First they attacked with accusations of racism, but lo! who are the real racists?
Then they attacked with accusations of sexism, but lo! who are the real sexists?
Next they attacked with accusations of association, but lo! with whom does evil truly associate?
I got a little pissed off this week. You see, I’m supposed to be writing (I got an email from one of my publishers last night asking me how the book was going… this is always a bad sign) and not being dragged down deeper into this SP/RP/#GamerGate vs SJW culture war. But watching Marko Kloos (a damn fine writer, IMO) and Annie Bellet (another good writer) be chased from the Hugo Awards because someone associated them with the reputedly vile Vox Day really pissed me off.
I did not know that Marko was in league with the Evil League of Evil. I did not know that Annie was the league’s Marianne. If only I had known!
As a writer, one of the things you hope to achieve is to reach across and make the story so compelling and enjoyable that nobody gives a shit about your politics. Eric Flint does this amazingly well, as does Jerry Pournelle. The late Terry Pratchett has fans everywhere. George R. R. Martin has fans everywhere. Fiction and entertainment shouldn’t be restricted like that. Somewhere, somehow, someone has forgotten that we have the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Speech (and association) is something that I cherish. If all of my friends were only of one political spectrum or beliefs, then all I’d be doing is talking into an echo chamber. Echo chambers are nothing more than mutual masturbation groups, if you ask me.
Oh, you can yell at me that there are consequences for actions. Lots of people love building up a strawman argument by stating that slavery was legal and immoral, then hitting with the “so just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right” counterpunch, then celebrating as though they’ve won the argument when all they’ve won is pity because they do not understand that they’ve accomplished nothing in their argument. In fact, a strawman argument has but one goal: to publicly shame an individual in an argument.
That’s not arguing or debating, people. That’s simple hitting.
I was reading about the 1958 decision of NAACP vs Alabama and it got me thinking… why are we letting fear rule our lives now? Back in 1958, there was a reason to be fearful of being a black man or woman in Alabama. Being exposed as a member of the NAACP back then was pretty much “game over”. Not because being associated with the NAACP meant you were bad, but that people would attack them if their rolls were exposed to state scrutiny. A fair and reasonable expectation, given the racial tensions of the time. Makes me glad I was born in the 70’s.
But the members of the NAACP had a legitimate reason to fear reprisal. “How dare they help them uppity negroes try to vote and go to school!” came the response. Something Had To Be Done about those damn NAACP members, and the state of Alabama took it all the way to the Supreme Court in order to Make Things Right. The media supported Alabama, which meant that Alabama’s case was painted in the most positive light. “What if they were Communists?” came the argument. “We would be fostering a Communist revolution in our community and the state should know who is on their record rolls. For all we know, the NAACP is just a front for the Communists!” You think I’m kidding….
Alabama failed, for the record. They failed hard. The NAACP was protected by the 14th Amendment, which covers, among other things, due process and equal protections under the law.
Fast forward to today, and the same thing is happening, albeit in a different context. You have people terrified of being “outed” as an -ist (fill in your own little BadName) and hiding in fear and reacting with fear when it becomes apparent that someone who is a BadThink likes them or respects their work. They must immediately disassociate themselves with the person. I’ve watched Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen both be forced to say “I’m not Vox Day” this week. I cringed when I watched a popular indie writer be dragged through the muck because a group of people he does not agree with politically nominated him for a Hugo. I’ve seen a young author, terrified of the abuse heaped upon her, walk away from “the most prestigious award in SF” because someone associated her with a BadPerson. Social media attacks and traditional media attacks have become the norm, and because people are so afraid of what people will think of them, they must denounce anyone and anything which may link them to BadPeople, no matter the personal cost.
We do not have the ability to control what people think (thank God for that). Some people believe that we can control a person’s thoughts through public shaming, and try to enforce by doing so. This has two effects. One, it attempts to ostracize the individual and emotionally harm them. Secondly, it creates a huge divide and forces people to “take sides” in a fight that they really don’t have a dog in.
You cannot control what people think.
Let me reiterate that, in case you missed it the first time.
YOU. CANNOT. CONTROL. WHAT. PEOPLE. THINK.
Nor should you try.
Look, I have no control over whether the Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies or other people got on onto the ballot for the Campbell Award. I personally don’t care. Nor would I care if it was a SJW group or anti-#GamerGate group who got me on. The point of the matter is, there was enough people somewhere to think “This guy’s pretty good” and throw my name into the hat. That’s pretty damn awesome, if you ask me. It shouldn’t matter which side did it, quite frankly. And I’m not dwelling on it. Why? Because I don’t care.
I just don’t.
You see, there is no black and white in this matter, or life in general. Having things in black and white makes life easy, less messy. It makes it easy to spot who the BadGuys are, and who the side of light is. Unfortunately, life doesn’t let you off the hook so easily. There is so much gray out there crossing over into each and every aspect of life that it’s impossible to keep things neat and tidy. It messes with you, and forces you to question things. Questions are tough, I know. Sometimes you just don’t want to see the answers, answers which could go against your ideals and beliefs. So you block out all the varying grays until all you have left is… black and white. Us versus Them. Good versus Bad.
And that is a shame.