Push

I was watching the epic melt-down on twitter, with some bemusement. Oh, there is a fair amount of ‘why would I care?’ It was never my playground, and probably never will be (I am davefreersf for what it is worth). But seriously, ‘if you don’t like what someone says, block them’, seemed fairly intuitive to me.

I worked out what the problem was eventually. Their fear was not that THEY might have to read things they did not like or disagreed with. No, that was irrelevant. The problem was OTHERS might read that material. And they, the self-appointed arbiters of what was good and right and could be agreed with, and what was evil and nasty and should attacked and pilloried… didn’t get to decide FOR those others. Why, they were weak-minded and might be swayed… It’s a very supremacist outlook. Ordinary people – not themselves – are untermench, unable to make up their own minds, needing to be led.

We always see ourselves as, well, fairly close to the center of what people are, and assume they work and think as we do — even those of us who can work out this is not true. You might believe, or even know that you’re in the top 10% intellectually, but you still believe other people will do as you do, and be as you are. So: ergo, we may conclude that they would try and control people and assume that everyone else — were they free to do so, would do likewise. Of course, for someone like me, I assume that everyone would resent any attempt at control, either exerting it, or being subject to it. ‘Leave me alone’ might just about be my motto.

One can also suspect that… they expect those in control to align with themselves, or assume they will be in control. Hmm. I recall an excellent sf short about the day of complete control – where the controllers themselves were controlled by those whom they controlled (William Tenn/Philip Klass, The Servant Problem). I doubt they even realize they are being controlled.

Ah well, ‘a rebel I came, and I am still the same’. People are going to be wrong. I know I am from time-to-time. People will do amazingly stupid things. Hell, I certainly have done and will do. But I too expect people to work the same way I do. I expect them to be logical, I expect them to weigh facts, risks and consequences (such as if you allow complete control to one… shall we say faction, whose ground constantly changes, how can you be logically sure you will always fit on that ground? Harvey Weinstein thought he did.). It’s always a shock to me when I find that logic was out to lunch and they never thought about consequence, just did something. The whole twitter melt-down was based on never thinking, logically, that it was unlikely they would always be in control, and it might wise to set things up so that everything — from book-sales to social position — did not depend on being un-opposed and supported by those in control.

Twitter has always been quite ineffectual, saleswise – the number of ‘followers’ translating poorly into sales for writers – well me anyway, but I gather it was fairly abysmal, generally. One has to wonder how much of that was bots, and fake followers boosting numbers but not sales, and how much of that was architecture. Facebook – I know I am being throttled, but it still gets me some sales. After all, people who like me or my work are likely to be on my friends list. If this was allowed to operate organically… some people would sell a lot. Perhaps, instead of control actual interest will be allowed to function. That could have some interesting outcomes.

Organic growth not been something that traditional publishing has ever invested much in, either using or understanding. The reason is not hard to see, besides doctrine and control: It is very very hard to predict. Even with monumental push some things fail. How much worse for an editor who depends on ‘getting it right’ (and a book doing exceptionally well, when you thought it wouldn’t, is nearly as much of problem as the other way around. You are being paid to get it right.) Unsurprisingly, while in their control, books often do. And then they get into areas not under their control… and heaven knows. Seriously, it is hard. I suspect editors who were successful (before it became all politics and push) were those whose taste aligned with a lot of readers. It went pear-shaped when they expected readers to align with their tastes.

There are two things I expect of the next few years (beside tight times) 1) expect the establishment (at the moment, very left wing) to lose control of the levers of control, and where they don’t lose control, for them to stop working. 2)Writers who are successful will align themselves to the tastes and situations of a reasonably large number of readers — and manage to convey this to them.

But I believe the days of push and control are losing ground. It’ll always work on some people, but I believe it has been pushed too hard, too far.

17 comments

  1. Very well said Dave. The books that I enjoy all share a sense of ha ha, plus a sense of wonder, leavened by the corrugations felt from even the smoothest roads, if you go fast enough. The premeditated trough grazings by the politically connected seem universal, although the playing out of the corruption endemic to Russia’s kleptocracy, seen in the sad maintenance levels of “Front Line Equipment”, then clothing supplies, and even food, from a logistics chain that has proved to be missing some links, is below my blackest imaginings. Here in North America we see a possible shortage of diesel fuel hitting deliveries to food stores. To add sauce to the problems, the eastern part of Canada, and adjacent USA, have gotten an excellent base for ski slopes, although urban areas are not enjoying the experience.

    1. The lack of maintenance of the Russian equipment, along with the failure to adapt tactics to the situation, and especially the logistics, have really opened my eyes to their military. It makes me wonder just how off our view of the Soviet Union’s situation really was during the cold war. If there had been a Soviet incursion, I’m not sure they would have been able to go farther than 100 miles. And then likely would have gotten pushed back.

      1. Did it count as an incursion when they crushed the Hungarian revolution in 1956? (3000 miles from Budapest to the Russian border)

        Or Prague in 1968? (comparable distance)

        Or is it only an incursion when they go beyond the Iron Curtain?

        1. Were they contested when moving from the USSR to Hungary or Czechoslovakia? I’m not all that familiar with the situations during that time, nor how much the Soviets actually had to become involved in order to put down those protesters.

          1. Fair enough. I don’t know, but my guess would be that they had everybody too beaten down to resist much. And, of course, they already had soldiers and probably tanks in those countries. So it’s not really much of a counterexample.

  2. Organic growth also requires constantly monitoring sales to get the right books out. Historically that also meant getting stores to stock them, which is hard.

  3. You might believe, or even know that you’re in the top 10% intellectually, but you still believe other people will do as you do, and be as you are.

    I guess I’m the odd in the Odds? Or maybe us Odds are just odd enough to know that most people, even people who are nominally on our side, don’t believe or act the same as we do. Because in nearly every social situation I’ve been in since at least college, I’ve been the one with the weird ideas socially/politically unless it’s a really small group. And my political stance has drifted ever more libertarian over the years, so my views tend to line up with the group even less now. I just don’t expect anyone have the same outlook on life, politics, religion, etc. that I do.

  4. It like I always say — “I can’t be a nonconformist because I’m not like the other nonconformists.”

  5. I grew up in a liberal Mid-West elite enclave, so I’ve understood how it works all my life. I, on the other hand, was a stubborn, um, contrarian. I didn’t make waves promiscuously, but my peers learned not to ask what I thought about something, which suited me fine — it let me concentrate on more interesting stuff than the nonsense they found absorbing on a daily basis. (I was less forbearing with would-be tyrant teachers — in fact, I’m very proud of having been expelled from a convent school (not just a parochial school) in 4th grade for “excessive insolence”. (And the nuns weren’t wrong… they didn’t like receiving reasoned resistance from the youngest kid in the class.))

    On the other hand, life has taught me to be more broad in my reach for worthwhile “fellow travelers” on the rational and common sense and traditional roads. Any slice of intersection (cultural, technical, business, political) is worth pursuing for social relationships, and “live-and-let-live” remains a viable guide. Used to be an American value.

    We’d be better off if the wokerei and the would-be petty tyrants weren’t too insecure to adhere to a little “live-and-let-live” themselves. Becoming an adult used to broaden one’s tolerance, but then they haven’t really demonstrated a lot of maturity, have they?

  6. A lot of our current crop would have been staunch members of the Temperance Union a century or so ago.

  7. I note that today Bob Iger is back as CEO of Disney after Bob Chapek led the company on a “get Woke/go broke” CRT campaign the last two years.

    It seems that people did notice the Disney intellectual properties were going to shit rather fast, particularly Marvel.

    1. Any celebrations would be premature. Iger started pretty much all the things people currently dislike about Disney, and is rumored to aspire to public office. Chapek started out as a weaselly bean-counter who made his name by nickel-and-diming the parks to death, then got kicked upstairs for unclear reasons and got swept along by what was already in progress at the company, because weaselly bean-counter.

  8. Only just stumbled into twitter, and so far it looks like it will be more useful as a mood-board and pithy snark outlet (like the time someone tweeted “What’s the best compliment a vampire could pay you?” and I responded: “To run away from me at high speed.”) than as a promotional tool.

    1. I just never really “clicked” with Twitter – it was more for sarky one-liners, and I was a long-form blogger anyway.
      And as for how many ‘followers’ are actually bought-and-paid-for-bots? I wonder now if Elon Musk found out exactly how much a house of bots that Twitter actually was.

      1. People who’ve been there longer than I have say that engagement is up and followers who seem to have something to say for themselves are up, so maybe he’s whacked some of the bot-moles. It’s fun at some doses for me. For nonfiction writing, I don’t really strike a golden mean between TL;DR and terse, so like I said, good snark outlet.

  9. “I expect them to weigh facts, risks and consequences” and THAT Is the problem, Dave. They will never be allowed to HAVE the facts to start with… sigh. I agree with the premise of your post, it’s pretty much dead on from what I’ve seen over the years.

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