Fascinating

There’s a side-topic I’m trying to avoid (badly) covering mainly because it is 80% changing the subject from the actually topic du-jour i.e. shitty behaviour by authors in SFF and comics towards other people — mainly (but not limited to) sexual harassment and sexually exploitative behaviour. I more than alluded to it in this post because of the 20% of it that isn’t changing the subject (shitty behaviour in a community and how a community should respond without itself being shitty).

This post isn’t the post that I’m not writing but just a note to myself. The note is simply* pointing at a recent Mad Genius Club post by Dave Freer: https://madgeniusclub.com/2020/06/29/a-bonfire-of-vanities/ Which is fascinating in that it clearly is inspired by the current events in the science fiction community but is very firmly centred on the 80% changing the subject aspect of it.

That is fascinating. Put another way, people who we know have been demonstrably and outspokenly hostile to well being, peace and prosperity of the science fiction community would really like to change the subject from powerful male authors (none of whom they like, indeed Myke Cole is actively hated by the Puppies) being held to account.

*[OK not “simply” because I couldn’t help editorialising.]

51 thoughts on “Fascinating

  1. “I’m wondering how long before they come for books, and the authors.” Ah, the classic right-wing stance that they are being persecuted like the martyrs of old. Death panels! FEMA concentration camps! Obama rounding up the guns and turning black street gangs into his private storm troopers! Conservatives being criticized, which is exactly like what happened to the Jews in Germany!
    As Mike says, it ties into the realization that they’re a dwindling minority. And to the Moral Majority, Fox News and countless other sites convincing them that when they don’t get the government policies they want or get criticized for what they say, it’s exactly like a holy war!

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  2. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about both the main topic and some of the side topics since this started. I’m am really fascinated about the fact that a blog post I wrote back in 2015 on the topic of trying to reconcile a writer whose work we love with learning that they have treated a lot of people horribly has been getting more clicks nearly day since this latest thing blew up than all other posts being clicked on those days put together….

    …and I want to write something new because, well, I don’t think I did a very good job with that post now that I re-read it five years on. 😛

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  3. I don’t think it’s that complicated. Freer sees white male authors being canceled and has a visceral reaction against it. He does not see, or care to see, a difference between cancelling terrible people who commit literal abuse and cancelling people who are politically wrong. (If anyone here is going to tell me that being politically wrong is literal abuse, don’t bother. The pig likes it.)

    This is not a rare phenomenon. In the Orthodox Jewish community, for example, there are those who view people convicted of crimes, like Sholom Rubashkin, as victims of antisemitism. For all that Freer and his ilk decry identity politics, they react in exactly the same way when it’s their identity seemingly under attack.

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  4. For that matter, go look at the “Rhetorical Questions” comments and see how much energy was spent trying to change the subject from “looting is bad and should be stopped.” Motes and beams.

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    1. Disregard. Found the link. And could care less about the opinion of someone who thinks “looting” is the important issue that’s come up during the riots police murders have instigated.

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  5. Freer: We – on the outside – did nothing. Left the new piagnoni to eat themselves. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    A Puppy claiming to speak for everyone, quelle suprise. 🙄

    His conflation of Requires Hate and her little cult of abusive personality with the people who are actually speaking up against abuse is just bizarre.

    And the last part, warning of a conspiracy to take over Amazon and banks, and advocating for the return of arranged marriages and dowries, is truly a WTF.

    I’m sure that the essay makes sense to him inside his head. It would be fascinating to have someone disinter the missing links that would transform the essay from a series of non-sequiturs into a diagram of his thought process.

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    1. I’m thinking some of those links are going to have to pass through hyperspace or another dimension or somesuch to actually connect up.

      As for arranged marriages — you and yours first, Dave. How many goats are your daughters worth, do you think?

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    2. It’s probably completely coincidental, but I’ve just in the past couple days seen Twitter drama relating to Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate/Winterfox/et al.. Seems the Internet cancellation term is up, now that it’s been almost half a decade, and she is resurfacing. Hopefully in a less toxic form.

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      1. That’s pretty much the 80% topic I’m avoiding. She’s not really any more present than she has been for years, just that for various reasons the topic has become present again.

        Like I said, there’s a 20% that’s relevant and an 80% that’s a distraction from holding a different set of shitty be people accountable.

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    1. Even gigantic megacorporations and militaries (things RW’ers usually love) are providing at least lip service to non-racism. So they’re farther behind the zeitgeist than usual.

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      1. Organisations have to actually operate and racism gets in the way of people working together — so you either have to embrace it and be a shitty racist organisation or tackle it which eventually means even quite regressive organisations start shifting their stance.

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  6. My cousins on my father’s side of the family are Hasidic Jews, so they all have arranged marriages. As far as I can tell, it works out fine. My cousins have been married for decades and are all great-grandparents now, and everyone seems as happy as my more typically married friends. There are certainly far fewer divorces.

    Some years ago, my wife and I were at the wedding of one of my once-removed cousins, and we sensed a weird vibe in the air. Finally, my aunt told us that everyone was worried because the bride had “picked him herself”! Everything turned out OK there too, though.

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    1. hyrosen: My cousins on my father’s side of the family are Hasidic Jews, so they all have arranged marriages. As far as I can tell, it works out fine. My cousins have been married for decades and are all great-grandparents now, and everyone seems as happy as my more typically married friends. There are certainly far fewer divorces.

      We don’t see inside other peoples’ marriages, and we have absolutely no idea what goes on in them. Far too many times now I’ve seen marriages where “everything seems fine” and “everyone seems happy” — and then after people die or get divorced, I’ve found out about profound domestic abuse or spouses who spent decades in an unhappy marriage and couldn’t get out, due to financial or social pressures. My own grandparents were one example of that.

      In my own marriage, I did not talk to other people about what was going on. That was partly because I had too much pride to acknowledge that I had made a huge mistake, and partly because I had made a bunch of sacrifices for my spouse’s career which damaged my own career and left me with extremely limited financial options for survival on my own. I was trapped in what seemed like a “no way out” situation, and anything that angered my spouse resulted in worse emotional consequences for me, so in public and in private I put on a smile and pretended that everything was fine.

      There have been a lot more divorces in recent decades. That’s not because more marriages have failed. It’s because stigma against divorce has lessened and there are more financial support options available for single parents than there were decades ago, so more failed marriages are actually ending in divorce.

      It’s my understanding that divorces in the Orthodox Jewish community are strongly looked down on and come with a huge quantity of social condemnation as well as possible severe consequences such as losing all access to one’s children. I would not recommend making the mistake of assuming that what appears to be a happy arranged marriage actually is one.

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      1. In other areas, liberals like social condemnation and severe consequences. Of course some marriages experience abuse and need to be ended, and I know nothing about your own circumstances, but look – in the US, you’ve got a huge population of people who are angry and resentful and can’t be bothered to wear a mask during a pandemic where the disease is passed through droplets. You’ve got people who drive enormous SUVs despite global warming. You’ve got people who eat meat (myself included) despite factory farming. You’ve got people who use their power and position to abuse subordinates. It’s abundantly obvious that having everyone act to maximize their own satisfaction and happiness can be miserable for society as a whole. The same is going to be true for marriage.

        Marriages aren’t for making each partner happier than they would have been alone – that’s a desired outcome, but by no means guaranteed. They are for building families so that the burdens of life can be shared and balanced, so that one partner can pick up slack when another is unable to work, and to provide a stable place for children to be reared and for elderly parents to be cared for. Having external social pressure to stay in a marriage helps preserve these good aspects, and provides glue to hold things together that might otherwise fall apart.

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      2. hyrosen: In other areas, liberals like social condemnation and severe consequences… Having external social pressure to stay in a marriage helps preserve these good aspects, and provides glue to hold things together that might otherwise fall apart.

        The external social pressure, social condemnation, and severe consequences you mention have been used for decades — centuries — to oppress women, to force them to serve as breeding cows and domestic servants, to force them to serve everyone else’s needs but their own, to force them to submit to abuse. You may consider that an acceptable price for “holding things together that might otherwise fall apart”. I do not. But then, you’re not the one having to pay that price, which is no doubt why it seems reasonable to you.

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      3. For an excellent look at Orthodox Jewish attitudes toward divorce (and other things) see the TV series “Unorthodox.” Woman is married to a man who has no understanding of who she is, nor any plans to find out, she escapes, the community sends a detective to find her and bring her back.

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      4. “Marriages aren’t for making each partner happier than they would have been alone.”

        Excuse me, but that is exactly the point of being in a committed relationship, because otherwise why bother? Thankfully, women no longer have to get married for economic security and men never did.

        If you want children (and not everybody does), it is better if there is more than one parent to raise a child. The combination of genders or whether the parents are officially married or not does not matter all that much, but two parents in a committed relationship generally are better than one. Though strong family or community support can help, even if there is only one parent.

        And it definitely is better for the children if the parents actually care for each other and are happy with each other rather than staying together just because it’s expected.

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      5. “They are for building families so that the burdens of life can be shared and balanced, so that one partner can pick up slack when another is unable to work, and to provide a stable place for children to be reared and for elderly parents to be cared for.”

        Might be so in the US, but in Sweden we have a well-fare state instead.

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    2. “Marriages aren’t for making each partner happier than they would have been alone”

      When you look back and wonder at what point you lost all credibility forever, it was when you said this.

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  7. @JJ And you sound like all those MRAs who rail against marriage because they claim that their wives took everything away from them and then made them pay alimony, and that men should never get married because the system is hopelessly biased against them.

    If you insist on seeing every social institution, whether it’s marriage or the founding of America, as rooted in deliberate ugliness and degradation, I can’t stop you, but you’re setting yourself up for a life lived in misery, where everything is torn down and nothing is built in its place, leaving rubble in its wake.

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    1. I suspect I’m a lot more anti-marriage than JJ is. I am in favour of committed relationships, but I don’t like marriage as a legal institution and decided for myself at a young age that I would never get married. That said, I know many happy marriages and also many unhappy ones. Just as I know many happy and committed couples who never officially got married. And my life is not miserable, thank you very much.

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      1. In America the laws are written such that being legally married carries a whole ton of extra rights as opposed to simply being a long-term committed couple who’ve bought a house, raised kids, etc. That’s why the gay community fought so hard for it.

        I’ve known lots of people who were in committed partnerships for decades who married when they got older and things like end of life care, inheritance, and power of attorney come into play. Often when they hit middle age and see what their parents are going through, and how much easier it is if one can say “I’m the wife/husband.”

        Fritz Leiber married his longtime companion/bestest buddy Margo Skinner the year he died, after they’d been a more-or-less couple for many decades. He needed medical care, she needed clear title to the house (they lived on different floors) and his estate/royalties. She took really good care of him in his declining years (which is when I knew them), but they needed that piece of paper so she’d be able to legally speak for him.

        I’ve known arranged marriages both happy and horrific, and the same for chosen ones. There was a bit of doubt that myself and Mr. LT would work out, but it’s been over 30 years and we’re still happy. We’ve spent almost every day of quarantine sitting side by side on the couch, where we are now, sometimes with a credential or two.

        But let’s face it — if Dave Freer’s in favor of it, it’s probably a stupid idea for the general public.

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      2. @Cora Buhlert I’m glad your life isn’t miserable. Are you @JJ? I was saying to them that if they believe that marriage is bondage of women, if they believe, as is becoming popular with the 1619 project, that the purpose of founding America was slavery, that the purpose of capitalism is theft, and that every institution we have is structurally evil, they’re going to have a miserable time of it, tearing everything down and having nothing to replace it with.

        You say that if the point isn’t to be happier, then why bother? The answer is that happiness is not the only positive emotion we have available to us. There is satisfaction, there is stability, there is comfort, and there is purpose.

        At a Jewish wedding, one of the blessings offered to the couple is that they should build a “bayit ne’eman b’Yisroel”, a “faithful home in Israel” (i.e., in Judaism). While the wedding certainly celebrates the joy of the occasion, it also acknowledges that the purpose of marriage is foundational. It’s how culture and civilization maintains itself, it’s how values are passed on, and it’s how children are raised.

        Scorning the society-building aspects of marriage in pursuit of personal happiness is just another example of how we have lost sight that maintaining a civilization takes hard, continuous work. Bridges need to be repaired. Potholes need to be filled. As Kipling wrote, “They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose. They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.” In the “Ethics of the Ancestors”, a traditional Jewish text, we are told that “You are not expected to complete the Work, but neither are you free to shirk from it.”

        @lampwick It is not appropriate to judge real life by the standards of TV drama, or even by outliers. The legal profession has a saying that “hard cases make bad law.” You might as well claim that we can learn about marriage by studying the lives of O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson.

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      3. This is a reply to hyrosen, though I can’t figure out how to put it under his comment:

        “Unorthodox” is not a “TV drama” but a story based on a real woman’s memoirs. That isn’t solely why I recommended it, though. Like you, I have ultra-Orthodox cousins, and all through the series I was nodding to myself and sometimes giggling at how accurate it was. Have you seen it? You might even like it.

        And I have to say that “In other areas, liberals like social condemnation and severe consequences” is one of the most finely crafted strawmen I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even pretend to look like a real argument; it’s just one person’s opinion stated as fact. All liberals? The majority? Is there a link to the institution that took this poll of liberal opinion?

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    2. hyrosen: And you sound like all those MRAs who rail against marriage because they claim that their wives took everything away from them and then made them pay alimony, and that men should never get married because the system is hopelessly biased against them.

      It’s interesting (and amusing) that you should try to claim that my assertion that no one should be forced into, or forced to stay in, an unhappy marriage is similar to the views of MRAs, who among other things, believe that women should not be allowed to say “no” to men, and that women should do whatever men want, that women exist to serve and satisfy men — which is simply a slightly more extreme version of what you are advocating.

       
      hyrosen: If you insist on seeing every social institution, whether it’s marriage or the founding of America, as rooted in deliberate ugliness and degradation… if [you] believe that marriage is bondage of women

      But I haven’t insisted on anything like that. That is a strawman you’ve constructed in an attempt to bolster your own weak argument. There is certainly such a thing as happy marriages, and it’s beneficial when people are in them — but marriage should be a choice which benefits both partners, not a lifelong prison sentence.

       
      You’ve quoted Jewish texts and Kipling as if they are authoritative evidence of… something. While these may have meaning for you — and clearly you’ve been taught that Jewish texts are authoritative rules for how people should conduct their lives — what you and your Jewish texts insist is the purpose of marriage are opinions, not facts.

      And you ignore what we as a society know, from vast amounts of study and research: that children raised in homes where parents are angry or unhappy or abusive frequently end up having absolutely miserable childhoods and, in turn, are unable to form healthy relationships as adults, and frequently continue the pattern of being abusive or being submissive to abuse. We’ve had generations of that going on, and we know that it’s not healthy for society in any way.

      And also, I’m just laughing at your bogus comparison that, since liberals support environmental conservation and social programs for the benefit of human beings, even though having to pay taxes and not getting higher investment returns (because companies are required to responsibly dispose of waste instead of just dumping it into the environment) impairs peoples’ personal happiness, liberals should also support people being forced to stay in unhappy or abusive marriages.

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      1. Heck, Kipling isn’t exactly an example of ‘happy families’ himself… my understanding is that he absolutely loathed some of his relatives. Mostly because his parents left him at a relative’s place while busy with other things, and said relative was very much a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ with the corollary of ‘if the child is heard, it needs to be abused until it stops being heard’. And apparently little Rudyard had difficulty in convincing his parents that he didn’t ever want to be left with those relatives again.

        This was, sadly, not an uncommon situation in upper-class England at the time.

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  8. Am I honestly obligated to consider everyone who posts as arguing n good faith rather than trolling for lulz?
    Honestly, the concept that people ought to be miserable if that’s the only way to stay in lockstep with old social mores doesn’t seem like a concept even a masochist could endorse with a straight face.

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    1. I have noticed that US culture is extremely focussed on marriage as the only life path, much more than other western countries. Americans also marry at younger ages and they remarry more often, if earlier marriages don’t work out. Our correspondent seems to be a rather extreme example, probable exacerbated by cultural factors.

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      1. I’d say US is so focused on marriage, because there are no real safety nets. There’s no sick leave, employment security, working health insurance and so on. In a failed state, people will need other structures for support.

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    2. @Connie Collins Joy and misery aren’t binary choices. They’re the ends of a spectrum. As I said, liberals are very comfortable with asking people to constrain their personal happiness for the betterment of society, when it comes to things like consumerism, fossil fuels, vegetarianism, reparations, taxes, and so on. Maintaining stable families is just like that. No one is expected to torture themselves if things are horrible, but they should be wary of giving up on family because they have failed to achieve some personal hoped-for standard of bliss. Do not abandon the starter wife for a trophy wife, you know?

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  9. I really wonder what the fuck happened to Freer. Before I ever came across the MGC and even this fine website (sorry, Cam), I’d enjoyed some of his fiction (Mankind Witch, and the stuff he co-wrote with Mindy Lackey and E. Flint). But the last 6 or so years every time I see his name mentioned it’s in connection with some god-awful screed he’s published. Was he always this ( I wanted to say ‘crazy’, or ‘looned-out’, but that seems a too dismissive of folks with real mental health issues) TOTALLY FUCKING IRRATIONAL? Was he always like this and I just missed it? Was it the move to Tasmania? What?

    I’ve never met the man, and now I hope never to meet him, but jeez.

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    1. Something seems to happen to old white male science-fiction authors that sends them off the deep end. Besides Freer, we have, just off the top of my head, Card, and Hogan, and Simmons, and Wright. Even Varley, for god’s sake – in Slow Apocalypse, the wife character spends the whole book realizing what a terrible person she’s been, how her husband was right about everything, and is determined to be good and obedient from now on. It made me want to hurl (the book across the room, and otherwise too).

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    2. Same here, I enjoyed a lot his writings with Flint.
      But it seems that he’s not writing any more books, in fact.

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