Category: Puppies

Must we? Apparently.

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.

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:

“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’

“Academic jobs” –

“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:

“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.

“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.


Interesting Post at MGC

Jonathon LaForce has an interesting and at times laudable post at Mad Genius Club:

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: )

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:

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.

How big is a mob anyway?

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.]

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]

Continue reading

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.

Yip, Yip The Puppy Said

The so-completely-moved-on-from-Sad-Puppies denizens of Mad Genius Club are busily re-prosecuting for the nth time the Sad Puppy Hugo campaign. However, this time it is in defence of Larry Correia.

For those who haven’t heard (or are reading this further into the future) the Origin Game Fair initially promoted arch-Sad Puppy Larry Correia as a Guest of Honour. There was an immediate (but not actually that large) pushback and Origin immediately disinvited Larry. You can read the details here:

Not a good look for the organisers, who managed to make everybody angry.

However, coming off the back of John Ringo being disinvited from ConCarolinas for more complex reasons, Larry Correia’s disinvitation is causing some ructions in Puppy Land.

Amanda Green has a long post at Mad Genius entitled ‘It is time to fight back’

“You see, Ward — along with the few who whined and whinged about how evil Larry is because he doesn’t walk in lock step with their agenda — made a mistake. They assumed that just because we haven’t pushed back, and pushed back hard, we wouldn’t do anything this time. What they didn’t plan on was one simple fact. We. Have. Had. Enough.”

And gets angrier from there:

“What happened to Larry — as with John — is exactly what the other side has accused us of doing. Bullying, trying to keep us from making our livings, doing their best to prevent us from attending events where we can meet and mingle with fans. And we are the bad guys.”

Of course, Larry has not actually been prevented from attending, he has been disinvited as a Guest of Honour but I guess this may be a reference to Jon Del Arroz being banned from Worldcon.

At a much nastier blog there is a post then really goes off into some pretty nasty invective against two of the people who complained – in the process demonstrating the first key fail of classic Sad Puppy tactics. I won’t quote it but here is a link which makes the usual confusion about what Nazis are. And of course, Jon Del Arroz has a post up as well:

All three posts are calling for a counter-campaign, listing contact details of people supporters can contact.

“We need to get active and fight back against these collectivist groups who think they can silence us. It’s an epidemic and it’s escalating to proportions we never thought possible. The incivility of the left is going to keep pushing until we make sure this is deemed unacceptable.

Boycott Origins. Demonstrate outside of it. Email the con and tell them what you think:”

People are entitled to complain but that works both ways. People who find it objectionable that Larry Correia be honoured by a convention have a legitimate complaint and people who think he was treated unfairly have some cause for complaint. However, tactically, the Sad Puppies are once again falling for the same mistakes.

A sustained campaign against Origin will make it less likely people like Larry Correia get invited in the future. Any con organizer looking at the oncoming shit-storm should be able to see that the easiest way of avoiding the mess was not to have invited him in the first place. No invite, no involvement, nobody campaigns. The easiest way to win the game is to never have a connection with those who use outrage marketing tactics.

The Sad Puppies inevitably get pulled along by those who like the struggle for the sake of the struggle. For Vox Day and former Gamergaters, winning is less of an issue and often so poorly defined that anything counts as victory. The aim is to radicalise and create a fuss and when the dust has settled have a group of people who have become more marginalised in the process.

In Larry’s case? Well he was a big fan of Gamergate and he likes to be outspoken but as always he doesn’t seem to grasp that a side effect of that is a lot of people don’t want to associate with him. That in itself isn’t bullying.