Everybody has stories they tell themselves about the world, and everybody has stories they tell the world about themselves.
There’s this thing I keep seeing coming up in discussions about the Sad Puppies and Gamergate, where a defender of one group or the other will respond to people talking about the actions of the group with, “So you think you know what they’re about better than they do?”
They’ll link to a post where someone has laid out the glorious purpose of their group as being about things no one could argue with (“ETHICS!” say the Gators, “DEMOCRACY!” say the Puppies), and try to insist that we engage with that and only that, taking into account nothing but the story they tell about themselves.
I could point out the hypocrisy involved as neither Gators nor Puppies are fond of taking their perceived enemies at their word, but the fact is that no matter who you are or on what perceived side of any conflict—as the subject heading of this post declares—no one is required to buy your PR.
People will judge your actions. People will judge the things you say when you’re not taking the time to lay out your case the way you want it to be seen, the way you want to see it. People will judge you by who you stand with, and no, this isn’t guilt by association. If your house is infested with fleas and bedbugs, people don’t have to stoop to the level of accusing you of being vermin yourself to have a good reason to decline an invitation.
Vox Day’s PR says that he believes every human being is equally entitled to life and dignity. That’s the story he tells the world about himself. When we look at how he speaks of and to his fellow human beings, though, we are not required to take that story into account over our own judgment and the evidence of our senses.
Gamergate’s PR says that they are anti-censorship and pro-freedom of speech. When they label opinions that they disagree with as lies and try to run anybody who spreads such opinions out of the marketplace of ideas, though, we are not required to take their stated stance into account.
The Sad Puppies’ PR says that they are for a democratic and transparent Hugo selection process and that they just want more people involved to break the power of any cliques.
When they demonize Mary Robinette Kowal for funding 100 new voting memberships to be assigned randomly to any takers, we are not required to believe their PR.
When they select their slates in secret, using unspecified criteria and offering no explanation for where some of the final selections came from or why certain suggestions were rejected in favor of these undemocratic selections, we’re not required to believe their PR.
When we can look at their blogs and the comments by their supporters and see the way they talk about past winners and nominees, we don’t have to believe the story they tell us that they are here because other people have been snobbishly acting to stop the “wrong” authors from winning.
I’m not against the Sad Puppies because I think it would be the end of the world if Larry Correia or Brad Torgersen or one of their hand-picked favorites won an award.
I’m against the Sad Puppies because—no matter what stories they tell the world about themselves—they have demonstrated that they consider the marginal success or recognition of work they disapprove of as sufficient provocation to turn over the apple cart.
You can link me to any number of posts where they explain what they think they’re doing, in the terms they want us to view it. But if the story they tell is out of whack with what else I can see, it’s not likely to make me think more highly of them.