Sad Puppies and magical thinking

So, I’ve characterized the line of thinking behind the Puppies’ discontent as being unable to understand when reality runs in ways that are counter to their tastes/beliefs without imagining some kind of dark conspiracy or cabal (or “clique”, to use their preferred term).

This belief is so strong that a combination of confirmation bias and the effect of “believing is seeing” causes them to interpret all available information in ways that point to the existence of the cabal, even when this requires them to imagine that people are meaning the exact opposite of what they say.

Given that, this tidbit by John C. Wright (and yes, I double checked sources this time) on the subject of the growing support for same-sex marriage equality is perhaps less surprising:

Considering the miniscule number of people who suffer from the objectively disordered passion of same sex attraction, considering the logical impossibility of living chastely within an oath to pursue unnatural sex acts, considering the absurdity of insisting on a mating ritual for partners who cannot mate, and considering the lack of penalty for divorce of such unions or betrayal of the oath, one is left with no choice but to conclude that there is no human reason for this surprising and surprisingly victorious social movement. It is a supernatural effect, and it does not come from the regions of the unseen order favorable to human life.

Hence, prayer and fasting is the most logical response, and the most effective.

Got that? Given that all the things he believes about marriage and gay people [MUST BE BOTH OBJECTIVELY TRUE AND MANIFESTLY OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE ELSE], there is no conclusion we can draw except that evil magic is responsible for the current state of affairs, wherein it looks like his irrational prejudices backed by selective readings of culture-specific religious texts and pseudoscience are held by a shrinking and increasingly irrelevant minority.

The natural world won’t allow him to be wrong about this, so if it seems like he is, then the cause can only be some malignant force beyond the natural world that is selectively overwriting the laws of physics in order to bring it about.

The thought process amounts to:

  1. I can’t possibly be wrong.
  2. I appear to be wrong.
  3. Therefore, magic.

Now, before we get too far ahead of things, I should mention that I am not discounting the existence of the supernatural. The older I get, the more spiritual I find myself becoming and the more value I find in the moral lessons of the Bible (where “moral” refers to questions of how we treat each other as human beings, and not specific codes of conduct for particular peoples who lived thousands of years ago).

So the point here is not “Let’s laugh at the silly Christian for believing in silly things.”

The point here is, let’s have a moment of pity for the man who is so up in himself that when he finds himself on the wrong side of history he can only account for the discrepancy by imagining an inimical force has rejected actual reality and substituted something else, and then let’s consider what this (admittedly rather extreme) example an tell us about the general psychology among the Puppies and Gators who are currently making such a noisy mess of the hobbies/genres that so many other people are just trying to simply enjoy.

Popular opinion and the course of history are going against him on something, so John C. Wright imagines the fiery claws of that popular Christian fanfic character, The Devil, must be at work against him, which allows him to both contextualize what’s happening in a way that’s more acceptable and imagine himself as a sort of spiritual warrior actively fighting against what is essentially a magical conspiracy.

Isn’t that essentially what’s happening with much of Gamergate and the Sad Puppies? They see a game or book they don’t approve of or get the appeal of getting some buzz, and they can’t make sense of it, so they reject the straightforward reality of the situation and imagine there is something MORE going on. Not something more than natural, as is the case here, but… more than what’s visible on the surface. Cabals. Cliques. Conspiracies.

Nobody could really like games like Gone Home or Depression Quest. Nobody could really think authors like Rachel Swirsky or N.K. Jemisin or John Scalzi deserve nominations. No, there must be something else going on. It’s obvious, so obvious that they have no choice but to believe it.

That’s a scary idea.

No choice but to believe.