Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Victor And No-One (Fuck The Fascists)

I haven't a great deal to add to the cold, swirling outrage spinning around the Hugo Awards getting themselves rocket-jacked by grotesque fractions of human beings so that the corpse of the awards' good name can be tanned and cut into swastikas. Adam Roberts has already covered this beat with his usual aplomb (Update: as has Abigail Nussbaum, as Jamie points out in comments) and further strong contributions have emerged from Jack Graham, Philip Sandifer and Andrew Hickey.

Those three have, in fact, slapped together an Emergency Anti-Fascist Podcast, which I can't recommend highly enough. All of it is smart and considered - I completely endorse the strategy of buying in to voting to vote "NO AWARD" across the board - but I'm particularly interested in the idea that geek culture is particularly susceptible to the kind of villainous horrors Vox Day is openly pedalling because so many of us had a genuine claim to victimhood as school-kids that we're refuse to let go of as we reach adulthood. As Sandifer points out, even at its worst the experience of a cis white male geek is unlikely to match up in the horror stakes with the ever-present threat of sexual or racist violence, but for many of us it was legitimately terrible, and having to go from years of that to suddenly be told you're now on top of the pile and owe it to others to be constantly aware of how good you have it can presumably be an awful wrench.

I wonder though if this captures the whole picture. When Sandifer points out that Vox Day's most controversial comments are so reprehensible not even FOX News or the Republican Party would put up with him, Graham notes this would only be true if those comments were public. Sandifer shoots back that Day's comments are public, but it may simply be that the sense of the word "public" is critical. It's at least arguable that what would cost Day his position at a "news" corporation or a seat in politics wouldn't be the disgust of his colleagues but the fear of the inevitable push-back from the public. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that supporting the throwing of acid in women's faces or calling black people less evolved than whites are positions you'd find much sympathy for in Ailes' world. Much as I despise those people, I'm not going to assume that level of derangement from them. What I am saying is that there seems to be at least a grudging tolerance of extreme views on the right so long as you remember what side you're supposed to be on. It may be that geekdom is not more tolerant of grotesque extremism, so much as has far less motivation to rid itself of those spouting said extremism.

That may or may not be a compelling thought. Either way though it's at least instructive, because it leads us to a potential limitation in Sandifer's argument. I think it's almost impossible to deny that conservatives have made delusions of oppression just as much a central facet of their world-view as has the post-eighteen year old geek. That the latter group can are clinging to an essentially irrelevant past rather than an entirely fictional one doesn't seem that useful a distinction: we believe what we believe. To the extent thy differ, how do we distinguish between the persecution complexes of the conservative and the geek?

Alas, I have no idea. I mean, I could quite easily take Sandifer's theory further, arguing the problem with geeks isn't just the insistence on hanging on to old grievances, however legitimate, but our (often subconscious) insistence that the battles we lost in school must be re-fought with ourselves as the victors. Attempts to marginalise geeks for not being the right sort of geeks are everywhere, because for every one of us who took from school the lesson that a war over tastes and opinions in fiction is a bogus construction [1], two of us concluded the only problem with the war is that we should clearly be the ones winning it.

In other words, for many of us our early life taught us to be on a hair trigger, but gave us no morally defensible process for deciding where to point the gun. And I see that as feeding the appalling unwillingness to call out people like Vox Day, who operate as "one of us" only insofar as they don't operate as one of the nebulous "them" of our shared past.  We've become so caught up in a war we consider quintessential to our own being that we're seemingly prepared to forgive anything "our people" do, so long as they don't say anything that actively betrays us.

This is, without doubt, a thoroughly disgusting position to hold, and can only work so long as we define "our people" as a cabal of straight white cis men terrified that anyone else might get a turn at enjoying themselves .  But I still don't see how that thoroughly disgusting position varies from the thoroughly disgusting position held by the right-wing. That so much of us operate as though we are members of the right-wing is a disgraceful and humiliating stain upon our fandom.  But that's not the same as us being uniquely awful. On the contrary, the problem with our awfulness might be precisely that it's so pedestrian.

[1] To a point, of course. Fiction has power, and that means it can be used by the enemy. But that simply makes it all the more important that we focus on what aids the enemy, as oppose to what simply turns us off personally. Simply put, the wider we cast our complaints, the less force we can exert on what genuinely needs to be fought against.


Jamie said...

Good take on the situation. Abigail Nussbaum also covers it well here: http://wrongquestions.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-2015-hugo-awards-thoughts-on.html.

SpaceSquid said...

Thank you. And you're right about Nussbaum; I've added a link in the post.

Jamie said...

And now there's an interesting follow-up regarding the whole Requires Hate debacle late last year! http://wrongquestions.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-2015-hugo-awards-why-i-am-voting-no.html

SpaceSquid said...

Wow. I always knew she was far better at generating heat than light, but I had no idea how much damage she'd caused. But like Nussbaum says, I don't want to stand anywhere near the people crowing about this either.

(Nussbaum's managed to really enrage some people by equating RH and Vox Day, too, which is a whole new level of thorniness.)