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Topic subjectTwo Questions About Controversial Works
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=17&topic_id=91546
91546, Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Wandering Author, Thu Sep-13-12 12:56 PM
I've just written a poem about certain very current, very controversial events. (And, out of respect for the TOS, I will say no more than that about the specifics - that much is necessary to explain the background to my questions.)

First, although I think I've resolved this in my particular case, how do you strike a balance between not being stupid and posting something online that might get you killed, without being so recklessly brave that you publish it anyway just to prove you can't be intimidated? Obviously, in the end it is a personal decision, but I'd be interested in seeing how others would evaluate whether it ought to get out there right away, or sit and simmer while you thought about it. (In my case, I think what I've written will prove more powerful, more effective, when things are calmer. And I don't see any point in pouring gasoline on a fire that's already burning quite well without me.) I'm just wondering, if this question comes up for me again and I have more trouble deciding, what you think the essential points are?

Second, my views of anything tend to be more on the complex side. I do believe black and white exist, but I also think - when anything can be defined that neatly - it is only in narrow areas. To use a metaphor, pixels may be all white or all black, but there's still a lot of grey in that picture. So my point is not, for the most part, to annoy any particular group. (There are a few groups I'll happily upset; if a bunch of neo-Nazis ever pitched a fit over something I wrote, I'd figure I must have got something right... ;) ) In the case of this poem, it is the issue itself that I fear would make it so explosive, not the fact that I've tried to be offensive. But I do not, and cannot, see things from every possible perspective. But how do you go about finding someone to evaluate your work from that angle? To take a hypothetical example, say that I were writing in the 1930s or early 1940s. I can guarantee you that I'd have a lot to say that was far from complimentary about the government of Germany at that time. But - assuming I knew no Germans - how would I find someone who was German so I could ask them to look it over and make sure I hadn't, without meaning to, insulted German people who might hate that government as much as I did? And, just as in that example, things can get complicated. Say I did find a German who was willing to talk to me - I couldn't promise to agree with everything they said, only to listen and try to understand. So how would you go about finding anyone to help you gain a more fair perspective on things?
91547, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Weird Jim, Thu Sep-13-12 06:34 PM
>
>First, although I think I've resolved this
>in my particular case, how do you strike a
>balance between not being stupid and
>posting something online that might get
>you killed, without being so recklessly
>brave that you publish it anyway just to
>prove you can't be intimidated? Obviously,
>in the end it is a personal decision, but
>I'd be interested in seeing how others
>would evaluate whether it ought to get out
>there right away, or sit and simmer while
>you thought about it. (In my case, I think
>what I've written will prove more
>powerful, more effective, when things are
>calmer. And I don't see any point in
>pouring gasoline on a fire that's already
>burning quite well without me.) I'm just
>wondering, if this question comes up for
>me again and I have more trouble deciding,
>what you think the essential points are?

A lot depends on what you think, or want to achieve with the poem. If it's just a way of clearing your thoughts and feelings, it would probably be best to file it away. If, however, you wanted to stir people's emotions for some reason, then you'd need to make a decision on whether to be a hero or not, and if it's worthwhile being a dead hero. Myself, I would have made different decisions at different ages. Now I'm sort of old my views on a lot of things have changed.

>Second, my views of anything tend to be
>more on the complex side. I do believe
>black and white exist, but I also think -
>when anything can be defined that
>neatly - it is only in narrow areas. To
>use a metaphor, pixels may be all
>white or all black, but there's still a
>lot of grey in that picture.

Greys are made up of tiny spots of black and white.The more black spots, the darker the grey, the more white, the lighter.

say that I were
>writing in the 1930s or early 1940s. I can
>guarantee you that I'd have a lot to say
>that was far from complimentary about the
>government of Germany at that time.

But you hadn't suffered under hyper-inflation which I expect made a huge difference to Germans mentally. Also there was the communist threat. The Red Army, still a threat, had reached Warsaw before it was thrown back. It was more or less necesary to make a choice.

>But - assuming I knew no Germans - how
>would I find someone who was German so I
>could ask them to look it over and make
>sure I hadn't, without meaning to,
>insulted German people who might hate that
>government as much as I did? And, just as
>in that example, things can get
>complicated. Say I did find a German who
>was willing to talk to me - I couldn't
>promise to agree with everything they
>said, only to listen and try to
>understand.

There was huge support for the Hitler government around the world and in North America. The German American Bund held marches.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_American_Bund

Finding someone would not have been difficult. Prescott Bush, the Presidents Bush's father/grandfather was a supporter and director of the Union Banking Company (that might be corporation) that financed Hitler and enabled him to buy much of the explosives that rained down on Rotterdam, London, and Stalingrad. The bank was seized (Matter of record) by the American government in early 1942 for trading with the enemy after America (officially) entered the war .


What I'm trying to say here is that situations change and hindsight, as it's called is often not clearsight.


Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960
91548, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Wandering Author, Thu Sep-13-12 08:26 PM
I agree about hindsight - although, for various reasons, I'm pretty sure I never would have supported the Nazis. But that was just an example.

The real question is: when you don't know anyone in a particular group, how do you go about finding someone to help you make sure your comments on that group are at least relatively fair? Again, to use the same example: I wouldn't be looking for someone who thought it was okay to trade with Hitler, or thought he was a great guy - I'd be looking for a German who didn't like Hitler to help me avoid insulting Germans in general along with Hitler. Obviously, that's not what I'm looking for. But I'm wondering - in a more general sense - how anyone would go about finding someone like that.

The obvious answer would be to go on a forum for (Group X) - but I figure even if anyone rational did volunteer to help, the noise-to-signal ratio of people aiming flamethrowers (metaphorical ones) my way would drown them out.
91549, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Weird Jim, Thu Sep-13-12 09:46 PM
I'm pretty sure I never would have supported the Nazis.

I've just recalled an immigrant from Germany that I heard on a talk radio show one time. He said, "HItler gave me my first pair of boots when I was twelve. I loved Hitler!" The impression he gave was that he had made a mistake.

Many Red Guards in China loved Mao Zedung. Many apparently just went along. There's a Chinese movie To Live that gives an interesting glance at the life of a Red Guard (sub titles, unfortunately).

Or you might see if you can get hold of a copy of Wild Swans by Jung Chang. One time she was a Red Guard and loved Mao but now hates his gut.

We are who we are now. I'm a believer in mixed nurture/nature for character formation. I'm pretty sure I would never have become a criminal, but the society I lived in prior to WW2 would have put pressure on me. What if you had a wife and child and their welfare depended on your belonging to the Nazi Party (The National Socialst Worker's Party) to hold a job?

If you really want to find somebody then go to Forum X, find a discussion and look for a likely person. Then send a private message.
But why do you want to insult? That's where trouble starts.
Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960
91550, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Wandering Author, Thu Sep-13-12 10:30 PM
I've just recalled an immigrant from Germany that I heard on a talk radio show one time. He said, "HItler gave me my first pair of boots when I was twelve. I loved Hitler!" The impression he gave was that he had made a mistake.

I understand there were people who supported Hitler who weren't evil. And someone like that, I have no problem with.

In my case, though, I was born with a condition (ocular albinism) that would have caused the Nazis to declare me "unfit". No matter what else they did, there's nothing like knowing someone wants to kill you to keep you from falling for their line... ;)

Actually, I was born with two conditions that would have marked me for death under the Nazis - but since I only became aware of the second one after I was fifty, I can't claim that one would have kept me from believing them - although it would have probably got me the "anti-social" tag as well...

As for people who did believe it, as I say, I do understand there were Nazis who were not pure evil. But their beliefs are another story.

If you really want to find somebody then go to Forum X, find a discussion and look for a likely person. Then send a private message.
But why do you want to insult? That's where trouble starts.


I thought I'd been clearer than that. I don't want to insult, or at least, not where I'm not actually intending to. Say this poem had been written about Nazi Germany - my goal would be to make my loathing of Hitler clear, without picking on the poor twelve year old kid without boots. (Yes, I do understand he'd still have hated me, because I insulted his hero. There is still a difference, at least in my mind.) But in this case, I don't know the culture well enough to have any idea if I'm offering offense where none is meant.
91551, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Weird Jim, Fri Sep-14-12 12:20 AM
But in this case, I don't know the culture well enough to have any idea if I'm offering offense where none is meant

Then surely, the best thing is to either learn, or put the stuff aside. There was a time time when I wrote stuff that I'd never think of publishing. I kept it for a while and then threw it out.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960
91552, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by junedrexler, Fri Sep-14-12 09:18 AM
To get back to the original question...

First, I'm not sure you need someone with a different opinion to evaluate your work. You know what YOU think and that's what the poem expresses. What an opposition opinion does is just blunt the force of what you have to say. You already know it's controversial and might incite unpleasant responses, so you don't need to have that confirmed.

What you are deciding, it seems, is if or perhaps when to make this public, not whether it might offend some (you pretty much know it will). For ME that choice would be based on several factors.

1. How strongly do I feel about this topic? How badly do I want to express my opinion on it publically? Sometimes I have an opinion, even a strong one, but feel no need to share. Other times, expressing myself is something I feel I need to do regardless of the consequences. In this, I would say you just have to be honest with yourself.

2. Who will the publishing of this HURT, and how badly? If something I wrote has the potential of causing a life-threatening riot, I wouldn't do it, period. No opinion of mine is so important that expressing it is worth someone's life. On the other hand, if the only likely outcome is some people I don't like anyway shunning me, well, I'm going to be putting that out there pretty quick.

Again, I think you need to be honest about the consequences to others as well as to yourself. These are the things I would consider in choosing when and if to publish publically a controversial piece.

Hope that helps.

--June
91553, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by Wandering Author, Fri Sep-14-12 11:51 AM
Thanks, but I'm afraid I wasn't very clear.

First, I'm not sure you need someone with a different opinion to evaluate your work. You know what YOU think and that's what the poem expresses. What an opposition opinion does is just blunt the force of what you have to say. You already know it's controversial and might incite unpleasant responses, so you don't need to have that confirmed.

It's more a different perspective I'm looking for. To stick with my hypothetical example, for the sake of simplicity, I know I'm going to offend Hitler and his henchmen, and I don't care about that - but I want to be sure I'm not accidentally offending some poor German who just happens to be stuck living there and doesn't even like Hitler.

2. Who will the publishing of this HURT, and how badly? If something I wrote has the potential of causing a life-threatening riot, I wouldn't do it, period. No opinion of mine is so important that expressing it is worth someone's life. On the other hand, if the only likely outcome is some people I don't like anyway shunning me, well, I'm going to be putting that out there pretty quick.

I certainly agree with this point as you've made it - but what about a more complex possibility? Say the issue is so explosive people are getting hurt. Obviously, anything you say could make things worse. But if a big part of your opinion is that the violence is utterly counter-productive, then finding the answer to the key question gets a lot trickier. And obviously, there are no easy answers for something like this. It's an area I don't think a lot of writers think about much - I know I don't - that is better discussed calmly ahead of time. Since the alternative is making a decision in the heat of the moment, which is never a good idea.
91554, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by KatsInCommand, Fri Sep-14-12 01:44 PM
First, although I think I've resolved this in In my case, I think what I've written will prove more powerful, more effective, when things are calmer. And I don't see any point in pouring gasoline on a fire that's already burning quite well without me.)

In the case of this poem, it is the issue itself that I fear would make it so explosive, not the fact that I've tried to be offensive. But I do not, and cannot, see things from every possible perspective. But how do you go about finding someone to evaluate your work from that angle?


Honestly, by the time things roll over to so speak, the information and people might be more readily available. It sounds like this is one of those things that had to be written now, and saved for later. Not super helpful, but patience on the research might be your best bet.

There are many more people willing to talk about for instance 9/11 now, than 11 years ago. We still have fanatics on both sides, and then the rational people in the middle. You find them through blogs and online communities, through published articles, etc.

Use your library database resources and see if that can bring up information. Otherwise, wait until things blow over and let the rational people come out of the woodwork.
91616, RE: Two Questions About Controversial Works
Posted by whilstwhile, Sat Sep-22-12 05:37 PM
"how do you strike a balance between not being stupid and posting something online that might get you killed, without being so recklessly brave that you publish it anyway just to prove you can't be intimidated?"

You strike a balance by researching thoroughly whatever deadly topic it is you wish to post. You strike a balance by knowing in your heart that what you have to say is the truth, and needs to be said if things are going to be changed. For example, Reverend King probably wrote all of his speeches by living through the struggles of being a black man, and deciding if there was going to be change, then someone had to stand up and speak out about it. It's about knowing when to pick your battles. If Reverend King had just walked around saying "Segregation is evil! White Southerners are evil for being racist! Down with racism!" he would have accomplished nothing. You have to avoid generalizations that throw in the innocent and ignorant with the truly evil. You have to understand your enemy. Why were people racist? Why was their segregation? How do you address that in such a way that the moderates can realize you are not unjustly attacking people, but are instead trying exact change for the better? (still going on the Reverend King example here).

Play Devil's Advocate with yourself to try to understand the other side, and then you can figure out what most likely is unnecessarily inflammatory in your poem and what is not unnecessarily critical.


"So how would you go about finding anyone to help you gain a more fair perspective on things?"

I would suggest asking friends if they know anyone who could give you a balanced view on the subject. For example, when I want to know things about Catholicism, I ask my sister's fiance. I can listen to Evangelicals talk about the evils of Catholicism all day, but what they have to say about Catholicism is completely different than what a man who was born and raised Catholic has to say on the matter.

You could also try finding forums online where the people you are looking for are likely to frequent, and ask if any of them would be willing to be interviewed.