Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Progressive sympathy often seems like a progressive threat

While I'm not the biggest sci-fi fan - most of the sci-fi alternate universes have just seemed boring to me - I've been watching the whirlwind of controversy generated by Vox Day, Larry Correia and John Wright with interest. All three are interesting thinkers, each in their own way.

You can read about the situation these guys have created with the Hugo rewards on various sites, but what stands out as interesting to me was some yammering by Damien Walters.

I don't know who Damien Walters is, really. He has some column in a British newspaper apparently? All I know from him is what he's written about the whole 'conservatives getting nominated at the Hugo Awards' ordeal, which has largely been a mix of tremendous bullshit and awkward writing. I have a short temper in general, but my patience goes particularly low for people who bullshit badly. It's somehow extra insulting.

Anyway, while engaging in what I believe is called concern trolling, Damien Walters had this to say:
I think Correia did two things. The first was appeal for votes on the basis of a perceived liberal bias in the genre. That was the basis of his campaign, a protest vote against liberal influence. That was divisive and did a lot to spark the backlash he's still feeling. Secondly, and this is going to be much more damaging for him longterm, he allowed himself to become very closely associated to Vox Day in the process. Ultimately people do judge others by their associations, and both Larry Correia and John C Wright have made very public declarations of support for Day, that I fear both will deeply regret in the long run. I'm quite serious about my suggestion by the way. I think if Correia wrote publicly to support the new diversity in the genre, and apologised for any perception he was campaigning against it, that might help him a lot.
To his credit, Correia responded to all this with a whole lot of words that, for my purposes, mostly translates to 'Fuck you, Walters' - which is entirely appropriate here. But at least Walters is making himself into a fantastic example of one of the more poisonous sides of the progressive mindset.

First there's the 'concern posing as threat' bit. Walters there is saying he's worried - so very, very worried - for poor Larry Correia (a man who, from what I read, has more literary success than Walters will likely achieve in his entirely life) because of what, oops, may happen to him for his daring to say the things he's said, and failing to shun the people he should shun. It's not real concern, of course; it's just a thinly veiled threat. Not a threat of what Walters himself will do, mind you, but a threat about what Walters sees the group he belongs to is capable of doing, and will in fact do to Correia. What's golden here is that the threat comes, from Walters' own words, over the mere association Correia has with Vox (in this case, 'not shunning') and the fact that he voiced his opinion on a matter in a way Walters doesn't like. Notice that Walters mentions that Correia will be hurt from that alone, but at no point does Walters himself disown such actions, or denounce them. Because, the fact is, he's all in favor of them.

Second, notice Walters' demands: write that you endorse the "new diversity" and apologize for any wrong "perceptions" people may have. The very idea that Correia may not think much of the works of the "diverse" authors doesn't seem to matter. What matters is "perception" - that Correia, sincerely or not, genuflects at the right altar. That the perceptions people - the right people, of course - have of Correia be proper. The real odd thing here is that these people will simultaneously cast themselves as kingmakers (pardon, queenmakers) in the publishing industry, capable of destroying the literary livelihoods of anyone who is perceived as not being sufficiently supportive of them... but at the same time cast themselves as victims perpetually bullied by The Enemy.

But third, and most importantly, is that both Wright and Correia have had fantastic responses to Walters - basically, 'There is a liberal bias in publishing and your actions have helped us expose it, and Vox can speak for himself - and his speaking for himself is no reason for us to shun him'. It's encouraging to see these guys standing up to what is a confused little man representing a culture petrified at the losing their ability to shun people into silence and compliance. In fact, it may make a sci-fi reader out of me yet.

14 comments:

Karl Grant said...

Larry Correia is a pretty good writer. I just finished Monster Hunter Alpha and just picked up Dead Six from 2nd & Charles. A lot of his books, well, think the Dresden Files meets Tom Clancy. Doubt a lot of progressives would like him period even if he didn't endorse Day since Correia's a Mormon and somewhat vocal about his religious beliefs.

Crude said...

A mormon, seriously? That's news to me. What's with mormons and sci-fi? Must be the theology.

Karl Grant said...

A mormon, seriously? That's news to me. What's with mormons and sci-fi? Must be the theology.

Yeah, he is. From his website:

I worked hard, held down multiple jobs, and strangely enough, got religious for the first time in my life. I went through a period where I started examining my personal beliefs and philosophies, because I was a strange young man. I had made some good Latter Day Saint friends, and I had enough respect for them that I decided to listen to their spiel.

It clicked. For the first time in my life, I found something that made sense for me, and that I believed in. I converted to Mormonism, and only later found out that I’d only get one wife. (only joking, we haven’t done that since the 1890s, plus who am I kidding, at the time I couldn’t even keep a steady girlfriend). Because I’m the kind of guy that can’t do anything half way, I volunteered to go on an LDS mission. Apparently God has a great sense of humor, so I was sent to Alabama.

You know the dudes on bikes, with the white shirts and ties? Yep. That was me. I did that. I like to think I was pretty good at it too. Well, as good as somebody that looked like a young, hulking, terrifying James Gandolfini could be expected to do in a field where you randomly go up and talk to complete strangers. I know that the vast majority of folks who read my books and my blog aren’t the same religion as me, and that’s totally cool, but all that I’d ask is please be at least courteous to those kids. It is a tough job. And they’re unpaid volunteers who’re trying to do what they think is the right thing. Don’t point guns at them. Don’t run them off the road. Don’t fling beer bottles at them as you pass by (you have no idea how much that hurts!). If you’re not interested, just give them a polite no.


And I don't know but there is a lot of very good sci-fi authors who are Mormon.

amorbis said...

Crude,

This is slightly off-topic, but do you think you would be able to explain the Aristotelian-Thomistic theory of how sensation and imagination work? I'm not too clear on that (I should mention that I haven't read TLS or Aquinas), and I can't remember if this was already explained to me on my old blog (back when I went by "ingx24").

Crude said...

Amorbis,

Hey there, I thought you seemed familiar. What do you mean by how they 'work'? I will say I believe A-T theory frames imagination/sensation questions as 'material' questions - but not in a way that's at all familiar to modern materialism. (My own understanding of this is, roughly speaking, matter on an A-T view is closer to panpsychist views of matter.)

amorbis said...

Well, let me ask you this: Do you think it's correct to say that, on an A-T understanding, since matter is conceived non-mechanistically, we can say that matter just naturally has the ability to sense and imagine if it takes on certain forms? As in, the only reason why there is a "hard problem" of consciousness is because we have defined matter as not having the ability to be conscious?

Crude said...

amorbis,

You'd be in good shape asking this on Feser's blog, but I think that's pretty close based on what I read, yes. One thing that a lot of people miss is that the A-T view isn't just 'dualist', as in the A-T proponent accepts 'matter' as the materialist conceives it and just adds something extra. They actually have a different view of matter from the materialist and even the cartesian. (And for cartesians people forget that their views on the mind were directly related to their views about matter.)

So yeah, the hard problem is a hard problem because we've defined matter as only having these mechanistic properties to begin with - matter is nothing but X and Y and Z, with anything mental expressly excluded to begin with. Intellect is another issue, but you're talking specifically about imagination and sensation for a reason I take it.

I don't think it's best put as 'we've defined matter as not having the ability to be conscious', though. I think it's more that we've defined matter as only containing this very narrow set of properties from which you can never get mind or experience or, etc. People talk about emergentism, but I always use the example of a bunch of solid black blocks and white light. You can make a whole bunch of things "emerge" with those - various structures or patterns or whatever. But you can't get a rainbow. Your possibilities are limited by what you're allowing yourself to start with.

amorbis said...

I actually just found an old post on Feser's blog where he basically answered my question already: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/03/nagel-and-his-critics-part-viii.html

Now from an Aristotelian POV, that's just not the right way to approach matter metaphysically (even though it is obviously very useful for purposes of physics etc.). "Prime matter" is what persists through a change of substantial form; "designated matter" is a marked out parcel of prime matter characterized by quantity but still considered apart from substantial form. But there is nothing in matter's taking on a substantial form that requires that the resulting substance be characterizable in entirely quantitative terms. There's no privileging of that category, no reason whatsoever to think "I can see how a material substance could have dimension or local motion, but why the heck should it have a sensation of pain or a mental image of a sound?"

Crude said...

There you go then. Feser's got a new book out as well - not sure if it covers this particular topic in greater detail.

amorbis said...

I actually just ordered the Kindle version of TLS, and I've been trying to read it in a relatively sympathetic manner. I don't expect it to "convert" me to Aristotelianism - I'm still somewhat hostile to A-T metaphysics in general and to hylomorphic dualism in particular - but hopefully it'll help me get into the A-T mindset so I can understand it a bit better.

Crude said...

Conversion isn't really a concern on my end anyway - I recall you as being pretty open-minded and generally fair, though, which is great. Hopefully you'll at least get something out of the book one way or the other. I need to get it.

amorbis said...

Wait, I thought you told me before that you read TLS? You said you picked it up completely at random and it was one of the best things you've ever read, didn't you?

Crude said...

Sorry, I misread. TLS I read more than once. I was thinking of his most recent book on scholastic thought in general.

Water into Whine said...

Get thee to a nunnery.