Almost since the advent of the internet, there have been warnings about what to say – or not – on it. The internet is a vast and mostly public arena. Imagine, if you can, standing in Grand Central Station and screaming slurs at the top of your lungs, while the sane people standing near you back away slowly. Online, this doesn’t happen. One person starts screaming and frothing at the mouth, and others are drawn like moths to the flame to scream along with them.
This is disturbing and upsetting, but it is easy enough to avoid this kind of behaviour if you want to (and some like to troll-bait. Personally, I find it unkind to taunt the mentally ill and don’t stoop to pillorying their personal lives). On occasion, though, we are not dealing with a lone individual, but one that is tied to a corporate identity. And this situation is why most reputable companies have policies in place about the use of social media. Because when a person using their real name, which can easily be tied to their workplace, starts to cast slurs on their own colleagues, not to mention large sections of the business’s client base, that can reflect very badly on their employer.
This is what is happening right now with TOR books. When the Nielsen-Hayden’s first began to cast false accusations on their personal blog, Making Light, Larry Correia made it very clear that we could not blame all of TOR Books for their behaviour. It is a large publishing company, after all, and they were only one (possibly two) employees. I agreed with him, not only because I have friends who are very fond of the man who once ran TOR, but because I am acquainted with him and it seems unlikely this is a policy he would allow to be promulgated through his company. When Moshe Feder sneered at fans for not being sufficiently… fannish enough, for lack of better words, I sighed and chalked it up to the same reactions of fear and loathing I had noted from the time that they learned that the Hugo nominations had not gone their way, some days before the nominations were officially announced.
Sometime yesterday the comments of the Creative Director of TOR books came to my attention. Now, I have no idea who this woman is, but it seems clear that she is not fully aware of the gravity of her words. I’m not going to bother diagramming her initial sentence, as some have done to try and figure out her precise meaning. I think that is unnecessary. Taken as a whole, this is clearly a reaction of fear and loathing, not one of rational intellectual consideration. First of all, there is little in the statement that is true. There are two groups, known respectively as Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. That much is true. The rest of it seems to reflect the policy that all of the attackers have been following.
I wish I could say that I was being paranoid. I despise conspiracy theories, in large they are stupid. In this case, however, the evidence is mounting. From the Entertainment Weekly article where I first learned that I, as a nominee, was ‘racist, misogynist…’ and was dumbfounded and amused to be told by friends that the whole list of recommendations made by Brad Torgersen were white Mormon males… This has been increasingly clearly a company that was no longer in control of their employees, and those employees were determined to harm as many of us as they could possibly do, with absolutely no effort to discern any shred of truth. Irene Gallo simply blurts out the nastiest, most inflammatory things that pop into her head, as the author of the Entertainment Weekly article did, and it seems clearer and clearer that they are connected.
Now, people are calling enmasse for a boycott of TOR. I cannot say that I blame them. Peter Grant’s reaction was unexpected, as we had just had a conversation about not blaming TOR. But as his wife commented: “Call a guy who spent 18 years and a lot of shed blood working for the end of apartheid “unrepentently racist, misogynist, and homophobic”, and he reaches the end of his tolerance. Imagine that.” Based on the accusations I have documented above, Ms. Gallo has endangered the employment of many people who have done nothing more than seek to raise awareness of the Hugo Award in a way she and her friends did not approve of. Make no mistake – this is not a political campaign. Whatever it started as, it is now a clash between a corporate culture, and the fans who support it through buying books and media. Those fans are having enough of this nonsense.
Something that I am sure Ms. Gallo did not consider when she made her response so publically, beyond how it would reflect on her company, was how it would reflect on the authors her company relies on for it’s very existence. A publishing house creates nothing. They serve as distribution for the creative efforts of authors. At least two of those authors on the Sad Puppy group lists are published by TOR, and they are not small names: Kevin J Anderson and John C Wright. Both are very nice men, and their sales reflect my impression of their creative efforts: they write well. Certainly not, as Ms Gallo reports ‘bad-to-reprehensible works.’ I would say the same for Jim Butcher, who is one of my favorite authors, and who is painted with that same brush although fortunately not published by TOR. His reaction was very clear.
I could go on, but this is long enough, and the points have been made. Clearly, this is the reason that companies need policy concerning public statements by their employees. And those employees need training in professionalism at least enough to know better than to make statements like this. And if they do so, to issue a gracious retraction when they realize they were wrong. Not to delete a thread, because that is not an erasure, it is a cowardly attempt to scrape the mess under the nearest rug. It doesn’t work, the archiving is already done by then. Nor does a gracious retraction include cat pictures when politely pressed for clarification of your statement. At this point, I will wait to see what TOR’s reaction will be. A responsible business would already be moving to rectify this. Sadly, the precedent for that is the Foglio’s and what happened to them.