Political commentator, comedian, author and all round top robot Patrick S. Tomlinson is punching out those words again.
But this time it’s not his epic science-fiction that’s blowing our minds but some wise words on the current political climate. Below, Patrick shows us how the Hugo/Puppies experience that fandom has witnessed over the past couple of years can act as an example of how to fight back against the system.
Hold on to your hats, its gonna get empowered up in here…
‘The Hugos Show Us the Way Forward’ by Patrick S. Tomlinson
A funny thing happened on the way to… you know what, it wasn’t funny. I’m a professional comedian and I’ve had real trouble finding humor in anything since Nov 8. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
And someone had, approximately sixty-two million people walked right up to me and my diverse circle of weirdos and jabbed us in the collective solar-plexus. It hurt. It still hurts. It’s probably going to hurt for a while. But after I’d gotten my breath back and had a little bit of time to run back through the events, it occurred to me that we in fandom have been here before, very recently.
A funny thing happened on the way to WorldCon 73 in Spokane last year. A small but noisy cabal of outsiders and malcontents used an army of Facebook trolls and Twitter eggs conjured from the cesspools of 4chan and Reddit flooded into our little community like a rampaging horde and began attacking the Hugo awards at its very foundations for no other reason than to punish them for supporting and encouraging diversity and inclusiveness.
Despite being a clear minority of fandom, the sick/rabid puppies and Gamergate urchins, disingenuously hoisting the banner of populism, used slash-and-burn tactics of online mockery, harassment, doxing, and propaganda to spread and mainstream what amounted to a virtual occupation.
In the beginning of the crisis, reactions among the Hugo faithful were a confused mix of anger, desperation, and disbelief. Progress which had been hard-won over decades suddenly came under assault. The life’s work of entire classes of people was mocked, insulted, and dismissed for no other reason than immutable characteristics of their nature. The true scale of the threat was not fully understood until the most rabidly misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic core of rabid puppies and gamergaters had already taken over and pushed the marginally more moderate elements who had actually started the movement off to the side and into irrelevance. By the time these people realized their work had been coopted and mutated into something far more insidious and denounced their peers, it was too late to stuff the evil back in the box.
From there, through the targeted manipulation and abuse of the spirit of the nomination process, these invaders managed to hijack the established rules of the awards to fill the categories with ideologically-charged nonsense written by partisan hacks and incompetents.
Any of this sounding familiar yet?
Early attempts to counter the attack were unfocused and confused. Infighting and finger-pointing hampered the emergence of a unified, coherent strategy. Many people were against adopting the same tactics as the enemy. Others advocated doing nothing and letting it burn itself out. Still others wished to reach out to the invaders and begin a dialogue to try and understand their concerns and use reason and compassion to bring them into the fold.
All of this was wrong. All of it. It did not take into account the size and ferocity of the attack, its unity born of ideological homogeny and common cause, or the fact that exactly no one in the movement had reasoned their way into their position in the first place, and would not be reasoned out of it. They were after blood. They wanted revenge and domination, not negotiation.
Eventually, the intractable nature of the invaders became clear and a new strategy of opposition and containment emerged. To countermand the exploitation of the nomination rules slate voting represented, the equally devious, yet totally legitimate under the same rules, voting for “No Award” became the marching orders for the faithful.
And it worked. With a clear plan in place, our superior numbers and organizational skills kicked in and slapped the puppies’ poisoned pills out of five categories, doubling the number of times No Award had been given in the Hugo’s entire seventy-three-year history up to that point. I was sitting in the audience for the ceremony. It was electric.
And despite their whining in the aftermath about “burning down our own awards” the attack had been largely turned back. The very next year, puppy influence over the nominations had already begun to ebb, with fewer categories subject to full slating takeovers and fewer No Awards handed out as a result. More women and POC won major awards. And by next year, changes to the rules will see the threat recede even further in the future.
That is how in two short years we beat back the puppies, and that is the model we have to use now that the same sickness has metastasized onto our society, indeed all of Western Civilization. It’s easy to forget now, but the facts are the forces of fascism and intolerance are exactly like the hordes of GamerGate and the Puppies. They are loud, angry, aggressive, shameless, and without scruples.
But they are also a clear minority. As of this writing, more than two point three million more Americans had voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. More Americans voted for Democratic Senators. More Americans voted for Democratic Representatives in the House. It is only through exploitation of the rules in violation of the spirit of American democratic ideals that the forces of intolerance and bigotry maintain their majorities. This has been true for more than a decade. This makes them vulnerable to our superior numbers should we have the foresight and resolve to set aside our petty bickering and unify in an organized fashion and agree to a coherent plan of counterattack.
And they know it. That’s why they are constantly introducing new legislation at the state level to limit early voting, close polling places, require ID to vote, and sought to gut the Voting Rights Act. They fear our numbers. They work to keep us fractured and divided.
Don’t let them. This is a rebellion, isn’t it?