Jan Butler responds!

Hey, remember Jan Butler, the writer with the tenuous grip on logic and history? You know, the one who wrote that incredibly asinine letter to the RWR? Not only did she reply at Kate Rothwell’s blog, but she wrote a reply on her own blog, too.

I initially composed a point-by-point rebuttal on her blog, only to find it doesn’t allow comments by people without Blogger profiles. I’m posting my reply to her entry here instead:

But I find it both funny and very UNfunny that many of the people who are slinging the most vituperous arrows at ME are the same people who *claim* to stand for Free Speech in this Country, By Golly. You can’t censor us! How dare you! The culture demands diversity!

Oh, yeah?

You know, free speech? First Amendment? The one that enables them to make a book or a website or a movie or a joke as smutty as they like, and I don’t dare tell them they can’t?

Yeah, THAT First Amendment. But what has happened to MY First Amendment protection?

First of all: If your reply to the claim that “you can’t censor us” is to point to the First Amendment, which indeed guarantees the freedom of speech (among other things), may I say that there’s something seriously wrong with your logic? It sounds like you’re saying the First Amendment protects your right to censor our opinions, and really, it doesn’t. It’s sloppy reasoning, sloppy writing or both on your part.

Second of all, if you could point to posts that cried for you to be censored, or even that the RWR should never have published your letter, I’d greatly appreciate to you linking to them. I’ve read quite a few of those posts, and while the “wow, this woman needs to get a clue and learn some history” responses loomed large on the landscape, I read precious few that seriously argued that you had no right to your (asinine and poorly-reasoned) opinion.

In short, there weren’t any serious calls for you to be censored. What you got instead, dear lady, were a whole slew of people disagreeing with your point of view—vigorously, and yeah, oftentimes rudely. But vigorous disagreement does not constitute censorship. You disagreed with an aspect of our culture, you wrote a letter, a whole hell of a lot of people disagreed right back, and all of a sudden, you’re being denied your right to free speech? I call bullshit. What you’re witnessing, in fact, is other people exercising their First Amendment rights.

When you take a crucifix and dip it in urine, I’m supposed to bite my tongue and consider that art. It’s NOT. It’s smut, and a sacrilege. But I don’t dare SAY so, or I’m interfering with your freedom of expression, I’m a fascist, I’m a right-winger nutjob…

That first two sentences are so flagrantly untrue, I’m somewhat flabbergasted. Critics disagree all the time on what constitutes art and what doesn’t. You’re certainly free to express your take. I’d like to point out that what you did in that letter to the RWR, however, wasn’t just expressing that opinion: you actively called for the RWA to enact and enforce certain standards—standards that would’ve been de facto censorship within the organization. And THAT’s why we’re calling you a conservative asshat. Mind you, we (or at least, I and all the other bloggers I read who responded to you) didn’t say you didn’t have a right to that opinion. We just thought it was an excessively fuckwitted opinion—a poorly-argued one that would be a very bad idea to pay attention to.

…which brings me to my point. Which is, that First Amendment provisions apparently only cover those who are espousing a point of view which is NOT to the right of center. Those of us who have even the whisper of conservativism about us? We’re nutjobs.

Funny, I don’t find it there, either. But you certainly wouldn’t know it by the reception I’ve gotten to my remarks. I’ve been called hateful and bigoted. I’ve been made fun of for being a Christian, for having conservative interests listed under my blog profiles, and even for supporting the President…as if those very beliefs and practices are not only distasteful, but somehow mark me as somewhat less than human.

Again, if you could point to the piece of legislation that prevents you from having or expressing an opinion, either positive or negative, about an artwork, I’d greatly appreciate it. Hell, if you can find that sort of opinion expressed in the blogs that disagreed with you, I’d appreciate it if you’d point that out, too.

The First Amendment protects your right to free speech—that is, unless it’s deemed obscene, or unless it constitutes a nuisance, such as yelling on a bullhorn in a residential neighborhood at 3 a.m., or unless it’s speech that’s a form of conduct, such as fraud or incitations to violence. It also protects the speech of everyone who disagrees with you. Is this so hard to grasp? And yeah, that means that if we want to call you a nutjob, we can—oh, that wacky First Amendment. If you really do seek redress, and if what we say provides you with sufficient fodder for a libel suit, then by all means, you can attempt to sue.

And frankly, your beliefs and practices ARE distasteful to me. That’s why I disagree as violently as I do—contempt and outrage are pretty powerful fuels. I don’t, however, think of you as less than human for holding such different core beliefs. Now, if I wrote to the RWR asking that books featuring monogamous heterosexual Christians falling in love not be labeled “romance” because Christianity is such a blight on reason and secularism, and look, look, so many pedophiles identify as Christian, this must mean there’s something wrong with Christianity itself—now, if I did that, you’d have a much better case for that assertion.

And some of you went to a lot of trouble to find something to pick on me for, which means that…just maybe…there really weren’t a lot of holes in my letter to begin with.

Actually, lots of people pointed out lots of different holes in your letter—none of which you bothered to address. Feel free to refresh your memory by reading my reaction to your letter, or Kate’s, or any of a slew of other responses.

But I’d just like to know what part of the First Amendment allows you to do that to me. Because it doesn’t. And you know it doesn’t. And you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for doing it.

The part of the First Amendment that allowed us to poke fun at you for your fuckwittery is this one right here: “Congress shall make no law (…) abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

The First Amendment, alas, does not have any provisos regarding courtesy in speech or the manner in which debates should be conducted.

You know, kids, freedom of speech has to apply to everybody, or it’s not free. If I am considered “repressive” and “hateful” for being shocked at things that ought to shock anyone with a scintilla of decency…then you need to be called “repressive” and “hateful” for hating my doing so. Protection of the law works both ways, or it’s no law at all.

The unfortunate fact—one borne out by these attacks—is that we no longer have a concept of “rights” that protect anyone but those who stand on the left side of the creek. Those of us—and there are a whole lot more of us out here—who stand on the right side…well, a whole lot of you apparently just wish we’d go the hell away. Die, preferably.

Your continued insistence at conflating a disagreement carried over the internet with actual legislation would be funny if it weren’t so tiresome and, well, so completely missing the point. But then you conflated pedophilia with consensual adult homosexual relations, so that’s not much of a surprise there.

And speaking as somebody who’s a pretty dedicated pacifist: no, I don’t wish harm on people who disagree with me, much less hope that they’d die. I do wish they’d change their mind, or if they can’t do that, then at least stop meddling in private affairs that aren’t theirs to meddle with. However, your projection of that violent desire onto a whole bunch of strangers is interesting—and telling.

Tangentially: Why is it that as soon as somebody disagrees with a certain type of extremist, they start squawking about their free speech rights being trampled on? All this malarkey about free speech is a smokescreen, and an exceptionally poor one, at that, because nobody’s free speech rights have been restricted so far. If you’d address the points we made about how what you propose is de facto censorship, or provide proof for your assertions about the history of romance novels, or, hell, explain how NAMBLA and adult homos engaging in consensual sex are connected, that’d at least give us a chance to get to the heart of the disagreements, instead of crying about having one’s free speech repressed. Debating the finer points of the morality of homogaiety would actually give me something to really dig into and provide me with an opportunity to sound like a pedantic asshole in new and interesting ways on this site, instead of my usual pedantic assholery.


Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Alessia says:

    We’ll soon see what kind of “freedom of speech” she practices with her comment moderation.  This is the comment I left on her blog:

    “I’ll be the first to defend your right to espouse a bigoted opinion … and I’ll be the last to agree with it.”

  2. 2
    Ursula says:

    “Tangentially: Why is it that as soon as somebody disagrees with a certain type of extremist, they start squawking about their free speech rights being trampled on?”

    Because they’re not interested in what you have to say. If they want you to say something, they’ll tell you what to say. I also think that they see things differently (read: delusional) – they’re the unsung hero championing rights, you’re the rabble rouser bent on screwing with the candy-land version of life. Don’t you wonder what’s in the water some days? It sure as hell isn’t flouride.

  3. 3
    celeste says:

    I fully support her right to send bigoted, poorly-reasoned letters to RWR. I don’t recall seeing any discussion of censoring her.

    It’s funny sometimes how people assume that freedom of speech means that others must AGREE WITH you. Nope, it just means you aren’t prevented by the government from expressing it. That’s all.

  4. 4
    Nora Roberts says:

    Nice job, Candy. I expressed my opinion on Kate’s blog, so no need to repeat it here.

    But I just have to say—because I’ve always wanted to: I don’t have a scintilla of decency.


  5. 5
    Tam says:

    On a sidenote, I loved Nora Roberts’ comment about the many spokes in the wheel of romance.  Bless her, I’m not fond of her romances, but she just went up quite a few notches in my esteem.

  6. 6
    Tam says:

    And uh… I clearly should read the latest comment prior to mine before cheerily posting.

    Sorry, sorry, sorry…  and um, I do like the JD Robb romances!

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    Nora and Alessia: your responses made my day. Elegant and to the point. I strive for brevity, but every time, I fall so



  8. 8

    the candy-land version of life

    I thought the Candy-land version of life was right here, on this blog.

    a scintilla of decency

    I wonder if it’s a not-very-distant relative of the chinchilla.

    Sorry, my brain got addled reading Jan Butler’s response, because I couldn’t see why she was defending her right to free speech when no-one had argued that she shouldn’t have it.

  9. 9
    kate r says:

    JEEEEzuz. FIRST first amendment my big white butt. I was actually admiring the woman. Thinking wow, she’s strong for coming to my blog and asserting her point of view.

    So I even went to her blog to say we’d disagree and never convince each other and I hoped she’d use her obvious talent and bravery in other areas blah blah blah

    She didn’t let my comment go through. Fine. That’s okay. It’s her blog.

    But THEN to pull up the First Amendment crap?

    My Admire-o-meter died with that one.

  10. 10
    Candy says:

    Candy-land version of life

    Oooh, I like that. That version of life would have a lot more monkeys. And frolicking kittens. And hot boys making out with each other while dressed up as pirates. And better science education standards.

  11. 11
    kate r says:

    and you know what? That hypocrisy really did end my interest and admiration. I mean honestly. It’s a one way street:
    HER morals
    HER first amendment rights
    HER RWA.

    except she did get me a thousand comments in my blog ::nora roberts!!::

    Okay, hell, I take it back. I love Jan Butler. I just don’t want to listen or read any more of her opinions—or go out drinking with her at any nationals.

  12. 12
    Robin says:

    You know, I’m usually among the first to arrive at any First Amendment fiesta, but I’m a little confused as to how this has even become a First Amendment issue.  To me, the Achilles Heel of Butler’s argument begins and ends here:

    I advise RWA to stand for something, for a change, and this being a prime example of something they could stand for which would actually please most of the membership.

    To imply that anyone who disagres with Butler’s definition of Romance is not “standing for something” of ethical and moral value is a fatal error of logic and ideology.  This is not a clash of the moral and the godless; this is a disagreement among individuals who stand for different moral and ethical principles.  Different, not absent, and not without integrity all the way around.  That my own morals and ethics—which do not need to be wrapped in the vestments of religious dogma to find witness to their integrity—urge me to stand against the tyranny of ONE VERSION of Christianity reigning ignobly over the spirit of Democracy may make me heretical in some circles, but it does not make me blasphemous.  To imply, however, that my divergent opinion condemns me to the profane realm of the fallen woman is, in my self-respecting opinion, decidedly unChristian and undemocratic.

  13. 13
    fiveandfour says:

    The unfortunate fact—one borne out by these attacks—is that we no longer have a concept of “rights” that protect anyone but those who stand on the left side of the creek.

    This steals my breath.  Is she actually attempting to say that she’s a victim in our current political climate?  A political climate created by those on “the right side of the creek” who have consciously and purposefully been sponsoring an effort to focus negative, judgmental and vindictive attention on things such as gay marriage and abortion in an effort to rip people apart who don’t fall into some assinine mold conforming to their personal standards of acceptability? 

    No…she can’t really be that disingenuous, can she?

  14. 14

    Honey, if you’d like to post this brilliant gem on her blog, just write me. I’ll hook you right up with my blogger ID, and you post away, and sign your name with a “Candy, guest of Annie.” It would be my pleasure. And I know a bunch of other authors who would probably offer the same.

  15. 15

    And hot boys making out with each other while dressed up as pirates.

    Candy, where is your decency?!? Also, where is your movie collection? Cuz I’d like to take a peek at it.

  16. 16
    Candy says:

    Believe it or not, fiveandfour, many people believe their rights are being infringed upon every time somebody disagrees with them, or whenever a minority group they disapprove of are conferred rights previously enjoyed only by those in power. You see this over and over again: certain types of men freaking out when women got the vote, certain segments of white society howling and beating their chests when inter-racial marriage was legalized, etc. Some of the people I’ve met with the biggest persecution complexes are white, middle-class heterosexual Christians, who bitch and moan about how bad they have it, and how terribly oppressed they are because

    they’re not allowed to marry

    —no, wait, that doesn’t work, uh, how about

    their places of worship are being bombed on a daily basis

    —no, shit, that’s not it, either, um…

    they were taunted as unnatural freaks in school, and they don’t dare hold hands with their loved one in public

    , ah CRAP, what is it…oh, yeah their kids’ first-grade teacher is teaching them about Hanukkah, Kwanza and the solstice and have you SEEN the price of gas lately, I mean, my word, it’s highway robbery out there.

  17. 17
    bettie says:

    I wonder if the reason those poll results haven’t been released is that the results don’t say what the pollsters want them to say.

    I strongly doubt that the average American romance reader is as violently, urgently offended by male homosexuality as right-wing rabblerousers like Jan


    Butler would like to believe.

  18. 18
    celeste says:

    Fiveandfour said: she can’t really be that disingenuous, can she?

    I’m sure she genuinely believes that she and others like her and being persecuted. That’s the mentality we’re dealing with here. It’s almost impossible to have a civil conversation based on reason and logic with people who’ve drunk so much of the Kool Aid.

  19. 19
    JulieT says:

    One of the Founding Fathers (I’m pretty sure it was Thomas Jefferson; this sure sounds like Jefferson) once made the comment about why he INSISTED freedom of speech be in the Bill of Rights (to paraphrase):

    It wasn’t so that any schmuck on the street could say anything they wanted. It was so every stupid idea and statement in the world could be criticized freely.

    I wish he were still alive so I could send him a batch of macaroni and cheese. And a couple books. And some Brussels Sprouts.

  20. 20
    Amy E says:

    I have a Blogger profile.  It says I’m both a single mother AND an author of erotic and paranormal romances.  Whaddya think my chances of getting a comment through are running about now?

    Well, I’ll try it.  Let’s see what happens.

    Btw, my bra and panties don’t match right now.  Is that indecent?  Or does the fact that I am, alas, wearing both, give me that much-admired chinchilla of decency?  Cuz I’ve already got enough pets.

  21. 21
    Amy E says:

    (just googled Chinchilla to make sure it really WAS an animal and not some type of cactus or something, and damn, people.  Those suckers are hella cute!  I think I DO want a chinchilla now!  And if I get one, I’ll name it Decency.)

  22. 22
    Robin says:

    One of the Founding Fathers (I’m pretty sure it was Thomas Jefferson; this sure sounds like Jefferson) once made the comment about why he INSISTED freedom of speech be in the Bill of Rights (to paraphrase):

    It wasn’t so that any schmuck on the street could say anything they wanted. It was so every stupid idea and statement in the world could be criticized freely.

    I don’t know if Jefferson said that or not, but that sounds a lot like Justice Brandeis, who made a lot of the Supreme Court’s memorable statements on free speech.  One of my favorites, from his concurrence in the very important case, Whitney v. California:

    “that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.”

    Here’s an article from the First Amendment Center that’s really, really good, too: http://tinyurl.com/q2ekv

  23. 23
    Amy E says:

    (Just in case my comment gets “accidentally lost” I thought I’d post it here, too.  Also interesting to see ZERO comments on her blog.  Somehow I can’t imagine that no one has commented on such a hot-button issue.)

    You know, free speech? First Amendment? The one that enables them to make a book or a website or a movie or a joke as smutty as they like, and I don’t dare tell them they can’t?

    Actually, the problem is that the First Amendment doesn’t say that people cannot disagree.  It says that anyone can say anything unless it’s deemed obscene, or unless it constitutes a nuisance, such as yelling on a bullhorn in a residential neighborhood at 3 a.m., or unless it’s speech that’s a form of conduct, such as fraud or incitations to violence. 

    So nobody’s free speech rights have been impacted so far.  Many, many people have affirmed your right to say what you like, and their own right to disagree.  THAT is Free Speech.  Of all the comments I’ve read about your letter, I have read only ONE that expressed outrage that it was printed at all.  And I’ve read comments on a lot of blogs.

    I’ll refrain from voicing my other opinions, since I see the moderation is on and no comments yet appear.  I’d like to see if this one goes through.  Controlling what shows up on your website is your right, although it is amusing to see selective censoring of comments on a post about free speech.

    And I would like to see you address the actual facts brought up by those who have critisized your letter.  It would be much more effective a defense of your stance, IMO, than this erroneous post about First Amendments rights.

  24. 24
    Lauren Dane says:

    *throws up double devil horns in your honor*  Spot on. Sadly, I think the point is missed.

    The RWA does stand for something, just not for what Jan wants. And I get that. I understand it’s frustrating, hell, I was frustrated right out of belonging for years as I watched them take money from erotic romance authors and use their sales figures but treat us all like garbage. This is changing slowly and I’m a member now. I can understand how disorienting that might be to people who liked the old regime of narrowness.

    Seriously, as I said at Kate’s and my own blog, Jan has a right to say all the hateful crap she wants. But the first amendment works both ways so I get to call it hateful crap. God/goddess/or other sentient entity bless us all every one.

  25. 25
    susanw says:

    Is she actually attempting to say that she’s a victim in our current political climate?

    I hear this a lot from the conservatives in my life (I’m related to quite a few).  When I point out that, hello, they control ALL THREE BRANCHES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, they mumble something about liberal media and the Decline of Values in Society.

    I won’t paint with a broad brush and say all conservatives think this way, but I think there’s a vocal subset who’s so invested in a persecution complex that they honestly can’t acknowledge that not only is no one persecuting them, but that they hold the reins of power.  They’d lose too much of their identity if they did.

  26. 26

    I read Ms. Butler’s latest letter.  Then I read it again. I’m still trying to figure out who she thinks has trampled on her First Amendment rights.  Talk about a straw man argument! 

    Disagreeing loudly with you is not trampling on your rights.  Barring you from having access to a forum like this one may be an infringement of your rights, although perfectly within the rights of the website holder, but I don’t see that happening either.  Both Kate and the SBs gave Ms. Butler a forum to speak her views. 

    And the point-by-point demolition of those views was priceless.

  27. 27
    Monica says:

    I think the rightwing persecution complex is their main tool.  Somebody has to be infringing on their basic rights and they need to be enraged.  Fear and hate is what pulls them together and gives them a feeling of solidarity. 

    Hitler used a similar tactic.

  28. 28
    celeste says:

    Darlene said: Talk about a straw man argument!

    Political “debate” these days is RIDDLED with straw man arguments. These people don’t want to argue with a real point of view—just a made-up one that can be easily defeated. Very cowardly, IMO.

  29. 29

    She compares dipping a crucifix in urine and calling it art to the subject of our discussion—gay romance? Do I have that right? Good Lord,I hope not. Oops,I blasphemed.

    The same First Amendment rights that give her the right to speak give me the right to disagree. Frankly, I’m sick to death of people who express an opinion publically and then howl to the heavens (More blasphemy) when we all don’t subscribe to it.

    As for being a screaming child, the only whining I hear is coming from her:

    “Do as I say or I and all my friends will take our toys and go home.”

    Take your toys and do so. Our toys are more fun anyway, and we let anyone play with them.

    Long live independant small press!

  30. 30
    Amy E says:

    (More posting on her blog.  I have to repost here because, really, what chance does anyone have of seeing it over there?  STILL no comments showing on her post, and that doesn’t say much for how many she’s going to allow through…)

    I have another question I didn’t get to in my prior comment, and that is regarding the persecution argument.  Now, please understand that I am perfectly serious and not being the slightest bit sarcastic with this question—since text is devoid of facial expression or inflection, you’ll need to take my word on that.  But who exactly is persecuting conservatives?

    Our president is conservative.  Most of the Supreme Court Justices are conservative.  Conservatives control both the House and the Senate, and currently control most of the same at the state level.  This current administration has made banning gay marriage and gay rights (such as inheritance, adoption, and medical decision-making authority) a priority, which I certainly can’t see as anything but affirming conservative values.  Yes, some media outlets are liberal, but in all honesty, some have a self-avowed conservative bent, too.  (FOX News is one very prominent example, and if I’m not mistaken, has the highest viewership of any news channel.)  The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians and place “family values” as one of their most important considerations when going to the polls.  So on the large national scale, I honestly do not understand who is persecuting conservative heterosexuals.

    On the topic of romance, the vast, vast majority of romances are one man, one woman tales.  Even in the epublishing world, the majority of ebooks are one man, one woman romances, although it is less of a majority than in print fiction.  So I’m not understanding the censorship and persecution of conservative hetersexuals there, either.

    Harlequin, one of the largest publishers of the so-called “sweet” romances, has cut back on their Presents and Romance lines (two of their most conservative) not because of liberal pressure, but because of poor sales.  That’s the only reason they have cited, and the only one that makes sense.  No business would hurt their own profits to make a minority of their customers happy.  I do understand your frustration in finding romances that fit your tastes.  Many readers have experienced the same thing from time to time as markets change.  But unfortunately, market pressure is the one and only thing that publishers respond to, and voting with your pocketbook, as they say, is the only way to truly get their attention.

    Again, not being snarky here in the least.  I am attempting to make a logical argument and give you the chance, on your own blog, to respond to specific points.  I do hope you will respond in the same way because I truly am curious.

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