Baser Instincts

It’s the first Friday of the month again. For some reason I thought I had another week until it was my turn. Weird, right?

Part of the really cool thing about the Mad Genius Club is that I get to stand on my little soapbox for a day and you all must bow down and worship me. At least, that is what’s supposed to happen. Kate promised me minions. I want my minions, damn it.

Anyway, there’s been so much kerfuffle the past month about everything from conventions to Sad and Rabid Puppies that I really have nothing to offer on current events in the publishing world. I mean, really. It’s not as though I’m holding back. It’s just that everyone under the sun has spouted off about it so far and, quite frankly, little old me is lost in the shuffle. Really. I see “Sad Puppies candidates” and my name never pops up on those lists. *sniff* I’m just not evil enough to be given my membership coin.

If you follow my blog (my soapbox, my free advertising space) you’ll know that I’ve crushed two short stories in the past week, as well as have finished about half of the novel I’ve been working on for two months. While I normally write much faster than this (see: 2014), real life has been rather vexing of late and I really am beginning to wonder if this entire “adult” thing is all it’s cracked up to be.

Of course, if you judge adulthood by those who claim to have a moral superiority over my Mad Genius companions, adulthood can go blow a rabbit. Vastly overrated, I’d say.

Yeah, I don’t like being an adult. It sucks. You’re held accountable for your actions and words, you have to stand up and accept that some things in life are just plain old crap, and you can’t treat people like crap and not expect them to come back and treat you the same way. I was always told to treat others as I want to be treated. Unfortunately, my fellow (Millennials? Gen Y’ers? I’m somewhere in the middle there) Americans aged 18-36 have forgotten this. They have gone their whole lives being told that they are special and unique that when reality confronts them with something that counters to this belief, they lash out in anger. I’m not sure when it began to happen (I’m thinking it was the mid to late 90’s, because as weird as the 80’s were, the 90’s were far stranger) but it has had a profound sociological shock upon our world. Some good, some bad, but all of it different than what we have seen for the past 10,000 years of human sociological development. It doesn’t fit the pattern of history, and the belief that parents are still responsible for their children’s actions at the age of 25 flies in the face of evolution.

But… why? That’s a really damn good question, if you ask me.

As a historian, one of the things I’ve always looked for was social changes in the structure of a nation during their rise and (eventual) fall. Most social revolutions are slow burning, which allows time for the nation to accept the change in ideology and structure. The Renaissance is a great example of a slow-burn sociological revolution, if you think about it. There was an undercurrent already there, a chaffing against a central structured authority (hello, Vatican readers! I know we have a few) but it had not really defined itself in any shape or form until the Renaissance started to sweep through southern and western Europe.

The exact opposite of the “slow-burn” sociological revolution, however, was the Reign of Terror. Oh yeah. Revolutionaries were so hell-bent on expunging “bad think” and any sort of aristocratic ideology that if you even mentioned the incorrect name of a day (France changed their months to different names, and had a different name for every day of the year. It was confusing as hell, I know) you could be imprisoned, or worse. There was little time for society and the people to adapt to the new changes due to the frenetic pace of the Terrors that the inevitable backlash and desire to jump back to the old ways allowed for Napoleon Bonaparte to rush in, take over France, and set Europe on course for World War I.

And many of you wonder why I flip out when people quote Robespierre when spouting off about liberty and freedom.

We hover at that same precipice now, only instead of a guillotine, social media is the weapon of choice. I don’t blame them for using this tactic, though. It allows for one side to stay in the shadows and attack from safety without having to expose oneself to rebuttals and counter attacks. But this also takes away the entire human interaction that has defined us as as advanced species since we figured out what opposable thumbs were for. I’ve watched both sides of this culture war eat their own in an attempt to maintain ideological purity. Sarah Hoyt would tell you that it reminds her of the Communist purges of Europe in the 1970’s (at least, I’m pretty sure she would).

But this shadow lurking, these attacks via social media… this is not human. This is something older, something more terrifying. This is the use of technology to sate our baser, more primal instincts. Our desire to control our fellow humans, to fear those we cannot control. Everyone does it. It’s how you internalize it and handle your own desires is what defines you.

And no, I’m not one of those people who will argue that everything we do is human, because that’s what we are. No, that’s a cop-out. There is a difference between being a human, and being an animal. Our behavior dictates which we are. Our choices define what we are. To exclude our acknowledgements of societal achievements means a loss of our very civilization. Our civilization — the idea of it — is what has given us this tremendous opportunity to live in a world where we can lurk in the shadows of social media and name call, though.

It’s kind of screwed up, I know.


  1. One quibble. Parents were often responsible for their adult children throughout history. They were also the boss of those adults. A far cry from today’s responsibility without authority

  2. In following up on Kate’s post yesterday about RavenCon, I came across something I’ve been actively avoiding: Gamergate. I can’t even tell who is doing what to who, and when there is so much over the top ranting, I really don’t know what is believable. One group is insisting that a leader of the other group is a transexual. One guy has been pretending ‘as a joke’ to stalk another for two years, and just got caught, when people realized he wasn’t serious about really stalking. It’s MESSED up.
    But, I shall attempt to ignore that which is ignoble. In the meantime, here’s a review of Cedar’s great first novel, which has such a terrific back story.

    1. If you’re talking about “Brianna Wu,” she really did start out as a guy named “John Walker Flynt” and then changed names to “Brianna Flynt.” The “Wu” is from being married (post-operation, I think?) to an sf artist named Wu.

      Not a secret, all public knowledge. Got more convincing plastic surgery than most people with operations get.

        1. Someone tolerant and accepting would know that there really are people that barking mad. 🙂

          It is a real thing that happens, and it is apparently associated with a very high suicide rate. One school of thought points to developmental defects that can cause an intersexed state. Chromosomal duplication and the like. Another argues that, for example, many of the women in certain sorts of game development are MTF transsexuals.

          As for the specific person, I don’t know. If there is a risk factor for instability to the level of increased suicide risk, it would explain a lot of the reported behavior.

    2. Gamers are by and large very competitive sorts who sink considerable time and money into mastering skills and systems that may have no real world value. The bulk of the significant commercial market is male, although I can easily think of several women here who play. (Mary is a long term D&D player, also Foxfier, Shadow, Amanda and Kate.)

      The media providing gamers with information about video games has long been sketchy, very likely shading reviews in a form of unadmitted advertisement for consideration. Around the middle of last year, it was reported that a game developer had been bribing game journalists with sexual favors. The fight became significant when game media outlets apparently coordinated a defense of ‘gamers are evil misogynists, who are going to be replaced commercially by womeny goodness’.

      One of the figures on the anti gamer gate side has long been in games media profiting off complaining about subject matter and creative choices in video games. Reportedly focusing on the American market, and doing the equivalent of telling someone their short story should have had a female main character. The American game market, perhaps because of the conservative Christian influence, does not have much market penetration by certain games produced for the Japanese market, which are substantially more offensive than anything she is likely to have made much complaining about.

      Perhaps to be continued…

  3. “I see “Sad Puppies candidates” and my name never pops up on those lists. *sniff* I’m just not evil enough to be given my membership coin.”

    Jason, I duuno about you, but I’m sure, in my case it could not possibly be a lack of quality. So _this_ year I’m going to be brutally EVIL!!!!!!! Yes, I’m plotting my evil plots from my lair in suburban Texas and 2015 SHALL BE MINE!!!!!! All I have to do is figure out how to get Kate the Impaler to actually read it . . .

    1. Kidnap her? Would fit the required operation style for EVIL. Ransom is reading the story. Okay… maybe not. Might not end well. But if you do at least remove all sharp objects from the area first. 😀 (And tell us so we can get the popcorn in time)

      1. I don’t think I want to be immortalized as . . . I don’t want to find out what Kate’s imagination might come up with. Sorry, but go ahead and have popcorn anyway.

  4. I see things differently, maybe because I am a coward. The Social (in)Justice Brigade are much preferable to Robespierre, by virtue of being cowardly and incompetent. The worst most of them can do is insults and insinuations. Their ability to cause physical damage is limited to SWATting, and most of them wouldn’t dare because the police could track them down.

    They are basically failures who managed to take over institutions around the time technology enabled us to bypass them.

    1. Wrong. Under the banner of “animal rights”, SJWs have gotten what amount to Jim Crow laws passed against one segment of society, and as a result many have lost their livelihoods, a few their homes (myself among them), and at least two I know of lost their lives. There have been many millions of dollars worth of damage to property. If you’re in agriculture, you become painfully aware of this. Ag accounts for only 2% of the U.S. population, tho, so I can’t really blame the 98% for not knowing that SJWs are waging war against their food supply.

        1. All branches. Restrictions on who can work for you, when (or whether) you can get water, taxation of farm equipment, lawsuits against pig farms because of water pollution, then entire Wetlands Protection Act, lawsuits to block reservoir construction, bizarre social media campaigns against chicken farmers, dairies, and anyone who isn’t “organic” under their definition.

  5. I disagree. In my view social media are not the weapon, they are the control of the weapon, just like whisper campaigns and rumors controlled the guillotine during the Terror. The problem is in the people who allow themselves to be manipulated by these means and then do real-world harm to the targets.

  6. But this shadow lurking, these attacks via social media… this is not human.
    Oh, it’s very human. Stroll through Pompeii and read the graffiti, or browse through anonymous pamphlets of yesteryear, or read the newspapers of another age and discover why Jefferson said the most truthful part was the advertisements. Or compare the two drawings Revere did of the Boston Massacre, one for the public and the one for the trial. None of this is new, Even monkeys sling poo, and humans have never really improved on the practice.

  7. Well, the whole social-media-as-guillotine thing works only as long as the other side insists on playing by the rules. When the rest of the country gets tired of this crap and takes the gloves off…

    …well, I suspect quite a few of these Mommy’s basement, Pajama Boy Robespierres and Saint-Justs will find out that rough justice works both ways. Suddenly, violently and all over the place (to borrow a line from one of my favorite Simon R. Green novels).

    If nothing else, the mob itself will pull them down. How’d the actual French Revolution work out for the actual Robespierre and Saint-Just, in the end?

  8. It’s a new technology spewing the same old garbage, as I see it, but amplified to enormous levels.

    Excellent article, Jason. Very thought-provoking. (I know I’m late to the party. Can’t help that. Edit R Bust, sayeth I.)

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