Growing up through successive revolutions and counter-revolutions gives you a finely honed sense of what is socially approved (particularly when it can change on a dime.) And I got pretty good at seeing the difference between what was said aloud “We’re all for democracy and we accept all different opinions” and what was real “if you don’t toe the socialist line, we’re going to destroy your school career, your job, your hopes of any sort of advancement.” It’s not hard to “read” if you stop listening to the words and instead pay attention to what actually happens.
The weird thing is that most people either don’t have that ability or subsume it because it’s easier to believe what they’re told.
When I applied to come to the US as an exchange student, I went to the consulate to get my visa fresh off my brother’s office and my brother had just given me six or seven tapes of French singers some of which were communist.
My brother warned me strenuously not to take the tapes with me because I’d probably get denied a visa. Even back then I had some idea this wasn’t quite true, but to an extent, logically, it made sense. After all, the US was the nexus of anti-communism in the world, so surely—
Of course the (youngish) consulate employee and I ended up talking about the singers and exchanging tips on the better songs/tapes.
As I said, I already had some idea that in the US communist authors and singers weren’t shunned. I’d listened to enough singers who sounded like the Portuguese communists and who were multimillionaires in the US. But that was the first time I met an on-the-street American (he was a new employee there) and realized that it not only wasn’t true that communism and socialism were looked down upon on the US, but that the “cultured” groups in the US were pretty much indistinguishable from cultured groups in Europe, where leftism was a positional good and saying things like “Stalin was a little harsh” was not a reason to recoil in horror but a reason to nod and know the speaker was on the vanguard of culture.
By the time I moved to the US in the mid eighties, leftism and posing as a leftist were very much a mark of the “educated” and the “smart.” While the popular idea was that the Republicans were “the party of the rich” in fact to move in the wealthy and “classy” sets you had to parrot opinions that were indistinguishable from the opinions of the left and even the extreme left in Europe.
It’s only got worse since then. In the last thirty years, the long march through the institutions was completed, and art, news and academia are all firmly in the hands of the left. Which means that parroting the right (left) opinions is not only the way to advance, it’s the ONLY way to advance. In fact you have to at least nod to them in order not to be sent to Coventry.
And yet, most people still talked as though the people with power in the culture were “right wingers” and the people who broke ranks with the left and went to the right, in addition to having their character shredded and personal insults hurled at them were said to be “Selling out.” Even though, usually, their career vanished into a black hole after that.
So, pardon me – I’m not approving these comments because usually they’re one line, seem to think they mean “your argument is invalid” and one of them might be a well known serial troll – for giggling hysterically when I get comments on my blog that say something like “This post is so condescending”. And I get these every time I post about the Hugo controversy, even sideways and backwards, or with a vague reference to it. I’m going to guess the word of the month for the armies of the hangers-on of Mordor is “condescending.”
The problem, as always, as it that “condescending” has a meaning. And the meaning of condescending refers to tone, not to the argument itself. Even if posts were condescending in tone, it wouldn’t invalidate the argument itself.
If I said: “Your hair looks like a bird’s nest” as a statement of fact, the content of the sentence would not be factually any different from “You’re such a dork. I can’t believe you got your hair done to look like a bird’s nest. You should know better.”
The second is patronizing, but if your hair looks like a bird’s nest, it’s still exactly the same whether I say it politely or not.
So when I say that weakly attached hangers-on and lickspittles are running out to act as trolls on any blog that even mentions the puppies, and keep repeating the same accusations (“slate”, “bought votes”, “bad writing”, “not true fans”) regardless of how many time those are disproven is not factually any different whether I say it condescendingly or not.
But my posts in fact, tend not to be condescending. They are rather trying to lay out an argument rationally. (The condescending ones are distinguished by a “I’ll beat you to death with my vocabulary” feel. They can also fairly be called “rants.”)
So the perception of “condescension” supposing that these people know what the word means, of course, and are not just repeating what they heard – as I said, it seems to be the word of the month – comes from the fact that I’m questioning the value of their positional good. I.e. the translation of “condescending” in this case is “I can’t believe you, peasant, dare to question me, one of the elites.”
In fact, if one wades into the Sad Puppy mess (here, wear galoshes. You’ll need it) the side that says things like “You’re not true fans” or “your tastes are just low” or “your writing is bad” or “Our opinion of what is good IS the maker of what is good” or “you’ll never work in this town again” or “for daring talk against us, you’ll never win a Hugo” is not the Puppy supporters.
This is because the “power” at least if understood as traditional publishing power, in this field is NOT from puppy supporters. The people opposing the puppies (not their lickspittles running around blogs shouting the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables) are powers in the field: well established editors with power of the purse; writers who get publicity campaigns and push and huge advances; critics who have for years been reviewing the “well regarded” stuff and establishing a taste that is Marxism with a mix of glitterati, or in other words, positional good leftism.
You’d think that people who have been extensively indoctrinated in Marxism would understand the difference between “establishment power” and “economic power” and the revolutionaries who come in saying “But you’ve been going wrong by alienating the reading public; we don’t give a hot damn what your political opinions are, but you need to tell stories people want to read, and if you don’t people should be able to participate in the intervention to make you see why your print runs keep falling.”
I.e. they would understand that they are in fact on the side that is being condescending by virtue of having all the power in the field, including power of the purse. (Well, almost all the power. I know three indie-only writers making six figures. Which, of course, is what has the establishment’s panties in a bunch.)
And they’d understand their bleats of “condescending” are all about “How dare you?”
Yeah. I have bad news. See where power is moving to indie. See how you’re being used as footsoldiers in a doomed effort by the establishment to keep their iron grip on what is “good” and “worthy of awards” or even “acceptable.” See how your masters can no longer guarantee you a good career or even A career.
The rest of us? You can object to our tone all you want. You can’t do anything to us. That rule that publishers had to be informed of our true names? Way out the window, now. Amazon doesn’t care. “Kill” our careers either by making sure we’re never traditionally accepted (and you’ll give orders to Baen, how?) or by destroying our reputations with your whisper campaigns, and we will simply come back under another name. There’s HUNDREDS of ways to do that legally if we want to go traditional. And we don’t even need those ways for indie.
So, Lords, and Ladies, and those who aspire to the favor of the “elites” this is to serve you notice: no matter how much you bellow and thrash around and send your hangers on to call us names, we will not bow, we will not apologize and we will NOT tug our forelocks at you.
If that’s being condescending to you, then we intend to continue being “condescending.”
The manor walls have fallen and the serfs have the liberty of newly-claimed lands.
There is no going back.