Tag Archives: Requires Hate

There are a lot of parallels between the Trump Tapes and The Mixon Report on Requires Hate. Both had the effect of removing plausible deniability from those who had been supporting and encouraging an obvious malevolent sociopath.

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When Codes of Conduct Go Bad

David Auerbach notes that the ToDo Group have abandoned their Open Code of Conduct because they were unable to form any sort of consensus over its contents. He is correct in stating this particular clause would be a potential ligitation nightmare.

Our open-source community prioritised marginlised people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort, we will therefore not act on complaints regarding “reverse -isms”, including “Reverse racism”, “Reverse sexism” or “cisphobia”.

Reading that, you are forced to conclude whoever wrote than has never heard of the Requires Hate saga in SF Fandom, or has completely failed to learn any lessons from it. Such a code of contact won’t survive contact with a bad actor who identifies as belonging to a marginalised group, for starters. And it fails to acknowledge that “marginalised”, “privileged” and even “safety” and “comfort” are highly subjective and context-dependent things. Auerbach is dead right; lawyers could have a field day with that.

The online social justice movement has a contentious “Punching up/punching down” dynamic which draws from Critical Race Theory and Intersectional Feminism. But they are not uncontroversial mainstream beliefs, and there is considerable opposition which doesn’t just come from hardcore racists and sexists.

Codes of conduct are a necessary evil in a world where bad actors exist. But a successful code of condut requires a broad consensus from the community to which it applies. A code of conduct that explicitly hard-codes the values of one narrow political tribe is always going to look like a power-grap. It just plays into the hands of those who oppose codes of conduct in principle.

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But he does good work!

The story of Jacob Applebaum resignation from TOR following multiple accusations of sexual assault is a disturbing one. It’s an all-too-familiar story; his behaviour appears to have been common knowledge for years, but he was powerful enough that nobody was willing to call him out publicly. Then once a critical mass of victims were willing to share their stories, it opened the floodgates. How he was able to get away with so much for so long is one of those questions it’s hard not to ask.

There are important differences, but there are also strong parallels with Requires Hate in the SFF community. Both are examples of manipulative sociopaths surrounded by sycophants, and both are examples of the values of a non-mainstream subculture serving to enable an abuser.

Violet Blue pulls no punches, blaming a hero-worshipping culture for enabling abuse, and is prepared to name and shame some of the people who continued to write fawning media pieces even as his character and behaviour was becoming widely known.

Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t care enough to vet him, but CCC and Assange and Snowden gave him power and that needs to be part of this conversation, because we need look no further for proof that hero worship and the cult of belief is pure poison. He convinced people to trust him with secrets, like docs, and threatened the unthinkable if cornered. Jake also benefited greatly — and I can’t stress this enough — from journalists who did not check their facts, reporters who bought into his bullshit persecuted-hacker narrative, and blogs like Boing Boing who breathlessly starfucked his appropriated hacks and docs and reprehensible behavior into credibility.

This didn’t happen because we’re broken as a hacker culture, or because we’re hackers and thus too undeveloped to comprehend empathy. People like Jake can be found in other places; priests and churches, Hollywood, the porn industry, and more. Wherever power imbalances, hero worship, and secret-keepers intersect. People like Jake are found in hacker culture, too, and it’s past time for hacker culture to deal with it.

And, of course, the music industry is hardly immune. Violet’s line about the effect of seeing people praise the work of a known abuser has on their victims cuts rather close to home. Do we single out the likes of Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris and ignore or play down the behaviour of others purely because the latter’s music is considered more worthy?

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Mark Clarke, the Tory Requires Hate?

The story of Mark Clarke and his bullying of young Conservative Party activist Elliott Johnson to suicide is horrifying. While I’m sure there are people with a sense of schadenfreude at internal problems within the Tory party, that’s an entirely wrong reaction. Anyone with a shred of empathy should feel for Elliott Johnson and his grieving parents. It’s not as though destructive bullies are confined to any one party; look at the behaviour of the late Cyril Smith in the Liberals. Politics is particularly vulnerable to these sorts of charismatic sociopaths, and all too often people overlook the harm these sorts of people can do.

I am struck by the parallels between Mark Clarke and the individual within the Science Fiction community who went under the name of “Requires Hate”. Both showed the amount of damage a manipulative sociopath in a position of influence can do to an organisation or community.

There are differences of course; Clarke was a public figure and some of his bullying took the form of public confrontations, while Requires Hate was an anonymous internet presence whose true identity wasn’t publicly known at the time.

But they had a lot in common too. Clarke embedded himself in a influential position in a estabilshed power structure, while Requires Hate constructed an extensive web of acolytes and sycophants in a community that lacked a formal hierarchy. Both used malicious false allegations and threats of blackmail as a weapon, and both ruthlessly gamed the rules of the social systems they were part of. And neither would admit their wealthy and privileged backgrounds; Clarke spun a fiction about growing up on a council estate, while Ms Hate wore her minority status on her sleeve while neglecting to mention that she was a scion of one of Thailand’s most wealthy and powerful families.

It’s easy to say that organisations and communities should get better at seeing through these sorts of people, but that’s far easier said than done. It’s much harder to spot a bad actor when they appear to share your own values.

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Requires Hate redux

A couple of days ago a blog post appeared revealing the real identity of the troll known as Winterfox and Requires Hate who also wrote fiction under the name of  “Benjanun Sriduangkaew”.  Although rumours that she might actually be a white individual based in the UK turned out not to be true, she does, as was widely suspected, come from an extremely wealthy background, a scion of a powerful family with extensive political connections.

What’s more chilling is that at a time when she was writing racial revenge fantasies about killing white people she was actually implicated in multiple deaths due to criminal negligence at a hotel belonging to her family, an event for which nobody ever faced criminal charges, and for which incriminating evidence appears to have been covered up.

The post contains names and links to family members, so I won’t link to it here, but I am including this very telling quotation:

Privilege takes many forms. These can include

  • Being born into an extremely wealthy and politically connected family
  • A debt-free college education
  • A high-paying job given to you by your father or any other family member
  • Being responsible (whether as an individual or a corporate entity) for the deaths of multiple people and facing no legal consequences

Someone who benefits from all these things is neither marginalized nor systematically oppressed, and to claim as such is an insult to those who are.

I recognise why releasing personal information (known as “doxxing”) is a bad thing which exposes individuals to harm, and I can understand why people believe it’s still wrong in this case despite Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s long and well-documented history as an abuser.

But every strict ethical rule will eventually encounter a difficult edge-case, and this is one of these. I don’t think it’s a coincidence her identity has been revealed just at the time her author harassment has started up again. I don’t have a problem with those whose moral calculus leads them to conclude that outing her is the lesser of two evils, in that her priviledged situation means she’s at low risk of serious harm, and it in turn reduces the harm she can do.

Of course her sock-puppets, acolytes and useful idiots want to make the conversation about the outing rather than the harm she’d done and is continuing to do.

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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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The Outing of Requires Hate

Although I have been a reader of science fiction for many, many years, my fandom is music. And I’m glad it is.

Until very recently there was a book review blog called “Requires Only The You Hate”. It’s stock-in-trade was vitriolic reviews of science fiction novels, typically denouncing everything as racist and attacking the author rather than the work. The same blogger was also a notorious troll, posting under a number of identities over a period of a decade, and behaving as a serial harasser to a significant number of people, the majority of them women. Had she been operating in Britain she would very likely have been jailed. Her behaviour really was that bad.

Now her identity has been outed as a new writer under the name of Benjanun Sridankaew, whose new persona as a writer is all sweetness and light.

The whole thing is detailed here, if you have the stomach to read it. It’s nasty stuff.

She has now posted a public apology, but in a situation like this an apology can only be the first step on a long road to redemption. You can’t just wash away a past that bad overnight.

Whether or not we will see similar apologies from any of those who have enabled and encouraged her reign of terror over the past decade remains to be seen, and it has to be said that the list of people listed as supporting her over her victims contains one or two of the usual suspects. These are some of the same names that showed up in the Jonathan Ross debacle, including the one responsible for driving Ross’ wife off Twitter.

But the biggest problem is the subculture she operated within. What sort of subculture considers what can only be described as dehumanising hate-speech to be acceptable provided the target group is more “privileged”? Yet this is precisely the set of values that have taken over a significant part of the SFF world in recent years. It’s stated goals are to promote inclusivity and social justice, but without a commitment to human empathy it’s devolved into a frighteningly authoritarian form of identity politics. It’s created a perfect environment in which an abuser can hide; all they have to do cite the correct buzzwords and they’re given a free pass. There are parallels both with the collapse of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, and the abuse scandals that have seriously diminished the standing of the Roman Catholic Church.

When the whole Vox Day/SFWA and Hugo nominations things blew up, I was shocked that even a tiny minority would support someone who’s a known homophobic white supremacist rape apologist. But seeing later dramas unfold I’m beginning to understand why a long-term online friend who I’ve always considered a liberal would claim in the comments on this blog to be rooting for Larry Correia and Vox Day for the Hugo awards.

What happens next will be interesting. When SF’s default ideology was a militaristic frontier libertarianism and most books were written by white men with engineering degrees, too many voices got marginalised, and that was not a good thing. But now you’re left with a feeling it’s gone too far the other way, and the scene has adopted a set of values that meant it was only a matter of time before it all imploded. It’s had its revolution, now it’s reached the stage of the revolution eating its children.

SF would be a lot healthier if authors could put whatever politics they liked into the actual books, but SF as a whole didn’t favour one ideology over another. There will always be cliques and partisan sub-fandoms, that’s just human nature. And sometimes they’ll fight and there will be drama. But the bigger cultural war needs to end in a truce with both sides acknowledging the other’s right to exist.

I am still glad my chosen fandom is music. Music doesn’t have this nonsense nowadays.

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