Breitbart & Pups

At John Scalzi’s post on Debarkle there is a comment by Charles Stross which has a good question:

“Just popping in to say that the pups seem to have ultimately served as a pilot program for the culture wars approach rolled out in Gamergate and Comicsgate: I can’t help wondering if there was any coordination with Steve Bannon, because it reflected in microcosm the shape of politics to come.”

https://whatever.scalzi.com/2021/09/12/thoughts-on-the-debarkle/?amp#comment-901201

I think we can reasonably say “yes, there was sort-of” to that question but with caveats. The extent of it is unclear though and I doubt events would have played out very differently in 2015 without it.

It’s reasonable to say “yes” because the connection is Milo Yiannopoulos. Vox Day had contacts with Yiannopoulos from GamerGate, Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari covered the Sad Puppies for Brietbart – notably from FEBRUARY 2015 and tying it directly to GamerGate https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2015/02/05/the-hugo-wars-how-sci-fis-most-prestigious-awards-became-a-political-battleground/ I think it is also notable that both the February story and the April (post-nomination announcement) story put the Sad Puppies at the front of the story https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2015/04/04/hugo-awards-nominations-swept-by-anti-sjw-anti-authoritarian-authors/ even though the authors were closer ideologically to the Rabids. The framing is very much the idea borrowed from GamerGate that of a consumer revolt of ordinary apolitical people against the forces of SJWs and feminism rather than an ideological backlash from the right.

Now “coordination” might imply that Bannon was directing things or that he had some say in Puppy strategy. I don’t think that is the case because aside from anything else, why bother and there wasn’t a great deal of strategy going on or needed. However, there was a clear line of communication and the connection between the so-called Evil League of Evil and Yiannopoulus would continue into 2017. Whether Bannon himself was paying attention, I don’t know but I’d guess not because he’d let Yiannopoulos handle such things.

It’s not unlike the connection between the Puppies and GamerGate. There was not, as some feared, Sad Puppies going to GamerGate and recruiting an army of auxiliary culture warriors. However, there was always an overlap of people between the two campaigns, so the GamerGaters who wanted to be involved were already involved by April 2015. The ties with GamerGate were there from the start via Vox Day and Larry Correia (via Adam Baldwin as well as regulars at his blog).

Lastly, “coordination” can sound conspiratorial and imply a grand game of move and counter move. If your broad strategy is chaos and division, you don’t need much coordination, you just need to cheer things on from the sidelines.

So I think it is safest to say that there was a clear line of communication between Breitbart and the Puppies but there is little reason to think Breitbart was directing the Puppies.

12 thoughts on “Breitbart & Pups

  1. Since Gamergate pre-dated the puppy movement, I don’t think Stross is correct in saying the pups served as a pilot program for Gamergate. It’s hard to deny there was some synergy between gators and pups in the creation of Comicsgate, though.

    I think the the pups attracted a lot of people from the MRA movement which, from what I remember, at least partially grew out of the skeptic/atheist “movement” back in the early 00s. Remember Elevatorgate?

    I knew Vox Day from far right politics long before I noticed his involvement in SFF. He wrote for WND and, IIRC, VDare. He and Milo seem to me to be more clownish/wannabe types in the alt-right/fascist pond, and more parasitic than anything else, kinda like JDA or, in the wider world, Andy Ngo. They find an existing terrible thing and try to make it their own and grift off it. While I’m sure Bannon et al. were happy to have them mucking up the waters and stirring up outrage among the perpetually outraged, I doubt the more serious fascist organizers cared much at all about nerd fights beyond the increase in social tension they cause.

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      1. Ah, crap, I was so sure that GG was a few years prior to the SP/RP thing that I didn’t bother double checking. My estimate of when GG happened was way off. I was thinking 2008 or 2009, but it was 2013! It feels like centuries ago but also just the other day.

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    1. This may be violent agreement, but while parts of the skeptic/atheist movement merged into MRAism after Elevatorgate, MRAs were a thing well before then. If you’re looking for connections between movement skepticism and MRAs before them perhaps look at evolutionary psychology, which in principle is a legitimate research program (as long as it recognises its axioms as hypotheses rather than facts), but in practice tends to motivated reasoning by sexists.

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  2. Stross’ question — as so many questions do — anticipates the answer he wants. But if you were paying attention at the time, as I expect you were, Camestros, you saw Vox Popoli posts that essentially were stalking Yiannopoulos very much the same way he previously stalked Correia, to cultivate their perceived larger (than his) audiences. Vox wasn’t a soldier for any of these, or Steve Bannon, he was just doing his best to push himself into the media limelight shining on them in an attempt to move up the food chain.

    And once Trump got elected, Vox went into overdrive to try and associate himself with and hopefully even be noticed by someone connected with the “God-Emperor”, which for all his energetic ass-kissing failed to connect.

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    1. I believe he got retweeted by Don Jr. once, and a few passing notices by other Right Wingers, but nothing sustained. Beale’s biggest problem is he runs such a ramshackle operation that he can’t make much of his “wins” so it all fades away.

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  3. Lastly, “coordination” can sound conspiratorial and imply a grand game of move and counter move. If your broad strategy is chaos and division, you don’t need much coordination, you just need to cheer things on from the sidelines.

    I think it’s generally easy to overestimate the level of coordination in issues like this.

    That it’s called “culture war” doesn’t mean that it’s the type of war where generals sit in a command bunker somewhere and give orders, and the orders are fleshed out and passed on down the chain of command to the infantrymen in the trenches.

    A lot of things happens because individuals do something. A lot of similar things happen because individuals are inspired by each other, or by the same third party – but “inspired by” is not the same as “organized by”.

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  4. When thinking about coordinated efforts on the alt-right, I remember two things: first, Rick Falkvinge’s Swarmwise (see https://falkvinge.net/2013/02/14/swarmwise-the-tactical-manual-to-changing-the-world-chapter-one/), and second, Louis Beam’s application of leaderless resistance techniques to white supremacist activity in the 80s and 90s (see https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/the-new-strategy-of-violent-white-supremacy/595648/). Both, at the core, are about achieving coordinated effects without strong hierarchy. This is not limited to creating chaos and destruction.

    I don’t have any reason to think that either Gamergate or the Puppies deliberately adopted either of these ideas. On the other hand, Vox Day wrote about Rick Falkvinge and Swarmwise in 2013, with admiration, so we know he was aware of that particular leadership technique.

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    1. I’d also toss in the pot the short passage in Allan Drury’s Advise and Consent where he points out that nobody has to tell all the Democratic newspaper editors to write editorials supporting the Leffingwell nomination — you don’t need to conspire to get people to do something they instinctively want to.

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