Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Random Thoughts on The Torch and Pitchfork Crowd

Well… those people are at it again. Their antics get stranger every day. If you don’t know the details of what I’m specifically alluding to here… then you’re one of the lucky ones. But whatever culture war spasm this is a part of seems to be proliferating almost exponentially at this point… and if by chance you ever get caught up in the middle, you are going to get zero sympathy from either side when you claim to not understand what’s going on.

So then… for the people that don’t want to pay any more attention to this weirdness than they have to but who also want to know in a nutshell just what is at the root of all this… here’s a cheat sheet to help you fake your way through whatever kerfuffle is headed your way.

1) Offending them is inevitable. All you have to do is show up to provoke them. That’s all it takes! Don’t take this personally. You’re just not of their tribe, that’s all.

2) Your good nature and naiveté will make you reflexively want go out of your way to make things right. You’ll tell yourself that it only makes sense to give people the benefit of the doubt. And you’ll be wrong. The twenty percent on the other side that first notices you might even seem pretty reasonable. They can probably be convinced that they really did take you the wrong way. Your good act in good faith can satisfy them, they will recognize this, and the middle part of the heard will go along in praising you as a part of their Greek chorus routine. This is the point where you will be patting yourself on the back for being such a mature guy.

3) But then there is that other 20%. They will come along and twist anything and everything you do into the worst light possible. When they are engaged, anything and everything you do only adds fuel to the fire. The middle part of the herd that you thought you had won over then changes direction in accordance with this campaign and the reasonable part of the herd is drowned out. At some point in all of this, you will observe angry townspeople burning you in effigy.

4) And note that this is what the herd lives for. They are not fans of anything other than this sort of drama. If they were, then the majority of what they talk about would be books and games or almost anything else. But that’s not what they are about.

So this is why you don’t waste your time dealing with these people at all. Remember your mission, ignore the haters, don’t feed the trolls, and if you inadvertently end up on their radar… your best policy is to stonewall them no matter what they are saying. If you haven’t sat down and formulated a serious strategy to deal with these people, then you are playing by their rules and playing into their hand. And they will eat you up. So if you aren’t willing to seriously take some initiative, then just don’t play.

If you’re big enough to provoke this kind of attention on occasion, then you’re big enough to be selective in what you respond to. (Think of E. L. James going briefly onto Twitter here if you need an example.) Engaging with these people is not just a waste of your time; it’s actually damaging to you. If you’re a builder and not a fighter, then you want to go around these people. They really exist only to road block you. Keep building, don’t engage, and don’t apologize. I’m not sure what it is about these people, but there’s something about apologizing that just seems to signal to them to cut loose. (“We’ve got a live one, y’all!”) Look, if you’ve wronged somebody, get with them privately, make it right, and keep it private. But if you’re dealing with a mob do not forget that they are going to tear anyone to pieces that looks clueless enough to treat them that way. So just don’t do it.

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11 responses to “Random Thoughts on The Torch and Pitchfork Crowd

  1. Cirsova August 12, 2015 at 9:14 am

    First of all, people who are saying that this was SWATting don’t know what it means. Swatting usually involves an emergency call to provoke an immediate ‘hot’ response by a police force at a location under false pretense, hence the “SWAT” part. A letter saying ‘I am concerned about safety because of things that certain people have said, please be prepared just in case’ sent ahead of the even is not in that league. It’s hard to judge without knowing exactly what was said within the letter. Whether it was “look this guy is crazy, keep an eye on him” or ” there is a heated climate, and I would like to know that we will be safe from a potential fight breaking out; please up security” makes a difference in my mind. The “I’m worried about what these people have said” is what got the Honey Badgers thrown out at Calgary; I know the circumstances in these cases are different, but I’m always a little wary of that sort of thing. I wouldn’t have boasted about having sent it, but if I genuinely thought there was a threat, I might feel guilty for not at least saying “guys, I’m concerned, so I wanted police protection to be stepped up a bit.” I’ll admit that there are certain people in the File770 commentariat that I would not feel safe at a convention with, even though they’d probably not even have any idea who I was.

    Of course I was joking about the bucket of pigs blood, but I can totally see the concern about something like this happening at Worldcon given the rhetoric:

    “You don’t like Ancillary Sword! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuu! Raaaaaaargh!”

    I do buy Lou’s reason for sharing the cancellation letter, though I would’ve dropped the name of the editor & publication if it had been me. But damn if stuff like this doesn’t make me hesitant to get more involved in and engage with the SFF world…

  2. sanfordbegley August 12, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Just point, laugh, and make duck noises. The one thing that will drive them off is laughter, sort of like that old Star Trek episode where the beast fed on fear.

    • jeffro August 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Kang: I don’t propose to spend the rest of my life on this ball of dust arguing your fantasies. The Enterprise is mine! Instruct your transporter room to beam us aboard.

      Kirk: Go to the devil.

      Kang: We have no devil, Kirk. But we understand the habits of yours. I shall torture you to death one by one until your noble captain cries enough. Who will be first?

  3. BobtheCertifiedIdiot August 12, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Human beings are predators. If you run from a predator, their instinct is to chase and pull you down.

    If you stare them down, and show no weakness, a predator will have to decide if it is worth it. Maybe they are crazy. Maybe they are confident. Maybe they decide it is not worth it, and leave. Resolve in your heart to destroy as many of them as possible, no matter the cost, and you will be prepared for the worst, and may even avoid trouble.

    If the difference in power is great and uncontested, the stronger may show weakness without inviting attack. However, this is a mistake if the weaker has any suspicion that they can take the stronger.

    Humans can put on civilization and shackle themselves. If a group of humans has each conquered themself, and restrained their instincts and drives, it can be safe to show weakness.

  4. Brian Z August 20, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Jeffro! Will and I made a few predictions and hope you might get a kick out of them. Good luck with the Hugo. You are an excellent fan writer and should be front runner in a category otherwise populated by “pros” whose blogging, even if some of it is pretty good, rarely displays anything close to your level of sheer gumption.

    • jeffro August 20, 2015 at 4:46 am

      Man, I’m blushing now! But thanks…. Whatever the outcome this Saturday, I will be drinking beer and eating barbecue, slaw, and hushpuppies!

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