The War on Truth and Free Thought

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The Bible posits that the world is in the grip of the Father of Lies. With each passing day I am inclined to agree.

Today there is a war on truth and free thought. It is a war fought on the airwaves, in the newsroom, on social media, in print and in lectures. It is a war for nothing less than your mind.

This is not a war fought with guns or bombs–not yet. The weapons of choice are obfuscations, emotional hijacking, memory-holing, cyberswarming and outright deception. When these weapons are exposed and blunted, the next step is censorship, discriminatory firing, demonetisation and no-platforming. In recent times we are seeing the latest round of escalation: riots and targeted violence. The purpose is to smother the truth with lies, and punish everyone who speaks the truth.

Who are the ones running this war? The radical progressives who wish to bend the world to their whims. The oligarchs who profit from the manipulation of demographics, economies and politics. The governments allied with them who seek to keep the people under their thumb.

Who are their targets? They are the people who commit the crimes of thinking for themselves and speaking their minds. They are the ones who express even a hint of skepticism of the party line. They are ordinary people whom these oligarchs wish to control. People like you and me.

The Quiet War

Everybody knows the political orthodoxy. Manmade climate change will lead to an environmental apocalypse. Neo-Nazis are right-wing extremists threatening the world. Anyone who criticises Islam must be Islamophobic and racist. Diversity uber alles, and everyone who questions it are racists/sexists/homophobic/transphobic/bigots. The mainstream media always tells the truth.

And if you question the narrative, you are branded a heretic and punished.

James Damore was fired for distributing a memo that highlighted the echo chamber in Google. The mainstream media lied about his memo and disappeared his citations. The Establishment turned him into a villain, ruining his job prospects everywhere in the technology sector, for the crime of daring to contradict the narrative and shine a spotlight on potentially illegal HR practices.

Damore’s departure is a symptom of a deeper rot within Silicon Valley. If a high-profile user’s politics do not completely agree with those of a platform, they are gone. Google, Facebook, YouTube, PayPal and Patreon have been relentlessly purging thoughtcriminals from their platforms–and the mainstream media ignores them.

Here is a sampling of their latest victims:

Paul Joseph Watson was banned on Facebook for a video making fun of a feminist, a video in which the ‘target’ was in on the joke. His YouTube account was also demonetised.

YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk discovered their videos were demonetised, and are now filing a class action suit.

Pop critic Rageaholic’s YouTube videos were demonetised shortly after uploading. Even an innocuous one discussing the games he’s looking forward to in 2018.

Giovanna Laine was issued a strike for a livestream and the video was removed — 3 hours before it was scheduled to begin.

Patreon deleted high-profile right-winger Lauren Southern’s account while allowing those of violent Antifa users to stand.

YouTube has demonetised every firearm channels — but not channels that promote gun control.

Public intellectual Thomas Wictor’s YouTube account was terminated. After he posted a video on Vimeo, his account was restored without comment.

PayPal banned Jihad Watch from accepting donations on its platform — though the ban was quickly rescinded.

The Amazing Atheist’s YouTube content was demonetised.

SouthFront, which reports on world conflicts, had their YouTube account terminated.

Social media network Gab had its app refused from the Apple App Store nine times, and their Android app was taken off the Google Play Store. The official explanation was that Gab promoted hate speech. But that same hate speech is prevalent on other social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and tumblr, whose apps are not banned.

Twitter has shadowbanned high-profile members of the SFF community, including Brian Niemeier. Shadowbanned users can’t see replies to their tweets, and their friends can’t see the original tweets. More troublesome personalities, chiefly right-wing personalities, had their accounts deleted.

Google altered its search algorithms to filter out ‘fake news’. According to Renegade Inc.:

Wikileaks experienced a 30% decline in traffic from Google searches. Democracy Now fell by 36%. Truthout dropped by 25%. Its own traffic dropped by 67% percent over the same period. Alternet saw a 63% decline in traffic. Media Matters saw a 36% drop in traffic. Counterpunch.org fell by 21%. The Intercept fell by 19%.

Silicon Valley is running a campaign to punish users who do not toe the party line, and the mainstream media isn’t covering it. With so many high-profile creators taken off the airwaves and so little from the media, the only conclusion is that the media is deliberately hiding the news through non-coverage.

And when the news can’t be hidden, the mainstream media will obfuscate it.

The media machine spotlit the Neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville. Self-righteous condemnation and op-eds flood the papers and the screens whenever someone so much as utters a “Sieg Heil!”. But what about Antifa and their riots in Berkeley, Hamburg, Seattle and Boston?

The media ignores the Antifa who show up with makeshift weapons and body armour, bottles of urine and brass knuckles and bike locks. They downplay the actions of the Antifa thugs who attack everyone around them, framing it as self-defence or as a response to right-wing violence or the presence of Trump supporters. They won’t talk about how Antifa rioters violently disrupted speeches by conservative darling Milo Yiannopoulis.

It’s clear who the mainstream media sympathises with. CNN claimed that Antifa seeks peace through violence before amending its headline shortly after. Other journalists have expressed sympathy with Antifa.

The media is painting Neo-Naxis as right-wing extremists to smear everyone on the Right while studiously ignoring Antifa violence. When Donald Trump condemned “both sides” at Charlottesville for committing violence, he is attacked for not explicitly calling out the Neo-Nazis. And the media won’t discuss the similarities between the antifascists and actual fascists.

The culture war is spilling into the streets. This war is not about the Left or Right; the victims of these oligarchs come from both sides of the political spectrum. This is about defining acceptable discourse and rewriting history. This is technology oligarchs punishing content creators who pushed controversial opinions that do not square with their ideology. This is the mainstream media burying the truth to further a political agenda. This is a deliberate collusion to hide the truth.

This is a war for your mind.

The Weapons of Truth

This war isn’t limited to politics. This is an extension of the culture war fought over Gamergate, Sad Puppies, the Hugo Awards and the Dragon Awards. The dark powers seek to control everything: your culture, your politics, your beliefs.

If you value freedom of speech and conscience, you have to fight.

Get off hostile platforms. Sooner or later, the oligarchs will come for you. Strike first. I stopped using Google as a search engine a long time ago. I barely use Facebook and Twitter if I can avoid it. If I have to reference a mainstream news site, I use archive.io. If the oligarchs choose to engage in economic warfare, reprisals are called for.

Use alternative platforms that support your right to think and speak freely. Gab is my social media platform of choice. DuckDuck Go is my default search engine. Brave browser can replace almost every Net browser, including Google Chrome. Infogalactic is superior to Wikipedia. I’m on Steemit partly as a defence against government censorship. By supporting and building these alternative platforms, the oligarchs cannot silence you.

Always speak the truth. Truth is the sword that cuts through all deceptions and sophistries. By always seeking and speaking the truth, you develop an immunity to manipulations and lies, and gain an understanding of the true state of the world. No amount of lies can override the truth; you need only the courage and the will to speak it.

If you diverge from the narrative by even an infinitesimal degree, the social justice warriors will brand you a Nazi — and they claim it is righteous to punch a Nazi. If you dare to speak your mind, you will be on their hit list sooner or later. Like it or not, you’re now a part of the culture war, the war to take back your right to speak freely.

But deny the oligarchs your soul and continue speaking the truth, and they will have no power over you.

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The Dragon Awards needs YOU to hold back the tide of SJWs who wish to hijack them. Vote for No Gods, Only Daimons under the Alternate History category. You can find the novel here, and you can sign up for the Dragon Awards here.

Drama at the Dragon Awards

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The Dragon Awards made a colossal mistake: it caved to the whims of writers who disrespected their fans.

Alison Littlewood and N.K. Jemisin withdrew their novels from the Dragon Awards nomination. John Scalzi, who initially withdrew, decided to withdraw his withdrawal. The former two claimed they were being used as proxies in the culture war. Scalzi came back because the organizers asked him to reconsider.

This isn’t obvious to outsiders, but these are classic social justice entryist tactics.

The Dragon Awards was conceived of as an award by the fandom. No gatekeepers, no entry fees, no backdoor politicking. Just fans nominating their favourite works.

None of the major SFF blocs — PulpRev, Superversive, Puppies — had any intention to destroy the Awards or drag personal politics into it. The recommendations they made were in good faith. None of them recommended Littlewood, Jemisin and Scalzi; those works do not meet their tastes — but they didn’t go out of their way to actively discourage people from nominating the trio either.

The fans of these authors nominated them in good faith. By withdrawing their stories, the writers spat on their own fans.

Littlewood and Jemisin demonstrated that they didn’t have faith in their audience. In Littlewood’s case, she believed that she was nominated because Vox Day, the most controversial blogger in SFF, recommended her work. Jemisin claimed there was “no way to know if [her] book’s presence on the list was legitimately earned through individual, freely-chosen votes by a representative sampling of DragonCon members.”

Littlewood is saying that she didn’t want fans with the wrong politics to read her works. Jemisin’s rationale is utter nonsense: there is no way to enforce block voting over the Net, and Dragoncon had measures in place to prevent repeat votes. Jemisin was simply posturing to her loyal fanbase, allowing her to win the Hugo Award.

It seems odd that a writer would accept the Hugo Award for her latest novel, but refuse any chance of winning a second award for the same novel. But that’s because the Hugo Awards have been converged.

The Hugos used to be about recognising the finest SFF works. But for three decades and counting, it’s been about recognising the most propaganda-heavy message fiction produced by the most superficially diverse group of creators. The Hugo Awards is where SJWs in SFF go to congratulate themselves and shut out everybody else — it’s little wonder that the number of nominating ballots and final ballots dropped by 50% from last year.

Social Justice Warriors aren’t going to fight fair. They want the rules to be changed in their favor, and in so doing change the nature of the organization they are targeting.

By pushing for the right to withdraw their nominations, these entryists want to change the Dragon Awards from a fan-centric award to a talent-centric award — an award dictated by the whims of the people involved.

As for Scalzi’s case, when he first tried to withdraw, the Awards’ organisers refused. Then they changed their minds and allowed the withdrawal. Then they asked Scalzi to reconsider. This flip-flopping signals that the organisers lack spine, and aren’t willing to enforce their own rules and standards. Organisations that cannot stand fast will bend to suit the whims of the outrage-mongers.

In my last post, I stated that while you may not care about the culture war, the culture war cares about you. This is what the opening shots look like: an attempt to influence the targeted organisation to abandon its mission and serve the whims of those who will not respect their fans.

I don’t want the Dragon Awards to go the way of the Hugos. Nobody from the fandom does. We must roll back the entryists before they can gain a foothold.

John Scalzi cannot be allowed to win an award. If he wins, it will galvanise his fellow social justice warriors, giving them incentive to put even more pressure on the Dragon Awards next year. I would urge you to vote instead for Brian Nemeier’s The Secret Kings. Nemeier is one of the leading indie SFF authors of this generation, and should he win the award, he will cede it to L Jagi Lamplighter, whose work catalyzed the Superversive movement.

The Dragon Awards’ organisers must enforce their mission through a clear and unbendable withdrawals policy. Either they prevent authors from withdrawing once nominated, or they allow withdrawals on the understanding that it will irrevocably bar those authors from ever being nominated for the Dragon Awards again. I am personally in favour of the latter: any author who withdraws his work from a fan award has betrayed the trust of everyone who deemed his work worthy of the award.

The Dragon Awards is for the fans. Anything that compromises that cannot be tolerated. It’s time to kick out the entryists, enforce the core mission, and get back to celebrating the best of SFF. Life is too short for drama like this.

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I am grateful to my fans for nominating NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS for the Dragon Awards under the Alternate History category. If you’d like to check it out before voting, you can find it on Amazon here. When you’re ready to vote, click here to sign up.

Between SocJus and PulpRev at the Dragon Awards

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The science fiction and fantasy community is divided by a long-standing culture war. On one side are the social justice warriors and their allies, who wish nothing more than to churn out thinly-disguised propaganda and shut down everyone who disagrees with them. On the other are PulpRev, Superversive, the Sad and Rabid Puppies and those who side with them, united in a singular purpose: to make SFF great again.

The old pulp tales were the literature of the masses. They were tales of high adventure and excitement; stories of distant worlds, exotic cultures and superscience; fiction filled with hope, courage, verve, heroism and, most of all, fun. Free from genre conventions and ideological shackles, writers were free to let their imaginations soar and entertain their readers. From this age came the cultural icons of the West: Conan the Cimmerian, John Carter of Mars, the Shadow, Jirel or Joiry. This age birthed the great writers of the modern SFF canon: Robert E Howard, Poul Anderson, Leigh Beckett, C L Moore. Cheap and cheerful, the pulps made reading enjoyable for everyone.

But, in the words of pulp advocate Jasyn Jones, “Every age of F&SF after the Pulps has been about less: less variety, less action & adventure, fewer heroics and less heroism. Less imagination. Less of all the things that make F&SF great.”

Today, when you look at modern SFF, you’ll see the same catch phrases: subversive, challenging dogmas, progressivism, inclusiveness, post-modern. They are codewords for ‘boring’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘contemptuous of the reader’.

To the social justice warrior, the personal is the political. Everything one does must in some way be linked to political activity–and the only acceptable politics is ‘progressivism’, ‘liberalism’ and other -isms of the day. Thus, social justice fiction can’t settle for being fiction; they must brainwash the reader into accepting the core tenants of social justice and denouncing everything else as doubleplusungood. To survive, SocJus must drown out everything that is not itself, and it must not tolerate dissent — never mind that it is the surest form of cultural suicide.

Marvel went full-blown social justice with its comics, employing everything from gender flips to race-switching to suddenly-queer characters. The Ghostbusters 2016 remake replaced the original cast with women and made that the sole selling point. The result: financial disaster.

It’s not enough for these social justice warriors to cram their ideology down their audience’s throats. They aim to destroy their competition through whisper campaigns, social exclusion and outright lies. Aided by cliquish editors and a horde of fellow travelers, they drown out non-believers by smearing them the labels of ‘discrimination’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and other nonsense.

The Young Adult industry saw its latest controversy with SJWs attacking The Black Witch by cherry-picking selected passages and proclaiming the entire novel to be ableist and racist and other -ists. When the Sad Puppies campaign recommended a number of writers for the Hugo Awards, the mainstream media denounced it as a ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ campaign by white supremacists to reserve the Hugo awards for white men — never mind that the founder, Larry Correia, is Portuguese, and that the Sad Puppies recommendations had far greater diversity of race, sex and politics than the past three decades of Hugo Award winners. I have myself been denounced as a ‘hard-core Puppy’ (and therefore racist and sexist) just because I wrote a blog post thanking my fans and editor for recommending one of my stories for the Hugos.

Social justice corrodes everything it touches. Today, there are precious few SFF books published within my lifetime that I can stand. Almost all of them come from two publishing houses–Baen and Castalia House–and all of them have one thing in common: they place the reader above politics.

This is where PulpRev and other groups come in.

PulpRev pays homage to the great masters of the past, figuring out what made their stories great and how to apply these lessons for future fiction. The Superversive movement wants to go one step further, creating fiction that is uplifts and builds up instead of degrading and tearing down. We come from many nations, represent both sides of the political spectrum, hail from a wide range of backgrounds, but we all believe in the same cause: to create entertaining SFF.

Social justice fiction is fatally flawed. It assumes that any fiction that does not explore and expound upon the cause du jour — minority representation, global warming, Strong Female Characters, anti-capitalism, anti-religion, LGBTQ — are fundamentally incomplete, daring so far as to say that creators who do not include these elements are saying that these things do not exist. SJWs overcompensate by making their fiction all about these causes and nothing else, leaving no room for everything else.

PulpRev recognizes that life is more than just these causes, that fiction isn’t simply about expounding a cause but about building worlds within worlds. Worlds of splendor and beauty and truth and reason, worlds populated by men and women and children and talking animals and monsters and spirits and demons and angels and gods, worlds that recreate the breath of your love and the dry heat of the summer sun and the crackling of dry leaves and the sticky sweat of an honest day’s work, worlds built on awe and wonder and courage and virtue even as they recognise lust and vice and sin and fear and naked evil. Worlds, in other words, that are worth living in.

And we take these worlds and cram them into our prose and offer them to our readers with hopes and prayers, believing that to someone, somewhere, these stories will chase away sadness, catalyse joy and inspire heroism.

You may not wish to declare for one side or another. PulpRev and Superversive will not denounce you if you do not join us. But understand that the SJWs will not leave you alone. To them, you are either ally or heretic, with no in-between. If you keep your head down you won’t be noticed. But if you speak about something that does not toe the party line, they will come for you. They don’t care what you did, be it mildly disagreeing with accusations of racism, praising books on the wrong slate, or daring to produce a story that does not conform exactingly to the agenda of the day.

You may not care about the culture war, but rest assured, the culture war cares about you.

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The Dragon Awards are the next front in the culture war. Aiming to represent all of fandom, the Dragon Awards seek to recognise the best SFF of the previous year in wide-ranging genres and media. Here is an opportunity to recognise the creators whose mission is to make SFF great, while sending a message to the SocJus nominees that thinly-veiled propaganda is no longer welcome in the field.

Speaking only in my personal capacity, I would recommend the following:

Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

These nominees (myself included), are known members and allies of the PulpRev, Superversive and Puppies movements. Further, Jagi L. Lamplighter, author of Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland, is also an early founder of the Superversive movement and was nominated for Best YA/middle grade novel. However, Brian Niemeier has very graciously offered to grant the award to her should he win. Thus, to prevent vote dilution, I would recommend voters to pick Swan Knight’s Son and The Secret Kings.

In addition, I must point out the nominees known to be affiliated with or are social justice warriors.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa
Mass Effect: Andromeda by Bioware

Scalzi reportedly withdrew from the Award today, but if his name is still on the ballot, consider this a warning against him. The Collapsing Empire was so badly written that a hastily-written parody quickly outsold it on Amazon.

Jemisin is a racist who hates whites and denigrates fandom. Everything associated with Marvel Comics is tainted, and Ms. Marvel is no exception. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a buggy mess that was, and remains, critically panned for its game-breaking bugs and phony dialogue — and among its key developers was a white-hating racist more focused on SocJus than making a great game.

The culture war is not merely about left or right, liberators versus supremacists. It is about whether creators should place entertaining their audience above personal politics. PulpRev and Superversive prioritise the audience, SocJus prioritises politics. The former creates fantastic fiction, the latter overpriced propaganda. With your help, we can keep the momentum going and support the creators who respect the craft and you. Together, we can make SFF great again.

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The Dark Tower Movie Won’t Come Close to the Dark Tower Novels

Watching the Dark Tower movie trailer, I understood immediately that Hollywood had once again taken a beloved franchise and warped it into something barely recognisable.

Part of these changes are necessary. Adapting a novel into a movie requires requires the filmmakers to make massive changes to fit the new medium. It is a difficult process for one story, much less seven. Looking at the trailer it seems that the Dark Tower movie is inspired primarily by the first book, The Gunslinger. We have Jake, a boy from Earth; the Man in Black, the main antagonist; and Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger. Who is now black.

The race swap isn’t the only difference. In the novels, the Man in Black is merely the servant of the Crimson King, who is imprisoned in a balcony on the Tower and wishes to destroy all existence. In the movie, the Man in Black seems to be the primary antagonist. There is no mention of the other principal characters of the Dark Tower series, such as Eddie and Susannah Dean. Most critically, in the movie, Roland Deschain is on a quest to protect the Dark Tower, the lynchpin of all worlds — but in the novel, Roland strikes for the Tower to demand answers of whatever entity that dwells there, and during his quest he tries to redeem himself for the wrongs he has committed in his life.

The Dark Tower novels explore destiny and damnation, redemption and repetition, obsession and addiction. Going by the trailer, the Dark Tower movie is a generic Hollywood action movie about good versus evil. A major step down from the series described as Stephen King’s magnum opus.

But that is now par for the course.

Coins from Controversy

What do GhostbustersGhost in the Shell, and The Dark Tower have in common?

First, purchase the rights to a beloved intellectual property. Then deliberately alter something about the main characters, making them female or of a different race. After that, create a hue and cry about racism/sexism/misogyny/bigotry. Ride on the controversy to secure media attention and box office sales. Then, disappear forever.

For Ghostbusters, Hollywood took an all-male cast of geeks and replaced them with an all-female cast. In Ghost in the Shell, Hollywood replaced the Japanese Major with Scarlet Johansson. For The Dark Tower, Hollywood replaced a character explicitly described as a white man with bombardier blue eyes with a black man.

Hollywood responded to the predictable outcry by focusing media attention on it. People who criticised the changes were immediately decried as sexists, racists and misogynists. These words are like dog whistles: break them out and hordes of Social Justice Warriors will jump to your cause, circle the wagons, talk up your movie and slam whoever won’t toe the party line. As the release date approaches, reignite the controversy as needed. With all that attention, Hollywood hopes that people will come flocking to the theatres.

It is far easier to generate controversy than it is to write a good story. To do the latter, you need talent and hard work, then invest the time and money to properly build the brand to attract an audience. For the former, all you have to do is to obtain the rights to a well-known IP, make a deliberate casting decision, wait for someone to criticise it, then run screaming to the media and let the SJWs handle your marketing for you.

This is an incredibly short-sighted move. In the short term it may translate into a spike in opening day sales, but if the story is poor, it will undermine faith in the medium and the film companies that produced the adaptations. People will realise that Hollywood is just leeching off famous brand names, and they will walk away from future movie adaptations, or even movies altogether. As seen in how badly Ghostbusters bombed, this will significantly affect the profit margin.

But never trust the players to think in the long term. Hollywood cares about recouping costs and seeing a return on investment, not telling good stories. Social Justice Warriors don’t care about profits or stories, just in pushing their agenda. They don’t have the customers’ interests at heart.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to Hollywood. In comics, we have female Thor, black teenage female Iron Man, Captain America the Nazi, Donald Trump the supervillain, and more. Loyal readers punished Marvel’s ham-fisted attempt at left-wing propaganda by abandoning the company in droves, causing sales to plummet. The recent non-controversy about a female Doctor Who will likely follow a similar trajectory. Social Justice Warriors don’t care the audience, the brands, or even what makes good stories. They just want to push their agenda. They infiltrate well-known IPs, twist it into a gross and soulless husk, and destroy it from the inside out.

This is social justice convergence. Companies that have been converged will turn their customers against them, effectively committing suicide. At best, converged companies churn out forgettable creations, and at worst, they destroy the creative legacy of previous generations.

The Dark Tower That Could Have Been

In The Drawing of the Three, Roland draws Eddie, a white man, and Odetta Susannah Holmes, a black wheelchair-bound woman. Odetta has a split personality: Detta Susannah Walker, a foul-mouthed racist who heaps abuse and racist epithets on the men and plots to kill them. This conflict is the heart of the character drama in The Drawing of the Three, and resolving it forges an unbreakable bond between the trio.

By casting Idris Elba, a black man, as Roland Deschain, Hollywood can’t have that conflict any more. Indeed, in the trailers so far, it’s telling that there is no hint of Eddie or Odetta. After all, portraying a disabled black woman who spouts racist screeds against white men runs against the prevailing left-wing narratives. Better to pre-emptively bury the conflict before it even begins.

The character of Roland Deschain himself is based on Childe Roland of the poem ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’, written by English author Robert Browning. In addition, Roland Deschain’s guns are hinted to have been forged from Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur. King Arthur is a European myth, not an African one. And the gunslinger is an American archetype, born on the frontiers of the Old West. If we use the standards of modern-day progressives, having a black man use the myths of white men is cultural appropriation. But the hypocrisy of the Left runs deep: it’s only cultural appropriation if a white man does it. Notice also how this little nugget went unnoticed in the popular press.

In the books, Roland Deschain the gunslinger is a lawman, a negotiator, a diplomat and an outdoorsman. He is less Rambo and more John F Kennedy. Yet in the trailer, Roland is reduced to a shootist with some fancy tricks. In Drawing of the Three lobstrosities cripple Roland Deschain’s right hand, forcing him to give one of his guns to his companions, symbolising his trust and growing reliance on them and reinforcing the dangers of his journey. In the movie trailer, Roland is a typical invincible Hollywood action hero.

The most critical change is the nature of Roland’s quest, and what it says about his character. In the novels, Roland is monomaniacally focused on reaching the Dark Tower, and will sacrifice anything and anybody if it means taking one step closer to it. His character arc has him seeking redemption and developing bonds with the other characters. In the movie, Roland is already sworn to protect the tower: his motivation is obvious, and knowing Hollywood, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Roland doesn’t possess the complexity of the original.

The Dark Tower movie has every sign of being all flash and no depth. The plot of the movie doesn’t even come close to the plot of the original. It may even be a decent action flick in its own right, but with all the changes to the story, it might as well be a brand new IP altogether.

But for Hollywood, it is far easier to piggyback off an established brand than to invest the time and money needed to build up a new one. And they will keep doing that, regardless of the cost.

Stand Tall, Speak the Truth, Never Let Your Enemies Drag You Down

To endure is to win. To endure is to be patient. To endure is to shelter. To endure is to cultivate. That which endures, survive. The inner spirit is untouchable and unbreakable.
-Ivan Throne, The Nine Laws

Last week my fiancee wanted to write a post about her struggles with eczema. But she was afraid. Afraid that people would mock her and laugh at her and tear her down. This is what I said to her:

They don’t matter.

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How far are you willing to go to stand at the roof of the world?

I started blogging when I was 16 years old. I was young and dumb, moved more by hormones and ideals than principles and reason. Even so, I didn’t let self-doubt or fear of consequences stop me. I began blogging and never looked back.

It was the epoch of the Singaporean socio-political blogger. The government promised a ‘light touch’ towards new media. New blogs sprang up all over the place, roundly criticising the government for its failures and shortcomings. Bloggers became the Internet celebrities of our time, with socio-political bloggers billing themselves as the alternative to state-controlled media. They were the people of the Internet age, young enough to be comfortable with the Net, yet old enough to remember a time when the government ruthlessly dealt with even the slightest hint of dissent.

And then, there was me. The youngest blogger of them all, a kid in his first year of Junior College.

We spoke out, gathering allies and contacts in academia and elsewhere. We discussed ideas, organised events, held protests. We formed group blogs: New Asia Republic, Wayang Party, and the one I co-founded, The Online Citizen. The state didn’t stand by, of course. The local press called us cowboys and the lunatic fringe. They said we wanted an online free-for-all when all we wanted was to set up a citizens’ consultative committee to discuss controversial speech instead of reaching for censorship and police powers. When we reached out to government organisations, politicians and ministers for comment, we were met with the same response: silence. And for bloggers who crossed the line of defamation or hate speech, they were on the receiving end of lawyers’ letters and midnight knocks.

We didn’t let them stop us. We carried on.

In school, people learned who I was. I became the Benjamin Cheah, the blogger, the rabble-rouser, good for a laugh since he was the only guy with skin in the game and to him fell the brickbats. Schoolmates mocked my blog on theirs. Trolls descended on my blog, insulting visitors and impersonating me. People talked around my back, getting my schoolmates to relay messages to me. People cheered when I spoke, but otherwise they would never say a word in my defense. One of my teachers liked insinuating that I enjoyed flaming people online. My own parents said it was too dangerous to blog, that the only thing I could do online was praise the government.

I was alone.

I didn’t let them stop me. I continued blogging and writing.

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You wanna git gud, you have to put in the time.

When I entered National Service, I toned everything down. For one thing, I just didn’t have the time and energy. For another, it was against a military directive. During my time, I required a security clearance to carry out my duties. It was completely routine, normally granted to regular people. Instead, the Military Security Department denied my clearance. No reason was given. At that point, I was a model citizen. No criminal record, no history of harassing anyone, just a teenager who maintained a blog about politics. Nobody saw a reason why I was denied. But the message was clear: we cannot trust you.

I kept writing.

After National Service, I went back into blogging more regularly. I wanted to get back into the game, help the local alt journalism scene grow, maybe even create a viable alternative to the news media. But the days of the light touch were over, and few people wanted to support the group blogs financially. The government gazetted the group blogs, slapping on paperwork and legal requirements on what was previously a loose network of bloggers. Fundraising became a significant concern. The government continued its policy of suing people who defamed them and arresting people who spread hate speech.

We carried on. Until they turned on me.

Singapore’s government is centre-left. Its approach to economics focuses on monetary policy and free trade, but its model of governance is reminiscent of democratic socialism. Social engineering is everywhere, from public education to National Service to public housing, and the government exercises de facto control over critical national functions from public transportation to the unions to the press.

However, every dissident I can name labels the government as ring-wing. And they responded by swinging even further left.

When I critiqued the idea of rape culture, I saw the first hint of the divide between me and my former colleagues. Bloggers I thought were rational thinkers started spewing buzzwords, nonsense and insults instead of discussing things calmly. When I criticised SlutWalk Singapore, the social justice warriors came, shrieking and spitting hatred and vitriol all over Facebook. For the first time The Online Citizen had to issue warnings to tone down. When I addressed arguments from feminists on social media, the SJWs returned.

I didn’t start the flame war, but it found me.

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Give them nothing.

Here I learned the truth: the Control-Left does not care about free speech or debate. If you do not toe the party line you are a heretic and you must be crushed.

I also learned another truth: nothing trolls, haters and SJWs say matters.

I have never been aware of their opinions before they announced their existence with a shrieking cacophonous swarm. Every time they swarmed me, they demonstrated why their opinions don’t matter. All the sound and fury signifies nothing. They have exchanged reasoned argument for empty rage. All they have done is to show the bitter, blackened depths of their hollowed hearts. People like that don’t matter and never will.

People like that bully others by manipulating a social script. Most people are conditioned to want to get along. This is natural; this is how civilizations function. So when someone walks up to you, screaming and yelling and denouncing you, it feels like you have somehow offended them, that you are somehow in the wrong. The easy way is to back down and apologise.

But if all you have done is to express a contradictory opinion, you have nothing to apologise for. If all you have done is to speak a hard truth, you have nothing to apologise for. If all you have done is to talk to people who hold different views, you have nothing to apologise for.

These harpies want you to tear yourself down by your own hand. Never give them the satisfaction.

I’m still here. I’m still writing. Nothing they have said will stop me.

People have criticized me for signing with Castalia House and supporting the Rabid Puppies, simply because they don’t agree with the politics of Vox Day, editor of Castalia House and head of the Rabid Puppies. They lied about me again and again. One person even declared he will no longer buy books from CH. They don’t matter. The people who supported me–Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies–matter. Their opinions matter more to me than the opinions of strangers, much less strangers whose only interaction with me is to attempt to drag me down.

With NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS, I wrote a novel that could never be published in Singapore. It isn’t set in Singapore, so local publishers won’t be interested in it. Even if they were, the novel touches on the triple taboo of race, religion and politics. As the series progresses, I have no doubt more SWs and concern trolls will crawl out of the woodwork and try to stop me.

They won’t. They can’t. For people with no skin in the game, people I have no relationship with, people whose values and behaviours are antithetical to my own, their opinions have never mattered and never will.

If you dare to stand and live your truth, petty people will come to drag you down. They lead empty lives and can’t make anything for themselves, so they glory in convincing others to surrender their dreams. They are worth nothing. Success comes to those who endure. Those who weather the storm of backbiting, mudslinging and bullying, those who refuse to let their enemies do their work for them. Develop the capacity for endurance and you develop the capacity for success.

For over a decade I refused to listen to the naysayers, the trolls, the social justice warriors. Now here I am, Singapore’s first Hugo-nominated SFF writer, one of the few Singaporean bloggers of my generation still in the game, and quite likely the most prominent Singaporean on Steemit.

And I’m only getting started.

As for my fiancee? She got over her fears, and wrote and published her post here.

If you want to know more about the book no Singaporean publisher would touch, you can find NO GODs, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon and the Castalia House ebook store. The novel has 23 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.5 stars of 5. If you think it’s excellent, do consider nominating at for the 2017 Dragon Award here under ‘Best Alternate History Novel’. Thanks for your support.

Space Opera is about Opera

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Tor launched #SpaceOperaWeek to promote and discusse space opera. In 24 hours, the Pulp Revolution launched a memetic revolution and claimed the hashtag for its own. Now, practically every hashtag and Internet discussion about #SpaceOperaWeek is dominated by the PulpRev folks. This stunning success exposes a hard truth: Tor has no idea what space opera is about.

Tor says ‘Space Opera is at its best when it merges the sweeping, big stakes stories with ordinary human drama‘. That is a laughable notion.

Space opera is about Opera: enormous stakes, huge conflicts, sweeping scope, massive drama, larger-than-life characters. Readers do not want to read page after page of mind-numbing tedium; they already live that in everyday life. They read fiction, especially science fiction, to escape reality, not to delve deeper into it.

David Weber’s Honor Harrington series is a classic example of space opera: interstellar diplomacy and warfare, grand strategy and fleet tactics, conspiracies and drama, high technology and higher stakes. The series doesn’t have Admiral Harrington spending entire novels caught up in mindless staff meetings and tedious paperwork; that’s not the point of space opera. People don’t want to read boring stuff, and ordinary, everyday life is boring. If they want to read about ordinary human drama, that’s what literary fiction is for.

Tor’s assertion to the contrary demonstrates a lack of awareness of what readers want. But that’s what you get when you bring aboard a writer who admits she is “not really a Space Opera kind of girl“.

Space opera is about, well, fun. As John Del Arroz points out on the Castalia House blog, space opera doesn’t have to realistic; it just has to be fun.

Not that there isn’t room for realism if it doesn’t subtract from the story. It just has to be done right.

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Science fiction celebrates the vasty deep of the galaxy, marvels at the strange wonders born in the light of alien suns, and lauds the power of the imagination. Today, sci fi is split into ‘realistic’ hard science fiction and ‘unrealistic’ soft science fiction, with works assessed by how closely they hew to known science. The old pulp masters would have laughed at such a notion. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not useful.

Hard science fiction is the fiction of probability. It celebrates the glory of science today, showing us what we can do with what we already know. It is not about fixing your imagination into tedious todays and stagnant yesterdays, or locking your brain into the realism box. Science constantly changes; a hard sci fi story cannot possibly remain completely accurate forever, nor should it. Instead it should strive to show what humans can achieve simply with what we know today, and build a ladder for us to reach for brighter and more glorious tomorrows.

Starship Operators is perhaps the hardest science fiction anime today. There is no sound in space; the sound is explicitly described as dubbed in for viewers. Battles take hours or days, with ships jostling for position. The only artificial gravity aboard a ship comes from rotating wheels. Light-speed lag significantly affects tactics and combat.

Yet at its heart, Starship Operators is about a group of plucky space cadets waging a one-ship war against an interstellar superpower to free their country while being sponsored by a television company. It doesn’t let science get in the way of the story. Hence there are stealth ships, plasma weapons, faster-than-light travel, and a disturbing lack of thermal radiators. The science in the anime are simply the props that allow the story to be told.

For ultra-diamond-hard science fiction, bar none, look no further than Children of a Dead Earth. It’s a space warfare simulator, designed with the express purpose of exploring what warfare in space would look like. Everything in the game obeys the laws of the universe: thermal stress and radiation, orbital mechanics , the rocket equation, Young’s Modulus and more. To fully appreciate the game you need to have an in-depth understanding of lasers, nuclear reactors, thrust and a dozen other fields. No fantasy physics here – at least, until you unlock the black box design module.

Children of a Dead Earth succeeds because of these limitations. The creator produced a compelling story universe in which humanity has colonised the planets, asteroids and moons of the Solar System. It is a universe riddled with superpower conflict and interfactional rivalries, culminating in a shooting war where fleets of atomic rockets attempt to destroy each other with high-intensity lasers, hypervelocity projectiles and nuclear missiles. While this isn’t strictly space opera, a setting like this demonstrates what can be done today — so imagine what can be done tomorrow.

Soft science fiction is the fiction of possibility. It’s not completely accurate, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, soft sci fi sets the stage for epic tales of tragedy and heroism and sorrow and hope. It takes the readers to journeys to far-off worlds, fires their imagination with depictions of Super Awesome Tech, and the very best stories point the reader to greater truths about the nature of humanity.

Star Wars (the original trilogy!) is an enduring classic of soft science fiction. It has Space Magic, wandering samurai with energy blades and mind powers, galaxy-spanning polities and world-killing superweapons. It’s not realistic and pretend to be. It doesn’t bother with ‘ordinary human drama’, focusing instead on the high drama of good versus evil and the struggle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. The original trilogy focuses on being fun, and that is why its legacy endures to this day.

Looking further into the past, we see the old masters of pulp writing space opera with an emphasis on opera. E. E. Smith’s seminal Lensman series exemplifies this: elder alien races manipulating younger ones to achieve their ends, superweapons and psionics aplenty, massive space battles with the casual destruction of worlds, and titanic struggles between the forces of civilization and tyranny. Compared to such luminence, mere human drama means nothing.

While it may sometimes be useful to divide science fiction between hard and soft, it is merely a paradigm, to be adopted when useful and discarded when not. Consider the case of John C. Wright’s Superluminary. It features all manner of ‘soft’ sci fi technology–casual biomodification, psionics, the titulary faster-than-light travel mechanism–but the story universe is carefully constructed, with the technology obeying the rules of the universe as faithfully as any other piece of high technology in a work of hard science fiction. With these sci fi elements, Wright tells a story of a young man who must seize the throne of Humanity and lead mankind in a desperate war against a star-spanning race of vampires who have conquered the universe and seek to consume everything. Nowhere near ‘realistic’, but it is an epic space opera told in the grand tradition of the old pulp masters – and vastly more enjoyable than stories of mere human drama.

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Science fiction is about *fiction* and space opera is about *opera*. If people want to read about science or space, there are plenty of non-fiction books, magazines and journals to choose from. If people want to delve into ordinary human drama, they just have to live ordinary lives or pick up lit fic. The science in science fiction makes the fiction *fun*, and the space in space opera is the setting for the opera.

Science fiction is not about dragging readers through muck and demanding they derive pleasure from it. Science fiction turns their eyes to the stars, and space opera takes them there. Space opera is about opera: the glory, the terror, the joy, the horror, the sorrow and the wonder that awaits the intrepid starman who dares to brave the infinite expanse.

Disney’s Gay LeFou is Tokenism

LeFou of Disney’s 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast is the lackey of Gaston, the main antagonist. By turning LeFou into a gay man for the 2017 live action adaptation, Disney has sunk ever deeper into the abyss of social justice. Through this act of mutilation, Disney has demonstrated its contempt for the original story. In recent years, Disney has been pushing the social justice agenda hard, producing film after film starring Strong Independent Female Protagonists Who Don’t Need Men. What makes LeFou’s distortion especially egregarious is that Disney’s attempt at virtue signalling is really tokenism.

Squandered Drama

The original novel was published in 1740. The Disney animated film shifted retained the setting of 18th century France. The live-action movie also keeps this setting. And 18th century France was cruel to gay men.

During the Ancien Regime, homosexuality (specifically, male sodomy) was punishable by death. The last gay men to be executed for sodomy were burned to death in 1750. Homosexuality was decriminalised only in 1791.

There was no mention of the French Revolution or the French Terror in the source material or the 1991 animated film. Thus, it’s safe to assume that the events of the story took place before the Revolution. By exploring his feelings for Gaston, Gay LeFou runs the risk of arrest, jail and execution.

Even if the story were set after the decriminalisation of sodomy, he would not be immune. New laws do not automatically lead to new social attitudes. Homosexuality was still widely seen as immoral and unnatural. If Gay LeFou were open about his feelings, he could be ostracised and run out of town. Everyone would spurn him, leaving only the company of the pederasts who frequented the public urinals and the molly houses where they pretended to be women.

This is not to say Gay LeFou is doubleplus ungood. Rather, by casting a gay man in 18th century France, Disney had the perfect set-up for drama, angst, and conflict.

And they squandered it.

The Most Interesting Man in the Room

The most interesting person in an area is the one who is most different from everybody else. In homogenous societies like 18th century France, minorities like gay men are the most interesting people around. They have to face legal repercussions, societal disapproval and disease just to be who they are. Gay LeFou would face enough drama and conflict for an entire movie all to himself.

But the story is not about Gay LeFou. It is about Belle and the Beast.

All things in a story must serve the story. A subplot about Gay LeFou finding his feelings adds nothing to the story. It will have no impact on the protagonists or their relationship; LeFou, both Gay and Regular versions, have exactly no influence over them. That makes the gay subplot a distraction at best, a time-waster at worst.

Disney claims there will be a happily ever after moment for LeFou. This flies in the face of historical fact. The gay subculture of mid-18th century France was marked with profligacy, prostitution, casual sex and group sex. Men in committed relationships with other men were despised — especially those with reputations for being debauchees.

A happily ever after for LeFou doesn’t do anything for the core story of Beauty and the Beast. How his life turns out has little to do with the main characters. As such, Gay LeFou’s story is just a sideshow, a sop to progressives, and nothing more.

By turning LeFou gay, Disney has injected modern liberal attitudes into a setting with vastly different values and attitudes. Through its focus on Belle and the Beast, Disney turned the spotlight away from the struggles Gay LeFou would realistically face in a believable 18th century France, bringing him out only to reaffirm that Gay Is Okay.

Disney’s first gay character is just a token, an object to be trotted out to signal to left-wingers that Disney shares their values, then quietly hidden away when it comes time to actually explore what it means to be gay in such a society. And yet Disney continues to be lauded for its progressive ideas.

In other words: tokenism is okay is progressives do it.

The Altar of SocJus

Gay LeFou isn’t the only indicator of social justice infection. Emma Watson, a self-proclaimed feminist, plays Belle. In the movie, Belle says, “I’m not a princess.”

This is a time and place when girls and women aspired to be treated with the grace, courtesy and respect accorded to princesses, and to receive the wealth and luxury the title implies. Further, in that time period, such a retort would indicate that a) Belle is a troublemaker who will not acknowledge the roles of women at that time, b) Belle disrespects the Beast’s servants, and by extension her host, and c) the Beast (who is a prince) has poor taste for choosing such a troublesome woman as a companion — which suggests his ability to judge people and make decisions is impaired. This, in turn, would lead the Beast’s servants to either ‘educate’ Belle on proper manners and/or convince the Beast to find a new companion.

Likewise, Belle wears a dress that conforms to modern fashion sensibilities, flying in the face of historical female fashions of the time that emphasise narrow, inverted conical torsos. The excuse is that Belle is a more active heroine than before. Which is nonsense — clothes do not define a character. As any good creator knows, having your character deal with clothing hang-ups at the most inconvenient of times is a prime source of comedy and tension. At the very least, everybody would look askance at Belle’s fashion sense and actions, and start whisper campaigns against her, forcing Belle to change her ways. At worst, the Beast would believe them and ditch her.

Again and again, the movie sacrifices verisimilitude on the altar of social justice. Instead of capturing the little details like the difficulty of wearing women’s dress of the period or the drama that arises from making social faux pas, Disney chooses the easy way of toting a token gay man and a feminist from out of time, and pretending the drama that should have occurred would not happen.

The live action film had so much potential. It could have been filled with the angst, drama, social sniping and prejudices that define an epic historic fantasy romance. Instead, Disney sacrificed it all to signal to progressives that they, too, hold modern ideas.

Such a poor prize for such a grand price.

The disease of virtue-signalling must be fought wherever it appears in fiction. It robs stories of their full potential, turning them from potential epics to hollow tales, just so that the creator can say, “Look at me! I believe in SocJus too!” Creators like these are not interested in fiction. They are only interested in ramming their ideas down your throat.

Sources:

Still: Beauty and the Beast, 1991, first sourced from Disneyfied or Disney Tried

From Twickenham to Turkey: Eighteenth-Century Gay Subcultures in Europe, America and Australia

Gay subcultures in eighteenth century Europe

The Sodomite Becomes a Molly

1700-1750 in Western fashion

Emma Watson’s Belle ditches the corset and princess title in ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty and the Beast Director on His Decision to Make LeFou Gay: ‘In a Very Disney Way, We Are Including Everybody’

The Rhetoric of Provocation and Offense

There are many people in the world who will not be persuaded by reason, and even the most rational humans can be swayed with the right emotional leverage. For years the Left has utilised outrage to dominate the political arena. Now the Right is taking up the same tactics, especially the New Right of America. Case in point: Ann Coulter.

Feel the rage? The pleasure? The amusement? Whatever you are feeling now, let it pass through you. When your heart is calm again, read on.

Coulter’s tweet was deliberate. With that one statement, she addressed three separate audiences, with vastly different reactions.

Her first audience are the people who oppose her. A tweet like that impinges on their beliefs and values, triggering outrage and denouncements. Indeed, the hate-fest on that tweet was epic, even by Twitter standards. That tweet would forever alienate this audience.

But what kind of people will get offended over the use of rape as a rhetorical device? People who sympathise with the plight of illegal immigrants, oppose Donald Trump and his policies, and Social Justice Warriors and progressives of every stripe. In other words: people who would never agree with Coulter’s views no matter what. If she is not concerned about their opinion of her, Coulter incurs no cost in offending them.

The second audience are the people who support her. These people support Donald Trump, agree with his proposal to build the wall, and believe illegal immigration is a scourge. They will support every argument against illegal immigration, no matter how emotional or contrived. This is Coulter’s core audience.

Most of them are regular people who despise rape. In their perception, Coulter’s tweet engineered a subconscious connection between illegal immigration and rape. And Trump’s supporters would be well-primed with facts and statistics pointing to the number of illegal immigrants who are gangsters, drug dealers, murderers and rapists. This tweet activated their sense of moral righteousness, triggering feelings of camaraderie and the pleasure of finding a fellow traveler. Coulter’s tweet spoke to the hearts and minds of this audience, and continues to resonate with them.

The third audience are the people who can view the subject dispassionately. They either do not have a stake in the situation, or are able to step back and view the exchange for what it is: an allegory reflecting the absurdity of the original statement. These are the people Coulter would like to win over — but it is a bonus, not her primary objective.

These people can’t be classified into a homogenous mass. Their politics span the entire political spectrum. Their values and morals are equally diverse. Some may appreciate her use of rhetoric; others will be turned off by her talk of rape. But more than a few will use the discussion as a springboard to further examine the issue and investigate Coulter. And they will learn that Coulter correctly predicted the rise of trump, while the sitting Mexican President has one of the lowest approval ratings in history (12%), has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, cracked down on dissenters, allowed the growth of crime and violence, and engaged in a multitude of reforms that weakened the rights of labourers while consolidating power in the hands of the oligarchs. If Coulter manages to convert any of these thinkers to her point of view, she has profited from the tweet.

This strategy of provocation works on three levels. By speaking to her core audience, she maintains and grows her support base. By offending those would be offended anyway, she gets them to blast her tweet far and wide and reach a greater audience, effectively manipulating them to do her work for her. By prodding the non-partisans, she sways who she can to her perspective, generating buzz that keeps the momentum going.

Let’s examine her tweets at the macro level. These are her tweets before her provocative tweet.

These are the ones after (excluding her retweet of Donald Trump).

Notice the sharp uptick in replies, retweets, and likes. Before the tweet, she had an average of 237 replies, 838 retweets and 3300 likes for her past three tweets. After the tweet, the average shot up to 533 replies, 2566 retweets and 7066 likes for her next three tweets.

But that’s not all. In the following three tweets, there is an average of 376 replies, 1086 retweets and 3666 likes. While the momentum generated by the rhetoric tweet is dropping off, the average numbers of replies, retweets and likes are still higher than before the tweet. When Coulter sees her numbers drop below a given threshold, I predict she will say something offensive again, and keep her base growing.

People are drawn to drama. Rhetoric provokes conflict and conflict leads to drama. On social media, retweets and likes are the lifeblood of public figures. They provide a gauge of how that person’s ideas are viewed. Replies are secondary — almost nobody has the time and energy to go through hundreds of responses. The retweets and likes are a rough-and-ready measure for everyone else to see how well-liked and socially-acceptable a tweet is, creating a bandwagon effect that recruits more people to their point of view.

There are many people who insist on decorum and reason — in other words, dialectic. These are nice sentiments, but social media is not the place for dialectic. Every social media platform is designed for entertainment and consumption. Twitter has a hard limit of 140 characters. Gab offers 300. Facebook emphasises one-liners with larger fonts and hides longer statements. Social media is not inherently designed for the rigorous arguments and logical thought processes required to properly deliver dialectic. That is the province of books, blogs, websites, speeches, podcasts, videos and debates — but not text-based social media.

Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalising one. After deciding his values and ideas he will invent reasons to justify his faith in them. To make this work for you. you must trigger a powerful emotional response linked to a specific idea. This will sway someone to your side, making him more receptive to follow-on arguments — if he will not create his own arguments.

The key players of the Alt-Right and the New Right understand this. They know the Left, especially the Control-Left, has used this strategy for years without fail. They scorn the Old Right who refuse to use such tactics in the age of Twitter and Tumblr; by refusing to adapt the Old Right has conceded the culture war to the Control-Left. The New Right, with the Alt-Right as their vanguard, is turning the Left’s tactics against them. The rise of the New Right, with Trump as their God Emperor, reaffirms their use of provocative and offensive rhetoric. They will continue to rely on such rhetoric while taking measures against the real-world consequences of uttering fighting words.

The culture war is upon us, and offensive rhetoric is the weapon of choice. Understand this, or be swept away by the inexorable forces of history, politics and human nature.

The Boston Tea Party and the Washington Riots are Not the Same

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery attempted to draw moral equivalency between the Boston Tea Party and the Washington riots.

They are not the same. I can’t tell if it’s willful ignorance of history or deliberate distortion of the record, but when dealing with the far left, there is no difference.

By drawing comparisons to the Boston Tea Party, the Left is attempting to legitise wanton acts of destruction and rioting. They are attempting to create a narrative to justify future riots, the same kind of riots seen in Ferguson and Baltimore. But the Tea Party is not the same as a riot.

The Boston Tea Party


(W.D. Cooper. Boston Tea Party., The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789. Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress)

The primary target of the Boston Tea Party was the East India Company, a government-granted monopoly that benefited directly from the Tea Act passed by King George.

When the Sons of Liberty boarded the Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver they destroyed the tea — and only the tea. They did not sink the ships. They did not attack the crew. They did not lay waste to the port.

It was a deliberate, focused act of violence aimed at property, with a government-linked monopoly as the primary target and the government itself as the secondary target. It did not involve anyone who was not a beneficiary of the Tea Act. Even so, the Sons of Liberty — and everybody else, including their allies and sympathisers — recognised that the protest itself was illegal. The colonial government did not suppress the Tea Party because the colonial government supported the cause, not because the protest was legal.

The Boston Tea Party itself was the culmination of decades of colonial frustration with the British government. The colonials believed it was not fair for King George to levy taxes on the colonies without granting them representation in Parliament. They saw King George and Parliament as remote rulers far removed from the goings-on in their lands, utilising taxes and the Regulars to keep the colonials in check. Despite decades of arguments, London did not budge. Taxation without representation was the order of the day. When the Tea Act passed, it undercut the livelihoods of colonial tea merchants while propping up a government monopoly on the brink of collapse. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Black Blocs of Washington

Now contrast this with the riots in Washington, fronted by the infamous Black Bloc.

This is in no way comparable to the Tea Party. The Tea Party did not deliberately attack people. The Washington rioters attacked police officers, and smashed windows and torched cars belonging to private businesses and individuals unaffiliated with President Donald Trump or the Federal government.

Disrupt J20 was an excuse to indulge in random acts of gratuitous violence. The rioters didn’t target anyone or anything belonging to Trump or his administration. They simply attacked ordinary Americans who live in a city that overwhelmingly voted against Trump, a President who has not done significant anything yet.

Think about that: the progressives, anarchists, antifascists and other groups were attacking their own supporters, in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Instead of peaceful protests and petitions in a nation known for responding to such methods, the rioters indulged in violence.

The Washington riots had far more to do with the Stamp Act riots than the Tea Party. And the Stamp Act rioters, it should be remembered, were so destructive that the Founding Fathers sought to distance themselves from them.

The Slippery Slope

To be fair, the Boston Tea Party and the Washington riots have one thing in common: they were both acts of political violence.

Political violence rots the body politic. It is an irrevocable step towards chaos and bloodshed. Mob violence signals to everyone that the political process has failed, and it is time to unleash the beasts within. History tells us that mob violence is the death of liberty, democracy and civilisation. From the fall of the Roman Republic to Byzantium during the Imperial Exile, the French Terror to the Cultural Revolution, mob violence is a symptom of coming chaos.

The Boston Tea Party irrevocably led to the American Revolutionary War. America looks fondly upon the Tea Party today because America won the war. Had the British won, the textbooks and the popular narratives would be far different indeed.

The Washington riots allow Progressives to tell themselves that mob violence is acceptable, and a preferred tactic in future controversies. But this is a delusion. The riots also tell the Hard Right what to expect when the Progressives come for them.

I have seen discussions of armaments and tactics among the militant right. They are ready and willing to inflict bloodshed on a scale beyond what the Left can dream of. The Left calls for gun control, safe spaces and feminism; the Right believes in gun ownership, training and preparation. The Progressives may bring boots and clubs and stones; the Hard Right will wield AR-15s and Molotov cocktails and IEDs.

If the culture war goes hot, who do you think will win?

Drop the ‘Strong and Independent Female’ Label

Progressives, social justice warriors and feminists love gushing over strong, independent females in fiction. It’s an affirmation of their beliefs and ideas, a reflection of their worldview in popular culture. Critics constantly highlight the presence of such strong, independent females everywhere they appear: books, games, films, everywhere. What is truly remarkable about this phenomenon is that the phrase ‘strong, independent female character’ means nothing at all.

Let’s break it down. We have ‘strong’, ‘independent’ and ‘female character’. The last is self-explanatory. The former two, in the context of fiction, make little sense.

Let’s look at ‘strong’. When pertaining to people, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

1:  having or marked by great physical power

2:  having moral or intellectual power

3:  having great resources (as of wealth or talent)

6:forceful, cogent<strong evidence><strong talk>

10:ardent, zealous<a strong supporter>

11a:  not easily injured or disturbed :solid

11b:  not easily subdued or taken <a strong fort>

13:  not easily upset or nauseated <a strong stomach>

While ‘strong’ makes for a convenient shorthand, the word carries so many connotations that as a descriptor it is vague to the point of meaninglessness.

A female character may have an IQ in the 99th percentile, but if she can’t even lift a 20kg barbell, can she be called ‘strong’? A female character may be an Amazonian, but if she runs away at the first sign of conflict, can she be called ‘strong’? If a female character is a billionaire with a talented staff of hundreds, yet squanders her wealth and time chasing frivolities, can she be called ‘strong’?

The word ‘strong’ requires context for a complete understanding of the character. Why not simply use more specific words?

What about ‘independent’? Merriam-Webster says:

:  not dependent: as

a(1):  not subject to control by others :self-governing

(2):  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b(1):  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion>

(2):  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3):  not bound by or committed to a political party

c(1):  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents>(2):  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

d:  showing a desire for freedom <an independent manner>

The character doesn’t need other people to make decisions for her. She is capable of making her own choices and driving the plot through her actions. By being self-reliant, she stands out from the other characters, and her will sometimes clashes with theirs, creating the drama that feeds fiction.

In other words, she is a major character.

‘Strong and independent’ basically means ‘plausible major character’. There’s no point in celebrating main characters just because they happen to be female; all it means is that you’re only concerned about appearances. The label of ‘strong and independent’ will not make female characters stand out. The term has been used so many times, semantic satiation has set in, rendering the label little more than fluff.

In the realm of fiction, words are currency. If you are a writer, marketer, reviewer or otherwise involved in the industry describing a female character, seek superior words to more accurately reflect the character and make her stand out from the crowd.

Is she a sharpshooter and a martial arts expert? That makes her a human weapon. Is she capable of defending her dignity and achieving her goals in the face of widespread prejudice? That makes her assertive. Does she have an IQ of 180 and regularly invents world-shaking inventions? She is a genius. Has she survived major trauma and bounced back? She is resilient. Can she turn her enemies against each other? Then she is manipulative.

In other words, describe her as though she were a man.

Male characters aren’t described as ‘strong and independent’; they are described by skills, history and worldview, making them stand apart from each other. When freed of fluffy shorthand labels, they all become unique.

By contrast, female characters who labelled ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ are reduced to three words: strong, independent and female, signifying nothing of import. Their identities are erased, and they are all damned by faint praise.

This post isn’t about sexual differences or sexual politics. It is simply about crafting a brand for major characters through the use of powerful descriptors.

Don’t settle for the ‘strong and independent’ label for females and males. Seek more accurate and impactful words, and make the characters shine.