Over Easy versus Hard Embroiled…

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Reason is the distance between any two idiocies, as ascertained by either of those idiocies.

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Apologies all for my inconsistent posting and reply regime over the past few weeks. I went on a short vacation, which always has the effect of bumping me out of the ruts of routine that make working on TPB effortless. I’ve continued spending my mornings, as usual, working on The Unholy Consult, which is proving to be quite a bugger. I’ve decided I need to find some way to scale back my expectations, because I am suffering a classic case of “But-it-must-be-perfect disease,” or BMPD, as clinicians call it. I’m not sure I’ve spent so much time rewriting since The Darkness That Comes Before.

Like many psychological maladies, becoming aware of this particular condition actually aggravates the condition – especially in this case, because the fact is, IT MUST BE PERFECT! Like, fer real. But I am gaining a step or two here and there, which means it must be finished at some point. Part of the problem with this slow progress, I’m finding, is that I’m getting too many little ideas that my unconscious demands that I shoehorn in. The book will be big… in addition to perfect.

After lunch, I’ve been jetting back from the coffee shop to work on my second obsession, which has been writing something half-ass publishable on the theory of consciousness I’ve been mulling for the past 13 years. If you remember, this was the idea that dummied by dissertation way back when, and then made my head explode this past winter. Apparently, the sheer intuitive force of the idea was enough deflect the jetstream some thousand miles to the north, and so drag out the first dreary weeks of November over the entirety of winter.

This is just to say I’ve lost the ability to make anything resembling rational second-order claims regarding the thing. For those of you who enjoy the deep, deep wank, you can find it here… Comments from anyone are welcome, but I’m especially interested in hearing from those with any psychology/neuroscience or philosophy of mind background. This thing freaks me out.

Also, lacking any real routine, I’ve found myself bouncing here and there on the web, skirmishing with the sometimes bizarre and apparently deathless permutations of my Requires Only That You Hate blog war. Aside for the predictable reasons (vanity, public-perception anxiety, etc.) one of the big things that has motivated me to speak out has been the way Peter Watts has been taken to task, not so much for daring to defend me, but for calling ACM (aka, “The Dude”) a ‘rabid animal.’

So Cathrynne Valente, for instance, recently became embroiled, lumping Peter in with the very real misogynists who piled on Sady Doyle for her feminist critique of George back when A Game of Thrones first broke out on HBO. John Scalzi picked her piece up on his blog, resulting in a raucous and troubling debate he quickly decided to shut down. I made a reply bemoaning the fact that Peter’s position has essentially been flattened into him calling ACM a ‘rabid animal’ – my stomach is clenching in shame more at the thought of this than at anything ACM or her troll cohorts have said!

In the course of these brief engagements, I found myself rewarded with a few more perplexities along the lines of ‘females fearing sexual violence on TPB’ and ‘culturally insulting nomads.’ Nick Mamatas, for instance, declaring that ACM demonstrated exemplary standards because, though she only read 6 pages of The Darkness, her ‘content analysis’ of that interview she quotes provides ample grounds of convicting me of misogyny (and that I’m arguing in ‘bad faith’ for not seeing as much). Or that me simply disagreeing with Cat’s assessment of Peter means that I condone the hateful things that women often encounter on the web – in other words, makes me a misogynist!

I should note though, as impenetrable as I find Nick’s reasoning, he at least has actually tried to answer the questions I posed – and that makes him unique, as far as I know. (My debate with him is still hanging – as difficult as I find his reasoning, his ‘heart filled with good will,’ as he calls it, doesn’t feel all that conducive to constructive debate. It gets hard being accused of bad faith every other line!)

The most bizarre thing is that I’ve been plowing through Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind at the same time, and I will be damned if he isn’t describing all of this to a tee. It’s becoming creepy, really. You realize that ‘reason’ literally has no role to play in these debates, that it really is all about side-taking and other forms of social signalling. Even after all this time, I’m still getting the ‘you should be ashamed’ counter ‘argument.’

Of course, this could be me and my misogynistic confirmation bias at work, but I like to think that asking people what their criteria are is pretty neutral, as is asking people to clarify their inferential leaps. I dunno. But I’m inclined to think I don’t have my head up any particular self-serving or ideological ass on this one.

The amazing thing is how it’s taken on a life all of its own, and seems to have sparked real enmities and divisions between a number of different figures in the SFF community. And that’s what bums me out the most. Because even though it demonstrates the very thing I’ve been bellyaching about all along – the way these tactics short-circuit our ability to reasonably disagree, as well as fuel belief polarization and antagonistic social identifications – no one really gives a flying fuck! No one. I’ve yet to see a single reference to this fact anywhere… and after how many months of thumping this particular tub?

We are all embroiled.

I don’t really frequent the con circuit anymore. But I’ve already decided that the next time I do, I’m going to pretend that none of this happened. The web is a weird place, and the famous ‘online disinhibition effect’ induces people of all stripes to type some pretty harsh things. It may be real, but it’s not quite natural, and so for my part, I will try my best to go about my business grudge free.

But in the meantime, I’ll persist with my questions, regardless of gender or idealogy. I’m not sure I really have any reputation left to lose at this point!