Yes. But.

At the risk of yes-butting people over my report on Requires Hate/ Benjanun Sriduangkaew/ Winterfox, I want to respond to a few points that have been made in recent posts or in their comment threads regarding my Hugo nomination.

Kate Nepveu:   Yes, but (1) my statistics were poorly supported or cited, and (2) the wrong people commented on and/or supported my efforts.

Abigail Nussbaum:  Yes, but (3) perverse pie charts! plus (2) the wrong people commented on and/or supported my efforts.

Shaun Duke:   Yes, but (4) Requires Hate has stopped her abuses, apologized, and deserves forgiveness. [UPDATE: while I was adding links to this post in preparation for uploading it, I saw that Shaun Duke has apologized. I’m leaving my response to point #4 up, because I have heard others raising the same point, and I want my position to be clear.]

Geoff Ryman:   Yes, but (5) racism! The Sad Puppy/ Rabid Puppy attack on the Hugos is a much bigger problem than Requires Hate.

(1) About the reason and basis for my statistics.

I went for a statistical approach, rather than an anecdotal one, for two primary reasons.

  • I sought a way to show what was going on with clarity. Without the details, people couldn’t understand exactly how serious the problem was. But dragging the specifics of what had happened in individual cases into the main body of the report held the risk of re-traumatizing and humiliating the targets. I wanted to find a way that preserved a certain amount of dignity for the people who had been targeted.
  • Using statistics made it clear that Requires Hate’s “punching up” rhetoric aside, the majority of those harmed were vulnerable or marginalized in some fashion (though to be clear, the abuse she heaped on her targets was wrong, no matter who they were).

Here are some facts regarding the basis of my statistics:

  • Four-fifths of the targets I used for my analysis, or 24 out of 30, were named.
  • For 23 of the targets whose attacks I documented, or more than three-fourths, I had at least two independent sources of documentation. For most, I had more, despite RH’s attempts to scrub the evidence[1].
  • Regarding the 6 anonymous targets, the use of confidential sources is standard practice in investigative journalism. For these, there was one documented source for five, and two sources for the other.
  • Appendix A was clear and transparent with regard to which targets’ attacks I had multiple confirmed sources for, and which I did not.
  • I didn’t publish all my documentation but I published a significant amount of it, via links and screencaps—most of what wasn’t confidential in order to protect people who provided personal emails and/or asked to remain anonymous. The links are in Appendix B. (Some of these links have been subsequently scrubbed by Requires Hate, which as E. P. Beaumont has pointed out, is in itself a huge red flag).
  • I saw criticism regarding the target sample size. Performing a statistical analysis on a sampling of a population is a standard method. (It’s not uncommon in auditing to use a 5-10% sample size, for example.) There are drug trials with fewer people in them that appear in peer-reviewed science journals all the time.
  • I saw criticism about what I counted as abusive behavior. I recognize that others may draw different boundaries than I did on certain kinds of incidents. A reasonable person might look at a single incident, or even a single kind of incident, and conclude that, while they might not like it, it doesn’t rise to the level of abuse that deserved someone like me writing a report about it. This argument misses the point. While some of the actions may not have risen to the level of severity as others, they contributed to a larger pattern of destructive behavior.
  • The only reason there were 30 targets rather than, say, 45 or more, and that a handful of them lack a second source, is that several people were under attack continuously during my research, and were in a great deal of anguish. Those supporting me insisted my report had to be done within a few weeks—or at most, a month, to effectively protect the community. To fully research her prior actions, fully document, and report on them would have been a multi-month project, as she left a long and wide swath. And I doubt whether Requires Hate or her supporters would have been more persuaded by it or grateful to me for going to that extra effort.

Before moving on…are people seriously arguing that whether Requires Hate is a serial abuser rests on the question of whether, e.g., she abused 23 people rather than 30, or 45; whether non-white targets were 40% or only 30% of her target population; or whether abuse should be defined as threatening people with explicit murder, rape, or maiming threats, versus mounting extended shunning campaigns, efforts to suppress publication of their works, and stalking or blackmailing them? Really?

(3) About the data presentation choices I made.

I admit I got a chuckle out of the fact that Abigail Nussbaum found my pie charts perverse. I’m not quite sure what that means. Info management graphics like pie and bar charts, being much easier to read than tables of data, are a standard way of presenting statistical data. Did she take issue with my statistical choices? In which case, see my response #1 above. If not, are statistics used to report on, for instance, disproportionate incarceration and early death of black men in the US and its horrendous impacts on black families—or on the disproportionate and unjust effects of climate change—also perverse? Or was it that she didn’t like what the pie charts were saying?

(2) and (4) Regarding those who supported me, their impact on the report, and forgiveness for Requires Hate

I addressed my feelings about Requires Hate’s apologies, her continued abuses, and forgiveness and redemption back in February, in my follow-up report. As I’ve said before, I have no desire to see her receive the same treatment she’s meted out for so long; not from GamerGaters, Vox Day, PuppyGaters, her own stalkers, nor anyone else. No one deserves that kind of treatment. I don’t call for her to be blackballed. I believe individual editors and publishers have a right to make their own decisions to publish whom they choose.

The truth is that I would like to see Requires Hate find her way back into the community, somehow—as long as she can let go of her need to, e.g., call for people’s death, genocide, dismemberment, or acid maiming, and begin making real amends. And despite her protestations, I’m still getting reports of further attacks. I’ll post a followup on these with more details shortly. Furthermore, those under blackmail threat remain so, until she explicitly and publicly agrees not to act on her threats toward them.

She is a grown adult and has been for years. There is a fundamental unfairness in the notion that her rehabilitation should take precedence over the many who have played by the rules, and were brutally harassed and attacked by her. Forgiveness can’t be demanded by the abuser (nor her supporters). It can only be granted by the people she’s harmed.

As for the people who supported me while I was working on the report or who commented on it, a couple of points.

First, while the words and analysis were mine, my report was the point of a wide wedge. It was the result of a major, nearly-six-week-long effort and I was supported by dozens of people. Those I named in my acknowledgments post were only a subset of those who helped me investigate, gave me editorial feedback, and put out the word to make the SFF community aware of what was happening. I respect those who felt they needed to stay in the background—they had good reasons. But it took real courage to publicly cosign my efforts. I honor those who did.

In her comment on Abigail’s post, Rachel Manija Brown made another important point. SFF is a small world. There will always be people you dislike commenting on any high-profile issue. If your support for the targets of abuse is determined by whether or not you approve of their other supporters, this conflates the individual targets with the sum total of everyone who has commented on a current event. This is cruel and unfair to the actual victims. It’s erasing real people for the sake of old feuds they weren’t even involved in.

In the final analysis, I felt that this was a time when we needed to set aside our disagreements and political arguments, and come together as a community to support people who were in real pain.

Friends of mine in the community of color have spoken to me before about how much more heavily a white person’s words can fall, when they speak angrily or disrespectfully to a person of color. In Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s case, she was specifically referring to what happened to her with Requires Hate’s white defenders, who used some harsh words with her. I have heard some similar words from other people of color who were targeted by or stood up to Requires Hate. But I know that it applies in any conflict.

This article by writer Lo Kwa Mei-en on how silencing works on immigrant women of color is just lacerating, and it reminds me of exactly where the rage can come from, in an argument, which to someone like me might seem as if it comes from “nowhere.” SFF writer Saladin Ahmed recently described on Twitter how he got racially profiled on a recent domestic US plane trip ([1] | [2][3]). Tobias Buckell talked recently about how he has never felt safe in SFF conventions and fandom, due to his race. A lifetime of these kinds of incidents, large and small, can pile up on a person; I know this from my own experiences as a woman in a technical field. They become an invisible added burden people must carry around.

This added weight that lies on the shoulders of people in a power-down social position calls all of us in any power-up community to take an extra moment to consider the impact of our words, when we’re in a dispute.

I have heard the criticisms of my report by people including not just Kate Nepveu, but also Tessa Kum and Jaymee Goh, of Djibril al-Ayad, FanGirlJeanne, and Tempest Bradford, among others. I acknowledge that my being white does make a difference—that it is essentially impossible for me to talk about this topic without that racial power dynamic and potential for bias echoing between us—whether or not that’s my desire or intent. I disagree with some of the things they’ve said, but I want to stress that their voices matter.

And of course, this is also happening when white supporters of or apologists for Requires Hate talk sharply to, or make blanket public statements that erase the experiences of, people like Rochita, E. P. Beaumont, Jintian/ Hesychasm, and M Sereno/ Likhain. It is happening along other social power axes, as well—for instance, for Requires Hate’s targets such as Rachel Manija Brown, Athena Andreadis, Liz Williams, Colum Paget, and Tricia Sullivan, among others. They are all feeling the added burden and stress, I’m certain, of having to contend with the more influential, high-profile people in our community dissecting and opining on how much the targets’ experiences matter.

While we’re on the subject of identity and social privilege, it also seems fair to me to point out that Requires Hate rarely if ever discusses the aspects of her own demographics that are less advantageous to her identity-policing rhetoric—such as the fact that she is wealthy, and enjoys her own brand of racial privilege as an ethnically-Chinese person living in Thailand. That matters, too. Privilege is always relative, and people’s identities are complex.

(5) On weighing racism and the Sad-Rabid Puppies, versus Requires Hate.

You won’t get any argument from me that structural racism and white supremacy are a much bigger problem than the actions of any one person. The legacy of oppression we live with means that we all live on a power gradient, in which the words and actions of people with greater privilege fall with heavier weight on those lower on the privilege slope. And I know the kind of pain this can bring, which can lead someone to want to stomp the world down to flinders and dance among its bones.

But Requires Hate is a textbook example of why the tone argument can’t be used as a panacea for society’s ills.

I imagine our SFF community as a forest, an ecosystem burgeoning with living beings—one that I want to see thrive in all its complex interdependencies.

If so, the PuppyGaters’ bloc-voting slate on the Hugos comes across to me as a direct attack on our community’s well-being. It’s as if they are wielding flamethrowers. If they can’t have the forest to themselves, they want to burn it down. Requires Hate’s attacks, on the other hand, occur more insidiously, mostly out of sight. The hurt she has caused spreads more slowly like a poison, through streams, soil, and tap root, to kill the forest’s heart.

It destroys trust, when people know there is no true fairness in the accusations and threats being leveled against them, but that those around them, those who have the ability to defend them, either think the attacks are justified strictly on the basis of identity, or that they somehow don’t matter. And this damage also degrades our community’s health. It makes us all the more vulnerable to the flames.

I agree with those who say we need to send a message to the PuppyGaters by voting No Award on the SP/RP works[2],[3]. I also believe we need to make it clear as a community that we stand by the people harmed by Requires Hate.

Social-justice concepts have moral heft, and are themselves a form of power. They should be wielded with due care. With anger, yes, of course. Anger is an understandable and appropriate response to abuse.

But social-justice rhetoric should not—must not—be put to cynical and self-serving ends. These concepts were developed to eliminate injustice—not to create new unjust acts! I believe this down to my very bones.

Believe me, I wish I could stop talking about this. This isn’t about me, and I’d like nothing more than to leave the whole Requires Hate mess behind. But I feel I have a responsibility to our community. Until I am convinced that she has truly changed her ways, I will continue standing up for the people at risk of harm. (And this, by the way, was the advice of the expert I spoke to, regarding this matter.) If you truly care about the health and well-being of our community, I urge you to stand with me.

#RequiresLove (h/t Nalo Hopkinson)


[1] For the others, I confess, it was my heart, not my head, that called me to include them. Follow the links as you are able, read their words, and apply your own conscience, as to whether you agree.

[2] Though I intend to consider and vote on the non-SP/RP works on the ballot, as they are there by the will of the community. There are always plenty of great works that never see a Hugo ballot, and no award process will ever be perfect. Let us not punish those who are on the ballot despite the PuppyGaters’ efforts.

[3] I also want to give a shout-out to Annie Bellet, Marko Kloos, and Matthew David Sturridge, who declined their nominations when they discovered they had gotten onto the ballot due to the PuppyGaters. I urge everyone to read their works and consider them for a Hugo on the 2016 ballot.


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