It’s been gorgeous spring weather here by the Great Salt Lake. I did the APFT yesterday, then went home and played catch and frisbee with my daughter, while also doing some outside chores on my Dad’s house. Plenty of sunshine and fresh air. Perfect for clearing a guy’s head.
I’m getting ready for an Army deployment to the Middle East, so my ability to keep up with this whole “conversation” — about Sad Puppies 3 — is soon going to diminish. So I don’t think I will spend much time this week (or even for the rest of this month) talking about the affair. Most of what needs to be said from my end, has been said. People either love Sad Puppies 3, or hate Sad Puppies 3, or are somewhere in between. Or, often, they simply don’t know what’s going on and don’t care. Which is 99% of the human race at this point. And that’s probably for the best. Few things are as boring to non-nerds, as a cage match nerd fight.
But . . .
I’ve been asked by several people if I am going to respond to commentary in Salon, Slate, or The Atlantic. I’ve been starting and stopping several such responses, ever since last weekend, and I keep pushing the PAUSE button because — in my opinion — Salon and other progressive tabloid sites like it, are merely symptoms of a deeper issue. I could spend the next week going point-for-point with Arthur Chu or Kameron Hurley, and I am sure none of us would be budged from our positions even an inch. It would not be a conversation. It would be a spectator sport, for the crowds. Chu in one corner, me in the other. That’s how these social media and tabloid journalism fights are set up to begin with. Pick a target, hit the target, see if the target fights back, rake in the clicks and the tweets and the likes and the ad revenue.
No, I’d rather talk about the shared assumptions which create these kinds of responses (to something like Sad Puppies 3) in the first place. Because the invocation of Chu, and the commentary of Hurley — tying the insider argument in SF/F about diversity, to the larger cultural argument about same — makes me want to broaden the scope of my response to the point I am not even talking about SF/F at all.
Western civilization is experiencing a post-Enlightenment crisis.
For hundreds of years we fought the chains of doctrinaire thinking — as told to us by superstition, folklore, and the churches. In the 20th century the trappings of the churches were almost entirely cast off, and for a few decades we (the West) thought we’d finally done it. We’d liberated our collective intellect from the machinery of dispensed truth. All souls would be free to find their own truths and their own meanings, and none could gainsay another man’s or woman’s path of self-discovery. The 21st century was going to be a wonderland of abundance economics, and the melting away of nationalism, tribalism, territorialism, and all the rotten isms of history. A global village, joined by the techno-wizardry of the internet, would rise.
When the first plane hit the first tower on September 11, 2001, the bubble popped.
History wasn’t done with us yet.
I remember in the wake of 9/11 there seemed to be two camps forming. The first camp devoted itself almost entirely to the question: What did we do to deserve this, and how can we say we’re sorry? The second camp asked: How can we bring the perpetrators to justice, and what can be done to stop them in the future?
The first camp focused on self-criticism, and the many post-Enlightenment narratives of inner blame.
The second camp focused on strategy and tactics, to combat the people who sponsored the men who flew the planes, and also to combat the ideology which drove those men to commit murder-suicide.
Now, almost two decades after the most famous international terrorist attack in history, its the children of the first camp who seem to be dominating our societal conversation. Because inner blame is practically the only thing that gets talked about these days. If someone else hurts, it’s because we either did it to them, or we didn’t do enough to stop the hurt, or we are merely hurtful as a factual matter of existing. Ergo, we are born hurtful, and anyone who denies it is merely perpetuating societal and systemic prejudices and wrong.
If you don’t own your hurting hurtfulness — merely because you live and breath and share space with others — you are guilty of any number of rancid ists and isms. You must be shown the error of your ways. You must be made to rip your shirt and beat your breast, about the terribleness of your life, and how you will do better. For all definitions of “better” which include running around demanding everyone else acknowledge his hurtfulness — even if he’s never lifted a finger to swat a fly. Simply being in the universe is hurtful. It’s hurtful to the environment. It’s hurtful to women. It’s hurtful to non-caucasians. It’s hurtful to non-heterosexuals. And so on, and so forth. Either you rip your shirt and beat your breast, and go on the attack against the other “hurters” in your circle, or you are double-plus guilty of being a hurter yourself.
The irony of this whole idea is that it’s simply a postmodernist secular reinvention of the concept of original sin.
Not coincidentally, we’ve seen postmodernist secular reinventions of hair shirts, self-flagellation, and the Spanish Inquisition. Determining guilt or innocence — at trial, in the courts of social media — does not depend on empirical evidence as much as it depends on acknowledging and following the forms and teachings of the doctrine. How well can you stand in the public square and engage in a Mao-style renunciation of yourself? Are you willing to call out and renounce others? Do you “own” your “privilege” with the appropriate amount of visible self-guilt, and are you willing to publicly point a finger at others?
Will you swear fealty to the Party?
Are you loyal to the Cause?
Last week, after the announcement of the Hugo awards final ballot, Sad Puppies 3 (and all involved with it) were declared guilty of going off the script. Questions of tradition and procedural propriety aside, the biggest sin of Sad Puppies 3 was that Larry Correia and I had both stated publicly that we believe in ideological diversity, rather than skin-deep diversity. We had questioned — Openly! Where the commissars could read it! — the doctrine of affirmative action. That a book’s worth or a story’s worth was a matter of pure audience enjoyment, versus merely a determination of the author’s demographics; or the demographics of the main characters.
For this, the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance unleashed their Inquisition. Within 24 hours both Larry and myself had had our names spread across a dozen different progressive tabloid and media sites. The content of the accusation was clownishly in error. It took only a few seconds to unearth the falsehoods, and demonstrate them to the world. Entertainment Weekly had to backtrack and erect several legalistic apologia, to avoid the threat of libel. But the facts were immaterial because the narrative is what mattered most. And the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance understand this fully. Anyone who goes off-script has to be squashed like a bug. Larry and I were deemed low-hanging fruit, so the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance speed-dialed their allies in the progressive media establishment, spoon-fed those allies a sloppy, almost embarrassingly asinine story, then sat back to watch as the progressive media trotted off obediently to do their work.
Neither Larry nor myself could be allowed to stray off the reservation.
Sarah Hoyt — born in Portugal, naturalized to the U.S. — has seen this kind of thing before. It’s the old Stalinist-Marxist mentality which Sarah got to see up close and personal. It’s the mentality my former boss (who was a refugee from Soviet-era Poland) knew all too well, too. Frankly, any time I talk about the 21st century American fascination with political correctness, refugees from the Marxist countries recognize it instantly: the collective effort to control and dictate what is and is not permissible to say, or to think, or to feel, including who you can and cannot associate with; lest you be hauled before the commissars to be tried for guilt-by-association.
Fear is their weapon.
Don’t get caught with the wrong crowd. Don’t be seen talking to the wrong people. Don’t pass the wrong guys so much as a crumb of your sympathy or attention, or you’re done. Your association is proof of your crimes. Whether or not you committed any crimes is beside the point. You were caught with the criminals, therefore you must also be a criminal. Protestations to the contrary, are merely further proof of your guilt. You were seen walking on the same sidewalk in the same direction. Guilty, until proven . . . guilty.
The kafkatrap is sprung.
This is how nominally good motivations — such as opposition to racial prejudice, or the desire to see historically disenfranchised persons achieve equal status and equal rights — become perverted. Because the original objectives of the movement(s) fall to the side, as people realize that the movement(s) themselves make perfect masks for what might be best described as benevolent totalitarianism: the commissars and “deciders” will choose for you which thoughts you are allowed to think, which words you are allowed to speak, and which people you are allowed to associate with. For your own good.
Because going off-script is dangerous.
Remember, the doctrine of the self-blamers. They believe everyone is born to hurt. You hurt people even when you are not hurting anyone. Your very existence hurts someone somewhere — at least if you are classified (according to the heirarchy of hurters) as being a prime source of psychic wounding.
So, either you get on-script, rip your shirt, beat your chest, and go on the attack against others, or the commissars will turn you into a target.
Last week Larry Correia and I were caught being fatally off-script.
The commissars (always self-designated) and their media enablers, reacted with knee-jerk efficiency.
Because the objective was to stir up still more flaming rage nozzles of tolerance. To see that the wrong-doers are punished and chastised and brought low before the “community” of benevolent tyranny. To wreck the wrong-doers in the public eye. Facts and logic are irrelevant. It’s the bloody script! We must stick to the script! The narrative! The hurters must be shown their born nature, then made to confess, and converted to the Cause!
To which Larry and I both said, “Fuck that, and fuck you.”
Now, the funny part is, the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance haven’t figured out yet that trying to enforce an artificial and restrictive form of invented morality upon people with free minds (and free pocketbooks) is like herding cats. If not waving a red cape in front of a herd of bulls.
Once the smear campaign was revealed, the conservative counter-media weighed in. The American Spectator, The Federalist, The Weekly Standard, Breitbart, and The National Review. For a few days, Larry and I both got to become minor folk heroes. Here was a textbook case of gullible, thud-footed, predictably programmed progressive media, trying to crush the little conservative guys — with benevolent hate and party-ginned lies.
In the minds of the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance, they’d won.
The evil-doers had been exposed, and all correct-thinking people would turn their backs, and Larry and I would be ruined forever.
See, thing is, this was like Chick-Fil-A. Remember how that went down? The flaming rage nozzles of tolerance said Chick-Fil-A (the entirety of the corporation) was off-script. The goombah progressive media clown car was called in, and boycotts were announced — to punish Chick-Fil-A for being off-script.
What did free people do?
They gave Chick-Fil-A its greatest week in collective company history.
Business out the wazoo. Cash pouring in, from sales, hand-over-fist.
Because this is how free people give the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance — the commissars — a giant middle finger.
So, too, are free people reacting against the attack on Sad Puppies 3. I think Larry and I came out way ahead on that one, even though it was an exhausting week filled with thousands of messages and lots of activity on social media; to defend our case and refute the slander.
But this is just a skirmish, as Chick-Fil-A was too a skirmish. The flaming rage nozzles of tolerance haven’t gone away. They are still with us, and they are multiplying. They are everywhere in our institutions, especially our schools and universities, and they are working to gain control of the ultimate levers of power: the law. Once the law is in the hands of the commissars, free people everywhere — with free minds — will be at risk. And no, just because you were a good and obedient subject during the run-up to the purges, doesn’t mean you will be spared. If the ejection and execution of Trotsky (in the 20th century) taught us anything, it’s that the self-flensing (among the commisars) is almost more cut-throat, than when they are attacking objectors.
I consider it the duty of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans, authors, and editors, to be anti-authoritarian. Even to include (or especially to include?) benevolent authoritarianism. The cuddly pink fluffy cudgel of political correctness must be opposed by men and women with courage, and the conviction of their free-minded principles. Now is the time for this field — more than any other genre in the literary arts — to demonstrate that it is dangerous. To the commissars. To the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance. To the people who believe the ends justify the means.