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Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Culture, Debate | 1 comment

Jonathan Rauch won’t boycott Ender’s Game

Prominent free speech advocate Jonathan Rauch – who is gay and also a leading proponent of gay marriage – offers his thoughts about proposals for a boycott of Ender’s Game, the movie of Orson Scott Card’s monstrously successful novel from the mid 1980s.

In recent years, Orson Scott Card has been increasingly vocal (I’m tempted to say “hateful” and “deranged”) in his anti-gay pronouncements. So the question is whether this justifies boycotting a movie based on his most famous book. Presumably such a boycott would make a statement about widespread opposition to Card’s views.

Although I usually find Card’s science fiction novels, including Ender’s Game, well-crafted, suspenseful, and enjoyable enough reading, I’ve never really been much of a fan. Indeed, I think he has won awards that could have gone to more deserving work. I’m not likely to be interested in seeing Ender’s Game anyway, and what I know about Card’s homophobic beliefs and attitudes makes me even less interested. We do tend to make our choices through such emotional filters. So I have nothing much to lose by not seeing the movie; I almost certainly won’t see it.

But I won’t be claiming, either, to be participating in a boycott. I’m just not that interested. If you think a deliberate boycott will achieve something, I’m not going to press any strong argument against that. Even if you don’t think it will achieve anything, you might simply find it distasteful to use your dollars in a way that supports the work of a homophobe like Card. That’s fine – it’s a legitimate emotional response as far as I’m concerned, and (as above) it is part of my own response to (the prospect of) this movie.

That said, Rauch makes strong points about the importance of free, fearless speech in our liberal democracies. I don’t want to suppress Card’s views, and if I thought a boycott of the movie would achieve that I’d be worried about it. That’s a remote prospect, however. Card is a rich man with plenty of platforms for his ideas. This not a case where someone is seriously likely to have his speech suppressed through either government action or collective social disapproval.

In the end, like Rauch, I’d probably go and see the movie if the reviews were good enough. If you like the book, by all means see the movie, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to be one of the people urging a boycott. But I don’t expect to see it, and once again my attitude to Card makes me feel even less inclined. And as far as I can see, that’s a perfectly legitimate response.