#MetalGate: you’re joking, right?

I saw some brief references to #MetalGate on Twitter before the weekend and assumed it was GamersGate loons trying to stir shit. I was right:

Similar to how “#Gamergate” was coined by Adam Baldwin while linking to videos about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, then famously retconned to actually be about ethics in journalism, the origins of #Metalgate seem to be unimportant. #Gamergate has established a template. Throw a hash in front of a word and a “-gate” behind it, and you send out a veritable Bat-Signal to thousands of angry people on the internet: “Social Justice Warriors are doing… something. We may not be clear on what they’re actually saying or doing, but they must be stopped.”

Proof once more, if any was needed, that GamersGate is just another rightwing kulturclash project, just another attempt by “South Park Republicans” and professional culture warriors to seem even vaguely relevant and use the fears and prejudices of unthinking white men to get some sort of rightwing cultural backlash going, gain some foothold in youth culture. Yes, it’s all sound and fury and rape threats that accomplishes nothing except the harassment of more women but hey, it beats working for a living.

So much for the inevitable truth of the market

Vox Day has been talking smack about John Scalzi and his sales again, you know the schtick: “nobody really likes him the real proof of a good writer is how well he sells all a conspiracy he’s on the bestseller list people like Larry Correira sell much better blah blah blah”. Funny thing that, according to John Walker in a comment at File 770:

Well, according to Bookscan Larry’s sales are in freefall. His first mm pb book sold some 51,000 copies, but that was back in 2009, which was an entire different publishing world, then. His latest book in mass market? 3500 copies, at best. He seems to be trading on past success,but honestly most of his books (and his compatriots) are selling poorly. Hoyt’s latest? 200 copies. Freer’s? 600 copies. If anything a lot of this is just knee-jerking on their part, and suggestive that perhaps they should figure out why their sales are plummeting, instead of picking on others for their misfortunes.


Worse, as Nick Mamatas shows in comments at James Nicoll’s, Sarah Hoyt isn’t doing well either, downright awful in fact:

231 copies for a book released in July by a mainstream publisher, by an author with a number of series and award nominations, and whose blog posts receive 100s of comments, is a big problem. But it doesn’t appear to be far from wrong, given the other available information.

The only possible conclusion you can draw from this is that all the rightwingers who like to hang around at Day’s, at Hoyt’s, like to talk a lot and give it all that with their circlejerks about how nobody likes all those politically correct gamma authors and it’s only the effeminate critics at whatever the latest target of their ire is who pretend they are popular, seem damn reluctant to acually, you know, buy the books of the authors that they supposedly support.

Rightwingers are moochers. They only wage culture war if it’s free or if they can get wingnut welfare for it, but actually spending money? Never.

If you don’t want to be judged by your words, shut up

Current SFWA president Steve Gould smack down its rightwing critics:

Just as SFWA doesn’t control what members and non-members say in non-SFWA spaces, it also doesn’t control what members and non-members say in response to members’ public comments, statements, essays, and blog posts. When persons say things in public that others find objectionable, it is likely they will receive criticism and objections. There is an odd misconception among some that Freedom of Speech includes freedom from the consequences of one’s speech and freedom from commentary on what one has said.

The idea that you be free to be a bigot, but that I shouldn’t be free to judge you on it is of course a cherished one amongst wingnuts, but not one we need to take seriously. Not even if it makes Glenn Reynolds cry, who I see is still up to the same old schtick I called him out on in the New York Times more than a decade ago. Being silent in the face of bigotry is a political choice.

Rather than give wingnuts the benefit of the doubt, try these

John Scalzi gets it wrong with the Hugos:

Please also keep in mind that even if you believe that the list is a cynical exercise, there are people and work on that list who may be well worth consideration, who may or may not have even known they were part of (or would have consented to) being part of a cynical exercise. Consider that you would be doing them (and the Hugos) a disservice to dismiss them out of hand. I’ve seen rumblings of people suggesting they’ll put everyone on the Correia/Day slate below “no award” no matter what, but if you’re doing that, you’re making these fellows’ alleged point for them. Again: Why do that? It’s nearly as easy to read a work (or at least, read as far as can) and decide it’s just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!

No, you can’t and shouldn’t attempt to judge books or stories on merit that are on the shortlist as a political gesture. You can’t take the politics away and any gesture at judging on “merit” is naive or disingenious. If you don’t want the Hugo to become yet another front in the rightwing war on culture, the only sane thing to do is reject any and all of these nominations. Pretending that doing anything else is value neutral or objective harms those this stunt was aimed at, the women, people of colour and others whom the initiators want to drive out of science fiction. As Rose Lemberg argues, doing so also marginalises yet again exactly those voices:

Also, conciliatory statements often have the effect of diverting the attention yet again (along with the accompanying social praise and support) from the marginalized voices to the power brokers, thus increasing the social capital of those who already have it, while marginalized voices go unpromoted and unsupported – unsupported often in context of vicious attacks from those who deny Diversity Age fans their personhood.

People like Vox Day and Larry Correia and, yes, John Scalzi already get too much attention and consideration just for being straight white males, with all the privileges that entails (something which Scalzi to his merit of course has long realised). Even being outraged at the Correia/Day stunt is once again talking about the same sort of people we always talk about, rather than the people we should be talking about more.

So who and what should we be talking about? Here are some suggestions for further reading:

Anything else that should be on this list?

Dutch rightwing politician thinks rape won’t make you pregnant

In a bid to show that Dutch (rightwing) politicians can be just as thick as their American counterparts, the leader of the SGP (the explicitly rightwing Christian party) argued that rape won’t make you pregnant:

‘Women seldom get pregnant as a result of rape and that is a fact,’ orthodox Christian party SGP leader Kees van der Staaij told a tv programme on Tuesday.

He was reacting to a question about the furore in the US around similar remarks made by Republican congressman Todd Akin.

Van der Staaij said rape is dreadful and recognises the huge consequences for the victims, but his party remains against abortion. ‘We are, under all circumstances, for the unborn life,’ he told the RTL programme.

The SGP has long been ignored and tolerated by Dutch politics as a whole, a principled party that stood for a largely neglected part of the Dutch population, the socalled bible belt. Their views may be old fashioned, even reactionary, but who cares, they’ll never get into government anyway. Which meant that for decades they’ve been able to e.g. get away with not giving women voting rights within the party, while recently, due to the minority rightwing government, it has had an undue influence on government policy in return for its support. So far this has luckily been minimal, but the mere fact that van der Staaij felt comfortable to utter these statements on public television shows the growing confidence of the party.

Be disappointed in Heinlein all over again

If there really was one taboo subject in the old Usenet days of discussing science fiction, it was doubting the genius of Robert Heinlein. there were always acolytes and fanboys aplenty to explain away the homophobia, misogyny or racism that cropped up again and again in his work, or excuse the flawed logic or inconsistencies that could be found in them. Times have changed though and as new generations of sf readers have grown up, Heinlein has lost much of his former prominence in science fiction. Which means there has been room to start seeing the real Heinlein, not the idealised picture his fans have build up around him.

Ironically, it’s the self same fans who are helping to tear this picture down, as they are the only ones dedicated enough to publish things like a never send letter to F. M. Busby about freedom and race relations (PDF, starts at page 68). It’s full of gems like this:

Nor do I feel responsible for the generally low state of the Negro—as one Negro friend pointed out to me; the lucky Negroes were the ones who were enslaved. Having traveled quite a bit in Africa, I know what she means. One thing is clear: Whether one speaks of technology or social institutions,
“civilization” was invented by us, not by the Negroes. As races, as cultures, we are five thousand years, about, ahead of them. Except for the culture, both institutions and technology, that they got from us, they would still be in the stone age, along with its slavery, cannibalism, tyranny, and utter lack of the concept we call “justice.”

Which is straight out of any angry white nerd’s rant against political correctness ever written. So when was it written? 1964.

Trouble in atheist paradise

What, a social movement inspired by the excesses of Anglo-American Protestantism and promoted by middle-aged blowhards is not terribly inclusive, caring, or supportive itself?

I came by my atheism the honest way, by getting doubts about the religion I’d grown up in, reading about all the miracles and wonders of the universe we live in, getting into rows with my very religious and constantly worrying grandmother. Granted, my church was not the most oppressive or backwards church in the world and nobody actually much cared about what you did or didn’t believe. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve always been a bit wary about the militant atheist movement that has started up in the last five years or so. Atheism alone is not a broad enough base for a political/ideological movement.

It doesn’t help that its two most prominent public figures — Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitches — are both professional arseholes. The latter was a not very intelligent leftwinger when leftwing politics were in fashion, became an even dumber rightwinger when fashions changed and helped cheerlead the War on Iraq. The former, though no doubt a good biologist and science writer, always had a nasty streak in him. I don’t think he’s ever written a book without putting in a dig at somebody.

But the real problem with militant atheism is that it operates in an ideological vacuum. Atheism, though it has been historically associated with the left, with socialism, is not a left nor rightwing thing anymore. Which means that in the professional atheist movement you have people who agree with each other on nothing but the idea that god doesn’t exist. And since it’s largely an internet movement, it is taken its shape from the biggest loudmouths on the web, which more often than not are rightwing/libertarian blowhards.

It’s no wonder that sexism, rape jokes and assorted bad behaviour is rampant in the “community”.

Minimise, Doubt, Excuse,Shift Blame

I’m sure somebody else will have written about this in a much more clever way, but when has that ever stopped me before? There has been an uptick in stories about harassment, sexual, racist, or just plain hassling the weirdo. These are all three examples of relatively mundane harassment, of the kind that is experienced on a daily basis by thousands of people, but which is relatively invisible to anybody not directly involved as either victim or bully, not being obviously outrageous stories of injustice. Reading these stories and the comments that they attracted, I began to notice something.

It’s of course no secret that any such story of harassment will attract skeptical commenters, who for some reason or another want to deny or excuse the harassment. Few of those, certainly not in the more enlightened environment of e.g. Metafilter, will excuse or agree with the racism or sexism directly. Instead, there are four main techniques which skeptics use to discredit bullying victims: Minimise, Doubt, Excuse and Shift Blame.

Minimise: don’t deny the incident, but deny its importance and the need to talk about it. (Frex) What this does should be obvious: if an incident isn’t worth talking about, it can’t be used as evidence of sexism, racism, bullying etc.

Doubt: just straight up start questioning whether the incident really happened or whether there is another side to the story (frex). This can be done under the guise of keeping an open mind, not wanting to judge on hearsay and “innocent until proven guilty” and all that good stuff, but what it really does is denying the victim their experiences.

Excuse: the other side of the doubt coin, explaining that there are reasons why what the victim thought was harassment wasn’t actually, or wasn’t intended as such, or couldn’t be helped. There are several examples of it in the Livejournal thread about the woman who was hassled at Readercon, with some commenters speculating that the harasser might have Aspergers or ADD or something. What this does is to again doubt a victim’s experiences as well as remove the responsibility for the bullying from the bully.

Finally, shift blame: it wasn’t the bully’s fault that this happened, it must have been something the victim did or did not do which made them do it. This is on full display in the thread about Stephen Mann, where he’s described as provocative and not telling the whole truth (doubt again). You also see this a lot with any story involving cops killing or harassing innocent people, where it seems to be as much fear as hatred driving people to argue that there must be something the victim did to deserve their treatment.

There’s one other technique that helps with each of the four main techniques to delegitimise experiences of harassment: nitpicking, doubting every detail of the story the victim tells. This works well because few people are able to be one hundred percent right or precise when writing down their experiences…

These are all techniques that should be known to anybody who has spent some time on internet threads about bullying, or police brutality, or any other story where you have people wanting to deny the reality of it, but I thought it would be good to write it down for a change, to make it explicit.

You know who worried about women wearing makeup?

some douchecopter telling women not to wear makeup

Amanda Marcotte talks about the latest trend of sincere, pouty men telling women not to wear so much makeup:

Apparently, this is just the most famous of a trend of young men writing signs extolling the joys of “natural” beauty and taking photos of themselves with these signs, complete with wounded expressions conveying the pain they feel because the women of the world get dressed in the morning without thinking first of the preferences of these guys’ specific cocks. It’s just the latest manifestation of a multi-decade long trend of men, who are invariably self-satisfied to an alarming degree, holding forth on why they hate make-up and think women should choose a “natural” beauty path instead. This sort of thing tends to be polarizing amongst women. The weak-minded amongst us buy it hook, liner, and sinker, swooning over these guys for their supposedly feminist-ish ways. The rest of us fly into a sputtering rage, because we know that this is just some more bullshit oppression dressed up as liberation.

You know who elses worried about women wearing too much makeup and abusing their natural beauty? The nazis every authoritarian regime in the world ever. No matter what the reasons for the objections where (makeup is offensive to god, Jewish decadence, a bourgeouis indulgence, unnatural, immodest, undsoweiter), it’s always about controlling women, just as much as the makeup and makeover industries are. If you’re worried about women being “forced” to wear high heels, it’s no improvement to make flat shoes mandatory.