As I started reading the outburst over Loncon’s announcement that Jonathan Ross would be hosting the Hugo Awards at this summer’s convention, my heart sank. I was horrified by what happened – but not just at *what* happened, but more importantly, the *way* it happened. Disagreeing with someone does not give us licence to start viciously attacking them. We of all people should know how powerful words are.
It has nothing to do with how good a host Jonathan Ross would or would not have been – that would be a matter for individual taste, which, let us not forget, is what all art comes down to. There is no doubt Ross is a controversial polarising public figure, but I can also see there are as many advocates for him out there as there are against.
What appalls me is the nature of the Tweeted tirade that started the moment the announcement was made. Of course everyone has a right to his or her opinion, but when did that right give us carte blanche to fill the Twittersphere – and indeed, the Internet as a whole – with such vilification? I do understand that some people feel very deeply that Ross was not a good choice to host the Hugos. I can see people are deeply offended by things he has done – but even more scarily, they are offended by things he is *alleged* to have done, which is not at all the same thing.
If those who disapproved had contacted the convention committee, made their disapprobation plain and asked for Ross to be replaced, well, fine and good. Yes, go ahead and express your dismay – but that’s not what happened here. What we got was a sudden outpouring of hateful and bullying messages, and not just to the convention committee, but to Jonathan Ross himself: the avowed and passionate SF fan who offered his time and services free of charge to host an awards ceremony for the field he loves.
And now the SFF community is making front pages, and not for the right reasons, for the amazing literature or the outstanding artwork science writers and artists working within the genre are producing, but for the vindictive trolling reaction to something a number of those within the community don’t approve of. Watching the fall-out on Sunday and this morning, I felt ashamed for the community in which I have grown up. I hoped we were better than this.
We must be better than this.