That Breendoggle: much, much worse than you think

As we learned earlier, fandom basically covered up for the child abuser Walter Breen (and his enabler, Marion Zimmer Bradley) for fifty years until he got caught and convicted. Even when Stephen Goldin put up the court documents documenting his abuse and MZB’s enabling, this was largely ignored. It was ancient history, an old fan controversy and something that was described mainly in terms of the affect it had on Berkeley fandom and beyond. What has struck me every time I’ve been reminded of it and started looking for it, was that the original oh so cutesy named Breendoggle fanzine setting out the case against Breen was often referenced but never available.

Well, thanks to one Ruthless Ames, it’s up now, in a redacted form with the names of the victims removed, and it doesn’t make for nice reading. The flippant, dismissive tone in which this abuse is described, the victim blaming, the idea that it was enough for children just to barricade themselves in their bedrooms if Breen came to visit their parents (!), the confusion between honest homosexuality and pederasty, the idea that the children wouldn’t be harmed by this abuse, or actually seduced him, it’s all godawful — and it’s all coming from a writer in favour of expelling Breen.

But what really struck me, what was at the heart of why I wrote that earlier post, is the following:

And they swung between two points of view. “We must protect T—-” and “We’re all kooks. Walter is just a little kookier than the rest of us. Where will it all end if we start rejecting people because they’re kooky?” So they swung from on the one hand proposing that if Walter wasn’t to be expelled, then the banning from individual homes should be extended so that club meetings were only held in such homes, and on the otherhand calling the whole series of discussions “McCarthite” and “Star Chamber”. “I don’t want Walter around T—-, but if we do such a horrible thing as expelling him, I’ll quit fandom.”

The idea that it’s worse to expell a harasser than to let him continue his harassment is, unlike much of what’s describe above, one that’s still alive in fandom today. It’s why people like Frenkel could return to the con they were caught harassing people at the previous year, why Ed Kramer could get away with his activities at Dragoncon for decades.

3 Comments

  • […] the fuck do we in fandom get beyond the pervasive Breendoggle/Look The Other Way/Get The Stick Outta Yer Ass mentality that equates ‘open-mindedness’ […]

  • Leslie Fish

    July 5, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    I was one of the people in Berkeley SciFi fandom in the ’80s, and yes, everybody knew what Walter Breen was, but they didn’t turn him in to the cops out of regard for the feelings of his family — Marion Zimmer Bradley, Paul Zimmer, Tracey Blackstone Zimmer, Diana Paxton, et al. They tried to keep Walter “contained” and away from children, but he was a clever perv and managed to sneak around them. I know of some people who quietly offered to arrange a fatal accident for Walter, but his family wouldn’t give permission. Marion especially loved him, and ran field for him until a fan finally had enough and blew the whistle on him, after which Marion retired from public life and died soon after.

    What all this shows me is that to effectively police itself a society has to be a good bit tighter than fandom, to have some solid ethics of its own, and have some reliable means of enforcing them.

  • k.kreiselfick

    May 4, 2017 at 4:17 am

    Why do people even have to think about the consequences if the safety of children is in jeopardy? This is perverted fandom in my opinion, everybody who knew of this and didn’t blow the whistle on him should be downright ashamed!

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