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Democratic resistance to Trump can take some cues from sci-fi

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It’s funny how many similarities the worlds of science fiction and politics share. Both are run by nerds, and hold galas where the respective wonks from both parallel universes can convene and try to impress each other with obscure facts.

And the science fiction and political worlds are prone to internal strife between competing factions, battles in which some sides will turn to vile acts to win the day.

{mosads}Come with me back to 2015, when some in the world took President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign as a nothing more than desperate public relations move. That summer sci-fi geeks converged on Spokane, WA for WorldCon 73, on of the longest running literary conventions in the world. It’s basically the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner meets the Academy Awards, meets a Star Trek convention. You likely remember the guys who liked Star Wars a bit too much in high school. The go to these things.

The climax of the convention is the presentation of the Hugo Awards. Past winners include Starship Troopers, Dune, Ender’s Game, and American Gods

The 2015 show was the scene of a fight started by a small but noisy cabal of alt-right malcontents referring to themselves as the Rabid Puppies, who used an army of Facebook trolls and Twitter eggs conjured from the cesspools of 4chan and Reddit to flood our little community of science fiction book geeks like a rampaging horde. 

The Rabid Puppies attacked the Hugo Awards for encouraging diversity and inclusiveness in the kind of literature sci-fi geeks consume, enjoy, and recognize.

At the center of this revolt was Theodore Beale, more commonly known by his pen name, Vox Day. Beale’s name would re-emerge this campaign season after Trump’s son retweeted him

Beale, an obscure author of sci-fi works, was already notorious in fandom for his outspokenly white-supremacist and misogynistic views. Beale’s toxic brew of racism, xenophobia, and girls-are-icky rhetoric resonated with the sort of basement-dwelling Mountain Dew addicts who complain about the “friend zone.”

And Beale, like another politician we know, wasn’t beyond engaging in public trolling to cast aspersions at a public figure. GamerGate and the Birther controversy are both rooted in the propensity of old white men to do everything and anything to protect their stranglehold on the franchise. 

Beale’s minions harassed and threatened to rape or kill female gaming journalist and designers. And on the heels of that controversy, Beale tried to hijack the Hugo Awards, because Beale didn’t win an award. Feels familiar, doesn’t it?

The Rabid Puppies and Beale passed themselves off a silent majority, and used online mockery, harassment, and propaganda to mount a virtual occupation. The Rabid Puppies stacked the Hugos with ideologically-charged nonsense written by partisan hacks and incompetents.

Any of this sounding familiar yet? 

The response to the Rabid Puppies was a mix of anger, desperation and disbelief. 

Most didn’t recognize it at the time, but the Hugos, like GamerGate’s assault on videogame journalists before it, had become another proxy battle in the ongoing culture war between the forces of progress and inclusiveness, and the retrograde conservatism threatening to spread across the western world.

The initial pushback to the Rabid Puppies was unfocused and confused. Infighting and finger-pointing hampered the resistance. There was no coherent strategy. Should ardent sci-fi fans let the whole thing burn itself out; should we engage in dialogue and use reason and compassion to bring them into the fold.  But the Rabid Puppies were after blood. They wanted revenge, not negotiation.

You’re starting to see a familiar pattern here. 

Eventually through some savvy politics, the majority wrestled back control of WorldCon 73. The very next year, Rabid Puppy influence over the nominations had already begun to ebb. More women and POC won major awards.

But the lesson still sits with me.

It’s easy to forget now, but the facts are the forces of fascism and intolerance are exactly like the hordes of GamerGate and the Rabid Puppies. They are loud, angry, aggressive, shameless, and without scruples. The include the same types of people who voted for Brexit in the UK and Trump in America.

But they are also a clear minority. Nearly three million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. More Americans voted for Democratic Senators. It is only through exploitation of the rules in violation of the spirit of American democratic ideals that the forces of intolerance and bigotry “won” their majorities.

This has been true for more than a decade.

This makes them vulnerable to our superior numbers should we have the foresight and resolve to set aside our petty bickering and unify in an organized fashion and agree to a coherent plan of counterattack.

And they know it. That’s why they are constantly introducing new legislation at the state level to limit early voting, close polling places, require ID to vote, and sought to gut the Voting Rights Act. They fear our numbers. They work to keep us fractured and divided.

Don’t let them. We are stronger together.

Patrick Tomlinson is an author and regular contributor to the Hill on state, local and national politics. Follow him on Twitter @stealthygeek.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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