About that Star Wars boycott

Chuck Wendig misses the point when he talks about the efficiency of the too few white people in this movie Star Wars boycott:

Okay, first, let’s talk about the efficacy of such a hashtag, which is to say, it will have literally no effect at all. You’re throwing pebbles at mountains, bro. Boycotting Star Wars is like boycotting the sun. It will do nothing. The sun will keep on shining. Its heat will remain radiant and globally present. It will remain at the center of this space and we will continue to orbit it in an elliptical manner. Your efforts will have no meaningful result except to reveal yourself as a cruddy dingleberry dangling from fandom’s ass-hairs.

Showing that you’re an arsehole is of course the whole reason for this boycott in the first place, whether it really is a 4chan troll or not. In the cesspool of American rightwing politics being obnoxious, hateful and dumb are positive qualities and there’s an ongoing competition to lower the bar. Boycotting the new Star Wars movie because it now contains some actual people of colour fits in perfectly. If you want a career as a rightwing pundit or politician, you have to earn your pay churning out this sort of low grade idiocy to show you’re willing, without anybody but the dumbest part of the base expecting anything to come from it. In fact, that would even be counterproductive as the whole lifecycle of rightwing politics depends on recycling the same old issues in different mutations to keep the base hyped up and unhappy. Actually achieving something interferes with that.

Intersectionality is just another word for solidarity

I’m always leery of arguments like this, that want to dismiss the different axises of oppression various groups of people struggle with in favour of some vulgar marxist idea of the working class and not asking too many questions. Too often this has been used by alter kakkers to just dismiss any struggle that doesn’t fit in their century and a half old ossified world view:

Where people on the left should be focussed on what unites us, us here referring to the working class rather than the left in general (lol, as if that’s going to happen), as workers -the foundations from which we can build the new society- we now see attempts to stratify through definition the working class under the guise of intersectional analysis. An intersectional analysis is a useful tool to have in one’s box if one is studying Sociology or writing academic papers but in the real world it doesn’t translate well, not well at all. In fact one of the reasons that I began my abstention from generalised political activity was the emergence of this approach -along with the increasing popularity of privilege politics- as I saw early on that the praxis that would develop from this approach would inevitably see a return to the embarrassing ‘hierarchy of oppressions’ which permeated the radical politics of the 1970s/80s (before my time -I’m not that old!).

He may not be that old, but his criticisms are. There’s always been a tension within socialism about how to define the struggle. Rightwing socialists tend to define it narrowly, purely as the struggle of the working classes against the bourgeois and anything that isn’t directly related to that struggle as a distraction. Depending on the decade — or century — you’re talking about this could mean feminism, civil rights, gay rights, or today, intersectionality and online activism.

The leftwing has always defined the struggle much more broadly. There’s a long and proud tradition within socialism and communism of not just fighting for the rights of (white) working men, but also recognised from the start that you can’t build a classless society when half the population is still powerless because of their gender, that it’s immoral to let the welfare of the British worker depend on the continuing exploitation of the Indian worker. So there’s always been a strain in socialism that defined the struggle much broader than just defending workers’ rights, that strived for an utopia for all people.

That is intersectionality pur sang and the thing about it is that it works both ways. There’s always a tendency to assume that these causes always distract from your own, much more worthy and important one, but intersectionality also gets you allies. That’s what happened in 1984 when at the height of AIDS paranoia stoked homophobia a group of London gay men and lesbians reached out and supported the South Wales Miners Strike:

Both groups were canny enough to understand that they struggled against the same oppression. The gay and lesbian activists recognised the police violence and oppression the miners were subjected to from their own experiences with them and believed in solidarity enough to not just recognise it, but take action. And the miners reprociated, send delegations to Gay Pride, supported them in their struggle. It was of course mocked by the establishment — now the perverts support the pits, as The Sun put it.

But you might say, gay liberation, strikes, those are real political actions, real causes, not frivolity like what I’m talking about, but that was far from the mainstream view back in 1984. So many socialists for so long saw homosexuality as a capitalist perversion, not as part of their struggle, not something that could be easily portrayed in terms of class struggle. And that’s why this bloody cartoon included in the post annoys me so much:

cartoon by RednBlackSalamander

Not just because it’s a lazy cheap shot and doesn’t understand that in 2015 it’s really hasn’t been possible for at least a decade to pretend that that online space is less important than offline spaces. No, it’s because I’m old enough to know that all the examples of worthy causes given here –take back the night, ending rape culture, lgbt rights — would have been ridiculed and dismissed as fauxtivism and middle class vanities not too long ago. It’s breathtakingly ignorant.

Now AW Hendry started his post by mocking the Sad Puppies, which is how I stumbled upon it, thanks to Mike Glyer’s sterling work rounding up Puppy related material. He used it as his example of how people waste time with online activism and throughout his piece the unspoken assumption is made that online doesn’t matter and economic considerations should be much more important than cultural fights like this. What this misses is that, even apart from the simple fact that quite a few of us now live our lives as much online as in the real world, online follows you home — ask Zoe Quinn or any other SWATting victim. What he also misses is that the struggle over the Hugos is more than just the misplaced vanity of a few rightwing culture warriors: as Kameron Hurley explained, the Hugos meant she got $13,000 more in her post-Hugo book advance.

Not the highest of stakes perhaps, but for your average struggling writer that is a large chunk of money. I also have the suspicion for at least some of the ringleaders, this kerfuffle is a way to help themselves to some of that sweet, sweet wingnut welfare. People like Tom Krautman or Dave Freer may seem dangerously unhinged to normal people, but they’d fit in well with Vox Day’s old haunt, Worldnet Daily. Voxy himself of course is trying to establish his vanity press as a serious rightwing proposition and arguably does all this for the publicity. Which means for him at least it’s not the winning that’s important, it’s keeping the fight going, the better to keep fleecing suckers.

Two faced Tor

Irene Gallo calls the Puppies what they are: nazis

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:

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.

It’s never pleasant when puppies project

This really is a disgusting accusation from Brad Torgersen:

Mr. Sandifer, if you truly believe that a book like ANCILLARY JUSTICE or a story like “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere” did not benefit from a tremendous groundswell of affirmative-action-mindedness, you’re not paying attention. Please phone me when you’re interesting in discussing diversity beyond a skin-deep level. Quote Larry Niven: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently.

Especially when you remember the drek Torgersen democratically choose for his supporters to put on the Sad Puppy slate. Which turned out to mainly function as cover for the Rabid Puppy slate run by a serial failure to promote his buddy John C. Wright and his new vanity press.

But it’s a good example of the sort of rightwing projection the Pups are prone too and all too familiar for anybody who was around for the heyday of warblogging –remember that– or the 2008-now freakout after a black man got elected president. I’m not sure at this point if this is done deliberately, or whether it’s completely subconscious on Torgersen’s part to accuse his enemies of behaving like, well, himself. It’s coupled to that other rightwing trait of just refusing to believe people can like other things than you, in its purest form best seen whenever proper football (ie soccer) is making inroads in America again as some pundit pops a gear and start sputtering that surely nobody truly American can enjoy this and it’s all a liberal plot to undermine the moral fabric of the country?

Speaking of projection, here’s Sarah Hoyt showing some rare self knowledge:

We’ve seen the same effect over and over again with people who comment on blogs (clears throat) both cultural and political, and even historical and that, no matter how often they’re proven wrong, keep coming back and stating the same thing they said in different words, as though that would make it true. They seem incapable of processing challenges, doubts, or even factual disproof of their charges.

Or wait, my bad, she actually meant people like the commenters at File 770. Because after all it was they who put forward ridiculous conspiracy theories about why their favourite sf writers didn’t win Hugos, engaged in an organised ballot stuffing campaign, invent their own jargon of “glittery hoohas” (completely misused), Social Justice Warriors and “whole word readers” to sneer at anybody asking questions or noticing inconsistencies and seem incapable of evaluating any sort of science fiction in any way other than as political propaganda, right?

Asking SF readers to try something new is asking for trouble

K. Tempest Bradford has a modest proposal for (science fiction) readers ot broaden our reading horizons:

The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take. You could, like Lilit Marcus, read only books by women or, like Sunili Govinnage, read only books by people of color. Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities.

Science fiction readers responded to this with the openmindedness and willingness to explore new things for which they’re kno-oh gods who am I kidding:

Recently I wrote a thing which brought all the trolls to the yard. I’m used to it, but I wondered what it would look like if I just started saving the hateful tweets people send me in one place. Hateful being attacks on me personally, name calling, threats, etc.

The repeated chorus of how racist or sexist it is to not read white male authors is followed by racist, sexist slurs is …precious. Horrifying but unsurprising to see the slurs, but do these people actualy understand “racist” and “sexist” have an actual meaning?

Sady Puppy wrangler Larry Correia contributed his own very special brand of stupid (from File 770):

But the ironic thing about that picture? Tempest is wearing a Dr. Who shirt. A TV show about a white man and his white female sidekick, created by some white men, with episodes written by… Neil Gaiman.

Never mind that the good Doctor has also had a black British sidekick, or regularly has had adventures with a lesbian lizard woman from the dawn of time and her companion, the idea that reading only writers of colour or only women for a year meaning that you swear off all white men is just so incredibly dumb that you hope Larry doesn’t believe it himself, but you fear he does.

Professional kulturkampfers like Correira of course have to oppose anything that smacks of enlightment, but is it really too much to ask from grownups to stop being so incredibly defensive and be open to new reading experiences?