Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil
GSF1 is one of the most common fallacies, and one of the most deeply held. Many geeks have had horrible, humiliating, and formative experiences with ostracism, and the notion of being on the other side of the transaction is repugnant to them.
In its non-pathological form, GSF1 is benign, and even commendable: it is long past time we all grew up and stopped with the junior high popularity games. However, in its pathological form, GSF1 prevents its carrier from participating in -- or tolerating -- the exclusion of anyone from anything, be it a party, a comic book store, or a web forum, and no matter how obnoxious, offensive, or aromatic the prospective excludee may be.
Carriers of GSF2 believe that since a friend accepts them as they are, anyone who criticizes them is not their friend. Thus, they can't take criticism from friends -- criticism is experienced as a treacherous betrayal of the friendship, no matter how inappropriate the criticized behavior may be.
Conversely, most carriers will never criticize a friend under any circumstances; the duty to be supportive trumps any impulse to point out unacceptable behavior.
GSF2 has extensive consequences within a group. Its presence in substantial quantity within a social group vastly increases the group's conflict-averseness. People spend hours debating how to deal with conflicts, because they know (or sometimes merely fear) that the other person involved is a GSF2 carrier, and any attempt to confront them directly will only make things worse. As a result, people let grudges brew much longer than is healthy, and they spend absurd amounts of time deconstructing their interpersonal dramas in search of a back way out of a dilemma.
The fact is, there is no correlation I can see between an author’s political views and the frequency (or complete lack thereof) with which he or she gets nominated for SF literary awards. The claim of the Sad Puppies faction that so-called “social justice warriors” are systematically discriminating against them is specious. It can only be advanced by cherry-picking examples and studiously ignoring all the ones that contradict the thesis, of which there are a multitude
What’s involved here is essentially a literary analog to genetic drift. Biologists have long known that the role played by pure chance in evolution is greater in a small population than a larger one. The same thing happens in the arts, especially those arts which have a huge mass audience. The attitudes of the much smaller group or groups of in-crowds who hand out awards or do critical reviews are mostly influenced by other members of their in-crowd, not by the tastes of the mass audience. Over time, just by happenstance if nothing else, their views start drifting apart from those of the mass audience.
This is by no means peculiar to F&SF. In just about every field of literary or artistic endeavor—hell, just plain hobbies, when you get down to it—you tend to get a division between the interests and concerns of the mass audience involved in that field and the much smaller inner circles of aficionados.
Forget high-faluting literature, for a moment. Consider…
Hundreds of millions of people own dogs. If you ask those people what constitutes a “good dog,” you will get a range of answers but they will mostly focus on a dog’s behavior toward the humans they deal with.
But now go to a dog show, attended by the comparatively tiny number of people who are hobbyists when it comes to breeding and raising dogs. Most of the criteria by which Dog X or Dog Y gets chosen as “best dog of show” are going to be criteria that the average dog-owner around the world thinks are esoteric at best and often downright silly or even grossly wrong-headed.
Since the 1970s, middle-class incomes have been stagnant in inflation-adjusted terms, while the wealthy have done very well; inequality of wealth and income has risen.
Over that same period, though, Americans’ views on whether the government should work to redistribute income — to tax the rich, for example, and funnel the proceeds to the poor and working class — have, depending on which survey answers you look at, either been little changed, or shifted toward greater skepticism about redistribution.
In other words, Americans’ desire to soak the rich has diminished even as the rich have more wealth available that could, theoretically, be soaked.
New research offers a bit more evidence on what may be occurring. It doesn’t disprove either the conventional liberal or conservative argument. But it does show some of the ways that Americans’ attitudes toward redistribution are more complex than either would suggest.
A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Jimmy Charité, Raymond Fisman and Ilyana Kuziemko tackled this with an online experiment in which a random sampling of Americans were asked what tax rate they thought appropriate for someone whose annual income had suddenly increased by $250,000 for reasons involving luck. The researchers asked the question twice. In one version, the income gain occurred in the current year; in the other, it happened five years ago. Surprisingly, the respondents favored a 1.7 percentage point higher tax rate if the person with the income gain had recently started earning the extra money than if the person had been earning it for five years.
In other words, respondents favored less redistribution if they believed that the person had already grown accustomed to a higher income. The psychology seems to be something like this: Rich people who have been rich for a while have gotten used to their money, so it would be unfair to tax them heavily. But people who have just gotten rich have not become accustomed to higher levels of after-tax income, so it wouldn’t be as harmful to raise their taxes in the interest of greater equality.
One of its more striking conclusions: The shift away from a belief in redistribution has been stronger among elderly Americans than any other age group.
Might this be explained by the elderly becoming more conservative in general, and therefore taking a more conservative view on this issue? Not really. The shift showed up even when the researchers controlled for views on hot-button social issues like abortion and gun control.