Category: Politics

Faking Shared History


A longish post on Debarkle history today. Too many elements for me to resist – in particular, an overlap between the nature of truth, belief, memory, knowledge and ethics. Also, can a genuinely held belief still be a lie?

One reason I decided to keep a timeline of quotes and events in the Puppy Debarkle was that I suspected that quite rapidly people would start distorting events – indeed it had already begun early in the conflict. I didn’t assume having a timeline would stop that process but I did think it would help me not add to the process. It is easy to confuse cause and effect around events that occur in close proximity and it is easy to conflate somebody saying something that IMPLIES X with that person directly saying X. Worse, such error compound themselves as people come to believe the revised version of what was said in a revised order in which it was said.

There are a few things I would still like to unravel and find the ‘real’ story for as a version still gets repeated in Puppy circles. Some though are lost for all time… [more after the fold]

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Ringo on Correia?

Rumblings continue in the Puppylands around Larry Correia’s dis-invitation to the Origins Game Fair. At Larry Correia’s own blog, he has been arguing that his supporters should NOT target vendors attending Origins as he sees the fault lying mainly with the convention organiser.

Interestingly in the comments there is a notable dissenting voice on this:

“John Ringo

I disagree, strongly, with ‘don’t screw the vendors.’

This is going to go on and on as long as cons allow it. The ones who stand up may survive. The ones who cave have to fold. The way to get them to fold is to hit them in the wallet. It’s the only thing that will work.

So, yes, tell your fans to hit the vendors. Hit the authors who do attend. Refuse to go to the con. Ask the pros who are attending, why they support bullying. Don’t buy their books. Don’t buy their products.

Boycott, Divest, Sanction.

We need to stop rolling over and BRING THE PAIN.”

I don’t know if that is the John Ringo but it would be odd for Larry to let the comment stand if it was somebody impersonating Ringo. If it is him that it is a very bold statement that I think organisers of conventions would pay careful attention to but perhaps not in the way the writer imagines. As I pointed out in an earlier post not even considering inviting some people would be the easiest way to avoid that kind of pushback. As a way of demonstrating that outspoken right wing authors are a good choice to invite as a guest speakers, it looks like the exact opposite of a good plan. Partly, that’s why I’m wondering if the comment is genuine or whether it is some unknown person sh_t-stirring?

People should also be mindful of giving support to people who may be suffering from being targeted by Larry Correia’s fans at the moment.

Public and Private Personas & Brands

It is a common idea that people have public and private faces – gosh some of us have nearly distinct personalities! In recent controversies about notable characters within the science-fiction book world, a common defence is for a supporter to explain how nice and pleasant a controversial author is. That even extends beyond supporters. I’ve seen many anecdotes in discussion about publicly challenging people in which said person was nice, kind, friendly or charitable in some way in ‘real life’.

That’s all very nice but generally I think such arguments can miss the point. The public persona of the author is part of their brand and part of how they market themselves – perhaps unwittingly, perhaps inadvisably, perhaps counter-productively, but still very much how they present themselves.

Anybody who is intending to promote their own event or publication or whatever by associating it with another person is doing so with the PUBLIC persona in mind, not how that person is in real life. That does not mean private actions are irrelevant but clearly it is the public perception of a person that is being co-opted for marketing purposes.

A con inviting Larry Correia (to use the most recent example) is making use of his public persona – how he markets and projects himself. I’ve never met Larry Correia and he might be the kindest, most quiet spoken and generous person in the world but that’s not his brand or how he markets himself. Likewise John Ringo – much was made by Ringo himself about how he is not a character in his books and how his actual personality and interests are distinct from the general nature of his books…but that’s not really how he markets himself more broadly.

Let me put it another way. If you were a con with an audience that has very strict, conventional and normative views about burrito ingredients then John Scalzi would be a poor match EVEN IF in real life, lots of people have seen him eat very orthodox burritos. For all I know Brian Blessed may be a very quiet person in real life who dislikes talking about themselves and is humble to a fault – but if a chat show asks him on as a guest then clearly they are hoping for a very shouty man with an enormous beard.

I’ve talked many times about the Sad Puppy brand and the irony that many of the core people involved with the Sad Puppies are often hyper conscious about brands and marketing as authors. The Sad Puppy campaigns are part of the brand of many key players but I’ve yet to see any of them really engage with the fact that as a brand it is a very negative one. About the only recognition this gets is the lingering resentment that ‘puppy’ was given a bad name.

There is no simple end game to outrage marketing. There’s no easy way to cause controversy to gain name recognition and yet somehow have your name NOT associated with controversy. The nature of outrage marketing is precisely to attach your name to controversy and hence separating the too takes both work and time. Larry Correia’s strategy has been to dial back on the fisks and jabs at SJWs and concentrate on books for his fans and, I assume, hope people forget. Ironically, his defenders in the case of Origin Game Fair are ensuring that doesn’t happen.

The choice for cons, publisher and organisations becomes clearer. Never having any involvement with a given person’s personal brand is an easier option. Over at Mad Genius I note people saying that cons need people like Larry but in truth it is a buyer’s market. There are LOTS of writers and many people with dedicated groups of fans. When it comes to drawing people to a convention, the passion of the fans and their location can be more relevant than their overall number. A writer whose public persona damages your brand and puts off other attendees or guests is not necessarily a wise choice. A writer who brings possible controversy, or bitter campaigns with them (all of which create extra work and emotional labour for the organisers) is an actively bad proposition.

Review: An Evening with Hillary Clinton (?!)

I acquired by means beyond the scope of this post, tickets to see Hillary Clinton on Friday evening. So off to a cold Darling Harbour and the International Convention Centre theatre for what was billed as “An Evening With Hillary Clinton”. I don’t know, but to me a title like that implies she’d be mixing songs with show biz anecdotes but I had a sneaking suspicion that we wouldn’t get either.

The theatre in question is vast and cavernous. A queue through security and a long hike up multiple escalators included a giant kaiju-sized projection of the former Secretary of State looming over the heads of the crowd like a nightmare of a Republican who had spent the night binge watching Blade Runner and Democrat conventions.

I’ll repeat myself- the theatre was big. I was perched up in seats that had an excellent view of the ceiling and a view of the stage that was miniscule. I shouldn’t complain, as I personally hadn’t spent much but apparently the cheapest seats were listed at $200 (AU). I don’t how many people can fit in that theatre but ‘lots’ would be an understatement – clearly thousands. I suppose the economics of such a famous speaker make smaller venues unfeasible but for much of the audience this event was essentially ‘watch Hillary Clinton on a giant TV uncomfortably but techincally you are in the same room’.

There was a moving Welcome to Country, a nice children’s choir, a pointless reprise of the video narrated by Morgan Freeman from the 2016 nomination convention and assorted waffle before the main event.

Hillary early on asserted that she had spent much of her career having to be careful about what she said and how she said it but now she wasn’t bound by such concerns. Unfortunately that didn’t make much difference. Clearly she is a very capable speaker, with a wealth of experience but there were no surprises, no new insights and even the anecdotes felt very carefully scripted.

The speech at a lectern was followed by an interview on comfy chairs by (to the surprise of the audience) former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. But, again, it wasn’t anything that provided any new insights – even some of the personal anecdotes had already been told in the video at the start. It was all very safe and measured.

Fair enough, Hillary Clinton’s strength is her tenacity and experience as a politician rather than as a political commentator of as an ideological leader. She has nudged her middle-ground leftwards over the years but she is only radical in terms of the deeply reactionary forces she has been up against.

Still, I think I’d have rather heard Julia Gillard speak more of for Hilary to have been asked more challenging questions.

I’ve not much else to say. I’m glad Hilary Clinton remains in the public eye but I can’t say she was a particularly interesting speaker. I’m glad I didn’t pay $200 for a ticket.

Les Moulins de Mon Cœur

So the original French title of the song “Windmills of Your Mind” translates as “Windmills of My Heart”. Somebody with more talent than I could probably spin that factlet out into a lengthy essay on the difference between the Continental and Analytic strands of philosophy in the Twentieth Century.

Instead it behooves me to bow to the inevitable wheel within a wheel and present to you like a tunnel within a tunnel, like a turd within a loo, Vox Day reviewing Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life. Regular Link and Archive Link.

Fairs fair, I’ll concede to agree with a lot of what Vox Day writes about Peterson here. Elsewhere, Vox is going further off the rails trying to dismantle Peterson’s theory of truth. Of course, Peterson doesn’t actually have a theory of truth, he’s just spouting the first thing that comes into his head and then covering up the mess with argle-bargle. Vox’s main concern is that Peterson is offering a heretical alternative to Vox’s more extreme position on the question of ‘how pro-fascism can we be without admitting it’. Peterson I’ll grant is somebody who really doesn’t want to be a fascist but for reasons best known to him has accepted a whole pile of premises which makes him susceptible to right wing authoritarianism. Is ‘fascist ideation’ a concept? I feel uneasy just making up a term by adding ‘ideation’ to it.

“However, the more sophisticated reader cannot help but notice that Peterson does not follow his own rules, particularly the three which relate to speaking precisely, telling the truth, and getting one’s own house in order before trying to fix the world.”

Correct and I think this is the most obvious and negating of Peterson’s book. He fails on all three fronts in the book itself and even more broadly when you look at his wider statements, videos etc.

This next paragraph by Vox Day also is hard to disagree with:

“Peterson is an engaging and accessible writer when he is simply recounting events of the past or relating experiences from his own life. He is a sympathetic author, and he effectively communicates the way in which the tragedy and suffering he has experienced throughout his life have made a deep impression on his psyche. It is when he tries to wax profound and articulate his underlying philosophy that his writing invariably wades into a swamp of nonsensical name-dropping that is less Jungian than Joycean, a meandering waking stream of consciousness that not only fails to substantially support the nominal premise, but often bears no relationship to it whatsoever.”

After that Vox’s review becomes less insightful. His agenda here is to try and negate the influence of Peterson on people within Vox Day’s target audience – the ideologically adrift anti-left seeking order. His capacity to critique Peterson is limited by his inability to address many of Peterson’s more silly ideas because Vox shares many of them (e.g. IQ essentialism, dominance hierarchies as the main tool for analysing society etc.)

Vox correctly points out that Peterson is not a conventional Christian but then neither is Vox Day. He also says that Peterson is not of the right but fails to explain how he is of either the centre or the left. Vox is closer to understanding Peterson when he focuses on his essential incoherence but pushes on as if the contradictions Peterson pushes don’t matter and a single message can be divined within the details.

Who is worse? Vox is a clearer writer when it comes to non-fiction but then he says much worse things than Peterson does but then again Peterson seems to be a more prevelant gateway drug for this nonsense. It’s just a layers of appaling really…it’s like…it’s like…

Like a fascist reviewing fascists,
Like a heel reviewing heels,
Like some nonsense written clearly,
Like some similie on wheels,
Like some appalling human being
With a mega-selling book,
Like a wannabe sci-fi author,
With a podgy skin-head look,
Like a tunnel in a tunnel with a tunnel underneath,
Like a really boring lecture on the nature of belief,
Like a song with too many lyrics,
Like Canadian academe,
Like you really hate this party,
But you don’t want to make a scene,
Like the windmills that you start,
In the Netherlands of your heart.


The Overt Cruelty of Immigration Policies is Intentional and Evil

Australia has its faults, as does any nation, but the cruelty of the Federal Government’s policy towards potential asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat remains one of its worst aspects:

This draconian approach is cloaked under a pretence that its objective is to save lives by deterring people smugglers from attempting risky ocean crossings. That rationale has enabled the idea of off-shore processing to remain as a mainstream policy in the political centre. Off course the supposed concern for the well being of asylum seekers somehow evaporates once they are on Naru.

And speaking of needless and pointless cruelty, the British Government’s policy towards the so-called ‘Windrush’ generation of immigrants is another example: A happier outcome in that at least public pressure has eventually led to the government conceding that their approach was a problem.

The Windrush scandal does illustrate something very specific about a lot of the out-right shitbaggery of cases in Australia, the UK and the US around enforcement of immigration policies. It is so often not just cruel, racist and unjust but it is so often THEATRICALLY so. Whatever the UK’s overall stance on future immigration might be, these specific cases would seem to be counter-productive. There are similar patterns in some of the behaviour of ICE in the US.

Partly this is due to which stories make the news. An act of injustice is inevitably more likely to be a headline than something more routine. However, the cases that appear often imply that the relevant agencies have some very, very odd priorities – targetting people or classes of immigrants that form a small proportion of overall immigration and which don’t fit the pattern of current immigration.

Much of this is, I believe, intentional. While overtly cruel behaviour may seem both unnecessary or even counterproductive (even assuming targetting illegal immigration was a worthwhile activity), it is the simplest way of such agencies APPEARING to be doing something.

For example, ‘illegal immigration’ in Australia is not, on the whole, complex people smuggling or fleets of rickety boats but people arriving legitimately and over-staying their visas. An ‘illegal immigrant’ in Australia might be a British backpacker doing casual work on a holiday visa. There’s a huge gulf between the fears of immigrants that drives anti-immigration policy and the actual facts of immigration on the ground.

Cruel, pointless and excessive enforcement creates an impression of action intended to both fuel and placates anti-immigrant beliefs in wider society. It feeds into the desire of more racist elements in society to create a hostile environment* for immigrants in general. It is intended to create a climate of persecution that, coupled with overt racism and harassment from far-right groups, will lead to people leaving of their own accord.

In addition, this pointless cruelty helps shift the window of public policy. Previous positions that looked extreme, now look more moderate as they don’t amount to such obvious displays of vindictiveness.

*[ as it happens “Hostile environment” is an actual quote from Theresa May (current UK PM) from when whe was Home Secretary The difference between UK and Australian government policy is that the UK government admitted their underlying thinking]

How the Right is Ignorant of the Right

This is an observation based on a post by Sad Puppy/Mad Genius/Tor-Boycotter Peter Grant. After the terrorist attack in Toronto, Grant was shocked to learn about so called’incel’ culture for the first time:

“I must have lived a sheltered existence.  I had no idea that the so-called ‘incel subculture‘ was a thing, until this week’s terror attack in Toronto, and this article.”

Grant was a Sad Puppy supporter rather than one of Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies during the Hugo Debarkle* and I’ve no doubt his politics are not those of Vox Day but he is a Castalia House published author and he has defended Vox. The point being not that he’s somehow contanimated by these ideas but just that he is essentially living in the neighbourhood of these ideas. They are only a hop and skip away from people he has an active and on-going commercial relationship with and part of a very loud cultural-political conflict that he was an active participant in.

Again, to repeat, I’m not implying any particular commonality of viewpoint or guilt-by-association here. I’m just genuinely amazed, despite repeated evidence, of how ignorant different rightwing factions and movements are about other rightwing factions and movements. Grant isn’t generally ignorant of world events or incapable of following a set of ideas and yet was blissfully unaware of a notable section of the people engaged in the same culture war as he is until one of them staged a major terrorist attack.

But I guess, it is so much easier to stay confident in a belief that you are right if you ensure you know as little as possible about people who differ from you but who repeat the same points and ideological attacks.

*[Yes, I’m sticking with this now.]