So I referred to the Sad Puppies “extreme politics” on Twitter the other day. Somebody questioned that and I didn’t reply immediately because there’s a lot to unpack. Instead, I offered a Twitter poll with the options of replying as
- Threaded tweets
- A linked blog post
- Talking to cat
Six people voted and each option got exactly two votes each. So much for power aw distributions. Luckily Tim tweeted me immediately allowing me to deal with the third option quickly. (more after the fold).
Worldcon events have brought out the former Sad Puppies to claim that things once again (via means never explained) prove them right (about what is always unclear). I’ve personally not had a lot to say on the Worldcon programming issue as I can’t attend due to a whole pile of things and life and the circumference of the Earth. However, I think the people who spoke up did the right thing in the best way they could.
Ah but the Sad Puppies? Well, I know my beat is varied but they are clearly within my mandate of stuff to blog about – and will be until I get completely bored of them, which doesn’t look like anytime soon.
I won’t bother linking to the various takes I’ve seen from the right. They are largely misinformed & confused at best and a nest of slurs & prejudices at worst. Calling fans ‘freaks’ and mocking their gender is inherently anti-fan and anti-fandom. The other element to these takes is various reprises of the history of the Sad Puppies and these are the usual revisionist nonsense*.
But one theme keeps coming up that I don’t think I’ve addressed before. This is not a direct quote of anyone individual pup but a composite:
“They even changed the rules to exclude us!”
The “they” being the well-known grammatical element known as the ‘conspiracy they’ to indicate the nebulous people conspiring against you. Now the rule changes aren’t specified but based on other reactions in the past, the main reference here is the nomination system known as EPH.
I’ve talked about EPH ad-nauseum and I think I may even be the first person (in 2017) to not be a finalist because of EPH when I would have been a finalist under the old rules. Which is really neat, if true. What I want to focus on though, is EPH and the Sad Puppies specifically. The Rabid Puppies is a different story because Vox Day engaged with it in a different way and clearly attempted to size up its effect in 2017.
The Sad Puppies though never engaged with EPH. By the time it was implemented Sad Puppies had withered into nothing. The causes of the Sad Puppy collapse are manifold:
- Larry Correia was already disenchanted with repeatedly losing by the end of Sad Puppies 2 (hence passing it on to Brad Torgersen & withdrawing as a finalist in 2015).
- High numbers of votes for No Award demonstrated that Sad Puppies would never have the votes to get close to winning an award and their reach was purely confined to impacting on finalists IF they were sufficiently coordinated.
- Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies kept hijacking all the attention while leaving all the attempts at positive PR to the Sads.
- There was never actually a huge reservoir of right-leaning quality fiction to nominate (put another way, any bias in results that might have been there was a supply issue before it was a voter issue).
- Organising a slate that was open and as fan based as the Puppies claimed it should be was a much harder and complex task than they imagined, resulting in low participation in the more open Sad Puppies 4.
- Post-SP3 campaigns got little support from notable male Sad Puppies. Whether that was sexism or burnout or both is an open question.
- It demonstrated that Worldcon could adapt its rule via member participation. That made the Hugos a moving target.
- The Sad Puppies had nobody within their leadership who could understand how it worked. The reaction to it was almost at a superstitious level, as if it contained some kind of Sad Puppy detection algorithm. Vox Day’s approach was more analytical and showed more understanding that it was a fairly basic number crunching algorithm that in theory could be gamed.
- It stopped the tactic of trying to sweep the nominations.
That last point was limited, EPH isn’t that great at stopping as SP3 style sweep but it is definitely an improvement.
But here is an interesting flaw/feature in EPH. There was not only nothing in it that would prevent Sad Puppy participation but in fact it had the capacity to ensure that a stable and consistent Sad Puppy faction would have been more-or-less ensured nominees. The actual change in the nomination process undermined sweeps but did so by roughly guaranteed finalist slots to large but minority voting blocks.
That isn’t a secret, it was a criticism made of EPH at the time that it could be seen as essentially conceding ground to the Sad Puppies and giving them a proportion of finalists each year…if they participated. While EPH isn’t quite that crude, there truth there. A consistent grouping of right leaning members (with the added advantage of drawing from a small pool of works) would get a ‘seat at the table’ under the EPH. I don’t want to portray algorithms as necessarily unbiased but of all the many opinions surrounding the Sad Puppies and the Hugos, the one closest to an objective fact is that EPH actually addressed a claimed core concern of the Sad Puppies.
As I said above, Sad Puppies fizzled out for multiple reasons. However, EPH was only a minor factor** in that it helped prevent Sad Puppy *sweeps* but sweeping the nominees was something that Sad Puppy leaders said they didn’t particularly want. Put another way the concessions to the Sad Puppies contained within how EPH would operate called ‘bluff’ on the Sad Puppies. Given an opportunity to claim a fraction of the pie, the Sad Puppies cried loudly (and still do) that rules that stopped them taking the whole pie with a minority of the votes were rules that excluded them. And I’m going full circle here – they are right that EPH excludes them *IF AND ONLY IF* the Sad Puppies were always about trying to push everybody else out. “They change the rules to exclude us!” Is only true if “us” means “the people who wanted to push everybody else out.”
[There was a comment about me from a regular Puppy support who asked rhetorically why, if something was nonsense, was I so interested in it. I’d have thought even a passing familiarity with what I say, do and write is that NONSENSE is something I’m very interested in. It’s repetitive nonsense that bores me.]
[Apologies to the German language for ‘Schadnepuppies’ – I know it makes no sense.]
**[Minor factor in the Sad Puppy demise, a bigger factor in keeping the Rabids at bay and a bigger factor in an overall improvement in nomination process.]
Prominent former leaders of the Sad Puppies campaign have completely moved on from that whole business. So much so that it seems like a week can’t go by without one of them offering a new revised history of events.
This week it’s Sarah Hoyt.
Now I’m a lazy but forward thinking man and over two years ago I decided to save future me sometime. https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/
But there are a few points in Hoyt’s post I didn’t cover there but most I’ve covered in later posts. So in order, here is a reply to Hoyt’s post:
Sarah Hoyt promised that Sad Puppies 5 would be a way of recommending books – it never eventuated. Running a divisive campaign to try and make others reshape the Hugos into something Hoyt wanted but couldn’t be bothered to do herself is not a great endorsement of the Sad Puppy campaign -even assuming Hoyt is being honest here.
The Wikipedia article in Sad Puppies doesn’t even use the word ‘supremacist’ and doesn’t call Sad Puppies “white supremacists” or propagate any lies about them: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Puppies
“Then how did we think we could achieve our goals?” That’s not even a clever strawman.
“It starts with their being enormous racists.” [sigh] a few sentences ago, Hoyt was arguing that the Sad Puppies couldn’t be racist because some of the leading figures were members of ethnic minority groups. Many noted opponents of Sad Puppies were members of ethnic minority groups therefore one of both of Hoyt’s claims is false (hint: its both).
“They think they’re helping “minorities” and “the oppressed” by telling minorities and the oppressed how to think and feel, ” now I can’t say I’ve ever had much success telling people how to think and definitely not how to feel. Hoyt blithely assumes “minorities” are like easily led children and then lectures everybody else about racism…
“They assume that people of color (any color, even my spun-gold) can’t compete with standard white people. They assume that women can’t compete with men. They assume that gay people are fragile flowers who’ll be destroyed by the wrong word.” – I know that isn’t true about most of the so called “SJWs” than I know. However, I do know Brad Torgersen thinks PoC and women writers who have won a Hugo could only do so via ‘affirmative action’ https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/youve-probably-forgotten-about-brad-torgersen-by-now-so-apologies-for-reminding-you/
“Academic jobs” – https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/hugos-for-academics/
“If you follow all those assumptions and you have some experience in Academia, you know that the left insists on giving awards on the basis of race, sex, etc, because that helps with university jobs. (To be fair most of them also work in academia.)” – a special Hoyt combo move! Nope – firstly Hugo winners are generally not academics (I can think of two in recent years), a Hugo award wouldn’t help them much, the person who thinks women and PoC can’t compete is Sad Pup Brad Torgersen who keeps calling such wins “affirmative action” and denies that they are wins on merit.
“Ignored in all this is indie, of course, because you know, it doesn’t fit in the academic career plan.” – The Hugos rewards independent publishers and authors: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/awards-and-independents/
“So, you know, you can’t keep anyone from writing. And with indie you can’t keep anyone from publishing.” True and yet notable Sad Pups have claimed that people with even less power over what gets published (including little old me) have been trying to sabotage careers. https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/was-antonelli-set-up/
“Ignored in all this too is the fact that writers write.” Then WRITE! Literally nobody on the left hand side of things is stopping or can stop Sarah Hoyt from writing.
Jonathon LaForce has an interesting and at times laudable post at Mad Genius Club: https://madgeniusclub.com/2018/06/01/verified/
It starts with an extended military metaphor but its focus is actually on the veracity of criticism:
“This conflict over culture has consequences. It demands that we not give in to the base instinct of lying, dehumanizing, and othering those with whom we quarrel. Such is dishonorable. Such will not be tolerated. I don’t want you to my left or right, I don’t want you laying down suppressive fire from behind me as I charge forward, if I can’t trust you to do the right thing.”
And while I wouldn’t phrase things the way he has, he is correct. Truth matters, tactically, strategically and ethically.
I assume the post is partly motivated by Jon Del Arroz’s recent tweets criticising well-known fantasy author Brandon Sanderson who has been critical of Utah fan convention FanX (for background on the FanX controversy see File 770 here: http://file770.com/?p=42326 )
It is therefore disappointing that LaForce then partly trips over his own principles:
“I dislike Irene Gallo because she chose to make extremely unprofessional comments about myself and others as being “Nazis,” after which she tendered an “apology.””
The comment here is a reference to a comment made by a Tor employee in 2015 on her personal Facebook page. As was discussed at the time, Gallo did not directly call the Sad Puppies Neo-Nazis and certainly did not call Jonathon La Force personally a Neo-Nazi. (see the timeline for links ) However, her wording was unclear and the quote contained other sweeping statements about the groups collectively being racist, misogynistic and homophobic. La Force also wrote a strongly worded post on the topic at the time: https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/06/07/dear-tor/
I’m not pointing this out as a ‘gotcha’ or to have a dig at hypocrisy – for a start I’m preaching to the choir here and nobody at Mad Genius is going to care one way or another. The point is multi-fold:
- The ‘called us neo-Nazis’ is an exaggeration but it wasn’t the biggest distortion of truth during the Puppy Debarkle but it was one of the most persistent and is now taken as gospel to the extent that it has evolved into individual Puppies being called ‘neo-Nazis’ by Tor employees.
- The comment did describe both Puppy campaigns collectively as “unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic”. If I was a Sad Puppy and I wanted to nurse a long-term point of anger around this incident, then that’s the point I’d fixate on – rather than the ‘neo-Nazi’ comment. Trying to be truthful and accurate does not mean somehow giving ground on your criticism – in fact, the opposite. The Sad Pups adopted a *weaker* piece of rhetoric that was more easily debunked but which had a greater short-term impact.
- The anger in response to the comment was genuine and that’s important. It is another dimension to issue I was waffling about in this post, a way we all approach truth that can be at odds with more abstract questions of truth. In this case, it is undeniably true that the comments deeply hurt the feelings of many people associated with the Sad Puppies.
- When it comes to fixing a problem like being critical of your opponents but doing so TRUTHFULLY…you have to start with yourself. And that’s hard work. It means making fine distinctions and thinking about how you word things. It also means doing the thing that Irene Gallo did that is most relevant here: apologise and correct what she was saying.
Circling back, truth matters and so accuracy matters. Lots and lots of things were said during the semi-decade of the morose hounds. There was undoubtedly some over the top and histrionic rhetoric by critics of the Sad Puppies. Sticking to what is factually defensible was not always the most emotionally gratifying and correct mistakes could even be painful, but…aside from examples like Irene Gallo’s misjudged (but corrected) statement, the greatest ire from the remaining Sad Puppy rump is towards those who reported what the Pups said accurately.
Moving beyond the Sad Pups and considering the wider ‘cultural war’ and in particular the Trump regime, the same issues apply. Sticking to what is truthful, moderating claims to what is defensible based on evidence, distinguishing between fact, speculation and opinion are all important. Ignoring or actively debunking spurious claims made by people claiming to be anti-Trump but who push nonsense (such as Lousie Mensch) is important. Being wary of stories that are too good to be true or that seem exaggerated or shocking (tricky – considering what is actually happening) and seeking confirmation is important. Honest people can (and will) honestly spread stories that are not true and maintaining a healthy level of non-cynical scepticism is vital. Without that healthy non-cynical scepticism you become vulnerable to ‘fake news’ and propaganda.
While I had more important things to post about today, I couldn’t let this post by Brad Torgersen go by without some comment. Having said that, this isn’t a Brad bashing piece. Rather, some of his comments got me thinking about some of the language we use (as well as touching on some questions about truth and evidence which is very much my briar patch).
Brad, somewhat late to the party, discusses Larry Correia’s disinvitation as Guest of Honour at Origins Game Fair. He summarises the problem as this:
“What’s concerning is that conventions — indeed, almost all institutions of various descriptions — are being placed in the position of either bending to the will of what are essentially mobs, or facing threats of both bad PR and, potentially, painful legal annoyance. In each case, the institutions almost always take the path of least resistance. It’s far easier to eject a guest who has attracted the mob’s attention, than stand your ground and endure the mob’s ire; as a “defender” of the alleged wrong-doer.”
‘Mob’ is doing a lot of work here. It is partly a way of making those who complain faceless & depersonalised and partly a way of making them seem irrational, angry & threatening. It is easy to characterise groups of people doing something as a ‘mob’ – for example, it would have been easy to call Sad Puppies ‘a mob’ or the Tor Boycott the action of a mob but the ease with which it can be done also demonstrates why it is largely an empty term.
But what about something like Gamergate? I can see why people use a term like ‘mob’ there but I am still worried that the term clouds issues more than it describes actions. The actual decisions made by people in Gamergate (or if you prefer some leftwing incident of many people acting on social media) were not those of an actual mass of people in physical proximity but rather many separate individuals making distinct decisions over long periods of time. I’m not trying to play dictionary definitions on the word ‘mob’ but rather trying to point out that ‘mob’ creates a misleading impression of the psychology and the community dynamics here.
In the case of the Origins Game Fair, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a mob of any kind. Larry Correia himself is blaming one person as the source of complaint but I’ve seen evidence of other, quieter concerns raised to the con.
“Mob” as a term primarily obscures. It hides the way social media forms out of individual action both negatively and positively. An individual who is told they were part of a social media mob can look back at their actions and think “No, I just made that one comment and it was a reasonable one” and yet the subject of the comment may genuinely feel mobbed. At the Gamergate end of this spectrum, direct, individual acts of malice are made to look like individual responsibility played no part.
The (often genuine) feelings of being mobbed comes from the volume and the individuals making comments are often unaware of how they contribute to that volume.
An examples that crosses the Puppy/Puppyologist divide would be the recent brouhaha concerning the Romance author who is attempting to trademark the word ‘Cocky’ for her book series. I’ve written about it and Mad Genius have written about it and I don’t think there is much of a difference between our views on the issue. I’m sure the author concerned is feeling mobbed by the sheer scale of the response. It is unlikely she has read the Mad Genius posts on the topic and even more unlikely she has read my post but to some extent those posts all contribute. If our answer is ‘well she deserved it’ then I can see how that is a reasonable conclusion but that feeds into a different issue.
Brad raises other questions:
“None of this — in 2018 — happens without social media, of course. One might argue that Social Justice Zealotry could not exist without the anonymity and virility that social media provides. Pick your target from behind the safety of your keyboard, light the digital torch, rally your friends to the cause, and off you go to pillory whichever offending party suits your fancy this week. Proof? A preponderance of evidence? P’shaw!”
I’m not going to pick through the obvious hypocrisy of Brad’s complaint there — if we lived in a world in which Brad reflected on the faults he sees in others and whether they applied to themselves, then I’d have far fewer blog post topics.
Rather, it is worth asking about standards of evidence. Rather absurdly, Brad compares the con’s decision to the work of a military ‘seperation board’:
“Thank goodness separation boards don’t rely on the mob’s methods. Because when I am sitting down with my fellow officers to review a case, we’re all poignantly aware of the fact that we’re holding somebody’s career in our hands. We are not a court martial, so we can’t determine anyone’s guilt or innocence of a crime. But we can determine if the evidence of misconduct — not necessarily criminal in nature — does warrant severing the servicemember, and what the character of that severing should be. Because any discharge below honorable carries potentially life-long, negative consequences for the servicemember in question. And when something’s going to stick with somebody for the rest of their lives in a bad way, there better damned well be plenty of proof that it’s necessary, and justified.”
Again, self-reflection would probably help Brad see that, no, the standard of evidence that people should feel they need to have before commenting on social media about a con’s choice of guest should NOT be required to be of the same standards of evidence as a board convened to determine whether somebody should lose their full-time job. But that does not imply we should have no standards of evidence or truth.
Baseless accusations are not a good thing but we also can’t hold all truth claims to some sort of court-of-law standard either or even the standards of a HR function of a major institution*. To shift contexts slightly, there is a problem of regress here – imagine a company with some sort of grievance policy. The policy has to have at least two standards of evidence:
- The standard used for the company to act on a complaint by one employee about another.
- The standard used by the company to regard an employee’s complaint as reasonable.
The second standard has to be less than the first standard because employees need to be able to make complaints without undertaking the same due-process/evidence gathering/discussions that the complaint process uses. Indeed, there needs to be a third standard: the evidence needed for the company to regard a complaint as malicious or frivolous.
The same is true for reporting something to the police. It’s unreasonable to demand that somebody reporting something to the police should have ascertained the level of evidence needed for a trial. It’s unreasonable (indeed absurd) for the police to need that level of evidence to decide whether to investigate a possible crime. However, there has to be SOME standard because people make malicious complaints to harass others and there are obvious (and sometimes deadly) instances of the police acting on the basis of very poor quality information and/or prejudice.
There’s no easy answers at the end of this. To not just be truthful but to be concerned about the truth is a moral imperative. To consider the collective impact of our individual actions is also a moral imperative. That there are social consequence for bad (but not illegal) behaviour is part of how societies work. That there is no one-size-fits-all standard for evaluating the truth of a claim before commenting on the claim is a logical necessity.
*[Only afterwards did I see that calling the US Army a ‘major institution’ was a pun.]
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]
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: http://monsterhunternation.com/2018/05/15/statement-concerning-my-being-disinvited-as-the-guest-of-honor-for-origins-game-fair/#comment-89744
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.