Red Pill v Feminists

Fear is the Mindkiller

Dune cover art by Henrik Sahlstrom

Dune cover art by Henrik Sahlstrom

[Originally published by Tangent Online]

If a civilization is to be judged on how concerned it is with the weakest members, then we are becoming very civilized indeed. If college campuses are the bellwethers of the future, then we can look forward to a future of restricted speech and thought designed to preserve the feelings of those who perceive themselves to be weak. Crusaders for “social justice” will punish every microaggression with career-ending charges, and the bounds of what one is allowed to say without fear of reprisal will narrow further.

Meanwhile, the Internet’s worldwide range and anonymity allow sociopaths with free time to viciously attack those they want to injure — and allow those who want to make a career of being victims to claim they were attacked. The cruel and sadistic exist in small numbers in all groups and all classes, but their evil actions are used to justify broad-brush condemnations of all members of groups.

This new children’s crusade allows its participants to believe they are defending the weak and defenseless from bullies, with their favorite being the supposed malefactors of the Patriarchy — cis-white-male-heteronormative men. Since a few men in the past treated women and minorities badly, all men must atone and recognize that being male is inherently oppressive. Escaping this judgment, in their view, requires a male to adopt wholesale every cherished belief of the crusade — that there are no gender-based aggregate differences, that unequal outcomes always imply unequal treatment, that women should achieve equal numbers and pay in every job field (unless, of course, it’s undesirable or dirty work.)

This is identity politics, with government viewed as a tool to right wrongs and redistribute a fixed pie of wealth and respect so that everyone gets an equal amount. The pie apparently creates itself, and asking for accountability and productivity in return for a greater share is viewed as racist, sexist, and probably fascist.

Most of the people in the movement haven’t thought it through and have a cartoon view of good guys vs bad guys. They think they are defending the weak against bullies. In so doing, they lose empathy for those different from themselves, just as they believe their enemy has. The loathed Others are the mass of hateful and ignorant who disagree with any element of their program, and are labelled the Red Tribe, Red States, Republicans, traditionalists, conservatives, and so on. Meanwhile, political manipulators use their feelings to get their votes and use them as foot soldiers in bringing down opponents. The control of public education by statists has reduced the level of understanding of civics and constitutional government among young people, with a focus on climate change, recycling, and inequality all designed to make solution by government action seem necessary, if only inconvenient naysayers could be eliminated. The executive-branch use of Title IX warning letters to enforce the fake “rape culture” panic on campuses receiving public money is another tool being used to squelch free speech. When the problem is uncontrolled Other People Doing Bad Stuff, you vote in the people who promise to control them, and those politicians have an incentive to exaggerate problems further rather than help resolve them.

What does this have to do with science fiction? Much of this culture war has appeared in the Hugo controversy. A friend recently sent me a call for submissions to a new ‘zine focused on LGBTQ-etc topics and authors, and I considered what I might submit, since I love getting a microvalidation. Then I realized how retrograde the whole idea is to me.

Sexuality, romance, and pair bonding are always going to be elements of many engaging stories, but these problems are not different with LGBTQ-etc folks, though there are unique riffs based on being a minority or less understood. I guessed I was gay very young — like ten years old — but I always felt so different from everyone else in so many ways that that additional difference seemed minor. Readers should normally be able to get into any character’s problems, no matter what their flavor. I searched for gay characters when they were rare and it was always delightful to find them written well, as courageous people with problems and not sad-sack victims. But there are plenty now, sometimes too idealized and fighting cartoon villains — demonizing cis-het-white-males is just as bad as demonizing gays was. Making a character’s gayness the central theme is odd now, like having a female character whose only goal is marrying well in a modern context. Just not that interesting to me.

The drama around the AIDS epidemic, of course, is a worthy subject. Here’s the trailer for a friend’s documentary making the film-festival circuit; it’s about gay men who thought they were going to die moving to Palm Springs and living long and productive new lives. Touching: Desert Migration. I know most of the people in it, though I avoided the suffering by fleeing Boston when my friends started to die, and I was lucky and shy enough to not be directly touched.

In my MIT creative writing courses, I had a friend, David Feinberg, a geeky über-Jewish boy who tried to write like James Joyce. After he left school and moved back to NYC, he started writing about his life with AIDS. Freed of the urge to be “literary,” he wrote passionately and hilariously of what he was going through. See David Feinberg — he had a crush on me in school which I avoided seeing.

There were four of us in that group, all taking the advanced physics course and creative writing as freshmen. Alanna Connors was the beautiful blond girl from Connecticut, super-smart. If I had one last thought of being straight, it was because of her! She did some great work in astrophysics and died recently after years struggling with breast cancer.

The last was Dave M, who got me my first permanent job at BBN Labs. He’s the only one left, other than me, and spends a lot of his time promoting home schooling from the progressive perspective.

I guess my reaction to “kids these days” and their desire to protect every special snowflake is based on living through the crucible of real trouble and life-and-death problems. Having a special LGBTQ zine is an idea of the past, that we needed protected spaces to get our writing published. It’s not true and it’s self-ghettoizing. Every second they spend attacking people for “microaggressions” is time not spent doing the productive things that would better their lives. It’s good to have empathy and make kindness toward abstract others a guide; it’s bad to stomp all over well-meaning real people for being insufficiently perfect, thus putting them outside the pale of your empathetic concern.

Science fiction has always been about freeing the mind to imagine, and one of the key take-aways has been seeing inside people to understand their actions and motivations, to not judge others based on their superficial characteristics. Even the most alien society can be understood based on the underlying biology, economy, and culture, and empathy for even the strangest Other is possible.

But victim-based identity movements require villains, who must be dehumanized and presumed hateful and ignorant, if not actively and intentionally evil. Feminism began as a movement to get equal rights and respect, but even in its early days, parts of it were aimed at getting special treatment for women — lesser prison sentences, exemption from the draft, alimony by default in divorce, child custody preferences. While one arm of the movement got the vote for women and opened up all fields to accomplished female candidates, the other created preferences for women based on their supposed fragility and the sentimental desire to protect potential and real mothers from hardship.

Today’s third-wave feminist activists denigrate women who choose to be full-time mothers or step away from the professional treadmill, and actively oppose men with what I will gingerly call “masculine virtues,” like self-defense, foresight, hard manual labor, and profitable enterprise. They believe women who want to enter tough, high-commitment fields deserve to be represented in equal numbers regardless of their willingness to sacrifice personal and family time, because employment is just booty to be divided and spread equally. Government should, if not directly employing everyone, force private companies to change the requirements of jobs so that women can have it their way. And to a great extent this is happening, with female-dominated HR departments gradually reforming big workplaces to take away rewards from the most-productive to make the diversity numbers look good. Some of these reforms have obviously been good for society and business, but once started, the push for change continued, and now it may be past the point of diminishing returns to the point where it damages us all. A software company that has a diverse workforce of excellent programmers will do well; if the same company is forced to implement employment quotas to make its workforce match some ideal race, sex, and age goals, it will be crippled compared to its competitors.

A significant chunk of the population is still guided by the sentiment that women are weak and need more protection. These people are the Baptists in a bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition that unites to give statists more and more power to meddle and regulate, with the bootleggers being political parties that use these sentiments to justify their social engineering. Every new law and regulation is an opportunity for graft and extracting campaign contributions from businesses who want to be left alone or mold the law and regulations to hurt their competitors more, and every new edict (beyond dealing with obvious externalities like pollution) decreases the total wealth and growth rate of the economy. Politicians whip up fear — fear of terrorists, illegal immigrants, “the 1%,” sexist men, authoritarian Christianists, whatever works — to gain power, and then shy away from any actual solutions so they can repeat these emotional hooks for the next election. “Fear is the Mindkiller” — make someone afraid, and you weaken their reasoning power.

Bringing it back to SF, there’s now a large number of writers who are supported by jobs in academia, government, or the literary publishing world, which tends to be progressive and to denigrate blue-collar, military, pop cinema, or other less literary science fiction. As the number of participants in the community who are supported by political and committee decisions grows vs. those who make their living in the market, the tendency to elevate less accessible litfic, especially if it supports a Progressive worldview, grows. To pretend this is not so is to miss why people on both sides of the Hugo kerfuffle have felt disrespected and threatened. Throw in the actions of Internet trolls and chaos-provocateurs, and you have a recipe for polarization.

Respecting differences in culture is what we are supposed to be about, and giving fellow fans the benefit of the doubt and not condemning them for their “unenlightened” culture and story preferences would be a good start toward healing the rift caused by the Hugo kerfuffle.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Sons of Liberty vs. National Front

Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty

[First published on Sarah Hoyt’s blog 3-7-2016, with excellent comments]

I’ve tried to concentrate on the next book, but events conspire to suck me into the current mess re Trump. Like a lot of observers, so long as he was a sideshow I could see his almost-daily newsmaking as colorful and perhaps useful in allowing others to speak more freely some of the things that needed to be spoken. By doing so he was expanding the Overton Window and giving a voice to sentiments held by large segments of the population that had been suppressed by the MSM, like nativism and the desire to see immigration laws enforced.

But he’s primarily a demagogue who tells the formerly voiceless what they want to hear and promises to defend them against the dangers the privileged “respectable” politicians want to cover up while they continue business as usual — managing the decline of the over-regulated economy and spending the tax money of citizens to bring in new dependent populations who will presumably vote to keep them in place. Having mined this vein of formerly-voiceless anger at the sale of their country to outsiders, Trump has used it to gain the lead in the Republican race despite having no apparent grasp of most policy issues and some frighteningly authoritarian instincts. He has been called a Jacksonian man on a horse, which has some resonance with Osama bin Laden’s remark: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Trump’s rise has opportunistic pols and job-seekers endorsing him as a strong horse who can take charge.

The US was founded by several different groups from diverse parts of Britain, and greatly expanded by immigration from Europe. There was no control over immigration — everyone was welcome to pay their own way here, try to survive and fit in, succeed or fail as their abilities and luck allowed. Many returned to their native lands, but most worked hard and helped to settle the land, build the railroads, and grow the cities. In the mid-1800s, just before the Civil War, large numbers of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy flooded Eastern cities and were seen as a threat. The Know-Nothing Party gained power in some Northern cities on a platform of controlling immigration of Catholics, who were thought to be culturally unsuited to freedom and likely to take commands from their corrupt and foreign Pope. Riots between Catholics and Know-Nothings erupted; 22 died in a riot in Louisville, Kentucky before a contested election.

Lincoln needed the support of the remaining Know-Nothings in the election of 1856, when Republicans began to pick up Know Nothing support to oppose the Democrats who supported slavery. But in a private letter, he said:

I am not a Know-Nothing — that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

These nativist movements were defused by the tensions over slavery and the approaching Civil War, and the Know-Nothing Party faded after 1856. Irish took over the police forces of most Northern cities, and Democratic political machines used the Irish and Italian immigrants as a base to take over most big city governments. Over generations, these supposedly bloc-voting groups splintered, and the rough and ready disciplines of capitalist employment encouraged integration.

Immigration began to be restricted after a flood of Chinese workers to the West. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which targeted a single ethnic group by specifically limiting further Chinese immigration. In 1907, a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with the Japanese government limited visas for immigration from Japan. Restrictions on the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were imposed in 1924, and in 1932-33 immigration was nearly shut off. Local and state authorities, assisted by Hoover’s and then FDR’s Labor Department, coerced repatriation and deportation of between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican Americans, mostly citizens, in the Mexican Repatriation.

In 1965 the immigration law was rewritten, with tight quotas for Eastern and Western hemispheres. Separately, “family class” immigrants were favored outside of the quota system, so one immigrant could settle then sponsor others, who sponsored others, and so forth, allowing entire culturally foreign communities to immigrate over time to create enclaves — which slowed integration into American culture. While intended to be humane, family class preferences did not choose the immigrants that would be most likely to be valuable additions to the country and its economy.

In recent years, immigration has become a political third rail. One side views the US as “social worker to the world” — just as they see it as the duty of government to supply housing, food, and healthcare for poor people in the US, they see a moral duty to accept poor people from around the world, especially refugees from war-torn countries. The other side is partly motivated by the remaining nativist impulse — keep the special privileges of being a citizen for current citizens and deny outsiders work and social welfare spending to preserve these benefits for natives.

As a part-time economist, I support free trade generally, and would like to see a reformed immigration policy that takes advantage of the attractiveness of the US to recruit the best of the immigrant candidates. The current system blocks the immigrants most ready to contribute and tolerates illegals from Mexico and points south. The US loses many highly-beneficial immigrants to Canada and Australia and other countries that are less difficult about legal immigration for the high-skilled, and allows in large numbers who are unskilled and likely to be dependent on social welfare services for at least two generations. The H-1B visas enable employers to take advantage of highly skilled immigrants and use their low salaries to keep down the salaries of US citizen engineers and scientists. The system is rotten from top to bottom and badly needs a thorough reform.

It’s also important that those new immigrants accept the guiding principles of the Constitution and quickly integrate into the polity of free individuals and voluntary associations that allows the US to contain multiple religions and cultures to the benefit of all. There is nothing wrong with screening immigrant candidates for beliefs inconsistent with the principles of Americanism — specifically that no government will enact into law specific religious precepts. Thus devout Muslims who are Islamists (believe government must be Islamic and implement Sharia law) should be barred. It is not a violation of any citizen’s rights to ask all candidates for citizenship to pledge to uphold the Constitution and refrain from working to impose their beliefs on others. This point of view would have been seen as mainstream as little as one generation ago, but now is considered politically incorrect by our coastal ruling class.

Donald Trump’s rise is due to the backlash from the bipartisan failure to do anything about the failure of immigration policy. His promise to build a wall and deport the millions of Mexican illegals is viewed as outrageous by the same Democrats who idolize FDR — that heroic New Deal president who started Euro-style social insurance schemes, continued deportation of as many as 2 million Mexicans (some of them legal citizens), refused most Jewish refugees, and interned over 110,000 Japanese-origin US citizens during World War II. Trump’s suggested immigration and trade policies closely resemble FDR’s!

We the People - by Sarah Hoyt

We the People – by Sarah Hoyt

Trump has opened up discussion and encouraged speech from reasonable nativists, but also from formerly muzzled white supremacists and bigots of all kinds. His appeal is similar to the National Front in France: he has attracted nativists and middle and lower class people who have felt shut out by “respectable” social democratic parties. To analyze the commenters of a blog which shall go unlinked, responding to Sarah Hoyt:

[Sarah Hoyt] “Whether we were born elsewhere or here, Americans — those of us who are proud of the name — are rebels, revolutionaries, something new under the sun: a people who believe people should be equal in their right to life, the right to liberty, the right to pursue their happiness undisturbed by either inimical neighbors or oppressive “betters.””

Equality and Egalite are French Enlightenment abstractions designed to finish off the last of the Church, and to rationalize the totalitarian impulses and actions of The Mob . . . people like Sarah Hoyt.

Equality is a satanic concept and provides, in practice, the exact opposite of equity and fairness. Without ‘equality’ people like Sarah Hoyt don’t become successful, much less famous. They become instead what they merit, which isn’t much. They damn well know it, too, which is why they’re so full of vitriol — afraid of losing their vast, unearned privileges. Which they are going to lose, anyway.

Equality, like Women’s ‘liberation’, permits Sarah and her fellow traitors to crush their betters — yes, they DO have betters, and boy do they HATE HATE that — and take over nations under cover of helping the downtrodden and oppressed’. That’d Themselves and their friends, in case you’ve been asleep the past half-century.

Think you have Equality? Sistahood Sarah threatens to punch a mere male, and will not be punished if she does. Try punching Little Miss Virtue Signal and see what happens.

Liars and cowards selling their popular, self-serving lies, while patting themselves on the back for being Brave Rebels who are standing up to The Evil (non-existent) Patriarchy.

This is an interesting mix of “truthiness” and bigotry. Sarah is American by belief and choice, accused of being a “traitor” by people who think their ancestry and presence on the landmass of the US since birth make them guardians of the US nation-state. Aside from the incoherence (how can she be a traitor if she is not a member of the tribe?), the commenter attempts to other her by lumping her in with the virtue-signalling SJWs.

This commenter is sadly unAmerican in his resort to racist and sexist issue framing, completely misapplied to Sarah Hoyt. It’s unfortunate that the loud outpourings of these people, few in number but egging each other on in the fever swamps of sites like this blog-which-shall-go-unlinked, can so easily be used by progressive scribblers elsewhere to tar all dissenters from the Progressive program of thought control as racists, misogynists, and neo-Nazis (or worse!)

Which brings up a valid point these people have made: if Americanism is a bundle of individualist beliefs and attitudes, what about those with deep roots in the US, born and raised for generations there, who don’t accept those beliefs? If tolerance of difference is a watchword, then should those who don’t tolerate differences be suppressed or removed?

Our answer starts with looking at how we got to this point, where government has expanded and encroached on the private sphere of business and social organizations to the point where private action is viewed with suspicion, and a significant percentage of the population believes democracy means subjecting every action of business to the political process and regulation.

Americans were formerly known for their commitment to private charity and self-help organizations; the America of Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 teemed with churches and private social organizations and lacked the inherited privilege and concentrations of unearned wealth and power seen in Europe. But he worried that “… a despotism under a democracy could see ‘a multitude of men’, uniformly alike, equal, ‘constantly circling for petty pleasures’, unaware of fellow citizens, and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an ‘immense protective power’. Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens as ‘perpetual children’, and which doesn’t break men’s wills but rather guides [them], and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a ‘flock of timid animals’. He also wrote that ‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.'”

He was prescient. We have arrived at that state. Half the US population believes they are victims of the “malefactors of great wealth” demonized by FDR; FDR’s experiment in Democratic Socialism was derailed by his own nominally Democratic-controlled Congress by 1938, but enough remained of his expanded regulation of business and greatly-increased size of the Federal government to send the US down the road to permanent bureaucracy and a Deep State that constantly seeks to expand its power and resources. Eisenhower warned of the “Military-Industrial Complex,” but it’s no longer just defense contractors in league with Congress to pork-barrel spend, it’s a much larger group of special interests influencing legislation and regulation to give themselves protection from competition as well as direct access to public money. As governments have increased their control of all sectors of the economy, growth has slowed, prices have risen, and young people have found themselves in debt to an education complex which graduates them with few useful skills, then forced to buy health insurance at higher-than-market prices to subsidize wealthier old people.

Americans are largely still believers in the principles of Americanism — live and let live, equality under the law, free enterprise, and a civil society that ideally doesn’t discriminate by color or sex. But several generations of public schools, originally introduced on a Prussian model and intended to mold a population to more uniformly accept direction as cogs in a military-industrial machine, have weakened their resistance to collectivist thought. The Wikipedia entry on the Prussian education system says:

Early 19th-century American educators were also fascinated by German educational trends. In 1818, John Griscom gave a favorable report of Prussian education. English translations were made of French philosopher Victor Cousin’s work, Report on the State of Public Education in Prussia. Calvin E. Stowe, Henry Barnard, Horace Mann, George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell all had a vigorous interest in German education. The Prussian approach was used for example in the Michigan Constitution of 1835, which fully embraced the Prussian system by introducing a range of primary schools, secondary schools, and the University of Michigan itself, all administered by the state and supported with tax-based funding. However, e.g. the concepts in the Prussian reforms of primordial education, Bildung and its close interaction of education, society and nation-building are in conflict with some aspects of American state-sceptical libertarian thinking.

In 1843, Horace Mann traveled to Germany to investigate how the educational process worked. Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the “Prussian model” adopted. In 1852, Mann was instrumental in the decision to adopt the Prussian education system in Massachusetts. Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts instituted a mandatory education policy based on the system.[33] Mann persuaded his fellow modernizers, especially those in the Whig Party, to legislate tax-supported elementary public education in their states. New York state soon set up the same method in 12 different schools on a trial basis. Most northern states adopted one version or another of the system he established in Massachusetts, especially the program for “normal schools” to train professional teachers.

Americans were especially impressed with the Prussian system when they set up normal schools to train teachers, because they admired the German emphasis on social cohesion. By the 20th century, however, the progressive education movement emphasized individuality and creativity more and opted for a less European-inspired curriculum and lower social cohesion and uniformity. The Progressives faced a major setback with the Sputnik crisis, which led again to more focus on quality education and selectiveness of the school system. The derogatory use of the term may contrast 19th-century pedagogy (see the poisonous pedagogy debate in Germany) with the introduction of new technology into classrooms during the Information Age. While Joel Rose appreciates Horace Mann’s commitment to a public education but is aiming at renewing how to deliver it, authors like Conservative Party of New York State activist John Taylor Gatto and further home-schooling activist Sheldon Richman claim that illiteracy rates in the USA were lower before compulsory schooling was introduced.

Those “normal schools” to train educators are a primary source of the substandard teachers of today, taken from the bottom third of college applicants and trained to promote “correct” social thinking. Big city schools, especially, are run for the benefit of union teachers and not the students. Parents get little or no choice in their children’s education, children get limited instruction, and disciplinary problems detract from study.

But even in the better districts, a uniform Progressive ideology has gradually been impressed on the students. The elementary teaching generation after World War II was still fairly high-quality, and many bright young women went into it as a caring career which would allow children and family interruptions. The advent of both expanded professional opportunities for women and social pressure to go after higher-paid professional careers removed many of the most-competent people from elementary school teaching, and the newer generations of teachers have been trained to promote social ideals over knowledge, with less time for Western classics, civics and history, science, and economics, and more time for environmentalism and “corrective” diversity training. As a result, graduating students, while more sophisticated in some areas, lack the basic knowledge of government and history needed for American citizenship. They have been trained in Progressive ideals, including the notion that passing a new law can address every social problem.

Another import from Bismarck’s Germany: State Socialism. Bismarck set up the basic social welfare state as we know it, with state health insurance, pension, and disability programs, in the 1880s. Social Security was FDR’s similar effort to defuse the tide of full socialism in the Depression; by borrowing from the future, it could provide state support for the elderly at seemingly little current cost in payroll taxes.

These efforts to protect and provide for citizens via state programs have enfeebled private efforts to save and enter mutual support agreements. Half the population now believes they are owed a good job and a living through government action. Politicians speak about “creating jobs” as if that is their proper role, interest groups unashamedly lobby for more subsidies for their particular interest from the money tree of tax receipts and government borrowing, and the common political response to high-priced and low-quality housing in the coastal cities is public housing subsidies, rent controls, and “inclusionary zoning” (the requirement to build “affordable” housing as part of every market-rate project.) All of which drive down supply and increase costs further.

Many people see what’s happened and have tried to sound the alarm. But dissent from the program has been suppressed for decades. And now we have Trump and others feeding off the anger of those who have suffered under a system which rewards the connected and wealthy at the expense of the hard-working, blue-collar citizens not enjoying privileged coastal lifestyles. Our politics has suffered from the sound of silence — the supposed racist and sexist origins of all anti-Progressive efforts, the Conventional Wisdom of the mass media which filters out anything nonmainstream, the gradual corruption of the academy by government funding and directives.

The antidote to this encroaching tribal collectivism is electing representatives willing to return focus to the core function of government — defense, justice, and enforcement of contracts. Returning power to decisionmakers closer to the decision — state and local governments and private citizens — reduces the rewards of corruption and empowers the people to take responsibility for their own and their children’s welfare. Education should be funded by parents and local associations, not mega-school districts and Federal bureaucrats. Parental desires for their children’s upbringing should be respected.

What should not be respected are the non-American “isms” — belief systems incompatible with the Constitutionally limited government that made the US the desirable place to live for productive people. Racism, sexism, classism, Communism, Socialism, etc., should never be tolerated in the action of law. Dividing up citizens by skin color and tribe and doling out affirmative action rewards to the favored may have been justified for one generation, but now create more division than they alleviate. Islamists and other religionists who believe that government should enforce their religious laws even without the consensus of other citizens should never gain a foothold in our politics.

There will always be people living in America who disagree with one or more aspects of Americanism. If they follow our laws and support themselves, the US can accommodate some number of them short of a majority. But we should seek to screen them out when they apply for immigration, and refuse to support them with welfare payments and subsidies. If they find it more comfortable to live in a country that supports their beliefs, they should move there. And we are under no obligation to associate with them, employ them, or be kind to them.

As Sam Adams said on August 1st, 1776: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Men of Honor vs Victim Culture

Calvin on Victimhood

Calvin on Victimhood

The widely-noticed blog post by Jonathan Haidt, “Where microaggressions really come from: A sociological account,” starts out this way:

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell andJason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind…. The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.

This is very obvious to anyone paying attention to college campuses these days. And as he and the authors of the paper he discusses point out, this new culture of victimhood thrives only where there is very little actual victimization or inequality — under the umbrella of a micromanaging government or university administration who can be called on to recognize your victim status.

As we dissect this phenomenon, then, we first address how it fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties. We note that these tactics sometimes involve building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses.

And an epidemic of falsification has occurred, with many of the most publicized cases of rape or hate crimes on campus having been revealed to be hoaxes or fabrications. In a world where young people are encouraged to think of themselves as members of oppressed minorities, some of the most privileged — affluent students on university campuses — demand more subsidies and more recognition for their special snowflake natures, and agitate for more grants and more programs to allow them to avoid repaying student loans and to work after they graduate at activist nonprofits.

In the settings such as those that generate microaggression catalogs [ed. note: I call these settings grievance bubbles in my writings], though, where offenders are oppressors and victims are the oppressed, it also raises the moral status of the victims. This only increases the incentive to publicize grievances, and it means aggrieved parties are especially likely to highlight their identity as victims, emphasizing their own suffering and innocence. Their adversaries are privileged and blameworthy, but they themselves are pitiable and blameless. [p.707-708] [This is the great tragedy: the culture of victimization rewards people for taking on a personal identity as one who is damaged, weak, and aggrieved. This is a recipe for failure — and constant litigation — after students graduate from college and attempt to enter the workforce]

One issue which is going to be more and more obvious with time: these students are leaving permanent records of their entitled and litigious attitudes in social media and online; I would not blame employers for looking these up and not employing those who have lied or exaggerated their grievances to demand special action.

But let’s return to the cultures of individual morality identified in the paper. Honor culture makes every person responsible for maintaining their boundaries with others and acting as necessary to punish aggression against them or their reputation; it is the prevailing system when interpersonal aggression is the dominant form of social control. In societies with hierarchical organizations as in feudal Europe or Japan, persons much above you in status were deferred to while persons much below you were deferential toward you, or else.

A) A Culture of Honor
Honor is a kind of status attached to physical bravery and the unwillingness to be dominated by anyone. Honor in this sense is a status that depends on the evaluations of others, and members of honor societies are expected to display their bravery by engaging in violent retaliation against those who offend them (Cooney 1998:108–109; Leung and Cohen 2011). Accordingly, those who engage in such violence often say that the opinions of others left them no choice at all…. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so” (Cooney 1998:110). Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights (Cohen et al. 1996; Cooney 1998:115–119; Leung and Cohen 2011)… Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack (Cooney 1998:122; Leung and Cohen 2011:510). Because of their belief in the value of personal bravery and capability, people socialized into a culture of honor will often shun reliance on law or any other authority even when it is available, refusing to lower their standing by depending on another to handle their affairs (Cooney 1998:122–129). But historically, as state authority has expanded and reliance on the law has increased, honor culture has given way to something else: a culture of dignity. [p. 712-713]

The Enlightenment and the end of feudalism brought in a new kind of moral order, based on law and individual rights, which the authors call a “culture of dignity.” Most developed countries have adopted this model, where each person is deemed to be equal under the law and enjoys individual rights that law and state forces will enforce against others. The honor culture continues as an element of many subcultures, notably in the military, law enforcement, and areas where order has broken down, but the boundaries of allowable violence and retaliation are constrained; duelling and violence for retribution is now illegal. Offenses are now to be brought to authorities for resolution and punishment, and grievances below a minimal standard are to be dealt with socially.

B) A Culture of Dignity
The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others (Berger 1970; see also Leung and Cohen 2011). Dignity exists independently of what others think, so a culture of dignity is one in which public reputation is less important. Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor (Leung and Cohen 2011:509). People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails.

When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions, such as negotiated compromise geared toward solving the problem (Aslani et al. 2012). Failing this, or if the offense is sufficiently severe, people are to go to the police or appeal to the courts. Unlike the honorable, the dignified approve of appeals to third parties and condemn those who “take the law into their own hands.” For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame. But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries…. The ideal in dignity cultures is thus to use the courts as quickly, quietly, and rarely as possible. The growth of law, order, and commerce in the modern world facilitated the rise of the culture of dignity, which largely supplanted the culture of honor among the middle and upper classes of the West…. But the rise of microaggression complaints suggests a new direction in the evolution of moral culture.

Highly “evolved” settings are encouraging the culture of victimhood, where one maintains one’s status and reputation by competing to be recognized as a victim — the victim Olympics, it is sometimes rudely called.

C) A Culture of Victimhood
Microaggression complaints have characteristics that put them at odds with both honor and dignity cultures. Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response. But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.[p.714-715]

A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization. … Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood because the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.[p.715]

The culture of victimhood is currently most entrenched on college campuses, where microaggression complaints are most prevalent. Other ways of campaigning for support from third parties and emphasizing one’s own oppression – from protest demonstrations to the invented victimization of hate-crime hoaxes – are prevalent in this setting as well. That victimhood culture is so evident among campus activists might lead the reader to believe this is entirely a phenomenon of the political left, and indeed, the narrative of oppression and victimization is especially congenial to the leftist worldview (Haidt 2012:296; Kling 2013; Smith 2003:82). But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well. For instance, hate crime hoaxes do not all come from the left. [gives examples] … Naturally, whenever victimhood (or honor, or anything else) confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it. As clinical psychologist David J. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to “assert that they are a victim as well.” Thus, “men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization.”[p.715] [In this way, victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood. Young people on the left and the right get sucked into its vortex of grievance. We can expect political polarization to get steadily worse in the coming decades as this moral culture of victimhood spreads]

I’ll point out that these environments tend to be artificially maintained — they are not natural outgrowths of business and commerce, where every participant has to cooperate with others to thrive and make a living. They are more like cloistered institutions of the past, supported by exterior economies, like convents and monasteries, or royal courts. When we say something is “academic,” we often mean it’s not important in the real world. And the money supporting it all is partly from parents, but mostly from government, which pays for research and subsidizes the loans that have allowed the schools to charge more than ever and hire all the administrators that make work for themselves by policing student activity.

So I suspect we’re seeing peak influence of the culture of victimhood, and natural corrections — like the refusal of businesses to degrade their competitive edge by further kowtowing to identity politicians — will push back. Part of this may be a repudiation of the Democratic party, which has co-opted much of the third-wave feminist and identity politics sentiment. Having used it through several election cycles, they are now so identified with it that any backlash will damage them. Trump’s current support is a result of decades of suppression of populist speech, and his un-PC style is actually being rewarded in polls.

Lastly, I’ll point out some similar classifications in Jane Jacobs’ Systems of Survival. She identified two syndromes — we might call them meme-complexes, systems of ideas that are internally consistent and self-supporting:

Moral Precepts
Guardian Syndrome Commerce Syndrome
  • Shun trading
  • Exert prowess
  • Be obedient and disciplined
  • Adhere to tradition
  • Respect hierarchy
  • Be loyal
  • Take vengeance
  • Deceive for the sake of the task
  • Make rich use of leisure
  • Be ostentatious
  • Dispense largesse
  • Be exclusive
  • Show fortitude
  • Be fatalistic
  • Treasure honor
  • Shun force
  • Compete
  • Be efficient
  • Be open to inventiveness and novelty
  • Use initiative and enterprise
  • Come to voluntary agreements
  • Respect contracts
  • Dissent for the sake of the task
  • Be industrious
  • Be thrifty
  • Invest for productive purposes
  • Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
  • Promote comfort and convenience
  • Be optimistic
  • Be honest


The Guardian Syndrome roughly corresponds to the culture of honor, and it naturally evolved in a state where roaming bands of warriors — warlords — compete to control territory which (through agricultural populations or hunter-gatherer bands) generates food and wealth. As agriculture advanced, the warlords became a separate military and governing class, and cities began to develop. Trading and commerce flowered, and the ethos of the Commerce Syndrome developed as technology and trade overtook the produce of the land as a source of wealth. Cities grew, and classes of scribes, accountants, and religious orders became important. Law as a codification of wise rule, and then as recognition of individual rights, became a reliable way of settling grievances without taking up arms. And in the US, the idea of regulating the state itself via a Constitution allowed a free people to coexist with others who believed quite differently by enforcing a neutral code of law.

Interactions between victimhood activists and others are especially vicious because of the mutual misunderstandings of the importance of honor, dignity, and truth to the older cultures. Any disagreement with the claim of victim status is recast as another microagression, and only complete submission to their claims is accepted. When action is taken to address their concerns, it is only satisfying for a brief period before new outrages are identified — there must always be something to complain about, or they would be required to justify their existence and self-esteem via some real accomplishment. Meanwhile, lies and personal character assassination of those deemed incorrect or of the class of oppressors make people who are steeped in the honor or dignity cultures violently angry, and their angry outbursts are used as more evidence of the need to suppress them.

The culture of complaint and victimhood thrives only in those insulated bubbles where government supports institutions detached from customer demand. This includes government itself, especially those bureaucracies which have gained the power to maintain themselves regardless of party in power, but also includes public schools and all the universities which derive most of their funds from government grants and student loans — which is nearly all of them. One way of reducing this detachment from reality and accountability is to cut funding for these institutions and encourage individual and entrepreneurial solutions to the problems they were assigned to address. What we have now is sometimes called the clerisy — a quasi-religious governing structure of scribes and functionaries who act to increase their own power from some protected perch of authority, directing the lives of others with what they think is superior intellect and morality. And there are now so many of them living well on the borrowed and taxed dollars taken from the real economy that their rules and demands are strangling the economy that supports all of us.


Vox just ran a piece by Oliver Lee, who’s quitting his job as a professor to find more meaningful work:

All of these issues lead to one, difficult-to-escape conclusion. Despite all the finger-pointing directed at students (“They’re lazy! They’re oversensitive! They’re entitled!”), and the blame heaped on professors (“Out of touch and irrelevant to a man”), the real culprit is systemic. Our federally backed approach to subsidizing higher education through low-interest loans has created perverse incentives with disastrous consequences. This system must be reformed.

He suggests a smaller, more accountable higher education system, stripped of the excess federal loan funding.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


“Fear is the Mindkiller” – Published at Tangent Online

Dune cover art by Henrik Sahlstrom

Dune cover art by Henrik Sahlstrom

Tangent Online has published my essay on culture wars in science fiction here. A key paragraph:

A significant chunk of the population is still guided by the sentiment that women are weak and need more protection. These people are the Baptists in a bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition that unites to give statists more and more power to meddle and regulate, with the bootleggers being political parties that use these sentiments to justify their social engineering. Every new law and regulation is an opportunity for graft and extracting campaign contributions from businesses who want to be left alone or mold the law and regulations to hurt their competitors more, and every new edict (beyond dealing with obvious externalities like pollution) decreases the total wealth and growth rate of the economy. Politicians whip up fear — fear of terrorists, illegal immigrants, “the 1%,” sexist men, authoritarian Christianists, whatever works — to gain power, and then shy away from any actual solutions so they can repeat these emotional hooks for the next election. “Fear is the Mindkiller” — make someone afraid, and you weaken their reasoning power.

For Some Writers, Only the “Political Now” Matters

Ancient SF

Ancient SF

One thing that’s lacking among our progressive brethren is humility, a sense of what they don’t know and should not try to fake knowing. They are ahistorical and programmed by a faith-based belief system (for example, the faith that “all gender roles are social constructs with no biological basis.”)

So you suggest gently to a young writer that they should not try to write science fiction without understanding the science well enough to project it plausibly. Especially if the writer is a young woman, she will protest and say something implying science is also just a social construct, meaning “whatever I feel it should be, it is.” Or ask that historical novels be reasonably well researched and plausible — which is asking too much for some. They believe it is unfair to criticize some people for writing implausible or inconsistent stories, because by doing so you are discriminating against them and interfering with their right to succeed. Ultimately, of course, readers determine what is read, but by influencing what is promoted and made available at retail, progressives are insuring readers get less of what they want and more of what the nomenklatura think is good for them. And these literary-progressive writers are encouraged by academia and grants to think their status entitles them to success as writers — and while the very best of them will be successful writers, the majority will not be read by anyone outside their mutual support group.

Initially science fiction was about future science and the reactions to it from individuals and societies not too different from those of the day. Then the New Wave introduced a greater emphasis on imagined future or alien societies with quite different motivations and systems — when well-done, the rules of the imagined societies were plausibly projected from the biological, social, and economic motivations of the members of the society. In fantasy, you again had plausible workings-out of magic systems, fantasy entities, and societies of elves and the like. It’s the working out and understanding of the story problems presented by an imagined plausible world that expands the mind and increases understanding of very different Others.

If stories include mostly characters who behave as modern progressives think they should, any broadening effect is lost. Modern taboos and habits of thought were developed to match a modern milieu, and it is wrongheaded and anti-diversity — a variety of cultural imperialism! — to imply that people of the past and future would adopt and benefit from current ideas of “correct thought.” This error is a variety of presentism — applying standards of the current day to past and future societies.

Progressives accept an alien biological imperative and will sit still for stories where, say, the male sex of the G’Tharr are confined to their homes but no one in their society is especially interested in equality. But when the society is recognizably human, then suddenly the correctness goggles appear, and characters who behave like the perceived recent enemies of their tribe are not tolerated.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Sad Puppies Fallout: Vox Day and John C. Wright

[Pulled out of comments on Sarah Hoyt’s blog]

[Edit: further comments on Vox Day added after reading more of his blog]

And this is where I get to talk about Vox Day and John C. Wright, respectively the evil genius and the epitome of Badthink.

Vox is an example of an agent provocateur; he dances right up to the line to outrage stupid people who can’t parse what he says, then carefully avoids crossing it. Outraged progressives attack, his fans are engaged, and off he goes to huge traffic and increasing notoriety, which converts to more attention and sales. Using his name is now like invoking Voldemort. It’s not something I would do, but every ecological niche is filled in a complex society…

When I came out with my first book “Bad Boyfriends,” which was a sincere effort to help the clueless with useful information about attachment types and how they can determine relationship satisfaction, I had some reviewers mentioning that it was a “red pill” book, which I thought referred to the Matrix, where swallowing the red pill meant accepting the truth instead of living a comforting lie.

Then I discovered the huge number of (mostly but not entirely) men in the red pill / MRA movement. Looking through their writings, I found much that was useful mixed with some pseudoscience that was confirming their beliefs. So while sympathetic, I couldn’t agree with everything, but thought their point of view was important and a useful counterpoint to the feminist-dominated discourse increasingly taking over. I wrote a lot of pieces supporting some of their better points, and the guys at A Voice for Men asked me to do a piece or two. So I did. The commenters were an interesting mix of thoughtful and rabid, but I didn’t have any trouble soothing them when it was clear I sympathized even when I could not fully agree.

Those posts went up on Reddit and I had 4000 page views a day. Vox has this game down cold; he is serving red meat to starving men who need to hear alternative viewpoints.

I stopped writing for AVfM when one of my posts (which said some kind things about Emma Watson’s UN-based effort, which included a concession to male issues — see was seen as insufficiently rabid by many commenters. AVfM disowned it (must not upset base!) and then was set upon by one of their old opponents, David Futrelle at We Hunted the Mammoth, and his commenters.

Yikes! So much hate on both sides. So I stopped trying to mediate that war.

I don’t know Vox Day, and I haven’t read much of his work, so I am unable to disavow him or apologize for him. As someone remarked, if he didn’t exist, they would have to invent him, or some other Emmanuel Goldstein. [Edit: Having read quite a bit more of his writings, I can see where the widespread revulsion comes from. He often promotes pseudoscience which confirms the biases of his fans — I don’t have a problem with beliefs unsupported by evidence unless they are aimed at harming groups of people, but he promotes some that are intended to justify hatred against whole classes of people. In that, he’s just another quack, profiting by feeding fears with pseudoscientific justifications.]

As for John C. Wright, I’ve read and admired a lot of his work (but he owes me for the time spent to resolve the endless throne room battle scene in “Judge of Ages”!) The first book of his I read, “The Golden Age,” fixed him in my mind as someone I would happily read. But of course his Renaissance Man (from the actual Renaissance!) qualities include enough knowledge of history to disdain the current political line and its enforced forgetfulness. Like Orson Scott Card, he has some beliefs that the progressives find heretical, and he has tactlessly expressed them. But where others get a pass because their offbeat beliefs aren’t central to SJW causes, he does not. I remember reading Charles Stross’ first post on LiveJournal commenting on how Wright was now deemed too incorrect to be acceptable in civil society….

But again, I don’t know Mr. Wright other than from his works, which are usually very good. A writer who can get away with that level of digressions without causing me to toss the book has to be good.

Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

From the beyond-the-Onion department:

CUNY’s Graduate Center now believes the use of gendered salutations like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” might offend some students. What’s more, administrators think federal non-discrimination law requires the university to prevent its faculty from inadvertently giving offense. Therefore, professors have been instructed to wipe the contentious words from their memories and cease using them in any and all forms of communication.

Full Reason story here.

Some young reviewers of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars think it portrays some unlikely future thought-control state. It’s actually about RIGHT NOW in many universities, which is why it bugs me I can’t get a conventional publisher to look at it in less than a year.

YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again

Heinlein's "Citizen of the Galaxy"

Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy”

Reason has a good think piece by Amy Sturgis on the political content of popular YA (Young Adult) dystopias, compared with the “sensawunda” (sense of wonder) of Golden Age science fiction with its technological optimism. “Not Your Parents’ Dystopias”:

Anyone who has wandered by a bookstore or a movie theater lately knows the kids these days love a nice dystopia. Their heroes are Katniss from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Thomas from James Dashner’s Maze Runner novels. The number of English-language dystopian novels published from 2000 to 2009 quadrupled that of the previous decade, and not quite four years into the 2010s, we have already left that decade’s record in the dust….

Youth-oriented fiction about worlds gone awry is not new. The tradition stretches back generations and involves works now revered as classics. Some of the giants of what was then called juvenile science fiction — Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Poul Anderson — wrote what now would be classified as YA dystopias. But the exponential recent growth of the genre suggests something else at play: a generation’s lost wonder and mounting anxiety.

In the Golden Age of science fiction (which may be measured roughly from the time John W. Campbell Jr. came into his full powers as editor of Astounding Stories in 1938 until the time Michael Moorcock’s editorship of New Worlds in 1964 signaled the rise of the New Wave), worlds gone wrong often served as catalysts for young protagonists to pluck up their courage, exercise their agency, and affect change. The titular character in Heinlein’s Starman Jones (1953), Max Jones, inherits a bleak Earth depleted of natural resources. Hereditary guilds have the planet in a stranglehold, regulating information and determining what (if any) profession an individual may pursue. Young Max’s options are few, and his dream of being an “astrogator” in space seems completely out of reach. The risk-taking, indefatigable character pursues his goal anyway, ultimately finding himself in the right place and time to showcase his hard-won skill and — just as important — moral integrity.

Max’s scientific expertise and common sense save lives and win the day. When he finally confesses to lying his way past the rules that would have excluded him from gaining the position at which he excels, that only serves to illustrate how wrong-minded the laws are. The novel ends with Jones not only secure in his chosen calling but paving the way for changes to the oppressive guild system.

These early dystopias showed young men, and sometimes even young women, facing down dangers in their fallen worlds with determination and commitment. The novels suggested that the forward march of freedom and science may meet grave obstacles and even grind to a halt, but if young people rise to the occasion, the story doesn’t have to end there.

Heinlein gave his characters agency — that is, they were able to meaningfully effect outcomes not only for themselves, but for their larger society. Individual effort, knowledge, and pluck, usually with the help of wise older mentors, could triumph over injustice and restrictions on freedom. The Heinlein juveniles, written in simplified style and beginning with relatively unimaginative plots, became increasingly sophisticated until his publisher rejected Starship Troopers for outgrowing the intended youthful audience. The typical protagonist of a Heinlein juvenile is a bright but inexperienced young man from a disadvantaged background who has to learn the ropes and use his wits to make his way into a leadership role in his society–and his female characters also were portrayed as intelligent and strong, often helping the protagonist at a key point with superior knowledge of the social system. It’s interesting that Social Justice Warriors, in their attack on Heinlein and all Golden Age science fiction as essentially patriarchal and in need of political guidance, fail to notice how progressive Heinlein actually was for his era (the 1950s and 60s.) The juveniles are still empowering for both boys and girls, and a protagonist like Podkayne in Podkayne of Mars is a modern empowered girl, with some stereotypically feminine aspects but fully capable of agency in tough situations.

Those Golden Age dystopian visions were balanced by another subgenre of juvenile science fiction popular at the time: tales that portrayed the future as exciting new territory full of marvels and possibilities. Contemporary scholars classify these books as “sensawunda” works, because they conveyed a sense of wonder in contemplating tomorrow.

The poster child for this phenomenon is Tom Swift, the hero of more than 100 novels across five fiction series. In the 1950s, while Heinlein’s Max Jones was fighting for his life and struggling for his livelihood, young Tom was inventing new technologies in his basement (our modern word Taser is an acronym for “Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”), journeying underwater and into space, thwarting baddies of all descriptions, and illustrating just how cool the future would be.

Tom Swift had a triphibian atomicar. Where have all the triphibian atomicars gone now? The millennials, it seems, don’t want a ride….

I’m not sure it is the lack of interest of millennials in technological optimism that has lead to this drought in technology-positive YA science fiction. It may be that very little is getting published because boy’s dreams of agency — the powerful dream of being effective and admired for skill and courage — are no longer seen as important by publishing gatekeepers, now mostly coming out of non-scientific academic literature backgrounds. The videogame industry is now the primary source of young male empowerment fantasies, and it, too, is under siege from the Social Justice Warriors who want its themes to support their political vision of social justice, meaning all visions of the future must be screened for heretical thought — note this month’s war over game politics and SJW influence: “The Gaming Community is not a Wretched Hive of Sexism and Misogyny.” I have personally had my book downgraded by a literary establishment sort for incorrect thoughts — my chapter on entitled Fairy Tale thinking (and the many young women who were brought up with unrealistic expectations of being Princesses catered to by fawning males) was flagged as misogynistic.

The legacy publishing industry has been hiring bright young grads from the academy for some time, and critical mass has been achieved: political screening is now a reality. That is why depressing and unimaginative tales with little commercial appeal (like Pills and Starships) get promoted and plugged on NPR and in the Washington Post and go on to fizzle, while optimistic and empowering science fiction is mostly being self-published. This is because few in publishing now have any education or respect for the sciences and technology:

Another difference between yesteryear’s dystopias and today’s: The older authors were usually either trained in the sciences (Heinlein was a naval engineer; Anderson earned a B.A. in physics) or sympathetic to them (Norton, a librarian, conducted her own research). Like the pioneering author/editor Hugo Gernsback, they believed that quality futuristic fiction could seduce readers into a love affair with science and show them the possibilities it held for a better tomorrow. Thus Anderson’s teenage hero Carl, in Vault of the Ages (1952), ends a future dark ages by unearthing and reintroducing advanced technology to the world. Progress and science walk hand in hand, these authors implied, and no one is in a better position to appreciate this fact than young people.

Today, science is often portrayed as the problem rather than the solution. Many current authors, children’s literature scholar Noga Applebaum notes in her outstanding 2009 study “Representations of Technology in Science Fiction for Young People,” are neither trained in nor sympathetic to the sciences. In fact, a majority of the many novels she analyzes vilify the over-polluted, over-complicated, and over-indulgent present while glorifying the past and the pastoral, a kind of mythical pre-industrial, pre-commercial, subsistence existence — in short, the kind of dark ages that Poul Anderson’s teen hero Carl brought to a welcome end in Vault of the Ages.

As active participants in the contemporary world, young readers are dished a heaping plate of guilt and self-loathing. Why is there global warming, or worldwide poverty, or runaway disease? The answer is as close as the millennials’ smartphones and tablets and gaming systems: Youth and innovation and modernity are to blame.

David Patneade’s Epitaph Road (2010) throws in everything but the kitchen sink when describing the sheer trial of being alive in the oh-so-terrible year of 2010: it was a “world of poverty and hunger and crime and disease and greed and dishonesty and prejudice and war and genocide and religious bigotry and runaway population growth and abuse of the environment and immigration strife and you-get-the-leftovers educational policies and a hundred other horrors.”

Saci Lloyd goes a step further in her award-winning The Carbon Diaries: 2015 (2008). Teen heroine Laura apparently is part of the problem by pursuing a music career with her band, gaining a following online, and benefitting from how easy it is to record and distribute music digitally. She only becomes part of the solution after abandoning her music to become a commune-dwelling, pig-raising, socially conscious activist-though not before performing the novel’s anthem, “Death to Capitalism….”

Are these works the literary equivalent of yelling at those darned kids to get off your lawn, oldsters scolding the youngsters for their perceived failings? Applebaum thinks so, arguing that the trend toward technophobia exposes “adults’ reluctance to embrace the changing face of childhood and the shift in the power dynamic which accompanies this change.” Viewed through its attitudes about technology, she writes, “literature aimed at young people is exposed afresh as problematic, a socialization agent serving adults’ agenda.” Certain adults’ agenda, to be sure.

The biggest exceptions to these trends can be found in the Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010), which celebrates self-reliance, individual choice, and markets (like The Hob), while warning readers against those who gravitate toward power. (Suzanne Collins also masterfully answers the classic question “Who was right, Aldous Huxley or George Orwell?” by agreeing with both.) But although the Hunger Games novels and their film adaptations are an undeniable sensation, they also represent something of an outlier in terms of theme.

Another exception — or partial exception — is the work of Cory Doctorow. Doctorow’s novels depict technology as the natural ally of youth. The millennials are at a tremendous advantage in the 21st-century landscape, he proposes, because unlike their elders they grew up with a high degree of comfort with both technology and its continual state of change. But even Doctorow’s novels tell a sobering story about the present.

Whether it’s the hackers of Little Brother (2008) and Homeland (2013) or the fan filmmakers of Pirate Cinema (2012), Doctorow’s teen protagonists are routinely forced to defend themselves from older interests who are supported by the government simply because they are more powerful and entrenched in the system. The mighty surveillance state will not disappear, readers realize time and again; the most that kids can hope for is to watch the watchers and let them know that the scrutiny goes both ways. Readers cheer on the gutsy young heroes fighting for their liberty, but we also mourn all the time and effort and creative energy they lose in the struggle simply to stay free and see another day. Their best-case scenario is to fight the powers-that-be to a stalemate.

Amy’s piece continues with more examples.

More on the politics of YA dystopias:

Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
“Pills and Starships” – Pseudo Science Fiction
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters

Modern Feminism, Social Justice Warriors, and the American Ideal of Freedom

More on the legacy publishing-indie battle:

Hugh Howey and JAKonrath on the Indie Revolution, and Amazon’s Netflix-for-Books

More on Writers, Novels, Amazon-Hachette

More “50 Shades of Grey” Pseudoscience Reporting

Fifty Shades of Grey cover

“Fifty Shades of Grey” cover

Perhaps it’s not really “pseudoscience” — which connotes the promotion of definitely false beliefs — but “junk science,” where research studies are done by academics who cloak themselves in the authority of Science but actually commit logical fallacies in promoting their work to appear to confirm the beliefs they already hold about the world.

My earlier post, “Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!”, reporting on the feminist junk science study trying to associate 50 Shades of Grey with anorexia and abusive relationships has company in two much-more-detailed critiques in Psychology Today blogs. Both are worth reading in full, but I’ll quote some points. First, we have this piece by Robert James King, Ph.D.:

Let’s start with the so-called eating disorders. What was actually measured? Two things.

Q1 “Have you ever fasted for a day (or more)?”


Q2 “Have you ever used diet aids?”

That’s the lot. No. Calling the use of diet aids an eating disorder is just scare-mongering. These people didn’t have eating disorders—at least not that we know of. I could have got the same results by dividing the group into “gym members” and “non-gym members”

The binge-drinking measure (“Having 5 or more drinks on 6 or more days in the last month”) was technically correct. For doctors, five or more drinks is a binge. For most of us—it’s a quiet night in—but let’s pass over that one to the juicy stuff, “risky sexual practices”.

The criteria the authors use for prevalence of risky sexual practices were two:

Q1: “Have you had five or more sexual partners?”

Q2: “Have you ever had anal sex?”

Really? Boy, you young people! These are the criteria for risky sexuality? ….

Running a bunch of correlations without having any controls is a thing that we scientists call (and stop me if I’m getting too technical here) “Not doing science”.

Let’s say I have a hunch that there is a nefarious plot that links people who have been killed by falling out of bed and the number of lawyers in Puerto Rico. It correlates .96 over twelve years—I bet you didn’t know that. Well, how could you? It’s a plot by Puerto-Rican Lawyers…

Well, I can search around for some correlations—but all this really tells the world is that I am obsessed with Puerto Rican lawyers (for some reason). (3) That’s why scientist control for certain factors. Here are some possible ones that don’t seem to have occurred to the authors:

Did their sample read other books? Other erotic books? Do they even have sexual partners? Have they ever had sex at all?

Here’s the thing—if you build in your assumptions at the start (that kink is bad) then maybe you can find a correlation there. Without controls all the authors have done is import their moralising and attached some numbers to it.

The next piece is by Jen Kim (who has read the books!):

“The study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books.”

Lead researcher Amy Bonomi says it’s a potential problem either way, but I have to disagree.

The distinction is quite important, because one interpretation suggests that girls who read the book already have a proclivity for certain behaviors, while the other suggests that the book creates such behaviors.

As a reader of two (!) out of the three books by E.L. James, I have a difficult time seeing the latter case.

Ana Steele, the dimwitted ingénue of the story, chooses to participate in a consensual S&M relationship with handsome stalker, Christian Grey. As far as I can recall, she enjoys (or is at least, open) to this arrangement. Furthermore, Christian has more of a predilection for physical spanking than verbal abuse, right?
For some reason, Ana forgets to eat. It is certainly never implied that she is purposely trying to lose weight or suffers from an eating disorder. The girl just doesn’t like to eat.

I haven’t read the third book, but I believe Ana gets drunk once in the first book (to the point of getting sick) and then gets tipsy a few more times. How does this behavior differ from any other 21 year old’s?
Ana’s only sexual partner was and is Christian, which hardly makes her as promiscuous as this study claims its readers to be….

A lot of this criticism is reminiscent of the blowback against violent video games and films like The Matrix in the wake of the Columbine shooting. Keanu’s kung-fu skills were to blame, not the shooters’ mental health or upbringing.

But, a recent study from the University of Oxford, The University of Rochester and the company Immersyve, has found that playing so-called violent video games (e.g., Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto) do not give rise to real-world aggression.

Previous post on topic: Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!

For more on pop culture:

“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family

Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!

Fifty Shades of Grey cover

“Fifty Shades of Grey” cover

Not really.

Echoing the previous post, we have here a “study” that tells us that young women who have certain tendencies are more likely to have read 50 Shades of Grey. The study authors (as reported in Science Daily) try very hard to make it sound like reading the book causes anorexia and abuse [my annotations in brackets]:

Young adult women who read “Fifty Shades of Grey” are more likely than nonreaders to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher. Further, women who read all three books in the blockbuster “Fifty Shades” erotic romance series are at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners. All are known risks associated with being in an abusive relationship, much like the lead character, Anastasia, is in “Fifty Shades,” said Amy Bonomi, the study’s lead investigator. And while the study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books, it’s a potential problem either way, she said. [Ed. note: By “problem” she means “pay me to study bad literature and develop a censorship agenda.”]

“If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading ‘Fifty Shades’ might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma,” said Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

“Likewise, if they read ‘Fifty Shades’ before experiencing the health behaviors seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.” [Possible but unlikely.]

The study, which appears in the Journal of Women’s Health, [which apparently has very low standards] is one of the first to investigate the relationship between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. [Pioneers in finding problems that don’t exist.] Past [ideology-driven] research has tied watching violent television programs to real-life violence and antisocial behaviors, as well as reading glamour magazines to being obsessed with body image.

The researchers studied more than 650 women aged 18-24, a prime period for exploring greater sexual intimacy in relationships, Bonomi said. Compared to participants who didn’t read the book, those who read the first “Fifty Shades” novel were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours.

Those who read all three books in the series were 65 percent more likely than nonreaders to binge drink — or drink five or more drinks on a single occasion on six or more days per month — and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime. [This is some evil book! The public health consequences are so severe, we must consider censoring all popular entertainment that might hurt young women.]

Bonomi, who has a doctoral degree in health services and a master’s in public health, said she is not suggesting the book be banned or that women should not be free to read whatever books they wish or to have a love life. However, it’s important women understand that the health behaviors assessed in the study are known risk factors for being in a violent relationship. Toward that end, Bonomi said parents and educators should engage kids in constructive conversations about sexuality, body image and gender role expectations — and that these conversations start as early as grade school. [Nobody’s been talking about any of those things with kids. Uh-huh.]

A previous study led by Bonomi found that “Fifty Shades” perpetuated the problem of violence against women. [Another unsupported conclusion which will now be cited as fact by feminist “scholars” — “studies show….”]

For more on pop culture:

“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family