Kinder
I could attend Lilies, if I left the second Friday and Saturday before coming back; I could attend Valor, if I decided to miss the day with the largest tournaments. And I suppose I could go to any of the above listed events if I was content to maybe make feast and the post-revel.
That means that functionally the SCA cannot be a Jewish institution. Or at least not an Orthodox Jewish one. If by its very nature it makes it hard for it to be observant Jewish and in the SCA, what does that say about its identity or politics?
For years women were unable to fight, or were ridiculed if they wanted to. For years a man could not fight for a man in Crown, or a woman for a woman–and when that changed, it was done in a way that left Kingdoms able to decide if it was acceptable or not, and some people outright left. Transgender members can likely fill in with horror stories about trying to be accepted as they are when they come to SCA events. And furthermore, these are not necessarily in the past: To many people in the SCA these stigmas are neither historical nor passed, and they face them every day.
If you think the SCA ever left politics at the door, it did not; it just means that your participation, your advancement, and even your existence were never the ones threatened or questioned. But make no mistake: Others were. And they have either been silently begging you to notice or openly telling you about it for years, and you simply decided not to listen.
And all that is to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room that is the SCA’s slow infiltration by white supremacists. An infiltration which has been mirrored by similar growth in every medievalist or historical association, and which the SCA has been trying to fight for several years now. But when it tries to fight it, it is met with the same kinds of claims that Her Excellency makes here: That to fight it is to “bring modern politics” in to the SCA; that people wearing Swastikas are just “trying to reclaim the symbol”; that we’re ruining the SCA with our “witch hunts”.
Those years where we banned or discouraged female fighters were rooted in misogyny. Prejudice against non-European personae is often rooted in racism. The opposition to same sex consorts even when presented with historical antecedents is based in homophobia. Transgender members face transphobia.
All of these are examples of real world politics which were not left at the door, but were brought into our game. While there are no doubt people who made legitimate objections to women fighters or same sex consorts based on history, it is ludicrous to claim that there were none who did it based on misogyny or homophobia. Which means they were bringing their real world prejudices into the game. Perhaps Her Excellency has a well documented history of fighting against such things with the same exuberance, but I do not have that evidence before me.
And as I mentioned before, for years there is no doubt in my mind that we have allowed real world politics to influence the game; we’ve simply chosen not to notice it or speak about it. For all that Her Excellency complains about being a conservative in the SCA, imagine how a liberal member feels in Mississippi or Alabama? Do we imagine there has never been anyone speaking against them because of their politics? Or doing so in the coded language of ‘not a good fit’ or ‘not the right kind of people’ or hiding it behind the cover of ‘not having Peer-Like Qualities’?
We talk about how the SCA is a “home”, and even Countess Brithwynn focuses on family in her letter. But the problem for the SCA is that it cannot both be welcoming to everyone and inclusive. If it welcomes literally everyone, it will welcome in those people who would drive out others because they do not want them there; welcoming everyone means welcoming in bigots. It’s the paradox of tolerance, and we as a Society have to focus on doing one or the other–because if we don’t, we will be welcoming accidentally while pretending to be inclusive.
Ironically, the SCA’s progress toward DEI is the very progress that Her Excellency would like to see in leaving politics behind. Diversity means that people of every background, race, religion, class, education, gender and identity, and every other kind of difference are welcomed; equity means that they are all treated justly; and inclusion means they are all able to participate to the full extent they want to. That is exactly what a non-political Society would look like; it’s simply that some see inclusivity as political that blinds them to this fact.
d. What are the virtues we want to represent?
Honor. Chivalry. Nobility. These are the qualities that the SCA has decided to project to the world; the values that we say are at the heart of our game. And I think everyone who has been in the SCA for any length of time can likely name members they think have lived up to the highest virtues of the organization.
But the ones that I can name, those people who act like a north star for me to set my own moral compass by? They are paragons in part because they live by those virtues whether they are at an SCA event or not. Because they embody them completely, and try to act by them whether they are wearing garb or mundane clothes.
Countess Brithwynn would have us look at people and see them as shining paragons of virtue when they put on their garb, and ignore them when they’re wearing jeans. Would have us believe that someone can post things we find hateful or hurtful from Monday to Friday, and then treat us with civility and kindness when we go to an event. And perhaps some people are capable of doing that, and surviving the cognitive dissonance whiplash that comes with it.
But I don’t think most do it, or are capable of doing it. I think if someone is sharing memes about the kinds of people Mexico is “sending” us during the week, they are likely thinking about it when they go to an event on Saturday. When they sit in the circle. If they share something making fun of ‘I Can’t Breathe’ on Friday, why would an African American member feel comfortable being judged by them in a competition on Saturday?
And why should we expect that our virtues, whether Chivalric or Peer-like, should turn off when someone goes home from an event? Why should we expect that the morality of our peers and fellows should be dependent on whether they’re wearing garb or plain clothes? And why our comfort around them should wholly and entirely depend on whether it’s 10 AM on a Saturday or 2 PM on a Tuesday?
I’m not saying that people cannot have off days, and disagreeing with me on the internet has never been an adequate reason for me to speak against someone in circle or even do more than be a little snarky. But the SCA has to decide what its values mean. Does Chivalry only apply when I’m Uji? Does courtesy only apply when I’m bowing at an event, not when I’m interacting with a person? Am I only bound to recognize a nobleman’s dignity, and not a fellow man’s?
I do not choose to think so little of the society, or of its members. Time and time again I’ve come back to the point that actions have consequences, and choices matter; and that’s because I believe it has to be the heart of how we view the interactions between Society members. If you know that you are in a Society which emphasizes nobility and respect and you choose to share something that others feel violates those virtues, there will be consequences. Social consequences, but consequences nonetheless.
Social Media has not been terribly good for us as a Society, as a nation, or as a species. It does allow us to see into other people’s lives in an intimate and unguarded way, since so many of us (myself included) treat it so much like a diary the world can see. It has allowed us to share beauty but also to show ugliness, and forces us to evaluate the people around us in ways we never expected to.
But that is also all we can do, unless we want to go full on luddite and renounce it. We cannot expect that if we put ugliness and intolerance out into the world, that we will be welcomed as family by everyone. And we cannot expect that the Society will come and crackdown on “intolerance” shown by others, but remain oddly silent when it is our own social transgressions that people are angry about.
The answer cannot be that we have to accept what some people say but not others. And the answer cannot be that we accept those who hate, but cannot accept those who fight against hate. In part because that’s not a society, and that’s not what the Society should be. And in part because too many of us know too many people who were left behind, or hurt, or marginalized, or destroyed by the way things used to be; we cannot go back, because we cannot abandon the people we have promised we will no longer leave behind.
I believe in the Society. I believe in our DEI efforts, and our attempts to more fully and completely live up to the ideals we were founded on. And I do not agree with that letter, Countess Brithwynn, or those who believe it is the way for the Society.
My Dream does require a revolution, but not one based on half truths, misstatements, and backsliding.
The Honorable Lord Saito Takauji, Kingdom of Calontir.
117 thoughts on “A Rebuttal”
Thank you for a cogent and well-reasoned response to Her Excellency, Your Lordship. Would that I had your patience and grace in analyzing her letter and the arguments contained therein, such as they are. I’m afraid my initial reaction was rather more visceral and definitely un-peer-like, so I will refrain from sharing it here. At the very least, as this is your space and you choose to invite us to your fire, so to speak, it behooves me to speak gently or not at all.
May I add also that I am pleased to have the pleasure of your acquaintance in both this Society and a far future world where a Manticore rampant holds sway?
Yours in service,
Uilleam mac Ailen vhic Seamuis,
retired Baron of Seagirt, An Tir, and companion of the Order of the Pelican.
Uji, I have never been prouder. EquesTitus Claudius Severus c/o Tod Huckaby, Barony of Unser Hafen, Outlands
Thank you for that indepth breakdown. Your words echoed many of the thoughts that ran through my head as I read that letter the first time. Hopefully this goes very viral and people can read with open minds and have a real discussion of where the SCA is evolving to and where its people stand.
Mistress Thalassia Hellenis, OP
P.s love your website’s name
Perfectly said, well written, and well thought out. I agree with you totally.
Sadly, also being a Countess of Trimaris, I’m familiar with this person, and I’m not surprised by the letter asides it’s relative cohesion for its length.
It’s safe to say I do not agree with her in the slightest, and applaud your lovely rebuttal.
Countess Ennelynne Von Hessen, Trimaris
As His Excellency in the comment before me alluded to, thank you for composing a far more eloquent and level-headed response than many, including myself, whose rank in the Society would presume otherwise would be able to. You are a paragon among us, my friend, and a testament to your Kingdom and what our Society should be.
Kameshima Zentarou Umakai, Shark Herald Extraordinary, retired Silver Buccle Principal Herald of Æthelmearc, and companion of the Pelican
This is very well written, and expresses many of the things I was having difficulty putting into words.
I would disagree on one point – that social media has been bad for society, and The SCA. I’ll refer to your own words of “forces us to evaluate the people around us in ways we never expected to.”. I think that allowing people to be more widely seen for what they say, what they support, *who they truly are*, gives us both a better understanding of them and of ourselves. And a better understanding is what’s needed to help grow past toxic ideas and behaviors.
Thank you for writing this.
-Sir Marcello, OL, Artemisia
I can see that, and I can even agree with that perspective. Perhaps “bad” is not the right word–“challenging” may be more appropriate.
Before the wide acceptance of social media, I used to be able to think that pretty much everyone in the SCA, all those fine folks that I saw 1, 2, 3 weekends a month, was a decent human being, with empathy for their fellow human beings, and some level of compassion, and a desire to see everyone succeed and do better. The only downside to social media is that it has disabused me of this optimism. Turns out, some of the people that I thought were decent human beings, are greedy, selfish jerks the rest of the week.
I would caution that social media provides snapshots, often out of context, unless one is privy to (and has read) a person’s full backlog. And even then… speaking from my own FB presence, the picture is ridiculously incomplete. Having said that, i fully acknowledge that the content of some snapshots provides plenty to evaluate
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) also allows extensive selection of self-presentation, editing of breadth and depth of self-disclosure, and emphasis of traits a person believes will be their most attractive.
CMC allows asynchronous communication that allows thoughtful, planned, and edited messages.
(see: Social Information Processing Theory)
So, if anything a person’s online persona is at least as likely to be groomed to fit the image they want to portray (if not more) than their in person face-to-face persona.
Which of course makes that snapshot all the more relevant as how they have actively chosen to be evaluated
Aka Matthew Carlson
I’m not going to lie, the beginning of your comment made me think this was going to be more SEO spam, until I saw the name and realized what it was saying 😉
I am not a robot
I don’t know, that’s what a robot might say…
“You spend most of your day telling a robot that you’re not a robot. Think about that for two minutes and tell me you don’t wanna walk into the ocean.”
As always, Your Lordship, excellently spoken. Your words are well-reasoned and far more polite than many could have managed. As your Knight said above, we are so very proud of you!
Master Nikolaos Demetriou ho Toxotes, OP, Outlands.
Well said. Well said, better, and more intelligently than I ever could have hope.
Mistress Thyri Haraldsdottir, O.P. Calontir
As others have stated; thank you for your clear, coherent. and well reasoned breakdown of that letter. This is a challenging time for us all on so many fronts. I’m glad to know you and call you friend.
Duchess Catalina de Arazuri, OL, OP, Calontir
Well written. Thank you for taking the time to parse this letter so eloquently.
Wow! That was a seriously cogent rebuttal. Much of what you wrote is how I feel but you expressed it far more eloquently (and more importantly clearly!) than I could have. If nothing else comes of your retort it has shown that there isn’t just her side to the story and things are not as bad as she would portray them.
Eoin mac Cionnaoith, Caid
I thank you — and most especially I thank you for bringing to light an example I, given my background, should have thought of long before; that of the Orthodox Jew.
Very well spoken, and said with great heart and respect.
My thanks, again,
Ruprecht Keller, Bard of the West.
Thank you. I see you. I appreciate you. I’d love to be your friend.
Thank you. I wrote my own response, it is private, for the preview and review of my Friends, at least as the moment. But it is heartening to read such a well reasoned, well considered, thought out response, and with a good bit of perspective that I didn’t have (or at least didn’t have without a good night’s sleep).
Keep up the good work.
Good Sir, you give me hope. Something that I was greatly lacking. Your eloquent and measured rebuttal is much appreciated. Thank you for your well crafted response. I would be proud and pleasedto host you at my fire, if ever we share an event. Baroness Pasha Starling Mayfaire, OL. Currently Ansteorra, but Forever Artemisia.
Thank you for putting this all into words. I’m certain I will be quoting you in the future.
aliskye rosel, OL, OP, Caid
Very well said, indeed. Thank you, sir.
Giles Hill, OP, OL, retired Baron of Gyldenholt in Caid, Chrysostom Herald Extraordinary
goddamn that was awesome.
“But in the SCA it is particularly galling because, as Her Excellency points out, we are a Society which is supposed to be founded on better things.”
Baron Jonathan Blackbow, Atlantia
An eloquent and well reasoned rejoinder that cost way more of your time on the analysis than that particular work was worth!
Thank you for the reasoned and thoughtful response. A consequence of my choice to disassociate with those who rant and rave is that I am rarely aware of these conflicts. I can trust that you analysis will be fair and reasoned as well as being entertaining [anecdotes are not data — priceless].
All day, I’ve refused to read that letter. I won’t click on the link, I certainly am not going to read the comments.
Right now, I’m an underemployed woman of color trying to keep her mental faculties in order to be able to find a full time job.
From the bottom of my heart, Thank you for writing this and allowing me to be able to parse this latest salvo from those who would wish to keep things in the SCA as they were.
I appreciate it.
HL Jerusha a’Laon
Kingdom of Caid
Las Vegas, NV
Good luck on your job search. I hope you find the absolutly most perfect position possible.
Thank you for a well considered and eloquently written missive. I am that most rare of creatures, a moderately liberal person residing in the northern reaches of the Outlands. I am blessed by having dear friends who disagree with my liberal beliefs, but who also respect them. To my mind the lack of civility combined with an unwillingness to even consider that someone else’s opinion has value is the greatest tragedy that faces us as a country and society. Well meaning and thoughtful people can disagree, discuss and respect each other. This is the way forward and something we seem to lack today. Thank you for being a breath of reason and honor.
Gwilim de Glamorgan, OP, Outlands
I heartily agree with your perspective on ouzo!
I much appreciate the detailed breakdown, and your willingness to step into the fray as a voice of reason.
You are one of my own personal heroes and guiding stars, Your Lordship. Thank you.
Baron Timothy O’Brien, OP
As someone who is a lurker,after many years of playing. I wish to thank you for your brilliant rebuttal. You put into words many things which i have had strong feelings about. I have noticed a subset of people who cry “unfair” when they’re called on their postings. The way that you logically dissected the letter,has given me a better way to view the subject.
Knowing her Excellency and Baldar, and having been the victim of threats from the known racist they elevated, I say HUZZAH, sir. Huzzah.
Alysoun Jeuneterre, OL, OP
Thank you, not only for your well reasoned rebuttal, but for reminding us all to think instead of merely reacting. It was timely.
Taddea Bice di Merlino
Wonderful, many thanks, I don’t have the patience nor the words for this.
Well written. It has always bothered me that I’ve had to decide between my religious devotions and my love of playing the game. Even my name causes some in the sca to be uncomfortable, as if Jews didn’t exist in medieval Europe. It was the perfect example of how perfect inclusion will not be possible in the game and yet striving for that is not a bad thing.
Belaset the Jewess
Thank you very much for putting your thoughts “on paper” in such a wonderful way. I appreciate your willingness to craft such a great rebuttal to a letter so many of us find offensive. As a person who is socially liberal but right of center (or at least the Regan Era center) I am offended by Her Excellency’s use of the word Conservative when she really means 1950s Southern Racist. Your argument about what you post on Tuesday affecting how you are perceived on Saturday is a powerful one and worth sharing far and wide.
PS. The reference to melting chains is directed at what happened here and is more wrapped up in the emotions of family/household/mentor-student ties beginning shat upon than anything else.
The reference was to something that happened here in Meredies where a landed Baron was asked to step down due to a comment he said regarding where a bounty was placed on certain Trimerian knights chains.
Very well said, Uji. Thank you,
Baron Yehuda ben Moshe, OP, East
Well said my friend, well said.
Master Robin Gallowglass, OP
Formerly from the East, now in Meridies
Thank you for a thoughtful response and analysis of a problematic letter.
I think that there’s one area you slide over too quickly: issues of misogyny and exclusivity with heavy weapons fighters and fighting, and use of that system alone to determine Crowns. (Though I’ll admit that a conversation about the problems with the primacy of heavy weapons might be better served in a separate essay.)
If we, as a Society, are going to have productive conversations about inclusivity, we need to confront the inherent bias of allowing only one system (one that is very dépendant of physical ability) to determine Crowns— a position that is the most visible representation of the people. By opening Crown tournament up to other systems, we open up that visible representation and bring a greater diversity of ability and perspective to the highest position in a Kingdom.
There are many ways to serve and have influence that do not include winning Crown.
I think being less ableist and more inclusive in how we choose rulers is a really important next step for the SCA to consider.
Ouch. Your post gave me a lot to think about that is not SCA related. Other groups and how I relate to them and in them.
As others have said, Thank you.
When I read her letter, I had many thoughts and reactions. One thought was that, she did not like the consequences that have resulted from her actions as Queen.
Countess Cheongju Han, JeongMi OR, OL
I appreciate your rebuttal very much. It articulated some of the misgivings I had when I read the letter.
I wanted to try to provide some mediocre context for one of the Countess’s claims of conservatives being victimized with no recourse. Specifically to the part you mention “Landed Barons are “using their position” to speak out about ridding themselves of conservatives, including the suggestion of stealing knights chains to melt them down.”
If she is referring to the incident that I know of, and I strongly suspect she is, the baron in question was asked by his king to step down, which he did. And the knights in question had just been banished/sanctioned at some level. These banished knights had been posting racist remarks and jokes about killing liberals.
I mention this not to gossip, but because when I read this initially, just what little I knew about that situation threw doubt on all these examples where she claims conservatives are being victimized and the people responsible are not facing consequences.
So a classic example of Category 2, like I thought it might be. Thank you for the information on the circumstances!
This is an excellent analysis (though I’ll confess I skimmed much of it).
I do need to quibble with one point. I wouldn’t except that you repeated it as a refrain. The original quote by political scientist Ray Wolfinger is “the plural of anecdote IS data” (emphasis added). This is true because anecdotal evidence does report the personal experience of an individual, which in social science and qualitative research is, in fact, data (and what are we talking about here if not social science?). I think what you’re really trying to say is that “the plural of anecdote is not objective fact.”
Thank you again for the deep and thoughtful work you’ve done here.
Interesting, I didn’t realize that the original quotation was the opposite of how it is popularly used. I’ve only ever heard it used the way I did. Thank you for the information!
The Wolfinger quote is from the 1980’s with his first use in 1969-70
The first use of the negative idea in some form dates to Paul A. Samuelson in 1967
With the more familiar form of both showing up repeatedly in the 1980’s and 1990’s from multiple sources each
Thank you, thank you – for this cogent and well-reasoned breakdown of this. There has been so much angst, if not down-right hysteria, over this. You are much more articulate than I could ever have been. We are so very much in need of calm reasonable voices.
You touch on this a lot in part three, but I still want to voice an objection to something from part two:
“Once upon a time we had no way of knowing whether someone a King elevated to the Order of Defense was a horrible racist and worst person”
As you point out in part three, homophobia, transphobic, sexism and racism are present realities for minorities in the SCA. Based on stories I’ve heard of the mentioned MOD, along with stories of Sir Galen and my own personal interactions with a few people in Northshield, I can tell you that your sentence should read “Once upon a time privileged white members of the SCA had no way of knowing whether someone a King elevated to the Order of Defense was a horrible racist and worst person”. Racial minorities have known. Hell, I’ll even offer a “not all white people” and suggest that there’s even some cis straight white men who knew when their peers were flaming racists back in the 70s and 80s.
There is a tendency to blame this shit on the presence of the internet when in reality, someone’s vile Facebook posts are not actually a deeper look into their soul than you’d get an event. We have the privilege to look away at events that it feels like we don’t on the internet, but that doesn’t mean that racism isn’t there, affecting things in person.
In the face of countesses boldly claiming that they feel hunted by Militant Leftists who want to Ruin All Hobbies, it’s more important than ever to practice anti-racism, and to that I implore everyone who’s read this post to be vigilant at events. Pay attention to what the people you associate with are saying and doing at events, and especially what they’re saying and doing to minorities. Don’t rely simply on racists removing their masks online to keep them from hurting the most vulnerable members of the SCA. Actually be an ally at events and help make the Dream attainable to everyone.
Your point is very well taken that Social Media show us more about people when we are not the ones whom they have historically targeted. The people who have been targeted have always known and frequently tried to tell the rest of us, only to have it fall on deaf ears. And also that we have known and protected for far longer than we would like to pretend.
I would like to support this as the aforementioned horrible racist and worst person told me in person at a fighter practice that he would like to kill all Middle Eastern Muslims and that we should bomb the whole region. I was in my first year as a member and afraid to say anything at the time, but the dude has made no secret of his bigotry.
I’ve since tried to make up for it by collecting screenshots and reports of his behavior and sending them to the BOD. I just wish I had started sooner.
Thank you. That was both beautiful and brilliant. As someone with a continuous membership since 1971, I remember the ‘women can’t fight’ issues and the arguments that, yes, were often frankly misogynistic. You are not wrong there. There were, however, even then, knights who willingly trained women before it was SCA legal to do so because it was the right thing to do.
One comment – I believe the ’45 years we flourished’ that she referred to were AS 1- 45, with the immediate past 10 years, the ones with social media, being the years that became too antithetical to her er… values, such as they are.
Mistress Gwynnyd, OP
Founding Baroness of Roaring Wastes
Oh! I hadn’t even considered that it might be that she was consciously choosing to ignore the last ten years of it. Interesting!
This had definitely occurred too me, as well. They were counting only the years that they defined as acceptable.
I have been a member for less than two years, but have been around long-term members for more than ten years. There are many who consider (perhaps even subconsciously so) the most recent decade A.S. as being less than desirably comported per original conception.
Not unexpectedly, I do not find myself continuing to hang out with those people at events, once I have uncovered them.
I distinctly prefer the societal structure of late with more emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is why I finally joined after 15 years of having been encouraged to do so. —
Kajsa Mulikka Metsästä
Shire of Silfren Mere
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I loved how you spoke to each point in turn.
I wish Her Excellency and her ilk would read it and take it to heart, but they won’t. Sigh.
Maggie MacKeith, OP, Midrealm
Thank you for a compelling, well thought out read. Your words were wise, rational, eloquent and cogent. Those who know you speak well of you, and I add my praise.
Very well said. Thank you so much, this is a breath of fresh air. You have also helped me reframe some of my own thoughts, so I appreciate that.
Baroness Sunneva de Cleia
Barony of South Downs, Meridies
Thank you for writing this, it’s excellent. Many folks I know have expressed admiration for the clarity, insight, and example you give.
I’m the landed baron Her Excellency mentions. I’m happy to talk to anybody about the accusations of doxxing and the allegations of using my position to speak about ridding the SCA of conservatives (she didn’t even mention the “conspiracy to commit theft” claim – she’s falling off her game). I’m also willing to go in to detail about all the various punishments I’ve received from the SCA as a result of these allegations.
If you search Wistric Oftun on Facebook you’ll find me – feel free to drop me a PM.
Wistric Oftun, Baron of South Downs
Thank you for this! And may we one day meet as friends; perhaps at the beautiful Double Wars event in Sweden, which peaks on a Thursday because of the Long Drive Home.
Æthestan, OP, Drachenwald
Thank you, this needed to be said, and you did so decisively and eloquently.
M. Iheronimus Brückner OL, OP (Outlands/East)
This is amazing. I was scared to bring my nephews to PENNSIC last year, who are children of color, and some of whom are lbgtqia….but I have so many dear friends who attend, and I hadn’t gone in 20 years. I am a Jew and lbgtqia, and I know there is misogyny, racism, anti semitism, and homophobia at the event, I’ve seen it and experienced it. However mostly my experience was not dominated by those negative moments, generally it was positive. I knew the kids would love it, they’re smart, they’re nerdy, they like gaming and cosplay, so I chanced it, for day trips only, and they loved it. They want to return and have very specific ideas what kind of camp they want to build. The people we met were very kind to my extremely diverse family. This extremely well thought out piece has made me think I should join as an actual member, I thank you for taking the time to write it and post it.
Huzzah! Profound thanks for your reasoned point-by-point analysis and rebuttal of the letter. It is, at this instant, best-in-class, and I believe, will remain a shining example of its sort.
I appreciate so much, the time and effort you put into this reasonable, informative and incredibly well-written response. I have more to say, but need way more coffee first! .
Thank you for so expertly and dismantling the particulars of this issue, and patiently analyzing each. It was admirably done.
Baroness Medb ni Ciaran MacMurchadha
Thank you for this. It was logical, well-reasoned and fair, representing the best of what the SCA can and should be.
Baroness Margret Eyverska, OL
Resounding words flow forth from the quill of Lord Uji, great his honour.
In defence of the downtrodden he writes, his shield of wisdom impenetrable.
The enemies of sense and freedom quake, their reason in tatters.
Iago mab Iago wrote this in praise of Lord Uji.
A well written and nuanced repsonsa to the both the Letter and the issue at hand. You do honor to the Society and your Kingdom. It has been posted in Northshield, and I intend to cite it widely.
Maestra Margalit Medicus, OD, OP, Northshield
Thank you so much for this, as one of the people who used to be afraid but is now welcomed (Transgender), I love the way my SCA is becoming, I have seen people change to the better through inclusivity. I miss my SCA friends right now, but I will never miss the people who don’t want me to exist, and allow us to know it via social media.
Dona Mizuno Kiku Ibara, Outlands
Well played, Uji
Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, OP OL OD (East)
Thank you so much for these words. My respect for you continues to grow. Been involved, at varying levels of ability to participate for 38 years now in many kingdoms, though An Tir is my home.
Angharat verch Reynulf, OL
Blatha an Oir,An Tir
Thank you for this. As a lapsed member of the SCA, I wish there was a word to describe the contented gratitude settling in my soul that such progressions as DEI have taken place since I left. It gives me ideas of possibly returning to play, after having been gone so long, once the pandemic passes, to make new friends and enjoy new festivities. Thank you again for making it clear that there are people such as yourself still in the SCA who fully understand true chivalry and honor, not just in play but in life.
Formerly of Jararvellir in Northshield
Thank you for your cogent (and apt) reply. You articulated thoughts I’d not been able to put in words.
However, I disagree that Social Media has ruined the SCA. It has shown a light on things that were always puzzling in the past, such why certain people tended to speak negatively in council against people who were otherwise perfect candidates. Since we started seeing those people speaking out about their beliefs, we finally have an answer as to why they were negative. (Fortunately, those people even without knowing why they said what they said were told “that doesn’t make sense since you can’t give us any corroborating evidence and so we’re going to ignore it.”)
Wow, that was on point.
My favorite paragraph:
How else would you want it to work? How else could it work and possibly make any sense, and work in a way that would entice any Peer to take any student? Imagine if I was a peer and I found out that the student I took was a holocaust denier. Would Her Excellency require me to continue to spend time with this person, teach them, and hold them out to be a member of my household when I knew this about them simply because it is a modern of “mundane” politics? Were I to kick them to the curb, would Her Excellency say that the Board of Directors should be able to get involved and punish me for removing someone from my household who denied the suffering of my people? You might say that is an extreme example, but it isn’t–it’s just an example, especially in today’s society and today’s world.
I think this sums up things quite well.
Also this statement:
And I suppose I could go to any of the above listed events if I was content to maybe make feast and the post-revel. – I know people for whom this is the whole goal 🙂
There is in this country a strongly drawn line between people for whom ‘political opinions’ include the right to decide if someone is a human being entitled to the same rights, and those that have already decided that all people are human beings entitled to the same rights. This whole letter draws out the former, and Uji – your response highlights the latter. I am happy to call you friend.
You too are very eloquent. “There is in this country a strongly drawn line between people for whom ‘political opinions’ include the right to decide if someone is a human being entitled to the same rights, and those that have already decided that all people are human beings entitled to the same rights.” places all of the change we need to make in one sentence.
Well done! Meresige Stonegatta, OP, Thornwold, An Tir.
I LOVE this. Amazingly well thought out and reasoned. Thank you.
Baroness Lore von Bubeck,
MKA Laurie Foster
Thank you for this response! Doxxing of anyone, regardless of politics is wrong and those caught should face sanctions from the SCA as a result.
Lady Fedelm Dub, Barony of Lyondemere, Caid
I am so very proud to be part of a Society that counts among its members articulate, intelligent people who will take the time to fully address an issue such as this. May a day come that I might meet you in person and express my thanks.
Lord Tarmach ben Yehuda al-Khazar
Protege to Master Phillip the Pilgrim
I’ll mirror the comments above and thank you for such a reasoned response.
Thank you so much for posting this clear and well-reasoned response to the vituperative letter posted far and wide on Facebook by the Duchess and her friends.
I am proud to be able to say that I knew you “way back when” and miss being able to interact in person now that my husband and I have moved so far away.
Well said, my friend. Well said!
Maestra Suzanne de la Ferté, OL
Formerly from Ansteorra, Calontir, and Northshield, now in Atlantia.
“The plural of anecdote is not data” is my new favorite line. Thank you for a thoughtful and appropriate response.
Mistress Aoibheall an Sionnach
Glyn Dwfn, An Tir
It was my intention to pen a missive similar to yours in a communication to the BoD, as a response to the “anti-inclusivity” screed currently being distributed via social media. Your well-thought, well-written response has made such effort on my part pleasantly redundant.
May I ask your permission to include a link to this post in any communication I do have with the BoD? I believe they deserve to read this, and the comments, in its entirety.
Thank you so much for taking the time to put into words what so many of us have doubtlessly been feeling and thinking. You’ve done a wonderful service to the Society (and to society).
I would be honored if you felt my rebuttal important enough to include in your own communications with the Board. Please feel free to do so, and thank you.
Her Excellency’s letter contains rhetoric which I have unfortunately witnessed first-hand by a not-insignificant portion of the populace around me, and which ultimately led to my withdrawal from the greater Society.
The grim reality is that some portions of the broad SCA are simply not safe for someone like me, a hyper-progressive member of the LGBT+ community who supports movements that are not shared by people I had once considered friends and peers worthy of my respect. It pains my heart that so many people I once saw as family have turned out to be people that I cannot trust.
And frankly, I am glad that social media exists and has shown me the realities of so many people. That it has allowed me to see that they wear a mask on the weekends, and shown me the cracks in those masks, and in some cases removed them entirely. Bigotry, misogyny, racism, sexism… I’ve seen far more of it in the SCA in the past few years than I had ever seen before anywhere else. Perhaps that is a side effect of the Kingdom in which I find myself. Perhaps the answer would be for me to find a new Kingdom in which to reside.
The creation of the DEI is a step in the right direction, and I hope one day that the broader SCA will be a place that I can return to once again, a place where I can find comfort and companionship, and rejoin a family that meant so much to me.
Until then, I cannot remain in service to the Dream, for to me, it has become a Nightmare.
Signora Leonora di Vitale da Napoli, Gleann Abhann
Well said.. Very well said indeed.
The SCA will fully survive losing bigots.
We don’t need them, they are not welcome here.
They have -never- been welcome here.
Master Dirk Edward of Frisia OP
So. What I am getting from your rebuttal is that in order for the missive to have any weight or be treated seriously in your mind it must need have no grammatical errors, include numerous appendixes citing proof, and a list of every individual who has been sanctioned in the SCA for posting things on social media outside of the SCA.
By no means does it need to have all of those; some of them would suffice. In order to be treated seriously, a letter must be serious. Seriousness is established in a variety of ways. Professionalism, evidence, and citations are three of the ways in which one can establish that.
And while I quibble with Her Excellency on some grammatical/spelling points, if the only thing lacking seriousness and weight in her letter had been a few grammatical and spelling errors my response would have been very different. If it had come with specific incidents cited where conservatives had been targeted, or where those targeting them hadn’t been addressed, then I might have made some wry comments about word choice because I’m a pedant; but I would have engaged with those examples seriously.
For that matter I don’t feel like I didn’t give it weight or didn’t treat it seriously, given my response ran to 20 pages (by my word processor) of in-depth analysis and commentary.
My Lord, given that Her Excellency’s missive makes several allegations regarding what she considers to be wrong with the Society these days, some specifics would be helpful. At the moment, her letter reads much like someone who posts on Facebook “My car sucks!” without any information on whether something is actually broken, or something works as intended but the person doesn’t like it. It’s entirely unhelpful. I have no beef with someone venting to bent, but if they want relief, they need to do better than that.
old used baron & bird guy, An Tir
Thank you for a very cogent and comprehensive reply and for the time you spent crafting it. This really made me reflect on the SCA’s history and my own role in it (such as it is). We are a changing group on a changing world and we need to intelligently consider how to both increase our inclusivity towards newcomers and to adapt to our own changing diversity (we all inhabit only temporarily able bodies after all…). I though this was perfect: “I believe in the Society. I believe in our DEI efforts, and our attempts to more fully and completely live up to the ideals we were founded on. And I do not agree with that letter, Countess Brithwynn, or those who believe it is the way for the Society.”
A brilliant response! Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly break down the original post and so clearly articulate what many of us feel.
Baroness Signy von Velden, OP OL
Well said, M’Lord.
I have been listening to the whines of people complaining that our Society not being tolerant of their intolerance for so long that it seems like it was always thus. My answer, then as now, has always been the same. Deal with it or find somewhere else to play.
For my part I feel no compunction about considering a person’s non-SCA persona and character when considering them for the Peerage or any other award or advancement that I might be consulted on. In my experience, who a person portrays themselves to be outside of the SCA inevitably reflects who they are or will be inside the SCA. If I see evidence of chivalric behavior in their social-media posts I see no problem allowing this to influence my opinion of them in a peerage discussion, for instance. Likewise for un-chivalric behavior – especially racism, sexism and all of the other forms of discrimination we have seen demonstrated in our larger societies. In my experience, simply being Conservative is not enough to earn notoriety – you also have to be an asshole.
The bottom line for me: The SCA is a private club and we as members and supporters are under no obligation to be welcoming or tolerant of those who want to use it as an outlet for expressing their hatred and biases.
If her Excellency doesn’t like it, she should go find a different group to play with.
I agree with the other members of the Secret Liberal Cabal who have already responded here.
Signed the Gay Teenager who joined in the 80s and experienced tons of this crap over the years..
Who is now Magister Ambros Kyrielle, Queer Laurel of Labyrinths, Æthelmearc
Thank you for this truly intelligent and well-worded rebuttal. You have put words to how many of us are feeling.
Baronessa Calpurnia Fortunata, Trimaris
Exceptionally well said.
A very solid rebuttal. Thank you. It gives me hope that the Society I joined in ’72 is still something worth saving. The idea that we must be tolerant of intolerance is something I have never been able to stomach.
Sir Bartholomew, long-retired Baron of the Barony of Atenveldt
Well reasoned rebuttal, one that a person can both agree with and learn from.
Companion Aaron of the Black Mountains ,OP, Tir Righ
Much food for thought.
Point the first – through roughly half of the SCA period many activities we recreate would have been vastly different – we of the modern era tend to disregard the seasons and days of fasting from meat that were commonplace in Medieval Christianity and still practiced in Christian Orthodoxy – so it is not only the person following the dietary and Sabbath practices of Judaism that has difficulty.
Point the second – i think you may have forgotten to nail down the phrase “The plural of anecdote is not data.” I intend to make off with it for the benefit of my sophomores.
Sandra J. Geil/ Ealasaid Mac al’Bhaird commonly known as al Aeryn – Ansteorra
Wow! Very well written, Your Lordship. Thank you.
Thank you for pulling out these threads and verbalizing the issues with them, so much better than I could. Thank you for doing this work.
Ursel Lindenhayn, OL, An Tir
I thank you for this rebuttal, from the bottom of my angry heart.
I shall now quote your own words back to you:
“If you think the SCA ever left politics at the door, it did not; it just means that your participation, your advancement, and even your existence were never the ones threatened or questioned. But make no mistake: Others were. And they have either been silently begging you to notice or openly telling you about it for years, and you simply decided not to listen.”
“…you simply decided not to listen.”
My angry heart has issue with those who are either quietly complicit, or active apologists for, and not limited to this list of anti-human and anti-social behavior: hatred, bigotry, persecution, racism, prejudice, apathy to the human condition, etc.
Your response to an open letter which enrages me, is cogent, enlightening, at certain points painfully honest, and welcomed.
I thank you because you have shown a light on a path that is wholly different from a parallel path of rants, as hominem attacks, false equivalency and self-righteous sensitivity.
I have walked that parallel pat, claiming a progressive outlook, and I am embarrassed.
I thank you for shining a light on that path I have taken and enhanced my vision of my own clay feet, crumbling and stumbling through the murk of vitriol and visceral response.
You have not only brought to light a failure of an open letter, in its development, its execution, and its delivery, you have shown me what it is that progressive can mean.
Advancement, development, evolution, and growth, through a review of actions.
Nominally, HL SeanAngus MacDuinnchinn
Welly writ, good sir. Cogent analysis in measured tones. Our Current Middle Ages can never get too much of this. Keep up the good work.
AEdward of Glastonburh, called the Saxon, in Bryn Madoc, Meridies, since A.S. XI
Thank you for this excellent post. You have done a great service.
Lady Osk Grimsdottir, Drachenwald
Very well written and it gave me food for thought on how to categorize some of my own feelings and responses to the current situation.
I have had my own dealings with the letter writer and the racist who was spitefully elevated to the MOD. She frequently defends and repeats the bigoted ravings of
both that MOD and Baldur. I know that she and her circle are a minority, but boy are they loud.
The Honorable Lady Juliane de Vivonne
Seneschal, Barony of South Downs
Unto the Honorable Lord Saito Takauji does Meresige Stonegatta of Witham send greetings.
Many letters have I read in my 41 years in the Society of Creative Anachronism. Many thoughts have I had about our Game and our Dream.
Yours are the best I have been given. Thank you for the honor of reading such depth and compassion.
Please know that your words have deepened my understanding of all of the falsehoods given to me, my personal prejudices, and the work I must undergo to clear my mind of my unclear thoughts.
The Dream stands in your voice.
I shall stay a frail stem of grass, while knowing many stems can roof a house.
In Gratitude, Meresighe OP, Thornwold, An Tir
Your post is well thought out and clear; thank you for providing such an excellent rebuttal.
Emma de Wulf, Middle Kingdom
I admit it took me a while to get through the more salient points, but they were thoughts worth the trip. It seems yet another consistent example of things that as a larger U.S. society we’re taking a harder look at notions of, “If it didn’t happen to me it didn’t happen, if it DID happen to THAT person they probably deserved it and anyway I think they did.” and the classic, “I remember when X, Y, Z groups had to just shut up because when WE tell that joke/grab/beat up one of them it’s funny. Now they think they’re special!”
Solipsism seems to be a large part of the digging in of those who just don’t want any other perspectives or experiences given validation beyond their own. I realize that more conservative view points probably could make that argument to some extent as well, but I sincerely doubt to the range of vituperation that we see playing out within our modern political arena, including the increasing evidence of white nationalists infiltrating our police, federal border agents, and military; which they have been doing for years (https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/09/03/troops-white-nationalism-a-national-security-threat-equal-to-isis-al-qaeda/) so this is not a new phenomenon, but having it noticed so broadly on social media, and creating the backlash against it among growing groups of previously marginalized or inactive groups of people (moms in yellow t-shirts anyone?) is.
So what to do. Well, I think the general rule of Organization(s) Sca not using platforms for Specific Political/Religious Ideology still a good one, while internally, having those tough discussions around, “What influences our decisions within governing activities? What internal biases drive decisions that could marginalize others?” I mean this is not new, but maybe there’s more impetus now for local and regional group discussions on it.
Anyway, I apologize for the lengthy way of saying, “Good post Bro”, and thank you for making it.
Gisele Percheron, Northshield, Barony of Jararvellir, up to my *ss in cats.
I haven’t been a member of the SCA for over 35 years now (1986-87), but when I was–briefly–I joined at Bellewode in Calontir, and attended a couple of events before leaving for exactly the reasons mentioned here: misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry. I have many friends in Kingdoms across the U.S. who are still with the group who report that it has greatly improved, though more improvement of this sort is still needed. I have friends in the area I dwell in now (the Kingdom of Æthelmearc, and specifically the Barony of the Rhydderich Hael) who are members, whom I respect greatly, though I have not yet rejoined. Seeing how the same events that made me leave because they were roundly ignored now being taken to task and widely criticized gives me hope that perhaps things can actually change.
Very well written.
I was fortunate to join a hometown shire in Aethelmearc back in 88, (Barony now). We had LGBQT members, we had women fighters (bad asses too), we had conservatives, we had liberals, and we had plenty of opinions… but we all got along (mostly!).
I’ve been out of the game now for over a decade now and it’s a shame to see things like this flourishing in the SCA. I believe it’s better to shine a light on it and resolve it sooner than later though. Drama in the SCA is inherent, but racism should be excised.
I was raised by the standard ‘Live and let live’ and try to live that on a daily basis. I do not have issues with minorities or the LGBTQ. I shouldn’t have to say this however, nobody has the right to prevent others from participating and enjoying the SCA. We are here for at least one united purpose (our love of history) so we should allow everyone to enjoy that pursuit. Now, I understand that it is impossible to completely remove politics from the SCA. I mean even getting into many of the tournaments takes networking with the right people. With that said, the SCA has enough issues to deal with than bringing in outside politics. I don’t want to attend an event in which I am already judged a racist based only by my skin. I don’t want to be condemned (it happens in universities so it is also possible in SCA events) of cultural appropriation just because I appreciate a culture that isn’t white. (Not to mention several sites accusing the SCA of white supremacy because too many whites are researching Viking and Western European cultures only). I don’t want to worry that I may arrive at an event only to be denied the ability to participate based on equality. As for LGBTQ, I say be happy with who you are. dance with who you want and don’t let anyone discourage you from enjoying yourself. However, I don’t want to have political actions in a setting which I’m attempting to get away from that environment just for a few hours.
Thank you for posting. But I do want to look at what you said and take it seriously, because I do think it’s important. Right now your concerns, as you have addressed them, are entirely based on hypotheticals. “It happens at universities, so it is also possible…” isn’t an actual harm; it is a theoretical harm. Also, as a university professor, allow me to say that I think you’re reading stories of a very small number of universities and universalizing it. “Many sites are accusing…” isn’t an actionable harm, it is internet background buzz.
Meanwhile there is actual active harm occurring in the SCA to LGBTQ+ members, to women, and to POC members. The letter I responded to is an active piece of white supremacy. As is the alternative organizations the author and people like her have attempted to found. We have seen actual stories in the SCA of bigotry, assault, and persecution. We have watched as powerful members of the Kingdom have posted white supremacy and advocated for it, including ones threatening violence against other SCA members. We have in fact seen people coming into the SCA and trying to use hate symbols, knowingly and willfully.
To say, in the face of these things, that we don’t want politics in the SCA is to willfully ignore those things occurring. It is to enforce the status quo, which says that it is fine for members to threaten violence against people they don’t like, as long as they’re powerful. It is to allow for politics to enter the SCA as long as they’re right wing.
The political actions are occurring. For us to ignore them is for us to say we’re fine with politics, as long as they’re not directed at white men.
I am glad I took the time to reread this excellent piece. Bravo!
I have only one objection. Ouzo is divine ichor, a beautiful drink, worthy of only those who truly love it, המבין יבין.
Well-reasoned, carefully-considered, excellent piece. All of these are flattering, but I did not read a single person referring to your piece as ‘true’. About anything. I just found out that there is something called the SMA. Your storied institution has fallen to the Woke virus, it would seem. Identify a respected institution, kill it, gut it and wear the skin suit around while demanding respect.
Oh, sorry. Do I come off as a deplorable white guy? Or am I, like that woman whose warning you so engagingly tore apart, communicating truths in a manner not to your liking? They love you, you know. The Woke, I mean. They love you, spending your time sitting in front of a screen and arguing that a woman’s well-meant warning is ‘technically incorrect, and here’s why’. You follow the rules and demand evidence suitable for a court of law. They in their turn pursue what really matters in this world – power over others.
And power over you.
Good luck with your SCA now. Anything in it worth having (and I was a member in the 1980s) is fading fast. I just joined the SMA last night. We’ll see how long that lasts.