Saturday, October 17, 2015

Civil Curs, Demon Debaters, and The Long Haul

So.  Hugo season is over, time to start another Hugo season.

I stopped posting on the Hugos early last summer, as a Project from Hell at work ate my life.  (The reward for successfully finishing that?  More work. *sigh*)  Since then, I’ve started easing back into the SFF/blogging side of things.  (Also the writing side.)  Of course, soon as I do, Larry Correia over at Monster Hunter Nation up and posts a guest article(1) from Chuck Gannon (2) . You can find the column – “Ends, Means, and Arsonists, Or The Importance of Saying “Yes” to Civility While Saying “No” to Passivityhere.  Once read, one should read the comments (here.)  And then one should read the comments at John Scalzi’s Whatever (here), where Gannon crossposted the article.

Go, read.

My thoughts are below the cut.

I agree with some of what was written here, and some of it leaves me scratching my head.  Some parts I think are outright false/inaccurate.  But what I found really interesting were the comments.
To my read, the overall theme of both comment sections was “Why are you telling me to be civil when the other side is clearly the worse offender?  It’s OUTRAGEOUS that you should pretend that we’re just alike!  FALSE EQUIVALENCE!!!”

Which to my view only made Gannon’s point stronger – there is a strong, on-going refusal to acknowledge The Other as having any reasonable points, and a (steadily increasing) tendency to shut out the other voices completely.  ON BOTH SIDES. (There, said it.)

The other theme was the level of emotional outrage.  The specifics of it were not the same on both sides – Whatever comments tended to be personalized, while those at MHN reflected more of an affront against natural righteousness – but there were a number of people voicing deeply felt hurt and anger.  People on both sides spoke of being pushed – by offenders on the Other – into stances that they would not be argued out of.

Which is a problem.  Because rationally arguing each other out of our opposing povs is the only option we have(3)We can not eradicate each other.  For all the talk of “THIS IS WAR!” – no, no, no, this is not war.

It’s a deep rooted cultural struggle.  It’s a pair of opposing ideologies grinding against each other.It's politics. It’s largely non-compatible povs competing for the same niche.  It’s not war. At this point, it’s barely protests and writing snarky poetry at each other. It’s not even riots – or glass in the street.

If it gets to war – to bombs in the mailroom, to snipers in the high places and nuking the place from orbit, just to be sure – well.

If it gets to the point of war, it will be a different thing.  I truly hope that it does not. As of today, I will say again with conviction - this is not war.

Which is not to say that it’s not a conflict.  Because it’s clearly something.  Yeah, we writing types buy pixels by the metric ton, but still, there’s been a lot of passion spent on this over the last few years.  So if it’s not war, what is it?

I think it’s evolution.  (Yeah, yeah, epi geek, life-sci geek, and to the hammer everything is a nail.)  But I really think it’s an evolution. 

Which is important. Evolution isn't something you go out looking for.  It's not a choice - just as "war or not war" isn't a choice a lot of the time, either.  It's not something we can say, "okay, we opt out, no evolution today" because Kirk convinced us that We Control Our Destiny.  Whether we wish it or not, we live in a non-static environment with limited resources and competition for those resources.  We're in this, will-we or won't-we.

And it's important because framing a successful strategy means, first off, recognizing what kind of conflict is going on.  Don't bring a knife to a gun fight.  Don't bring a gun to a money duel. Don't bring a tank to an urban resistance. 

And the way you win evolution? You stay flexible.  You don’t be afraid to innovate.  You don’t give up on viable resources.  And most importantly, you outbreed the suckers.

Now, generational changes, in human terms, take forever.  We don’t tolerate large population die-offs, and we are pretty resourceful when it comes to protecting our own.  For all that the most progressive have always rolled their eyes at the stodgy-sticks-in-the-mud clinging to the old ways, we-as-humans change our cultural mores in ways that are blindingly fast, compared to the shifts in the physical genome on which the culture rests.  But, imo, the same principles apply to cultures as apply to the genotype.  The ones that win, are the ones that increase.

If it was just a matter of making new Fangirls and Gameboys, then it would just be a matter of comparing relative birthrates. (Which would take a bit of time to collect that data, but would not be all that difficult.) But a) that way of increase is slow as snail snot and b) there’s more to it than that.  

WrongFans and TruFen are not the only games in town.  (It might look that way.  Especially if one spends a lot of time in The Struggle.  That’s the third thing I saw in both comment sections.) But outside of the respective committed camps, there is a sea of mushy supporters, the relatively uncommitted, and the pox-on-both-your-houses lot.  This is the MAJORITY of SFF fans.

This is the resource that both sides – that ALL sides – are competing for.  This is where our increase in numbers comes from.

There is NO WAY that Larry Correia is going to convince NK Jemisin to come over to the dark side and advocate a decrease in the ideological polarization of the field.  She’s invested, this is her life work.

And there is NO WAY for GRRM to talk Vox into giving fiction that pushes an intersectional pov priority over conservative Christian oriented stories.  Again, this is a calling.

Heck, it’s to the point where LC and GRRM can’t talk easily with each other.  (On their good days, they both try, I think.)

However, the Puppy side isn’t a bunch of Vox clones.  Nor is NKJ capable of forcing everyone on the Trufan side to repeat her words like an Occupy mike check.  More importantly the people who aren’t on either side outnumber us all.

This is what we have to remember. ALL THE TIME.

When we bitch in private to friends and sympathetic ears, it’s one thing.  LJ flocked posted, friends-only stuff on Facebook, private emails, that’s one thing.  What we say on twitter, on Tumblr, and otherwise openly on the internets gets read by everyone.  And there are always more lurkers than commentators.

When we argue on the internets – or in any situation where the uncommitted are watching – we have to keep our end goal in mind.  Which should not be to win the “immediate” battle – but the long war.  (And yeah, that was another slip into a war metaphor.)

The best way to convince the uncommitted to join us is to present the best argument.  The easiest way to do that is to let the other side continue to make horrible, emotion-laden, juvenile attacks, while continuing to present rational reason on our side.  In a contest with the equivalent of nine-year-old school yard taunts, the arguments don’t even have to be that good, to be much, much better.
This is the point where someone brings up Trump/Obama/DebbieWassermanShultz/RushLimbaugh/whatever.  And here I say long war.  Not a four year election cycle. Geological scale.

We have to check the impulse to make the cutting remark, to appeal to low impulses, to name-call and engage in slapfights. If we cut out *that* - and yes, which ever side you’ve been on, there are those who have delighted in name calling and face rubbing – if we do that, and the other side keeps it up, we win. (Eventually.)

All we have to do, is choose our words in order to convince the undecided, and not our immediate opponents. 

Simple, right? Yeah, simple. But not easy.  

Okay, one says, what does this mean, in practice?

To my pov, this means:

1) Be accurate, be charitable, be ACCURATE.  Be suspicious of talking points that support your conclusions.  Doubt rumors that make the other side look bad.  REMEMBER EVERYTHING.

2) Stay engaged, and reach out in engagement.  (Yeah, yeah, she sez, having buggered off for the whole of the summer.)  Don’t expect to convince anyone the first time.  Give it at least ten times.  BE PATIENT.

3) Acknowledge the good points of the other side.  They’re humans, not actual demons. (If they are demons, they won't run from such a thing as the anger of a mortal.  If they are humans, they can be saved.) They have some good points, and some good arguments.  (For instance, the 4/6 rule for Hugo noms actually makes sense.) It is actually stupid to cast aside a good idea because your opponent brought it up.  Take that idea and use it. BUILD BRIDGES. (Even when you would rather call in an air strike.)

4) Don’t demand that people be responsible for what their friends did, or what other people on “their side” did.  That won’t work on me, so I don’t expect it to work on others. You can't apologize for other people. Don't ask other people to do this for their companions. BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR ADDRESS.

5) Don’t mistake disagreement for disparagement.  Yes, you CAN tell someone you think they’re wrong in their choice of fiction.  That matters. That they are ugly or would screw the first available thing that walked off the street? Not relevant.  Disagree repeatedly, at length, and at every opportunity.  Disparage as little as the worst demons of your own nature permit. STAY ON TARGET. 

Your goal is to convince the bystander that you are right and reasonable, and the other side is not. In this effort, IT REALLY REALLY HELPS IF YOUR SIDE IS ACTUALLY RIGHT AND REASONABLE.

I put these forth knowing full well that I have failed to live up to these ideals in the past and will fail again in the future.  I’d rather fail in trying to meet them, than succeed at some far lesser goals. 
I also acknowledge that there are those who have been involved in this for longer and at greater depth than I.  For many of these people, my words are weak-sauce bs, and come years too late.  I don’t think I can persuade them otherwise, but then again, they aren’t the minds I’m trying to change, either. They're already on the right side (except when they are not.)

I do not think that we can resolve this divide in Fandom unless we use these principles – and others of like nature.  The ideals of scorched earth and of outright ostracism have already shown themselves to be ineffectual - or else there would never have been a Sad Puppies One.  On the other hand, accommodation of the most extreme ideologue purists of the TruFans and acceptance of a permanent outsider status to the field is not an option for me. 

(No. I am a SFF fan, and I hope to be a SFF writer, and I am not going away.)

I do think we can manage to muddle back to a broader acceptance of different perspectives and priorities in Fandom – where an ever-churning sea of disagreement is the norm, and ideas are batted back and forth across the lines, to the continual dismay (and delight) of everyone.


As a side effect of getting back into blogging more (my goal is 2 posts a week) I’ll likely be updating the sidebar & reading list.  Suggestions (including self-promotion) gladly accepted for consideration.

(1) Correia hardly never has guest posts. Eva.

(2) Whom I had never heard of before the Hugo nominations.  My reference pool is occasionally very very shallow.

(3) To me, the most sensible alternative would mean ignoring the existence of the other side, and going on living ones life as if they did not exist, but there seem to be far too many people committed to leaping into the fray. Different strokes for different folk.