How Could Anyone Think Differently Than Me When I've Never Met One? Advocate, 23/04/2015

I created the Advocate category of post so I'd have a serious-sounding label when I discussed serious issues. These would be problems on the level of the Syrian-Iraqi war,* the politics of modern anti-Semitism, and the Ukrainian civil war. Now, I'm using this label to talk about a group of cultural conservative nerds who have organized a campaign to hijack the prestigious Hugo awards for science-fiction literature. 

* Can we just start calling it the Third World War? In terms of geographic area, it’s big enough to qualify, with utter chaos in Libya, along with the war’s major front, the collision of anti-Assad insurgents with his Iranian-backed government, alongside Kurdish and Iraqi government forces fighting Islamic State. As well, there’s the desperate and rather clueless American and Canadian involvement in the Syrian-Iraqi front as bombing forces. I think in future, I’ll just refer to this conflict as the Third World War. 

Someone has different morals that challenge the universal
validity of mine? Maybe I should call the Waaaah-mbulance.
I know it doesn’t have quite the same life-and-death, civilization-defining stakes, but it’s a grassroots organized expression of a political movement in my own culture to silence and destroy the social and personal voices of, basically, anyone who isn't a relatively wealthy white male Christian. It’s a political movement that controls much of the United States government, and which has a powerful hold on the Canadian state as well. Its violence is slow and creeping, and so more difficult to notice, but it’s still a war.

Phil Sandifer has already made the definitive statement on the Sad and Rabid Puppies’ hijacking of the Hugo Awards. You should definitely read that. But read it after you finish reading my post, because his essay is a good 20 minutes. 

Phil describes the Sad and Rabid Puppies as expressing a modern fascist ideology and aesthetic for the culture of early 21st century America. It's an analysis that speaks to my own concerns as I work on the Utopias project about the dangers of organizing a political movement to forge an ideal form of society. Any such movement is inherently authoritarian, its reach penetrating every aspect of every individual’s life to maintain each member’s perfect and total conformity to the ideal.

It’s the politics of the end of history, the final perfect form of humanity that, once achieved, must not change because any deviation would be a corruption. This describes the politics of Rabid Puppies leader Vox Day pretty decently.

The injustice of this category of ideology, and the singular horror of Vox Day’s eugenic Christian version, is addressed quite well in Phil’s essay. I want to discuss a side issue that came up in the comments to Phil’s essay, which has more to do with the generally conservative Sad Puppies.

Space battles are fun and war stories are interesting,
but sci-fi literature can accomplish much more than
war story after war story.
The Rabid Puppies are a group of virulent gamergaters that the radical feudalist and eugenicist Christian sci-fi author, editor, and publisher Vox Day organized this year, which successfully placed a slate of poorly written politically conservative military sci-fi in the bulk of the literary nomination categories of the Hugo Awards. This group only organized over 2014. The Sad Puppies are a group of less insane social conservatives led by Brad Torgerson and Larry Correia that has been trying and failing to organize sufficient numbers for their slate of poorly written right-wing military sci-fi for the last three years. 

The Puppies slates are essentially a group that had to organize to get their choices past the popular preferences of dedicated WorldCon members onto the nomination papers. Torgerson himself commented on Phil's essay that he can't believe that works with socially progressive themes would have dominated the Hugo nominations without an organized voting slate among progressive minded people and self-identified Social Justice Warriors™. It’s just that the leftists don’t admit it. Torgerson writes:
“Mr. Sandifer, if you truly believe that a book like ANCILLARY JUSTICE or a story like ‘The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere’ did not benefit from a tremendous groundswell of affirmative-action-mindedness, you're not paying attention. Please phone me when you're interesting in discussing diversity beyond a skin-deep level. Quote Larry Niven: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently.”
Of course, the reason we don't admit it is because there is no such organized voting block of progressives (Happy Kittens, perhaps?). A focus on more diverse characters and complex storylines and worlds creates more interesting artworks with more potential for artistic achievement. 

Even when I do think of war movies, anti-war movies
that shy away from the glorification of battle tend to be
better than enthusiastic revelling in the battlefield. I
always think of John Wayne's The Green Berets as the
worst offender of a movie that's so jingoistic that I
can't sit through it. Good art provokes thought and
critique, and reinforcing cultural prejudices gets in
the way of solid art.
Yet Torgerson, the aggrieved conservative, does not believe that a popular audience genuinely finds work with socially progressive themes superior. I wonder how much of this attitude is a result of simply not having anyone in his social circles with different political beliefs. If you don’t know anyone with different beliefs, then you'll have trouble understanding how people could hold those beliefs.

It is very easy for people to take their beliefs about how the world is to be self-evident. It’s how political extremism grows, through insularity and a lack of questioning. Being surrounded by people who mirror your own beliefs makes you think that there's no sensible alternative way to think or live. 

Such a social situation is horribly dangerous, because the reaction of such a sheltered person to meeting, at last, a different person is shocking and disturbing. You feel under threat by the existence of difference alone, which is a dangerous attitude to hold in a society where there is any political, cultural, or moral difference at all. 

Beyond this, when your own social world as a person contains such remarkable moral unity, you can easily come to believe that the larger world has the same character as your small world. Your small world seems the size of the whole world. So not only can you easily become afraid of difference, but you can’t even conceive of difference. 

The most reasonable explanation for the existence of widespread difference, if difference intrudes upon your insular small world, is not that the general population differs from your opinion and you’re actually a minority. It's that the different one is an insidious minority disturbing the self-evident truths that the majority, along with you, must know.

Torgerson accuses the left of being such a community, a small insular world whose members can't conceive of anyone different from them. Yet the conservatives are the ones who actually had to organize a hijack on their own behalf. 

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