Brad R. Torgersen

Courageous left-wing media beats stuffing out of Straw Puppy

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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.

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