Category: Straw Puppy

Posted with minimal comment

Sarah A. Hoyt on her relationship with truth:

“I realized recently that I have a “hunger and thirst” for the truth.”





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]

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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.


How the Right is Ignorant of the Right

This is an observation based on a post by Sad Puppy/Mad Genius/Tor-Boycotter Peter Grant. After the terrorist attack in Toronto, Grant was shocked to learn about so called’incel’ culture for the first time:

“I must have lived a sheltered existence.  I had no idea that the so-called ‘incel subculture‘ was a thing, until this week’s terror attack in Toronto, and this article.”

Grant was a Sad Puppy supporter rather than one of Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies during the Hugo Debarkle* and I’ve no doubt his politics are not those of Vox Day but he is a Castalia House published author and he has defended Vox. The point being not that he’s somehow contanimated by these ideas but just that he is essentially living in the neighbourhood of these ideas. They are only a hop and skip away from people he has an active and on-going commercial relationship with and part of a very loud cultural-political conflict that he was an active participant in.

Again, to repeat, I’m not implying any particular commonality of viewpoint or guilt-by-association here. I’m just genuinely amazed, despite repeated evidence, of how ignorant different rightwing factions and movements are about other rightwing factions and movements. Grant isn’t generally ignorant of world events or incapable of following a set of ideas and yet was blissfully unaware of a notable section of the people engaged in the same culture war as he is until one of them staged a major terrorist attack.

But I guess, it is so much easier to stay confident in a belief that you are right if you ensure you know as little as possible about people who differ from you but who repeat the same points and ideological attacks.

*[Yes, I’m sticking with this now.]

If Rabbits Fought Lobsters Who Would Win?

So, on average a rabbits weighs say 2 kg and I don’t know, maybe a lobster typically weighs 0.5 kg? Rabbits can be surprisingly aggressive but lobsters have a thick exoskeleton and claws. Obviously, rabbits can run away more easily but we haven’t determined where this conflict is occurring. Sure, a rabbit can adapt well to a wide range of terrestrial environments but they aren’t aquatic mammals and would simply drown if they tried to engage a lobster on the sea floor. You’d think that lobsters aren’t cut out for sustained warfare in burrows but if we extend our range of what we count as a ‘lobster’ then we’d need to consider the Engaeus aka the Tasmanian Burrowing Crayfish. Burrowing crayfish also live on mainland Australia in southern Victoria – so it’s not impossible that there are recorded cases of rabbits fighting crayfish. Having said that, if we are extending out the definition of “lobster” to a completely different species we may as well extend “rabbit” to include wombats.

Now imagine the same argument but I said that a rabbit weighs 55 pounds based on a misunderstanding of this article It is worthwhile considering if the quality of argument has actually got much worse if it included that error. One way to think of this is in terms of local versus global issues in an argument. I’m borrowing freely from how Imre Lakatos talked about counter-examples in mathematical arguments and applying it badly to the exact opposite – nonsensical arguments.

  • The rabbit mass error is an error but it has little impact on the whole argument (which is a silly argument). The scope of the error is highly limited. The pro-lobster side of the argument may feel happy when they debunk the error but their position hasn’t improved.
  • The redefinition argument, so as to include crayfish under ‘lobster’ has a much wider scope. It changes the nature of the argument and has a much broader impact.
  • Neither of those two issues actually address the broadest level of the argument which is that the premise is silly. Lobsters and rabbits are not in direct conflict because of the kinds of animals that they are. For them to actually be in a direct conflict they would need to be different kinds of animals and hence none of the actual features of either rabbit of lobsters is relevant to the question.

‘Yes, thank you for clarifying that,’ I hear you say as tiny voices in my head, ‘but what has this got to do with anything and could you maybe just draw more beard pictures instead?’

It’s Vox Day feuding with Jordan Peterson – yes I’m sure Vox would prefer wolves rather than rabbits but obviously, lobsters would beat wolves*.

I was tempted to discuss the argument in more depth but it really is about as silly as lobsters versus rabbits but with added racism (specifical anti-semitism). The problem with looking at either of their arguments in any detail is that they globally make little sense and are full of local errors. To discuss the local errors in any detail requires assuming for the sake of argument the more absurd premises – which would be one thing if we were looking at, say, homoeopathy but in this case, the absurd premises are particularly venomous ones i.e. anti-Semitic or more generally racist ones.

Both Peterson and Vox Day are IQ essentialists. That is they think

  • that IQ *is* intelligence (which it almost certainly isn’t),
  • and that evidence of hereditary aspects of IQ demonstrates that intelligence is overwhelmingly genetic (which is doubly questionable),
  • and evidence of some correlations between IQ and social success in modern societies demonstrates that social success is genetic (which is now a stack of suppositions),
  • and that different degrees of social success among different ethnic groups/nations is CAUSED by differences in IQ of those groups (which we can probably assume now is just plain wrong),
  • and that those differences are genetic.

It is a house of cards but one with some numbers based on research of very variable quality. Also, it is definitively a racist theory, as in it is literally a theory that asserts that different groups of humans are more or less inferior on a very broad range of traits due to inherent differences. I’ve discussed IQ many times before, so I won’t rehash all those arguments, other than to say the first point is the core error: we can collect interesting and useful numbers using scientific and ‘objective’ methods but the INTERPRETATION of those numbers is not simply established by having reliable numbers. That the numbers used in IQ arguments such as these tend not to be that reliable ANYWAY is a more local issue.

Peterson and others that we might call ‘moderate racists’ if that wasn’t an oxymoron, like these IQ essentialist style arguments because they see them as being a bulwark against demands for equality. For them, it demonstrates that modern societies are a meritocracy and that inequality of outcome is due to fundamental biological differences between people.

Vox Day’s ideology is far more overtly racist but the rationalisation is much the same. So shouldn’t Vox Day and Peterson be pals? Ah, you might think that but remember both Vox and Peterson also both believe strongly in dominance hierarchies as a biological imperative and as a kind of the social norm for masculine behaviour. Which is a kind of weird self-fulfilling psychological theory i.e. Peterson’s psychology is largely bunk but it does actually sort of work for people who believe Peterson’s psychology. Put another way: Vox and Peterson are warring lobsters. They’ll react to others encroaching on their territory as either:

  • Obviously superior lobsters – who they’ll acknowledge as such.
  • Lobsters of equivalent rank but who are both willing to stay a safe difference away in the neatly defined territory.
  • Rival lobsters that require a showy dominance display so they stick to their own territory.
  • Lower ranked lobsters who can be easily chased away.

Note, when I say ‘lobsters’ these are Petersonian-lobsters, not the actual crustaceans who actually have nothing to do with this at all. Also humans don’t really behave this way – this is a kind of self-imposed behaviour.

Peterson isn’t smart enough to impress Vox (here Vox is correct) but Peterson is getting a lot of fuss and attention as a thinker on the right. Hence, following the psychological theory of both of them, they have to fight. Specifically, they are fighting over anti-Semitism and when I say ‘fighting’, I think is mainly Vox moaning about Peterson rather than vice-versa.

Peterson decided to counter anti-Semitic arguments by arguing that the success of some Jewish people in Western society was due to on an average higher IQ of Ashkenazi Jews. That offends Vox as he likes to push anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Of course, the factual basis Peterson’s claims is based on weak and dodgy research and requires assuming complex social phenomenon can be explained by one numerical parameter. Vox’s could then mount a counter-argument that picks holes in Peterson’s position by pointing out errors and weaknesses. Now it doesn’t matter to Vox that many of the weaknesses he points out are actually the same weaknesses in Vox’s own arguments about IQ (e.g. over generalising from a weak study with few participants who aren’t a random sample) nor does it matter that neither of them address relevant questions about who exactly they are talking about.

Peterson set up his argument as a false dichotomy (success of some Jewish people in America being either genetics or conspiracy) and then arguing for ‘genetics’. By doing so, the very way he framed the argument helps more overt anti-Semites because somebody like Vox Day can point to weaknesses and errors in his argument (mainly local ones) and declare that they’ve proved the other part of the false dichotomy. Put another way: bad arguments generate worse arguments.

Peterson thinks he’s scoring a point against anti-Semitism when he uses what is racial theory in a positive light towards a group that has been persecuted and marginalised. However, there is never any positive way to use racism – all he manages is to create a strawman for more overt racists to knock over. The effect is like a ratchet of prejudice – Peterson pulls readers into accepting a set of dodgy ideas that once accepted make it difficult to avoid believing a whole set of even worse ideas.


*[wolves are basically just dogs and any dog I know, if it saw a lobster would just freak out and run away. So, in this specific case, the question has an answer: lobster beat wolves by being weird looking.]