The next essay on the rank for the Debarkle was intended to be an account of the 2014 reveal that writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew was the rage-blogger known other various names but referred to in general as Requires Hate.
Firstly, why would I have the essay in the first place in a series about the Sad Puppies? I think the answer is fairly clear. The events were a big deal, the led to Laura Mixon writing a report on Requires Hate, for which she became a 2015 Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer and the only non-Puppy in that category. She subsequently won. There would be a very weird space in the account of the 2015 Hugos as to why this one category operated differently for this one finalist. The non-puppy discussion around it also takes in George R.R. Martin as well as Deidre Saoirse Moen’s voting advice when the news of the Puppy sweep took place (which has already had some discussion in the comments). More broadly, the themes of how fandom engaged with race and gender but also how fandom has tried to manage individuals, are recurring ones in the Debarkle. In addition, events around Requires Hate were used by Puppies as a kind of paradigmatic case for their narrative of the left being out of control and attacking authors (what they would now call ‘cancel culture’).
So why NOT write it? The core reason is that I’m not getting it written. I’ve a ton of notes but not a good way into the topic. So productive work on the series is close to a standstill because I can’t get past this point.
The problems are manifold. Firstly there is both a lot of material and a dearth of material. The main extant stuff is from 2014 and 2015 and includes the Mixon Report itself, as well as discussions and rebuttals of the Mixon report. There’s enough to draw out a consensus on a set of events by picking the elements that aren’t disputed (or aspects of elements that are disputed but not wholly rejected). Original material pertaining to the disputes analysed in the Mixon Report and in the rebuttals is often gone for the most contentious topics or lacks context (e.g. archive versions) or is from dubious sources.
The Mixon Report itself is, I think un-salvageable as a document. There’s a sound idea there of trying to demonstrate the scope of an individual’s behaviour by showing that events weren’t just separate toxic arguments between individuals but rather patterns of behaviour. However, to do that in a way that is both accurate and just would be much harder work than I imagine Laura Mixon anticipated. My impression previously was that it was a report with localised flaws but overall it is not fixable. It is now only available on archive sites, I think. I note also that when the issue of Requires Hate has come up more recently, people have pointed to some very specific individual accounts of their experience with Requires Hate rather than the report, primarily because they carry more weight and are less vulnerable to counter-arguments.
The rebuttals to the Mixon report are flawed in different ways. They correctly identify many issues in Mixon’s work and they also highlight that underlying racism and misogyny within fandom play a role in the targetting of Benjanun Sriduangkaew and that she had become a target of troll communities herself (eg Kiwi Farms). However, in doing so, whether the authors of the rebuttals intended to or not, a side effect was to minimise, diminish or cast doubt on the genuine feelings of many people impacted by Requires Hate.
Was racism, homophobia and misogyny involved in the reaction against Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew? I could put my hands up and say ‘this is too messy to tell’. However, it is not unlike bad weather and global warming. You can’t pin climate change on weather and doing so often leads to foolish claims or counterclaims (a hot day is not an omen, a snowstorm is not a counter-example) but CLIMATE is the context in which weather happens and racism, homophobia, misogyny (and trans-misogyny and misogynoir) pervades fandom in ways that shape our beliefs and expectations (often despite our intentions) in a way that is analogous to the climate. So the shorter answer is “yes, of course, it did” but you also can’t dismiss the genuine hurt people experienced (including people I have come to know online and whose account of events I would trust).
A few years back I went to what was likely to be an interminable HR training day on workplace bullying but which turned out to be less superficial than I was expecting it to be. The facilitator was keen to delve into messy cases to exemplify Australian employment law on workplace harassment and bullying. They had led with a case where an employee had been systematically ostracised and bullied by co-workers culminating in serious ill-health for the employee. The managers had, in turn, then wholly messed up their investigation of events by trampling all over the employment rights of the co-workers who had done the bullying. Is that what happened with Benjanun Sriduangkaew? The analogy is too imperfect to hold up. Fandom isn’t a workplace. There isn’t, nor can there be a due process for ‘being in fandom’. Conventions can have codes of conduct, online spaces can have moderation policies, organisations (such as the SFWA) can have codes and ways of dealing with grievances but the issue at hand was none of these but rather networks that were quasi-professional in the way that the hobby/job of engaging with popular culture can be.
The hypothesis for the essay I’ve already alluded to in the comments on earlier chapters. I think that if Sad Puppies hadn’t taken over events in 2015, then the Mixon Report would have been a major subject of debate, all be it with a smaller number of people. I don’t know if it would have been a healthy debate, I imagine it would have caused many people further pain as they would have experienced their genuine feelings put under question or dismissed as being motivated by racism (or they would have felt that they were being dismissed). Likewise, attempts to put aside the issues around the relative power of influential people within SF/F publishing focusing their efforts on one specific woman of colour would have also been damaging. And yet, that all sort of happened anyway and the issue has just lingered on for years.
Well…that’s already quite a few paragraphs. It’s a lot easier to write without lots of references and vague hand waving at events. I’m back to the same issues where I started. Is there a fair way of engaging with the issue? Argument-and-counterargument like it is some sort of trial proceeding is a shitty way to go. Attempting to get the history and shape of the online identities and online feuds she was involved in, falls into the same trap as the Mixon report. Not unpacking anything leaves the headline narrative (essentially established by the Mixon report) untouched – the story that goes along the lines of there was a bad troll with lots of pseudonyms who was eventually unmasked and leaves a lot unsaid, specifically the question of whether they would have had this level of attention if they hadn’t made enemies of so many famous writers. I think it is obvious that they wouldn’t but then it isn’t unreasonable for a notable person to object to people saying objectionable things about them etc etc.
As I said, already too many paragraphs and already too many caveats and too much wanting to avoid the twin errors of minimising the experiences of people who experienced harassment versus endorsing (or appearing to endorse) the use of institutional power without proper respect for natural justice even for people who behave.
So, might still write this chapter but if I do it will be out of sequence and either way, I’ll need at least a paragraph more than once to say what the Mixon Report was and what it was about.