Don’t take the bait

I’m just a big wolf. Stupid, brutish and vicious,” said Rolf. “There’s nothing to understand.”

“I thought you were,” admitted Liss. “But I’ve changed my mind.”

“Women do that all the time,” said Rolf dismissively.

“And it’s no use baiting me. I’ve got that figured too now. You do it every time I ask questions you don’t want to answer.”

Rolf grinned. “Yes, but most people don’t notice. They’re too busy taking the bait.” (HOW MUCH FOR JUST THE CRAZY UNCLE – current WIP)

I was amused to see agents from the Red Sofa Literary Agency resign because the boss had to tweet that she could see looters from her office window, attacking a gas station, and was calling the cops (why tweet this, you may wonder? I certainly did). Three agents virtue-signaled their support for ‘protestors’ who vandalize, loot and as often as not set on fire that which they can’t carry away.  Now, gasoline being a trifle flammable and just occasionally used for arson, not more 90% of the time, and as the rioters… demonstrators don’t seem to worry about checking out who owns the business or who loses their job or who might be in the building… or whether they were killing grandma (last week’s you can’t have more than 1.5 people in an assembly corona virus prevention hysteria).  Because this happened in the NYC publishing and literary bubble, this was followed by a STASI style admission of guilt and confession by the owner. Not that it’ll do her any good, mind you. She’s still off to Gulag.

Like the ‘protestors’ who went from screaming ‘F… the police!’ to ‘Call the police!’ when chased by a man with a chainsaw, I suspect that that NY traditional publishing will only come to appreciate those they abused and vilified, when they actually need them themselves.  The possibility of a gasoline fire roasting her and destroying her office seemed to at least temporarily induce rationality into one part of the traditional publishing establishment.  Trad Pub is dire strife unless of course some useful looter steals a lot of books or burns down brick and mortar stores, because the number of returns (Books are typically  sold as sale or return, with bookstores getting their money back – usually for just returning the cover). With lockdown (if only they’d known they could just call themselves a protest book-store and have as many customers as they could get) there is a lot of unsold inventory, coming into that ‘returns’ bill. Publishers have been laying off future coders. Printers, paper producers and distributors all seem in trouble, several circling the drain.

Interesting times indeed. Probably not when you want to be invested in publishing, or brick-and-mortar bookstores. Possibly not in digital publishing either, because there are storm clouds all over, and unexpected collateral damage is always out there. But for many of us in this as a profession, or possible profession… this is where we are.  If you’re in trad publishing you’re stuck between pleasing NYC publishing and pleasing an increasingly irritable and worried-about-their-future customer body.  I know: for years pleasing the latter has been very near irrelevant to trad authors: after all, if you don’t get through the starting gate, you’re not in the race.  But… like the agent with looters and the possibility of arson on her doorstep, or the people with a chainsaw behind them… if things do (as seems very likely) get worse in publishing, expect it to be, as always, the author’s fault.  You want to avoid that trap if you can.

If – as seems plausible given that history is full of comparable cases, the protests become more violent, the vast silent public will turn steadily against them. It’s either that, or, if it gets public support – open revolution… which is also not much of a time and place for anyone to sell books. Either way is lose: lose. The pay Danegelt scenario (besides the obvious problem) they’re playing for – probably isn’t going to work when money is tight and the population in general is struggling.  Historically, that’s when ordinary people get really angry with those demanding anything. Which leaves the ‘fade away as people lose interest’ option… possibly the best for NYC Trad pub. It might happen.

The best advice I can give to anyone in trad is to keep your head down (hard because loud virtue signaling is a job-requirement) or to get pseudonym going as an indy, or both.

The rest of us (and that’s me too) can at least choose either not to be on that side or to least keep our heads down.

Interesting times.  Lots of baits.

You can take them, or keep writing.

Image by Mariana Anatoneag from Pixabay


20 thoughts on “Don’t take the bait

  1. Over the last 2 years I’ve finally started working my way through the L’amour catalogue. The man new and understood the human animal. People will keep their heads down and put up with a lot but at a certain point they gather together and form necktie parties. Noone can tell when this point is reached until it happens. People want a quiet life, a safe place to raise a family and in many cases just to be left alone. Those who bend the knee may find themselves lumped in with the troublemakers. On a lighter note I read a comment on another blog I follow which said
    “when bending the knee, be careful lest it end up on someone’s neck”.

    1. If it’s done “right,” it looks like the guest of honor for the necktie party was done in by his co-workers, not his victims.

      If folks think the targeting accuracy by cops is bad, they really don’t want to deal with the mob.

      1. Militias, posses, and impromptu lynch mobs can be composed with veteran cadre, retired police cadre, both, and neither.

        A militia could in theory be operating under a military code that is not the UCMJ if it does not have members who were federally commissioned or otherwise still under the UCMJ’s jurisdiction.

        Using veteran cadre is not a wonderful answer, because infantry procedures can become incorporated in matters that could be resolved by police procedures. But both sets of procedures are intended to keep the violence controlled in a sustained way.

        But the world is static, not dynamically coupled in very complex, poorly understood ways. Changing one organization can’t possibly motivate outsiders to change their behavior in any predictable way. The only changes that can result are the ones someone says will happen when they perform the initial act. /sarcasm

        The Department of Justice Civil Rights division can be trusted to protect the people burning down black neighborhoods, and may be enough to do so in absence of local police. On the other hand, the Sheriff of Hennepin county is in an interesting position.

  2. … or whether they were killing grandma (last week’s you can’t have more than 1.5 people in an assembly corona virus prevention hysteria).

    Oh, we’ve now moved on to literally shooting grampa when he shows up.

    Which isn’t a big deal because murdering a retired cop who checks the local pawn shop’s alarm as a favor to the owners, who is black, is OK if it’s during a “protest” about a black man dying in police custody.

    Mr. Dorn’s murderer was caught on video camera, and has been arrested.

    Dark humor addition: do a search on it. Lots of “suspect in the tragic shooting” type phrasing in stories…video shows the guy heading to his car, grabbing his gun, walking juuuust out of sight of the camera in a spot where he’s alone, puffs of smoke from ‘someone’ shooting Mr. Dorn, then he walks back in to keep looting.

    1. Vile. This is the kind of thing that showed up in at least one Gunsmoke episode, where Matt knew the townsfolk had lynched two trouble-making cowboys, but had no way to prove it… and said troublemakers had been in the process of trying to lynch someone else when the town caught up, and he knew that too.

      1. Part of why Gunsmoke was so good was that they took actual events as inspiration– I wouldn’t be shocked if they got some version of the Indian raid that got my godfather’s dad, and the counter-raid.

        Just plot bunny fodder. And debating if I should do more research for my orcs.

        Short version? Remove the cultural junk and it was a straight-up bandit camp into mutilating bodies, that killed the guys who were looking for the animal killing their sheep.

        The only complexity is that the bandit-hunters were sometimes accused of over-broad targeting.

        Since they found one of the victim’s handlebar moustache on one of the raiders, wasn’t the case this time. Last “Indian raid” in California, if anybody wants inspiration. Warning, lots of revisionistic junk online.

        The local Indians were not pleased, even before they helped bring Basque shepherd’s bodies back to the Eagleville church to thaw enough for burial.
        Blood stains were still there in the 60s during the last refurbishing, supposedly. (My dad wasn’t old enough to remember, or his mom didn’t let him in– might’ve been some cousin politics involved, too, his great-uncle married a local Indian lady not long after this junk, would’ve been dating her when it happened, add in the Basque family politics and…oy, my head hurts.)

        And there’s like a dozen story-seeds in there, many of them already used but still good; my mom said that (half hour of searching goes by) Frozen Grass by Kenneth D. Scott was pretty close to what she’d heard.

        Also found out why my folks acted so strange when we were looking for cows in little rock canyon, although the predators, although it was totally different outlaws they were worried about. (Big drug area, now; is quite strategically sound, even if you’ve got air support. Drones might reduce that, though, I’d have to see it when I’m not a kid.)


        This wiki seems to mostly match what I heard, although it says that Bert saw a cow being killed by the bandits, while the version I heard was that he got folks to go get a four legged predator which would suggest he didn’t. I didn’t hear anything about the eyelids, or the battle; family didn’t think it was appropriate.
        (And given that it’s me, mostly as a pre-teen, they were probably afraid I’d start asking people for more information at a bad time. A valid fear.)

  3. At my son’s high school graduation last Friday (3 hours in the sun at the football stadium), the superintendent wished the students would continue living in interesting times. Then she started making allusions to politics, both from the 60s and currently. That’s when I got up and went to the bathroom.

    1. Nonsense. Their community whatchamacallit will prevent that. Whatever’s replacing the police with all the right buzzwords.

  4. Does anyone else have Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction running through their head on repeat?
    That the poor bleepard was murdered, and that the cops in question need to by hung from lampposts, are something pretty much everyone agreed on.
    That rioting is not only to be justified, but celebrated, is very much not.
    But that’s the only sentiment “allowed” by our moral inferiors.
    You’d think that people who burn with such hated and resentment would have some sense of what their generating towards themselves, but they seem to be defective, incapable of introspection.

    Rudyard Kipling

    It was not part of their blood,
    It came to them very late
    With long arrears to make good,
    When the English began to hate.
    They were not easily moved,
    They were icy willing to wait
    Till every count should be proved,
    Ere the English began to hate.
    Their voices were even and low,
    Their eyes were level and straight.
    There was neither sign nor show,
    When the English began to hate.
    It was not preached to the crowd,
    It was not taught by the State.
    No man spoke it aloud,
    When the English began to hate.
    It was not suddenly bred,
    It will not swiftly abate,
    Through the chill years ahead,
    When Time shall count from the date
    That the English began to hate.

    1. Point of order: I never collected the information that would lead me to conclude that murder occurred.

      And police need training in grappling if they are to be expected to be practicing live capture of the druggies. Which training is going to be provided or prescribed by the organization.

      There are a lot of schools of grappling, that teach different thinking and techniques. The whole ‘a death occurred, we did wrong, we will change things’ attitude is going to be random walking to terrible choices of grappling technique from time to time. The cops don’t necessarily deserve hanging if the real fault lies with the elected officials in city government.

      I flat out don’t have the expertise to figure out whether a crime occurred or not. Me having an opinion based on evidence is worth so little that even if I was the right combination of expert, it would not be worth my time and energy.

      I greatly dislike the ‘everyone agrees’ or ‘everyone knows’ talking point on this. Okay, I don’t think I’ve seen very much argument that exactly the correct things were done. Consensus, surface impression, and bullying people into agreement are a lousy basis for trying to decide questions in dispute.

      Consensus on process for deciding a dispute can be okay.

      Letting consensus on what happened over-ride careful tested-correct process is a fool’s game. I doubt that the Tulsa race riots coincided with a bunch of public statements of doubt that the Black man had carried out a rape. Then, the mob’s decision to base action on feeling and consensus was wrong. Now, the mob’s decision to base action on feeling and consensus is wrong.

      1. I happen have years of experience restraining both humans and large animals.
        Kneeling on the back of a person’s neck is not something you do.
        Especially not if they’re in the street, and their head is propped up on the curb.
        Especially if they’re already handcuffed, and no longer a threat.
        Especially if they’ve lost consciousness.
        Especially if an EMT is yelling into your ear that you’re killing the man.
        (This is a partial list. There were more aggravating factors.)
        What the cop did was not a mistake.
        It was not poor training.
        It was murder.
        A slow and terrifying one.
        In full public view.
        By an agent of the government.
        It is not acceptable.
        And it is not defensible.
        Now, I believe that the Justice system must step up and dispense justice.
        I am unconvinced that it would have without the widespread outrage. There are simply too many examples where the government has declined to prosecute lethal abuse of authority by its agents. (I was going to give examples, but the off-the-top-of-my-head list was getting long and horrifying.)

        1. Brow-beating someone when they very politely point out that
          1) they did not do the research into the event to make a specific statement, and
          2) they really dislike the “Everybody Knows” talking point
          -is a very bad look.

          If your stance is strong, you don’t need to draft people’s support. They will give it.
          If anything, you’ll just drive people away, and persuade them that your judgement is to be ignored or counted negatively in the future.

        2. I take your point, as those in authority (from building inspectors to policemen) often overstep the bounds of their authority, knowing it is seldom challenged. But protest LOSES support, once it goes past a certain point – and that point is when it starts hurting people who may well support you, when it hits violence and loss of lives and destruction of property – it starts losing ground. And I for one, prefer it if the courts decide on the verdict and punishment, no matter what I think – because I might be a reasonable arbiter who tries their best to be fair, but I am fairly ignorant about a lot of things, and if I do it, others will. Vigilante mobs don’t dispense accurate justice.

        3. I’m persuadable it was murder. In particular, hearsay suggests circumstances that could have provided a motive.

          I can see that the circumstances may be as horrific as the circumstances around Epstein’s death.

          I can see that we have pretty huge problems where those in power are forcing crimes to go unprosecuted.

          The threat of mob violence can also be a form of political power.

          I’m not even aware enough about the timeline to have an opinion of whether or not the officer would have been prosecuted without the publicity.

          With the publicity, and the riots, there is some question of a different thumb on the scales.

          I may have an opinion if I see what evidence is admitted in court. And since the case is now so heavily politicized, find out how the appeals go.

          The assumption that I must have an opinion, and that the opinion should matter, has a problem. Most likely, I am an objectively insane political theorist. What good would it do to have me study this death, and a bunch of other police interactions? I might conclude that Floyd was murdered, and I might conclude that a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand who lived really should have been killed out of hand. Leaving me out of the consensus, and leaving me out of the decisions, helps control the risk that I will start pushing some nutty conclusion or another. Conclusions that would not have anywhere near the widespread support that the current configurations of the murder statutes do.

          Permitting me to have no real opinion is of the same sort of decoupling compromise that makes it tolerable to have more than one person on a single planet.

          1. It is the duty of citizens to judge the power the government exerts in their name.
            Lest they cease being citizens, and become subjects.
            Look, I (mostly) stay scrupulously out of local Indiana politics, because their ways are not my ways, and they deserve to have the social contact their ancestors adopted upheld.
            There’s a lot to be said for, “this is not my business, and I ought not butt in”.
            That said…
            When faced with a blatant murder by law enforcement, or cities torched by rioters, there is a basic obligation to declare that such things are not acceptable, and will not be allowed to continue.
            Now, it’s true that this is a topic I have a personal interest in. For much of my life, ranchers were most of my social circle. As a group, they were fiercely independent, stubborn beyond the point of reason, well informed of their rights, almost militantly egalitarian, and rather contemptuous of temporal authority.
            Now, pretty much nobody enters the police force to be Barney Fife. Rural districts can’t pay very well, and so they tend to attract two types of policeman: local boys looking to protect the community they grew up in, and those who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.
            The second type clashes badly with ranchers. I didn’t know one that hadn’t been threatened by a hothead cop. (Yes, including me.) And I knew of incidents (some lethal, most “merely” bankrupting) where threat had been followed by action. All swept under the rug by the thin blue line and DAs who didn’t wish to destroy their career over principles.
            There are good cops, and there are bad cops, and I’ve met plenty of both. (More good than bad, honestly.) But when good cops cover for bad cops, when perverse incentives prevent accountability, when public sector unions make it impossible to remove bad cops from the force… We have a problem, and we need to address it.
            Likewise, we have a bunch of fools who feel entitled to burn and pillage. This is not something we can politely ignore. This is something we must put a stop to. Forcefully. Immediately.

  5. Barry McGuire *sang* Eve of Destruction, but the song was actually written by PF Sloan. Another PF Sloan song, which is surely one of the more unusual of 60s protest songs, is his ‘When the Wind Changes”

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