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Hate to Say I Told You So.
Or: All that's Required is You Admit I was Right.
On Hategate: The 'Requires Hate' scandal, or how a sociopath almost (almost) completely pwned science-fiction's feminists, post-colonials and social justice warriors. And why it will happen again, and again, and again.
In this post, I'll mostly be speaking about left-wing fandom, which is most of the community. Right-wing fandom is it's own kettle of weird-looking fish, and has it's own 'top troll', in the form of Vox Day. However, Mr Day, though a better strategist than Ms Hate, is nothing like as interesting, lacking her cult-leader mind-control powers (even the people who seem friendly with him can be seen disagreeing with his extremist views on his blog. Few people dared to do that with Ms Hate). In the final evaluation I also think that Mr Day is less dangerous in terms of what he represents. With Charleston on our minds it would seem obvious that Mr Day, a right-wing extremist who has said he belived Andres Breivik will one day be considered a 'hero', is the greater worry. But there's always been a few dangerous bigots on the right of the political spectrum. Ms Hate's achievement was to demonstrate that you can get the same results out of the 'rainbows and socialism' crowd. This is a terrifying result because it means a skilled manipulator can drive any crowd to say/believe/do just about anything.
I blew the whistle on 'Requires hate' back in 2012, after she'd called for me to be beheaded. Perhaps I was lucky that my first encounter with her was a threat, perhaps that's why I saw what others did not. But I'm personally inclined to think that, however I'd been introduced to this troll, I would have found them pretty disturbing. But what really disturbed me was the reaction of the science-fiction crowd. From the first moment I saw her blog, I knew what I was dealing with, but large numbers of US and UK science-fiction writers, critics and fans, didn't. They could look at this unending torrent of abuse and hatred, and support it, applaud, and wheel out endless conniving political arguments to justify it. I've not been the first to ask "What is wrong with these people?", but the question keeps coming up. How could so many educated people in a community that often makes claims of moral superiority to 'mainstream culture', support naked hate-speech and bullying on such a scale? My opinion is that too many of them have signed up to an ideology that is a magnet and mandate for sociopaths, an ideology that, once you've accepted its core concepts, leaves you morally vulnerable to exploitation.
The truth is that even a year before the encounter, I was experiencing alarm at the kind of things I was hearing said by people at science-fiction conventions. Most of this was mild stuff, like my first encounter with the term 'mansplaining', a sexist term that links a negative behavior to gender. I found it a pretty shocking term, but the world is full of shocking terminology and attitudes. What alarmed me most about such encounters was the realization that left-leaning SF people didn't believe the things I thought they believed, didn't believe the things I believed, quite often didn't even support the positions they claimed to support. Most worrying where the hints of a racial theory of evil that argued white people were different from everyone else, that we were 'essentially evil'. While I don't think anyone in SF *thinks* they believe this, and few people would agree with such a statement when presented with it, their actions and other statements confirm that, under the surface, this is what's going on in their heads. At one con I challenged people on this issue, by asking the question in the negative, by presenting the case that issues of conquest and colonialism were *not* linked to racial identity, but where societal in nature, and thus issues for everyone. You'll notice that disagreeing with that statement is effectively a commitment to a racial theory of evil. The people in the room that day rejected my argument, someone even said "I think that's just an excuse". Still, I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing, because what I was hearing was essentially the rise of a new fascism. But subsquent events have forced me to accept that, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
I didn't believe what I was seeing in RequiresHate either. Seeing someone spouting the same arguments that I'd heard from right-wing extremists, but with the target group switched to whites, clearly meant I was dealing with false-flag operation by the extreme right. I *knew* that RequiresHate's ideology was not what the left stood for, indeed it was the antithesis of what the left stood for, so clearly RH was a agent provocateur aiming to discredit the political left by misrepresenting their views. I blogged about this, pointing out that we didn't even know who this person was: they claimed to be a Thai lesbian, but they could just as easily be a white neo-nazi in Texas. I described her as being a 'ticking tar baby' that people would get stuck to, and when she finally blew up, by going too far and causing or saying something which had legal consequences, they would be the ones who'd suffer. "Requires hate" herself would simply close her account, and disappear into the internet ether.
The overwhelming reaction of the science-fiction crowd online was "That's racist!" Their conclusion was that I couldn't believe that a Thai person could deploy English so well. They objected to my 'tar baby' analogy (apparently being ignorant of Brer Rabbit, or stories like Coyote fights a lump of pitch. (Apparently 'tar baby' is a racial slur in America. I'm British, and it's not in Britain, I've never heard it used that way, and I would really like American social-justice-warriors to stop thinking that their culture must be recognized everywhere.) To question RequiresHate's identity at all, was to be instantly accused of racism. To question her hateful rhetoric was to be accused of advancing the "Tone argument". To question the racist and sexist attitudes she displayed got the response that you should "check your privilege". Blogpost after blogpost appeared in support of this "controversial but insightful blogger".
Now, it's 2015, and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then.
Where have all the blogposts gone?
My own blogposts, in fact my whole blog, eventually got taken down when I suffered something like a nervous breakdown, and started to believe that it couldn't be everyone else, it must be me. There were also strange things happening in my life, and I began to suspect that people were following me home at night. At sci-fi cons I began to believe that people were looking at me strangely, that they didn't want to been seen speaking to me, that there was a whispering campaign going on. If I started to think I was getting paranoid, something would generally happen to confirm my paranoia. For the first time in my life I stopped speaking my mind, I began to pretend that I agreed with statements that I often found alarmingly fascist. When the streetlight outside my house was vandalized days before Eastercon (plunging the whole front of the house into darkness) I wondered if I was being sent a message to stay away. When the house was broken into a week later (even though the light had been repaired) I still wondered if it was a 'real' burglary, or if something else was going on.
So, that's where my blogposts went (including some from my 'angry atheist' phase that I'd be pretty embarrassed about now). But what was the reason for all the Ms Hate's supporters to vanish, taking down their blogposts of indignant outrage that anyone would question the nature of Ms Hate's game? You can still find a few, if you've got good google-fu, where people have forgotten that their post got copied onto another site, or that their tweets got storified. But untold pages of gushing praise or righteous defence of Ms Hate, have vanished. One of my favorites had the title "All that's required is that you think" implying that people alarmed at Ms Hate's rhetoric were just dumb reactionaries, uneducated, inferior intellects who weren't thinking (middle-class intellectual snobbery is an frequently present spectre in much of these people's writings). But, of course, events have proved that it's mostly the social-justice-warriors and RH supporters who weren't thinking, or if they were thinking, they were doing so in a particularly broken fashion.
For Ms Hate's detractors have been proven right, and all the clever people who justified RequiresHate with leftist social theory, have been proven wrong, wrong, wrong. Some of the biggest names in UK SF (which is admittedly a small pond) have been made to look fools on a scale that, for me, is tough to come back from. My opinion of the science-fiction community and the kind of people I've met through SF cons, couldn't be much lower. Only a handful of people (quite a number of women and two or three men) have come through this with my opinion of them not only intact, but enhanced. Eventually RequiresHate turned on her own supporters, and one person that people listen to made a stand against her, and that was the beginning of the end. When a window-of-opportunity opened up, all the evidence that people had been gathering against Ms Hate could be presented to the public in the Mixon Report. Ms Hate was exposed as an upcoming writer who was attacking other writers who were operating in the same 'area' of fiction where she had staked out her turf. She was attacking not only cisgendered-straight-white-male authors, (whom no-one gave a shit about, it seems) but, under the cover of this, was also disproportionately attacking female, non-white writers, essentially nobbling her closest competition. It seems to be this 'she was attacking women and minorities too!' revelation that really turned fandom against her, it was certainly the take-away that I saw many people focusing on (which I have a problem with, as we'll see below).
A lot of people are now left wondering how it came to this. I would say that even for those who saw the light and made it possible to take RH down, (which is about the bravest and most principled thing that anyone can do, because it requires an admission that you've been had) have a question that should be keeping them awake at night: "What took me so long to realize? Why didn't I see her for what she was until she attacked my friends? How can I know I won't make that same mistake again?"
To answer this question we have to look at attitudes that are widespread throughout the science-fiction community (at least in my experience). There's a line of argument (normally going under the name of 'social justice') that claims whites and men are uniquely 'privileged', and this is extended into the claim that "there's no such thing as racism towards whites" or "there's no such thing as sexism towards men", because racism and sexism are inherently directed from a higher privileged position to a lower one (punching down)". This argument is a form of 'moral exclusion', declaring that one group is inherently different from others and can be treated differently. Moral Exclusion arguments are *really bad news*, and I don't doubt that people who've used this line of argument are going to one day suffer severe consequences from doing so: I eagerly look forward to seeing someone use the "There's no such thing as racism towards white folks" as a defence in a court of law. There's also an attitude that "Privilege invalidates the opinions of white people and men when speaking on any issue that impinges on gender or race" (which winds up being just about any issue there is).
Arguments like these that target a sub-group of a community, any subgroup (not just whites and/or men as in left-leaning SF) disastrously weaken the community that they are deployed within. (In fact, I would say that they weaken the community they are deployed *against*, as I consider such arguments to be ideological weapons.) Their effect is threefold:
If you wanted to create a matrix of ideas that could induce a community to self-destruct, it would look something like "social justice" theory. Any skilled manipulator of people should get a sugar-rush seeing a community where this ideology holds sway. As a large segment of the community has been educated not to express an opinion on certain matters, the manipulator can simply masquerade as one of the other groups (assuming they're not a member of one of the other groups, as RH appears to be) and instantly a great block of the community cannot challenge anything they say. Thus the number of people who are threat to their plans is significantly decreased. All the better if the 'silenced' subgroup is a majority within the community, because now there's only a few threats that the attacker has to worry about. If you silence a large block of the community by saying their racial or gender or other identity invalidates their opinion, then you lower the white-bloodcell count of your community. Thus the SF community had to wait for a woman-of-color to stand up and lead the charge, before anything could be done.
The attacker can then proceed to pump up the hate towards the 'morally excluded' group, and go unchallenged because the target group has already been declared to be 'fair game' for attack. This will bring support to their side, because everyone hates those guys. The quickest way for a group member to demonstrate their group affiliation and loyalty, is to attack the group's "designated enemy", whoever that might be. However, a skilled attacker can leverage this effect to attack anyone who stands in their way or is a threat to them. If anyone who isn't a member of the "designated enemy" group starts to cause trouble, simply redefine them to be a member of the target group, and then attack them on that basis.
RequiresHate went through this by-the-numbers. Firstly, she identified as a Thai lesbian (some component of the entity that is RequiresHate may actually be a Thai lesbian: most people think it's more than one person, and that some of those people are UK based, but there could be a genuine Thai connection too) which put her above critique by anyone who was straight, white, male, or any combination of these. She then proceeded to attack white male writers (the hate-totem of science-fiction leftists) earning herself applause from a lot of left-leaning SF people (not all, but those who weren't applauding quickly realized they were horribly outnumbered, and the resistance went underground). When someone appeared who was in her way who wasn't white, male, cis, whatever, RequiresHate would deploy the "You sound white. You think white." argument to make them honorary white people, honorary members of the excluded, hated group, and then she could attack them using the same techniques.
The swiftness of Ms Hate's rise was powered by the fact that the left-wing of the science-fiction community was pre-prepared for takeover by any sociopath prepared to play to its existing prejudices. It's tough to say whether the SF right is just as vulnerable, though there are certainly actors who seek to hijack it for their own purposes, but I don't see the same ideological factor in their ranks. However, point 3) in the above list is in full effect: the SF right are now at war with the SF left, and the SF left, who could have defused this quite easily at the beginning, are being serially stupid in pumping the conflict up to a level where it can never be defused, and will just rumble on and on, gradually destroying the community. The best hope is that the community splits in two, which will be a great defeat for the utopian lefties, and a win for people like Vox Day, who believe that people of different races, creeds, or hairstyles cannot live together in peace (though I note that the working-class manages, and I think the SF community's fractionalism has a lot to do with being terribly privileged, entitled, and middle-class).
For me the whole affair has been an education. It's changed my politics and my opinion of human nature, and it's left me with a bundle of emotional reactions (including a lot of anger) that I never wanted and didn't used to have, but which I'll now never be shot of. In the end I was right, but as usual, being right doesn't help, doesn't make any difference. The science-fiction community has a lack of people who can be reasoned with, and a surfeit of those who in the grip of various quasi-religious ideologies. Nothing has changed about the SF left, their ideology is too deep-seated, they will not give it up. Thus they remain vulnerable to the next RequiresHate, or indeed, even to Ms Hate herself, who can always return under a new identity, and play the whole game again. I do not think the community can survive many more of the scandals and blow-ups that have come to define it in recent years: sooner or later something is going to happen that will bring in outside attention, and that's when things will go South. A skilled chaos-actor could likely engineer a moral panic about the science-fiction community, and one has to remember that Ms Hate is still out there, no doubt seething with fury at her downfall, and dreaming up plans for revenge. If she returns to the game she plays so well, she'll be playing for keeps this time.