The Debarkle Unified Theory of the Past 5+ Years

I wanted to step out of the narrative a moment and highlight, circle and underline a quote in a recent chapter because I’ve been a bit mean about Brad Torgersen being a bad writer and he actually said something useful once. Bad, wrong-headed, immoral but useful in some ways.

It was back in Chapter 35 but he’s said a few versions of the same thing:

“Right now, too many nominations are made purely because the author is (gay/transexual/female/non-white) or the main characters are (gay/transexual/female/non-white) and this allows the voting body to give itself warm fuzzies for being progressive/inclusive”

https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6584

One problem we have talking about politics in recent years is encapsulating the common ideological position between the reactionary groups. Yes, misogyny covers a lot of it but not all of it. Capitalism? Not really, Joe Biden and much of the Democratic Party are overtly pro-capitalism. White supremacy? Again, in a way but as a term it confuses people because somebody like Brad Torgersen really doesn’t look or sound like a “white supremacist” and would sincerely object to be called one — even if there’s an implication running through his rhetoric that he chooses not to think about. Fascism? I’ve used Umberto Eco’s ur-fascism definition to talk about the Puppies before and in her early essay on the Puppies, Elizabeth Sandifer made a cogent comparison between Puppy ideas and fascism…but it has a similar problem. It’s not how the Puppies thought of themselves and unless you take people along an argument, “fascism” can sound like hyperbole (it isn’t but…).

Brad’s statement above encapsulates a lot about a single common ideological thread that joins Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Gamergate, the manosphere, the alt-right, the neo-reactionaries, the “intellectual dark web”, the resurgent neo-nazi groups, the boogaloos, much of Qanon and the predominant orthodoxy of the Republican party, once generalised beyond the Hugo Awards:

Instead of nominations add make it more general and instead of SMOFs or CHORFs or Hugo literarti make it the people running the country (politicians, ceo etc). In other words generalise Brad’s quote and you get a summary of the common belief between the groups I listed above:

“Right now, too many positions of political power, influence and cultural significance are being given out to certain people by the most powerful people in the country, purely because the person is gay/transgender/female/non-white or because the person will actively support people who are gay/transgender/female/non-white.”

a toxic belief

Of course “too many” here is actually “not very many but more than it used to be” and the idea of it being a sinister elite plot is nonsense but I don’t need to explain that the belief is wrong both morally and factually.

The groups I listed above will attach different ideological explanations as to why they would agree with that statement and offer different tactics but they can each find common ground because of that shared idea.


48 responses to “The Debarkle Unified Theory of the Past 5+ Years”

  1. I would just like to put here that Brad’s dear buddy Teddy must be gnashing his teeth at today’s news that NK Jemisin is getting somewhere between $1M and $9.9M for the big screen big studio adaptation of “The Fifth Season” etc. and she gets to adapt it herself.

    Who’s “inferior” now, bitch?!

    Liked by 6 people

    • I’m looking forward to a post from Vox that begins “What’s amusing about N.K. Jemisin’s movie deal…” and ends with a tendentious line of reasoning showing that, like John Scalzi, she’s on the brink of getting her meals out of dumpsters.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Brad was right that there was a problem, but wrong about the reasons. You can really see it in the Best Pro Artist category which in the first decade of the century manages eleven distinct numbers nominees in a ten year period. You see it in Dave Langford having more rockets than NASA.
    Hugo nominators are very conservative. They vote for what they know, and that often means they vote for whomever they saw on the previous year’s ballot.

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    • True, and I think another way to look at this is that change finally started to happen, but not in the way the puppies wanted. In their heads, I think they expected to be the new wave to revitalise the field with a return to… something. Old-fashioned adventure, or moral rearmament, or whatever. And when it turned out to be the SJWs instead, they felt cheated and looked for revenge.

      The same principle applies to Trump and Brexit, really.

      Liked by 6 people

  3. You’ve put your finger on it: people who were automatically among the elite/powerful are seeing their status threatened by social and demographic change. All I can think of as a solution to their fear is to suggest they develop something to offer other than their color/gender/reactionary views. And I don’t think that will work. One could at least point out that their cultural likes and dislikes are not universal: that others truly like different things than they do. But people did that endlessly with the puppies, and they didn’t listen, to put it mildly.

    Suggestions, anybody?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Deny them platforms for their hate speech and let them stew while the world passes them by, is my preferred solution. You’re not going to convert hardcore reactionaries – the best you can do is limit the damage they do.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yep.
        Still worrying at the “I hate it, so anyone who says they like it is lying”. I suppose that’s a way to avoid admitting that “Nothing that I dislike should be said” or “My tastes don’t dominate the culture (anymore)”. The latter would probably be the more painful admission.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Frank Wilhoit’s comment is useful here: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. As I said in an earlier thread, “gay/transgender/female/non-white” adds up to at least 90% of the human race. What these people are really complaining about is that fandom (or gaming or politics or whatever they’re moaning about this week) is becoming less dominated by their own little neighbourhood clique and more representative of the wider population.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. One way to look at the Torgersen Declaration is that it is anti-modernist and pro-patriarchal hierarchy at its core. That’s why it has a universal appeal amongst fascists, conservatives, Trumpers, and American evangelicals.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. And of course as others have said, the unspoken direct corollory of “too many of the wrong people are being given something” is we are being deprived (and therefore oppressed).

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  8. At its heart, I think the truth is that many people are averse to change, and the past 20 years have brought more change than people could cope with. Add to that the fact that many people pushing for change haven’t tried to make it easier. E.g. slogans like “defund the police” and words like “socialism” trigger powerful allergic responses in huge chunks of the population–whatever those words were intended to mean.

    Likewise, a lot of groups use language intended to attack the straight/white/male/Christian people who have oppressed them–using arguments that amount to “racism/sexism/religious-oppression are okay if we do it.” This causes people in those groups to feel attacked (even though the power imbalance makes that absurd), and thus they welcome someone who wants to respond in kind.

    I think this is why they don’t see themselves as racist/sexist/etc. They feel they’re under attack and simply defending themselves. Or, worse, they feel their enemies have legitimized racism/sexism/etc. and thus feel free to be open about being that way themselves. The fact that it’s almost certainly what they secretly wanted all along makes them especially keen to clutch at any justification to do it.

    The Internet has made it possible for these people to find each other and discover that there really are a lot of them. Enough in the US to elect Trump. What’s interesting about the Puppy saga is that, in SF, we got a preview of what was coming, a couple of years before anyone else was taking it seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of people in those groups feel attacked simply by being criticized. The Religious Right has been assuring Christians for 40 years now that they’re oppressed simply by people questioning their values.

      Liked by 2 people

    • The majority of people throwing around the word “socialism” are right-wingers trying to scare people. They’re also calling every policy they disagree with (I.e. everything except tax cuts) “socialism” and/or communism”, whether it’s fits the actual definitions of those words or not.

      Liked by 3 people

    • When I was young, we used to talk about discrimination. The idea was that some people weren’t heard and they had the right to a voice and a place. Now we instead talk about privilege. That some people are heard too much and should have be more silent.

      Both of these mean approximately the same (with nuances), but I think the messages are directed to different target groups. The first is for the one with the privilege to feel good about giving way. The second is an expression of anger from those without voice.

      Both are right as they mean the same. But the first one makes the privileged feel good, the second to feel shame and anger. But there’s also the difference in that the first implies the power of the privileged to let or not let others have a voice, while the second implies a *right* to a voice.

      I think in some ways, you will have to accept that change will make some people angry. And that the message that makes people angry is part of the change. Moving the overton window to show socialism/socialdemocracy as an acceptable alternative might make some angry, but it is also part of the necessary change. As the current system isn’t working.

      In time, with the movement of the overton windows, expressions will be normalised. Even if it might take a generation or two.

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    • Defund the police is more than just a slogan, and it’s long, long overdue. Our police have become a colonizing force. They no longer live in the cities they police. They view the inhabitants as enemy combatants. They are extremely isolated from most of society. They are arguably the most dangerous element of the biggest terrorist threat to the US. Police reform does not work. It’s been proven repeatedly. Reforms happen and are quietly batted down by police unions. Change is frightening, but sometimes you have to put on your big boy pants and discuss what needs to be done in honest terms. Otherwise, you end up throwing around meaningless slogans like “police reform” and get nothing done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And then what? I see much more calls for getting rid of the police than discussion of what comes after (this may simply mean I hang out in the wrong parts of the Internet for seeing those discussions). Build a new police from scratch? Do without? And what do we do with several hundred thousand pissed-off, unemployed ex-cops?
        I’m not completely averse to defunding the police, but I’d like to know where we go from there before we arrive.

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        • My understanding of the movement to defund the police is not to eliminate police forces. Rather, it’s to take some of the millions of dollars cities are allocating to the police and instead put them toward training an additional group of specialists who are trained to deal with non-criminal problems, especially in the case of mental health issues. These people would be the front line responders with police backup, de-escalate the situation and then get the person(s) involved the specialized kind of help they really need. For instance, this would help prevent all of the mentally-ill and mentally-disabled people who’ve been severely injured or killed by police when what the person calling 911 wanted was help getting the victim calmed down and non-violent, and the police didn’t have any other response than to violently restrain the victim or pull their weapons and use them.

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        • First off, defund does not mean abolish. Defund means drastically cut police department budgets. That sounds bad, but the police currently have many responsibilities that they are unqualified to perform, and end up murdering people in the process. Police should not be responding to mental health crises, they should generally be left out of domestic disputes. They don’t need to be rousting the homeless and hassling people unnecessarily in other ways. They should be doing their jobs – investigating crime and arresting the criminals. Here in Oakland (California) we have constant scandals involving police who commit overtime fraud (and are not punished, and continue to do so). Cut that out and you gain millions in the city budget.

          Also, this isn’t something that would or could happen overnight. I’m not talking about getting rid of the services the police are expected to perform that they are unable to, then figuring out what to replace them with. Social workers employed by the city are epically underpaid. Giving social services some of the massive amount of funding the police have thrown at them yearly and expanding the number of workers and paying them a better wage would be a good start. Two things happening in Oakland right now – the Anti Police-Terror Project has been slowly bringing into existence a service for people having mental crises. It’s very limited in its time and capabilities right now, but that’s because it’s a volunteer group with little funding. The other thing happening in Oakland is a push to move non crime-oriented services over to the fire department and give the fire department the money needed to run those programs.

          My opinion is that policing as it exists in the US is completely unworkable and needs to be abolished and replaced with a system based on mutual aid and community support, but that’s not going to happen any time in my lifetime. Harm reduction like defunding the police and narrowing their focus, though, is possible.

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          • Kathodus and JJ, thank you. I’ve heard those solutions talked about (and they’re good) but I’ve seen people use “defund the police” as something distinctive and more extreme

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        • //And what do we do with several hundred thousand pissed-off, unemployed ex-cops?//

          I think this is the deeper problem with defunding the police. The others mainly are dealt with by shifting functions to other groups. Crimes do not need to be investigated by a quasi-military force for example. The police as an entity (from the uniforms, to the ranks, to the command structure) are quintessentially “the police” because of their public order function. Even if a society feels it still needs public-funded generic security guards (what essentially “the police” are) then divesting other functions from them makes sense. A criminal investigation body (or bodies – most countries already have multiple organisations with this kind of function) doesn’t need to be organised in a police force or in a police/military structure (heck even the current norm is to not have detectives in uniforms)

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  9. because somebody like Brad Torgersen really doesn’t look or sound like a “white supremacist”

    Racists almost never see themselves as racists, and, like Torgersen, often bristle at being correctly labeled as racists. Further, most racists don’t act like people think they do- most racists don’t go about spitting venom at every minority they meet (although JCW thinks everyone should spit venom at any gay person they meet).

    As anyone who has lived in the American south knows (and likely many other places as well), many racists have a black friend. This is because humans are rationalizing creatures rather than rational ones. The racist rationalizes that their friend is the exception to the rule. I cannot count the number of times an out and out racist has explained that their black friend is “one of the good ones”, or something similar (the sexist version of this is to describe a woman as being “not like the other girls”). This is coupled with the fact that racists often exoticize members of the race they despise – most people are familiar with the kind of racist who fetishizes Asian women, and it is almost cliched to point out that racists who patronize sex workers seem to have a penchant for minority sex workers.

    The fact that they regard their minority friends as exceptions to their racist view of minorities (and their bigoted views towards other groups as well) is also the explanation for why so many people could have a Hispanic or black friend (or a Muslim or gay friend) and still vote for Trump and Republicans who openly advocated for racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic policies targeting such groups – they rationalized that there would surely be an exception for the “good ones”. Their friend wouldn’t be swept up by these exclusionary policies, they reasoned, because they are not “bad” Hispanics, or “bad” gays, or whatever. Their shock when those policies did, in fact, affect their friends, was real. They usually didn’t figure out that it was their own bigotry that caused it though, they just thought that the government was overreaching – even though it was doing exactly what they voted for.

    This is really just a long way to point out that, despite all of their protestations, the Pups, including Brad, were blatant racists, sexists, and homophobes, and the fact that they had black friends, spouses, and so on is simply not evidence to the contrary.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Many years ago, there was a TV spot, some kind of public service ad, in which a stereotypical white working class racist man (it’s implied he’s a miner) looks out of his window and complains about all the foreigners out there and how terrible they are. Then the camera pulls out and you see that his neighbour is looking out of the window as well and that neighbour is a Turkish working class miner. And the white racist dude turns to his neighbour and says, “Don’t you agree, Ali?”

      That spot, which is sadly not on YouTube, was a remarkably accurate illustration of this phenomenon. All [insert minority group here] are bad except for my friend.

      Liked by 3 people

    • This has been called the Shirley Exception as in, “Well, yes, it bans abortion for rape victims, but surely a 12 year old girl raped by her father will be an exception!”

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    • “I cannot count the number of times an out and out racist has explained that their black friend is “one of the good ones”, or something similar (the sexist version of this is to describe a woman as being “not like the other girls”).” Which brings us back to Sarah Hoyt’s tale of not objecting when fans at a con were watching porn in a con public room. Because she wasn’t like the other girls, and *she’s proud of that fact*. The spooky part, Aaron is that there are a fair number of people who glory in being “not like the other ___”.

      Although I think it’s fair to point out that I, at least,have seen this more in the case of non-raced classifications. To my eye it seems to happen most frequently with women, but over the years I’ve encountered some of it in the LGBT communities as well (Caitlyn Jenner, anyone?). I’m also reminded of an interview I heard during the 2016 election in which a couple of female Trump supporters were asked about his rabidly sexist forms of abuse and harassment. I can still hear the response: “Those girls need to grow a pair.” Oy.

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    • Racists think the only racists are the ones who are actually caught in the act of wearing a pointy white hood and yelling the N word as they burn a cross.

      If they never use that word, and they have one Black friend/family member (a “good one”) and don’t personally beat up Black people, then they can’t POSSIBLY be racist.

      Same for sexism, homophobia, and other bigotry.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Similarly, “not as bad as Harvey Weinstein” has become a standard defense for harassment apologists — oh, sure, he liked feeling up the female interns, but they fired his ass like he was as bad as Harvey Weinstein. By which logic “he only killed one person — are you seriously suggesting you should execute him like he was Ted Bundy?” would be a valid defense.

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    • I read an account of someone of Latinx heritage who voted for Cheeto Benito and was SHOCKED and STUNNED that their undocumented spouse was promptly deported southward. He did exactly what he’d promised to do, ya numbnuts, and being “one of the good ones” has never saved anyone in the long run.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “I never expected the leopard to eat my/ my friend’s face!” sobbed the person voting for the Face-Eating Leopards Party.

      (Not original — I first saw this at DailyKos, but I don’t know where it started.)

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      • Adrian Bott did it as a tweet: ‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.

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    • The first time I saw someone arguing that Torgerson wasn’t a racist because of his wife, no names were mentioned (just that it was an author). So I assumed it was about H. P. Lovecraft. It’s never worked that way.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lovecraft is a textbook example. According to L. Sprague deCamp’s biography, his wife responded to his anti-Semitic rants by pointing out she was Mrs. Howard Lovecraft, which settled the question for him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lovecraft was a perfect illustration of this phenomenon. He disliked everybody who was not a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but his wife was Jewish and two of his main correspondents were Robert E. Howard who had Irish ancestry and was proud of it and R.H. Barlow who was gay. He also exchanged a few letters with a black editor and was outraged to find out that the man was black.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Of course not one person who makes arguments like Torgersen’s ever acknowledges that white people benefit much more from this. A white man’s success is never subject to question the way a woman’s is. People who mutter about affirmative action and how you can’t respect women’s or POC’s achievements when you know they have an unfair advantage. If they were thrown back to 1950, they would never once think their Harvard-educated lawyer getting his degree instead of more talented women and black Americans was therefore unqualified.

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    • “A white man’s success is never subject to question the way a woman’s is.”

      I’m not a post-modernist, but wouldn’t we apply deconstruction to this statement and realize that it means exactly the opposite of what it says? That in fact, a white man’s success is always subject to question because success is granted to white men not on merit but because of racism and sexism? Then it’s understandable that white men would take umbrage at the claim that their success is always unearned.

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      • No, because you’re wrong. Even most people who acknowledge white privilege don’t assume therefore the white man is completely unqualified, only that he gets an unfair advantage.

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      • No one is questioning successful and qualified white men whether they deserved their success. When a blatantly unqualified or mediocre white man experiences success that seems disproportionate to his qualifications, people occasionally wonder why or chalk it up to, “He’s a white dude who knows the right people.”

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      • It’s more that while a fully qualified cis white man never gets his qualification questioned, even the absolute most qualified person who isn’t one of those things is often scrutinized and their presence tainted by doubts of whether they are a real candidate or “an affirmative action one”. (White women are starting to suffer less of this over time, but less is not none.)

        People speculate how mediocre cis white men get hired, but nobody tends to assume they spread their legs to do it, or were signed on despite not being qualified, just to “check some special box” or wave a certain flag.

        If a cis white man screws up at his job, HE screws up. If a woman, or a person of colour, or both, or a trans/non-binary person, screws up at their job, they are proof that all X are terrible or would screw up.

        Liked by 3 people

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