Writing in an intolerant society

We all remember what’s happened in the overall publishing market, and in science fiction and fantasy in particular, over the past couple of decades.  Political correctness, “woke” thinking, and intolerance have come to dominate traditional markets for authors.  Fortunately, independent publishing has become a viable alternative, offering a platform that isn’t dependent on one’s views on anything in particular.

However, there’s a wider issue, and that is the society within which and for which we are writing.  We need to take into account that our society is changing, and probably not for the better.  How are we going to adjust to this in the way we write, and perhaps in our content?  Is it even necessary to do so?  For some of us, it probably isn’t;  for others, it certainly will be.

I’d like to start by quoting from a recent article by Simon Black, titled “When the world became unrecognizable in less than a decade“.

It’s amazing when you think about it– how quickly the world can radically change… sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. We’ve seen plenty of examples in our own lifetimes.

In 1995 hardly anyone had even heard of the Internet. By 2005 it became so ubiquitous that we couldn’t imagine our lives without it.

In 2000 hardly anyone had a mobile phone. By 2010 nearly everyone had one.

At the start of 2007, no one had ever seen a touch-screen smart phone– Steve Jobs would unveil the first ever iPhone in January of that year.

And in less than a decade, our entire species has become completely zombified, swiping and scrolling our lives away while we walk, eat, and drive without ever looking up.

… each of these trends represents a radical shift in the way we live, work, and engage with one another.

We’re living through another one right now… a powerful, dangerous social trend that’s being driven by anger and ignorance.

Think about it: 5 years ago around this time, things still felt pretty normal.

There was always political bickering and ideological conflict… but discourse was pretty civil. No one advocated for violence or called someone else a racist simply for having a different opinion.

Then all of a sudden, in late 2015, people started becoming completely unglued.

At first the madness was isolated– ultra-liberal universities, pockets of social media. We saw crybully students in California and on the east coast physically blocking certain speakers from setting foot on campus– anyone whose opinions they found ‘offensive’.

Like most movements, this one started slowly… but quickly gathered momentum.

Suddenly it became acceptable to expect everyone else to conform to your whiny sensitivities.

Terms like “safe space” entered the lexicon, and ‘social justice warriors’’ started demanding that we avoid using certain everyday words and pronouns to ensure that no one would be offended.

At the same time, socialists came out of hiding and quickly became mainstream. Some of the most popular politicians in the world now are card-carrying socialists.

. . .

This trend is a major force, like a runaway freight train … And given a broader view of history, it’s unlikely that this trend goes gentle into that good night. In fact it’s far more likely to accelerate.

And just like other major trends, this one also stands to fundamentally transform the way we live, work, and do business … So, if you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to start thinking about a Plan B.

There’s more at the link.

A “Plan B” for independent authors?  Yes, I think that’s important.  For example, what would it do to us if the outlets we currently use for our work – the Amazons, Ingrams and others of their ilk – were to start censoring the books and writers they allowed to use their facilities, much as YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter censor their users?  Would that put some of us out of business?  What alternatives are there?  If there aren’t any, are we going to start new ones, or modify our writing (and our public personae) so that we still have access to the outlets we’re using now?  Those are questions requiring answers.

The sentiments freely expressed at present by much of left-wing America are dangerously close to totalitarianism.  Those of us who grew up fighting the reality of Communism in other countries (for example, Sarah Hoyt, Monalisa Foster – who’s just written about that very subject – and myself) know this all too well, and we’re very uncomfortable to see it here.

Cover 'Pretending to Sleep'

Those preaching such left-wing, progressive drivel often have no idea what they’re talking about.  They’ve mostly been indoctrinated and brainwashed by liberal/progressive schools, colleges and universities, which take great care not to teach them how to think for themselves, or educate them in the history of societies that did.  That’s something we need to address in the education of our own children, and those with whom we associate.  As the saying goes, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  As far as I’m concerned, I want to light so many rational, logical candles that the progressive left accuses me of intellectual arson!  That’s a label I’ll wear with pride.

Rod Dreher says we’re terribly naive about the threat we’re facing.  I think he’s right.

This stuff is so outrageous that we can’t wrap our minds around how these people will ever come to rule us. Listen to what these people who grew up under communism are saying!

Nadine Gordimer said:

“All the young are candidates for the solutions of communism or fascism when there are no alternatives to despair or dissipation.”

The religion of social justice is rushing in to fill the vacuum. Nice liberals, and nice conservatives, cannot allow themselves to think of where this might go. Solzhenitsyn knew better:

If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings, that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums.

So did Dr. Silvester Krcmery, a Slovak Catholic lay leader in the underground church, who suffered isolation and torture in a communist prison for his faith and resistance. In the memoir he wrote after communism’s fall, Krcmery warned future generations that the past could be prelude to the future if they were not vigilant:

We are so often naive in our thinking. We live, contented and safe, with the idea that in a civilized country, in the mostly cultured and democratic environment of our times, such a coercive regime is impossible. We forget that in unstable countries, a certain political structure can lead to indoctrination and terror, where individual elements and stages of brainwashing are already implemented. This, at first, is quite inconspicuous. However, often in a very short time, it can develop into a full undemocratic totalitarian system.

Again, more at the link.

Robert Zimmerman offers a real-world example (complete with video evidence) of such intolerance in action.  He notes:

Note that am not defending this woman’s political beliefs … I really don’t know much about them. And in fact, I don’t care … This is the United States. She has the right to walk on a public street and express her opinion without fear. Or at least, she should have that right. It appears however that in too many places in today’s America, such ideas of freedom of speech are no longer honored, replaced by mob rule and a mindless, emotional, and soviet-style despotism.

Nor should it matter any longer whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. This violence and hate that now dominates the power structure and culture within the left … has become a direct attack on the principles of freedom and justice epitomized by our Constitution and our culture. These people no longer support these values, only the acquisition of power over everyone else, by any means necessary. You only need to watch this video to understand this.

More at the link.

We need to understand that anyone who won’t go along with “mob rule”, or meekly allow themselves to be silenced, is in danger of running headlong into such opposition.  Fortunately, many of us live in areas where such physical confrontations are unlikely.  Sadly, some of us are not so blessed.  Furthermore, what about conventions?  Will less-than-fully-“woke” conventions be disrupted by those who are offended by their lack of “solidarity” with the current zeitgeist?  Frankly, I won’t be surprised if that happens.

I submit we need to take such factors into account as we write, and plan accordingly for our future.  What say you, fellow writers and enthusiasts?

36 thoughts on “Writing in an intolerant society

  1. My only quibble is that as early as 2008 I was being called a racist for not supporting Obama. The only possible reason to not vote for him, after all, was because of his skin color (and his funny name). Back then the word “racist” had meaning and stung when it was tossed my way. Now? Not so much.

    But I have noticed the way the world has gone absolutely batshit insane in the last 5 years (to put a round number on it) and I wonder how much is actual insanitu, and how much is just giving the megaphone to the crazy guy on the corner.

    1. Most of the “cancel this book” outrages seem to originate on Twitter. So, basically nobodies with too much time on their hands. But, if you’re dealing with Tradpub, it seems they’re likely to bow to twitmobs. They even put those “morality clauses” in their contracts to give themselves cover for their kowtowing to the mobs. The power of a Courtney Milan or a Mark Waid always seems to depend on getting a tradpublisher to drop a writer.

      But, it’s not clear to me if *indie* writers need to care what a Courtney Milan says. I’ve only heard of one credible report of an NPC attempting to get a book off Amazon — and it failed. But Patreon (Jordan Peterson), YouTube (Dennis Prager), Kickstarter? What are the alternatives in those cases?

      1. Yeah, but you overlook one VERY important factoid: Those niTWITS vote. That’s one thing that Trump and his campaign recognized very early and through his previous 2 tests of the political waters before he went all in in 2016. And as a candidate, he was about to call Twitter’s censorship bluff. I strongly suspect that Trump could have torpedoed Twitter into bankruptcy and inoperability within 3 months if they’d seriously tried to silence him.

      2. There is BitChute as a substitute for YouTube — some of the anti-jihad websites I follow have been using it after YouTube removed their videos documenting religious violence.

  2. my quibble with Simon’s portion is that… well, IBM showed off the first touch-screen smartphone in 1992.

      1. IIRC I was on my 3rd GSM “Windows Mobile” phone (2 of them being an HTC Harrier & an HTC Blue Angel [‘cos I liked the keyboards], all being second-hand) when the iPhone was announced.

        They weren’t common, but even in NZ there were enough of them that I had no problems finding a decent priced one on our local knock-off of Ebay at the time.

        The fact that people believe Apple created the smartphone & PDA markets scares me sometimes, because it takes “revisionist history” to an entirely new level (& no, I’m not denying Apple created the Newton, but they didn’t manage to create a market with it).

    1. Well, there’s the whole Palm series of smart phones that had touch screens, first sold in 2002. What the iPhone added was capacitive multi-touch (instead of the Palm’s resistive screen, which required a stylus), well thought out U/I, and probably most important of all, the App Store.

      (BTW, Apple did not invent multi-touch, but were the first to commercialize it.)

      1. The Palm touch screen with style was brilliant. A million times better than these STUPID touch screens. The BlackBerry knock-off and original kindle w/mini keyboards were also prime.

        STUPID. STUPID Touch-screen s.

  3. “I submit we need to take such factors into account as we write, and plan accordingly for our future. What say you, fellow writers and enthusiasts?”

    Be brave, and do not go quietly into that good night.

    Be smart, and make the bastards WORK for it.

    And never give those suckers an even break.

  4. ‘How are we going to adjust to this in the way we write, and perhaps in our content? Is it even necessary to do so? For some of us, it probably isn’t; for others, it certainly will be.”

    My answer to this is that we should not adjust our content. Self-censorship is still censorship. It takes courage to speak the truth, especially to the mob, for they see themselves as the enforcers of a moral high-ground that does not exist.

    As to the writing itself, the challenge remains the same as for any other fiction: Did it pull you in and hold you to the end? Did it make you think? Did it make you feel? Did it stay with you? Or was it instantly forgettable and you just moved on to the next thing that caught your eye.

    There’s a reason I say that I write “Science fiction with heart.” This story is not science fiction and only marginally fiction, but it has heart. And I’ve been told that it has power. To the detractors of myself and my work, that is an unforgivable sin.

    Thank you Peter, for writing this.

  5. Note caps: democrats gonna democrat, yo. If all options are up to majority wish of the moment, then there are no protections for political minorities, nor impermissible acts.

    Practically and in effect, the governments possible in a society depend on the aggregated values of every individual in a population.

    Lot of Americans are in their values, a mix of institutional democrat and institutional republican. They like some of the forms of a republic, and at the same time wish to get change when they want it. When part of America has a lot of pure democrats in an area, things get pretty horrible quickly.

    One cannot hope to personally control the values other people hold. Technically, there is an ability to influence, but that really depends on the choices of others. I think the best approach may be that with the information we have, there are many possible near future societies. I think it is unhealthy to approach society as something that can be fit to personal comfort. It is better to have an unchanging framework of principles that one makes one’s political decisions within, so that one can be true in any of the futures.

    In summary, you are quite correct. 1. Attempt to persuade the persuadable. 2. Look for fallback opportunities, in case it is still possible to live according to your values in this world. 3. Stick to your guns, even if it results in your death.

    The question for me is if I am on the correct path? If I have stepped off, can I return, or am I too stupid and lazy?

  6. “what would it do to us if the outlets we currently use for our work – the Amazons, Ingrams and others of their ilk – were to start censoring the books and writers they allowed to use their facilities, much as YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter censor their users? Would that put some of us out of business? What alternatives are there? If there aren’t any, are we going to start new ones, or modify our writing (and our public personae) so that we still have access to the outlets we’re using now? Those are questions requiring answers.”

    Peter, I think your last question in that paragraph needs to be answered first. Are you going to bow to the whims of the Mob State, or are you going to remain true to your writing preferences even if they oppose the Mob State? Some of you have to eat, and unfortunately, reality is such that some of you will eat crow, whether you like it or not, just to survive a bit longer. That’s not the Hero’s Journey; but more like the Fallen Caryatid, broken, crushed, and still barely trying.

    Some of you are going to choose to fight. /CHEER! You need to look over the battlefield environment. Where are the choke points? Where are the gatekeepers? In the physical world, there are two points you can be shut down. One at the ISP level. If you can’t even get ON the internet because a company doesn’t want to support you, what outlet you use is moot. Since most of you can’t create your own telecommunications company, you need to ensure access via legislation. And those hordes of niTWITS and activists literally swarm state and federal legislatures because (1) they don’t have any other jobs, or (2) are being actually compensated to be there.

    The other physical choke point is the outlet, the commercial application host that you sell your books through. Right now it seems that the solution to being blocked by one is to move to another, and so on and so forth, rinse and repeat as needed. The problem is Progressive Creep; it attacks one outlet (cell) at a time, overwhelms it, and then proceeds onto the next. It is the Juggernaut, and won’t stop until you destroy it. There are alternatives where you can create your own website, but that requires varying amounts of I.T. skills which many of you may not have. and the other downside to those is that you lose the big brand advertising and access that comes with Amazon and others of their ilk. It also occurs to me that your political activists, having succeeded in banning your ideas from being physically accessible through an ISP, can censor you out of existence even more so by legislation and regulation of what a web site is allowed to have on it.

    I really hope it never comes to the point where we have “accidently” bump into each other on the street to pass a USB stick wrapped in a $20 bill for a copy of any author’s works. Because if we’re that far gone, our internet access devices will already be monitored for such contraband being loaded up on it for reading. HAIL BIG BROTHER!

  7. Five years ago, there were folks offering violence– nevermind suggesting it!– for folks disagreeing over political issues; more like ten years ago. The folks who were against the gay marriage vote in Washington State were publicly assaulted, beaten with their own signs– at least one bled as a result– and the people who did it went on the news to brag.

    Nothing happened.

    There was the defacement of Mormon temples and other churches during the run-up to Proposition 8, same thing.

    Since at least ’05, a notable number of the Progressive philosophy sorts have persuaded themselves that they are under attack if someone doesn’t support what they want.
    They respond accordingly.

    1. I agree that I too quibble with the “only since 2015” has the world gone insane. It’s been going a lot longer than that–I think the thing is, it’s that the masks REALLY began to drop *everywhere* in 2015.

      I live in hope, and so I believe that this was NOT intended. They dropped the masks too soon, and they’d already raised people’s suspicions as far back as 2001. (See: the behavior of certain elements of the “intelligentsia” immediately post-9/11. I missed seeing it in person, because I was out of the country when 9/11 happened, and so my suspicions were not raised until much later. But many of the people I listen to now? They were suspicious then.)

      Thing is, though, the whole Sad Puppies thing is what *really* opened my eyes to the insanity, and that began in, what? 13? 14? I don’t remember now. But that’s about the time I started reading Larry & Sarah’s blogs, and going “Waitaminnit, those guys are doing WHAT?” and really started looking. Boy, was it an eye-opener.

      I used to claim to be apolitical and that I hated politics. I still do, but I realized that I *had* to get better informed lest I contribute to building the road to totalinarianism.

      1. The only reason Ayers and co. aren’t regarded as the equivalents of Timothy McVeigh is their sheer ineptness–the only people they managed to blow up were themselves.

        1. Leftists who did kill people are regarded more highly than that.

          As long as they did not offend some leftist piety.

          1. Look how much they adore Che Guevara. Who was a mass murderer, homophobic, virulently racist–and likely misogynistic as well, but I don’t care to research him deeply enough to find out. ::spits::

  8. I have to admit that I do self-censor to a certain degree on FB, and on my author blogs/websites (www.celiahahes.com, and lunacitytexas.com). I’ve bagged my twitter account – I’m a long-form writer, with no gift for 4-character snarkery. And I’m not in the business to kick potential readers in the teeth, and I do, in fact, have readers and fans whose politics I suspect differ wildly from mine. (And yes, I have evidence of this.) Seriously, I do want thoughtful readers to absorb my books, and come to a generous understanding of our American history. I can do that without inserting great wads of polemics and lectures. My personal motto as a writer has always been that of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service – “To Inform and Entertain.”
    As for my original mil-blog, and what I contribute to Chicagoboyz.net? Oh, yeah, Katy Bar the Door, I’m there, firing both barrels. I am a military veteran, so is my daughter; we own guns, prep somewhat erratically, keep chickens and a small garden, talk to our neighbors of like sympathies, supported the Tea Party. I’d be OK if some Organized Wokester-Twitterati lynch mob took out against me. I own the publishing company that does my books (and others, by the bye), I have a military pension and social security, am otherwise painfully middle-class and law-abiding, my neighbors seem to think the world of me (even the liberal ones), so it’s not much that an on-line mob can do to me, employment-wise.
    But I do think carefully, before posting on-line. Holdover from being public affairs/mil-broadcaster, I guess.

  9. I would say “it,” whatever it was, happened right around 2010. I base this on a “cancel culture” speaker disinvitation that happened at my college (an extremely liberal school in Massachusetts. Virtually without exception, everyone who graduated before 2010 was horrified that students could be so narrow minded, while virtually everyone who graduated after 2010 was horrified that anyone would dare object to their narrow-mindedness.

  10. Our best weapon against these short-sighted fools? Satire.

    “[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

    (I only steal from the best)

    1. Some highlights:

      ~ He seems to have a similar idea to USAF at the Passive Voice, who observed that some of the mob action was rooted in a belief that a particular author had “stolen” a career that rightfully belonged to the instigator of the mob. That sounds about right, given the latest outrages about the “wrong” people writing acclaimed / high profile books.

      ~Have a savings / rainy day plan in reserve for the day when — hopefully just “if” — these people manage to cut your income stream.

      ~He has a new, more interesting angle on the “what if Amazon goes bad” fears: what if Amazon is obliged by anti-trust action to break off the KDP / Kindle Unlimited wing of their business? Hopefully he’s right that if such a thing happens, Disney would probably be on the chopping block long before Amazon.

      Thanks for posting; I’d never heard of J. Daniel Sawyer or his site. Looks interesting.

        1. I never thought about the waterways factor! Studying a map of China’s rivers, I can see what he means. Very interesting. I’ve bookmarked this guy, he has a lot of food for thought.

  11. The old Amazon Kindle Fire would download mobi files from Project Gutenberg and third part sellers (Various Kickstartesa, etc.) . I’d have to find them, but they opened just *fine*

    Now – you’ll get an error message claiming that you need to purchase the book from Amazon.

    I have politely gone up the chain with this – this is the new normal. There is an extremely cumbersome work-around. That’s it. Expect the work-around to go next.

    It’s already started.

    1. Have you tried downloading the mobi separately off Kindle, then uploading it via USB? Or is the Kindle preventing that too? Because that has interesting implications for your “offline backups”, too.

      1. Just yesterday I used “send to Kindle” to upload a couple of .mobi of fanfic that was suggested over on Sarah’s blog.

        *opens to double-check*

        They’re loading fine, have a cover image, no obvious formatting flaws.

        1. Then it may just be a temporary site glitch. Or dependent on which version of Fire OS you two are running.

          I know Em and I have a couple of Kindles that are too old to update Fire.

          Or it could be that the mobi OGH is sending is marked as sourced from a commercial competitor like Smashwords, as opposed to a minor site.

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