Did fandom cause the collapse of civilisation or vice versa? Let’s Assume Neither :)

It’s been a long time since I linked to a post by the improbable 2016 Campbell Award Finalist and Inaugural Dragon Award Winner for Best Horror Novel That Was Actually A Space Opera, Brian Niemeier but a posy at his blog caught my eye [direct link, archive link].

Brian’s politics mixes standard alt-right nationalism and misogyny with a particularly reactionary form of Catholicism. People may recall Brian’s concern that literal demons are controlling the left (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/demons-and-witches-and-the-left/ ), so not exactly a Pope Francis or Vatican II fan.

Anyway, Brian has a hypothesis about religion and fandom:

“Kicking Christianity out of public life didn’t usher in a bright, sexy chrome utopia. Instead of directing their pious energies into scientific pursuits, America did what everyone does absent Christianity: They turned pagan.”

‘X-thing is a religion’ is a bit of a cliche but I don’t think that analysis is wholly wrong. Rather, I don’t think religion is really a single social phenomenon at all but a whole bunch of things — which is why cultures don’t follow one of Christianity/Islam/Judaism have quite different boundaries as to what is and isn’t religious and how religion plays a role in wider society*. So, sure, I can believe there’s some commonality between fandoms and religion.

Indeed, I’d go further and say that I think how we engage with fiction and products of the imagination has a close connection with spirituality and how religion has become a part of human culture. Brian is making a different argument though:

“Human beings are wired for worship. If social pressure discourages worshiping God, those with less fortitude will worship trees, rocks, or even plastic figurines.


Religious identity was the engine that built the West, and it’s still a major motivating force elsewhere in the world. What has happened in the American Empire is that Christian identity has shattered, and the pieces have been scattered throughout various hobbies.


Which was precisely what the main players in the Enlightenment wanted–to reduce religion to a hobby indulged in the home with no effect on public life.”

Fandom therefore being the eventual warped expression of people’s instinct towards religion suppressed by the machinations of Enlightenment philosophers. I think we can safely assume that this is not the case. However, the next paragraph is what really caught my eye:

“To see how people’s identities have gotten mixed up in their hobbies, take a quick glance at the ‘gate controversies popping up among various fandoms on a more or less daily basis. #GamerGate was the big one, but it failed due to infiltration by controlled opposition and exploitation by online grifters. It’s telling that every subsequent fandom revolt has enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before skipping straight to the “milked by grifters” stage. “If a man loses faith in God, he doesn’t believe nothing, he’ll believe anything,” is illustrative here.”

It can be hard to tell with the alt-right what is a bad-faith nonsense and what is sincere nonsense. Occasional you get paragraphs like this that are so lacking in self-awareness that they can only be a sincere expression of some very confused beliefs.

As a reminder: Brian was not a major figure in the high points of the Sad Puppy campaigns (a relevant example of one of the right wing uprisings in fandom) but leveraged those campaigns to get his books promoted by the Rabid Puppy slates into a Campbell nomination and a Dragon Award. Brian was also the charmer who tried to stir up a second Dragon Award nomination into another culture war battlefront in a bid to get more votes for his book. (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ) There may be better example of the ‘milked by grifters’ stage of the Sad Puppy Campaigns but only because it was never not a grift but Brian is a good example of late stage band wagon jumping.

“Few now can imagine–by design–a time when popular culture wasn’t partitioned into myriad fractured fandoms. Sure, people had different tastes, but there were cultural touchstones everybody shared, and more of them. Everybody tuned in to The Shadow. Everybody read Edgar Rice Burroughs. Everybody saw Gone with the Wind. But a people with a shared culture and a strong identity is hard to conquer, so universal popular culture had to go. Fandom was the murder weapon used to kill Western culture.”

Again a reminder: Brian writes anime-inspired right wing science fiction about people fighting in space-robot suits. He’s not exactly aiming for the mainstream. It’s that lack of awareness of his own micro-niche writing that makes me think he genuinely believes that’s what happened — that rather than technology and population growth making it economically easier for people to find stories that appealed to more finely delineated niches, that this was an actual plot to divide society.

Does he really think he would be happier if the only books or films available where the most mainstream ones? Also, if he believed that then shouldn’t he be doing his utmost to just consume the most modally consumed media? But it is like the person who wants religion to be mandatory who doesn’t get that it wouldn’t necessarily be their religion that would be enforced

He finishes his essay thus:

“Fortunately, there are creators laboring to forge new culture in the tradition of our ancestors. For a refreshing take on the mecha genre that clears away all the stale cliche cobwebs, check out my new martial thriller Combat Frame XSeed.”

Irony is dead, a knock-off Kindle Unlimited far right combat mecha killed it.

*[Not that Christianity, Islam or Judaism follow the same template either, but the similarities are what tend to shape what Western culture regards as the things a religion has: a god, a priest, a temple, a holy book, quasi-laws, exclusivity]

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A quick voyage around the puppy seas to look at the Mueller report

I haven’t written much about the Mueller report prior to this post (indeed pretty much nothing https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/?s=Mueller ) and I liked Alexandra Erin’s analysis of all such investigation and thoughts about impeachment: the best option for getting rid of Trump is the next election and always has been. That doesn’t mean investigations or even possible impeachment proceedings shouldn’t occur — they are a key part of the checks and balances in America’s system of government and they slowdown and interrupt the full scope of the harm the current administration might cause.

The reaction from the Whitehouse to the as yet unreleased report has been one of claiming that it vindicates or exonerates Trump. You don’t need to be particularly anti-Trump or even particularly anti-conservative to regard that analysis with some scepticism. The investigation already result in action against key figures in Trump’s campaign that anybody, regardless of their politics, should find concerning. Politician’s spin.

So it is fascinating to see Larry Correia’s and Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the report — which note, they haven’t read or seen. Brad and Larry are of particular interest as they were ostensibly anti-Trump at the time of the nomination and were far more reluctant to be seen as endorsing him, presenting their positions as more anti-left or anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Trump. So. swallowing a politician’s narrative hook, line and sinker is an interesting shift for both of them. Here’s Brad on Facebook:

“Hate Trump for being a loud, uncouth, ill-prepared, boastful, otherwise un-Presidential oaf. Fine. But he was never in Russia’s pocket. In fact, the big red arrows kept aiming back at Clinton, Inc. and also Obama, Inc.”

Facebook Post

And a similar sentiment from Larry Correia:

“Oh well. That’s what you get for pinning all your hopes and dreams on something that was obviously a crock of shit to anybody who gave it a few seconds of critical thinking. There’s plenty of legitimate reasons to hate any politician without straw grasping for silly made up ones.”

Facebook Post

Both Brad and Larry talk a lot about narratives when it comes to politics but in that special projection/reversal of position way where they say their opponents are doing the thing that they are trying very hard to do. In this case attempting to frame a conclusion about the report before they have any idea what the actual content of the report is. It’s interesting because in both cases they are committing strongly to a pro-Trump framing i.e. accepting the uncritically the spin from the Whitehouse without engaging any critical gears at all. Heck even waiting a few days might have been a bit smarter given they still don’t know what is actually in the report.

It’s weird because I’m now a bit more interested in what the report says. Again, it was unlikely to ever have a smoking gun of, say, live video of Vladimir Putin handing wads of money to a pre-election Trump and Trump saying “Gee thanks for the money Vlad, I’ll spend this on doing all the crimes.” However, given there has already been, what, seven (?) prosecutions and four guilty pleas as a consequence of the investigation, it’s an already established fact that the Trump campaign was mired in criminal behaviour.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out. Both Larry and Brad adopt a stance of being different from the more overtly nationalist and pro-Trump right but often repeat and advance talking points and propaganda from the nationalist right uncritically. I’ll be interested to see to what extent they’ll back pedal on this topic as the story shifts.

And today’s Puppy target is…amateur authors!

Bless Dave Freer of the Mad Genius Club, he’s taken off from a comment here and woven a delicate confection of post spun from the purest hot air. https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/03/11/financial-exclusion/

“Just the profession of writing.That’s what the purpose of the site always has been. That’s what we’ve paid forward thousands of hours of our time to. It’s something which is personally very important to me. It’s a site I wish I could have found when I was starting into this profession. I love reading, particularly sf and fantasy, but reading in general. I want others to be able to enjoy it, and my unborn descendants to still enjoy it. Without professional writers… that will go the way of the music of the Lur. Once common, now Word says it is a spelling mistake.  There are of course still hobbyists who play a Lur. But that’s about it.”

[archive link]

Of course, by that standard the various diversions at Mad Genius into quixotic campaigns against awards, attempts to have people sacked from their jobs for not saying nice things about said quixotic campaigns, homophobic attacks on families and the general conspiracy theory mongering would all be distinctly off purpose. Perhaps Freer would rather have people believe each of those was about making money as a writer…

However, it’s the later part of Freer’s post that interests me more:

“If you can’t generate income from your writing, you’re a hobbyist. I wish you all the joy of your hobby, but unless you plan at least to try and try and generate an income, if you’re putting you novels on the market, I wish you in purgatory. We have enough dilettantes using writing for all sorts of other purposes which they care about, frankly damaging reading (because there is no selective pressure in needing to please readers to generate an income. It puts people off.) and certainly making life a lot harder for authors trying to make this a profession they can earn a living at.
Honestly, macramé is great for all those other things you care about. And if you could play the Lur as a hobby, it would bring a great deal more awareness to whatever issue you cared about without screwing up our profession.”

[archive link]

Well, lots of working people can’t generate income from their writing because of the time constraints involved. They might want to and they might hope that they will in the future but they can’t. Further, writing for its own sake brings people joy. If you are one of those people, well I guess you can enjoy having the trad-pub author Dave Freer sneer at you as he wishes you to purgatory.

Those two paragraphs are one of the neatest encapsulation of a core aspect of what I call the conservative crisis. Couple a firm belief in capitalism (although not a well informed one) with a belief that all you need to do to make money in a capitalist society is work hard with the harsh reality that you are struggling to make ends meet and what do you get? If your ideology tells you that the poor are poor because they are lazy and that the homeless are homeless because they choose to be and that millionaires are self-made and the rich deserve their wealth because of hard work, then NOT being an amazing success (particularly in middle-age) is an existential challenge to your self-worth. The only answer that can hold these contradictions together is that somebody, somewhere has cheated you of the success that your ideology and your self-perception say you deserve. The ‘them’ who you believe have cheated you will be legion. For Dave its those terrible New York elites and liberals and SJWs and now, amateur authors flooding the market with books!

In reality, hard work helps but it is no guarantee of success, talent helps and is also no guarantee. There will be lazy, talentless people who succeed because of their background or in some cases just luck. Understanding that is actually important for your own mental well-being.

When people who keep revising their own history make 1984 references…

Our erstwhile friends, the Sad Puppies, have largely been quite during the recent fuss around the Nebula awards. This is less than surprising given many (most? all?) had flounced off from the SWFA some years ago and even attempted their own alternate versions…that didn’t go very far.

Added to this was an awkward fact about the opposition to the 20booksto50K list – it was very definitely not about politics. A key argument from the Sad Puppies was that opposition to their far more flagrant slate tactics was somehow just a cover for anti-conservative sentiment among Hugo voters. To further add issues for the Sads was a key voice in raising concern about the list was Annie Bellet — an author who was unwillingly dragooned into Sad Puppies 3 by Brad Torgersen. Brad still, despite the obvious objections of Bellet, thinks he was doing her a favour by volunteering her for his culture war.

Brad has finally joined in and as always it is a mix of a narrative that wanders far from the facts, a revised version of history in which he is the hero and a list of how terribly persecuted he has been.

Here’s got two lengthy responses. One is in the comments to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s interesting account of his experience of the fuss (here http://yudhanjaya.com/2019/03/incidentally-there-is-support-for-wijeratnes-story-a-response-to-file770-and-a-record-of-the-nebula-award-madness/#comment-2573 ) and the other is in a Facebook post here https://www.facebook.com/brtwrites/posts/620567398356240?tn=K-R

The second piece (on his author site titled Brad R. Torgersen: author, essayist, veteran) is full of 1984 references and recasts the Sad Puppies as brave Indies versus the evil Trad-Pubs, because that’s the story that fits nicely with the 20books issue. That most of the authors directly involved in Sad Puppies were more traditionally published than 20booksto50K and that much of the opposition to the Sad Puppies came from people who were more independently published than the Sads is ignored.

The political dimension to the Sad Puppies is flicked to the ‘off switch’ again because the Sads have always been at war with Eurasia. The its-all-about-SJWs will get switched back on again at some point when Brad recalls that the Sads were always at war with Eastasia…

Gab is the walking dead now

Speaking of far-right social media alternatives, Gab the ‘free-speech’ alt-twitter that became so toxic even toxic-trolls stopped using it, is somehow still in existence. However, Gab’s own web host is questioning the number of users it has. A Southern Poverty Law Center report on Friday reveals a huge discrepancy between the number of users Gab claims to have and the number it probably has:

‘In a series of interviews, emails and text messages, Lilac Kapul said Gab’s claims in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings on Dec. 19 and Jan. 28 of more than 835,000 users greatly exceeds the internet infrastructure capacity that London-based Sibyl is providing to Gab. Kapul, a resident of Brisbane, Australia, also said Gab’s user data indicates that most of the active users on the site signed up soon after it was launched in August 2016, raising questions about Gab’s claims of rapid growth. “Based on what they are getting through us services-wise there is no way they have 800,000 users, or it would be very odd if they did,” Kapul told Hatewatch. “I would say they probably have a few thousand or a few tens of thousands. That sounds a lot more believable.”

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/02/14/no-way-gab-has-800000-users-web-host-says

Perhaps the more interesting story in the SPLC piece is not Gab but the shadowy web-hosting service they use called “Sibyl”. Based in London but run apparently by people in their late-teens scattered in different countries, the company also is a web host for a “incel” forum and has even dodgier connections than that.

The Right would rather men died than admit any flaws in masculinity

I shouldn’t read Quillette. For those unfamiliar with the Australian/International online magazine, it is part of that genre of modern political thought that could be called anti-left contrarianism, that covers various soughs from Steven Pinker to Jordan Peterson. Its stock style of article is shallowness dressed up as depth, utilizing the same style of misrepresentation of issues as the tabloid press but with longer sentences and a broader vocabulary.

Over the past few days it has published a couple of pieces on the American Psychological Associations Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Men and Boys. Now you would think that the stalwart defenders of innate gender differences would be happy that an influential body like the APA would be overtly recognising that men and boys have distinct psychological needs that require special advice for practitioners. After all, is this not the ‘moderate’ criticism of the rise of feminism? That somehow, men’s needs and men’s issues have been sidelined? Ha, ha, who am I kidding 🙂 The APA guidelines were characterised by MRAs, conservatives and the so-called “Intellectual dark web” as a direct attack on masculinity.

Here is one particularly stupid piece at Quillette that reflects the harrumphing style of response: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/thank-you-apa/ The writer (a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University) either haven’t read the guidelines or is actively misrepresenting them.

However, a second piece is what actually caught my attention. It’s better written but also is attacking a strawman version of the guidelines: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/how-my-toxic-stoicism-helped-me-cope-with-brain-cancer/

The writer describes how his stocial attitude helped him through a diagnosis & treatment for brain cancer and uses that to lambast the APA’s (apparent) criticism of stoicism in its guidelines. I, perhaps foolishly, left a comment on the piece. What follows is an edited version of my comment.

The piece is basically a strawman argument. It misrepresents what the APA guidelines say to imply that the guidelines have blanket disapproval for people acting stoically. e.g. Take the APA’s own article on the guidelines:

“It’s also important to encourage pro-social aspects of masculinity, says McDermott. In certain circumstances, traits like stoicism and self-sacrifice can be absolutely crucial, he says”

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/ce-corner.aspx

In the guidelines themselves, the word “stoicism” appears only twice and in neither case is a blanket condemnation of it. Once is in relation to difficulties SOME men have forming emotional bonds with other men:

“Psychologists can discuss with boys and men the messages they have received about withholding affection from other males to help them understand how components of traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance, and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

And the other connects with a broader health issue of men not seeking care that they may need:

“Psychologists also strive to reduce mental health stigma for men by acknowledging and challenging socialized messages related to men’s mental health stigma (e.g., male stoicism, self-reliance). “

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

Neither example relates to be being stoical in the face of medical diagnosis but rather social pressures that mean some men (no, not ALL men) don’t seek care that they need (including for physical ailments) because of a misguided belief that they have to battle through by themselves.

The writer’s example is NOT an example of the case the APA guidelines were addressing. The writer sought out medical care, received a diagnosis and stuck with treatment. The writer self-described actions are the OPPOSITE of what the guidelines are discussing — they show a man taking their health seriously and SEEKING HELP. That’s good and healthy but many men aren’t doing that and as a consequence are dying of treatable diseases

As guideline 8 points out:

“For most leading causes of death in the United States and in every age group, males have higher death rates than females”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

At least some of this is due men not seeking out healthcare they need:

“Between 2011 and 2013, men’s mortality rates for colorectal cancer, a generally preventable disease with regular screenings, were significantly higher than women’s, suggesting that many men do not engage in preventative care (American Cancer Society, 2015).”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

A stoical attitude need not be toxic but when misapplied/misunderstood or adopted out of a feeling of social obligation, it can take on a harmful form of thinking that you shouldn’t seek out help. I’m glad the writer’s stoicism was of the positive kind but the writer should perhaps also take greater care in researching what the APA guidelines had actually said.


To put not too fine a point on it: toxic aspects of masculinity kills men. There is nothing pro-man about it. Nobody is actually sticking up for men by pushing back against the APA guidelines.

An actual case of [voter] election* fraud in the US?

I’ve made several post now about how the evidence for wide scale voter fraud of any serious impact is rare. However, there does seem to be a serious case in North Carolina:

‘Enough confusion has clouded a North Carolina congressional race that the state’s board of elections has announced a delay in certifying that Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th District because of “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.”‘

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/01/672531061/amid-fraud-allegations-state-election-board-wont-certify-north-carolina-house-ra

“In October, during the final stretch of the congressional election in North Carolina’s Ninth District—one of the most tightly contested House races in the nation—Datesha Montgomery opened her door, in Bladen County, to find a young woman who explained that she was collecting absentee ballots. “I filled out two names on the ballot—Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education,” Montgomery wrote in an affidavit. Under North Carolina law, only voters themselves are allowed to handle or turn in their ballots, but the woman at Montgomery’s door “stated the [other races] were not important.” Montgomery added, “I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time.”

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/allegations-of-gop-election-fraud-shake-north-carolinas-ninth-districtThere are apparently numerous anecdotes like that surrounding the Republican (surprise, surprise) candidate. However, as well as this anecdotal evidence there are numerical inconsistencies:

“In Bladen and Robeson Counties, Bitzer found that Harris won an unusually high share of mail-in absentee-ballot votes. Bladen was the only county where the Republican prevailed in the mail-in absentee vote, winning sixty-one per cent of the votes from mail-in ballots—despite registered Republicans accounting for only nineteen per cent of the county’s returned absentee ballots. To achieve that margin, Harris would have needed to win not only all of the Republican ballots, but almost every single mail-in vote from Independents, as well as a significant number of votes from crossover Democrats.”

(as above)
It looks like the Republican Primary earlier in the year may have been tainted as well.

There’s an analysis of some of the numbers here that is well worth looking at: http://www.oldnorthstatepolitics.com/2018/11/ncs-closest-congressional-contest-gets.html#more

Noticeably, the many right-leaning sources of panic about voter fraud are oddly quite about this North Carolina case even though it would appear to be one of the few credible instances of large scale fraud having a significant impact on a result.

*title changed