Saturday, January 14, 2023

Brad's 2023 Argument Against The Status Quo

 When you've been blogging about Sherlockiana for twenty-three years, after writing a monthly newsletter column for fifteen years on the same topic, you do wind up revisiting the same topics again and again. Sometimes, it's an accident. Sometimes, it's a new take on an old topic. And sometimes, especially upon one topic in particular, it's intentional and persistent.

Now that we've lived through another January BSI weekend, now that the big news from the annual Baker Street Irregulars dinner is over and we know who got made of member of that ancient order, and now that we've congratulated and said "It was long overdue!" to those handed their certificates . . . well it's time for THAT blog post. You know the one, if you haven't quit reading my stuff years ago due to exactly THAT blog post.

How long are we going to let one guy, no matter who that one guy is, decide who is worth Sherlockian validation in America?

When Elon Musk took over Twitter and was criticized immediately for putting the blue checkmarks on the open market, there was a worse play he could have made. He could have just decided that he, Elon Musk, was the person who got to decide who was a verified Twitter user popular enough to get the blue check mark. He could have had all of Twitter start sending him suggestions and pleading the case of any celebrity they felt should have the blue check mark, imposing arbitrary rules like "you have to tweet at least ten times a day on Twitter to be seen as a celebrity by Twitter." Yes, that probably would have been even less popular.

But here we are in American Sherlockiana with that basic system. We may pooh-pooh it until the day when we finally get our shilling of validation and feel like we have finally made it, but when that day comes, suddenly all is well and good and, hey, it must be a great system, because I got my name on the list, right? Even if the last guy didn't like me, but the new guy knew better, or one of them finally realized I wasn't whatever someone had told them about me, and I finally got in. Because getting into the Big Club is a great feeling. A wonderful feeling that we want others to have. And we sure as hell don't want to invalidate our own honors, now do we?

But, at the end of a day, ignore it or not, it's a shit system where we let one guy control who becomes a Baker Street Irregular because he manages one dinner a year. And really, since the one guy is the only person who could put a better system in place . . . well, it would take a very special person to look beyond honoring his predecessors by maintaining the same-old, same-old that they didn't deign to improve.

Now, you might say, "Why do you care, Brad? You never come to NYC for the dinner these days. You're not writing for the Journal, getting into the BSI collections, involved with their workshops, etc." Or "Aren't you actually impeding progress by pissing people off and just making them more intrenched in the status quo every time you write these?" Hmm. Well, being on the outs with certain folk accounts for a little of that. And, yes, there is the possibility that I should just shut up and allow the thing to cook without stirring the pot. But you know what? In 1989, I was invested as a Baker Street Irregular. I used to say "investitured" but I was corrected this year to say the proper term, "invested."

So I was invested in this organization, people attach the letters "BSI" to my name in bylines even though I don't put it there myself, and like many an American Sherlockian, I watch our annual awards show from a distance to see which of my friends finally gets the nod each year. The Baker Street Irregulars investiture is a part of our culture, a part of our hobby, that isn't going away. It's a tradition, an institution, a personal landmark. But none of that means it couldn't be done in a better, more meaningful fashion.

That's all I'm saying, and all I've ever said, once the one guy started letting women in, which was where I started this one-Sherlockian crusade. Did letting women in ruin the investitures of all the men who got in before 1991? Not in the slightest -- it actually made our shillings MORE meaningful. Would improving the BSI investiture system toward a more representative and transparent system without the capacity for one man's bias tilting the scale ruin the Sherlockian childhoods of any current Baker Street Irregular members? Of course not. Why not improve?

So this is my occasional blog post on the topic for early 2023. Probably enough to keep me in the bad graces of Sherlockian ultra-conservatives for another year or two. But, hey, it'll be at least another six months before I write about it yet again, so no worries if anyone missed it. I'll be back.

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