Debarkle Chapter 32: Justice, Dinosaurs and the Water that Falls on You from Nowhere

Larry Correia and Vox Day’s Sad Puppies 2 campaigns gained them some finalists spots but were trounced in the final voting. Correia’s writing friend and ally, Brad Torgersen blamed the results on “affirmative action”. Eight of the thirteen categories that had gone to a sole person had been won by women[1] but Torgersen had a very broad sense of what he meant by “affirmative action” (see chapter 31). The claim that deserving authors were not being sufficiently recognised by the Hugo Awards had a related claim that UNdeserving authors were being disproportionately recognised by the Hugo Awards because of “politics”.

The 2014 Hugo Award winners would provide the supporters of the Sad Puppy campaigns with some examples.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 32: Justice, Dinosaurs and the Water that Falls on You from Nowhere”

Why I haven’t written about Israel

I’ll confess to cowardice and the frustrating paralysis I sometimes put myself in.

The cowardice comes from approx 20+ years online prior to this blog in which I engaged with the issue more deeply. When I say ‘more deeply’ regular readers may be familiar with the extent to which I will research a topic. So, I have opinions on the current situation that are deeply informed and I assume regular readers know where my sympathies lie and they aren’t with the only government in the region.

Anyway, a bit of personal history. I completely disengaged from politics and online political discussion in 2010. A series of arguments in multiple spaces had begun to take an emotional/psychological toll on me and I identified it as a genuine problem that was leaking out into meat space. So I stopped.

When I decided to weigh back into internet street-brawling in 2015 I set a limit on topics for my own personal mental health and I think people might be able to guess from the shape of the absence of specific topics that ‘Israel’ is one of them. The problem was two-fold:

  1. Finding myself in a situation where a Nazi endorsed something I said.
  2. A coordinated harassment campaign that leaked into physical existence (i.e. being contacted by physical mail by a person who was an avowed supporter of a particular country in the middle-east as well as quasi-doxxing threats)

So, I’ll put my hands up to cowardice. Both those points are minor compared to what large numbers of people experience both as everyday oppression and repeated acts of state violence. It’s cowardice in that I really have let bullies silence my opinions. Those bullies come into flavours but the nature of the bullies is fundamentally the same and rest upon the capacity to identify classes of people who the bullies believe can be treated as subhuman.

I wish I could be stronger.

I’ve given up on the RH essay for the time being

The next essay on the rank for the Debarkle was intended to be an account of the 2014 reveal that writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew was the rage-blogger known other various names but referred to in general as Requires Hate.

Firstly, why would I have the essay in the first place in a series about the Sad Puppies? I think the answer is fairly clear. The events were a big deal, the led to Laura Mixon writing a report on Requires Hate, for which she became a 2015 Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer and the only non-Puppy in that category. She subsequently won. There would be a very weird space in the account of the 2015 Hugos as to why this one category operated differently for this one finalist. The non-puppy discussion around it also takes in George R.R. Martin as well as Deidre Saoirse Moen’s voting advice when the news of the Puppy sweep took place (which has already had some discussion in the comments). More broadly, the themes of how fandom engaged with race and gender but also how fandom has tried to manage individuals, are recurring ones in the Debarkle. In addition, events around Requires Hate were used by Puppies as a kind of paradigmatic case for their narrative of the left being out of control and attacking authors (what they would now call ‘cancel culture’).

So why NOT write it? The core reason is that I’m not getting it written. I’ve a ton of notes but not a good way into the topic. So productive work on the series is close to a standstill because I can’t get past this point.

The problems are manifold. Firstly there is both a lot of material and a dearth of material. The main extant stuff is from 2014 and 2015 and includes the Mixon Report itself, as well as discussions and rebuttals of the Mixon report. There’s enough to draw out a consensus on a set of events by picking the elements that aren’t disputed (or aspects of elements that are disputed but not wholly rejected). Original material pertaining to the disputes analysed in the Mixon Report and in the rebuttals is often gone for the most contentious topics or lacks context (e.g. archive versions) or is from dubious sources.

The Mixon Report itself is, I think un-salvageable as a document. There’s a sound idea there of trying to demonstrate the scope of an individual’s behaviour by showing that events weren’t just separate toxic arguments between individuals but rather patterns of behaviour. However, to do that in a way that is both accurate and just would be much harder work than I imagine Laura Mixon anticipated. My impression previously was that it was a report with localised flaws but overall it is not fixable. It is now only available on archive sites, I think. I note also that when the issue of Requires Hate has come up more recently, people have pointed to some very specific individual accounts of their experience with Requires Hate rather than the report, primarily because they carry more weight and are less vulnerable to counter-arguments.

The rebuttals to the Mixon report are flawed in different ways. They correctly identify many issues in Mixon’s work and they also highlight that underlying racism and misogyny within fandom play a role in the targetting of Benjanun Sriduangkaew and that she had become a target of troll communities herself (eg Kiwi Farms). However, in doing so, whether the authors of the rebuttals intended to or not, a side effect was to minimise, diminish or cast doubt on the genuine feelings of many people impacted by Requires Hate.

Was racism, homophobia and misogyny involved in the reaction against Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew? I could put my hands up and say ‘this is too messy to tell’. However, it is not unlike bad weather and global warming. You can’t pin climate change on weather and doing so often leads to foolish claims or counterclaims (a hot day is not an omen, a snowstorm is not a counter-example) but CLIMATE is the context in which weather happens and racism, homophobia, misogyny (and trans-misogyny and misogynoir) pervades fandom in ways that shape our beliefs and expectations (often despite our intentions) in a way that is analogous to the climate. So the shorter answer is “yes, of course, it did” but you also can’t dismiss the genuine hurt people experienced (including people I have come to know online and whose account of events I would trust).

A few years back I went to what was likely to be an interminable HR training day on workplace bullying but which turned out to be less superficial than I was expecting it to be. The facilitator was keen to delve into messy cases to exemplify Australian employment law on workplace harassment and bullying. They had led with a case where an employee had been systematically ostracised and bullied by co-workers culminating in serious ill-health for the employee. The managers had, in turn, then wholly messed up their investigation of events by trampling all over the employment rights of the co-workers who had done the bullying. Is that what happened with Benjanun Sriduangkaew? The analogy is too imperfect to hold up. Fandom isn’t a workplace. There isn’t, nor can there be a due process for ‘being in fandom’. Conventions can have codes of conduct, online spaces can have moderation policies, organisations (such as the SFWA) can have codes and ways of dealing with grievances but the issue at hand was none of these but rather networks that were quasi-professional in the way that the hobby/job of engaging with popular culture can be.

The hypothesis for the essay I’ve already alluded to in the comments on earlier chapters. I think that if Sad Puppies hadn’t taken over events in 2015, then the Mixon Report would have been a major subject of debate, all be it with a smaller number of people. I don’t know if it would have been a healthy debate, I imagine it would have caused many people further pain as they would have experienced their genuine feelings put under question or dismissed as being motivated by racism (or they would have felt that they were being dismissed). Likewise, attempts to put aside the issues around the relative power of influential people within SF/F publishing focusing their efforts on one specific woman of colour would have also been damaging. And yet, that all sort of happened anyway and the issue has just lingered on for years.

Well…that’s already quite a few paragraphs. It’s a lot easier to write without lots of references and vague hand waving at events. I’m back to the same issues where I started. Is there a fair way of engaging with the issue? Argument-and-counterargument like it is some sort of trial proceeding is a shitty way to go. Attempting to get the history and shape of the online identities and online feuds she was involved in, falls into the same trap as the Mixon report. Not unpacking anything leaves the headline narrative (essentially established by the Mixon report) untouched – the story that goes along the lines of there was a bad troll with lots of pseudonyms who was eventually unmasked and leaves a lot unsaid, specifically the question of whether they would have had this level of attention if they hadn’t made enemies of so many famous writers. I think it is obvious that they wouldn’t but then it isn’t unreasonable for a notable person to object to people saying objectionable things about them etc etc.

As I said, already too many paragraphs and already too many caveats and too much wanting to avoid the twin errors of minimising the experiences of people who experienced harassment versus endorsing (or appearing to endorse) the use of institutional power without proper respect for natural justice even for people who behave.

So, might still write this chapter but if I do it will be out of sequence and either way, I’ll need at least a paragraph more than once to say what the Mixon Report was and what it was about.

Just a heads up…

I’ve got some pro-gamergate comments in a queue for approval in the last Debarkle chapter. I’m not averse to having them in the comment thread but I’m wary of escalation. Fine to reply to them but if people could be chill, that would be good and people may wish to avoid the comments.

New tagline

For anybody curious, it was from RT aka ‘Russia Today”. Not a news outlet I would normally direct people to but they quoted that silly Tweet about Jordan Peterson! I get to play the role of the meany-head leftist. I was tempted to use the next phrase “just gorge on the fact that the left still has a near-monopoly on mainstream art” but people might think it was unironic.

Debarkle Chapter 28: Gamergate 2014 meets Vox Day

[content warning for descriptions of internet harassment and extreme misogyny]

A fun fact that I learnt today from Wikipedia is that the word “gamergate” means a worker ant that can reproduce sexually and the term is pronounced something like “gamma-gate”[1]. That will be about the only wholesome fact in this chapter. For the rest of it, the chapter covers what Wikipedia entitles the “Gamergate Controversy”. What this chapter is not going to be able to do is give a full and authoritative account of the controversy. Instead, I want to look at some of the precursors to Gamergate that influenced later events in the Debarkle story and where Gamergate intersected with some of the key players in the Sad Puppy Hugo Award controversy.

The major events in Gamergate ran from August 2014 and into 2015 and beyond. However, for this chapter I will only be looking at 2014. It is also a distorted view of the controversy. Vox Day presents himself as a significant figure in Gamergate but third party accounts do not. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the Debarkle narrative, the influence of Gamergate on Day and the political and personal coalition that arose from that are important. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 28: Gamergate 2014 meets Vox Day”

Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna

[content warning for extreme views on race, gender and sexual violence]

Larry Correia’s second Sad Puppies slate was not very different from the first. There were a lot of Mormon men (because of his writer connections in Utah) and seven of the twelve people listed were people Correia had recommended in previous years. Marko Kloos was new but Correia knew him from gun forum days and had been promoting his book. Sarah Hoyt was also new but she was a fellow Baen author and they had a lot in common politically (and coincidentally, both had family connections to Portugal).

Vox Day was different though. Nominally, he had called himself a libertarian in the past but his views on women and race were more extreme than Correia’s. I don’t know if there was any communication between them other than the comments left by ‘VD’ at Correia’s blog but the additional works that Vox Day listed on his own blog, look more like works that Correia would have listed if he had the time.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna”

Debarkle Chapter 25: The SFWA Civil War Part 3

Previously on Debarkle: Towards the end of John Scalzi’s terms as SFWA President, a series of controversies arose over sexism and racism within the organisation. A common theme was resistance to change from a group of SFWA ‘old guard’.

[content warning: a later section discusses issues around child abuse]

By August 2013, the expulsion of Vox Day from the SFWA was seen by some as putting a line under the controversies that had been consuming the SFWA that year. Cora Buhlert rounded up events with a blog post that finished with:

“But at least the SFWA saga had come, if not to a “happily ever after” then at least a “happy for now” ending.”

However, in many ways, Vox Day’s behaviour had been a loud but minor sideshow to events. The core group of objectors to the SFWA’s more progressive direction still had the same objections and issues. What was lacking was a nexus on which another round of arguments could be had.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 25: The SFWA Civil War Part 3”