As you know Bob, I’ve been saying for a long time that the whole Sad/Rabid Puppies operation is just another extention of the American rightwing’s Culture Wars, the blueprint established in the cockpit of partisan politics imported into the arts and now science fiction fandom. This was again confirmed for me over the weekend, as Vox Day and his fellow fascists ginned up controversy over a month old Facebook comment by Irene Gallo, a Tor Books employee, in which she called them rightwingers and neonazis. That’s a move straight out of the Breitbart playbook, where being accused of racism is always a much greater offence than actually being racist and you lie and manipulate your enemies into doing your dirty work for you.
It was clear to anybody who paid attention that the outrage over this comment was wholly artificial, purely done to score political points and energise the Puppies, who had started flagging in enthusiasm after months of not much happening. It was also clear that Vox Day and co were hoping to get Tor to do what Andrew Breitbart made his career with: get them to overreact to this controversy and use that as a way to exact consessions.
The Breitbart method is to identify a weak leftwing target, preferably somebody relatively powerless but able to be spun as “the left”, preferably somebody or some organisation the mainstream left had little feeling for anyway. Then you either got them to do something stupid or you just make shit up, getting the network of rightwing blogs, newspapers and other media to amplify your outrage and trust in the mainstream media and establishment left to overreact. That’s what Breitbart and his organisation did to the voter registration organisation ACORN, and then again to Shirley Sherrod, with the Obama government as patsy doing the actual dirty work of defunding the one and firing the other.
And while Vox Day wants to be sci-fi’s bargain basement’s Breitbart, Tor Books sure seems willing to be his patsy publically scolding Irene Gallo for her comments through an open letter from Tom Doherty:
Last month, Irene Gallo, a member of Tor’s staff, posted comments about two groups of science fiction writers, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and about the quality of some of the 2015 Hugo Award nominees, on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Gallo is identified on her page as working for Tor. She did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended…..
Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views. Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.
It’s incredibly gutless for any organisation to throw their employee under the bus like this, especially so when it is for justifiably calling the Puppies on their politics — if it hurts being called a neo-nazi, don’t be one nor hang out with them. But even worse is that this is the same publisher who has kept Jim Frenkel employed for decades, despite that it should’ve know he was a serial harasser. No apology for that has as far as I can see, only a curt Patrick Nielsen Hayden tweet when he was let go:
James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. We wish him the best. (1/5)
— P Nielsen Hayden (@pnh) July 11, 2013
So why did Tor cave under Puppy pressure? Because they’re a commercial organisation and those hate controversy. It’s cheaper to throw out some half assed apology and scolding than to defend Gallo. And Vox Day knows this. Some Puppies may believe the propaganda about Tor being the home of social justice in science fiction and being their sworn enemy, but he knows full well that’s nonsense, that like any other company Tor only cares about the bottom line and will respond to anything that might threaten it.
Of course the sad truth is that rightwing threats are almost always more powerful than leftwing ones, because the rightwing in America does have that well honed propaganda machine behind it. No matter how much people hate that Tor publishes homophobes like John C. Wright or Orson Scott Card — somebody who actually activily campaigned for lgbt people to have their rights taken away — that doesn’t stop us from buying their other authors; there were no organised boycotts or other political actions brought against Tor for it. Annoying the left doesn’t cost anything; tell the truth about the right and you can get into trouble.
And what’s even sadder is that this only encourages groups like the Puppies. They don’t appreciate Tom Doherty’s apology, as is crystal clear from the File 770 roundup but instead see that as a weakness, a lever to extract further concessions with. It has now become established fact that Gallo was wrong in posting what she did, that she libeled and slandered the Puppies and damn the truth. This is now yet another cudgel to beat up their enemies with, Gallo’s “crime” being applied to everybody, with the rest of us having to waste time either defending her or throwing her under the bus ourselves.
We shouldn’t play that game. Gallo wasn’t wrong to say what she did, the Puppies are reactionary, sexist, racist and have in Vox Day somebody who is a fascist and neo-nazi. We shouldn’t let them steamroll us into letting go of that truth, but we should learn that organisations like Tor are not on our side. Don’t put your trust into them.