Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

Questions Unanswered

I spend very little time actually on Facebook, because I find that I am unlikely to actually learn anything that I really wanted to know there, including what my friends are doing. But I happened to be browsing there yesterday and ran across a question from a friend of mine which I will paraphrase here and attempt to answer from my point of view, since no actual answer seemed to be forthcoming there.

Preface: the last time that I took a questionnaire on my politics, it was a two-axis result that showed that I was about the smallest possible gradation to the right of center and about halfway toward the libertarian end on the authoritarian/libertarian axis, so it is probably fair to classify me as a moderate small-l libertarian, which means that I don't want to eliminate government, but I am often deeply skeptical of how it operates in practice.

The paraphrased question: Why are all these conservative SF/fantasy people having conniptions lately?

Well, that's a darned fine question that deserves a more serious answer than "They're all crazy," which is pretty much the sort of answer that I saw on Facebook. So let me take a run at it.

Back in 2004, a liberal friend of mine asked me how I put up with the general snark that fandom, which -- on average -- skews pretty liberal, frequently directs toward non-liberals. And I sort of shrugged and said, "You get used to it."

Of course, it doesn't mean that you enjoy it. :)

Lately, however, fandom seems to be working at excommunicating the heretical. And I think that, more than anything else, is motivating the aforementioned "crazy".

My brother-in-law, jeff_duntemann, posts fairly frequently on the dangers of tribalism. And I think that in this case, we are seeing the results of the demonization of the political "other".

I have mused to myself lately that variant politics should as a matter of custom and law receive the same level of respect that variant religion does, recognizing that religion is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and that politics is not. But both of these things are based on various levels of unprovable belief and it doesn't strike me that it is particularly easier for someone to change their politics than it is for them to change their religion -- assuming, of course, that the given individual actually has any particular level of belief as opposed to either opportunism or the tendency to go along with the group. Those who are sufficiently motivated are invited to perform the experiment: what would it take for you to abandon your religious beliefs and adopt some other? And what about your political beliefs? I'll be here when you get back... :)

Now, contemplate that we have vast machines in this country -- and probably in other countries too, but let me stick with the U.S. here -- that are dedicated to the demonization of the political other. The core objective of MSNBC and Fox News -- and, I believe, to a lesser extent every extant news organization -- is to get you good and riled up about something. And they are really good at it and actual facts don't need to have anything to do with it.

And we are losing our collective minds as a result. (So going back to the "They're all crazy" comment that I started from, I assert that "We are all crazy", pretty much irrespective of what our politics are.)

One of the people who works on Windycon with me advised me that I should not invite someone as a guest who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, because he would be "divisive". And rest assured that it was not the socially liberal part that he was objecting to. So you can be a vocal proponent of gay marriage, but if you think that the government is spending too much money, you're anathematized. What are we coming to?

Another friend of mine recently worried on-line that her husband could lose his job if the local folks knew what her religion was. Let me introduce her (and the rest of you) to Sarah Hoyt, SF author, Portuguese emigre, and political conservative. And do you know what?

She worries about just the same sort of thing that you do. Except in her case, she spent a great deal of time worrying about her ability to sell anything she wrote if the publishers knew what her politics were. She eventually found a happy home at Baen, where authors with politics as disparate as Hoyt and Eric Flint seem to be able to coexist on the publisher's list.

(I have no idea how good a fiction writer Hoyt is, as all I've read is her blog. My reading time is pretty limited due to little girls. The last book I read was Seanan's Discount Armageddon; immediately before that was Krauthammer's Things That Matter. I am eclectic. :) )

I happened to bounce over to Larry Correia's blog as I followed a link about one of the recent kerfluffles. (Aside: a friend whose opinion I trust is working through the trilogy of novels that Correia wrote, one of which is nominated for the Hugo, and says it's pretty good.) And do you want to know something interesting?

It read exactly like the Facebook thread that prompted this post. Only the good guys and the bad guys were interchanged. So X was tripe and Y was genius, or maybe it was the other way around.

To paraphrase S.J. Tucker, "We're all mad here, and it is not ok."

My lovely bride, Gretchen, occasionally remarks that "Just because something is not to your taste, it doesn't mean that it's bad." And that is true of fiction, and music, and politics, and religion, and all manner of things.

It is very possible for decent human beings to disagree about things and continue to be decent human beings on both sides of the disagreement.

What you think is funny may be offensive (or possibly just unfunny) to the next person and vice versa. Rush Limbaugh is equally as much a comedian as Jon Stewart. And they're both trying to rile you up.

Don't let them. We are way too riled up already.

The people who want to rile you up want you to be their tool.

Don't be a tool.

Be the shaper and maker of good things instead.
Tags: musings
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