Wired magazine used to be a go-to for in-depth technology reporting. Silicon Valley read it for accessible yet deep articles about upcoming tech and personalities. A tradition of quality writing now sadly being plowed under as ad revenues fall and good writers are replaced by cheap hacks.
Today’s proof: Amy Wallace’s article, “Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle For Pop Culture’s Soul.” We’re already in trouble with the title, with its assumption that pop culture is a singular entity whose soul can be fought for by religious factions. Drama alert!
The writer inserts her partisan judgment frequently, starting off with a nice portrait of Marko Kloos, who withdrew his work to avoid getting involved in the Hugo Kerfuffle. She spins his decision:
Which is why it was so devastating when he realized a few weeks later that his short-listing was, in his eyes, a sham. It turned out that activists angered by the increasingly multicultural makeup of Hugo winners—books featuring women, gay and lesbian characters, and people and aliens of every color—had gamed the voting system, mounting a campaign for slates of nominees made up mostly of white men. Kloos, who is white, says he was sickened to see his name listed.
This isn’t a very good representation of Kloos’ actual views. Like a shyster lawyer, she inserts as fact assertions about the Sad/Rabid Puppies campaigns that aren’t true — “When did you stop beating your wife?” The campaign was not against multicultural/multiracial/gay characters, but against giving preference to such works. The Sad Puppy campaign was motivated by a desire to see quality stories win the awards.
She lets her mask slip further:
But like the sound of starship engines, the Hugos don’t exist in a vacuum. “Gamergate” spawns rape threats aimed at women who have the temerity to offer opinions about videogames. The leading representatives of mainstream political parties build platforms around fear of Muslims and Planned Parenthood.
So now we know she’s incapable of objectivity, because in each of these controversies, there’s a Blue Tribe conventional wisdom: Bad People oppose the Forces of Goodness! And she only knows good people who all think alike. She is bien pensant — a fancy French term for right-thinking. “All right-thinking people agree…” is the end of critical thinking, and since everyone she knows agrees on those controversies, no independent reporting or thought is required to put her credibility on the line by casually taking one side. Christopher Hitchens is spinning in his grave.
Digging the hole deeper, she claims the Puppies want no diversity in science fiction:
So trying to crush diversity of authors, of characters, of stories, of themes in sci-fi crushes the whole point. Which is perhaps the main reason to worry about Puppygate: Sci-fi that accommodates only one future, one kind of politics, and one kind of person just isn’t doing its job.
The various flavors of Puppies differ, but one thing they’re not is anti-diverse — there are women, people of various colors, gays (like me), religious, atheists, and on and on. The one thing they have in common is that they oppose elevating political correctness above quality of writing, originality, and story in science fiction. Many of the award winners in recent years have been lesser works elevated only because they satisfied a group of progressives who want their science fiction to reflect their desired future of group identity and victim-based politics. For them, it is part of their battle to tear down bad old patriarchy, to bury the old and bring themselves to the forefront of culture (and incidentally make a living being activists in fiction.) These people are often called “Social Justice Warriors” – they shore up their own fragile identities by thinking of themselves as noble warriors for social justice. Amy Wallace places herself with them by portraying the issues as a battle between racist, sexist white men and everyone else.
She then goes on to give some space to Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson, and Vox Day (Ted Beale). While her reporting about them is reasonably truthful, they report that she promised to interview Sarah Hoyt (who ruins the narrative as a female Puppy) but did not do so, and left out material from other interviews that did not support her slant. Tsk!
The piece is very long, but written from a position of assumed moral superiority and elite groupthink, a long fall from classic Wired‘s iconoclastic reporting. It’s sad when a quality brand goes downhill — as a longtime subscriber, I’ve noticed the magazine has grown thinner in the last year as ad revenues declined and competition from upstarts like Fast Company ate into their market. Now they are me-tooing major controversies for clicks. Once you see this dishonesty in reporting, you should never view such sources as reliable again.
[For more followup and comments on Wired’s recent tilt, see “Death of Wired: Selected Comments.”]