A lot has been written about the Sad Puppies campaign and this year’s Hugo awards, but I thought I’d shine a light on one aspect that hasn’t gotten too much coverage, and the lessons that can be learned from it.
At one point, during a Podcast, Lou Antonelli let slip that after having read something horrible that David Gerrold had posted on his Facebook page, something he decided to take seriously, something that if it were true would foretell harm befalling someone at Sasquan, the 2015 WorldCon, he decided that the Spokane Police Department should be made aware of this potential threat.
This should be perfectly reasonable, considering how much people complain these days about being made to feel “Unsafe” and demand that authority figures do something about it even before anything happens. Although from all evidence, the Spokane PD took it about as seriously as a report of a UFO, and absolutely nothing came of it. This is an important point: Absolutely no harm was done to anyone.
On the other hand, I find it perfectly credible that Lou had seen something loathsome and worrisome on Gerrold’s Facebook page. I have a Liberal friend who would quite often Like or Comment on items from Gerrold, and to a one, they were vile, evil and spiteful screeds against those not of his political stripe, frequently wishing for ironic harm to befall them. And the comments from his fans seemed to be a contest of who could amplify the hate to the highest shriek. I finally found the way to stop those posts from appearing in my feed without having to unfollow my misguided friend – I simply replied to one of these vituperative calls for conservative blood, I can’t recall what it was exactly, and posted a disagreement. Mr. Gerrold promptly blocked me. (Certain idiots over on File 770 refused to believe that I couldn’t see Gerrold’s feed, and insisted that I was lying, right up until he came on the thread and confirmed that I was blocked, at which point the issue was dropped as if it had never been, and that they had never been wrong. They also refused to believe that he had been sanitizing his timeline leading up to the Con. I leave the proof of that as an exercise to those internet warriors who make extensive use of archive.org.)
If one takes the position that Gerrold is merely an internet blowhard, and that he doesn’t actually mean any of it to take place outside of his fevered imagination, then contacting the police over an internet crank was probably taking things too far. And to Lou’s credit, he did what any proper gentleman should have done, he admitted his mistake (such as it was) and apologized.
His apology fit all of the criteria I’ve spelled out before for what makes up a proper apology. He laid out exactly what he had done, owned it, admitted that his actions were inappropriate, made it right by retracting his police complaint, and promised to not do it again. He did not try to justify it by saying anything about what Gerrold had said that concerned him enough to think a police report was necessary. That would be trying to shift blame, and not proper for a true apology.
Mr. Gerrold graciously accepted the apology, and in any civilized society, this would be the end of the issue.
Of course, this is not a civilized society we’re talking about, this is Fandom.
In any case, the SJW side of fandom rose in coordinated furor over this revelation, making all kinds of demands for Lou’s head, literally and figuratively. They wanted his career ended, they wanted him to be collectively shunned, and especially they wanted him banned from WorldCon. Indeed, one fragile flower who had some minor position on the Con staff, who didn’t know Lou, had never met Lou, who was utterly outside Lou’s acquaintance, became so worked up over how horrible and dangerous this Antonelli fellow must be, that she felt “Unsafe” that he would be in the same hotel as her during the con, and was utterly dismayed that the ConCom wouldn’t act on her vague feelings of unrest and Do Something about it. She felt so Betrayed by the lack of action, she quit her post.
The objections did get some attention. Somehow these events, taking place months before the convention and not involving the Con in any official capacity might have run afoul of some vaguely-worded anti-harassment policy the ConCom had concocted, and considering how voluminously the hate-speech had been flying over the whole Sad Puppies campaign, it was sure to be applied one-sidedly. But Sasquan issued a statement on their Facebook page stating that after consulting with Mr. Gerrold, they would not be sanctioning Lou in any way, and that Lou had already promised to be on his best behavior at the Con in his apology. On the surface, this was a perfectly reasonable position. I’ll get to what lay underneath it in a moment.
Needless to say, this did not sit well with the screaming SJW faction. Lou was a Sad Puppy Nominee! He’d borne (not so) false witness against one of their heroes – The host of the besieged Hugo Awards! Even if Gerrold had accepted the apology, as utterly uninvolved parties, they could not! All of the usual suspects came out on that thread, inventing stories about how they felt personally threatened by Lou’s presence at the Con, and how it was only right that he be banned, shunned, and destroyed for his crimes. Remember, the only offense was that Lou reported Gerrold’s public statements to the police, but to these fanatics, it was as if a serial killer was being welcomed with open arms. How could it possibly be that the Con would not take this opportunity to savage and destroy one of the hated Sad Puppies? (Oh, they didn’t say that in so many words, but it was clearly implied.) But there was a reason.
This coordinated overreaction extended to other venues too. One ‘zine editor ignored the 72-hour rule to her detriment, and in the eager rush to be seen as being on the right side and “Do Something,” broke a publishing agreement with Lou for one of his shorts. It really wasn’t her place as an uninvolved party to take steps to punish Lou, and if she had waited a prudent amount of time, she would have learned about Gerrold accepting the apology. And instead of stepping back from that position in light of the new information, she became adamant. This did not reflect well on her, except among those who were calling for Lou’s destruction.
So, getting to what I alluded to above. On the surface, The Sasquan ConCom and Gerrold’s actions were honorable and gentlemanly. Granting forgiveness, especially when the affront caused no actual harm should have been ultimately to their credit, but the events of the Hugo presentation revealed their true motivation. Of course, all of the SJW Fen screaming for Lou’s head couldn’t be let in on the plot, which left them angry and confused (moreso than usual). If the Con had given in to the internet lynch mob, Lou would not have been present at the ceremony, and he would have been missed by Gerrold’s long-planned public insult to everyone nominated by the Sad Puppies campaign. After all, the “Assterisks” had been commissioned a month or two in advance, so pretending to be the better man was necessary in order to foist one upon Lou. Remember, according to the Sasquan ConCom’s statement, it was Gerrold who insisted that they not exclude Lou. In the face of all the enmity between them, why else would he do that? It was pure strategy. And if it took making a farce out of the Hugo awards, and destroying their credibility in order to drive out the Sad Puppy upstarts the ConCom was willing to make that sacrifice.