I decided to ensure I kept track of re-writings of the Puppy Debarkle by notable Sad Puppy figures for multiple reasons, not least of which is to see how the story would change and morph over time. Now there’s a lengthy account by Sarah Hoyt on her blog and I am going to but a link here precisely because I do want to keep track of these things and heck, it’s a public statement on a public blog etc. Having said that I’m not going to pull it apart and I’ve closed comments on this post.
It’s not that I don’t trust people to comment but we’ve seen before how “friends” of the writer have used commentary here to intentionally stoke up a persecution narrative for the writer and I assume even posting a link will be used as evidence of some kind of conspiracy to deprive the writer of money or career opportunities despite me having zero power or influence over such things. So here are the links as they are. Make of them what you will.
When P.Z. Myers is cited positively and unironically by Vox Day, you know there’s something amiss with the universe. There’s heresy in the air and right-on-right attacks going down.
On the one hand, we have Jordan Peterson: transphobic right-wing purveyor of semi-coherent self-help books for people frightened by women going to university. On the other hand, we have Vox Day: a man who regards the terrorist child-murder Anders Brevik as a hero and who pushes a violent nationalism based on pseudo-scientific race theories. While we could see Peterson as at least being more moderate than Day, we can’t ignore that Peterson is a kind of gateway drug into the morass of confused thinking based on male resentment at a changing society. What Vox has in toxicity, Peterson has twice as much in reach.
Who is the more appalling of the two? Perhaps we need another candidate…
[more appalling people after the fold]
I’ve semi-seriously discussed quasi–pseudo-academic debate of monopuppyist versus duopuppyists i.e. was science fictions attempted right-wing coup in 2015 one movement (with internal differences) or two movements (with some shared features). One reason I keep looking at those events (and those distinctions) is the way they were a microcosm of broader ideological movements among the right.
Taking stock of those broader movements, similar issues arise. How are things different and how are things the same? There is scope for error in lumping diverse beliefs together and in becoming too focused on points of difference to see the commonalities. I spend a lot of time reading rightwing websites and comment sections (not just former Sad Puppy related ones) and two things stand out as commonalities:
- Unmoored anti-leftism. ‘Unmoored’ because while the anti-leftism is common the rationalisations offered are not. For example, left opposition to the Bush Jr. Iraq war remains a sore point for many on the right (who ignore Democrat support for the war) but is ignored by the section of the right who also opposed the war (who don’t ignore Democrat support for the war but do ignore left opposition to it).
- Common mythology. By this, I mean a set of beliefs about the world that are quasi-factual in nature.
The common mythology is a social glue and also a medium of cultural exchange. These are beliefs about how the world is that are:
- Very specific, i.e. more specific than economic or social models that may be more ideological in nature.
- By their nature beliefs that can be examined critically against facts but…
- …which are either NOT examined critically against facts or more often run counter to established facts.
That such mythological-like beliefs exist among the right isn’t a new observation. However, many which we might associate with the right lack this common currency aspect. For example, many people in this broader right I’m discussing are not creationists (although most creationists are of the right), likewise Holocaust denial is still regarded as objectionable by many on the right. Anti-vaxxer beliefs are drifting more rightwards but still cross ideological boundaries. However, a broad habit of believing things that just aren’t so has become entrenched on the right.
I’d like to suggest the following as a core-common shared set of mythologies that act as a means of group identity. These ideas are shared uncritically in diverse parts of the US/Anglosphere right and questioning them too much leads to social ostracisation.
- Global warming data and theories have been corrupted by politically active scientists. Note this isn’t quite the same as denial of global warming but obviously works very closely with it. The belief that temperature records and other aspects of global warming have been meddled with allows discussion of the reality of global warming to be avoided.
- Universities and colleges routinely indoctrinate students with Marxist social theories. This belief over-extrapolates the existence of actual courses (perhaps a course somewhere on queer theory) and asserts that this is the norm for all students. The belief has a bedrock of fears by evangelical Christians about their children becoming less religious at college or exposed to things like evolution but in the form, I am describing is more general and less tied to religion.
- The Democratic Party routinely engages in mass voter fraud at a highly organised level. The belief is very pertinent today given the headlines but the work on this idea is constant and on-going. US conservatives are primed to believe this idea against any facts to the contrary.
- Mass illegal immigration is an intentional policy of leftists and foreign governments. This deeply disturbing myth and surrounding rhetoric about ‘invasion’ is widely believed and extends beyond the alt-right & more overtly ideologically racist parts of the right.
- Europe is on the verge of (or already is) being controlled by or dominated by Islam. There’s a vagueness here as to what the actual proposition is. Partly this is due to the age of the claims. 10 years ago, claims about an imminent Islamic take over of Europe were very common on the right and 10 years later the claims are similar. In the face of ridicule of some claims (e.g. ‘no-go’ zones in places that aren’t ‘no go’ zones), the broader beliefs have become vaguer and less open to immediate refutation.
- Cities are places of rising violent crime. At some point, of course, this idea gets to be true. Crime stats go up and down but what is remembered is the ‘ups’ and what is ignored is the ‘downs’ as well as general trends. What marks this belief as mythology is that it remains unchanged over decades: violent crime is always rising but somehow the point where violent crime was low shifts around.
- Home invasions and violent attacks on middle-class suburbs or rural areas are common and imminent. These two form a pair and of course relate closely to gun ownership and NRA propaganda.
There are other beliefs that I could list but which I feel are more clearly ideological. For example beliefs around public healthcare relate to specific policy positions overtly advanced by conservatives for decades. Similarly, beliefs around affirmative action or even ‘PC culture’ have a closer connection with ideology. There is a common thread of seeking to avoid facts or to examine these ideas critically that gives them a similar quality of belief that would only be true in a parallel universe.
A relevant question is whether these beliefs are sincere. Salon writer Amanda Marcotte had a recent Twitter thread where she examined some of the anti-factual claims of the right and argues that they are insincere i.e. overtly lies:
Her argument is a strong one and there’s a longer analysis in this 2016 piece she wrote: https://www.salon.com/2016/09/26/its-science-stupid-why-do-trump-supporters-believe-so-many-things-that-are-crazy-and-wrong/
Clearly, some of these viral claims are trolling. The argument that ‘birtherism’ was insincere holds water. However, I think the ones above are held with sincerity of a kind. There is a lot of advocation of beliefs that don’t stand up to critical scrutiny going on that CAN’T be primarily about trolling people on the left. I can be confident of that because these are often beliefs that people on the right do not wish to discuss with the left or raise with the left. To point out factual or logical errors in particular beliefs is seen as trolling BY the left rather than the left being trolled. Readers familiar with the Sad Puppy debarkle will have many ready examples to hand.
Marcotte also raises the group identity aspect as part of the issue i.e. that asserting false or dubious beliefs ties people together, as they act as a marker of loyalty. However, in addition, the soup of false beliefs fostered by creationism on one hand and corporate propaganda on issues such as pesticides, smoking, guns and global warming has entrenched confused thinking as a habit among the right. These poor cognitive habits encourage the ‘grift’ culture I’ve talked about before within the right, that often makes them prone to both perpetuate and be victims of scams and dubious money-making schemes. Marcotte points out Trumps willingness to say what he is thinking is often mistaken for honesty and forthrightness by his supporters. This kind of uncalculated, unhedged speech without weasel words can be refreshing in a world where many people try to avoid being caught in a literal lie. Meanwhile, the new acting Attorney General of the USA was himself part of a company that deliberately targetted military veterans in a scam https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/09/matthew-whitaker-acting-attorney-general-wpm-scam
What’s trolling, what’s an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of public misbelief, what’s a scam and what’s people being scammed and what is just the inevitable confused belief of poor thinking habits is hard to disentangle. What the shared mythology has in common is that I think these are largely internally believed and which act as defence mechanisms for other beliefs or expressions of fears. In particular fears about race and social change among conservatives who see themselves as ‘libertarian’ and ‘not-racist’ require hoop jumping rationalisations that they can express by changing classifications (racial fears changed to fears about violent people in cities or rule-breaking immigrants). The ‘scam’ part here is that more openly racist parts of the right (i.e. the parts that are more willing to own the label ‘racist’) can control those fears via propaganda.
Cast your minds back to May 11 2016. It was a kinder, more innocent time and not-so-crypto crypto-fascist website Vox Popoli invited people to “Meet Rod Walker” (archive link). Walker was, we were told, the “new new Heinlein” and like Heinlein would be writing some exciting “juvenile” targetted science fiction novels for Vox Day’s Castalia House.
“We are very excited about our new series of Rod Walker books, because they are exactly what we founded Castalia House to publish. They are pure Blue SF, and contain no foul language, no adult themes, no nihilism, and they are 100 percent social justice-free. Robert Heinlein revitalized science fiction with just 12 wonderful novels – 13, if one counts Starship Troopers which was originally supposed to be a Scribner novel, but was foolishly turned down – and we believe it is possible to do achieve similar effects by applying the same principles that made his early novels so successful.”
The supposed success of “Mutiny in Space” was much trumpeted by Vox Day and this first “juvenile” was followed by two more: “Alien Game” and “Young Man’s War”. All the books had somewhat clumsy 3D model art covers. This was all according to the plan Vox Day had laid out in August 2016: [Archive link]
“He is one of the most professional authors in the industry, delivering what must be some of the cleanest manuscripts delivered anywhere. He’s not only professional, he’s prolific, as we’ll be publishing two more of his novels before the end of the year, Alien Game, which is a second Heinlein-style SF juvenile, and an as-yet-untitled fantasy novel set in Minaria, the world of Divine Right.”
“KU is the real game-changer now, because the traditional publishers can’t play there. But we can, and last month, one of our better-selling books sold more via KU than through all the other means and editions combined. It doesn’t make sense for us to sell all our books that way, as we’ve experimented and some books do great while others don’t, but KU editions are now every bit as important in their own right as paperback, hardcover, or audiobook editions.”
In July 2018, Rod Walker’s “Young Man’s War” was on Vox Day’s nomination list for the Dragon Awards.
But what about that fantasy series that was mentioned? In February 2018, the Castalia House blog had a review of a Rod Walker fantasy book called “Master Rogue 1: Mage Tome” http://www.castaliahouse.com/quick-reviews-mage-tome-karma-upsilon-4-and-appalling-stories but aside from that “Rod Walker” had gone a bit quiet.
More recently a stray comment in a post that appeared both at Vox Day’s blog and Castalia House blog caught my eye:
“Castalia House is not doing YA right now,”
A quick trip to Rod Walker’s own blog led to this:
The Wayback machine had a version of his front page from August 2018 but at some point since the blog had been blanked. The archived version showed a fantasy trilogy of novellas called “Master Rogue” . A simple google search for “Master Rogue: Mage Tome” gives a link to an Amazon page but that link leads to:
Does Straw Puppy work for Amazon now? Did he always work for Amazon? No, that’s a side issue. Off to Voxopedia. There “Rod Walker (science fiction author)” is a red broken link:
Rod Walker’s last blog entry appears to have been in July 2018. After that point, the mysterious Mr Walker appears to have disappeared and at least some of his book scrubbed from Amazon. The trilogy of novellas appear on Goodreads but no links to the books themselves function. There are odd remnants of the fantasy books on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/aw/cr/B077SGPHK2/ref=mw_dp_cr ) which prove they existed but they’ve since gone.
The conclusion was obvious: Rod Walker has vanished as swiftly as he once appeared and with him a trio of fantasy novellas. The new new Heinlein simply…vanished…
That’s very true random blog post title writer, I haven’t.
Yes, the shambling undead creature assembled from rotting remains of articles discarded by Wikipedia continues to lurch through the countryside occasionally gurgling the word “brrraainnss” (or is it “editorrrrsss”). Somehow it is still not dead despite being edited by a tiny number of people, two of whom seem to be at war over which kind of weird conspiracy theory complex is the right one.
Has it got worse? Mainly, yes. It already harboured some nasty apologetics for people who had psychologically abused children and since then has gained at least one editor engaged in some kind of transphobic campaign. Without sounding too much like a character from a Lovecraft pastiche, I shan’t link to the articles in question for fear that they may drive you mad or (more realistically) despair of humanity.
The incompetence remains refreshing. For example, the community portal (which I will link to https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic:Community_portal ) remains remarkably informative…because all of the links in the “Topics” section go to…Wikipedia. Nobody has edited the community portal since April 2017, presumably because the community is so happy an healthy and nobody’s limbs have dropped off as they shambled with arms outstretched as if scripted by George Romero.
“But surely,” I hear you say, “the platform itself must have enabled some soul who has been frustrated by the narrow-minded editors of Wikipedia to find a safe harbour where they could express their encyclopedic tendencies without the harsh judgement of the social justice warriors?” Fear not. For amid the hatred and bigotry, conspiracy theories and hagiography of Ted Beale, one benighted soul has found a home on Voxopedia to bring to the world articles that no conventional wiki could ever host. I bring to you, Voxopedia – the place was Englebert Humperdinck reigns supreme.
Perhaps you want to know about Humperdinck’s 1977 compilation album “Engelbert Sings for You”? Well sorry bud but those stuffed shorts at Wikipedia can’t help you out! Not so Voxopedia: https://infogalactic.com/info/Engelbert_Sings_for_You_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album)
Or maybe A Merry Christmas with Engelbert Humperdinck is more your thing: https://infogalactic.com/info/A_Merry_Christmas_with_Engelbert_Humperdinck_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album)
Or perhaps https://infogalactic.com/info/Engelbert_Sings_the_Hits_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album) an article form which we can learn:
“Not much information is available on this album, but it appears to be made by EMI, without any involvement from Epic. Hence, this was probably not released in the US.”
One plucky editor appears to have spent the past week attempting to make Voxopedia THE internet authority on Englebert Humperdinck. Is this a prank or is the Alt-Right desperate to find a popular singer to listen too now that they feel betrayed by Taylor Swift? Weirdly, the Voxopedia article on Humperdinck doesn’t mention his 2017 cover of an Ed Sheeran song, unlike Wikipedia — a fact that once again makes me feel the need to add dire warning like a character in a Lovecraft pastiche.
Things I learned today:
- Englebert Humperdinck is English and has the Freedom of the City of Liecester.
- According to Wikipedia “Humperdinck enjoyed his first real success during July 1966 in Belgium, where he and four others represented Britain in the annual Knokke song contest”
- I’d obviously heard of Humperdinck but I think I had him confused with somebody else but I’m not sure who.
- This is far more than I wanted to know about Englebert Humperdinck.
Cast your minds back to April 7 2015. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were beaten by the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship and Senator Rand Paul announced he was going to run for the Republic nomination for President of the United States. Meanwhile, in Sad Puppy related news, Larry Correia posted this: https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/04/07/addendum-to-yesterdays-letter/
“To the the SMOFs, moderates, new comers, and fence sitters I addressed yesterday, yes, we have disagreements with you. We’re happy to discuss them. We are not, however, happy to be libeled as the vilest forms of scum to walk the earth, and we are not happy to live in fear of career destruction. You want my part of fandom to coexist peacefully? You want to work out our differences and keep the awards meaningful? So do we. Though we disagree on the details and the issues, we also love this stuff. But coordinated slander campaigns, lies, character assassinations, threats, witch hunts? No… We won’t stand for that.” [CF: my emphasis]
“Coordinated slander”, oh my golly gosh! The issue being that the Sad Puppy campaign had become notable enough that its impact was being covered by the mainstream media. You’d think that was predictable — make a loud enough noise, eventually pay attention — but no, for Larry the news coverage must have been because of some hidden layer of coordination. A week later he was on the same theme: http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/04/14/george-r-r-martin-responds/
“So here is a question for you. What term would you use to describe the shared politics of the dozens of reporters, columnists, and bloggers who have run similar articles this week with obvious false accusations that Sad Puppies supporters ran an anti-diversity slate, motivated by racism, sexism, and homophobia? Jerks? Yes, they are, but that is a bit too coordinated for mere jerkage. That was a political attempt to establish a political narrative.” [CF: my emphasis]
Changing topics but not themes and sticking with a Sad Puppy outlet for a moment, fast forward to February 3 2017. Milo Yiannopolous’s star had risen high with an invite to the Conservative Political Action Conference and a book deal with Simon & Shuster when anti-Trump Republican group The Reagan Battalion released an edited version of a 206 video in which Yiannopolous justified sex with 13 year olds. At Mad Genius Club, Kate Paulk was unhappy about Yiannopolous’s book deal being cancelled: https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/02/23/the-inadequacy-of-silence/
“What I care about is that someone who has – objectively – done not one damn thing wrong is the subject of a coordinated effort to not merely silence him, but disappear him. I’ve seen this happen in the past. It happened to Larry Correia. To Brad Torgersen. I didn’t get the full force of it last year, but instead got the cold shoulder of people doing their best to pretend I’d already been disappeared.” [CF: my emphasis]
The theme being coordination obviously, the idea that if multiple sources are saying similar things it must be because of hidden coordination. Of course, some people really do plan things and approaches. Obviously the Reagan Battalion planned their media campaign against Yiannopolous but the “coordination” claim is stronger than that and proposes that the subsequent fuss and related outrage was also somehow coordinated.
I was initially planning this post yesterday after I read a series of tweets from Ethan Van Sciver, the right wing comic book artist who claims the mantle of ‘ComicsGate’®™. EVS was the guy who had the big falling out with Vox Day in September. In a series of tweets he disappointed me slightly by using the word “organized” instead of “coordinated”. I shan’t link to the tweets because it messes with the WordPress layout but the combined message was this:
“This Wave of Organized Attacks on ComicsGate consisted of:
1. The rise of @sinKEVitch as leader of AntiCG!
2. Jeff Lemire calling pros to arms against us!
3. Darwyn Cooke’s widow baiting CG!
4 Three Bleeding Cool hitpieces on me!
5. Hit pieces in the Washington Post, & INVERSE
6. Hit piece in The Guardian! The Daily Dot!
7. Robbi Rodriguez sending me a photo of his anus!
8. Vox Day trying to co-opt ComicsGate for the Alt Right!
9. Patton Oswalt condemning ComicsGate!
10. Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm compares ComicsGate to the KKK!
11. John Layman spews bile at 21 year old CG writer Nasser Rabadi for 21 consecutive tweets!
12. Kieran Shiach penned hitpiece in POLYGON!
13. Marvel Comics Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada weighs in to debate @DiversityAndCmx and EVS: Loses debate.” [CF: my emphasis]
Rather like the Yiannopolous defence, the charge of coordination here crosses political lines. EVS suggests a conspiracy between a disperate group that includes the Guardian and Vox Day. The Yiannopolous piece suggested coordination between the left and the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Like I said, this post was going to concentrate on a theme among culture wars and be a break from writing about the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. However, the morning news presented this to me: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/read-brett-kavanaugh-letter-senate-judiciary-committee/index.html
“These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse. But they are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service. As I told the Committee during my hearing, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out.” [CF: my emphasis]
It’s an interesting principled-tone Kavanaugh strikes whilst simultaneously accusing two different women of inventing ‘smears’ against him. And there is that tic again. Of course, yes, clearly the Democrats coordinate their opposition to his nomination just as the Republicans and other conservative groups have coordinated their support of him but the ‘coordination’ here is intended (as it does in the examples above) to imply that criticism is not just illegitimate but sinister and underhand.
“They” are out to get me and it doesn’t matter who ‘they’ are or that ‘they’ are a superfluous hypothesis to describe events. By casting events in this way, a call to action is made against the shadowy Them — who, to quote Kavanaugh, are a threat “any man or woman who wishes to serve our country”.
Personally I like to believe Them are giant ants. I prefer the classics.
Comics love nothing more than a crossover event! In a rambling post about the schmozzle that was (comicsgatecomics^comicsgate^gate)! Vox Day is very keen to set the record straight about previous culture-wars hijackings:
“I would, however, like to correct one common misapprehension: I never co-opted Sad Puppies. To the contrary, I was the architect of the Sad Puppies most notorious success and at no point in time was there ever any conflict between the Sad Puppies and me. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that none of the four leaders of the Sad Puppies, from Larry to Kate, have ever made a single accusation on that score. I don’t intend to say any more than that, except to reiterate an absolute fact: I did not co-opt Sad Puppies and anyone who claims I did in any way, shape, or form is wrong.” http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/09/dramagate.html [link for reference, I don’t recommend following it]
Hmmm, no I think it is safe to say that Vox Day really did co-opt the Sad Puppy campaign. Let me count the ways:
- He used Brad Torgersen’s cobbled together slate to form his own slate.
- He used the name “Rabid Puppies” to sow confusion between the two campaigns
- He commissioned a logo for his campaign from the same artist as the logo for the Sad Puppies campaign
- He manipulated the Sad Puppies into the spectacular own goal of the Tor boycott
- He mounted a vote stacking campaigns to help ensure that the Sad Puppy nominees swept whole categories…
- …and then left the Sad Puppies to defend the outcome
To be honest, I’m a little surprised Vox isn’t boasting about it. He very much wants people to believe that he is a master strategist of Batman like proportions and their are very few actual examples of him actually doing anything particularly clever. Yet the manipulation of the Sad Puppies is the one obvious and genuine example – he played them like a fiddle. Yes, they were easy and very gullible targets but still, Vox has no reason for false modesty in this one (and very limited) regard.