Ed Driscoll

You May Not Be Interested in the Culture War, But The Culture War is Interested in You


“Last Monday afternoon, Entertainment Weekly posted a story in its Books section with the ominous headline: ‘Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign,'” John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily notes in an article sardonically titled, “Another Great Moment in Mainstream Journalism:”

Within a few hours, the headline changed to: “Correction: Hugo Awards voting campaign sparks controversy.”

That’s some correction. So what happened?

Both versions of the EW story were about the annual Hugo Awards given out to science fiction and fantasy writers. In the original version, EW’s Isabella Biedenharn claimed that “misogynist groups lobbied to nominate only white males for the science fiction book awards,” urging their followers to “cast votes against female writers and writers of color.”

Turns out that the slate of authors recommended by one of the groups, at least, did include women and minorities. Several of them, in fact.

The group’s campaign, in fact, had nothing to do with women or minorities, but an effort “to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance (to be) nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards,” according to Larry Correia, who along with Brad Torgersen, started the “Sad Puppies” campaign to bring more ideological diversity to the Hugo nominations.

“I started this campaign a few years ago,” Correia wrote on his blog, “because I believed that the awards were politically biased and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned.”

But since the EW reporter didn’t bother to reach out to Correia, or anyone else involved, to check her facts, she apparently didn’t know this.

This story, like the now-completely discredited Rolling Stone “campus rape” article, shows the dangers of an increasingly biased mainstream news media.

In-between castigating Rolling Stone for its rape-obsessed debacle last year, we shouldn’t let the disgusting racialist meltdown by a once fairly milquetoast showbiz gossip publication like Entertainment Weekly go without exploring what caused it. But like Gamergate, the events leading up to it are a bit complex for anyone coming into the story cold. So first, some historical background.

Science fiction has always had both a left, totalitarian side, as well as a right, libertarian side. As Fred Siegel noted in his 2009 City Journal profile of H.G. Wells, whom he accurately dubbed “The Godfather of American Liberalism,” a title that reflects the two-edged sword the G-word has become in recent decades, Wells in both his fiction and non-fiction, was a driving proponent of sci-fi’s totalitarianism:

Well before Mussolini, still a revolutionary socialist in the early twentieth century, and at roughly the same time as Lenin, Wells—in the book that he called the “keystone to the main arch of my work”—gave up not only on democracy but on organized labor as a transformative force. All three men rejected what might be described as social democracy, that is, the attempt to use political means to redress the inadequacies of capitalism. Instead, each proposed a new class, a vanguard to carry forward a postcapitalist social order.

Wells’ writing not only inspired the title of that long-running (if now rather addle-brained) publication, the New Republic, along with the eugenic efforts of Marget Sanger and Planned Parenthood, but in more recent years, a best-selling critique of the left as well, Siegel writes:

By 1932, a frustrated Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

Unfortunately, Wells wasn’t kidding, John J. Miller wrote in 2005, after Steven Spielberg’s big budget version of the War of the Worlds (whose screenwriter declared the Martians were standing in for America’s Red States):

Wells, for his part, was often appallingly wrong. “Human history is in essence a history of ideas,” he once wrote. That may be, but Wells flirted with the worst ideas of his time. After interviewing Lenin, Wells called him “creative” and described communism as the best hope for reforming Russia. The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn’t intrigue him. “There is good in these Fascists,” he said of Italians in 1927. “There is something brave and well-meaning about them.” He despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions as “nonsense.” It was for views such as these that George Orwell delivered a blunt verdict in 1941: “Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany.”

On the flip-side, Robert Heinlein’s libertarian bent can be found throughout his work, making him hugely influential on the right, as the Ludwig von Mises Insitute noted in 2010:

During the ’50s and ’60s, Heinlein won four Hugo awards [fancy that — Ed] for best science fiction novel of the year. In 1969, he joined Walter Cronkite on national television to offer commentary on the first manned moon landing in history. In 1975, he was named the first recipient of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in the field, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. By the time of his death in 1988, his nearly four dozen books — including novels and collections of short stories — had sold more than 40 million copies. And they haven’t stopped selling in the more than two decades that have gone by since then.”Isaac Asimov, who knew Heinlein from the mid-’30s on, was convinced that his personal political views were largely a function of the woman he was married to at the time.”

Why is all this important from the point of view of the libertarian tradition? Because, among the many hundreds of thousands of readers who made Robert A. Heinlein’s career in science fiction such a brilliant success were quite a few who later came to think of themselves as libertarians and to associate themselves, in one way or another, with the organized libertarian movement. Not a few of these would be happy to tell you that it was by reading Heinlein’s stories and novels that they discovered libertarian ideas and became persuaded of their power and truth.

In the early 1970s, according to a survey undertaken at the time by SIL, the Society for Individual Liberty, one libertarian activist in six had been led to libertarianism by reading the novels and short stories of Robert A. Heinlein.

For decades, the two sides of science fiction co-existed in somewhat uneasy fashion. (Yes, I know that’s an enormous simplification, but I’m trying to get this post back to April of 2015. Bear with me.) But as with first academia, then journalism, then Hollywood, and more recently with even seemingly apolitical video games, whenever the left gets a foothold, their primary goal is to bar any other points of view, and that includes science fiction as well, as Robert Tracinski writes at the Federalist:

By now, we know the basic ingredients of a typical skirmish in Culture War 4.0. It goes something like this: a) a leftist claque starts loudly pushing the “correct” Culture War position onto b) a field previously considered fun, innocuous, apolitical, purely personal, or recreational, and c) accusing anyone who opposes them of being a racist, sexist, bigot who relies on oppressive “privilege” to push everyone else down, while these claims are d) backed up by a biased press that swallows the line of attack uncritically and repeats it.

Any of that sound familiar? It’s just daily life for anyone on the Right, and it’s slowly becoming daily life for everybody else. Ask Comet Guy.

The innocuous field in which the personal is suddenly discovered to be very political might be fashion, music, toys, sports, or sex, not to mention weddings, flowers, cake-baking, and pizza.

Or video games. Or science fiction.

Which explains the latest, wide new front of the Great Social Justice War: Gamergate and its latest outgrowth, the battle over the Hugo Awards, a prestigious annual fiction award for science fiction and fantasy writers.

Read on for Tracinski’s details of how the Hugo, for decades sci-fi’s equivalent of the Oscar and Emmy, was awarded. Basically, anyone who pays a $40 annual membership is free to vote.

That’s far too democratic a process for those who want to keep the proverbial “wrong element” out of the genre — and by wrong element, I mean anyone who isn’t a full-on raving socialist justice warrior. I mean, anyone like you or me:

A few years back, conservative science-fiction author Larry Correia noticed that left-leaning participants at Worldcon were engaged in a whispering campaign against one of his nominated books because of his political views. Many of them had not even read his novels. They opposed him, not because of the quality of his work, but because of who he was. In effect, the Left was enforcing a blacklist in which no right-leaning science fiction writer can be allowed to win awards.

All of which sounds drearily familiar. Believe me, when you’re in my line of work, you don’t expect to win any of the mainstream awards, either. They just don’t give those things to people like us. It’s a part of our professional life that most writers on the right have just given up on. And maybe we shouldn’t have.

To counteract the voting bias, Correia organized a campaign called “Sad Puppies”—because, he explains, “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” Which gives you a small sampling of the kind of goofy, irreverent humor with which the campaign has been conducted. The idea was simply to suggest a slate of authors Correia thought were likely to be overlooked or slighted because of their views—and to counteract that effect by lobbying in their favor.

His goal wasn’t even to win, but just to bring attention to the issue.

Naturally, in response, “they did what the Left always does: they smeared everyone who disagrees with them as racists.”

Click over to Tracinski’s post for the rest. On the one hand, we’re all “draftees in the new Culture War,” Tracinski writes. In other words, you may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in you — to paraphrase a quote long attributed to one the earliest socialist justice warriors. (And used by Tracinski late last year in response to the SJW’s meltdown over a real-life rocket scientist’s shirt. On the other though, “From our perspective as draftees in the new Culture War, the 2015 Hugo Awards lay out the pattern for a successful counter-attack.”

Faster, please — as my colleague Micheal Ledeen likes to say about bringing regime change to totalitarian institutions.

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