So I missed this report by Laura Mixon until the Hugo award dust up hit, but I think it is a really important piece of work. It is an incredibly thorough report on how a particular individual over the years abused the rhetoric of social justice as a way of really hurting other sci-fi authors, many of whom were people really working to help promote social justice issues through their writing. If you haven’t read it, stop reading my notes on it here and go look at it.
Now, one element I find fascinating (and disturbing, in part because I had read some of Requires Hate’s writing and bought her arguments in the isolated pieces I had seen) is the way Requires Hate primarily attacked people belonging to historically discriminated against categories while still using social justice rhetoric.
I think one takeaway from reading this is that causes (especially ones that are just!) produce power, and power produces people who want to monopolize that power. For RH it almost seems that any other progressive woman of color was competition rather than an ally and was targeted as such.
Part of what made this so easy to do with social justice issues is that effectively no one in the world is personally perfect on them. If someone who is more interested in defeating people than in building up people adopts a zero tolerance approach on social justice, even the best people become easy targets simply because our society guarantees that everyone is always going to have a blind spot somewhere. Those same people who are trying the hardest are then the most vulnerable if someone maliciously goes after them when a blind spot is exposed. RH took people who are truly invested in fighting sexism, racism, and the like and then told the community that those people were the very thing they hated. She didn’t do this nicely. It wasn’t a “Hey, here is this problem in the work you did that might be worth digging into so that we can improve our ideologies for the future.” Instead, it seems to have always taken the form of a vicious attack on the people themselves.The point of the exercise wasn’t to fix a blind spot, rather it was to drive away other people who were competition, either by convincing the community that they should be ostracized or by destroying the target’s self worth and causing them to self-ostracize.
It is a behavior pattern I have seen quite often before in subculture communities, especially ones that are relatively insular. I just hadn’t put my finger on it until reading this particular report. It has me asking questions both about personal behavioral patterns (i.e., how does one work to make absolutely sure that they avoid falling into behavioral patterns like the ones that show up in the report?) and about how a group can protect itself from abusive individuals.