Thursday, April 19, 2018

Playing Their Game

     If you were a betting man (I’m not), would you put money on a game where one contestant was unilaterally empowered to define the playing field and the rules of the contest?

     As I expected, the responding chorus of “Hell, NO!” resounded throughout the English-speaking world. I fancy I could hear it even without my Foxy Grandpa Ear Trumpet. It’s pretty obvious that those privileges amount to a predetermination of victory. Then again, obvious does mean overlooked, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if a few readers were scratching their heads over it.

     No, the subject this fine morning isn’t game theory. It’s political combat, a field in which only one side appears to be playing for keeps.

     I write fiction, as you’re probably aware. (To those as yet unaware: See the right sidebar.) For fiction to be worthwhile, it must entertain. That is, it must divert the reader from his mundane concerns for awhile. That’s a hard and fast requirement.

     I strive to do a little more. I try to embed depictions of important truths about human existence in my stories. Tom Kratman calls such truths “eternal verities.” Years ago that was the term most commonly used to describe them. Today few persons remember that term.

     The term notwithstanding, there are persons determined to efface those truths completely. Some of them have chosen fiction as their vehicle for doing so. That puts me at odds with them. Yet I would never dream of trying to prevent them from being heard. One who must silence his opponent to prevail clearly has no adequate argument for his own position. I regard that as too obvious to require explication.

     But they don’t feel the same, which brings us to the most recent episode in the continuing soap opera of fantasy and science fiction fandom. Please read it for yourself, as I can’t excerpt it without stealing almost all of it.

     The critical elements of this foofaurauw are:

  1. ConCarolinas is a convention for F&SF writers and fans.
  2. John Ringo was invited to attend, and would have been the most popular writer present (by volume of sales).
  3. A bunch of “social-justice warriors” agitated to have him excluded.
  4. The ConCarolinas organizers disinvited him “for your [Ringo’s] personal safety.”

     The ironies here boggle the imagination. A man whose books run the gamut of speculative categories, whose inclinations are as live-and-let-live as any I could name, and who would literally take a bullet to protect an innocent from harm is disinvited from a convention at which he would have been the top draw, supposedly (oh, come on) for his own protection. Did I wake up in the “bearded Spock” universe? (Cue Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny: “I knew I shoulda turned left at Albuquerque.”)

     Ringo’s comment on this tale helps to cement the absurdities in place:

     I'm a New York Times best selling author with over 7 million books in print. By far and away I was the largest 'print' guest on the list with the largest fan following and thus the biggest draw.

     For someone like myself, cons are NOT about marketing. There is very little additional market to be picked up at any litcon, including WorldCon. Cons are places to go to talk with people who enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy and are generally smart and interesting people. To meet new people (one of the reasons I agreed to attend ConCarolinas was 'new people'), to pick up new characters, to have a good time.

     There is very little fiscal reason for someone like myself to attend. Ergo: The best reason is to have fun....

     To be clear: This isn't any loss to me. It is a loss to the con and the attendees who were looking forward to John Ringo attending. It's even a loss to the Social Justice Bullies since some of my fans might accidentally have bought some of their books.

     To me, there is NO downside. YES! I caved to the social justice bullies and now I DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH TSA! WOOOOT!

     So John Ringo has shrugged the whole thing off. Attending ConCarolinas would net him no increment in sales. From that perspective it’s pointless for him to contest his disinvitation. He’d be better off doing just about anything else, so why bother?

     But we’re not done yet. Sarah Hoyt, an estimable person and writer in her own right, seems to feel she must defend Ringo’s politics! Stop right there: Why are Ringo’s personal politics relevant? An F&SF con isn’t a political any rate, it shouldn’t be. Treating Ringo’s political preferences as relevant is playing the Left’s game! It’s their mantra that “the personal is political,” not ours!

     Why are we in the Right so easily suckered into playing the Left’s game, on the Left’s choice of playing field? Why can’t we cowboy the BLEEP! up and tell them to shove their irrelevancies where the moon never shines?

     Once again, it appears that good, decent, sensible people who have everything to gain and nothing to lose from standing their ground will retreat from confrontation even when all evidence and reason is on their side. They’d simply rather not lock ‘em up with the Left’s crazies. The consequence is that in the state of political war we currently endure, only one side is actually fighting. They’ve noticed how confrontation-averse we are, and have responded by straining to politicize everything: every aspect of life, no matter how minuscule.

     I get it, you know. Confrontation is unpleasant. People could get their feelings hurt. Who knows, there might be epithets hurled, spittle flying, purses swung. Someone might even break a nail! Far better to retire from the field and let the crazies have it. It doesn’t matter that much, after all.

     Except that it does matter. It matters very much.

     To the extent that the Left has succeeded in politicizing non-political aspects of life and society, they have gained ground against us. It’s the Right that values privacy, amicability, and tolerance of divergent views. It’s the Right that has lamented the polarization of entertainment and the harassment of cultural institutions on political grounds. It’s the Right that has pleaded for the return of courtesy in discourse. Are any of those things compatible with politicization?

     One of our greatest failings these past few decades has been allowing the Left to politicize non-political events and associations. Had we stood our ground and refused to allow that in the first place, what has followed could not and would not have occurred. Maybe we aren’t as tough as we should be – and maybe it’s long past time to change that.

Well my telephone was ringing
     And they told me it was Chairman Mao
Well my telephone was ringing
     And they told me it was Chairman Mao
You can tell him anything
     'Cause I just don't wanna talk to him now

I've got the apolitical blues
     And that's the meanest blues of all
Apolitical blues
     And that's the meanest blues of all
I don't care if it's John Wayne
     I just don't wanna talk to him now

     [Lowell George, for Little Feat]



Part of the problem is that so many on the Right are still fighting by "Marquis of Queensbury" rules. They think the Left is still loyal to America, just with different perspectives.

But when you look at the Left today, they know they're in a bar brawl. They've smashed a beer bottle and are desperate to gut-stab people on the Right (in some cases, quite literally desperate to do so).

If you take the perspective that the Left wants to bring America - and by extension all of Western Civilization - down, every single thing they do makes sense. EVERY. SINGLE. THING.

daniel_day said...

I disagree with you, Francis.
"Treating Ringo’s political preferences as relevant is playing the Left’s game! It’s their mantra that “the personal is political,” not ours! ... Why can’t we cowboy the BLEEP! up and tell them to shove their irrelevancies where the moon never shines?"
You, Francis Porretto, do not have the power to decide for everyone what is relevant. You are married, Francis, you already knew this. If the Left decides that politics, in addition to competence, etc., will guide them on who is allowed opportunities, while the Right naïvely decides that only competence, etc. will guide them, which side benefits in the long run? We must think long run.
And remember the first rule of street fighting.

Francis W. Porretto said...

It's your perfect right to disagree, Daniel. The problem is that you're wrong – indeed, so diametrically wrong that it surprises me, coming from someone so intelligent. It seems that I'm not enough of an authority for you, so let's ring in the greatest social philosopher of the 19th Century, Herbert Spencer:

“Suppose that at the general meeting of some philanthropic association, it was resolved that in addition to relieving distress the association should employ home-missionaries to preach down popery. Might the subscriptions of Catholics, who had joined the body with charitable views, be rightfully used for this end? Suppose that of the members of a book club, the greater number, thinking that under existing circumstances rifle-practice was more important than reading, should decide to change the purpose of their union and to apply the funds in hand for the purchase of powder, ball, and targets. Would the rest be bound by this decision? Suppose that under the excitement of news from Australia, the majority of a Freehold Land Society should determine, not simply to start in a body for the gold-diggings, but to use their accumulated capital to provide outfits. Would this appropriation of property be just to the minority? and must these join the expedition? Scarcely anyone would provide an affirmative answer even to the first of these questions; much less to the others. And why? Because everyone must perceive that by uniting himself with others, no man can be equitably betrayed into acts utterly foreign to the purpose for which he joined them.” [Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus The State, “The Great Political Superstition”]

The ConCarolinas event was organized ostensibly for a particular purpose: the gathering of writers and fans of fantasy and science fiction. Its attendance criteria were plainly stated, as were its exclusion criteria. In neither of those was stated a requirement that one hold to a particular political stance, or a restriction on what political stances are acceptable. To introduce such a requirement or a restriction a posteriori and ex nihilo is a violation of the terms under which the attendees have paid their admissions fees, arranged and paid for their travel to the convention, and contrived the required free time. It is flatly WRONG: a tortious violation of the terms of the event. Those terms constitute a contract between the organizers and the attendees under the laws of contract in all fifty states.

The same logic applies to any organization or event with publicly and plainly stated requirements for admission and exclusions on particular kinds of behavior. Don’t bother to argue the point further, as I’ll have no more of it.

bryanb said...

i appreciate the precision of your thought on this mr. poretto.

being thoughtful, i'm sure you've projected into the future and agree as many do generally, that polarization will continue to become more acute. i take comfort in know that this cannot continue indefinitely. i've accepted for myself that a crisis comes sooner or later.

what matters to me now, with two children, is that the truly significant mistakes are still being made by the statist / leftists. i believe that there is nothing more important than the moral high ground, and that the line dividing is becoming clearer every day.

i gave up the idea, at least here, that political balance was possible or even necessary. about 7 or 8 years ago, i concluded that the leftists in this bluest of blue states had enough rope to hang themselves. their excesses has continued unabated. people who used to consider apathy a virtue have slowly come to realize that that will soon be an unavailable luxury.

the political center in this country will soon be a DMZ, waiting for that particular strike of the match. i mourn that this is the world my children will inherit, and only pray that i can save them from the brunt by bearing it myself, but we do not have the luxury of defining the times into which we are born.

happy patriot's day to you sir.



You echo my thoughts to a "T".

I live in a purple state; but it's going blue as more blue virus people move in to escape high taxes and regulations... and vote for the same people whose taxes and policies they fled.

Assuming the gates don't come crashing down, I can at least get my wife and children out to her home country (which ain't much better, but at least they'd be safe from civil strife here).