There has of late been an enormous storm in the inward-looking teacup that is the progressive wing of SFF blogger-dom.
A semi-famous performance hate blogger known as Requires Only That You Hate, or Requires Hate, or RH, has been revealed as being several other very active and very vicious trolls. More surprisingly, RH has been shown to be the Campbell-Award nominated new-on-the-scene author Benjanun Sriduangkaew.
Inconsistencies in this person's trail of wreckage cast doubts on whether anything they've said is true. Are they really female, really Asian, who knows? I'll use 'her' in this post for convenience rather than out of conviction. (edit - it turns out she's actually part of a multi-billion dollar political dynasty, so you might want to replace "punching up" with "shitting on from a great height".)
What is clear is that RH is a bully who has used threats of violence and rape to intimidate vulnerable people, and has been successfully doing so for years, much of the time hiding behind a cloak of defending those same people and battling for social justice.
Anyway - I've been watching the fallout from RH's unveiling with interest. Most of the condemnation has arisen from the aforementioned teacup, with people who were abused coming forward now that the tide has turned and RH's ability to hurt their career, or just plain hurt them, has been removed. The SFF community doesn't like bullies and many good-hearted folk are speaking out about it.
This is all good.
The part that interests me most is when RH was in her prime, posting to her hate blog but with her victimisation of a wide range of writers from various minorities largely unknown. (I'll note here that I'm unclear whether she went after these people because she saw them as competition, doing what she wanted to do but hadn't yet succeeded in doing - or if she just had faith in her aliases and likes to hurt people ... or perhaps is a racist white guy in Alabama having a ball...).
At that time RH's activity revulsed a large section of the SFF community but she still had a sizeable body of support, an audience who ate up her rants. Some of these admitted she sailed close to (and over) the line, or indeed any line you cared to draw, but were cheerfully tolerant of it because they felt she was in their camp politically, she was 'punching up', and her claimed minority status gave her some kind of pass. Others were rabidly on board with everything she did - a mob psychology well documented by one of her higher profile targets, R Scott Bakker. A rent-a-crowd that literally believed every word she wrote, even when she admitted not having read the books she was writing about. Disciples who would caper to amuse her (one lick-spittle writing approximately 50,000 words roundly condemning my own work just to earn an atta-boy from her).
Here's RH's 'review' of Prince of Thorns, she deleted it from her site when exposed as Benjanun Sriduangkaew recently, but the internet has a long memory. Of most interest to me are the comments. That gives you a sense of the echo chamber she had going. EDIT: well s/he has managed to get the review deleted by the archive machine too - which shows a certain level of desperation. It also allows me to demonstrate a classic RH tactic. I can tell you what the 'review' was like and expect you to accept my version without reference to the text. It was a foul, vicious rant, with the sort of language/hate that you might expect from neo-Nazis.
I saw one of these people commenting on the expose linked at the top of this post. Her defence was that she helped out with the RH blog posts but 'only against white guys'.
And that's the needle on whose point these particular 2 cents are spinning.
First let's admit that there is encoded somewhere into all of us a primal desire to form gangs and hurt 'others'. Presumably it served a useful evolutionary purpose. You and I are no different at core from the crowds cheering the death of gladiators in the circus, or the picnickers at the guillotining, or the folk applauding the bear baiting. The trouble is that we know these are not good things and we try to grow out of these 'simple pleasures'. We try to be better people, more socially aware.
However - along comes RH and tells us we're wonderful non-racist, non-sexist human beings ... and do we want to come and bait some authors? Especially privileged white male authors. It's fine - because they're PRIVILEGED WHITE MALE AUTHORS ... it's not as if they're human or individual or have feelings ... let's get them!
And, absolved of conscience in much the same way that the popes of old absolved the crusaders of responsibility for the means because the end was so desired, a pitchfork wielding mob of honest, caring, socially minded, non-racist, non-sexist SFF fans ... unleashed incredible bile at anyone RH set her cross-hairs over.
The thing is ... obviously ... it's not the direction in 'punching up' that's the important bit. It's the punching.
The minor friction burn I took from RH's post on my work is nothing compared to what she unleashed on far more vulnerable people, struggling authors from various minorities, people with far less support whose careers depended much more on communities that RH was able to manipulate. Even RH's mentioning of my children in her review, whilst I could make some song and dance about it, was largely water off my duck-like back. It's not that I'm complaining about - it's not the minimal hurt done to me. It's the observation that so many people who pride themselves on having kindness, equality, fairness at the forefront of their thinking were so easily turned into the very thing they hate by a little clever manipulation, the deployment of the right buzz words, the playing of the right cards, and, frankly, the thrill of the chase.