How big is a mob anyway?

While I had more important things to post about today, I couldn’t let this post by Brad Torgersen go by without some comment. Having said that, this isn’t a Brad bashing piece. Rather, some of his comments got me thinking about some of the language we use (as well as touching on some questions about truth and evidence which is very much my briar patch).

Brad, somewhat late to the party, discusses Larry Correia’s disinvitation as Guest of Honour at Origins Game Fair. He summarises the problem as this:

“What’s concerning is that conventions — indeed, almost all institutions of various descriptions — are being placed in the position of either bending to the will of what are essentially mobs, or facing threats of both bad PR and, potentially, painful legal annoyance. In each case, the institutions almost always take the path of least resistance. It’s far easier to eject a guest who has attracted the mob’s attention, than stand your ground and endure the mob’s ire; as a “defender” of the alleged wrong-doer.”

‘Mob’ is doing a lot of work here. It is partly a way of making those who complain faceless & depersonalised and partly a way of making them seem irrational, angry & threatening. It is easy to characterise groups of people doing something as a ‘mob’ – for example, it would have been easy to call Sad Puppies ‘a mob’ or the Tor Boycott the action of a mob but the ease with which it can be done also demonstrates why it is largely an empty term.

But what about something like Gamergate? I can see why people use a term like ‘mob’ there but I am still worried that the term clouds issues more than it describes actions. The actual decisions made by people in Gamergate (or if you prefer some leftwing incident of many people acting on social media) were not those of an actual mass of people in physical proximity but rather many separate individuals making distinct decisions over long periods of time. I’m not trying to play dictionary definitions on the word ‘mob’ but rather trying to point out that ‘mob’ creates a misleading impression of the psychology and the community dynamics here.

In the case of the Origins Game Fair, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a mob of any kind. Larry Correia himself is blaming one person as the source of complaint but I’ve seen evidence of other, quieter concerns raised to the con.

“Mob” as a term primarily obscures. It hides the way social media forms out of individual action both negatively and positively. An individual who is told they were part of a social media mob can look back at their actions and think “No, I just made that one comment and it was a reasonable one” and yet the subject of the comment may genuinely feel mobbed. At the Gamergate end of this spectrum, direct, individual acts of malice are made to look like individual responsibility played no part.

The (often genuine) feelings of being mobbed comes from the volume and the individuals making comments are often unaware of how they contribute to that volume.

An examples that crosses the Puppy/Puppyologist divide would be the recent brouhaha concerning the Romance author who is attempting to trademark the word ‘Cocky’ for her book series. I’ve written about it and Mad Genius have written about it and I don’t think there is much of a difference between our views on the issue. I’m sure the author concerned is feeling mobbed by the sheer scale of the response. It is unlikely she has read the Mad Genius posts on the topic and even more unlikely she has read my post but to some extent those posts all contribute. If our answer is ‘well she deserved it’ then I can see how that is a reasonable conclusion but that feeds into a different issue.

Brad raises other questions:

“None of this — in 2018 — happens without social media, of course. One might argue that Social Justice Zealotry could not exist without the anonymity and virility that social media provides. Pick your target from behind the safety of your keyboard, light the digital torch, rally your friends to the cause, and off you go to pillory whichever offending party suits your fancy this week. Proof? A preponderance of evidence? P’shaw!”

I’m not going to pick through the obvious hypocrisy of Brad’s complaint there — if we lived in a world in which Brad reflected on the faults he sees in others and whether they applied to themselves, then I’d have far fewer blog post topics.

Rather, it is worth asking about standards of evidence. Rather absurdly, Brad compares the con’s decision to the work of a military ‘seperation board’:

“Thank goodness separation boards don’t rely on the mob’s methods. Because when I am sitting down with my fellow officers to review a case, we’re all poignantly aware of the fact that we’re holding somebody’s career in our hands. We are not a court martial, so we can’t determine anyone’s guilt or innocence of a crime. But we can determine if the evidence of misconduct — not necessarily criminal in nature — does warrant severing the servicemember, and what the character of that severing should be. Because any discharge below honorable carries potentially life-long, negative consequences for the servicemember in question. And when something’s going to stick with somebody for the rest of their lives in a bad way, there better damned well be plenty of proof that it’s necessary, and justified.”

Again, self-reflection would probably help Brad see that, no, the standard of evidence that people should feel they need to have before commenting on social media about a con’s choice of guest should NOT be required to be of the same standards of evidence as a board convened to determine whether somebody should lose their full-time job. But that does not imply we should have no standards of evidence or truth.

Baseless accusations are not a good thing but we also can’t hold all truth claims to some sort of court-of-law standard either or even the standards of a HR function of a major institution*. To shift contexts slightly, there is a problem of regress here – imagine a company with some sort of grievance policy. The policy has to have at least two standards of evidence:

  • The standard used for the company to act on a complaint by one employee about another.
  • The standard used by the company to regard an employee’s complaint as reasonable.

The second standard has to be less than the first standard because employees need to be able to make complaints without undertaking the same due-process/evidence gathering/discussions that the complaint process uses. Indeed, there needs to be a third standard: the evidence needed for the company to regard a complaint as malicious or frivolous.

The same is true for reporting something to the police. It’s unreasonable to demand that somebody reporting something to the police should have ascertained the level of evidence needed for a trial. It’s unreasonable (indeed absurd) for the police to need that level of evidence to decide whether to investigate a possible crime. However, there has to be SOME standard because people make malicious complaints to harass others and there are obvious (and sometimes deadly) instances of the police acting on the basis of very poor quality information and/or prejudice.

There’s no easy answers at the end of this. To not just be truthful but to be concerned about the truth is a moral imperative. To consider the collective impact of our individual actions is also a moral imperative. That there are social consequence for bad (but not illegal) behaviour is part of how societies work. That there is no one-size-fits-all standard for evaluating the truth of a claim before commenting on the claim is a logical necessity.

*[Only afterwards did I see that calling the US Army a ‘major institution’ was a pun.]

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64 responses to “How big is a mob anyway?”

  1. “One might argue that Social Justice Zealotry could not exist without the anonymity and virility that social media provides.” In contrast, of course, to the completely rational blogging of conservatives (he said sarcastically).
    In the wider political world, versions of Torgenson’s argument crop up among conservatives who are normally adamant that a company can hire, fire, promote or demote anyone they choose. Except if they do any of that because someone’s conservative (variously including anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Islam), then it’s wrong!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I find Brad’s lack of self-awareness amazing.

    Having said that, an as a former military officer myself (US Navy) I get personally cranked every time Brad refers to the military for conduct of civilian business. I feel he’s using the military as a shield.

    Brad seems to be under the impression that these cons, once a complaint was filed, did no independent investigation or decision-making. They (in Brad’s mind) just said “somebody complained, so we’re helpless to do anything but kick the guest out.” It assumes that the only people with any sort of moral fiber or agency are Brad and his friends.

    Liked by 6 people

    • It (his lack of self-awareness) is so extreme that it strikes me as some kind of psychological defense mechanism. (NB: I am not a psychologist.) For example, his coining of CHORF (Cliquish Holier-than-thou Reactionary Fanatics) to describe that portion of fandom (i.e., pretty much all of it) opposed to the Puppies’ attempt to game the Hugos, to which the only conceivable reaction (well, after “Does Brad not know what these words mean?”) is: “You do realize you’re describing the Puppies, right?

      Liked by 4 people

      • Silly Phil. Being hypocritical is what other people do, not the long-suffering Puppies fighting for freedom and justice!

        Liked by 2 people

      • At least Mr Torgerson always has a decent alternative career ahead of him – with a talent for projecting like that, he’s probably welcome in any cinema in the USA.

        Liked by 2 people

      • @megpie: Not any cinema. Some of them show artsy movies with unhappy endings, or in foreign languages, and ones with LGBT people, women who don’t do everything men say, non-Christians, people who don’t like guns, PoC and even Democrats!!1!!

        But there are still large swaths where he could happily be employed.


  3. Only afterwards did I see that calling the US Army a ‘major institution’ was a pun.
    Just as long as you don’t generalize it…

    Liked by 5 people

  4. 2 or 3 thoughts.

    First, I’m not quite sure what this sentence means (I suspect you dropped a word): “At the Gamergate end of this spectrum, direct, individual acts of malice are made to look like individual responsibility played no part.”

    Second, Brad’s reference to a preponderance of the evidence got up my nose, that same way John Ringo’s claims about libel and slander (without apparently knowing the difference between the two) got up my nose: as a former lawyer, mis-use of legal terms frustrates me. A preponderance of the evidence is an evidentiary standard used IN A COURT OF LAW, not by a con committee. In fact, in the US private actors have many rights that criminal and civil courts do not. Non-public employers have very broad rights to fire anyone they want to, on no grounds at all. The only exceptions are in cases where there’s an employment contract (whether by way of a union or otherwise), or where the employee is a member of certain protected groups. So, if I was an employer, I could fire someone because I didn’t like their necktie, or their smell, or the fact that they behaved like a shitheel. I couldn’t fire someone because they were African-American and in some states because they were LGBTI, because those are, or may be, protected classes of people.

    In the case of Larry Correia, right-leaning white authors with grossly-enlarged senses of self-entitlement is NOT a protected class. Even more to the point, Mr. Correia was, so far as I can tell, dis-invited because the gaming con decided that having him be GOH would cost them the support of people they wanted to attend. The free market in action. And Brad T.’s lecture on the mobbing he perceives is a walking, talking example of un-reflective privilege speaking. (I was going to say white male privilege, but decided that might just possibly be an unfair characterization…we’ll see).

    As HST used to say, Selah.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Yeah, just after I posted that comment, I realized the point you were making. Once again I’ve managed to demonstrate my inability to actually think *before* posting.

        But I wonder whether any use of the word ‘mob’ clouds analysis of any particular situation. I suspect that your objections to the use of it in an internet encounter could also be applied to a physical encounter. Imagine a typical violent mob occurrence: a lynching, a riot, a looting, whatever. Any use of the word ‘mob’ to describe it both a) obscures the individual responsibility held by each participant for their various (and varied) actions; and b) allows the person who uses the word to deny the individuality of each participant, often in a demeaning and reductive manner thereby diminishing the result of the event, whatever the event might be. For example, Black Lives Matter aren’t protesting, they’re mobbing the police. Or, alternatively, lynchings weren’t really about power and race, they were “mob justice”, thus denying the individual responsibility of each person who participated.

        I may be saying something you already have said. If so, I apologize.


        • I think that is a relevant question but I think whatever issues there maybe with using the term to describe a physical group of people, those issues are more pronounced with a virtual group. In particular, a person within a physical group can see that they are part of a mass of people, whereas a person on social media has a much poorer understanding of the numbers involved.

          My post yesterday on that UK journalist who wrote the silly stuff about only arts graduates criticising Jordan Peterson for example. Only after I’d posted that did I realise quite how many people had posted similar criticisms of what she had written – if I’d realised earlier (and probably it was obvious) I would have been less likely to write something (not to spare the journalists feelings – I think an opinion writer for national newspapers should expect responses – but because it would have felt redundant).

          In a more positive light, imagine somebody calling for help. If it was in real life, people coming to help would see that the person was already being assisted and move on, whereas online we aren’t as aware of how many others have already offered. Hence the dangers of asking for advice on the internet!


    • For rightwing libertarian types, the free market is always right, unless the free market decides that it does not want them or whatever they’re selling.

      Liked by 3 people

    • “Mr. Correia was, so far as I can tell, dis-invited because the gaming con decided that having him be GOH would cost them the support of people they wanted to attend. The free market in action. ”

      Unless there’s been a subsequent development I missed (was there?), the con chair’s public statement was that, while aware of social media objections to the con honoring Larry Correia as a GoH there, he withdrew the invitation because of private communications he received from exhibitors and vendors who normally support the con and who thought Correia was a problematic choice for GoH.

      (So the “free market in action” argument seems even more apt, in light of that statement.)

      Liked by 3 people

      • The money people said no, it’d impact their business. And when the sponsors say no, you either say no or go out of business. The free market indeed has spoken.

        As a small businessman, LC ought to understand that. It seems to be other Pups and Scraps who are getting all outraged “on his behalf” and (as usual) being mistaken or lying about why the invite was pulled.

        It wasn’t an SJZ person or mob — it was good ol’ capitalist sponsors saying Nope.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. They don’t like women demanding safe working conditions and no discrimination at conventions. The fact that women and allies are doing this more and more (demanding codes of conduct and that the codes of conduct be consistently applied,) because otherwise women continue to face very real discrimination and harassment issues at conventions, pisses them off and leads them to characterize women as a mob, extremists, liars and fakers, overly emotional, etc. To admit that their behavior causes women discrimination problems and a hostile work environment at conventions, stuff that the men don’t have to endure and thus is also unequal, would be to change their views, which would mean that their views were out-dated, fallible and harming others. Which would mean that they were not superior, righteous, fair, etc. So even if it harms the future prospects of their daughters in the world, they won’t consider it, and instead, start mouthing off a lot of sexist tripe that is probably more extreme than their personal beliefs started out as being, just to stick it to those they see as coming after them (trying to get them to change views and behavior that is harmful and discriminatory,) rather than deal with the problems those folks are actually pointing out.

    In LC’s case, it was game vendors and exhibitors who didn’t want him there because they felt his behavior indicated he would be bad for their businesses at the games convention. And this was because of LC’s behavior towards women authors (accusing them of fraud on the Hugos for starters, etc.,) his involvement with the Gamergaters (bringing them into the Sad Puppies campaign,) and what he’s said online about people. Plus, his not real responsible views on guns probably didn’t help and past behavior at previous conventions that they knew about probably didn’t help. If LC wants to market his game unit at games conventions, then it would make a lot more sense for him to try and make amends with these vendors and exhibitors and alleviate their concerns about him than it does to have his buddies call them a mob.

    Game vendors are not that liberal a group on average, so if they were upset by LC’s behavior, declaring them social justice zealots is also not going to fly. I guess they could claim that the vendors caved into some mob, except there really wasn’t time for that to occur. Of all the recent cases, LC’s had the least possible mob lead time available. It seems to have been more that the vendors and exhibitors consider Gamergate to have been a mob, and thus, LC’s association with it and Gamergate-like expressed views and behavior bad for their business just as Gamergate has been.

    And it does seem to be that those anti-civil rights groups have finally figured out that calling people social justice warriors as an insult was not actually an insult and their trying to use it as one made them look foolish and discriminatory. So now they are indeed going to go with Social Justice Zealots, trying to indicate that civil rights stances are “extremist.” That isn’t going to fly either and it’s even more entertaining as a moniker, but it at least makes more sense. It’s what they used to call MLK and all the other protesters, so at least it’s a golden oldie.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I suspect that BT’s definition of “mob” amounts to “any group of any size that disagrees with me, including groups that have only one member”.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I wish it provided me with virility. I get just as anxious arguing online as I do in person…


    • So that’s why they want the wimminz to shut up online. They’re worried about us getting virility and losing our girlish figures! I didn’t know testosterone could be administered through the intarwebs. Learn something new every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ringo told a woman he was looking at her breasts at a public panel in front of numerous witnesses and admits that he did it himself, trying to discriminate against and harm women authors and women attendees. Evans strokes a woman author’s arm and tells her that her pretty looks is what will cause her to sell books at a public book signing in front of scads of witnesses, and he admits that he did it as well. This is not professional behavior, it certainly isn’t equal behavior. It’s no different than them getting drunk and screaming at people at a public event. And those were just the most public behaviors that they did.

    But it’s the position of these people that any past behavior they did should not have any consequences of others not wanting to deal with them, despite the messes they make at events. That such behavior should not count because they didn’t misbehave at some other convention so everyone just has to wait and see if they are going to piss the pool or not at the next one, and that even though this interferes with other people’s businesses and careers and hurts the conventions, they get to go cause trouble if they feel like it. And if women feel threatened and harassed from having to continually deal with this sort of thing, well, we’re apparently not really people anyway and we’re just supposed to endure it, including women content creators who are trying to work at a convention.

    And then there’s all the stuff they’ve said online, which is a written, public record. Of homophobic slurs, accusing other authors of vote tampering on an award, attempting to swat people, harassing people with a constant stream of unwanted emails, doxing, etc. They seem to think if they just keep denying it that written records and objections to them will just disappear. And that will certainly happen with maybe Trump supporters or white supremacists, who will happily forget or excuse anything if they think your and their goals align, but it’s not necessarily going to work with convention organizers. Or game vendors, or women content creators who have been trying for decades to get decent working conditions at conventions, like say, men not touching them without their consent all the time or sneering at them about their genitalia at a panel. Or, in LC’s case, signing up with a movement that was built on an easily proven lie and did absolutely nothing but harass women online for a couple of years, including a bomb threat.

    It’s not the 1970’s anymore. That convention culture is gone, or at least on its way out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • ” That such behavior should not count because they didn’t misbehave at some other convention so everyone just has to wait and see if they are going to piss the pool or not at the next one,” Like the Roy Moore defender who pointed out there were lots of young women Moore hadn’t hit on why wasn’t that counted in his favor.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. But there is some of the psychological factors of social media is like a mob. The desire to fit in with a group you respect, like or want to be a part of, is a an important factor. This is obvious where there is piling on of bullying, but it is also obvious elsewhere. You look around (virtually) and have a strong impetus to say that you agree with the group you like. In Vox Days commentariat it is very obvious, but you see it here also (but too a much lesser degree since the host Iikes rational argument). I certainly often feel it without thinking when I visit websites I like.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry for bad grammar, and maybe being unclear. I am lying in my bed being tired.


    • Yes – in group identity and peer pressure and desire for acceptance. Mind you those can be factors in other kinds of collective bullying that aren’t a mob as such ( at school for example with frequent and pervasive but low level teasing and social isolation that amounts to a severe effect on the victim)


      • Yes, but one thing that a mob has in common with for example a twitterstorm is the building realtimeness (if anybody understand what I mean).


    • And there can be accidental piling on, when many people want to address the same point or commenter. It isn’t meant to be overwhelming, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling so at the time or looking so afterwards.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s almost like we need a statistical mechanics of psychology. I wonder, if you invented that, could you use it to predict the stock market?

    Liked by 2 people

      • Seems like a bit of a Hari proposition to me. I mean, there’s always going to be someone Mulish enough not to go along with it.

        Liked by 4 people

      • I’ll repeat what I said at 770: has the BBC radio adaptation of the Foundation trilogy, eight hours worth. (Not to mention Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Bill the Galactic Hero, Peter Pan, Don Quixote, Crime and Punishment, The Name of the Rose, The Maltese Falcon, various books by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, Leslie Charteris, P.G. Wodehouse, Roald Dahl, Jane Austen, Michael Palin, and Jerome K. Jerome, some Cadfael stories, some Shakespeare, and the NPR Star Wars trilogy. Also some stuff that didn’t interest me particularly, I should add.)

        Liked by 5 people

  10. Except that in Larry’s case, there doesn’t seem to have been a mob. It appears that one person (who wasn’t even attending) made a flimsy complaint (or is known to have done so) and the Con immediately caved in. My guess is that someone inside the con had a beef with Larry over something, but the point is that in this case, there was no mob.


    • True, although I guess it isn’t unreasonable to speculate that fear of a bigger social media backlash may have motivated their decision. No direct evidence of that though.


    • I was under the impression that vendors who were most definitely attending had made comment, not that one person not attending had. A quick skim of the extended topic thread on File 770 doesn’t turn up hard evidence, though the original message speaks to those who brought up the issue, and I am disinclined to search the related Pixel Scrolls just to prove it, but I am skeptical it was one person unrelated to the con – the con in fact went out of its way to note that the majority of complaints and attacks they got about dropping Correia were from Non-attendees. I doubt under those circumstances that they’d have made such a drastic choice as dropping him based on one complainant who wasn’t showing up.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve also heard that several vendors complained behind the scenes, not just the one person who complained publicly, though that person IMO had a good reason to object to Larry Correia’s presence.


      • Well for them, it’s an organized conspiracy “mob” across conventions, held by separate industries to boot, which is deliberately trying to block them in their view. When it is actually people complaining that they are trying to block other attendees and content creators and vendors, for that matter, due to aggressive and harassing behavior both online and in real life, most of which goes to protect status quo discrimination. Their “side” have been vehemently opposed to codes of conduct at conventions and have routinely tested the limits of those codes with their behavior.

        They are not likely to get any more happy about conventions establishing consistent standards of behavior for a safer work and entertainment space as time goes by. Because this behavior has always been detrimental and discriminatory to a large number of people and those people are making use of their pocketbooks — they aren’t going to waste money on conventions that are actively filled with problems for them. They are going to complain, despite the risk of backlash. They are going to keep insisting that discriminatory and harassing behavior be addressed and dealt with, both in how a convention organizes including guests and how it operates during the event.

        And getting called names for it, like mob, isn’t going to make much of an impression when they’ve lived their whole lives being called names for what they are and when they insist they have equal rights and should be given equal opportunity and legal protection. It’s certainly not going to make an impression on vendors either.

        Liked by 3 people

    • greghullender: Except that in Larry’s case, there doesn’t seem to have been a mob. It appears that one person (who wasn’t even attending) made a flimsy complaint (or is known to have done so) and the Con immediately caved in.

      This is just untrue. The chair of Origins plainly stated:
      “I received emails from exhibitors and sponsors giving me insight into the controversy around this particular guest. I appreciate those of you that reached out to me. As a result, we removed him from the guest list yesterday.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Exactly. A lot of people (probably even men!), exhibitors and sponsors complained. Which means the free market has spoken. Sorry, Larry, live by capitalism, die by capitalism.

        Also, Gamergate damn well was a mob.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Also, the part about “giving me insight”, as well as the paragraph immediately prior where he says
        Frankly, I was unfamiliar with his work or his history until we posted our guest list yesterday. Honestly, our process to vet the author guest simply failed. Obviously that vetting process has my attention and is being revised.
        strongly suggests that the chair’s own judgment of LC’s behaviour – once he was made aware of it – was at least as important as the weight of outside pressure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was very informative. Thanks. Wish I’d known about it a few days ago. (I thought I’d already read all the communications from GAMA, so I didn’t even know to look for this.) The Reddit comments are unusually restrained. (Moderated, of course.)

        I think that clearly rules out the notion that there was any mob involved. This particular episode was very different from others we’ve seen.

        I wonder if it makes a difference that this conference is put on by the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA). It’s not really a fan con like WorldCon or Norwescon. Mr. Ward solicited the opinions of exhibitors and sponsors–not attendees. That is, he talked to people who make their money from gaming, and, presumably, expected to make money at the Con too.

        On the other hand, he doesn’t explicitly say that any of them complained, just that they gave him “insight” as to why Larry was controversial. I could believe this investigation of his was triggered by a single person’s complaint, but, as Johan says, once he got feedback (from people whose opinions mattered to him, that is), he made his own decision. The way the letter is worded, it doesn’t sound like he was under any pressure to do it at all. Just his own belief that honoring polarizing people would damage the con more than rescinding an invitation.

        There’s one really curious statement in here: “When this similar situation arose with the Hugo awards, his fan base assaulted social media.” I don’t recall a similar situation at the Hugos, but I gather he’s talking about Puppygate. Even so, I don’t remember anything that could be characterized as an attack on social media comparable to those requiring him to freeze the group’s Facebook account.

        He does weasel a little when he says that he got 20 critical letters but none from attendees, plus half a dozen supportive letters, but doesn’t say if they were attendees or not. That’s pretty small beer, though.

        That leads me to wonder about the situations where there was a “mob” involved. Ones that followed the sequence a) Announcement is made of a guest (or simply that someone is with a Con or some other organization) b) social-media attack is announced on that person c) (usually) organization defends the person d) attack intensifies e) Organization reverses itself and person is kicked out/withdraws. I’m sure I’ve seen this, but the allegations are almost always of sexual harassment or some other form of inappropriate public behavior. (E.g. the person who always talks over people when he’s on a panel.) I don’t think I’ve seen one where it was just about someone’s beliefs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is different for being a gaming con, which is going to actually have less effective codes of conduct because gaming is further back in transition to responsibility, but also is much more commercially focused. So if the vendors were unhappy, that was going to weigh a lot, especially since LC was apparently going to market a game unit based on his books, not simply his books.

        The disinvite was not, though, about his beliefs, but about his behavior — what he’s said on line, his attacks on other authors (accusing them of fraud, etc.) and his involvement through the Puppy campaign with Gamergate. Gamergate was a de-centralized mob, and LC invited them in and they did attack authors on social media because of that — Jemisin, Gerrold, Leckie, etc., and the Puppies joined in. They attacked editors at major publishers on social media. They pointed people to gripe at Kloos and Bellet who pulled out of nominations/their voting slate because they did not want to be involved with the Puppies and had been lied to about it. There were threats and harassment and accusations and Beale’s rabids that LC also brought in deliberately to harass people by his own admittance when he picked Beale for his slate (because Satan wasn’t available,) and involved him in making the slate and getting Gamergate interest in it.

        And while the gaming industry is no friend to women yet, that doesn’t change the fact that half their customer base are women and that women’s creative design involvement in gaming is increasing, with effort over discrimination. Women are critical to organizing and making a successful geek convention of any kind as well, for all that everybody keeps trying to erase their involvement and pretend that they are “recent” fans when they are not. And Gamergate’s only emergent goal was to try to drive women out of gaming, which was a futile gesture but nonetheless involved a lot of vicious harassment. (And still does — women journalists, bloggers and Tweeters are descended on by mobs for being critical of tech and gaming issues while men journalists, etc., barely get any flack for making the same criticism; it’s not the criticism, but that women dare to be women making it and assert their involvement and interest in anything.) And that’s a problem for gaming conventions, where there have been numerous incidents of sexual harassment, sexist harassment, racist harassment, etc. that are bad for business.

        And LC aligned himself with Gamergate, even if he tried to backtrack later. He sicked that crowd on the geek book world. And he’s continued to have an aggressive online presence in that direction, plus is seen as having a following of those involved in the alt right, Gamergate, etc. who might show up with him. So for vendors, they don’t need featured guests who are going to harass and drive away a lot of their customer base (as L. Resnick pointed out,) and that’s becoming much more important than preserving men’s egos. And we’re going to see this happening a lot more in a lot more conventions — vendors saying they have problems or are pulling out if someone whose behavior has been aggressive against large demographics is going to be a featured guest of the con. Because that says the con culture is hostile to women creators and attendees and will not be following a concrete and consistent code of conduct and that’s going to hugely impact the con.

        So what happened with the gaming con is going to be more frequent, where the business sector weighs in. There’s money in cosplay and they threw their weight to get codes of conduct because of the continual sexual harassment of women cosplayers. Having a con culture with prominent guests calling female actresses in geek productions feminazis and similar harassment means those actresses and their studios are going to throw their weight on a standard of conduct for multi-media cons they’re promoting at and where they are part of the big draws. And women attendees pay a lot of money for these cons and will throw their weight that they aren’t going to be cheated of their purchase by having to put up with some author talking about staring at their breasts, etc.

        The marketplace has changed. I think they don’t get it because Trump is president in the U.S. (and he certainly doesn’t get it.) But businesses — and even volunteer-run non-profit conventions are businesses and have businesses from authors to stores to giant corporations operating at their event — protect their six, eventually, and they can’t afford the damage of many of these people’s behavior. The conservatives may choose to see that as organized persecution — they usually do — but it is based on their behavior, which is very dated and harassing. (Note that the use of mob is to indicate “peasants” — the mob of peasants and serfs who would riot against their betters. It’s feudalism all the way down.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • A gaming convention (even tabletop) is going to be — or at least ought to be — especially sensitive to Gamergate associations. It gave gaming a very bad name among the general public, after years of them fighting for respectability, re-igniting the “violent unsocialized manchild living in mom’s basement” stereotype.

        Inviting someone who gleefully brought Gators into a non-gaming environment is bad PR for the big vendors who keep this con going. Bad PR leads to bad sales, and bad sales doom you in the market.

        GG was bad for business’ bottom line and therefore has been shunned by the pure capitalists.

        Follow the money.


  11. I’d say that what we’re seeing with people being banned, excluded, or disinvited from cons is that sf/f is coming VERY late to the concept, long common in many other communities, that ostracization is a reasonable reaction to people who, through words and/or behavior, cultivate a public persona of “abrasive asshole.”

    Liked by 4 people

  12. What the “you shouldn’t judge him/them/me based on his past” argument does its best to handwave is that inviting an author as a guest is also based mostly on his past. Cons invite guests because of past work, or because they were interesting speakers/panelists in the past, or because some past con attracted more attendees by inviting them.

    These aren’t blinded orchestra auditions, which can be based only on the performance at the time and what it predicts about the future. (“If someone plays the flute well at the audition, they’ll play well in front of the audience” is a belief based on the past, but not on the individual performer’s past performances.)

    Yes, if J. Q. Author is a guest at a con, they may well read from a story they wrote after they were invited to the con. But the reason people are going to a known author’s reading, and the reason cons give those reading slots to published writers rather than the first dozen locals who sign up, whether or not they’ve ever finished a story, is that their past record tells us that this person can write stories that some people want to read/hear.

    If you want to start from a clean slate, change your name and genre, and start self-publishing without telling anyone that “Flashy McNewname” is the same person as “Known Stfnal Writer.” Otherwise, your reputation as an easy or difficult person to work with, as a good or bad person to be on a panel with, a respectful person or a harasser, goes along with that list of published works.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Just got around to reading this, in the immediate aftermath of the Roseanne Barr implosion, with lots of cries that she’s being deprived of her free speech. But it’s the market again. According to an explainer I read, because the network didn’t own the show they were particularly dependent on ad revenue, so anything that might keep sponsors away was a direct threat to the bottom line. Not an SJW mob, but I bet the Pups & Scraps will play it that way.
    And have I said yet how much Correia, Torgersen, & any of their followers can fuck off? They drag the Gamergate Kulturkampf into my community, and despite failing at all their stated goals have done damage that will take many years to heal. And now apparently the same mob has traipsed along to comics & a new “gate” that I feel fortunate not to know about in depth. But once again it’s the eeevil feminazis & SJWs ruining the previously apolitical field that used to be a safe space for white guys.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Oops, forgot to address the actual post. It’s late here, and I’ve been partaking of a certain smokeable herbal remedy that is legal in my state, but I had some random thoughts:

    Things a physical mob and social media have in common:
    Behavior roused by hatred & fear
    Peer reinforcement
    A feeling of anonymity & subsumption of self because of numbers

    Things that are different:
    Social media mobs are much easier to get going.
    As you said, members of virtual mobs can be unaware of their sheer numbers
    The physicality of a real mob versus the unreality of social media: That is, while part of the black magic of mob behavior is the appeal of participation in the violence, social media dehumanizes by taking the physical people out of the equation. But that also makes it to some extent less satisfying to the participants, and the desire to inflict pain on one’s perceived enemies is thus never fully sated.

    No idea whether this makes any sense to people who study human behavior, but I’m probably more qualified to talk about this than Jordan Peterson is to discuss the inner lives of lobsters.


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