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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Raising Straw Men In The Corn Field - The Great Hugo Dust-Up, Part 2

This post won't be nearly as cogent nor as long as the previous one. Those kinds of posts come upon me only once in a great while. It won't be as reasoned or as persuasive either. Reason and persuaion are also occasionally in short supply in the dark recesses of my grey matter. But here goes...

At least as early as Saturday afternoon, almost immediately after the 2015 Hugo nominations was announced, so suspiciously fast, in fact, that one could almost have assumed someone might have advance word of the final nominees list, an individual with power over acceptance of an author's stories for a certain sf/f magazine stated that they believed the only way to counter the Sad Puppies slate was to vote "No AWARD" for everything except for say graphic novels and dramatic presentations.

Quite a few others have been raising this "option" over the last few days. First off, let's review what a "straw man argument" is and then we can talk about why this isn't really a valid defense against Sad Puppies.

From the vaunted source Wikipedia,

"A straw man is a common reference argument and is an informal fallacy based on false representation of an opponent's argument.[1] To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.

The so-called typical "attacking a straw man" argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up a straw man") and then to refute or defeat that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the original proposition.[2][3]

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.
In the United Kingdom the argument is also known as an Aunt Sally, after the pub game of the same name where patrons throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman's head.[4][5]"

 So, people are saying that, essentially, in order to save the Hugo, the fans have to destroy it by voting "No Award" for everything except what this select group of other fans tells them to vote for and how to vote for it.

How does voting "No Award" destroy the Hugo, you ask? Well, quite frankly, it doesn't. This tactic can only work if the Sad Puppies and all those who support the Sad Puppies are really as stupid as the other side thinks we are.

So, the first leg of the straw man argument is established as someone telling someone that doing this will defeat the Sad Puppies because, essentially, they're all just really, really stupid and evil and we can't let the Hugo fall into their hands.

Of course, this also means that another leg of the straw man is also established - those advocating this stance apparently believe that those who follow this strategy are equally as stupid as they believe the Sad Puppies to be. That their target audience needs to be led, to be told how to vote and who to vote for. This does, naturally, hint at a staggering amount of egocentrism and elitism on the part of those advocating such a move. Those they're talking to are too stupid and naive, to ill-informed, uneducated, and uninformed to be capable of forming their own opinions without one of their betters to lead them.

The first leg of the straw man is more firmly established by the simle fact that there's only one organization that can stop awarding the Hugo and that's WorldCon. No one else has the power of control over the award itself. WorldCon owns the award. Fans vote for the nominees and the final ballot, but they don't actually own the rights to the award itself. Only WorldCon has the power to say, "We will not award the Hugo any more". Thus, saying ths will stop Sad Puppies and deny the Hugo award to a finalist is a logical fallacy in and of itself. WorldCon could, on its own, simply say, "The award goes to..." no matter what the outcome of a vote.

In addition, there appears to be a mindset afoot on the other side that Sad Puppies are simply a crowd of mindless sheep. None of us have their own will, their own opinions, their own power to do more than walk and nod and comment in lockstep with Brad and Larry. In my opinion this comes from a mindset on the other side that we're all good little stormtroopers and do whatever our leaders tell us, but I suspect the truth is a bit more like trying to herd rattlesnakes (rather than cats). The other side's members might move in lockstep with their leaders, but Sad Puppies never will. We're used to having our own opinions and ideas and voicing them, sometimes loudly and repeatedly, over the castle walls at midnight during a lightning storm.

And, as the advocates of the "No Award" option likely already know, the Sad Puppies can't quite be counted on to follow the advice of the other side and also vote "No Award" so the only hope would be to out-vote the Sad Puppies.

From the outcome voting numbers for the final nominees, any fool with a calculator can run the numbers and see who apparently outnumbers who.

So, there's the second leg of the straw man. If the other side votes "No Award" as ordered, while they'll be good little troopers all marching along in lockstep with their leaders, they're not likely to stop Sad Puppies who will most certainly NOT vote "No Award". So, the other side's members will have essentially thrown their vote away and can only hope the "No Award" votes outnumber any single other nominees total votes.

They're counting on Sad Puppies to be unable to corral enough of their members so as to present a solid voting bloc (and this one's really funny since the other side is also railing and wailing against even the idea of voting blocs) that can muster enough numbers to counter their "No Award" bloc(s). Heck, they're even saying that the Sad Puppies voters are so far all over the place nominee-wise that they cannot present an organized count for any single nominee on the slate.

 In the final equation, the idea of voting "No Award" and thus countering Sad Puppies is a logical fallacy and thus a straw man argument. I can basically guarantee you that virtually no Sad Puppy will vote "No Award" and, on top of that, I'd be willing to lay down serious money that a lot of the folks on the other side of things who are advocating this approach, not only know it won't work and is a straw man, that they themselves will not follow through with a "No Award" vote of their own.

Because they know it won't work. They know the Sad Puppies will vote. In fact, they're counting on the use of this argument, this fallacy, to get people to walk away from the voting process entirely.

And there's the real straw man.

Stopping the members of their on side from voting, from participating in the process. Which would give the Sad Puppies and enormous win t which the other side can then point at and say, "See? We told ya' so."

What the other side is saying, in advocating for a "No Award" vote is that no one but themselves is smart enough to be allowed to be part of the process. The rest of us are all just sheep, to be led and trained and told what to think, where to sleep, what to eat, how to live, but not smart enough to participate in the really important things like participating in a process. See, I think a few of the elitists on the other side think they're really, really smart. If one looks at things objectively, most of everyone in fandom is actually a pretty smart individual or they would not be reading sf/f. But some people think they're much, much smarter than the rest of us.

And they think they have a plan.

They think we're stupid enough to be fooled by such statements. They're sure their own followers can be led down the primrose path and told who to vote for and how. And they think that eeryone can be fooled all of the time.

Personally, I'm not raising any straw men out in the cornfeld. But I can see my way toward knocking down a few.

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