Friday, October 27, 2017

This is what "not knowing" looks like.

I deliberately waited a week before addressing this issue anywhere other than on my Facebook and those of my friends. I felt making it the central pillar of a blog post would be derailing -- friends of mine had been hurt, confused, and betrayed, and were in the midst of processing a lot of new information. They deserve that time, and my heart went (and still goes) out to them in the middle of this mess.

That said, with some breathing room behind it, it is time to talk about the unpleasant case of John Davies... and where it fits into the current climate of the entertainment industry.

The story rolled out on my social media a week ago yesterday, just as I was heading to bed. A BNF and known writer in the Doctor Who fandom -- one who, like me, cycles through charity anthologies and that blurry area of "I Can't Believe It's Not Canon" -- was put behind bars for possession of... ugh. Just click the link if you want to know. I don't want to write it out.

I personally never knew him. I'd see his name on the pages of anthologies I was also in, and I'd see his face in convention photos, gathered with people I do know. In a community that is very forthcoming on people's flaws, even (especially?) if they're friends, I was never once told anything about him one way or the other. He wasn't the stereotypical "quiet guy next door" or anything, but no one ever pushed me toward working with him or warned me against him.

And then this news broke, and action was taken overnight. Like, literally overnight. As in I saw the news before I went to bed, and in the morning every person, company, and publication that had any connection to him (and a few that didn't) were announcing their severing of ties with him, their displeasure, and their surprise.

Initially, I believed that the parallels between our discovery and the Weinstein fiasco were fairy one-to-one. But that's not entirely fair, because people in Hollywood speaking out is a bit more dangerous. No big movers and shakers are involved in this segment of the Who communty. No one innocent is going to have any sort of lucrative career ruined by speaking out. And no one knew that this was going on -- a bit of a scary thing to think about as the trial has been many months coming and the first any of the community knew of it was the sentencing.

That, and the Davies situation involves photos and video of child abuse... something that, frankly, even the most charismatic pinhead will never get away with defending.

So the situations aren't direct equivalencies, but that's sort of why I feel it needs bringing up.

On one side -- Hollywood -- we have years (even decades) of knowledge, sly jokes hidden nervously in people's stand-up routines. And even after the news breaks and Weinstein is relieved of many of his positions, we have involved and uninvolved parties explaining why nothing could be done, why it was someone else's fault, why this or that can't or shouldn't be done.

And on the other -- this close-knit community of Doctor Who fans with nebulous ties to the official side of things -- we have a complete and utter blindside -- the legitimate conviction and imprisonment of a man that many, many people were led to believe was nothing but clean. And in less than 24 hours, the personal and professional ties were severed without hesitation. And the connotation was not one of fear of association; it was a mass movement to pull support from a criminal and make it known why it was happening.

This, as I said in the title, is what "not knowing" looks like.

This is the truth of genuinely not realizing that a friend in your circle is predatory. And as someone who has suffered for years at the hands (albeit in an unconnected set of circumstances) of an obvious "missing stair," I will call upon friends on this side of the Atlantic to understand that.

The true experience of not knowing or understanding the bad things your friend got up to is personally devastating. It's why I held off a week before addressing this. My circle of UK fandom friends was in mourning, because a person they believed they knew no longer existed. And they weren't sure how long he hadn't existed. They felt betrayed, lied to, saddened, and rightly so.

And yet, in the midst of this grief and betrayal, they still stepped up and warned each other. They sent the message as quickly as they could through their lists, as terrible as it was to do so. There was no hiding, no hesitation. Within less than 24 hours, the word was out and the statements were made.

This is what happens when a community is genuinely surprised by one of their own being out of line. This. And if if a group knocked off their boots by the news that a decades-old buddy is behind bars can still rally together to cut ties in less than 24 hours, then a group that is aware of a bad apple in their midst should be taking steps.

The Doctor Who community were brave, kind, and strong in a very unpleasant time. They'll probably have to continue to be for quite a while yet as this ripples out. And I was actually proud to be a part of it that day -- because the community of the many far outweighed what one member did. I do not consider his actions a blight on the group because the group wouldn't allow it to be.

Think of this when you see someone in your friend circle who low-key gets away with things, that you'd do something about but they've been there so long and you don't want drama. And think of this, too, whenever someone says "well, I didn't think they were that bad." Or when you find yourself saying it.

We're on a precarious little set of weeks here -- a set of weeks when people are acutely aware of what's going on within their own social circles. But when the last of Weinstein's cronies have jumped ship or outed themselves, we'll likely settle back into complacency. Ideally this should teach us that discouraging and disabling such behavior, and expecting the best from our personal circles, should be a constant background mental process and not an occasional crusade. But the fact is, it will fade. We'll go back to talking in hushed tones until the next scandal and the next burst of social adrenaline.

So while we're on top of this brief moment of clarity, please take note of how quickly it can be done. And reconsider the ticking time bombs around you.