Dubious Moral Equivalences

WingnutThe Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards saga is the car crash that keeps crashing. The latest episode revolves around serial bad behaviour and repeated insincere false apologies from writer Lou Antonelli, one of the Puppies’ nominees.

It’s predictably depressing that some Puppies are defending his behaviour, while others are using the episode to suggest Requires Hate was unfairly monstered (click on either of those links at your own risk). And yes, hair splitting arguments over whether or not Antonelli is worse that Requires Hate are at best pointless wasted electrons and at worst attempts by people who are themselves part of the problem to derail justified criticism. It seems, yet again, that “Them and Us” trumps “Right and Wrong”. If you want to call out other people’s bad behaviour, then you can’t keep excusing obvious bad actors in your own camp and still claim the moral high ground.

A pox on both camps, I say. All it achieves is to alienate the ordinary readers of SF.

At this point things have become so polarised and so tribal that I wonder if there’s any possibility of bridge-building. Either the world of SFF will become Balkanised into multiple fandoms all of which view each other with mutual suspicion and loathing, or the whole thing needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.

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6 Responses to Dubious Moral Equivalences

  1. Colum Paget says:

    # At this point things have become so polarised and so tribal that I wonder
    # if there’s any possibility of bridge-building. Either the world of SFF will
    # become Balkanised into multiple fandoms all of which view each other
    # with mutual suspicion and loathing, or the whole thing needs to be burned
    # to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.

    Ohhh, choices choices. Couldn’t we wait till it’s throughly balkanized, and *then* burn it?

    Baggisies I get to be the one who says “Burn, babylon, BURN!”

  2. Colum Paget says:

    # A pox on both camps, I say. All it achieves is to alienate the ordinary readers of SF.

    Do you think there are any ‘ordinary’ readers of SF left?

    I spent three years among the SF crowd, and they’re easily the weirdest, most delusional and most alarming crowd I’ve ever met. Not all of them, of course, but when you defocus on individuals and look at how the ‘community’ as a whole behaves and what its politics are, it often resembles some kind of dangerous cult.

    This is a ‘community’ that constantly whines it’s not taken seriously by outsiders. Look at how it’s behaved over the last five years or so, with the incessant stream of this-gate and that-fail, and spawning out endless blog-posts where aging middle-class kids playing at being radicals accuse each other of racism, sexism, homophobia, witchcraft, and god-knows what else, only to pull those blog-posts down a few months later when it turns out they had misunderstood the situation anyway. This is not normal behavior, these people, taken en masse, are not right in the head.

    And then there’s the ideology. When I first came across the leftist ideology of SF, I thought it was fake, it couldn’t be real. But it is. These people are the living embodiment of the Daily Mail’s wet dreams. The ‘loony lefties’ exist, and science fiction is their asylum. Convinced that any kind of abuse is ‘punching up’ so long as it’s aimed at the right targets, they’ll support all manner of petty evil so long as it’s aimed at white men. Sooner or later they’ll support the wrong thing and come to major grief: they’ll get embroiled by something they can’t make go away by deleting blog-posts. Their ignorance is often astounding, when challenged a couple of years ago by someone posing as a feminist to name any women in power positions, I had a whole queue in mind, including Christina Krichener, Helle-Thorning-Schmidt, Dilma Rousoff, etc, etc, but I started with the obvious: Angela Merkel. She didn’t know who that was. Then things got nasty. This kind of thing isn’t unusual among the SF crowd, it’s *normal* for them.

    The ‘other side’, well, I guess I always knew they existed, somewhere, and of course that somewhere is SF. Where else? They are less of a shock. I’m surprised they’re quite as blatent as some of them are, but then a lot of the problem with SF&F seems to be it’s American character (though RH mostly fooled UK lefties). There’s a lot of people too fond of guns and Ayn Rand on one side, and a lot of people too fond of Edward Said and third-wave-feminism on the other, and I couldn’t say these days which side is more dangerous. Neither of them are normal, or even sane.

    Is it any wonder then that people aren’t reading SF? Leftist SF was totally gamed and exposed as fools by requires_hate, and that includes some of the most promising ‘insightful’ and ‘exciting’ writers. How can anyone read anything these people write again as having any degree of credibility? That’s one thing the puppies have right: too much SF now is an empty exercise in middle-class pseudo-leftist claptrap. Where the puppies are wrong is in thinking that ‘swashbuckling military SF’ is the answer. People want to read stuff that has some relation to reality, that imparts something to them that makes the reading worthwhile. But most modern SF has lost touch with reality, substituting it with various shades of political utopianism.

    # At this point things have become so polarised and so tribal that I wonder
    # if theres any possibility of bridge-building.

    There isn’t, but there never really was. Nothing has really changed in the community over the last few years, this situation was latent there, waiting to come out, a bit like ethnic conflict in, well, the balkans, or the middle-east. Once you’ve got a sufficient number of people who are easily outraged and believe themselves to be “Walking in the light” or “building something better than mainstream society” or who believe that they’re some kind of revolutionary, you’ve already got a dysfunctional community full of extremists who can’t get on with anyone who thinks differently. It probably all went wrong with the new-wave, and I was all for the new-wave, but then I was all for the arab spring.

  3. Colum Paget says:

    # Either the world of SFF will become Balkanised into multiple fandoms
    # all of which view each other with mutual suspicion and loathing, or the
    # whole thing needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.

    Balkanization is the only way to go. A community or group is built out of people, and you would have to build it out of the people you’ve got, so no matter how many times you burned it down and rebuilt it, those people would start fighting again. In order to get a different outcome you would somehow have to build differently. Well, what are you going to change?

    It might be better not to rebuild at all, because the question of rebuilding the community so that it’s functional has some ugly aspects. You can only do this by excluding trouble-makers. How are you going to manage that? Once the community is beyond a certain size there’s going to be someone in the group with a radical friend who, you know, *has some really important things to say*, and they will want to bring them, and their worldview in. And that person will have other, more radical friends who they’ll want to bring in, and these people will all bring their enemies too, who follow them everywhere. You’ll be back to open warfare in a week.

    Take Ms Bradford, who appears in the comments on Jason Sanderson’s post. She’s a bigot, but we can say that’s not her fault. She lives in a country where you can pretty much get shot for the colour of your skin. But that’s not relevant here. If you’re trying to build a healthy community, you can’t have Ms Bradford in it, she’ll run around calling everyone racist and spreading disharmony. Trolls, knowing she’s a good target, will find ways to provoke her into attacking others. She’s a liability, and she’s an opener-of-the-way to people worse than herself. Her enemies, for instance, of which there are surely a number, will start taking an interest in your community. And some of her friends are worse than her enemies.

    Obviously, there’s lots of other people who are liabilities. You’d think few people in their right mind would want Vox Day in their community, but unfortunately quite a number on the puppies side seem to think “Oh, he’s harmless,he’s just playing”. No, he’s not harmless, and a community with a vocal member who’s prepared to say tht one day Andres Brevik will be considered a hero, is going to come to grief sooner or later.

    If you create a new left-leaning community, then even if no-one in it wants to bring in RH, there’ll be someone who will try to bring in KTB, or Mr Sanderson, or friends of theirs who will try to bring them in. Once in KTB will strive to bring in RequiresHate, whom she’ll claim has reformed, and then when RequiresHate goes straight back to abusing people, Ms Bradford will look the other way or claim RH is ‘punching up’.

    It’s a little unfair to single out Ms Bradford, as you couldn’t throw a paper airplane at an SF con without hitting five people who think the same way, but she’s one of the most visible, vocal ones. She’s also someone who has at least had the integrity not to conceal that she was, and continues to be an RH supporter. In that regard I’ve got more respect for her than for the legions of people who removed all their approving blog-posts after the RH takedown. But none of those people learned anything from the requires_hate debacle, and if RH reappears under a new identity, then they’ll be fooled by her again.

    At the end of the day SF has too many people who are, in some sense, ideologically unwell. Their default stance is to accuse everyone of racism and sexism all the time (and you know, sometimes they’re right, but that doesn’t mean anything, if I always claim it’s raining, I’ll be right some of the time) and they’re prepared to tolerate all manner of evil so long as it’s ‘hitting the right people’, which can be anyone because they think everyone is racist/sexist/homophobic/whatever, and thus deserving of being hit. The only people that this lot think aren’t racist, are themselves, because they think they’re better than everyone else, they’re enlightened. Like I say, it’s basically a cult. You can’t build a healthy community out of sick people.

    But you can’t exclude them either. If you try to exclude KTB people will say, guess what, that you’re racist. So how can you build a community at all? Your sand-castle will always be kicked over by the people who just want to fight on the beach, and you’ve no way of keeping those people out of the beach.

    The only way, to be honest, is to fragment into mutually unpleasant communities. This is what is happening now. SF is going to split into a community of right-wing racist sexist, bigots, and another of left-wing, racist, sexist bigots (both sides will claim they’re not racist, sexist bigots. The left will do this by redefining racism and sexism to allow it to proceed as it likes.) . These communities will be more internally stable, because the people in them will all think alike, and the people who they’d normally fight with will be in the other bunch. Even extremists from either side won’t want to be amongst the other group, won’t want to go to their conventions or vote at their awards ceremonies. However, for people of a moderate outlook, I don’t see there can be anywhere for them. If you try and create a moderate community, the extremists from both sides will turn up and wage war on your turf. So people will have to chose a side and hold their noses. But then, all this fighting proves there aren’t very many moderate people left in SF anyway.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Let’s see what happens at Sasquon and tthe Hugo Award votes.

    I have to agree with you about K Tempest Bradford; I have no time for her at all, and large parts of the “community” seem willing to overlook her close association and strong support for RH.

    She does have one thing in common with Vox Day. Both of them are spoiled rich kids who have never suffered economic consequences for being arrogant jerks, and have never needed to learn tact or diplomacy. That’s a good definition of Priviledge.

    I think John Scalzi is wrong. “Straight White Male” is only the second easiest level. The easiest level is actually “Trust Fund Kid”.

  5. Colum Paget says:

    # I have to agree with you about K Tempest Bradford; I have no time for her at
    # all, and large parts of the community seem willing to overlook her close
    # association and strong support for RH.

    Agreed, but the latter isn’t her fault, and she does have good excuses. When I said she seemed to be a bigot, it’s not intended to be… what’s the word? I’m not trying to call her names. It’s just a statement of what she’s become, and when you see what’s going on in the US these days, you can understand that. Someone in my family background used to exhibit bigotry towards Japanese people, but he had been a POW in Burma during WWII. Didn’t excuse it, but you kinda saw that he was going to be that way. The tragedy is that the SF community, instead of being a place that could counter that experience, instead just reinforces her prejudices, I think.

    # She does have one thing in common with Vox Day. Both of them are spoiled
    # rich kids who have never suffered economic consequences for being arrogant
    # jerks, and have never needed to learn tact or diplomacy. Thats a good definition
    # of Priviledge.

    I agree with this, and RH even more so. But likely in all these cases there’s something lurking in the background that, if we knew it, we’d say “Oh yeah. That’s the reason.”

    # I think John Scalzi is wrong. Straight White Male is only the second easiest
    # level. The easiest level is actually Trust Fund Kid.

    He is wrong, but he’s wrong because he’s another middle/upper-class type. ‘Straight white male’ for most people in SF, means people like them. Read Scalzi’s wikipedia: he went to a school where the annual fees are over the cost of a house in some places. Well, if that’s the straight white male you are, that is the easiest difficulty setting. But if you grew up on the castle-vale housing estate (no, thankfully I didn’t) then you’re not on the easiest difficulty setting. Most people in SF do not realize class exists, they think all white folk went to the same schools they went to. And these are the people we’re expecting to visualize the future? They don’t even understand the present.

  6. Colum Paget says:

    # He is wrong, but hes wrong because hes another middle/upper-class type.

    I was agreeing with you here, btw, but I managed to sound like I wasn’t!

    Colum