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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New meme/party game/practice for cons other than Wiscon

First, some background.

About a year or so after 9/11, when that tragedy started getting abused to justify a massively increased security state, the discarding of centuries-old American civil liberties, a heedless urgency in projecting American force abroad, etc., I came up with a rule, which I tried to propagate to as many of my friends as I remembered to.

It was kind of like a drinking game, without the drinking. The rule was that whenever anyone said "9/11" -- and specifically if it was evoked in with that cantankerous right-wing Clash of Civilizations Now We Must Bomb them pseudo-piety -- you had to say loudly, "Gay Rugby Player Saves White House!"

Like this:

Q:"As everyone knows, since 9/11..."


See, "Gay Rugby Player Saves White House!" is just as true, as a summary of 9/11, as all those grim, paranoid things about terror and clashes of civilizations. But it evokes a whole different story (more on this after the cut below)

So anyway! Now that I've explained the kind of party game/meme/practice I'm talking about, here's the new one.

Whenever anyone starts talking about "the graying of fandom", or "the aging of the literary science fiction readership", or "the aging of convention attendees", or otherwise moans about how, even though all the kids are reading Twilight and Harry Potter and Leviathan and manga and going to DragonCon and doing cosplay, they are no longer doing the things that proper fen used to do back in the day, please everyone shout:

"One dollar childcare!"

Childcare actually makes a convention accessible to three groups, all of which are important. First, to children: duh. Second, to parents, which means to a good chunk of your potential attendees aged 25-45. And lastly and perhaps most subtly, to teens too old for childcare. Why? Because one obstacle to teens attending a convention is parents' concern for their safety, but it's hard to be worried about sending your 15-year old to a space in which there are plenty of 8-year olds running around.

And, this, in fact, is why no one ever complains about the graying of Wiscon.

In other words, if you make it very hard for people under 50 to hang out with you, it is then rather odd to complain that no one under 50 wants to hang out with you.

I'm, ahem, looking at you, Readercon. To paraphrase David Moles, it's indeed gonna be your father's readercon if your mother has to stay home to watch the kids.

So, are we clear on this? Moaning about the greying of fandom is to be answered by the immediate, drinking-game style chorus:

"One dollar childcare!"

Since you're here after the cut, you apparently want to know more about the alternative narrative which "Gay Rugby Player Saves White House!" is intended to evoke.

Why did a gay rugby player save the white house? Because, in fact, 9/11 was a lucky one-shot for the terrorists. The passengers on the first planes responded with passivity because they thought they were living through a 1970s-style ransom-in-Cuba scenario. The minute that passengers -- through cell phones and a free press -- knew that we had entered an era in which planes were weapons, they took action and put a stop to it. The government's expensive preparations and mechanisms of control, its scrambled fighter jets and missile shields, were useless. All we needed to stop the attacks was a an informed citizenry, thanks to a free press and cell phones.

The government therefore cleverly banned cell phones on board planes.

(The point isn't that Mark Bingham saved the plane by himself, of course; they all did. One of the passengers said in the final moments, "everyone is running up to first class." The point is that Bingham was emblematic; it wasn't the natural security apparatus or the military that saved us, it was people who that apparatus wouldn't give a clearance to and the military wouldn't allow in.)

Posted by benrosen at April 14, 2010 06:25 PM | Up to blog

It's 'cause he plays rugby, isn't it?


Posted by: Matt at April 14, 2010 08:31 PM


Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at April 15, 2010 11:00 AM

The government banned all cell phones on planes? Since when? Having to turn them off is different than having them banned. You can turn them back on as soon as you know you've been hijacked.

Posted by: Shoshana Rosenbaum at April 30, 2010 08:15 PM

There is no security advantage to turning them off, you might have other things to think about while being hijacked, and, in any event, the point is not that people should receive the exact same message. There's no need to find out via cell phone now that passenger planes are bombs -- we know that. It's the next important revelation, the one we don't know, that I'm talking about.

It's mainly the irony I'm pointing to. The government persists in thinking that their controlling of information will help, and transparency and open communications will help bad actors, when the opposite is demonstrably the case.

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at May 1, 2010 12:05 PM
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