Statement Afterword: About Prejudice


When I avow in public that I didn’t do a thing, I feel I have a right to expect some benefit of the doubt because the default presumption should still be one of innocence except where the accused has specifically earned otherwise. And I have done absolutely nothing to corrode my credibility on the HWA matter, nor my expectation of receiving a fair hearing on it. Skepticism is natural, but people have nothing on which to base an allegation of dishonesty on my part.

Those who actually know me tend to believe me when I assert the truth because they afford me the baseline courtesy that comes with knowing someone and knowing their history. To grant me anything less is to pre-judge me — to judge based on gender, ethnicity, or anything short of a totality of known facts and sense. To pre-judge is literal prejudice. And friends, I am weary of watching otherwise intelligent and responsible people attempt to defend the virtues of prejudice.

If, when a person who reflects a particular demographic professes their innocence, your first instinct is to doubt the veracity of their claim, you should ask yourself why. And if your next act is to find a way to deny a mountain of facts that point clearly and loudly to that same innocence, then you have provably abdicated any claim to the high ground. You are denying the facts in order to feel better about your prejudice, and that is, in and of itself, some pretty rotten behavior.

When it comes to my situation, I realize there are many who had no idea about this particular mountain of facts, and who have only heard one side of the story for far too long. That’s part of why I had to speak out about what happened to me. Hard as it is, people should want to hear both sides of every story, even when we anticipate feeling let down by one account or the other.

Every case must be dealt with factually. Satisfying as it may be to rush to judgment, it is wrong.

Since accusations put the scrutiny on the accused first, a big question mark for most people in my case is the source of all the trouble. I’ll try to summarize that source here as kindly as I can: The people associated with my situation are known bad actors, false accusers, and internet bullies. Not a single one of them knows me, and all but one have never even exchanged two words with me face to face. They are literal strangers, from a community known for its bad behavior, and they are neither qualified nor welcome to sit in judgment of me, my family, or our allies. I know who I am, what I’ve done, what I haven’t done, and what I’d never do. They don’t. Even casual fans in my own community know me better.

The regrettable TL;DR of my case: A pack of nasty white strangers rallied behind an even nastier white stranger who was and still is willing to lie about things that have the power to do the kind of harm this has done.

However awkward it may be to hear (and in my case, I’m sure it is), the truth is true. And it matters.

Given their gravity, all false accusations of this kind are wrongful, but false accusations of this kind against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are especially ugly. It’s not just that there are better uses of a privileged person’s time. That much is self-evident. It’s that this behavior is increasingly dangerous in the west, and therefore increasingly sociopathic to engage in. When a white accuser targets an American Arab or Muslim online, it often leads directly and swiftly to death threats, and to hate speech, and to a tidal wave of manure with which a certain class of person will most likely never have to contend. To do something like that carelessly, or worse, to do it intentionally and with malice of forethought… it’s beyond irresponsible.

It’s reprehensible.

Case Study: James Moore

When I was coming up in tabletop RPG writing, one of my colleagues was a man named James Moore. Fans may recall his work. He and I have shared experiences, employers, interests, aesthetics, HWA membership, etc. Point is, James Moore is basically a white guy version of me, and one could scarcely hope to find a more analogous figure for the purpose of juxtaposition.

Not long after Moore was condemning me at the top of his voice on social media, a well known author credibly accused him of a protracted (~three-year) campaign of harassment; one that got so bad that the writer and her mother had to take out a restraining order against him. He finally posted some nonpology in which he tried to justify his behavior by saying he liked hugs (seriously), and then it was just over. Moore’s white friends in the HWA community rallied to his side (‘You can hug me any time, Jim!’), and that was it. Did the HWA (or anyone else) publicly ban James Moore for life from their events? Did anyone move to kick him from their association entirely, and on a first accusation? Of course not; even though he was clearly guilty of harassing a woman for years. To this day, the eminently comparable James Moore has paid no meaningful price for his extended misconduct.

Now, let‘s juxtapose that with what happened in my case. Let us look the disparity in the face.

The accusation against me alleged a single transgressive act on a single night of one event. From this one claim, of a lone act of harmful impropriety at a convention one night (as opposed to years’ worth of ongoing and verifiable misconduct) — made by a person with a very public prior history of false accusation, specifically — an avalanche of woe followed.

In addition to the numerous death threats, racial slurs, and other harassments, I lost friends both old and new, longtime colleagues, budding professional contacts, fellow writers… thousands of people, gone from my world. As happens to almost everyone in these cases, both my physical and mental health took steep nosedives. To make matters worse, all this transpired while I was trying to attend to my father, who had received a terminal cancer diagnosis shortly before that weekend, and to be there for a mother who was struggling to find her footing in a new reality.

Professionally, my false accusation was devastating. Publishing partners in my own industry were pressured into distancing themselves from me, despite being confident in my innocence. One even felt the need to apologize to the public for having the audacity to want time to conduct a proper investigation before jumping to a destructive conclusion. I was slated to come on board full-time with a major game publisher. That job opportunity dissolved. My literary agent quietly dropped me. Editors who liked my stories begged off buying them, out of perceived risk. A production option on a script of mine fell apart when the producers stopped trying to make it. Sometime rivals dogpiled me online. Freelancers on projects I was developing withdrew their involvement, not out of belief in my guilt, but out of concern for being seen too near me, and in so doing, left me in the lurch on work at what was obviously the worst possible time.

From the HWA, I received a performatively and inappropriately public lifetime ban on registering for their events. When I protested my innocence and their lack of due process, they told me to appeal. I did so, and after their criminally partisan non-inquiry, which they used as nothing more than a hunt for corroborative venom, not only did they uphold their own ban and refuse to do anything about the open misconduct of others involved, they actually tried to punish me again.

When a person falsely sics the authorities on another person, it’s called “swatting”. Doing this to members of vulnerable communities is regarded widely as a form of attempted murder, on account of the genuine risk of death it can impose on such victims. My family and I view what happened to me as a form of social swatting, complete with accompanying risk of serious harm.

Because we view it in these terms, we can no longer afford to hold anything but a zero-tolerance policy on it. Whether done for attention, to push an agenda, or because we make good targets, falsely accusing Muslims and people of Arab descent is vile in the extreme in America, and rightfully calling it out isn’t playing a card, or changing the subject, or any of the other usual suspects of dismissal we get online. It’s the actual, pivotal crux of the matter. The thing’s essential, nucleic truth. The foremost reason why my story is so different from James Moore’s.

And I will no longer shy away from that fact. Not for anything.

Prejudice is killing us.