Trumpocalypse: hoist by their own petards

Nobody was more stunned by the Trumpocalypse, than Big Media. Like most of us, Big Media assumed Donald J. Trump was simply too absurd to be taken seriously. Also, following the deflation of the Romney challenge to Obama (in 2012) what force in the universe could possibly hold back the long-dreamt-of progressive permanent majority in America? There simply weren’t enough people in fly-over country to thwart the urban liberals. Every poll said Hillary Clinton would win. The secular god of statistical prognostication, Nate Silver — who gained world-wide fame in 2012 — said Hillary Clinton would win. Many opponents of Hillary Clinton (myself included) also said Hillary Clinton would win. She had every single strategic advantage that Obama had, in 2012. She faced a preposterous Republican challenger. Her rise to the Oval Office was essentially a foregone conclusion.

It was, as they say, in the bag.

Well, we all know how that turned out. 🙂

It’s now been three whole weeks since the Trumpocalypse — 21 days, during which a great deal of analysis (and shatbit nuckingfutz commentator insanity) has been expended.

Most interesting — to me at least — has been Big Media’s reaction to being hoist by their own petards. By now, everybody knows about Newsweek’s recall of the quickly-made-apocryphal Madam President special issue. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Examining a quick Newsweek roundup of aborted-release Clinton victory missives — from Big Media notables — shows us precisely the kind of tunnel-vision and identitarian hubris that ultimately sabotaged the Clinton campaign.

CADY DRELL (editor for Glamour magazine, formerly Newsweek):

But what we really want to tell you is that this is only the beginning. The glass ceiling isn’t shattered until women’s success is no longer news in and of itself. The history of feminism in this country has never been for the benefit of the trailblazer in question, just as any women who today voted for Hillary Clinton didn’t do it for their own gain. Women like Clinton, and the women who led the fights for racial equality in this country, and the suffragettes before them, and the countless women whose names we don’t even know before them endured what they did so that things would be a little bit easier for the women who followed them. We don’t celebrate the election of a woman tonight for our own sakes, but because we recognize that the fact of her election means it will be a little less shocking, a little less unlikely, the next time a woman is elected president. Maybe it will be one of you.

The irony of this statement centers on the fact that it wholly dismisses or ignores the possibility that anyone not voting for Hillary, did so because she was evaluated on her record, versus her vagina. Thus, at the same time passionate Big Media feminists cry for an era when women won’t have to “fight” on an uneven playing field, they miss out on the fact that Hillary Clinton entered the contest (with Trump) enjoying all the political, social, popular, and material advantages that should have secured her the victory, yet her record of Washington D.C. career climbing — replete with instances of flip-flopping, back-stabbing, rule-breaking, and outright dishonesty, if not treachery — were simply too glaring for even some former Obama fans to ignore. In simpler language, Hillary Clinton enjoyed bountiful home field advantage, and she lost the home field crowd — and the game — due largely to her inability to wave off half a century of political conniving. It wasn’t about gender. It was about the character of the person with a (D) next to her name. Next time, I suggest Democrats line up a better candidate. Surely there are more principled women in the Democratic Party? Hillary was bottom of the barrel, in this aspect. And voters noticed.

JONATHAN CHAIT (writer and columnist, New York magazine):

Sparing the Republic from the whims of a twisted maniac is no small triumph. Clinton’s skeptics have already been denying credit for her expected victory by noting that she benefited from facing the least popular major party nominee in history, and that a normal Republican could have defeated her. This misses the extraordinary nature of the opposition that produced this unpopularity in the first place. Clinton has absorbed 25 years of relentless and frequently crazed hate directed at her husband, compounded by her status as a feminist symbol, which made her the subject of additional loathing. Her very real missteps were compounded by a press corps that treated her guilt as an unexamined background assumption. She is almost certainly the first president to survive simultaneous leak-attacks by both a faction of rogue right-wing FBI agents and Russian intelligence.

I find it curious that a “press corps” — which is overwhelmingly progressive and votes Democrat 90% of the time — supposedly went to war with its own straw self, in the form of a “press corps” that eternally tried to hamstring Hillary. Uhhh . . . okay. Sure. But Chait is right: Trump’s net drag was huge. Which makes Clinton’s stumble at the finish line all the more impressive, just because you really, really have to fumble the ball, when you’ve got home field advantage, and everyone is proclaiming your victory ahead of time, and your opponent is not even on the other team’s second string; he’s some loud-mouthed walk-on who inserted himself into the lineup at the protestations of the coaching staff. Again, I ask: is it not even remotely possible, oh ye of Big Media, that Americans did precisely as they should, and looked at what Hillary Clinton has done, versus canonizing her simply because she’s a woman who wanted to be President? There would be nothing for the FBI to examine if Clinton had not operated as if she were above the rules. Many Americans are tired of Washington D.C. lifers who operate as if they are above the rules.

I am not going to fisk Katie Halper’s more expansive commentary, simply because Halper (in the article linked above) sees correctly who Hillary Clinton is, and doesn’t seem ready to have a spontaneous orgasm over Madam President’s historic (now alternate history?) win. And while Katie seems to wish for an even more alternative Bernie Sanders victory, her diagnosis of Clinton’s flaws seems essentially correct to me. Merely the longed-for end result is flawed. Perhaps as much as Trump himself, given the fact Sanders still wants to run the country according to the same playbook Fidel “I impoverished a whole nation!” Castro used.

MARIN COGAN (contributing editor, New York magazine, but this piece was prepared for Vox.com):

And yet: Hillary Clinton’s victory is historic—a triumph that should not be overlooked. It marks the end of centuries of exclusion of women from the nation’s top job. Even more remarkable was the way she won it: by running as a woman, who championed policies aimed at women, against an avatar of reactionary sexism. She won under politically tainted investigation, in spite of plenty of legitimate criticism, and in the face of an incredible amount of sexism. In voting for her, Americans rejected Donald Trump’s old, macho vision of leadership and embraced a new paradigm, one that values not only a new style of leadership but also a policy outlook that prioritizes women and children.

Once again, Big Media’s feminists rush to proclaim Hillary’s victory as a victory for women against sexism, yet this analysis is utterly blind to the idea that it was Hillary’s track record that did her in. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, merely being a woman is not enough. The great failure of identitarianism is that it scuttles qualification in favor of demographics. Millions of Americans believed Hillary was uniquely unqualified for the job. Not because of her vagina. But because she had a broad-daylight history of self-interested, maneuvering, palm-greasing, dirty pool. It wasn’t just a single scandal that dogged Clinton to the finish line — and her collapse just short of the tape. It was an entire career of occasionally concealed and even sometimes brazen shenanigans. That she was too able to intimidate or buy off people who might actually put her in jail, did not stop millions of Americans from pressing the NOPE button on November 8, 2016.

Big Media feminists would do well to realize that the end of sexism in politics, also means the end of using the specter of sexism as a bluff, when any woman’s track record (for office) is called into question.

CHRIS CILLIZZA (writer, “The Fix”—taken from this piece published on the Washington Post’s site):

Clinton’s path to the presidency—much like her last two-plus decades in public life—was not an easy one, defined more by her relentless drive forward than any sort of soaring movement like the one that propelled Barack Obama into office in 2008. And even in victory, Clinton survived rather than overwhelmed. Expected to cruise to an electoral vote victory, Clinton squeaked by—with Democrats fretting deep into the night about her prospects.

In short: It was a uniquely Clinton campaign—with all the good and bad that connotes.

Cillizza seems much more level-headed. Indeed, the Clinton drive for the goal was not the epic passing game many would have preferred. Hillary’s march to the Oval Office was a dreary, time-consuming display of short-yardage runs, occasional pitch-backs, very little in the way of forward throwing, too many tape and chain checks, not to mention penalty flags, all finally terminating with Hillary and her fans doing a victory dance in the end zone — with the clock still running, and the actual ball sitting on the grass at the 3; to be promptly scooped up for a spectacular 97-yard touchdown run by Trump and Co.

ALEXANDRA SVOKOS (political writer, Elite Daily):

Clinton was the first First Lady to have had a full-time job outside of her husband’s career before moving into the White House. She was the first First Lady to get an office in the West Wing.

Clinton was the first female senator from New York. She was the first First Lady to be elected to a public office.

Clinton was the first woman to clinch a presidential nomination and the first female presidential nominee for a major party.

Now, Clinton is set to become the first female president of the United States.

Again, Big Media feminists have to grapple with the fact that an end to sexism in politics (or any other arena) necessarily entails an end to using sexism as a raison d’ĂŞtre for putting somebody in office in the first place. Demographics are not enough. Oh, we’ll see a woman in the Oval Office eventually. Maybe Elizabeth Warren in 2020, assuming Trump blows it? Or, if he doesn’t blow it, maybe that woman will be a Republican? I know, I know, firsts are never allowed to be firsts, when the person making the first, plays for the wrong team. If Hillary Clinton were replaced with Condi Rice, and the (D) with an (R), the meteoric rise of a woman to coming within an inch of the White House would have been met with scowls and scorn — from Big Media — not euphoric adulation. If Hillary set precedents, they were mixed at best. Does a woman really have to be a serially dishonest schemer, who cheats and lies her way through life, to become President? Lord, let’s hope not! (C’mon Condi, get in the game. Your country needs you. Again.)

NEWSWEEK/TOPIX STAFF (prepared for a special commemorative edition):

On Election Day, Americans across the country roundly rejected the kind of fear- and hate-based conservatism peddled by Donald Trump and elected the first woman in U.S. history to the presidency. The culminating election of a career in politics spanning three decades and arguably more experience than any other incoming president, 2016’s was not an easy race to watch, comment on or be a part of—but when the dust cleared it revealed a priceless moment in American history. The highest glass ceiling in the Western world had finally shattered.

More end zone partying, while the ball is still sitting on the grass at the 3. Big Media feminists can’t resist the urge to subtly parrot Clinton herself, with her (now infamous) “deplorables” line. As if Democrats and Hillary apologists were not peddling their own brand of hate and fear, while evicting half of the country from the human equation. When you stop trying to persuade, and can only deride, you run the risk of painting yourself into a corner of irrelevance. Democrats — Big Media being a subsidiary — bought into their own prophesied dream, of manifest destiny: demographic permanent majority. Since those silly old white Republican assholes in fly-over country were dying off, the future was going to be a Democratic rainbow of eternal progressivism. Only . . . no it wasn’t. Demographics is not a political destiny. People change their minds over time. People also have the ability to distinguish issues that affect them directly — the un-recovery recovery, during the Obama years — versus a very distant and ultimately cerebral issue, like putting a woman in the White House purely for the sake of her being female. I said it above, I am sure we’ll get a woman in the Oval Office eventually. It will be interesting to see how Big Media reacts, if she’s a conservative. Five will get you ten, they will be largely silent; about shattering glass ceilings.

JON SCHWARZ (senior writer, The Intercept):

Okay. Okay. The 2016 election is over, and Donald Trump is not going to be president of the United States of America.

We’ve all hugged our children, husbands and wives, parents, siblings, neighbors, dogs, cats, parakeets, ocelots and so forth. Some of us may have cried with relief.

Now we have to figure out what to do next.

Top Democrats, top Republicans, the corporate media and big business all have overwhelming incentives to pretend, as of this moment, that the last year never happened. Maybe there was a small glitch in the matrix, they’ll say, but the update we just pushed has patched it. The system worked! Thanks for voting. We’ll handle things from here.

For everyone else, all of America’s regular people, it’s a matter of life and death to stop that from happening.

The fact that a Tang-colored monstrosity like Trump came this close to the Zero Halliburton aluminum suitcase is by itself a terrifying catastrophe. The U.S. has had several presidents who might have destroyed humanity on purpose, but Trump is the first serious contender who could easily have done it by accident.

In any functioning democracy Trump’s campaign would have sputtered to a halt in the fall of 2015 because all of the other Republican candidates refused to appear on the same stage as him.

Instead he tore through every barrier except the very very last like it was wet toilet paper. And in the end Trump wasn’t beaten by anyone but himself. Hillary Clinton was backed by two-thirds of the U.S. establishment, and much of the rest stayed out of it, yet Trump could easily have won if he were a tiny bit less stupid, lazy and vile.

If we look back over the last 15 years of American history and its culmination with Trump, we can see that U.S. elites have built a political system that’s like a killer robot that’s malfunctioning to the degree that even they can’t control it anymore. Working normally it murders African Americans and pregnant women and opioid addicts. The Iraq war was a minor hiccup that caused it to obliterate a country, several thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of foreigners. The housing bubble was the result of a more serious bug that liquidated hundreds of thousands more from the poorer half of the rich world.

But with Trump, for perhaps the first time, the robot totally ignored the commands of its creators and put everyone in its crosshairs.

This time it missed. It might miss the next time, too. But if it’s not dismantled, you better believe it’s going to get us all eventually. It’s not trying to kill us because of specific bad people whom we can replace, but because of America’s deep, structural problems.

This one’s long, but it does a lot to reveal the minds-behind-the-faces of Big Media. Trump most probably does not represent imminent global doom, any more than the Presidents who have preceded him. Already, Trump appears to be doing a reasonable job of assembling a staff who will reasonably advise him on reasonable policy. Maybe not policy to make progressives smile, but hardly an immediate pushing of the Big Red Button, precipitating World War 3. But for Big Media progressives, Trump has become the avatar of everything they detest and loath in the world. So much so, it’s not even Trump the guy they seem to hate, it’s a curious straw effigy of Trump who is deranged, maniacal, as absurdly stupid as he is fiendishly wicked, and determined to bring woe and pain to the whole universe. In other words, hang that effigy next to similar effigies of Romney, Bush, Dole, Bush’s dad, Reagan, etc. In so many ways, Big Media has been crying wolf. Looks like it bit them in the ass this time, finally.

He’s right about one thing, though: the elites have built a political system that acts robotically. Jon would just be shocked to realize he’s part of that system, and his response to Trump is as precisely robotic as the lining-up-behind that occurred with Hillary Clinton — despite her own mountain of disfavorabilities that followed her around like a squall of abandoned, unhappy children. Again, had Clinton been Condi Rice, with an (R) next to her name instead of a (D), Big Media’s reactions would have been startlingly different.

Really, it’s hard to blame Big Media, since they are more of a symptom, than a disease. As someone who voted for Clinton in ’96 and then Gore in ’00, I’ve watched as the shine’s not only worn off the Big Media apple, the apple has shown itself to be infested with worms! Behind the cracked, shabby patina of neutrality, Big Media is a wholly political apparatus which works at the strategic and the granular level to dispense a “proper outlook” to U.S. citizens, whether it’s pedaled soft, or pedaled hard. But Big Media would have no influence in our lives if we did not accord them that influence. We allow them to shape our perceptions: how we think, how we react, and how we interpret events in our world. When we the citizens actively pay someone else to spoon-feed our paradigm to us, we get the Big Media we deserve.

But that’s a whole other Oprah.

For now at least, it seems the script has been derailed.

Big Media was left — with the rest of us — standing goggle-eyed and open-jawed in the end zone, their colorful “I’m with her!” pom-poms dangling limply at their sides, as President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his team took the ball all the way back, and properly won the game, according to the way it’s supposed to be played. Maybe Hillary’s team did have more yards in total, but it’s not the ground you gain, as much as it’s the points you lose.

Every time Big Media perpetuated the concept of demographic permanent majority, Hillary’s team lost points.

Every time Big Media hyperventilated about Trump’s aberrant character and unfitness, they inadvertently cast a reverse spotlight on Hillary’s even more obviously aberrant character and unfitness. More lost points.

Every time Big Media lapdogged their way through an “analysis” of the Clinton campaign — having previously humped Obama’s leg, twice — they sent a very loud message to Middle America that Big Media had taken a side, and therefore could not be trusted as a non-biased source of information. Still more lost points.

If the job of Big Media is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, Middle America shook its head in knowing disgust, as Big Media lined up for tony caviar parties with Madam Millionairess, while Middle America got called names, and was left out in the cold. Huge, gaping chasm of lost points.

As I have stated before in this space, Trump may be a peculiar or even terrible kind of champion, but he was the only guy — other than Hillary’s husband, ironically — to have said that Middle America was still worth a damn. Big, titanic points for Trump’s column.

Lessons learned, folks. Lessons learned.

What’s needed now — and no, I am not holding my breath either — is a wholesale Big Media cleanup. Enough with newsrooms that swing 90% Democrat. Stop coddling the corrupt who have a (D) next to their names, simply for the fact that they are (D). Washington D.C. can’t be fixed if the objective is to solidify one-party (D) rule. If ever a true permanent majority — of any kind — is achieved, the amount of corruption and abuse of power will dwarf anything we’ve yet seen. It won’t matter who has a (D) next to her name, if most of the (D)s are liars and schemers of Hillary Clinton’s cloth. Stop taking sides. Stop being a publicity machine, for either party. Hold the bastards accountable. All of the bastards. Not just the ones with an (R) next to their names. Big Media is an immensely powerful weapon, against sclerotic establishment rot. But not when Big Media is itself part and parcel of that sclerotic establishment rot.

Alas, a cleanup seems doubtful, at best. A few Big Media people have clued into the fact that they got caught up in their own mass hallucination. Those analysts and reporters who go full John Stossel — and don’t promptly return to the ways and modes of propriety (cough, progressive idea-pushing and personality-promoting, cough) — will be exiled to City Journal, Fox News, The National Review, or even (gasp) that nasty den of Faustian misogynist transphobic KKK evil Nazi sturmtrumper deplorable hate-baddery, Breitbart.

So, we know without even having to think about it, that the majority of Big Media will mercilessly hound Donald Trump. His every peep of tourettes-style thinking-out-loudness — as witnessed on Twitter — has become cause for international Big Media calamity. (One almost suspects Trump and Co. are trolling Big Media. For the lulz. Did I just see Trump tap his finger to the side of his nose, with a small smile on his face?)

But what about the next time there is a (D) sitting in the White House? Will the sweeping calls — by Big Media, for a “return to the traditional role” of Big Media — suddenly fall silent?

Moreover, Middle America might not give a damn either way.

If Big Media worry about relevance — and they should — they need to take a long, hard, overdue look in the mirror.

Trumpocalypse: the week after

The universe has now had 8 whole days to process the Trumpocalypse. Hillary is gone. Out of the picture. Poof. In one night, the inevitable trajectory of history was not just derailed, but thrown against the floor — where it smashed to pieces. A great many Americans, and other people around the world, still can’t get over it. There have been protests. Riots. Demands for the government to arbitrarily change the rules, so that Trump might be prevented from being sworn into office. Threats to assassinate Trump. Calls for California, Oregon, and Washington to secede. Not to mention a flash revival of Bush-era classics such as #NotMyPresident and #AbolishTheElectoralCollege.

Beyond the caterwauling contempt of the Hillary faithful (for Trump and his voters) there is a sobering question: how did the Democrats get it so wrong?

Granted, not everyone is willing to face the music. A small stampede of progressive pundits have rushed to reassure the faithful that Hillary did not fail America, it was America who failed Hillary. The country is even worse than Hillarists knew it was, back before the Trumpocalypse. A misogynistic, sexist, racist, homophobic hell-hole. Clearly, the solution is to get even more confrontational, more rude, more mean-spirited, call people even more names, get up in even more faces, and so forth.

But as British political satirist Tom Walker (playing Jonathan Pie) noted, hurling insults doesn’t work anymore — nor does being perpetually offended.

But Walker wasn’t telling people anything they hadn’t heard before. Way back in April, left-moderate pundit site Vox noted the so-called Smug Style which had come to typify the American progressive political landscape. And how this whole attitude — a sort of cute, clever, holier-than-thou in-crowd approach to dealing with alternative ideology — was very much driving people into Trump’s arms. Because those people didn’t see or experience compassion (for their “side”) as much as they felt like they’d become the butt of jokes. The heartland was being laughed at nightly, by Jon Stewart and his fellow media travelers. All while the middle class — lower-middle, middle-middle, and upper-middle — was being commanded to show respect, deference, sympathy, and understanding for a virtual hospital ward filled with narcissistic, neurotic victim personalities.

Quote Tom Walker, “Of course Trump f—ing won.”

Now, I didn’t see it coming either. From the instant Trump rose to the top of the Republican pile, I assumed Hillary would bury him. I was as shocked as any liberal, come 10 PM on that fateful Tuesday night, with Trump rapidly approaching the tipping point (in his favor) in such Democrat bastions as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

I’m still a bit shocked.

But some clarity has been emerging from the murk.

1) Hillary was a poor candidate. “Status quo, in a change year.” That was the NPR quick take, the Wednesday after Trump won. More than that, though, Hillary was corrupt. I know Hillary fans cannot bring themselves to admit it, but Hillary was not an ally of the little man. Hillary had spent her entire adult life swimming in the Washington D.C. shark tank, rising to become one of the toughest, most indestructible Great Whites. A documented liar and manipulator, Hillary’s chief claim to the White House basically boiled down to, “It’s my turn, dammit!” While she simultaneously labeled 1/4 to 1/2 of the country deplorable — a preposterous tactical move for any candidate to do in a tight race. But like so many of us, Hillary clearly thought she’d won the race merely because Trump was absurd, and unthinkable.

2) The Hillary loss cannot be pawned off on isms. Not exclusively. Again, even NPR was saying it, come Wednesday morning. Confirmation bias may have sent the progressive cognoscenti into a howling rage, about how America is a hopeless den of sexists, racists, and gay-haters. But this is lazy analysis. Yes, that’s right, it’s lazy. It’s the equivalent of running to a safe space, curling up on a bean bag, and sucking your thumb. It does not address the millions of women who voted for Trump, thus becoming vagina traitors. It does not explain the significant number of former Obama voters, who also voted for Trump, thus magically becoming racists. Blaming isms for the Hillary loss, pretends that Americans could not or would not evaluate Hillary on her pedigree. Isn’t that the whole idea, behind equality? That no person should have to be evaluated on gender? That it’s character which counts? I seem to recall some important guy once said something similar. The Hillary faithful should go look that guy up. I think he was right.

3) Mocking, deriding, and ignoring Middle America is a losing proposition. The Obama years led many progressives to believe that a kind of ideological and demographic tipping point had been reached, so that the Reagan Coalition was in the rear-view mirror. The corn belt and the rust belt didn’t matter, it was the tech sector kids with their skinny jeans, hipster beards, and man buns. Put down and shoved out, Middle America felt forgotten and abandoned — until some orange-haired blowhard named Donald Trump reached out his hand and said, “Come with me, I will be your proverbial fist punching Mr. Jon Stewart Man Bun in his smug little face!” Trump may be a terrible kind of champion, but he was the only guy who seemed to be saying that Middle America still counted for something. So, Middle America gave Hillary Clinton their middle finger, which was also aimed at the press, Washington D.C., and the culture of neoliberalism.

4) Neoliberalism: where taking selfies and posting hashtags substitutes for actual discourse, and it’s cool to make fun of blue-collar Caucasians, because blue-collar Caucasians are stupid and ignorant and morally backward. I mean, some of them go to church for Pete’s sake. Church is so over. Working-class values are sooooooo over. Compassion for the less fortunate? Right, only as long as they belong to a pre-agreed set of trendy victim identities. Which nobody in Middle America can qualify for. Too white. Too Christian. Too hetero. Too Republican. Soooooo Republican. Sickeningly Republican. Being Republican is uncool. Being conservative is uncool. Point and laugh, boys. Point and laugh. The conservatives’ days are numbered. The future is now Southern California Buddhist Transsexual, doncha know? F— Middle America.. Go hang out at Starbucks and talk with all your friends about how lame flyover country is. Not like the metrosexualized urban villages of Seattle, Portland, L.A., and San Francisco. Where cool people get to be cool all the time, and coolness is as much about regurgitating cool politics, as it is about wearing cool fashions and buying cool things, and living a cool lifestyle. Not feeling cool enough? Get on social media and decry others for their privilege. Make sure it gets re-shared and re-tweeted a lot. Bazinga. Coolness restored.

5) Obama’s cult of personality was obviously not transferable to Clinton — nor, probably, anyone else in the Democratic Party. Two elections of decisive Obama wins seemed indicative of a real, and permanent majority — of progressives, for progressives, by progressives. But it didn’t translate into numbers. Lots of Obama voters stayed home. Lots of Obama voters actually picked Trump this time. What went wrong during the Obama years, to make so many people sit it out, or worse yet, cross over to the “wrong side of history?” Again, it can’t be pawned off on the usual isms. People are tired of the non-recovery recovery. They’re tired of feeling like the ruling class gives only lip service to real problems. They’re tired of not working enough, not being able to get ahead, and not being listened to — by a patronizing bunch of elites who mouth the words of compassion, while swanning about in ivory towers.

Now, the Trumpocalypse by no means represents any kind of long-lasting win for Republicans either. Trump is a New York Democrat wearing the plaid suit of a Republican carnival barker. He said what he needed to say, to get the win. This is Trump playbook we’re witnessing. And neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any clue how the next four years will go. It’s quite probable it’ll be a train wreck, and then the Republican brand will be in the toilet — again. American politics is cyclical like that. The winner gets a big head, gloats, overreaches, underperforms, then fortunes shift.

Trump is the strangest kind of bellwether, because nobody really knows what it means for the future.

But the usual liberal “answers” on race, gender, sexuality, and economic class, break down against the wall of a Trump victory. Trump has been and continues to be a shock to the system. Perhaps a necessary shock — as many Trump fans insist — like two paddles to the chest, and the EMT yells, “Clear!” Only time will tell if Trump is a net good, or a net ill.

The caterwaulers are already trying to write the history books, condemning Trump as literally the worst kind of person to ever step foot into the Oval Office.

Problem is, those same caterwaulers said the same thing about Romney, and McCain, and Bush, and Dole, and Reagan, and just about every other Republican since Eisenhower. The little boy has literally cried wolf one too many times. Americans can’t be terrified into voting the way progressives want anymore, because too many Americans have been mislabeled as being part of the problem, not part of the solution, and they’re sick of the blame game. They want a swamp-drainer. Somebody to go into D.C. and take heads. Trump may or may not be that man. My money is on him being all talk, and no walk, in this regard.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t experiencing a bit of schadenböner over the great wailing and gnashing of teeth, currently running through the ranks of America’s progressive establishment. As a non-Trumper who is every inch a “deplorable” in Hillary’s book, I think the progressive establishment — the neoliberals! — have had this coming for far too long. A significant comeuppance of no small proportion.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take Piers Morgan‘s.

When a notorious progressive like Piers Morgan is taking you by the scruff and using a cricket bat on your ass, it’s time to pay attention. The days of Smug Style are done. It’s time to engage on the issues, not on the identities.

Otherwise, you’re just promoting another Trump win in 2020.

Trumpocalypse

Paradigm shift. It’s painful. to discover that your assumptions about the fundamental workings of things, were wrong. I’ve only ever been emotionally invested in one Presidential election. That was 2012, when Romney lost, and it seemed to me I did not understand my own country. I thought Romney had it in the bag. I thought there was no way the country could sign on for four more years of Obama. I didn’t sleep at all, after Romney conceded. I was in a supremely unhappy state the following day. A great many things made no sense.

I thought, “This is probably how the Kerry voters felt in 2004.”

Now, the pendulum swings again.

I wasn’t invested this time, the way I was four years ago. Mostly because I so disliked both major candidates, I felt like I’d “lost” the instant it became clear Trump or Hillary would claim the Oval Office. I still kinda feel that way, though I confess relief that a known crook such as Hillary has been denied access to the highest levers of power — bad things happen when that lady is given control. Bad things may happen, now that Trump is the man, but there is a degree of chance and uncertainty, whereas Hillary was a known quantity.

So, Tuesday night, I felt like I didn’t really have a dog in this fight, just because Hillary and Donald seemed equivalently unpalatable. But I watched with fascination as Trump did the impossible. Or, rather, Hillary’s true unfitness made voters do the impossible, and vote for Trump.

Then, I watched the unbelieving outpouring of emotion, from Hillary’s faithful. Confusion. Denial. Gradual realization of what was happening. Anger. So much anger. A tidal wave of anger. It could not be happening. It must not be allowed to happen. Who let this happen?! What is wrong with our country that this is happening??!?

Yep, I get it. I really do.

I’ve lived through ten Presidential elections, of which I was old enough to be aware. Six of which I was old enough to vote in. Out of those six, only two times did my choice actually win the Oval Office. I was very bummed when Perot lost — it was my first time — but I was a teenager, and it’s easy to move on when you’re a teenager. By my twenties I was voting Clinton (second term) and then Gore (hanging chads!) and I was bummed about Gore losing too; it’s easy to be a small-l liberal in your twenties. Not until after 9/11 did I really start taking things seriously — talk about a paradigm shift, 9/11 was a life-changer! I was relieved when Bush won the second time (we will be debating the Bush years until I die) and then I wrote in Romney/Rice for 2008; because I knew McCain would get crushed.

Then came 2012, the election I was sure would go to Romney. And when it didn’t, I was supremely bent out of shape. It took me the better part of a week to calm down. It seemed like my countrymen had been offered a clear choice between hope, and doom, and they chose doom. It also seemed like my countrymen had rejected me personally in the process. Or at least, a part of me. The part which had been all in. The part which had given a damn. When Rachel Maddow spent the morning after the Romney loss, gloating, and concern-trolling conservatives and the Republican party, it felt viscerally scalding. She was so pleased with herself and her “team” and she was so eager to rub our (the Romney fans) faces in it. Her smug cup runneth over.

Come November 9, 2016:

Well now . . . . sauce for the goose, and all that.

Probably, Maddow and Co. feel (about the Hillary loss) like I felt about the Romney loss. If the outrage and protesting I am seeing since Tuesday night are an indicator, Maddow’s sentiment is widely shared. Hillary’s fans were all in. They had given a damn. And reality chose to deviate from their expectations.

In the words of Lemongrab, it was (and is) wholly unacceptable.

I get it. I really, really do.

The thing is, American national politics is a pendulum. Every time one “side” thinks they have a permanent majority, or a mandate, or some kind of endless license to ill, or they make a raft of pie-in-the-sky promises, they always overreach, underperform, become embroiled in scandal, then the fortunes reverse. Democrat, to Republican, then back to Democrat, then back to Republican again. Liberal, to conservative, to liberal, to conservative, yadda yadda yadda. It’s probably inevitable in a Republic governing almost 400 million people, all of whom span a spectrum of belief and ideology. If the mechanisms of democracy are functioning correctly, that pendulum should probably keep swinging. Therefore, a Trump win after the Obama years is as predictable as the Obama win after the Bush years.

I know each “side” keeps wishing the pendulum would swing their way, and get stuck. Forever.

But it just ‘aint gonna happen. After living through the Reagan years, then the Clinton years, then the Bush years, then the Obama years, and now come the Trump years, I think I’ve seen this oscillating waveform enough to be certain that it’s going to continue like this for the rest of my life. Maybe, for the rest of my daughter’s life too? And beyond? Again, we’re 400 million people spanning a spectrum of belief and ideology. Barring the instituting of an autocracy, or one half of the spectrum simply dropping out of the vote, these oscillations are baked into the fabric of the country.

I probably won’t ever be all in for a candidate like Romney again. I sorta suspect I learned some things about myself and about this country, during that traumatic loss.

Hopefully, most of the Hillary faithful will learn the same things. And chill out a little bit.

Aaaaaand Hillary collapses just yards from the tape!

I don’t think Trump won, as much as I think Hillary lost.

I’ve already seen the cries of sexism and misogyny echoing around the web-o-sphere.

Really, c’mon now, progressives. Do we have to retreat there? At the risk of sounding like a concern troll, let me tell you that the amount of sexism and misogyny at work in Hillary’s collapse was a tiny thing compared to the overwhelmingly negative reputation Hillary has accumulated for herself across almost five decades in the public spotlight. At some point you have to quit hiding behind accusations, and face the reality that Hillary Rodham Clinton was a scheming, conniving, selfish, self-interested, lying, manipulative, altogether terrible candidate for President.

I know it’s gospel doctrine for everyone under 40 that the only reason anyone didn’t vote for Hillary, is because her vagina terrifies the Red Staters. But really, if people can peel themselves away from Jon Stewart re-runs long enough to examine Hillary’s collapse with a non-biased eye, it comes down to a glaring lack of credibility on Hillary’s part. And all of the most egregious wounds were self-inflicted. Nobody forced Hillary to call 1/4 to 1/2 of the entire country deplorable. That was a cute remark entirely of Hillary’s devising, because she assumed — oh yes, we all assumed — that Hillary was protected by a demographic and political bubble through which nothing about her past could penetrate.

Hillary knew in her heart she had earned the White House.

I thought for sure she’d earned it too — crookedly, and in true Clinton style.

So I confess to being utterly surprised by these results. Even more than I was when Romney lost in 2012. And I thought Romney had it in the bag.

My belief, therefore, is that Hillary — and her supporters — fantastically miscalculated. All of us did, really. Us Trump doubters and nay-sayers. We assumed that identity politics would carry the day. That the nation would be in too much of a hurry to elect TEH FURST WOMAN PRESADENT to notice that Hillary Clinton is unfit for command. She belongs nowhere near the levers of genuine power. When she is, people literally pay. Sometimes with their lives. I assumed not enough Americans saw this, to care. And I was wrong. And so were all of Hillary’s avid fans, who selectively gave themselves amnesia about all the times Hillary fibbed to them, to her superiors, to the public, and even to her own party. Trump was simply too awful to permit him to win.

Except, apparently, no. Trump’s awfulness is like the chewy center of an expired chocolate from a box of sweets. Hillary’s already been gnawed in half. Her staleness is well-known. Trump? He offers the chance of change. Of difference. Of no more same-old-same-old. And no, I don’t think I believe Trump will be any better than he is. I think Trump’s still the same hot mess I thought he was on day one. I just think Americans are choosing the New Hot Mess, versus the Old Hot Mess. Because they’re desperate for a tornado of fresh air in Washington D.C.

And that’s what I would like Democrats to understand.

It’s not misogyny. Hillary’s sins were simply too obvious to hide. And too many voters were sick of seeing business-as-usual down in Foggy Bottom. Not to mention being fed up with all the histrionic knee-jerk nuclear-option name-calling — by progressives, at everyone else.

Liberals, seriously, the name-calling tactic was shopworn 20 years ago, and it’s even more shopworn now. Americans are sick of being bashed for not toeing the progressive party line. Do Democrats and progressives understand? They cannot use these meaningless labels to dodge the issues anymore. The American public seems to have finally refused to be afraid of nuclear-option labels. As Bill Maher admitted, progressives have cried wolf too often. Americans saw Hillary for who she is, and there could be no more sweeping under the rug, of Hillary’s misdeeds — by people who cannot grapple with the fact that they lined up to support a wholly cruddy candidate.

And yes, Trump is cruddy too. It’s just that, he’s new cruddy, and he’s willing to give the name-callers his middle finger. Having been called epithets — by compassionate, caring, tolerant liberals — for years and years, Americans took a look at Trump and said, “Fuck it, why not?”

I am sure the political pundit world will be on fire for months, after the final tally is counted.

My hope is that we hear a lot less about how everyone who wasn’t a Hillary voter, is the devil. And a lot more about how or why the Democrats ever thought running Hillary was a good idea in the first place.

And yes, running (President) Donald is and was (and will be) terrible too. But in every election season, it’s the losing team that has to look hardest in the mirror.

Here’s your chance to get real, progressive America. Enough with the smug style. Tend to your house. Stop excommunicating your fellow countrymen from the human equation. Admit that there are real complaints with actual merit, on the conservative side. Force yourselves to face the fact you do not have all the answers.

Then, maybe, we can have an actual conversation.

P.S: for all the Trump fans, feel free to feed me a truckload of crow in the comments, I’ve clearly earned it.

Hoarders of rectitude

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) wrote some interesting commentary this week. How familiar it all sounds, given the SF/F storm of 2015. I agree with Scott. It’s a disheartening thing when any Presidential candidate excommunicates half the country from the human equation. That’s basically what Hillary Clinton did, with her quip about “deplorables.” She’s reading from the 21st century progressive playbook. I call it Moral Majority 2.0, which has taken all the worst qualities of the so-called Moral Majority of the 1970s and 1980s, and valorized them — with a progressive flavoring. It’s now perfectly okay to hate, despise, lie about, abuse, bully, browbeat (or physically beat!) people who are “bad” — because the “bad” people deserve it.

And who are these “bad” people, and how can we know them?

Why, they’re everyone who’s not voting for Hillary, of course.

I know, I know, it’s unconscionable — to not support Hillary. I mean, are we crazy? How can we not vote for Hillary? Even if she is a serial liar who evades accountability by buying off and/or intimidating people who might call her on the carpet? She’s going to be the first woman President in U.S. history! Why do we want to be on the wrong side?

I’ve seen and heard a lot of that kind of talk — about people being on the wrong side of history — during both the Obama years, and now the (soon to come) Hillary years. Usually issuing from the keyboards of so-called liberal opinionators who believe human civilization is on some kind of straight-line “ramp” ascending ever-upward to an idealized nirvana of economic, political, and social perfection.

To the liberal opinionators, they and theirs are on the ramp, while all the rest of us are merely hapless ideological road kill. We didn’t (or don’t) pick the right “team” therefore the choo-choo of inevitability is going to leave us behind — or run us over.

Like Moral Majority 1.0, there is a smug certainty to the declarations of Moral Majority 2.0, and Hillary’s “deplorables” comment was made precisely so as to tap into that smugness. For Hillary — and her ardent fans — the country is theirs, and theirs alone. The rest of us are just squatters. We’re going to be run off, or burned out. If not literally, at least figuratively. We didn’t pick the correct “side” so we will not be given a place at the table. We have been made “bad” according to the doctrines of Moral Majority 2.0 and there will be no redemption for us.

In other words, we are blocked from having moral validity, as well as virtue. The river of moral worth has been dammed up at Hillary Clinton. If you’re downstream, forget it. No moral worth for you. Either get with the program and be on the reservoir with the rest of the “right thinking, right voting” Hillary supporters — even the ones holding their noses — or you’re an outcast. You are cut off from the light of righteousness. Banished from the circle of humanity.

“Either you’re voting for Hillary, or you’re with those Nazi racist Trump voters!”

I’ve said in this space (before) that I am taking a Treebeard approach to the 2016 election: Side? I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side. Forced to swallow Fish Hook #1 or Fish Hook #2, I choose a third option.

But that doesn’t mean I think the people voting for Trump are awful. I also don’t think the people voting for Hillary are awful, even if I think Hillary herself is an awful choice, in an awful election year. I fully respect the personhood of both voting blocks, even if I think neither of them is going to get anything like what they’re hoping for — from either of the two main, miserable candidates. So, I try to be careful to distinguish between my dislike of the candidates, and the voters supporting same. I’ve got good friends and even family who are voting for both Hillary and Trump. I don’t think this makes them awful people.

But there does seem to be a significant number of Hillary supporters who aren’t willing to accord me and mine — to say nothing of the Trump supporters — similar courtesy. To them, if you’re not standing with Hillary, you’re scum.

Remember how Bush (last decade) was excoriated for declaring, “Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists”?

Progressives and liberals loathed, derided, and detested that sentence. They considered it proof of Bush’s retrograde, one-dimensional policy. Zero nuance.

Do any of Hillary’s proponents think twice, in our current election, before sneering about misogynist, racist, homophobic, Trump voters and independents?

If not, they probably should.

Frankly, if your first instinct is to label anyone who doesn’t behave or believe the way you do — racist, misogynist, homophobe, Nazi, etc. — I think the problem is far more on your side of the table, than not. You’re neither caring, nor compassionate. You’re merely impressed with your own moral and political rightness.

You’ve become a hoarder of rectitude. All for you, none for us. Nobody else is allowed to have any goodness. Only you — and everyone you deem worthy — gets to be good. Meaning, your monocultural opinions and ideas are the only ideas given any standing in a given conversation. Everyone else who isn’t “smart” enough to believe and think just like you, is a moral monster.

And we all know that monsters are fair game. You can vandalize their property, call them bad names, call their family and their children bad names, lie about them and spread lies to defame and undermine them, threaten their jobs, stage repeated on-line mob sessions or street protests resembling 1984’s infamous Two Minute Hate, and much worse. Because monsters deserve what they have coming to them.

Monsters aren’t on the “team” pushing this country up the “ramp” leading to the perfection of the human condition.

Therefore, anything done to or said about a monster, is perfectly okay. Even terrible, hate-filled untruths, designed to evict decent folk from the human condition. It’s all good. They’re only monsters.

When Hillary called us “deplorables” she was saying we not only do not matter, but that we’re terrible people who do not exist in the realm of individual dignity. In true Hillary fashion, everyone who is not useful to her, is deemed an outlander. We’re off the chart of civilization. We are just in the way of Hillary’s vision of progress.

This kind of thing has happened regularly throughout history. The many Moral Majorities — and their bold leaders — which have marched brazenly across every continent. How or why we don’t learn from the past, is probably explained by the fact that self-righteousness is a hell of a drug. Convince a man that he’s got the moral “right” to be terrible to another human being, and that man will do all manner of atrocity — in the name of what he believes to be correct. Or true. Or virtuous. Because he’s been given an excuse.

The various Marxist movements of the 20th century were all certain that their “way” was the inevitable — indeed, scientific — path forward. Hundreds of millions of human beings suffered and /or were killed, for the sake of the Marxist certainty that their ramp to societal perfection, was so just and so absolute, that nobody could deviate without being an obviously amoral and pernicious individual. Worthy of jail. Torture. Execution. And other heinousness.

Of course, the Marxist road to a perfect society, predictably crumbled beneath them. Because history is not a straight line. It is an oscillating waveform. Depending on your view, the present time may be a peak, or a trough; or maybe somewhere in between? The “inevitable” course of history has an uncanny tendency to swerve sharply from expected trajector(ies).

Thus it may be that the finger-pointers of 2016 — those who happily mock and abuse us “deplorables” — will learn a little humility.

Or not?

Again, self-righteousness is a hell of a drug.

The Mote in Gernsback’s Eye

I’ve said before that it usually doesn’t matter how much a conservative shouts or points at a problem with liberal behavior, the liberals usually don’t pay any attention until another liberal sees the same problem, and speaks up. This is because liberals (and conservatives often, too) — in the United States — have trained themselves to be so cynical about the thoughts and motives of the other side, they will immediately discount any information flowing from an “enemy” source. Everyone is forever on the alert for “concern trolling” and nobody wants to budge an inch, if it means admitting that maybe something might be wrong in friendly territory.

Excerpted below are the comments of the current Vice President of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America — SFWA.

NOTE: I walked out of that organization after they expelled Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg from the pages of the SFWA Bulletin, for what essentially amounted to word crime. I decided I didn’t want any part of a so-called writers’ union that would treat two of its senior members so shabbily, over a matter which can only be described as thought-policing. I haven’t paid much attention to SFWA since then.

But Ms. Hogarth’s words struck a chord with me — they should, for any conservative who’s toiled in these spec fictional prose mines over the past 25 years. I said it last weekend: the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy does not like conservatives, nor libertarians, all that much. Being a conservative or libertarian (aka: classically liberal) in SF/F, in the year 2016, is akin to operating in enemy territory. Not because you’re out to get them as much as they’re certainly out to get you. Unless you can run silent, and run deep. Showing your cards — forcing them to admit that you exist — comes with a host of potential repercussions. You’ve definitely got to make up your mind about how you’re going to sail your way through this strange little ocean Hugo Gernsback dubbed “scientifiction.”

I attended a con once where the toastmaster said that they wanted all conservatives to “hurry up and die and leave the planet to the rest of us. No wait, they can stay as long as we can have their money.” And people applauded. That person wasn’t kicked out of the convention. They were feted and congratulated while I sat in the audience, pale and trembling, listening to the people around me cheer my demise. I have never, ever forgotten that moment. Or all the threatening ones after, both generalized or intimate, like the man who leaned into my face and told me the world would be better off without me and people like me. No one stepped in to tell him that he shouldn’t say such things. The people standing around us just nodded or smiled. One of them even said before leaving, “Your time is over. We don’t need you anymore, [expletive here].”

The mandarins of SF/F expend a lot of energy wrapping themselves in the flag of tolerance. But as any conservative can tell you, that tolerance runs pretty much one-way. A tolerance conversation (liberal to conservative) in SF/F often goes like this, “Hello, I am a tolerant caring compassionate liberal, and you’re not. You will sit there and politely listen to all of my ideas and theories, and not say a word. I will sit here and listen to all of your ideas and theories, and then I will explain to you why you’re a dirty bigot and a hater and an evil human being. We will both agree I am right, and you will apologize for being bad.”

That, dear friends, is how “tolerance” works in SF/F at this time.

I’ve discussed this at length with Orson Scott Card — he being well acquainted with the tolerance charade — and he says it didn’t used to be like this before 1980. Oh, to be sure, there were plenty of fans, authors, and editors on the left-wing side of the aisle. But it wasn’t so vindictive, nor so personal. You could sit at a table with conservatives, liberals, anarchists, libertarians, and have a rousing verbal melee of competing ideas, but at the end of it, you’d still be able to shake hands, and walk away comrades in the field. That began to change (perhaps not coincidentally) about the time Ronald Reagan took his seat in the Oval Office. Gradually, in dribs and drabs, the dominant left-wing culture of SF/F has traded in true tolerance, for a kind of totalitarian double-think 1984 version of tolerance — people and ideas labeled ‘intolerant’ don’t have to be tolerated. In 2016, with tender snowflakes floating around in SF/F like it’s a mild blizzard, anyone can be labeled ‘intolerant’ for any reason, logical or not. Because anyone can claim to be a Victim (caps v) and in the new vernacular of Social Justice Zealotry, the Victim is always right and always wins. Always.

What this means is that common law assumption of innocence — the foundation for Enlightenment justice as practiced in the United States for over two hundred years — has been replaced (in the culture of SF/F) with a totalitarian law of default guilt. When a Victim says you have “aggressed” in some fashion, you are automatically at fault. In fact, if you’re unfortunate enough to possess “privileged” demographics, your very existence is an aggression. You must put on your scarlet letter P and show the world that you are willing to atone for your sin of privilege, and call out those around you for their privilege too. Again, all of this rests on a totalitarian law of default guilt.

Not surprisingly, default guilt breeds an environment where compassion and generosity shrivel away to nothingness.

I’ll say it twice, for emphasis: default guilt breeds an environment where compassion and generosity shrivel away to nothingness.

What do I mean by that? Look at Ms. Hogarth’s example. A compassionate person does not openly wish for a broad segment of the population to die — whether it was a joke or not — and a compassionate audience does not applaud such a statement. There is also zero generosity in the declaration, “We don’t need you anymore, your time is over, bitch.” Ms. Hogarth was cast in the role of villain merely for being who she is. As the villain, she was not accorded the regard even a child might be accorded. Villains don’t deserve regard. Villains deserve scorn, disdain, insults, and worse.

I have occasionally read and heard rebuttals along the lines of, “Well if conservatives and libertarians weren’t so selfish, terrible, hateful, and bigoted, we wouldn’t have to insult them!”

Again, the totalitarian assumption of guilt. It doesn’t matter how the default villain has comported herself. The villain is the villain is the villain. And villains are fair game for all kinds of atrocious and genuinely aggressive (usually, passive aggressive) behavior that tolerant liberals themselves would never countenance; if it were directed at them, or their fellow ideological travelers.

More from Ms. Hogarth:

I am all for a more civilized fandom. I am all for us being kinder to one another, and striving to understand each other’s viewpoints, experiences, and beliefs. I give people the benefit of the doubt, and because of that, I’ve enjoyed friendships with a broad gamut of people, all of whom have taught me a great deal and brought me a great deal of joy. But if we’re going to slap people on the wrists for microaggression, can we please start playing fair? Can we go after the person at the con who made knowing comments to the audience about flyover states? Can we talk to the person who was preaching radical feminist philosophy as if it was the only sensible philosophy until I said, quietly, “I’m sorry. I’m not on board with most of that.” Can we stop the toastmasters wishing that half the population would die in a fire (and leave their wealth to them)? Is my excessive discomfort also important? What about all my conservative or religious friends, and the fans who have quietly told me the only place they feel safe is in my social media spaces? What about the fans who have even more quietly told me they don’t feel safe ever?

I find this sentiment plausibly risable. It seems like the voice of grown-upness, pleading for sanity. “Can we all please just try to treat each other a little better? Please??”

I could only add that the solution to all of this, is not to police the left-wing (on matters of “microagression”) to the same degree that the right-wing has been policed. The solution is to reevaluate the entire concept of “aggression” and “microagression.” Again, what happened to common-law assumption of innocence? We need to get back to it. Do not assume intent to harm. Set the bar (for proof of harm) high, and keep it high. Good lord, do we really want twin competing blizzards of tender snowflakes, all flying into each other and running to authority figures to “fix” the issue? Like a pack of sore-faced first graders endlessly tattling to teacher?

I was raised to believe that a real grown-up can take a few things on the chin. I was also raised to believe that a real grown-up can laugh at himself on occasion. The totalitarian assumption of guilt removes vital flexibility from our interactions. Everyone winds up expecting and seeking to discover (s)he has been harmed, and everyone is on the defensive against accusations of same. This kafka-esq nightmare of human relations permits almost no compassion, nor humility. When both pride and ego have been refined to the point of glass fragility, the slightest knock can cause shatteringly overblown reactions.

So, rather than degrade the state of dialogue, we need to promote thicker skins as well as greater honesty. I don’t want liberals being too scared to speak their minds. If somebody wishes I would go away and just die, I may not like the sentiment, but at least I know where the person stands. I am tough enough to hear those words, and I know the viewpoint from which they spring. It’s the viewpoint of moral surety. Scaring liberals into never speaking their moral surety does not end the moral surety. It merely drives them into echo chambers behind closed doors, where they can speak and share that surety in safe company; people who won’t run and tattle to teacher.

And if both conservatives and liberals only ever spend their time among like minds, behind closed doors, inventing monocultural spaces for themselves where they only ever have to hear and speak the same thoughts about the same ideas . . . well, we’re pretty much there already. In SF/F and also the culture at large. Social media has allowed us to run around inside the heads of other people, and we’re horrified by what we find there. Perhaps the liberals of SF/F believe that SF/F conventions (like Worldcon) ought to be places where they can feel safe verbally wishing for the deaths of conservatives? Forgetting that conservatives, too, are part of the fabric of SF/F? Whether SF/F’s liberals like it or not.

One wonders what old Mr. Gernsback might make of the situation — he who originally intended for “scientifiction” to be a literature that interested children in STEM careers. I am not sure Gernsback had any asterisks attached to that desire, political or otherwise.

Still more, from Ms. Hogarth:

Should I discuss at length all the times I have had this prejudice applied to me, not only at conventions, but in my career? Should I tell you about the time someone told me I “belong in the Baen gutter, with all the other troglodytes?” If this wasn’t a systemic prejudice, I wouldn’t bring it up. If we didn’t belong to a fandom that claims to desire diversity, I wouldn’t bring it up. But it’s both, and I am here bringing a warning: all the moderate conservatives — which constitute the majority — who do care about the rights of their friends, no matter their identities, are being driven away. Soon SF/F will find itself in an echo chamber, without any way to build bridges to the people who will increasingly see them as enemies. I don’t want that to happen. That’s why I continue to quietly point out that we can’t foster an environment of real safety without including people we disagree with. Because without exposure to one another, it’s too easy to demonize each other.

Three or four years ago, a fellow author lamented — in a discrete conversation among mixed company — that she had to suppress and hide a significant portion of her identity, in order to avoid causing trouble in SF/F. Because she knew her religiously-couched beliefs about a hot-button political topic would make her persona non grata with fellow authors, and also editors. She was crying when she said it. She knew she was baring her soul to a potentially hostile audience. At the risk of using a shopworn phrase, I felt her pain. Quite deeply. About a dozen years ago, it became apparent to me that if I truly wanted to become a “player” in SF/F I would have to learn to mask my beliefs. Either hide them, or pretend (in the company of fellow professionals) that my beliefs were contra to what I actually think and feel. About economics. About how societies and human beings function. About God, and the immortality of human essence. About sex and sexuality. About any number of things. It would all have to be shoved far back into the closet, and kept there. Otherwise, I was going to piss off a lot of people.

A few years later, having broken into the field — and having also failed spectacularly to keep my trap shut — a trusted mentor engaged in what can only be described as an impromptu intervention. To his credit, all of his logic was business-sound: when you are open about your beliefs, you risk alienating part of your audience, as well as part of your professional cohort. So why talk about it? Isn’t the golden rule to never discuss religion or politics? Because this conversation almost always ends in disaster?

My mentor made excellent sense, then. He still makes excellent sense now. And if the field of SF/F were a field that abided the golden rule across the board I am quite sure I’d not feel the need to bang my pot to the extent that I’ve been banging it. Bless my poor mentor, I know he gets an eye-twitch now, if ever my name is brought up in conversation. He knows he’s gonna have to hear it, about me. And he’s tired of deflecting, or making apologia. I don’t blame him.

But then, that’s precisely why I can’t let it go. Why should he have to deflect, or offer apologia? Why should Ms. Hogarth have to sound the alarm, about moderate conservatives being driven out of SF/F? Why should my fellow author — who cried tears of genuine anguish — have to suppress or cloak who she is, just to get along in this field? Why should any of us have to fear repercussions simply for thinking or expressing opinions or ideas that other people in SF/F disagree with?

“Stop thinking and speaking bad ideas, and we won’t have to be jerks to you!” shout the defenders of the status quo.

Ah, yes. The time-honored excuse of all abusers: you made us do it. There was a fair amount of that talk, directly following the farcical 2015 Hugo awards ceremony. And I’ve made no bones about the fact that I think the mandarins of SF/F self-inflicted a very deep, perhaps irrecoverable wound. But even that wound is merely a symptom of the bigger problem. Of the cultural and intellectual rot which has settled over SF/F and is presently intensifying.

Nobody on the “other side” has to give a damn what I say or write.

But they ought to give a damn about what Ms. Hogarth says and writes.

This is a key officer in the field, putting the field on notice. That the rot must not continue without remedy. I may disagree with her style of remedy, but there must be a remedy. At some stage SF/F’s self-styled liberals must force themselves to look into the eyes of those whom they despise, and find humanity there.

Otherwise, SF/F is going to entirely balkanize. It may have balkanized already? A kind of ethnic cleansing, wherein the “bad people” are at last revealed, and driven from the hall of righteous purity. Leaving SF/F a shell of its former self. Unable to grapple with the most basic of all scientifiction concepts: that there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently.

If there was ever a time when that maxim was carved into the stone archway over the door to the hall, it’s since been chiseled out, and replaced by a cheap plastic placard that says: SAFE SPACE. The door itself is now festooned with blinking orange hazard lights and gobs of yellow-and-black caution tape. Abandon all differences, ye who enter here. Diversity has become a skin-deep game of demographics and Victim-identity fetishization. The totalitarian culture of guilt is omnipresent. You can’t go a week in this field without some poor author or editor being called out, shamed, shunned, castigated, and verbally burned at the stake — for infractions of impiety or heresy.

Scientifiction — the literature which ought to, above all other things, pride itself on free inquiry and the publishing and expression of “dangerous” ideas — has fallen into a spiritual and ideological gutter of same-thinkery, restrictions on speech and expression, and the routine punishing of “evil doers” who cannot or will not conform to expected orthodoxy.

Again, the left-wing side doesn’t have to give a damn what I say or write.

But if enough people like Ms. Hogarth have the courage to tell the truth, maybe things can change?

One has to hope.

Courageous left-wing media beats stuffing out of Straw Puppy

Speaking of Social Justice Zealots, it’s not shocking to see a woman like Amanda Marcotte jump on the anti-Puppy bandwagon. Salon is, after all, the publisher of such intellectual giants as Arthur Chu, who (you may recall) cast this author’s family in the unenviable role of human shields. With robust journalism like that, it’s small wonder why Salon Media Group’s stock has completely tanked over the past ten years. I know it’s a matter of rote gospel (for the Left) that the proles of the world must be led by the ear to the Truth, and if the proles aren’t having any, well it’s their own damned fault for being ignorant, racist, cisnormative scumbags — daring to have independent ideas. But there must come a time when even the Left starts to realize that the current progressive voice boxes are preaching an increasingly strident, tone-deaf, self-referential, closed-system mantra of fanatical gibberish that resonates only with the Pure Faith; and few people otherwise.

I know, I know, they do it because they believe humanity is locked into some kind of quasi-mystical destiny wherein all of our descendants will be ultra-progressive, and inhabit a period of such intellectual and political amazingness — according to whichever utopian vision the progressives are infatuated with this decade — that nobody will think twice about the total correctness and rightness of progressive thought. On any subject. Regarding any arena of human endeavor. Amanda Marcotte and her fellow travelers are the country’s most pure and perfect thinkers to have ever lived. The only thing holding us back from nirvana, are the dreaded, nasty, evil, barbaric conservatives. Since this destiny is irrevocable, there doesn’t have to be a dialogue. All Amanda and her cohort have to do is sneer, mock, and ridicule anyone and everyone they disagree with.

Regarding Sad Puppies specifically — the attempt by an actually diverse and occasionally chaotic collection of science fiction and fantasy readers and professionals, to prevent the Hugo awards from plunging into monocultural irrelevancy — I’ve given up expecting a fair hearing from the [lame]stream Left. Amy Wallace made it abundantly clear that she had zero interest in listening to or writing about anyone who didn’t flatter her pre-existing narrative: that Sad Puppies was just a tiny group of evil white racist misogynist males intent on keeping saintly pure and brilliant women, non-whites, and other designated Victims (note the caps v) out of the Hugo winners circle. Like almost every other left-wing outlet that’s approached the matter in the past 72 months, WIRED knew all the answers before it conducted even its first interview. The only job at hand was to make sure the Correct Narrative was adhered to and distributed. People who didn’t fit the narrative — like Sarah Hoyt, or Kate Paulk — were ignored. Their viewpoints didn’t matter, therefore they were not allowed to exist. The Narrative did not include them — the way Creationism has a hard time explaining dinosaur fossils — thus inconvenient women were expunged from the progressive record of Sad Puppies events.

I think Sad Puppies’ chief sin — other than existing — was to correctly point out that the Hugo awards (in this decade) were increasingly being used as a tool of affirmative action. I knew beforehand that pointing this out might ruffle a few feathers, but even I was not prepared for the absolute apoplexy that would ensue. Of all the many doctrines of progressivism, affirmative action seems to be one of the most sacrosanct. To question it is to speak the utmost heresy. Nevermind the fact that progressive media crowing (in the wake of the 2015 and 2016 Hugo ceremonies, as well as events like the related Nebula awards) pretty much proved the Puppy point 110% correct. The Hugos are being used for affirmative action: white progressive intellectuals congratulating themselves for being “diverse.” This is done by ensuring that demographics (in literature) matter more than the prose itself. Because nothing demonstrates that a genre is alive and healthy, more than screaming about how a significant percentage of the audience — and the authors — are a bunch of racist, sexist bigots, and isn’t it high time that all these racist and sexist evil-doers just get the hell out?

Oh, they’re getting out all right. To the point that SF/F literature is beginning to mirror the [lame]stream Left-wing media, in its closed-circle tone-deafness, and unwillingness to consider the fact that there are (in the immortal words of Larry Niven) minds which think as well as theirs, just differently.

Sooner or later the honest intellectuals on the Left are going to have to realize that “diversity” does not constitute a room packed with white progressives, who allow a few non-white progressives through the door, then they hoot and holler and hug themselves for being wonderful. Diversity that runs only skin deep — and then, only in like-minded token quantities — is not diversity. It’s as vanilla as vanilla can be. It’s like an amateur author believing that differentiating characters merely amounts to giving each of them a different hat. Diversity (indeed, actual liberalism proper) means not running scared at the first sign of someone who thinks or believes differently. Diversity means having a true spectrum of opinion. Diversity entails doing the uncomfortable chore of not running people out of the room, the instant they voice ideas you find uncomfortable or with which you don’t agree. In other words, DIVERSITY means scuttling today’s present trend toward closed-eye, closed-ear, safe-space monotone echo chambers.

Which is pretty much what the Hugos (and the Nebulas) have become. And Sad Puppies had the audacity to not just point it out — everybody already knew it — but to try to change things through direct action. Via grass-roots campaigning.

At which point all hell broke loose. The establishment hates nothing like it hates grass-roots disobedience. And for two years running, the establishment (with its media connections) has done everything in its power to vilify and slander everyone and anyone connected to Sad Puppies. We were not human beings. We were designated targets. Character assassination was the objective. Make the broader world believe Sad Puppies are evil, and voila, Sad Puppies magically get to be evil — even though we’re not. I suppose for individuals schooled in Alinsky tactics, the ends will always justify the means. But there must come a point when the invective reflects the reality. And where reality is concerned, we Sad Puppies do not match the horrible, nasty, downright heinous and garish portrait that’s been painted of us.

I think Ira Glass ran into this — the fact not matching the fiction — when he interviewed me in 2015. Whatever he thought I was going to be, at the start of the interview, I suspect his opinion was somewhat changed at the end of it. Enough for This American Life to largely skip over the Sad Puppies controversy. Because there just wasn’t enough “there” there, to justify focusing on Sad Puppies to the extent that other outlets had focused. And Ira is hardly the world’s most conservative chap. I am pretty sure he expected me — self-appointed spokesman of Sad Puppies 3 — to be an entirely different kind of person. But I wasn’t. To Ira’s credit, he didn’t join in pillorying the effigy of us that had been created. Because I didn’t fit the narrative, as it had been repeated to that point.

Nor does Larry Correia fit the narrative. Nor does Kate Paulk fit the narrative. Nor Sarah Hoyt. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to discover anyone in the Sad Puppies camp who fits the narrative — that we’re all hopelessly white, male, sexist, and racist.

Sad Puppies didn’t say we wanted to keep anyone out of the Hugos. We said we wanted the Hugos to be more intellectually diverse, less focused on fetishization of “marginalized” demographics, and that the award was either going to be determined on matters of merit, or it wasn’t much of an award at all.

Far from being the signifier of mind-blowing landmark fiction — as it was when authors such as Scott Card, Lois Bujold, or Vernor Vinge were winning — the Hugo (in this decade) has become the plaything of a very specific crop of connected authors and editors. One might refer to them as The Beautiful People — adept at ensuring they and their friends were routinely on the final ballot, thus routinely winning the trophy.

Naturally, when Sad Puppies stood up and posed a threat to that system, Sad Puppies was (of course) accused of merely being a cabal of friends — interested only in seeing themselves get awards.

In this way, the Beautiful People proved the truism: that individuals often assume others will act (or react) in the same ways those individuals would, in similar circumstances.

Quick fact: Larry Correia actually withdrew himself from Hugo consideration in 2015, and has since re-stated his lifetime recusal. As the 2012 triple-nominee (Hugo, Nebula, Campbell) I am standing with Larry on this. If there’s a worse way to get the establishment to honor you — than pissing off the establishment — I can’t think of it. Larry wasn’t interested in a Hugo for himself, and I am not interested in a Hugo for me either. Especially not after giants like Larry Elmore and Jerry Pournelle were ranked below NO AWARD for the 2016 season. Any collection of “fans” which can treat the masters of this field with such ignorant contempt, is not a collection of “fans” from whom I desire anything. Especially not a lump of metal or plastic.

So, here we are again: the [lame]stream Left’s media apparatus has bravely ridden onto the field, and hacked to pieces the little straw effigy of Sad Puppies. “Bad dog!” they scream from their establishment saddle. “Bad, bad dog! That ought to teach you!”

Yes, it takes true heroism to defeat a foe who not only cannot speak, nor bark, nor bite, but who is in fact not even real.

Even Neil Gaiman — a smart man, who should know better — couldn’t resist the urge to walk onto the grass and kick the straw head of the vanquished effigy. I suppose Neil felt it necessary, to demonstrate his fealty to the establishment? Or maybe Neil felt he genuinely disliked the Straw Puppy — now scattered and tattered.

Though it’s worth pointing out that Neil doesn’t actually know anyone who walks beneath the Sad Puppies banner. He could have easily chatted up Kate Paulk, who is both a true fan of the field, and a very nice woman. She was at the convention in Kansas City. I suspect Neil never consulted her? Nor have most of those who’ve made ritualistic swipes at the Straw Puppy.

I don’t know if there will be a Sad Puppies for 2017. The Beautiful People are changing the rules. Making it even tougher for a grass-roots rebellion to have any impact on the contents of the final Hugo ballot. If that somehow doesn’t satisfy them, they’ll make other moves — to insulate the award from the influence of “bad” people. My finger to the wind tells me that almost everyone who has devoted time, money, or attention to Sad Puppies, has turned his or her eye to the new Dragon Award — an attempt by the famous Dragon Con fan convention to create a bona fide fan-driven award that reflects the interests and enthusiasms of Dragon Con’s (routinely huge) constituency. As in all things, the Dragon will require active participation from a very wide and deep spectrum of people; lest it merely become the Hugos Lite. If I had to bet anything, I’d bet that Sad Puppies (future) will devote itself to the Dragon, or other similar accolades which are not actively being shuttered against the masses, in the way the Hugo is being shuttered.

The Hugos themselves? You can’t save a drowning man, if he slaps away the hands trying to pull him out of the water. My suspicion is that Worldcon attendance is going to bottom out around three thousand people, by the end of this decade. At which point the Hugos will be exclusively given out — among a very tight circle of like-minded souls — for the explicit purpose of making political and social commentary. We’re pretty much doing that already. Only, by 2020, the Beautiful People won’t even pretend otherwise. In their minds, they’ll forever be striving to defeat the Straw Puppy, menacing and terrible.

The 21st Century American Social Justice Zealot

I’ve slowly stopped using the phrase “Social Justice Warrior.” Precisely because most people who endlessly whine about social justice issues, in 2016 America, aren’t warriors at all. A warrior is (to paraphrase Worf, from Star Trek) bound by concepts of duty, honor, loyalty, and sacrifice. A warrior puts the needs of the mission, the service, the country, before his/her own needs. A warrior embraces stoicism — the stiff upper lip — and does not indulge in histrionic, spastic outbursts of self-pity, or accusatory name-calling. A warrior does not seek to be offended at the drop of a hat, nor does a warrior run to authority figures every time (s)he is slighted, or finds the actions or speech of others to be objectionable. A warrior is practiced in matters of self-discipline, self-denial, and overcoming obstacles without piteously crying about how external stumbling blocks have permanently hampered his/her progress.

I see none of these qualities — not in the actions, nor the words — of America’s new breed of socially conscious, digitally narcissistic, materially pampered, self-absorbed activists.

Whatever happened to Kennedy’s call, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!” Hmm? When did our academic and activist set close its ears to Martin Luther King’s deservedly famous and timelessly evocative Content of Character speech?

Today’s so-called Social Justice Warrior is not a warrior at all. Merely a zealot. There is no onus on the zealot to hold himself or herself to a higher principle. The only thing a zealot understands, is that (s)he is emotionally invested in his/her beliefs above all else, and will use whatever means necessary to harangue, badger, intimidate, coerce, and control other people — so that the zealot gets his/her way. The world is artificially bent to conform to the zealot’s will.

It goes without saying that the 21st Century American Social Justice Zealot is an unhappy soul. By themselves, feelings of anger, rage, hopelessness, or impotency, are not invalid. Just about every human being experiences all of these emotions at one time or another. Most of us — as we grow and mature — learn to channel these emotions into constructive action. We start (in the words of Stephen R. Covey) with our immediate circle of influence. We focus on ourselves, and what we can do about our personal lives. (Worf, tapping fist to chest: “Here! Here is where we meet the challenge!”)

But the Social Justice Zealot is forever focused on external factors. Seeking (and often inventing) outside reasons for why the Social Justice Zealot is unhappy. Pretty soon, friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, they all begin to look like enemies. The Social Justice Zealot ultimately finds (s)he cannot be comfortable in the company of anyone other than more Social Justice Zealots. And together, they spin great narratives about how the very fabric of the world is racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or “cishet fascist,” and it’s the job of Social Justice Zealots to set the world to rights. They are a religion unto themselves. Totally committed to proselytizing their gospel, while driving all other forms of thought out of the public square.

And they demand that the apparatuses of learning and government force the rest of us to conform, or else we’ll be subject to inquisitorial pain and suffering.

(Another Star Trek aside: who remembers TNG’s episode “The Drumhead”?)

if Social Justice Zealotry abides any kind of code, it’s Alinsky’s. “The ends justify the means” is not just an instructive maxim on how to accomplish goals, it’s a justification for the tearing down and destroying of much that is good, noble, and necessary to our Western Liberal way of life. (Remember when “liberal” used to mean being open to multiple points of view, even the ones a person may disagree with?) Social Justice Zealots are far, far more concerned with their own feelings — and how these feelings inform (cloud!) their perspective — than they are in constructively approaching problems, much less seeking compromise. To the Social Justice Zealot, compromise is a dirty word. The church of Social Justice has compromised far too much as it is. It’s time for an all-out holy war on the “normal” facets of society, which “oppress” at every turn.

In their hurry to rip down the tapestries of the Enlightenment, Social Justice Zealots have lately been exhuming the rhetorical corpses of venerated men (and even a few women) from the past, and putting the cadavers on trial for various sins — according to Social Justice Zealot orthodoxy.

(In the realm of the speculative arts specifically, almost nobody is immune — name your favorite science fiction or fantasy or horror writer who died before the year 2000, and you can find twenty and thirty-something Social Justice Zealots verbally eviscerating that person on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.)

Those historical figures which cannot be creatively coopted for the Social Justice cause, are summarily placed in the stocks, and splattered with rotten fruit. Always by people who seem to possess few or no valuable skills — which they might trade to society, for the purpose of self-betterment. After all, a Grievance Studies degree from Redwood State College of Northern California, doesn’t prepare one to do much else in life, other than become a campus apparatchik teaching other people to have Grievance Studies degrees.

Thus the Social Justice Zealot is a creature of recursive Ouoroborosian dimension. Endlessly traveling along circular paths of external blame, and possessing a special hatred for the edifices of Enlightened Western philosophy, commerce, liberal government, personal freedom, common law assumption of innocence, and the belief that while all men and women might be created equally, outcomes cannot and never ought to be guaranteed. Even progressive fellow travelers — caught straying from the doctrines of the church of Social Justice — are eaten alive. Hounded from their chairs at university. Made to prostrate themselves and grovel.

While the Social Justice Zealots take frowny-selfies — with a collective middle finger erected in the direction of the cell phone lens. Petulant. Unable (or unwilling) to cope. Forever demanding that people with productive lives, be made to stop and pay attention. Because fuck you, that’s why.

No, friends, these are most definitely not warriors. The Social Justice Zealots are the product of three generations of ever-softer parenting, and ever-softer living. Spoiled children in adult bodies. People more enamored with their narratives, than they are with facts. Unused to actually earning an honest living, at a vocation or profession that produces things society needs to function and survive.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”

Those words have been thrown in the Social Justice trash barrel.

The Social Justice Zealot motto is, “The country owes me everything, and if you disagree, I am going to call you a bigot, a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, along with a bunch of other bad words; and fuck you very much for even existing, you cisnormative asshole!”

Pseudo-liberalism, the Club of Cool, and Donald Trump

Spotted this in my news feed yesterday. I thought it was both interesting, and timely. Because it spoke about the same things this earlier piece also dealt with. Namely, the dumbing down of American liberalism to the point that being liberal — in the United States, in 2016 — isn’t about compassion, or critical thinking, or finding solutions to societal problems, as much as it’s about self image. The perception of cool. Possessing the intellectual trappings of knowingness — TED talks! Neil deGrasse Tyson! National Public Radio! The Daily Show! — without actually knowing anything in-depth. A kind of quasi or neo-liberalism that treats The Poor™ as both a receptable for endless governmental uplift, and a target for sniping and jibes; provided we’re talking about the conservative poor. You know, the ones who stupidly “Vote against their own interests.” Which is just code for unedumacated, Southern-drawlin’, gun-shootin’, red-neckin’, Trump-votin’, tobacky-chewin’ inbred yocal hick racist Bible-thumpin’ white-sheet Klan scum.

Or so the Jon Stewart pseudo-liberals like to believe. Because if you’re not laughing as part of the joke, you’re the butt of the joke. You’re uncool. Point and sneer, boys. Point and sneer. Everybody’s doing it. Gotta make sure you’re doing it too. Cleverness has replaced wisdom, as the hallmark of “smartness” in today’s pseudo-liberal social media sign language. I mean, thirteen million shares on a Louis CK video cannot possibly be wrong, can they?

I personally first encountered the Smug Style of pseudo-liberalism, when I lived and worked in Seattle at the tail end of the 1990s. You will find few cities in America more dedicated to the idea that Liberalism (caps f) is the default intellectual state of the enlightened human being.

In Seattle, the real problem with the Democratic Party, is that it’s way too conservative. In Seattle, you signal your allegiance to the flag by keeping the latest copy of The Stranger perched on the corner of your office desk — just slightly askew, as if you’ve recently been leafing through it. In Seattle, you know exactly what Dan Savage said in his latest sex and relationships advice column. In Seattle, you listen to All Things Considered — on public radio KPLU-FM — like it’s the holy call to prayer. In other words, in Seattle, “Did you read it?” is a way of life. A daily set of Starbucks-fueled rituals, all conducted in the name of being “up” on the latest expectations and dispensations — from various fonts of progressive intellectual haute couture.

But — philosophical differences aside — I found there just wasn’t much “there” there. Questioning the pseudo-liberal conventional wisdom, was like trying to explain to a fish that water is wet. The fish merely looks at you goggle-eyed and exclaims, “But sir, that is the very nature of the universe! How could it be otherwise?” Indeed. How could it be otherwise? When all the smart people, with their brilliant smartness, are mutually engaged in displaying all the signs and symbols of smart — listening to the smart music, congregating in the smart coffee houses, the smart bars, reading all the smart literature, listening to the smart talk radio, discussing smart stuff with smart people over smart lunches where smartness flows in rivers — what sane person raises a hand to object? That’s just crazy talk. What’s wrong with you? Are you stupid? Malicious? Evil? Or some combination thereof?

Of course socialism is awesome! We need more of it, dammit! I read it in The Nation! I mean, they talk about it on the BBC! And there’s Scandinavia! Because Europe is always and forever better than America, on all things.

Speaking of which, let’s make sure we’re wearing our Scarlet Letter P today — p is for privilege, naturally — because nothing makes a difference in the lives of working underclass blacks and latinos like a bunch of properly and correctly concerned college-bred white DINKs sitting around talking to other properly and correctly concerned college-bred white DINKs about the awful scourges of modern racism and oppression. Yes, yes, it’s so terrible. Yes. Of course. Yes. But not us. We’re not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution. Just look at us! We’re hanging out and talking about it, like we’re supposed to! We’re acknowledging our privilege, like we were told! (A roach may or may not be lit, and passed. Depends on if we’re at the office, or at somebody’s super-expensive high-rise apartment.)

But wait, it’s not all self-flagelation and hairshirts. Quick, give us a joke. Jokes about Mormons are awesome! But oh, wait, no bro. Jokes about Muslims? Not awesome. That’s Islamophobic, doncha know. Yes, yes, don’t wanna be Islamophobic, now, do we? We’re not going to allow ourselves to be accused of being insensitive to a minority. But Mormons, hah! So hilarious! Utah too. Never been there. Wouldn’t want to. They’re uncool in Utah. Totally uncool. Not like us. We’re cool, and we know it.

All of this might be amusing — every region of the country having its quaint and sometimes annoying peculiarities — except I saw that same empty self-important, self-referential pseudo-liberalism being exported across the country. Over the nine years since I left the Pacific Northwest, I’ve seen pseudo-liberalism go mainstream. Two successive Presidential elections have been dominated by it. My chosen tertiary profession — science fiction writing — is positively drenched in it. A cult of Knowing (caps k) that revolves around the image in the mirror: do you make the street signs and speak the gang language of cutting edge progressivism? Yes, or no? Or are you (gasp) un-Knowing? Oh God, you are un-Knowing!

Point and sneer, boys. Point and sneer. Totally uncool!

It is the smug style’s first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from “imposing their morals” like the bad guys do.

Knowing is the shibboleth into the smug style’s culture, a cultural that celebrates hip commitments and valorizes hip taste [see: “It’s over!“], that loves nothing more than hate-reading anyone who doesn’t get them. A culture that has come to replace politics itself.

The knowing know that police reform, that abortion rights, that labor unions are important, but go no further: What is important, after all, is to signal that you know these things. What is important is to launch links and mockery at those who don’t. The Good Facts are enough: Anybody who fails to capitulate to them is part of the Problem, is terminally uncool. No persuasion, only retweets. Eye roll, crying emoji, forward to John Oliver for sick burns.

I’m glad somebody is noticing this. I am glad to see media outlets outside of the usual conservative venues, posting or printing articles that take pseudo-liberalism to task. For being the shallow Club of Cool that it is. For accelerating our political race to the bottom — where one of the two most pathetic, worthless, indeed most irresponsible Presidential choices in my lifetime, stands on the brink of claiming the most powerful office in the world. For speaking the words “compassion” and “caring” while wasting no time deriding, mocking, name-calling, ridiculing, and otherwise bully-shaming anyone and everyone found guilty of being uncool. It’s not even about the issues at all anymore. It’s the uncoolness proper, that gets the lion’s share of ad hominem invective. The Club of Cool wouldn’t be the Club of Cool, if it didn’t look down its nose at everyone not in the club — and make a cutting remark.

Ridicule is the most effective political tactic.

Ridicule is especially effective when it’s personal and about expressing open disdain for stupid, bad people.

Political legitimacy is granted by the respect of elite liberals.

You can’t be legitimate if you’re the butt of our jokes.

If you don’t agree, we can’t work together politically.

We can’t even be friends, because politics is social.

Because politics is performative — if we don’t mock together, we aren’t on the same side.

I have occasionally seen progressive laymen and even commentators blame the rise of pseudo-liberalsm on people like Rush Limbaugh. As if Rush — all by his blustering self — somehow dumbed down political discourse in the United States, such that American liberals simply had to out-dumb Rush. As if the response to a toxic coarsening of dialogue can only be to match and amplify that toxic coarsening. Thus it’s all Rush’s fault. Or it’s all FOX NEWS’s fault. Or it’s all Glenn Beck’s fault. And so on, and so forth. A legion of conservative yackety-bogeymen, inflicting an impossible mode of political and social exchange on a hapless nation.

I suspect this (weak and unsupportable) defense arises from a strong instict to preserve self image — having become infatuated with the mirror, America’s 21st century progressives see themselves as the most morally and intellectually perfect people to have ever lived.

For the Club of Cool, self image is paramount. No part of the toxic coarsening must be traced back to another strong instinct: the desire (felt by humans, in any era, across thousands of years of history) to feel superior. To self-perceive as better than the other guy. Mentally better. Morally better. Ideologically better. The Club of Cool cannot remain Cool without keeping its gates shut against the masses of Uncool who dwell beyond the borders. Everything bad is automatically evicted to the Uncool side of the fence. Thus our cheap and easy Club of Cool conversation can continue, as long as the sins of the Club of Cool are forever assigned to people beyond the glimmering halls of the Club.

Which (not coincidentally) precisely describes how (and why) the past three years in the science fiction publishing world, proceeded as they did. With the key aspect being: the Club of Cool experienced pushback from the Club of Uncool, and all hell broke loose.

The Club of Uncool ‘aint never, ever supposed to push back. Ever.

Which takes me back to the national scene:

The smug style resists empathy for the unknowing. It denies the possibility of a politics whereby those who do not share knowing culture, who do not like the right things or know the Good Facts or recognize the intellectual bankruptcy of their own ideas can be worked with, in spite of these differences, toward a common goal.

It is this attitude that has driven the dispossessed into the arms of a candidate who shares their fury. It is this attitude that may deliver him the White House, a “serious” threat, a threat to be mocked and called out and hated, but not to be taken seriously.

The wages of smug is Trump.

I’ve said here before that I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same, rancid coin. Trump voters seem to be voting for Trump out of fear and hatred of Hillary, and Clinton voters seem to be voting for Clinton out of fear and hatred of Donald. Each of them has become an avatar — for the opposite side — of all that is heinous and terrible about The Other Guys. And they (voters, both Trumpist and Hillaryists) will support Their Man (or Their Woman) at all costs — to ensure that The Other Guys cannot prevail. The Club of Cool and the Club of Uncool, in a cage match where nobody wins.

Frankly, I think even if every last Libertarian voter (me, in this election; for example) were to switch to Trump, it still wouldn’t be enough. Hillary is Club of Cool, and Club of Cool put Obama in the White House for eight years. I was certain the Club of Cool didn’t have enough of a hold on the country, to put Obama back in office, after all that transpired from 2007 through 2011. But I was dead wrong. Obama beat Romney handily, just like one of the great prophets of the Club of Cool — FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver — said would happen. Rejoice, fellows! The prophet prophesied correctly! Club of Cool in the center square, with all the Smartness and stuffs, for the win!

I’m not sure how much more Smartness the country can endure, without serious deliterious consequences. Not that I think Trump is any better, nor has he a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. He doesn’t. He never did. In fact, he seems to be precisely the kind of repugnant, eratic, buffoonish opponent that Hillary needs to drive people into her camp — even people savvy to the fact that Hillary is an atrocious and uprincipled candidate. Because The Donald is worse, in their minds. He is not Club of Cool. He cannot offer the Club of Cool the irresistible chance to elect the first woman POTUS in American history. That this woman POTUS is a certified careerist crony-capitalist two-faced serial liar seems to not bother the Club of Cool. Because Trump is always worse. Always. Worse. Therefore, the Club of Cool is as the Club of Cool does. It’ll be Hillary for the W, and we’ll endure four to eight more years of Jon Stewart-style smuggitude from insufferable Hillary supporters, who will too proudly praise themselves (for having voted for a woman) and not once wonder whether or not their candidate is in fact a miserable, absolutely unworthy government officer.

Has the White House seen worse, than either The Donald or Hillary? Maybe. Plenty of incompetents and crooks have cycled through that chair. And each time, the fabric of the Constitution gets a little more tattered — our national body sickened just that much more, by the disease. Of freedoms curtailed and honest men and women burdened by still more regulation, and more taxation. In the name of growing a federal beast that spends money it doesn’t have, to ensure programs — which are ineptly run — continue in perpetuity, so as to guarantee jobs and to buy votes.

I have occasionally asked Hillary supporters if they will admit that there should be limits on government spending and government power. I’ve not been very satisfied with the answers, mostly because even asking such a question — and it is a reasonable, honest question that should not be off the table — immediately throws me into the Uncool Club. For the Club of Cool, asking the question raises a massive red flag. “Aha! He’s one of those people. He doesn’t Know like we Know, and we all know how you treat the not-Knowers, right gang? Pillory! Mocking! Derision! Accusation! The ignorant rube has bared his ass, we should make him pay for it!” This is done on-line, of course. Behind the safety of keyboards. And in the company of like-minded compatriots. Because the true path to diversity is to surround yourself with other pseudo-liberals who all show the markers of Knowing and make the correct signs and wear the correct gang garments, to demonstrate correct tribal affiliation.

Oh, sure, the cries of, “BUT THE RIGHT WINGERS DO THE SAME S*** ALL THE DAMNED TIME, SO F*** YOU!” can be heard, even before I push the PUBLISH button on this article. The misbehavior of the Right seems to be the only excuse pseudo-liberals need, to keep perpetrating on the Left. Which is another example of racing to the bottom. Because if the only “standard” you set for yourself is to always be just as crappy as the other people, nobody is going to stop and pause, to ask: could there possibly be a better way to approach our philosophical, societal, ideological, and especially emotional differences?

I know I’ve probably had far less patience — with pseudo-liberalism — than some people would prefer. I’ve lost a few friends over the fact that I am unrelentingly blunt in my (hard) appraisal of pseudo-liberalism’s vacuousness and obsessive attention to superficial identity politics. My wife occasionally asks me why I always laugh to the point of tears, any time we watch an episode of Portlandia, and my answer is always the same: the Club of Cool was in desperate need of savvy lampooning. To take the air out of its tires. To show that the emperor has no clothes. To poke a funny (and occasionally sharp) stick at the people who too often believe they must not, can not, should not be laughed at. Ever.

But lampooning just shines a spotlight on the problem. The problem isn’t addressed unless people on the Left side of the aisle begin to talk about and act on the problem. Us right-wingers can scream about the problem all day long, and the Club of Cool won’t give a damn. Anything coming from the Uncool Club is automatically mocked and derided out of hand, just because it’s Uncool in origin. But when the liberals themselves begin to see an uncomfortable or even alarming pattern, that’s when you know the issue has gotten serious. Because people who give a damn about hearts and minds are realizing that “Smug, self-important asshole” is a rotten way to sell liberalism — especially to the very classes of people liberalism desperately claims to want to help. The blue-collar workers. The middle and lower-middle class. The people who fix your plumbing and do your wiring and re-roof your house and maintain your car. Military folk. Police. Farmers. Firefighters. When so-called “compassionate” liberalism’s response — to being turned away from, by these demographics — is to mock, deride, shame, name-call, or worse, something has gone very, very wrong in liberalism. Thus, it’s not liberalism at all. It’s something else.

The market always wins

Now that the rebooted Ghostbusters is officially being acknowledged as a red-ink bath for Sony Pictures, can we please put down the protest signs, and have a candid talk? About how all the scolding in the world, cannot force the audience to love a thing? Likewise, all the scolding in the world, cannot force the audience to hate a thing, either.

Basically, stop with the scolding. It doesn’t work. It never works.

Remember how the new Star Wars book — that was a prequel to the seventh film — scored more one-star Amazon reviews, than all of its four and five-star reviews put together? And the author proceeded to scold the audience for it? I say, lighten up, Francis! It’s not because the audience is secretly morally repugnant. It’s because you turned in a weird book, written weirdly, versus the straightforward space adventure novel everybody wanted, and were expecting. Was that your editor’s idea? For you to throw an experimental literary curveball at the Star Wars fans, then teach them to hate you — by accusing them of being horrible people?

See, here’s the thing. The market always wins. Always. Doesn’t matter how brave or bold your posturing may be. If your book, or your movie, or your album, doesn’t have enough “there” there, you can hang a million virtue-signals on the thing — dress it up like a damned social justice christmas tree — and the audience is going to give you a big, whopping, “Meh.” And it’s not because the audience is secretly homophobic or misogynistic or racist. It’s because the audience is tired of being sermonized, and cannot be commanded to vote (with its collective wallet) for something it doesn’t want to vote for.

The Ghostbusters reboot failed, not because America hates women, but because America looked at this movie and said, “Two-point-five stars; maybe three at most, if we’re in a good mood.”

The audience doesn’t care about progressive eat-your-ideological-veggies politics. The audience doesn’t care about the demographics of the actors. The audience just wants to have a good time.

Likewise, you cannot command consumers to shun a thing, if that thing has already won them over. Remember Chick-Fil-A? Bunch of Social Justice Zealots (SJZs) commanded us all to “punish” Chick-Fil-A for (insert progressive political reason here) and the response — by Americans — was to give Chick-Fil-A a record week in profits. Any way you slice it, the SJZ plan wholly and utterly backfired. Because Chick-Fil-A chicken is delicious. People have known this for years. It’s why Chick-Fil-A has exploded nationally. Check out any Chick-Fil-A franchise at lunch or dinner, and you will typically see stacks of cars lined up around the lot, sometimes more than once, with a huge crowd at the registers inside. The anti-Chick-Fil-A “punishment” maneuver merely caused those ordinarily packed lines to go out the driveway, down the street, and around the block. Because the consumers said “F*** you, you can’t make us hate good food.” The consumers are still saying it, too.

So, please, let’s pause for a moment; to consider the boots-on-ground reality. Wagging your finger at people is never, ever a winning marketing strategy. Wagging your finger at the crowds is liable to have the crowds showing you a collective finger of their own — and it ‘aint the index finger. Because people like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. De gustibus. You want to freight your product with all kinds of social justice ornamentation? Fine. Just be aware of the fact that you’re putting a stone around that product’s neck. Don’t be shocked when it sinks to the bottom, never to rise. It’s not the audience’s fault. It’s your fault for thinking the audience wanted or needed you to shove your politics up their collective ass.

Again, the crowds just want to have fun. I repeat: they want to have fun. Can you bring the fun? Can you make something that gets spontaneous laughter or applause, without it turning into an imitation of a Politburo session, where grown men collapse because they dare not get caught being the first one to put his hands back into his pockets? Maybe you think the Politburo sessions are an instruction manual, versus a cautionary tale?

Maybe you need to reconsider.

But wait, who am I kidding? Of course you won’t reconsider. SJZs never, ever reconsider. Smug self-righteousness is a hell of a drug. Once a person is hooked, (s)he loses all perspective, and becomes both myopic and deaf. That’s SJZism in a nutshell: myopic, and deaf.

But don’t say nobody warned you. The next time your movie or book — tricked out with all the latest virtue-signalling baubles — tanks. You spent too much time focusing on the wrapping paper, without paying enough attention to what’s inside. It’s the product itself that counts. Just like content of character counts. Remember who said that? I do. It was good advice.

More “there” there, please. Bring the “there” and you succeed, every time. “There” is what matters to the consumer, above all else.

Not what you think you’re saying with the product. Not what you think you have to say, to make people think you’re one of the Good Guys. The audience isn’t paying money to watch you check yourself out in the mirror, take selfies, and broadcast to the world that you’re wonderful.

The audience wants to be entertained.

Not educated. Not lectured. Not have their awareness raised.

Entertained.

Oh, sure, you might get some fraction of the crowd to buy in — as a political duty. And if you can be satisfied with an “audience” that supports you solely and explicitly out of obligation, knock yourself out. Just don’t be shocked when the crowds aren’t beating down your storefront door. Learn to be content with your monthly trickle from Patreon. You’ve chosen to wear your SJZ badge on your lapel. You couldn’t wait to tell the audience how much they suck. You elected confrontation as your mode of communication. The bad’s on you. Make no mistake about it. The bad’s on you.

On the gripping hand, if you’re a content producer who’s been frustrated by the fact that the SJZs keep demanding you create the way they expect you to create — otherwise you’re a horrible person who will be punished — take heart. You don’t have to do what they say. You don’t have to kiss the asses, nor the rings. Your options are open. You can have fun doing what you’re doing, and find an audience who will have fun right along with you. And if you can spin the fun up to high enough RPM, maybe you get a feedback effect, go viral, and see some real traction? It’s not a guarantee. But then again, with the market, nothing ever is. You just don’t need to load up your ruck sack with leaden social justice conceits, in a vain attempt to appease people who will never be appeased anyway — because they’re high on their own supply.

Create your stuff. Have a good time doing it. Work hard. And above all else, be gracious with the market — even on those occasional days when they throw pies at you. That’s inevitable. You cannot please all comers. But you can thank them for their time. You can thank them for making an investment. You can honor the fact that they tried you, even if you ended up not being to their taste. Maybe they will try you again?

In this way, too, the market always wins. You’re not standing at a pulpit. Pulpits are for fuggheads. You’re standing in the town square, your cart of wares arrayed for viewing. If you’re good at what you do, and enough people notice, good things will come to you. Be patient. And keep playing the long game. The market favors the long game.