Requires Hate: Hostile exploits of cultural vulnerabilties

The lid has now well and truly blown off in the Requires Hate affair.

This blog post from Laura Mixon, wife of SFWA president Steven Gould lays out all the gory details, and the comments are very illuminating.

A critical mass of SF professionals are now concluding that the rainbows and kittens “Benjanun Sriduangkaew” persona was a fake construct, her apologies cannot be taken at face value, and the SF community has been dealing with a malevolent manipulative sociopath and serial abuser. More and more of her victims are coming forward.

One thing needs to be made clear. Requires Hate was not a critic. A critic is an important part in the cultural ecosystem who forms part of a feedback loop that serves to make art better. She did not do that; her aim looks as though it to make room for her own writing by destroying the careers of potential rivals. She was allowed to get away with it for so long because she appropriated the language of social justice.

Her abuse didn’t take place in a vacuum. To use a software analogy, her behaviour is a hostile exploit of a critical vulnerability in the subculture. In particular, the rules of etiquette surrounding privilege-checking and tone arguments that have become commonplace in social justice spaces. Yes, they developed for perfectly good reasons to give voice to the marginalised, but they’d calcified and become open to abuse.

Some conservatives had actually been pointing this out for years, but they’d been ignored, largely because they were conservatives.

In recent years the SFF world has been forced to deal with problems of old-fashioned racism and male sexual predators. A lot of measures such as stricter convention harassment policies have been developed as a result. The virulently racist Vox Day was expelled from SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) for breaching their rules once too often. But the next predator doesn’t necessarily look like the last, and Requires Hate came from the opposite direction from the way everyone was looking. Too many people appear to have been blindsided.

Requires Hate has been described as being as bad as Vox Day. But she is actually a whole order of magnitude worse than Vox Day. It’s true that Vox Day is a vile bigot. But at the end of the day he’s just an internet blowhard. I haven’t seen any accusations the VD has directly stalked or engaged in sustained campaigns of harassment against anyone. RH is everything VD is, including the bigotry, but she’s guilty of far, far more than that.

It’s not hard to imagine some people wanting to use this as an opportunity to settle old scores. But I hope that the SFF community as a whole can move on. It cannot become the inclusive community it aspires to be if it continues to tolerate witch-hunts, bullying and the sort of abuse we’ve been seeing. Those who were willing to tolerate RH as long as it looked as though she was in their tent pissing out are part of the problem and I hope that they’ll recognise this and make amends.

The community needs to reject the more extreme forms of identity politics that see entire demographics that historically made up a big part of SF’s core community as an enemy. There must be far greater emphasis on human empathy.

It’s hard not to draw parallels with ongoing trainwreck of GamerGate at this point. It’s all part of the same wider culture war after all, and people who should have known better helped to enable Requires Hate because she pretended to be one of their side. The parallels with both sides of GamerGate are left an an exercise for the reader.

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