Sci-fi, Libertarians, Heinlein and other stuff

I got bored with my previous habit of checking on the clumsy articles at Quillette — the online magazine for people who want to be reassured that reactionary ideas are really quite nice if you stand on your head and squint at them for long enough. However, a recent article crossed into multiple aspects of my interests that I really thought I should write about it. Entitled “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” (https://quillette.com/2020/06/12/the-libertarian-history-of-science-fiction/) it is not a particularly great examination of the topic but not so blisteringly awful as to be funny. In responding to it I appear to have gone off in many directions and have used many words and long run on sentences. So more after the fold…

There really are free lunches

Vox Day’s ‘Replatforming’ Backfires

Vox Day has managed to have a large number of his supporters legally doxxed in court documents with the help of his even less competent side-kick former comedian Owen Benjamin. A case filed in the Superior Court of California by crowdfunding tech company Patreon, cites seventy-two people whom they are suing due to a ‘lawfare’ campaign instigated by Day and Benjamin. I’m not linking directly to the court documents but the case “PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL” (Case Number: CGC20584586) can be found online via the Superior Court of California’s page https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/

The case connects with Day’s struggles with crowdfunding (see past coverage from me here and here) but specifically connects to Owen Benjamin (see past coverage from me here and here) who was kicked off Patreon last year according to the court documents:

Patreon Terminates the Individual Account of Owen Benjamin Smith

18. On October 9, 2019, Patreon terminated the creator account of an individual named Owen Benjamin Smith, a self-described comedian who had repeatedly engaged in hate speech, in violation of Patreon ‘s Community Guidelines. For example, over the course of approximately 18 months, Smith made offensive public statements in which he blamed black people for AIDS, mocked Hollywood rape survivors, and targeted Jewish people for scorn on the 25 basis of religion. 19. Soon after the account termination, Smith, though his attorney … filed a JAMS demand for arbitration against Patreon, asserting claims for breach of contract and tortious interference with alleged contractual relations between Smith and his former patrons on the Patreon platform. Patreon denies, and is presently litigating, these claims in arbitration….20. Smith has an online fanbase, and he responded to his termination by appealing to that fanbase to file abusive claims against Patreon for the purpose of driving up Patreon’s litigation costs and extracting a settlement unrelated to the merits of his claims.

Court documents Exhibit A in DECLARATION…IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF PATREON, INC.’S EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

The idea as outlined by Day elsewhere is that tech companies like Patreon often have an arbitration clause for disputes. Day’s scheme involves individual subscribers/members/sponsors/patrons/etc also demanding arbitration when a notable member of the far right is kicked off a platform. The tech company then faces not just one manageable arbitration process but potentially hundreds e.g. the Castalia House Patreon account has 1,634 patrons – a number that hasn’t changed by much (if at all) since the initial push last year and which averages as $4 per patron.

Unfortunately, according to the court documents Patreon filled in that potential hole in the terms and conditions:

6. The Current Terms of Use provide that individual users “may not bring a claim against [Patreon] for suspending or terminating another person’s account.” Exhibit A at 11-12. 8 Users expressly agree they “will not bring such a claim[,]” and they are “responsible for the damages caused, including attorneys fees and costs,” if they do bring such a claim.

ibid

The court documents claim that the seventy-two Owen Benjamin supporters had agreed to Patreon being able to amend the Terms of Use when they signed up and by not deleting their account and by signing in this year under the revised Terms had effectively agreed to them.

According to Patreon’s court documents, Benjamin’s lawyer used the possibility of Benjamin’s followers making arbitration claims as a lever in the negotiations:

“On November 15, 2019, Mann made a settlement demand: he would proceed with the threatened 83 additional Patron Claims unless Patreon agreed to pay Smith $2.2 million and reinstate Smith’s Patreon account. Mann made clear that the payment to Smith would resolve the claims asserted by the individual patrons, stating “[o]ur intention is to address all claims -Smith’s and the individual patrons’ – in any discussions with you based upon the required relief described above.” Patreon rejected that demand”

ibid

Instead, it seems the individuals may end up liable for Patreon’s court costs. According to Day this is Patreon “playing dirty” (warning: link to his blog http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/06/patreon-plays-dirty.html )

“Since a lawsuit is a matter of public record whereas an arbitration is not, the Owen-haters on Reddit have just published all the names of the Bears being sued by Patreon. Needless to say, the Legion is on it and we will be legally retaliating very strongly in order to see that Patreon and their lawyers are severely punished for this despicable and unexpected tactic. But the doxxing has already taken place, so if any of you experiences any blowback from this, please be sure to document everything and let us know right away so that the Legion can include everything in their future filings concerning this element of the matter.”

Vox Populi “Patreon plays dirty”

Day is also reassuring the Owen Benjamin fans (aka “Bears”):

“If you’re one of the Bears concerned, please don’t worry about anything. It’s going to be fine. The Legion – and more – are on it, and everyone will have your back, just as you have had Owen’s. This is an absolutely desperate move by Patreon to try to further delay your arbitrations against them because they are losing very badly. And if you’re wondering how this joke of a lawsuit can be a matter of public record when you haven’t even been served, exactly. As you can see here, Patreon’s lawyers are not following any of the rules of either the legal or the arbitration processes, which is one of the reasons they are losing so consistently and comprehensively.”

Vox Populi “Patreon plays dirty”

Day predicts that Patreon’s actions will lead to its destruction (where have we heard that before?)

“So, it is increasingly looking like there either won’t be a Patreon by the end of the year or Owen and the Bears will own it. It’s rather like finding yourself fighting a duel with someone who genuinely believes his most effective attack is to disembowel himself.”

Vox Populi “Patreon plays dirty”

In an earlier post this month, Day made a similar prediction:

“Of course, literally all of the relevant law and case law, both state and Federal, points to this being either a) Patreon attempting to commit suicide by law, or b) Patreon’s lawyers desperately trying to convince Patreon to keep writing them the checks that it shouldn’t have written in the first place. This legal “strategy”, to the extent that one can call it that, is so obviously futile that if you’re financially dependent upon Patreon in any way, I would not count on it being around in 12 months.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/06/patreon-ups-ante.html

Quite what will all happen at the end of this, I don’t know. Day has a long history of starting or threatening to start legal disputes. However, I can’t say I have yet to see an actual clear resolution to any of them (the closest in the time I’ve been running this blog has been the Indiegogo dispute whose resolution is unknown). It is worth noting that just because Day has a very flexible concept of what counts as a victory and Owen Benjamin thinks the world is flat and that bleach is medicine, that doesn’t mean they will definitely lose.

The topic is being discussed on various subreddits hostile to Day and Benjamin as well as in Day’s and Benjamin’s own videos.

[ETA the court website also has dates for when the next steps will happen:

2020-11-04 10:30 AMCASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
2020-07-13 9:30 AMOrder To Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction [Opposition – 6/29; Reply – 7/06)
2020-06-30 9:30 AMNotice Of Motion And Application For Order To Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction

Looks like this will drag on for months.]

Whatever happened to Voxopedia?

In 2018 I wrote one of my occasional posts about “Infogalactic” aka Voxopedia, saying:

“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.”

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/you-havent-mocked-voxopedia-in-a-long-time/

Although I’ve touched upon the site occasionally since then, the basic situation has remained unchanged. The same small core of editors keep trying to keep it updated with occasional forays into editing out all the “BCE/CE” date designations back to “BC/AD”. Meanwhile, there is a couple more editors using it as a personal blog for their own conspiracy theories and I think maybe as a place to edit a screenplay? It’s amazingly not dead but instead has slowly drifted into irrelevance. There was a point where various alt-right websites would link to it over Wikipedia but sightings have become rare in the wild.

Today though, even Vox Day himself couldn’t be bothered linking to his own vanity wiki:

Yet it had such dreams and ambitions back in 2016 when it first appeared ttps://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/vox-days-vanity-wikipedia/

By November 2016 the fundamental problem with even maintaining a bad version of Wikipedia was obvious: not enough editors and not enough updates: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/a-tale-of-an-encyclopedia-in-graphs/

People really did sign up in droves. What they didn’t do is start editing or curating. Looking at recent changes today, it is more-or-less the same handful of editors making the same number of editors per day as it was in 2017. Of those, several are just pursuing their own niche articles dedicated to either pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, transphobia, or anti-Semitism.

The development roadmap appears to have stalled in 2017. The encylopedia’s own page on its roadmap (https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic:Roadmap ) hasn’t been updated since May 2017. None of the promised unique features for the wiki whereby people could somehow see different perspectives on an issue have ever come into being nor, if the technology existed and the concept made sense, would the wiki have enough people to write them.

Back in October 2016 the mood was quite different. In what reads like a weird parody Day announced:

“On Monday night, the Techstars held a meeting, and after a series of intense discussions, it was decided to radically modify our development schedule. Instead of utilizing the existing MediaWiki engine to incorporate the new features we are planning, both the Techstars and the Star Council agreed that Infogalactic will be better served by replacing the MediaWiki engine with a superior engine of our own device, codename DONTPANIC.

We also decided to add additional levels of administration and editing in order to better maintain cohesion in content modification until the preference filters are operational and render content management unnecessary. There will be three levels of Galaxians, create page only, create and add content only, and create, add, and remove content. This will permit the Starlords to more easily contain and constrain the behavior of any editors whose behavior is not in line with the Seven Canons or the objectives of the Star Council.”

https://infogalactic.blogspot.com/2016/10/roadmap-20.html

A better summary of the state of wiki is provided by this page on “Infogalactic”

Mr Praline enters the pet shop to register a complaint about the dead Norwegian Blue parrot just as the shopkeeper is preparing to close the establishment for lunch. Despite being told that the bird is deceased and that it had been nailed to its perch, the proprietor insists that it is “pining for the fjords” or simply “stunned”.

https://infogalactic.com/info/Dead_Parrot_sketch

As this is technically a blogiversay round-up post, I’ll leave you with my favourite post on the topic: the time Voxopedia had an argument with me about whether pi=4 [spoiler: it doesn’t] https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/alt-pi-voxopedia-replies-again/

Blogiversary: Greatest Hits

Five years of all this nonsense but what nonsense were people reading and when? I’m down here in the archive stacks of Felapton Towers and blowing the dust off the weird old filing cabinets to find out. These posts are just the numbers-game hits rather than special favourites and often other factors drove the traffic to them.

2015

The first year out for the blog and Puppy-kerfuffling was already in full on kerfluff.

2016

2016 was the year that the unreality field started spilling out everywhere.

2017

2017 was dominated by Rabid Puppy shenanigans. In particular Vox Day’s spoiler campaign for John Scalzi’s new sci-fi trilogy.

2018

I was downloading a report from an online database the other day and I was entering a date range. I wanted to cover the whole set of records which started in 2011. So I picked 2011/1/1 as the start date and that day’s date which I typed as 2018/5/8. What? I think my brain stopped updating the year and I’ve been stuck in 2018 ever since.

The reality dysfunction was going full-on as world politics got even stranger. Meanwhile this blog was forced into self-referentiality as I got caught up in my own Sad Puppy kerbungle and then later became a Hugo Finalist.

2019

At the very start of January 2019 I considered winding down the blog. Later I decided to post something every day. I’m fickle. Surprisingly, it was the Nebula Awards that drove traffic to the blog.

2020

The year isn’t finished yet but it started on fire and followed up with a global pandemic. This is a first-quarter list but I think some of the themes for the year are clear…

Today’s quiz: what are the right putting in their bodies?

OK multiple choice question. What surprising thing are the right (from the intellectual dark web to the alt-right) consuming? Is it…

  1. Milk
  2. Bleach
  3. Turpentine
  4. Benzodiazepine
  5. All of the above at the same time
  6. All of the above but at different times

Did you guess 6? Well done!

Milk. This is an old one and the alt-right have been trying to make a point about genetics, race and Europeaness by ostentatiously drinking milk (see https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/milk-white-supremacy-racism_n_5bffad35e4b0864f4f6a3e28?ri18n=true ) As always their grasp of genetics and evolution is limited.

Bleach. In recent years, the right have been highly vulnerable to quackery to the extent it can be hard to work out who is the con-artist and who is the gullible mark within their ranks. Now they’ve latched on to a quack cure that’s been sold before as a cure for everything from AIDS to cancer. The snake oil is basically bleach and QANON fans have been recommending it as a protection against coronavirus. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/qanon-conspiracy-theorists-magic-cure-for-coronavirus-is-drinking-lethal-bleach?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning ) Needless to say, it isn’t.

Turpentine. Former comic and now main attraction at Vox Day’s streaming service, Owen Benjamin has apparently taken to drinker small amounts of turpentine to cure intestinal parasites. Again, I’ll just note for the record that drinking turpentine is a bad idea. (see here for the history of this toxic habit https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/is-turpentine-medicine )

Benzodiazepine. At least this is a prescribable drug and not a cleaning product. However, it is mildly surprising to discover that Jordan Peterson has been struggling with an apparent addiction to the drug. (http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2020/02/08/jordan-petersons-quest-to-beat-his-addiction-to-klonopin-sent-him-to-russia-and-nearly-killed-him-his-daughter-says/ ) Nothing wrong with taking your prescribed meds but there is something deeply incongruous between Peterson’s actual mental health and his public claims about mental health (his own, other people’s and the best approaches to it). Back in 2018 Peterson and his daughter were championing a meat only diet as a kind of panacea for physical and mental health (https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stephaniemlee/jordan-peterson-daughter-mikhaila-meat-carnivore-diet )

Five years…

I meant to note this the other day but I couldn’t decide whether the 1st of February or 2nd of February was the best date (particularly given time zone differences). So I’ve ended up with 3rd of February instead…

Either way…it was five years ago (Feb 1 2015 and Feb 2 2015) that the Sad Puppy 3 and Rabid Puppy 1 slates were announced. Archive links here and here and Larry Correia’s post here. The File 770 post summarising the news is here http://file770.com/sad-puppies-wag-their-tales/

An inquiry

I had an email the other day asking if I could summarise the role of Vox Day in the SFWA and the Hugo Awards for somebody not familiar with the background. So here is what I wrote. Corrections and adjustments welcome, of course.

Vox wants to be a writer and wants legitimate respect as a writer. In the 2000s he’d published enough to qualify to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America aka SFWA. This wasn’t a stunt or an alt-right entryism tactic, I think he genuinely wants to be seen as a legit SF-writer. He even ends up on Nebula Awards jury. The Nebula Awards are the SFWA’s major writing awards – not as notable as the Hugo Awards but still big. At the time I think Vox is still writing his column for World Net Daily, the paleo-conservative ‘news’ site that I think his dad invested in. Of course, people notice that the Nebula jury has this guy on it who has pretty extreme views – particularly about women and Jewish people.

[2005] This all ends up as a big argument on the blog of Patrick Nielsen Hayden http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html Among the many people who wade into the discussion is John Scalzi – who at the time was making a name for themselves as a sci-fi author and as a blogger. Scalzi is actually sort of defending Vox’s role on the jury. Other notable writers such as Charlie Stross join and eventually Vox Day joins in as well and things get worse from there. Yes, it’s just a big forum argument but from that point on Vox Day deeply hates Patrick Nielsen Hayden and the sci-fi publisher he works for Tor Books. It also starts the deep enmity Vox has for John Scalzi.

By 2010 John Scalzi is President of the SFWA and it’s also a time of social change. Lots of new guard versus old guard sort of fights as well as conflicts about diversity and inclusion. Vox is in the midst of all this and he is friends with conservative old-guard writers such as Jerry Pournelle. 2013, Vox runs for President of the SFWA (again, as a serious campaign i.e. not just trolling) and loses badly. It’s a peak time for internal controversies in the SFWA [can’t summarise all of it but see https://www.dailydot.com/irl/sfwa-bulletin-jean-rabe-resigned-sexism/ ] Author NK Jemisin in a speech at a sci-fi con refers to Vox as ‘a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavours of asshole’ which kicks off attacks on Jemisin by Vox. Vox uses an official SFWA twitter account to attack Jemisin, which becomes grounds by the SFWA to expel Vox from the organisation. Vox claims the expulsion is illegitimate and that the rules weren’t followed properly and that therefore he wasn’t actually expelled and that anyway he will sue the SFWA etc. He never does actually sue the SFWA and yes, he was very much expelled.

Many conservative and libertarian people in sci-fi are dismayed by this. They know Vox has more extreme views (but they downplay how extreme) but regard Vox’s expulsion as left-wing persecution of conservatives. That’s 2013 and at that point we need to put the SFWA aside and got to a totally different organisation.

The SFWA is a *writers* organisation. The World Science Fiction Society is a *fan* organisation. It is most famous for its annual Worldcon, a relatively small but very influential science fiction convention, and for the Hugo Awards which are the biggest science fiction awards. Anybody can join the WSFS (because its for fans) but there is an overlap with the SFWA because writers are fans too. The biggest name connected with the WSFS is George RR Martin, who has been active in Worldcons for decades, long before he was famous for Game of Thrones.

Moderately conservative-leaning publisher Baen has several writers who were unhappy at the time that Baen was getting no love at the Hugo Awards and that rival publisher Tor was getting lots of awards – in particular for Best Editor. New guy Larry Correia (a libertarian-lite, Mormon 2nd amendment advocate) does manage to get nominated for a best newcomer award but dislikes the experience. He’s published by Baen and decides to help boost the votes of his own books and the books he likes by trying to mobilise a voting campaign. This ends up being called “Sad Puppies” and initially its sort of a joke. It’s not political per-se but sort of anti-PC. Anyway, this is also in 2013 and many of the same people pissed off at the SFWA stuff are also supporting Larry Correia. Naturally, many of the same people pissed off at Vox Day aren’t very happy with the Sad Puppies idea.

2014 Larry decides to cross the streams. Sad Puppies 2 nominates Vox Day for a Hugo Award in a short fiction category. The arguments about the SFWA are spilling over into Worldcon and the Hugo Awards even though the two organisations are separate. The level of bad feeling just gets higher. Vox is feeding all this with his usual stuff about SJWs supposedly infiltrating stuff and shadowy conspiracies etc. He’s just rehashing his usual antisemitism but swapping out terms but he’s playing the more moderate conservatives like a fiddle. Because people like John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (see above) and NK Jemisin are also part of the Worldcon scene, he can get at them by attacking the Hugo Awards. Sadly for Vox, he gets utterly humiliated in the final voting for the 2014 Hugo Awards.

2015. Round three for the Sad Puppies, this time run by Larry Correia’s friend and fellow Mormon Brad Torgersen (also published by Baen). Brad’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but he also hate John Scalzi because Brad used to comment at Scalzi’s blog but kept making a fool of himself. Brad puts together a slate of nominees. Vox decides to run his own campaign for the Hugo’s called “Rabid Puppies”. He takes Brad’s slates, adds a few extra works from his own Castalia House and tell’s his followers to buy memberships for Worldcon so they can nominate for the Hugo Awards.
April comes along and the Sad/Rabid Puppies have swept the board i.e. there are whole categories were the only nominees are works from the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates. What that means is that no matter how people vote, the only choices in some categories have been picked by Vox. Checkmate, says Vox.

…except…

People can vote for ‘No Award’ if they don’t like any of the nominees. Huge numbers of people join up for Worldcon 2015 to vote in the final stage of voting. Nobody knows who has the most new votes. Final votes come in and the Rabid Puppies get smashed. Vox still declares victory, saying that was his plan all along.

2016 Vox tries again. Doesn’t do as well in the nominations and gets smashed in the final votes. To add salt into his wounds Best Novel (the big premiere award) goes to N.K. Jemisin (see above).

2017 Vox tries again. Does very badly in the nominations and gets very smashed in the final votes. N.K. Jemisin wins her SECOND Hugo Award for best novel.

By 2018 he’s given up but declares victory claiming it was his plan anyway to destroy the Hugo Awards by making people vote for left wing works.

[ETA It is always worth noting for people who haven’t read it, N.K.Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season is absolutely genuinely brilliant and IMHO one of the best novels to win a Hugo Award ever. That it winning would also have pissed off Vox is secondary to the actual nature of the win.]

It’s interesting who else has a troll problem

As Vox Day has been increasingly distancing himself from the world of science fiction and dedicating more of his time to tilting at the windmills of large tech-platforms, I’ve been taking less of an interest in his antics. However, as I was writing about trolls yesterday it is appropriate to write about a different troll problem today.

It seems Vox is beset by a troll problem. Having spent a bit of mind-numbing time looking at various Reddit threads and some incoherent You Tube videos, it is fair to use the term ‘troll’. We aren’t talking about argued responses to Vox Day’s behaviour but rather people clearly trying to wind the guy up. Politically the stuff is coming from the same cess-pit of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories as Vox’s base. However, the dank-meme subculture was a ready recruiting ground for Vox Day’s brand of extreme white nationalism for years, so attacks from this direction are interesting politically.

The substantive complaint is around Day’s “Unauthorised TV”: a subscription video service that is part of his alternative tech platform plan. The scenario is a familiar one to readers here: Day announced a big bold plan that will a numerous features (like the buttons of the Open-Office Mouse) and will end up as a rival to mainstream equivalents (just as Castalia House was supposed to surpass Tor). There is a flurry of activity and recruitment and money raising (again, think of Voxopedia). An actual, tangible minimum viable product genuinely is delivered (again, Voxopedia) but it is substantially less than the original vision. Don’t worry! All those other features are on the way, the true believers are told and maybe there is more money raised. The amazing features never eventuate and again, consider Voxopedia remains jut a clumsy, vandalised copy of Wikipedia that a tiny number of editors struggle to stop drifting further out of date — none of the amazing capabilities (such as different versions of articles based on you political position) have ever eventuated and they never will.

The same seems to be true of Unauthorised TV. I say ‘seems’ because obviously I’m not subscribing and also I didn’t track what was originally promised. Defenders of Vox Day can correctly point out that the basic promise is delivered (e.g. Castalia House genuinely did publish actual books, with covers and a modicum of copy-editing) and detractors can point out the gulf between the reality and the fever-dream ambitions. [Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to that comic book movie…]

The broader context is the deeper divisions within the alt-right. In particular the current strength around the so called “groypers”, the latest iteration of extreme nationalists with a cartoon frog obsession who are associated with the latest white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nick_Fuentes ). The other element is Vox Day’s alliance with the increasingly unstable Owen Benjamin (see here for earlier coverage https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/vox-day-sort-of-denies-he-is-a-flat-earther/ ).

Alt-right figures follow what I call a dark-wizards rule. Being territorial and ideologically anti-social (not the same as personally anti-social) and dogmatically committed to clear social hierarchies, you can’t have two of them in the same general space unless it is in a lord-vassal* (or if you prefer, master-apprentice) arrangement. Where somebody like Vox Day maintains patterns of allies it is where those allies have their own environmental niches and where they can offer each other things transactionally (e.g. Milo Yiannopolous, Mike Cernovich or Stephan Molyneaux) and where they may even ostensibly have marginally less similar politics.

So Fuentes rise in popularity was going to lead to a feud with Vox Day, which is what happened but slowly and with an intermediate feud between Owen Benjamin and Fuentes first. The details of the feuding don’t really matter as they weren’t questions of substance and Owen Benjamin is incoherent even by the standards of a whole subculture of incoherence.

Skipping forward in time. Reddit (particularly sections dedicated to Owen Benjamin) and various YouTube channels (the people concerned hop around accounts a LOT because of repeated bans and rule violations) have got it in for Vox Day big time. I’ve seen nothing new here** (these aren’t people doing original research) and there’s no deep ideological difference, it is just a mish-mash of stuff (I even saw a screen-gab of a page from here included) and stupid nicknames and homophobic insults (and random anti-Semitism). In short: trolls…but trolls aiming their trolling at a guy who tried to weaponise trolling.

On Friday matters must have come to a head for Vox Day and he announced an ultimatum:

“I’m giving Davey Crocko, RealOwenBenjamin, ultrafuzzyforeigner, and the rest of the Unauthorized-hating gamma trolls on Reddit and YouTube 24 hours to come clean, declare their real identities, admit their actions, and thereby avoid having the wrath of the VFM and the Legal Legion of Evil crash down upon their heads.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/24-hours-trolls.html [link for reference – not recommended to follow it]

Whether that is an idle threat or has some substance I don’t know but the reaction from the trolls was derisive. Day is also claiming that there have been some sort of cyber attacks on some of the tech services. I’ve no way of ascertaining whether there is any truth in those claims and there are zero people involved in this fuss who could be regarded as a reliable source.

In a substantial dose of even more unwitting irony, Day himself is now bemoaning the quality of online discourse these days:

“In what is a crushing refutation of libertarian theory, the Internet and the devolution of what were once civilized anonymous discussion spaces on bulletin boards and CompuServe have clearly demonstrated that Man cannot handle the freedom of a perceived lack of accountability.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-troll-wars.html

He’s also concerned about how there’s no way forward other than legalistic means:

“No matter how we react – and notice that we did ignore it for months until events yesterday rendered that impossible – there has never been anything to it. By this bizarrely twisted illogic, people only react to true accusations, against which stands the entire history of written and case law dealing with defamation, slander, and libel.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/an-interesting-perspective.html

Which takes me back to a point I have made before. The SFWA and later the WSFS membership absolutely did the right thing in the end by taking an uncompromising response to Vox Day’s antics. Following his OWN advice on how to handle those whose only aim is to act in bad-faith and disrupt an organisation and the discourse within an organisation, is to not attempt to reason or become further embroiled in a bad-faith discussion.

tl;dr obnoxious people are shouting at each other.

*[See also the distinct pecking order within the Sad Puppies]

**[Aside from one point: there is a claim that the video service Day is promoting is actually using Vimeo’s infrastructure. Which is a bit ‘so what?’ However, the argument is that this disproves that Day is spending the money on a tech platform independent of the mainstream tech platforms.]

It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier. https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/12/no-american-man.html

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/sad-popcorn/ ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.

More alt-right crowdfunding shenanigans

About a month ago I came across a very odd thing. It was odd enough that I thought the interesting thing to do is to just watch if anything happens. Nothing did happen and so now seems about the right to time to write about it. For context you need to go back to these posts:

Yes! It is our old pal Vox Day engaged in yet another winning gambit in a game of one-dimensional chess. The ‘odd thing’ is this neon-green thing https://www.patreon.com/castalia [no archive link, patreon pages don’t archive well]. It is a Patreon account for Vox Day’s vanity publishing house Castalia and the account is ostensibly there to promote his recent book (see my review above).

However, the public verbiage around the site is a parody of left-leaning language, as if it was attempt to hide the actual politics of Castalia, even down to the bearded guy in the logo.

Unless I missed it (which is possible) there was no big announcement of this Patreon account either at Vox Day’s blog or the Castalia House blog. It’s been sitting there since late October and after a very sudden flurry of subscribers has stayed stuck at around 16 hundred patrons.

There is an explanation from Vox Day himself but it is the form of two of his rambling videos.

I’ve seen elsewhere Vox say he wouldn’t watch his own videos and on that one point, he is absolutely right. I don’t know who has the patience to watch this stuff but people do and Vox’s fans watch even longer and less coherent stuff from Owen Benjamin. However, mid November I sat through most of those.

The gist of the explanation is this. Day has launched a ‘replatforming’ campaign, to take back the presence of the alt-right on online platforms. Of course, the extent to which the right have been pushed off online platforms is actually minimal (and largely through unforced errors by given individuals) but put that aside for a moment. Day is claiming the right has been forced off platforms and he will valiantly fight back. The bridgehead of his fightback being the Patreon account above.

I’m watching these videos with my head cocked to one side, a bleary confused expression on my face and saying ‘huh?’ to myself. Yet we must persevere to understand what today’s Xanatos gambit is:

  1. Hidden SJWs in Patreon will be outraged by the existence of the Castalia account and ban it. At this point Day launches legal action as do the 16 hundred loyal followers. The resulting legal victory defeats no-platforming. [No, I don’t get how that works but I’ll come back to it]
  2. The hidden SJWs in Patreon will still be outraged by he existence of the Castalia account but discover that they cannot do anything about the account legally and reluctantly let it continue. Having conceded victory to Day, no-platforming is defeated. [Again, No, I don’t get how that works but I’ll come back to it]

I’ll come to the gaping flaw in the reasoning in a moment but the initial issues that struck me were these:

  • If the plan is to provoke a banning, then why the weird stealth aspect of the Patreon? Pretending (even sarcastically) to be a left anti-capitalism group rather than a white nationalist group and then NOT getting banned hardly sets a new precedent for the alt-right to make use of mainstream crowd-funding. Likewise pretending to be a left group and THEN getting banned would undermine the right-wing narrative that only the right gets banned.
  • The whole ‘replatforming’ idea runs exactly counter to Vox Day’s avowed strategy that the alt-right needs to be building its own tech infrastructure.
  • Day wanted lots of subscribers with low level pledges so that many people would have standing in a potential law suit. I’m not a lawyer but I’m not sure that makes much difference. Is losing a court case of one person for $1000 any better than losing a court case of 1000 people for $1? Maybe it is?

In the following weeks here is what happened: nothing.

I guess by clause 2 of the Xanatos gambit that means Day won but a survey of the world around us shows that the status-quo from before October 28 is pretty much the same.

What Day has actually done is disproved his own narrative.

Day’s version of events (and it is one that extends beyond alt-right circles and is common among conservatives as well) is this:

  • a right-leaning person is on some online platform
  • leftists within the business running the platform hate free speech
  • the innocent right-leaning person is then cruelly censored for some minor infraction by the leftist underling…
  • and/or the right-leaning person is driven off by biased rules enacted against conservatives by the anti-free speech tech-giant
  • and/or a leftwing mob attempts to ‘cancel’ the right leaning person and eventually the tech-giant caves under the pressure of the howling mob etc

A survey of both high and low profile actual examples shows a quite different story.

  • a right-leaning person is on some online platform
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • something finally happens and they get a slap on the wrist
  • histrionics break out all over the place

The more substantial examples, were alternative platforms such as Gab or Freestartr lose access to key commercial infrastructure, are also when they themselves create significant business risks for other businesses. This may include dodgy financial processes but may also include connections to potentially criminal activity (e.g. enticement to violence that is closely connected to actual cases of violence).

What isn’t happening is a mass, concerted campaign by the technology companies to censor the right JUST for being right-wing. The myth of the SJW influence over social media and crowd funding platforms is exactly that: a myth. Yes, people on the left would like Nazis not to have a platform on Twitter or Facebook but these companies aren’t quick to remove people without repeated and overt violations of the rules users had agreed to.

Circling back. Castalia house set up a quiet Patreon that is playing strictly by the rules (I assume) so that when/if they get banned they have the best legal case they can. However, by sticking closely to the rules they are unlikely to get banned…which everybody with half-a-gram of common sense already knew.

Maybe Day knows this as well and this was just the simplest way of getting $6,000 a month from his marks/loyal followers? Maybe, I don’t know. As often with such activities, I’m not sure whether it wise to even write about it. We’ll see. At some point Day will declare checkmate and we will be none the wiser.