Contra Mozilla

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Total Culture War

The pejorative term "social justice warrior" seems to be a good fit for those who wish to turn every aspect of life into one more front of the culture war. It's worth noting that while there are two sides in the culture war, one side tends to enjoy escalating it more than the other side; one side is perpetually playing defense, and the other side is perpetually offended. As The Federalist's Robert Tracinski puts it, we live in an "era in which we are all being drafted in the culture wars." Indeed we are.

Would I fight in the culture wars otherwise? Probably, primarily because they are simply the visible face of and one facet of an even bigger struggle, and secondarily because I think that the culture is worth fighting for. But to the extent that they have spilled over into every facet of life--this is a bad sign indeed:
By now, we know the basic ingredients of a typical skirmish in Culture War 4.0. It goes something like this: a) a leftist claque starts loudly pushing the “correct” Culture War position onto b) a field previously considered fun, innocuous, apolitical, purely personal, or recreational, and c) accusing anyone who opposes them of being a racist, sexist, bigot who relies on oppressive “privilege” to push everyone else down, while these claims are d) backed up by a biased press that swallows the line of attack uncritically and repeats it....

The innocuous field in which the personal is suddenly discovered to be very political might be fashion, music, toys, sports, or sex, not to mention weddings, flowers, cake-baking, and pizza.

Or video games. Or science fiction....

Science fiction has always been a fertile arena for exploration of big ideas—much more so, these days, than highbrow “literary” fiction. The use of fantastical science fiction premises allows authors to project a future in which everything is done differently, or in which human nature itself has been altered, and this leads them to ask questions about what is really natural, necessary, or essential to human life and what is merely conventional, artificial, and unnecessary. It has been remarked that “big-idea novels are more likely to have an embossed foil dragon on the cover than a Booker Prize badge.”

Clearly, all of this freewheeling exploration of ideas has got to stop.

So in marched the Social Justice Warriors, a term adopted in the Gamergate controversy to describe the kind of politically correct busybodies who decide that the output of every field has to be remade to promote the proper, “progressive” social agenda—or else.
Speculative fiction is a genre which is meant to be enjoyed. It may contain some serious ideas, and sometimes a serious treatment of everything from race relations to religion to hobbies to philosophy of mind. The treatment may be done well or poorly, and it perhaps goes without saying that these treatments might be woven into the story, but that the story is also an important part of why we read fiction in general.

I know where to find good essays on any of these things--and where to find bad ones, for that matter. I don't need them to be the sole motivator for every story I read. That's true even if I happen to agree with or find edification from the perspectives presented--which is often not the case in reading a variety of secular and progressive writers (they are legion, in science fiction and even fantasy as elsewhere). Certainly there are some SF writers, even some big names, who are basically on-board with the social justice warriors' program of co-opting the genre (along with everything else), or at the very least oppose any effort to oppose it.

The social justice warrior type sees a free field in which ideas are able to flourish--both right ideas and wrong ones, I might add--and demands that it be made to conform. Other ideas must not be given voice, even in the field of fiction*. I'll grant that ideas have consequences, but this? It's almost as bad as the digital "lynch mobs" which are formed against bakers and florists and pizzerias anytime the proprietors of those businesses suggest that they would be unwilling to cater a "gay marriage" ceremony (though not one of these has said they'd refuse services to "gays" as such) as a matter of conscience. Actually, I have a sometime friend who is still getting flak for a blog post which she wrote four years ago protesting that she couldn't even take her kids to the park anymore without having certain immoral actions assault their senses**. And the demonizing of Faithful Christians by secular progressives seems to be escalating rather than plateauing.

It's as if the progressive social justice-warriors types have decided that every aspect of our lives must be made to serve their agendas. If this can include our private thoughts (and beliefs), then I suppose it comes as no surprise that it would come to include less private things like the fiction we read (or write). The good news, small good news perhaps, is that this is one front of the culture wars which we seem to be winning (for now).

As a weekend bonus, it looks like Analog Science Fiction and Fact is posting pdfs of their Hugo-nominated stories.

*One wonders how many of these people have spent time complaining about the Religious and Scientific authorities of the day's censoring of Galileo, and whether they recognize the inconsistency in so doing. Galileo was at least told that he could treat his theories as theories (read: stories which make sense of the data). Not so with today's espousers of unpopular ideas.

**Her comment on the matter is
"I hate these distant media religious freedom debates. If you want to threaten my freedom, say it to my face. We'll deal with it right there....The 'gay rights' advocates still chide me about the 'Can't Even Go to the Park' post from 4 years ago. They never mention any remorse for one of their own wishing my children would be beaten, raped, and murdered. I decided a long time ago that they cannot be reasoned with."
That about sums it up.

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