My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fortune Cookie Wisdom XIV

Social issues are political. Political issues are social. The personal is political and the political is personal. Only those safe from nearly all political consequence box "politics" away as some special category of thought. A writer can either be political or blithely oblivious...which–Guess what?–is also a political position in aggressive favor of the status quo. 

An autocorrect error takes two seconds to fix. Being the kind of elitist, pompous, probably ableist and classist, and maybe even racist snot who thinks an autocorrect error is a great thing to make fun of someone over takes a lot longer.

Sometimes what you need isn't to tell yourself you're going to write and not check Facebook all day long. Sometimes you need to tell yourself you're going to write and not check facebook for just twenty solid minutes.
A lot of people think they want to be world renowned writers, but many of these folks don't realize just how much even the smallest amounts of fame translate into audiences who feel they're entitled to time, attention, energy, and entertainment that is exactly what they want it to be.

If you like an artist or entertainer who is mostly doing their schtick for free (like a blogger or a fanfic writer), it would really be a great idea to toss a pittance their way so they can keep doing it. A dollar a month might not seem like much to you, but they'll add up for the artist, and day jobs cut into creative time like you wouldn't believe.
For everyone who announces they are no longer your reader because you wrote something they don't "like," someone else will show up because they liked what you wrote. Just be true to yourself and your art.
Traditional vs. non-traditional is, at this point in history, largely a personal choice in terms of money and number of readers. One can traditionally publish poorly edited crap or clean up a self published book so that it is error free and hire a professional artist to do the cover. The compelling factors in such a decision should be the "validation" of being noticed by Gatekeeper Senpai and the publishing world vs. creative control, instant-er gratification, and needing to learn how to wear a few other hats oneself (like how to promote a book online or how to format text for a Kindle). 
Fanfic: writers who know they will never get paid, who face little or no renown and often even stigma, creating art that they are passionate about just for the love of doing so. I'm sorry, what's not to love?
All artists are flawed. But most artists are breathtakingly honest about those flaws. The artist who denies their flaws, claiming they are particularly virtuous in that regard are the ones whose falls from grace are often breathtaking plummets.
When your days are 14+ hours long and you're double booked on pet sitting. Don't be afraid to do some jazz hands and hit it hard on the weekend.

Not enough fortune cookie wisdom?  Come get more!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 3)

That feeling of secret shame when you
realize that you're rooting for the bad guys
chiefly because this dude looks like
Danny Rand.
What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

Today was long, hard, double booked, 12 hours at my other two jobs, and involved getting my ass just fucking KICKED by A.D.D., so I'm not going to do much more than tell you that quarterfinal three of our poll is up, and it's up to you to decide which three titles will be joining Harry Potter (obviously) in going on to the semifinals.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author."

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 2 Results)

The pet sitting double book started today, so it might mess with our update schedule through this weekend. (I'll still get you six posts for this week. I just might need to put that last one or two up over the weekend.)

In any case, here are the results of our most recent quarterfinal poll. The top four names will go on to the semifinals. And the new poll will be up tomorrow. (With a post to follow if I'm on fire but not until Friday if I'm less....on...fire.)

Thank you for the incredible turn out. I hope enthusiasm stays stoked.

Text results below.

Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen 433 35.06%
Small Gods- T. Pratchett 256 20.73%
Song of Ice and Fire- G.R.R. Martin 123 9.96%
Neverwhere- N. Gaiman 116 9.39%
His Dark Materials- P. Pullman 105 8.5%
Mistborne- B. Sanderson 82 6.64%
Farseer Trilogy- R. Hobb 68 5.51%
The First Law trilogy- J. Abercrombie 52 4.21%

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writing Prompt: Short and Timed

The place I'm currently cat sitting has some pretty gnarly parking laws around it. I can try to find a place a few blocks away or move my car every hour. Today I've been doing the latter and I might keep on for the duration of the trip.

Why? Because I get to have short, timed, focused writing. I come in. I set my keys back down. Maybe have a drink or use the restroom and it's about 45 minutes until I need to move my car again to avoid any hint of impropriety before a zealous meter reader who marked my car the second I walked away cruises back through like a t-rex sniffing the air.

A timed writing exercise is nothing new–you've probably done a thousand of them before, but what often gets overlooked is how useful they can still be to a seasoned writer. It's too easy to look across an "entire day" and push writing back and back and back until it's in this tiny corner. Or to sit down to an "hours long session" and spend the first half of the time futzing on Facebook or playing Gardenscape because those hours stretching out gave you a sense that there was much more time. We tend to question ourselves less under deadline and push ourselves harder. Plus it's easier to put off distractions for "a few minutes" than it is to be good about them all day.

Then suddenly, with your back against the wall, a few minutes worth of work actually gets done. Certainly vet writers have their days where it all just falls into place, but they also have their fits and starts too. Sometimes it's just a lot easier to think about sitting down to write for a half an hour than an afternoon.

That's where timed speed drills come in.


Use your current work in progress provided it is a first draft. If your WIP is not a first draft, pick something else or start something new. It's important that you not be working on something where you mull over a word choice for several minutes, but rather a piece where you're trying to get it out onto the page. Set a timer for NO longer than 45 minutes. The "sweet spot" will be somewhere where you will feel the pressure and your mind won't wander, but also before you can become overwhelmed and then bored by writing at a heavy pace. Most season writers will be able to do 45 minutes easily–resist the urge to do more. Newer writers may have to do less, but less than ten minutes is probably too short.

Set your timer and begin to write. You don't have to scribble furiously. This isn't necessarily a free write (where the "pencil must keep moving") but you do have to keep writing. No checking other tabs or doing anything else for that 45 minutes. When you're done you can do whatever you want: Facebook, check your phone, research, "research," but for now just keep making words.

Bonus points:

  • Depending on how fast you write, you can make this prompt extra intense by giving yourself an ambitious word count but don't make it so high that you're flinging words like a free write. The trick here is to get yourself writing at a clip you usually only do under pressure, not necessarily to just fling spaghetti at the wall.
  • Take a break and do another timed exercise in a few minutes. See if you can have a truly spectacular session in timed chunks with definite breaks instead of one overwhelming glob.
  • Play around with how long you can write before you start wasting time. Find out what your own sweet spot is.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Last Call for Votes)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

My hope is to futz with the usual update schedule this week and ratchet up the intensity of posts as the week progresses (and as time becomes more accessible), I'm double booked on pet sitting* and my nanny hours are higher than normal this week, but there should be time after tomorrow night to do some heavier posts that'll land at the end of the week.

*I know. I know. I said I wouldn't. I have already turned down some jobs that would double book me. This happened to be an emergency for a friend.

There are only a couple of days left for our second semifinal for best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years. On Wednesday the results will go up (and later that day, the next semifinal round). I don't want this poll to go on for months more, so the quarterfinal rounds are going to be quick.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Renown Margin

[Note: Everything in brackets will disappear in a few weeks.

I'm trying to come up with little posts I can write while the smoke is still blowing down here from the north bay. As bad as the air quality is, I am still very fortunate. I can ameliorate the worst of the coughing and sore throat by staying inside (which isn't my favorite, but dry hacking is worse than being cooped up), but my eyes are also burning and I can't read or write for very long without getting a headache.

Today I thought I'd put together the menu for my latest "segment" here at writing about writing.]

I am not famous.

But I do have a following that is growing, a public persona that some people recognize, I run into strangers who know who I am, and have attracted enough attention that not every interaction is free of awkwardness and sometimes discomfort. Millions of people have read my work, and at the edges of my pedestrian perception of the world the edges have begun to crinkle toward something

This blog was always meant to be educational on the surface and the meta level, both in being writing about writing as well as a real-time disclosure of what I find that works (listicles like woah), what I find doesn't (posting college essays), and what deals are strangely Faustian (hello Facebook). You see the excruciating glacial progress. No overnight success stories here. If I start to carve out something, you will see how it took me years of writing every day to get there. You will watch me improve from old articles to new. You will see my career as it happens.

And now the first glimmers of something like fame are included in that career. So here are the articles about that.

Groupie Threesome Jokes and other Problematica (Mailbox)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Strange Obstacle

I started this just a few minutes ago as a "note" to a mailbox I was going to try to write (letting folks know why it wasn't going to be two mailbox responses today), but things have deteriorated in the last few minutes and this is going to have to be today's post...

It looks like I'm also going put up something light and fluffy tomorrow instead of the planned conclusion to 25 Things to Let Go Of If You Want to Write Creatively for Money. That post is mostly done but probably needs another four to five hours of solid writing and two or three more of revision before I'm ready to post it.

I'm experiencing sort of a unique writing obstacle here today. I live in the Bay Area about an hour from the fires that have made national news (not sure about international news). Basically fires usually skirt the edge of cities, but the city of Santa Rosa is a 200k population center on the border of the wilderness. There have been some fatalities and a lot of homes have been completely destroyed. In some cases, whole communities are unrecognizable but for the burnt out cars, chimneys, and major appliances dotting the rubble. An hour is no big deal to drive for a lot of the bay area's social events, and I know many people up that way. Most evacuated at some point. Some have lost everything.

As worried as I am for chosen family and upset about the fates of my friends, that is not the obstacle. The obstacle is actually the smoke filled air. It's really bad. (I mean REALLY bad.) When the winds shifted south, we got tons of smoke haze, and the air quality has gone to shit. I'm inside with the windows shut and already nursing a bit of a headache but the forecast is that it's only going to get worse. It's making it hard to focus on writing, so I think today I'm going to sit with what I've written on Triexta so far, and rest my burning eyes as often as I can.

What I'll try to do is make up for it this weekend when I'm pet sitting in Alameda. They get a bit more of the bay breeze, and the air quality might be better there. (It's not today, but they might be set-up to recover faster than anywhere else I can drive to in less than an hour.)

Writing is like flossing. (And really, we're only talking about writing with some sort of ambition of "making it" rather than just personal hobbyist fulfilment.) But yes...like flossing. It's your daily habit that matters-not the one day you miss because of extenuating circumstances. But just remember when the excuses start to include things you probably could work around rather than just things you can't, you might be on a downward spiral.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 2)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?   

I randomize the titles that go up against each other, but today fate has decided that the choices are from a whole lot of heavy hitters and personal faves. It's going to be a rough round as these goliaths slug it out.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 1 Results)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

The results are in for our first quarterfinal round. (Just a quickie today as there is both much more to write and much to do that is not writing in order to try to catch back up to the Red Queen Race of life.) Thank you so much to so many for participating.

The top four will be going on to the semifinals. The next quarterfinal round will be up tomorrow.
Text results below.

The Kingkiller Chronicle Patrick Rothfuss 56 21.46% 21.46%
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Rick Riordan 52 19.92% 19.92%
The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman 49 18.77% 18.77%
Stormlight Archives- B. Sanderson 40 15.33% 15.33%
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell-S. Clarke 22 8.43% 8.43%
Who Fears Death N. Okorafor 17 6.51% 6.51%
Kushiel's Legacy- J. Carey 13 4.98% 4.98%
The Magicians- L. Grossman 12 4.6% 4.6%

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Indigenous People's Day

Reminder: we can't get the staff here at Writing About Writing to come into work on bank holidays (even if we offer them double coupons), so these are always days off here at the blog.

Which is damned good timing because I needed it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Intro: The Renown Margin

Today I'm going to start a new "segment" here on Writing About Writing. (A new menu for The Reliquary, a new series of posts, a new tag. The whole nine.) I'm writing this post by way of an introduction. You'll see the menu stub go up in the next couple of days, and likely the first article on this topic soon since it's on my mind.

It's a segment about what it means to have a public persona that has begun to be recognizable in more than a casual way to some people. About what it means when your work is enjoyed by folks you've never met. About meeting people through your writing. About encountering strangers who are excited to meet you, and the good and bad parts of being recognized by one's work.

I am not "famous."

And this is not a "Do you know who I am?" moment.

I might be paying the rent with writing, but I'm still cat sitting in order to keep my Prius gassed up, so I don't want anyone to think I've hit the bigtime or have delusions of grandeur.

However, I am writing this blog for, among other reasons, to create a transparent career arc of my experiences both blogging and writing in general. This blog is a daily check in on triumphs as well as trials and tribulations. It is a testament–in real time–to how much work and writing will demand, but also to the possibility that it can offer. The most common question working writers get is some variation on "How can I get to where you are?" and for me all I have to do is point at this blog. The patient reader can see my work develop, my style refine, my prose improve, and my many, many, MANY failures along the way.

I have a Facebook page with close to 2/3 of a million followers as of this writing. This blog has nearly four million page views. I regularly send out thoughts through my public Facebook profile that are shared by hundreds or even thousands. And some of those numbers affect the kind of attention I get back.

A new thread has entered my writing life. One that, in the interest of transparency, I will try to tell you about. For better and for worse, an audience has gathered, and that has begun to affect me, my work, and my personal life. At first it was a comment here, an introduction there. A PM about a post. A friend request because "you wrote that thing." A gushing fan* excited to meet "behind the scenes" me. And not so good things happened as well. My work began to be savaged. My personal emotional safety wasn't always regarded as a human with needs rather than a writer with a platform. People I didn't know started striking up intense and immediately intimate conversations with me. That is to say nothing of hate mail and even death threats. Some friends and family want nothing to do with the attention they get by proxy. People have projected a lot of things onto me including what I can only assume are some powerful demons. And in some ways many have made it clear that they think work and even my existence exists only for them. And I have reacted to them, withdrawing further into a private and public life dichotomy. Ignoring comments. Not getting back to messages.

*And believe me it feels really, really weird to call anyone fans.

Each of these things, rather than being an anomaly, has begun to happen more and more. I've been recognized now a half a dozen times by total strangers. People have solicited my autograph. Complete strangers have told me that they are going to marry me. Folks have started talking to me about something I wrote without saying hi first. And some people have gotten quite upset that I've not lived up to their unrealistic expectations of me. All of this is totally surreal, but I have no reason to expect, unless I stop writing altogether, that these trending lines are going to reverse rather than continue.

I once heard fame for a writer described in an interesting way: "It depends on what room you're in." That is to say that unless you're a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, a lot of people probably don't know exactly what you look like or don't particularly care. Some people know exactly who I am and what I do and couldn't give a shit. If you're in a room of your readers, a lot of people might be very excited to meet you. If you're in a random room, you probably are just one more stranger. It's not like being an actor where you can't go to the store in peace. But it has begun to be......a thing.

I think a lot of people think they would enjoy being famous. Not enough to really work at it, but they imagine it as being a boon to their life. That most everything would be exactly what they are now except better, cooler parties, more interesting friends, maybe the occasional restaurant owner who says "your money's no good here," everyone will like them, and maybe it'll be easier to get a date on a Friday night (Bwahahaha!). The problem is they forget the other stuff. Even when that's not all bad, those fun bits are tempered with people who think I can do things for them (either substantive like actual promotion of them or their causes or something more ephemeral like I'm able to elevate their station or that somehow gravitas will rub off on them...or something), that I owe them something, that my work exists purely for their sole entertainment and no one else's, that they are entitled to my social time and energy, that I am not fully human, that my privacy doesn't need respecting.

And the death threats....

As with most things, I can't promise a lot of advice, but I'll share what I can, and maybe give you a few pointers about what not to do the next time you're geeking out over meeting someone who's got you a little starstruck. Maybe a few more about what I learn from muddling about how to compartmentalize your life if you start to find your work gaining an audience. So I hope you enjoy some insights and maybe a nugget of wisdom or two about what it means to be starting to see something that kind of resembles fame crinkling the edges out there on the horizon.

Sort of.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Don't Forget to Vote (Best Modern Fantasy Semifinal 1)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

I'm recovering from my trip today (and almost a whole day spent in transit yesterday), so today is just a quick post reminding folks to vote because there's only a couple of days left.

Fair warning that tomorrow will probably be jazz hands. Just because it usually takes me more than the day of to get a solid post up and I'm honestly trying to be good and relax today instead of descend into my writer workaholism. Next week I'm home and back on schedule and you'll see some mailboxes, solid posts, the end of that listicle, and more.

There are only a couple of days left for our semifinal for best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years. On Saturday the results will go up (and either later that day or Sunday the next semifinal round). I don't want this poll to go on for months more, so the quarterfinal rounds are going to be quick.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Truth About this Last Month (Personal Update)

My secret ingredient?
Having some fucking time!
If you've enjoyed the higher quality and greater frequency of "solid" posts over the last month, I have a confession to make....

There's a reason I've been able to write a little harder and faster these last few weeks than during much of the last two or three years: I haven't been outrageously busy.

There have been a couple of pet sitting gigs, and right this second I'm wrapping up a week in Texas with my mom, but for the large part, whether it was teaching, double booking pet sitting gigs, or just needing to be on as a nanny, I was facing down thirty hours of work (before I wrote a word) in the last couple of years.

And this month you finally got to see what I could do when things weren't so chaotic and busy.

Yes, posts have gotten shifted around, and I haven't done every article I wanted or planned on (for example, I'm probably going to have to push the conclusion of my current three part article from this Friday to next), but it's been a lot better. The vacation season is over, so not as many pet sitting gigs, and the nanny hours have dropped since the kid is in preschool. Which is all probably good because of that "exhaustion" diagnosis. But mostly it's afforded me the time to slam out some solid writing on a more regular basis.

If you have enjoyed this pace, and particularly if you want to see even more (including a better pace on fiction offerings), you can absolutely help that happen:

Throw a dollar a month (or maybe a little more) at my Patreon.

My financial realities mean I'm not really making enough to live on long-term. I can just barely keep things going right now by patchworking three jobs together and doing a shoestring budget, but I'm putting off a lot of questions (both shorter term like how to deal with a car that will eventually need more than just maintenance, all the way to retirement that I'm not saving for at all right now). Expenses are coming, and when they hit, the first casualty of having to do something reliable for cash is going to be the robust updating schedule that I hope you've enjoyed.

Plus you get awesome rewards–rewards that start with being a part of backchannel discussions (and occasionally polls) as well as a voice I listen to when I want input including upcoming projects and get more awesome from there. And of course there is the warm and fuzzy feeling that you are helping support a better world by supporting a writer and artist whose writing (even fiction) will always be free.

NOTE: If you'd like to support me as a writer, I welcome that support as I have skyrocketing rent and insurance like everyone else and might like to live in my own tiny studio some day instead of sharing a two bedroom with three people, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't "fund" my social justice writing in a vacuum. (My political snark I don't mind getting paid for, though those thoughts often dovetail.) I don't do the social equality part of my writing for money. I have my reasons for not being able to be a full-fledged "social justice advocate/activist/writer/warrior," and I refuse to be making a paycheck off of these struggles that are not mine. I'll do these Social Justice Bard posts and call out privilege on my Facebook no matter what. I promise. If the gestalt of my writing appeals, great, but if you only want to see more social justice posts, please donate to the causes themselves (BLM, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, Equality Now to name just a few....) or writers–particularly women of color–who are writing about their own struggles and without whose hard work I would never be able to articulate such ideas. Thank you.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't Let Them Change the Story: The Narrative of the Mentally Ill "Lone Wolf"

Within moments of waking up, I knew he was a white man. 

I knew this for three reasons: 1-The police and media were waiting for the facts before speculating and didn't suspect terrorism. 2-They didn't say his race. 3. The phrase "lone wolf" kept popping up.

My suspicion is we're going to hear a lot about mental illness in the next few days. A lot. And my prediction is that it's going to be used to sidestep conversations about guns, about misogyny, about toxic masculinity, about all kinds of things. Just another one of thousands of one-off events by yet another "lone wolf." The price of doing business here in the U.S.A.

When an atrocity is committed (and "atrocity" is the right word, not "tragedy"), our culture ramps into "othering" mode. As we grab for the answer of what was no doubt a complex web of factors, if we find something strange and different like a religion or an ethnicity that doesn't belong, then we blame that. 
When the offender is white though, these ways of slipping them quietly into other groups that explain their penchant for committing terrible actions breaks down. 

In a strange sort of "excuse" we rarely give to any other group, suddenly any white person who commits unspeakable violence is "crazy." A lone wolf. No need to dig any further. They were just mentally ill. 

"Mental illness," or whatever euphemism for mental illness is being used ("deeply troubled," "crazy," "insane") does not erase the glaring problem that such diagnoses are far from universal, and even when they happen to be true, they are still irrelevant and focusing on them both harms others and pulls the scrutiny from where it belongs.

It is actually a good and wonderful thing to lament the deplorable state of mental health treatment in this country and culture. The lack of easy access to affordable care is revolting, and the stigma that mental illness is not actually illness and people can just will themselves to be well is huge. Most people are still trying to tell folks with mental illness to eat right and exercise and just try NOT having that chronic disease. And those are the ones not simply recoiling in fear.

However, when people tell the story of mental health ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity, or care about the mental health failings of our culture ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity they're actually making things a lot worse, not better. They are only being harmful, not empathetic.

First of all, they are usually using "mental health" as a code word for "people who do terrible things." The suggestion is that no one who does something like this COULD be sane. And even though this "excuse" is rarely extended to folks who aren't white, let me be absolutely clear about this, and I'll even use bold to make the point:

That is, by every psychological bellwether, completely inaccurate.

People who commit atrocities are then diagnosed and found to have no mental illnesses ALL THE TIME. And the vast majority of people with mental illness are the victims of violence not perpetrators. By a huge margin. Most are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone around them. Doing something terrible isn't an automatic sign of mental illness. 

I know it hurts to think that humans are capable of violence without something being fundamentally wrong with their mental processes, and that we desperately want the capacity to do violence to multiple people indiscriminately to indicate that something MUST be deeply and profoundly faulty in the wiring itself, but that simply isn't true. (Or maybe it is true but what we should be looking at is a culture which "paints the target" with bigotry and excuses the entitled and angry behavior leading up to such an atrocity, not the functionality of specific brains.) We can all be monsters under the right circumstances. Some of us are. And I'm sorry if that's scary, but many who take a gun and do a terrible thing with it are completely sound of mind.

The things that make us monsters are not always bits working incorrectly. Sometimes it's the culture that tells us the "other" isn't worth living. Sometimes it's an expression of the hate we are taught every day. Sometimes it is the enculturation of an indoctrinating force. And for an overwhelming number of men (who are 98% of mass shooters), it is an inability express any emotion other than to metabolize it into suppressed anger. [Edit: Oh look.]

Sometimes the things that make us monsters are the bits working exactly as intended.

When people DO this–when they say that "of course he had mental illness because no one who didn't could have done such a thing"–it's not only sloppy and uncritical thinking, devoid of logic and the slightest psychological accuracy (the actual number is around 60% and race–that is to say being WHITE–is a more statistically predictable factor), but it also perpetuates the stigma that the mentally ill are dangerous merely by virtue of their mental illness. They equate the two in a way that is not only inaccurate, but also causes a lot of splash damage to those who suffer from mental illness.

Am I saying no one who is mentally ill has ever been violent or done something violent? Or am I saying that no mental health diagnosis should ever preclude anyone from owning a firearm? That's ridiculous. Of course some mentally ill people are violent. Some vegetarians are violent. Some mathematicians are violent. But we know better than to blame vegetarianism or mathematics when the latter to cases are true. And even mentally ill folks who do show a proclivity to be violently antisocial–in the rare cases when there is a link between the violence and their diagnosis–it is almost never on a mass scale or bereft of other context.

None of these things is the determining factor in someone's mass shooting. Even if this weren't a post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy right out of a Freshman textbook, the correlation is so low as to make the comparison actually disingenuous and not simply fallacious. By significant margins, mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves or BE harmed by others than when compared to the general population. And certainly compared to groups like young white men. When we go digging for it, like it's the cause, and nothing more need be said, that's the problem. That's called (with bitter irony) a sharpshooter fallacy.

And maybe they'll even find this guy had a host of DSM diagnoses. It still doesn't mean that was the only X factor that matters.

As we untangle this latest mass shooting and the second "worst in history" in less than a year and a half, the red herring of mental illness will be ubiquitous. We might as well turn up proof of athlete's foot or tooth decay for as much as such thinking is lazy and sloppy.

Because here's the other problem: folks are using "crazy" to circumvent a lot of relevant social analysis that could and should go into the calculus of such an event. Everything from the absurdly simplistic and unregulated access to instantly-lethal, multi-lethal, ranged weaponry to the effect of toxic masculinity, to a sense of white, male entitlement.....all swept under the rug because the person was "obviously just crazy." We dismiss dozens (hundreds?) of conversations about the culture these minds were marinating in to simply write it all off as being about mental illness. "Oh well, what can we do. Just another disturbed mind. Hope it doesn't happen again...or again...or again..."

Mental illness affects a certain percentage of people all across the Earth–why do these atrocities so often happen in the U.S.? And why are they so often done BY white males? These are the things we should be digging into–not saying "Aha!" when we find any moment in a shooter's past where someone said they were troubled.

Mental illness is not homologous to "evil." And people really should either bang that drum all the time or think hard before they give it a whack after a highly visible event.

I don't know what they're going to find about this guy. But I do know what they're going to look for. Because the stories we tell that aren't complicated and nuanced and intricate webs of motive and means make things worse for a group that is already erased, marginalized, and stigmatized.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 1)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

Not a lot of ado for this post.

I am still visiting my mom and we are currently on the vacationception part and have driven all day to San Antonio. I can't really write in the car. So this is short and sweet. Come vote and stuff.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

I'm told for mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Social Justice Bard and the Tale of the Nazi Sympathizers

Oh....you don't like that title? Did it make you upset? Maybe a bit angry? Did you maybe not even read the article but instead just reacted to the title in the comments of wherever you found this post? Possibly with either a direct quote or some variation of one of the narratives below? Before we're done, by the end of this article, I truly hope that'll be a more complicated emotion.

However, perhaps in bardic form I should begin by telling a story....

It was late Sunday night when Chris went to bed. He had had a long evening getting a wee one to sleep and would have an early morning trying to fashion a fully reticulated adventure out of celery, farm animals, and merry go rounds.

He looked to find the macro he had saved earlier in the day–the one about all the terrible reactions to puns, and he posted it before floomphing into bed to get a well needed seven hours.

But there were two macros. (You have to say that in a sinister Cate Blanchett voice over for maximum effect.)

Two macros that looked just a bit alike if viewed as tiny miniaturized versions of themselves through the bleary haze of tired eyes. But while one macro was all the possible reactions a person could have to a truly terrible pun, the other was about how not to be attacked by Nazis.
Note: Nazi attack list is not comprehensive.
That morning, I woke to a few messages in my inbox that things had gone a bit Lord of the Flies in the comments. As I said, I was already halfway out the door from the instant my alarm went off, and the comments were a landfill inferno that I had no time to dig through in service to a banning spree or inclination to sift through and ruin my mood for the day's festivities, so I just nuked the whole post from orbit (it was the only way to be sure), anyone who was a shitlord got a one-time pass, and I apologized for putting up something unrelated to writing that I didn't stick around to mod the comments of, and went on my merry.

Let me say that again: I apologized for a post unrelated to writing that I didn't stick around to mod the comments of. I didn't apologize for blemishing their unsullied experience with the profane touch of political thought.

Nonetheless a big chunk of the comments came in: "Oh you are FORGIVEN for putting a political meme on this otherwise marvelous page about writing. Thank you for apologizing and now I can get back to my puns in this hallowed, non-political ground."

And this was my face:
Image description: Writer looking quite annoyed.
I'm not apolitical. I'm not even apolitical on Writing About Writing's facebook page. I never have been. I never will be. Maybe I don't endorse US political parties, shill for a particular candidate, or weigh in on intricacies of the tax code, but there's a whole section of my writing that is anything but apolitical.

As well there should be. Despite a profusion of white male authors who hail to Richard Baush's advice to "eschew politics," most writers are not afraid to confront social issues. They just do it in a resonant way instead of didactically.

And so, as of that moment, I knew this post simply had to be written.

Had to.

So here we are. 

The problem with writers being apolitical, first and foremost, is that they can't be. Not completely.

Yeah you heard me.

You don't have to be a political speechwriter to put forward a political vision of the world. It comes through your writing no matter what you do. Even if you are trying to write in a completely and deliberately apolitical way, what comes through is a complacency and comfort with the status quo. "Nothing is wrong, so let's not talk about it!" is absolutely a social and political stance. Not every story is about politics, not every story is about social issues. Some stories are about growing potatoes on Mars. But even a story about growing potatoes on Mars makes certain assumptions about things like the state of space exploration funding, how respected the scientific community is and where the technology levels will be by then, what countries will be involved in helping with the mission (and why), and a sense that certain social issues will be non-issues enough that they literally NEVER come up.

Any of that sound like it might involve social or political issues?

Look around you at the world. What do you see? Inequality? Injustice? Inhumanity? Poor people? Rich people? Exploitation? What does the political landscape look like? Who is getting screwed? Whose story is being shouted down by others? And whose lives are pretty good that they would want to avoid those topics? What are the truths we cling to, and how do they depend greatly on our own point of view? How are are stories shaping and framing the way we look at things?

It's About the Narrative (oh god, not again)

Of course I'm talking about The Narrative™, and so fucking help me, if you walk away from this blog having absorbed only one thing ever, let it be that controlling the narrative is basically ultimate social power and writers have influence in that regard. (Maybe not as much as media moguls or Hollywood, but we got it.) You don't even have to lie in order to frame a narrative. You just have to decide where to start, where to stop, and which parts to leave out. By not letting certain people speak for themselves, suddenly you have a story that is factually accurate, but not truth.

And writers who refuse to examine their power when it comes to The Narrative™ end up wielding it as Status Quo Defenders. Writers are A) in no way, shape, or form particularly immune to cognitive dissonance (some artists work particularly hard to hear everyone's side of a story, but "writer" just means someone who writes*) and B) writers know the power of words. We shape words and bend them to our wills and in the end we know all too well the dance between semantics and usage and rhetoric and truth. When we apply intellectual rigor only when it suits us, empathy only when it suits us, and start and stop the story only where we want to, it is easy to turn the world into angels and demons.

*Writers run the gamut between high art fiction writers and straight out propagandists writing for [Totally Slanted Press], with legions of Squiddies in between.

  • Narrative is the reason that atheists and the religious look at a fact like human psychological need to find meaning in random events and one group says "Proof we made God!" and the other says "Proof God made us!"
  • Narrative is the reason people (regardless of ideology or political orientation) will argue ad nauseum against provable, demonstrable facts.
  • Narrative is the reason millions upon millions of dollars of post-game riot damage are shrugged off and no sweeping generalizations are made about the moral composition of the (largely white) rioters. (If anything they are usually excused as excessive "revelers" by media and authorities). Yet damage–often far, FAR less damage–done in the name of civil unrest, particularly protesting racial injustice, almost always ends up with whole groups (and often entire races) being labeled as "thugs" or as inherently violent.
  • Narrative is the reason that a billion Muslims are held accountable for the actions of the tiniest of percentage of a fraction of their adherents and cast as being "particularly" susceptible to violence without regard to geopolitical circumstances, but the much larger percentage of white Christian males in the U.S. who become violent in the name of white supremacy never cause their broader groups to be viewed with suspicion. Even the actions of other white supremacists are ubiquitously treated mostly with "as long as they mind their manners, let's hear them out," nuance.
  • Narrative is the reason that conservatives believe hard work will be rewarded even though the hardest workers are often trapped in a cycle of poverty that makes them the most poor.
  • Narrative is (or will be) the reason that the GOP tries to claim the ACA is a failure after it chokes off advertising, funding, and every discretionary budget it can.
  • Narrative is the reason mental illness is instantly blamed when someone goes on a mass shooting spree even though many violent criminals are found to be perfectly sane, many folks with mental illness not only aren't predictably violent, but are more likely to be victims of violence themselves, and the far more common X factor is being a cis het white dude marinating in a culture of entitled misogyny and racism.
  • Narrative is the reason that NFL players protesting the extrajudicial murder of Blacks by kneeling is suddenly about respecting or disrespecting the flag.

  • Narrative is the reason Donald Trump can strip the nuance and empathy when referring to peaceful NFL protesters en mass, all as "sons of bitches," but when it comes to the white supremacists chanting "blood and soil" (whose ranks produced a murderer in James Fields who was willing to plow into protesters with his car), Trump makes sure that we know some "very fine people" are among their ranks.
  • Narrative is the reason so many people say feminism accomplished "all of its goals" at some random (ever shifting) time in the past like "about ten years ago" or "about twenty years ago" but can never actually tell you what exactly it was that changed to mark such a momentous victory as the end of the struggle for gender equality.
  • "Narrative" is the reason the peaceful, quiet, non-disruptive protests on a knee are considered disrespectful towards the US flag but Kid Rock singing in a flag poncho is still considered a good bet for high political office.

"Just cut a slit right down the middle and poked my head through.
Senate seat, here I come."

  • Narrative is the reason people can claim liberals are so easily offended because their political bubbles.....just before they rage-flounce from a page where about 1% of the posts have to do with writing's intersection with social issues in a way they dislike being reminded of.
  • Narrative is the reason that people have in their minds some kind of "perfect" protest, that if Black people would only protest their injustices in that exactly way, they would totally listen, but even though they swear by all the gods that they care greatly about the issue of racial equality and police brutality, somehow no protest will ever be quiet enough, respectful enough, non-disruptive enough to satisfy them until it is literally so imperceptible as to not cause a single wayward discomforting thought in the course of a typical day....and then it gets ignored.
  • Narrative is the reason that no matter how unarmed the Black suspect is, no matter how cooperative they are, no matter how brutal their killing, no matter how much evidence there is–even film, people race to talk about what they did wrong to deserve it.
  • Narrative is the reason that after Clinton dealt with Russian psyops, James Comey's letter, a media that wouldn't let go of a story about private email servers (but has largely been silent about the new administration doing exactly the same thing), a whole fucking shit ton of revolting-level misogyny, and winning the popular vote by four million votes, conservatives then sat down and demanded the left build a bridge to THEM that exculpate them categorically for putting a naked, open bigot in the White House.
  • Narrative is the reason we talk about issues like unemployment, wealth disparity, and loss of manufacturing jobs almost exclusively in terms of white men.
  • Narrative (or perhaps attempting to control the narrative) is the reason that currently two nuclear powers are consumed with convincing everyone around them that the other is unhinged while the world watches in horror.
  • Narrative is the reason the general status quo of peace and stability is so attractive to folks (mostly white, mostly men, mostly het, mostly cis, mostly monied) who aren't particularly harmed by the current situation nor threatened by the future and who, without actually accessing the thoughts of those they assume are harmless, don't think anything worth being outraged about is really happening or will happen and instead demand that folks who speak out about their pain or fear stop bringing up politics.
  • And, of course, narrative is the reason that there is a current sense that antifa is "just as bad" as the genocide espousing Nazis they show up to confront.

Narrative has fueled every war, every genocide, every human marvel of achievement. Narrative is the reason for every pinnacle and depth of humanity. We are a species of stories, and those stories, both who we are and what we are doing here, are never ever EVER not political. Stories are as much of the fabric of what it means to be human as language itself is.

And that's a power a writer cultivates.

Antifa Narratives

It's kind of funny.....

I'm anti-capitalist. Anti patriarchy. Very feminist. Anti heteronormativity. Anti-gender roles. Anti-jingoism. Anti-war. Anti-imperialism. Anti-colonialism and neocolonialism. Anti-oligarchy. Anti-classism. Anti-elitism. Anti-essentialism. Anti-dogma. And (usually) anti-authority.

About anything you tell me is the fabric of modern life, I've weighed, measured, and usually found lacking in some way. I don't have a normal job. I don't have a normal monogamous relationship. I don't have a normal life. I care about my hectare, shower with a bucket to water the plants afterwards and walk miles to avoid driving if I can. I question everything from the foundational assumptions of modern civilization to the veracity of memes I see in my feed each day. I speak out against forms of oppression as forest-for-the-trees as the prison industrial complex and as subtle as ableist language in insults and keep right on going even when friends very vocally Klingon back turn me.

Yet, apparently, the MOST subversive thing I do? The thing that horrifies more people than any other? The thing that truly shocks people when I express it? The thing that on occasion even loses me friends who agree with me?

I listen to everyone with empathy. I try to hear all the stories because they all matter.

The trick with empathy and nuance though is that it has to go in every direction to work. What most people call "nuance" is actually just demanding contrition to the boilerplate arguments of one's own side because obviously if they don't agree with you, they must not have been listening the first five hundred times.

I know a lot of people have seen the antifa narrative frame that either someone wanted them to see (either to win their sympathy for increasing right wing militance or win their newspaper subscription money for the scandal of it all) but there's far more depth and nuance if you listen to their stories.

Here I'll tell you the first one:

I'm Chris. I'm a writer. I like museums and local theater and boy do I love books and well-written online articles. I'm non-monogamous. I listen to NPR in the car. I've been to lots of protests (especially lately) but I haven't been violent at one ever and haven't been arrested at one since my twenties. The last time I was intentionally violent with anyone was two years ago, and they were trying to steal my phone and wallet; I came home and cried that I'd beaten up a mugger. I worry a lot about the strategies and tactics that will be most effective in dismantling white supremacy and particularly its recent naked aggression, but I also hear the cries of folks who are pushed to the margins of our society that allowing right wing extremism to continue radicalizing and organizing young cis white men has  them terrified not only of the eventual institutional harms that WILL befall them if this movement is emboldened, but also (right this second) of being targets of street violence. I hear them when they say that they are relieved that some come to these protests to defend peaceful protesters against the armed provocateurs who have demonstrated no restraint when it comes to their disrespect for opposition. I went to my last protest knowing that Nazis would be there were willing to commit murder with their cars to kill those who opposed them. I was scared, but I came anyway. I didn't need to put on the bandana a friend lent me because there was no tear gas. I wore my Baymax-hugging-a-cat t-shirt and kept a first aid kit in my backpack. I pet sit to make money for the occasional book, video game, or album. I cried for days after my cat died. I love almost everyone to bits even though the behavior of some makes me angry or worried that they might cause others to feel unsafe. I really like pizza and Mexican food. I would probably love to hug you if you wanted one. It's my birthday tomorrow.

And I am antifa.

Narrative #1- They aren't really nazis. That's a watchword that liberals call anything they don't like and anyone they don't really agree with.

I guess we sort of deserve this one. I mean it's not like we were the only ones using overblown language. ("That 3% tax increase is SOCIALISM!) And "nazi" got thrown around by everyone on the political spectrum to describe the closest thing our society equates with "evil." We probably got cocky after WWII.

But you remember that the third time, the boy cried wolf, there really was one, and it didn't go so well for the town that blew him off.

It's fair enough to point out that people can be hyperbolic–especially online. Godwin's law is a thing. But this ideological sidestep stopped making a whole lot of sense as a talking-point counter when, you know, fucking Germans and the Anti Defamation League started telling us we had a very real problem–along, of course with history teachers, political scientists, anyone who lived under a fascist regime.

But sure let's just assume the whole fucking lot of them are just being hyperbolic worrywarts and white teenagers on Reddit have the real expertise on how much trouble we're in.

However, even if you think fascism (or the current political landscape) is "bad" but recoil at the term "Nazi" then you have to talk about how they are actually LITERALLY CALLING. THEMSELVES. NAZIS.

Nazis: *carry Nazi flags*
Nazis: *do Nazi salutes*
Nazis: *shout Nazi slogans*
Nazis: *use Nazi propaganda*
Nazis: *call for a continuation of Nazi policies*
Nazis: "We are Nazis."
U.S. Moderates: "Let's examine the nuance of throwing that label around."

These guys don't even have the excuse that they didn't know what was going to happen or what was happening. They can't claim they had no choice if they didn't want to go to jail or they were just following orders. They have kicked off the party calling for The Final Solution and white supremacy. When they are in town, they sign their credit card bills at restaurants with "Hitler was right." They looked at the Holocaust and decided that the only problem was no one finished it.

These doctrines aren't just "ideas liberals don't like." These people aren't just "anyone liberals disagree with." We're not talking about a 3% difference on the tax code or a regulation on pollution that could cost companies millions off their profit margins. These are actual, literal nazis. They didn't even bother to change the goddamned name, and I promise up one side and down the other that it's not because they like the National Socialist German Workers' Party's politics regarding domestic labor disputes.

But okay......let's give the devil it's due. Antifa and the left are using "Nazis" as a bit of metonymy. "Nazi" rolls off the tongue a bit easier than "a coalition of capitalist corprofascists, the KKK and other white supremacists of various stripes, white nationalists, edgelord racists who think terrorizing whole demographics is the free speech hill they want to die on, and actual literal neo-nazis." And we've no particular interest in giving them their claim to the sobriquet "Alternative Right" as that makes them sound like they are advancing some sort of refreshing, heretofore untried brand of thoughtful non-mainstream conservatism instead of literally the reactionary racist bullshit that modernity has kicked to the curb time and again.

But I mean, look at that fucking list. It's not like these are a bunch of savory folks and by using "Nazis" as a shortcut for all their white supremacist fuckery, we're really maligning some principled dudes who don't deserve that sort of thing.

Moderates: "We reject nazis. We fought a war over this you know."

White dude: "We aren't actually nazis. Let's be careful with words, okay. I think you're just using that as a slur. I believe you'll find our arguments for a white ethnostate, mass deportations, and violence against anyone with the temerity to resist are entirely different. And if you come to the rallys where we are armed and ignore those guys with swastika flags and confederate flags, we can talk reasonably about the things we have in common. Would a Nazi do that?

Moderates: "Well we should probably hear you out if you are feeling indignant about labels."

You understand what we're talking about when we talk about white nationalism and ethostates, right?
Unless the white nationalists you know are scoping out a deserted island or building a ship with which to colonize Mars, they, nor their literal-Nazi allies can enact their fourteen word manifesto without causing DIRECT, VIOLENT harm. And I mean GENOCIDE caliber harm. You cannot create an ethno-state without deportations, forced relocations, and genocide unless YOU are the one leaving.

Today's neo-nazi movement isn't some kind of nazi-lite thing. ("A friendlier, kinder version of white nationalists than your grandparents fought.") If put into power these particular nazis will not merely go on peacefully writing op-eds for Breitbart encouraging racial self-segregation because they really learned their lesson about using state power in unethical ways.

Everyone thinks they would have done something about it before people started disappearing in the night, but those same people are acting exactly the same way the folks who did NOTHING acted. That might be a narrative that needs some consideration.

Narrative #2- But some of them don't claim any of those titles

Yeah and Mel Gibson swears he isn't racist either.

Also Hulk Hogan, Justin Bieber, Donald Sterling, Paula Dean, Michael Richards, John Mayer, Paris Hilton, Duane Lee Chapman, Jessie James, and Kreayshawn, not to mention others.

Very few people are going to say, "Look, I'm the worst kind of racist you can imagine," because everyone always has a way that they actually feel like they're the ones being persecuted and their behavior is not only reasonable but moral. Trust me. I don't stop at the water's edge of listening to the stories of those I disagree with. I hear them out. (But let's not confusing hearing someone out with never taking a position on what they've said.) I've heard what they have to say. (You should too. Get a real sense of what they're actually saying instead of assuming the left is just maligning them.)

White nationalists don't want to kick out or kill everyone who isn't white because they are moustache twirling villains having an evil laugh about how racist they are. They do it because they've convinced themselves their culture is under attack. They really do think a marginalized group getting together to talk about issues that pertain to them (away from the white people who make them feel unsafe) is "the real racism."  Because the social progress from the sixties has undermined their unswerving hegemony. Because identity politics is "bad."

People know being racist is BAD. People just don't really understand what being racist IS.

So when you examine people like Steve Bannon who approves articles encouraging white ethno states on the media outlet entwined with his reputation. Or even examine someone like Trump who swears up and down he loves "the Mexicans" and "the Blacks," has a hard time disavowing the KKK or white supremacists, insists white supremacy marches have "very fine people," uses "those people" unironically in clearly dog whistle sentences against federal judges, basically runs the entire birther movement, calls Mexicans rapists, condones beating a Black Lives Matter protester, shares white supremacist and antisemitic tweets, cares more about undocumented workers than humanitarian crises, clearly has a political motivation that is to destroy every lasting legacy of the Black guy he hates beyond all reason, encourages mob justice against five Black boys (later exonerated), has a shit ton of past racism complaints and lawsuits on his records, and passes laws left and right that are transparently harmful to people of color, sometimes you have to work with what few, meager, fleeting clues you have even if they haven't show you an "I am Spartacus!" moment regarding overt white supremacy.

Narrative # 3- Antifa are just as bad

Antifa means anti fascist. It's basically just a political stance. It unites people otherwise not so united on a particular issue–resistance to fascism. It's like being pro-choice. (Another position that tends to "gather" on the left side of politics, but doesn't really actually tell you anything other than a person's stance on ONE issue.)

Yes, you can bring the semantics of the historical movement and communism in if you want or how antifa failed in Italy and Germany (though you would do well to understand the reasons why--it is not so simple as "because they threw punches and the German people bent to law and order"). You can insist that anyone who uses that label is a commie or something. Or you could just ask people who identify as antifa if they're communist. Most aren't.

(Personally, I think socialism sounds awesome, but in a Bernie Sanders/Star Trek kind of way, not the Stalin/Zedong/Castro type.)

Being angry at someone's genocidal BEHAVIOR is not the same thing as wanting whole demographics dead or forcibly deported based exclusively on the circumstances of their birth.

Nazis: "And should we win the war of ideas, we will use state power to deport you from your home, incarcerate you to be slave labor, relocate you and your family to ensure the success of white people, and kill you if you deign to resist. 

Antifa: "Boy they sure have embraced a hateful ideology and are directly threatening the people I love; it kind of makes me want to punch them in the face."

Mainstream media: "I can see no difference between these two monsters."

If you think that antifa is this super organized hive mind gang that borg-style decides to destroy property and throw some punches at armed fascists, white supremacists, and nazis, but that the white supremacist who committed vehicular murder was just a lone wolf who wasn't in any way connected with the group that just happens to explicitly fantasize about exactly driving over demonstrators, you might want to think about what forces are driving those narratives.

Narrative #4- Antifa violence is still violence, and violence is always bad

You know.....being a pacifist is not the same as being silent in the face of systematic violence and the agents who carry it out, but squeamish about seeing a punch thrown or property damaged, and it is hard not to notice that most of the people who espouse never so much as defending oneself are seldom the targets of violent white supremacy.

Let's make sure something is clear: for the most part we're not actually having a conversation about violence itself. Conversations about violence itself involve examining this country's bloody history, calling for the disarming of police, and serious conversations about reducing our military to a defensive force.

In terms of people hurt, punches thrown, or property damage we would be just as upset about bar room brawls or biker gangs as anything that antifa has done. And we would be triaging our concern about the violence committed BY white supremacist groups far higher than that of antifa considering that people from their groups murder folks on the regular and threaten entire demographics with genocide as a matter of open, stated, like-it's-on-our-fucking-websites-non-ironically objectives.

Sports fans have literally destroyed more things and hurt more people in one night than antifa has since they got on people's radars months ago, but strangely we don't see very many mainstream think pieces calling for their classification as a gang or terrorist group.

What we are having for the most part is a conversation about who has the moral authority to engage in and/or threaten violence, both as a group or in a moment under their own acumen and assessment of a situation. And our country continues (mostly unconsciously of the double standard and what it represents) to have a tremendous discomfort with people pushed towards the margins of our society–who are not in the service of institutions that serve the social order like cops or military–making that judgement call for themselves.

However, that said, are you thinking of Black Bloc?

Text of image at page bottom.

I sympathize. I really do. It can be really alarming to see someone in a black mask throwing punches at a dude on the ground trying to cover their face. I'm still not sure I'm really comfortable with it. But I don't control every single person who is anti-fascist. 

Then again, letting a few seconds of footage in a five hour protest, committed by fewer than 1 thousandth of the population of the overall demonstration completely dominate the narrative of the entire protest is pretty reactionary. Not only that, but that narrative does not include the nuance of the moment regarding what acts of violence provoked that attack (such as the punchee using pepper spray indiscriminately and as an offensive weapon before the cameras started rolling). And the intense hostile environment of a protest/counterprotest is already like a powder keg.

I'm not saying it's moral absolution, but it muddies the water of a sanctimonious narrative that all antifa are always just as bad as Nazis.

Law enforcement does not protect either group with identical diligence. Nor does the criminal justice system. (This is for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that law enforcement agencies have been infiltrated by white supremacists as a matter of FBI record.) Protecting one's identity is important if they don't want to be harassed. You know....like Batman.

And even STILL, people are directly equating and morally conflating the group that wants to kill Jews and Muslims and people of color and trans folks with those who have come to defend them–however personally misguided they think those tactics are.

If folks thought Buzz Aldrin probably had every right to clock a conspiracy theorist for being an asshole (and most pretty much did), but someone in a person's face calling for the systematic eradication of their race is no reason to lose one's cool, perhaps that's a narrative worth examining.

Are you sure you can't see some nuance here?

Group 1: Brings assault rifles to a rally where they discuss violence against people according to the immutable characteristics of their birth in order to create an ethno state of only white people. Brings literally the most easily recognizable symbols of white supremacy available. Discusses using lethal violence. Murder counter-protesters. Bring the most lethal weapons the authorities of a given city will allow. Would move forward with their agenda of ethnic and LGBTQ+ cleansing faster if the other side went away tomorrow.

Group 2: Is sick of group one's shit and their chosen ideology, which could be changed at any time and is not fettered to the static circumstances of their birth. Brings non-lethal defensive accoutrement to counter protests. Stands in the path of clergy to protect them. Would be playing Pokemon Go and complaining about Danny Rand online if the other side went away tomorrow.

Narrative #5 Those poor peaceful Nazis

A) This is not an accurate narrative. Check your facts.

They come with the most lethal weapons they are legally allowed to carry for the venue. They throw eggs and bottles. They will street harass people, including assaulting trans folks they find alone and vandalizing Synagogues. And far from the the "punch nazis" narrative (which, I can see why that doesn't set well with everyone to be honest), they actually go on at length about how they're going to MURDER us.

And if you think that violent white supremacists are just random one off individuals by which the larger group should not be judged. Why is it that the actions of a single antifa break this rule. Why is a narrative with that caliber of double standard acceptable.

B) Regardless of the legality, what Nazis and white nationalists are espousing is genocide. That's espousing, encouraging, organizing, and recruiting to do violence. The very words themselves are violent threats against many groups–essentially promising to kill them and their families if they succeed.

Narrative #6- Things are not that bad

You know you're not going to get a Fallout-style video game prompt the day before it's too late that says: "Fascists are about to take over your government. Do you really want to keep doing nothing? (This may drastically change your gameplay experience.) Yes/No?" There's this idea that there are a lot of steps left before we reach some point of no return, but you never know what that point is until you're looking back at it through 20/20 hindsight.

You know that everyone who knows anything about the rise of fascist regimes and even folks who actually went through THE RISE OF THE ORIGINAL NAZIS is at defcon 1, right? And they are jumping up and down and screaming that we don't have twenty degrees of "this deal is getting worse by the minute" before it's too late.

How many have actually listened to these white nationalists and nazis? I mean engaged the "source material" as it were? Do they know what neo-nazis and white nationalists are saying? Do they understand how they are openly discussing their plans to get more power and utilize state authority? Or do they just see the sensationalized images of them getting punched and think, "Those poor little people who just want free speech." How mean the leftists are to them." Because if anyone actually read their think pieces and listened to their interviews, and let them define themselves instead of doing it for them, and let their narrative be challenged by real people, they might walk away with a different impression of why someone on one of their lists of "Demographics to Be Expunged" is feeling pretty prickly right about now.

Narrative #7 Most of the people they punch aren't Nazis (or KKK, or white supremacists, or white nationalists, or any of that stuff

Citation needed.

Narrative #8- Counter protest doesn't work

Yes it does.

Personally I'm just fucking tired. I'm tired of people thinking I endorse all manner of extrajudicial violence because I hate fallacies of equivocation and see some nuance in the tactics of self-defense when literally armed Nazis march into MY town. I'm tired of people watching the rise of anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic forces by white supremacists who think discussing it nothing more than typical left v. right nonsense instead of the social issue of our day. I'm tired of normalizing white supremacy and genocide because edge lords are too lazy to educate themselves on what's really being said or do anything more than proffer forth a textbook Middle-of-the-Road™ fallacy as "hella deep" analysis.  I'm tired of getting told to stop talking politics on my own goddamned fucking page every time I dare to ask a writer to consider the power they have in shaping the narrative–a power that has destroyed nations, wiped out whole groups of humanity, and convinced itself it's the good guys in spite of, sometimes because of, that.

So forgive me if I don't pause to give a fuck if people wish this post were just another pun.

Because at the end of the day, I'm not telling you that you ought to be Antifa too. I just want to complicate your narrative. I've listened to both sides with empathy. Have you? I'm just reminding you that where you choose to start and stop the story matters. Who you listen to and who you don't matters. And if you start and stop the in a way that vilifies a group of people–a group of people whose stories have been conspicuously absent–the ONE group of people who have definitively stood up (and even put their bodies in harm's way) to protect all the folks who would be at the shitty end of an ethnic cleansing is itself a narrative–it matters. And if your intellectual rigor, your nuance, your empathy and, yes, even your sympathy are all going towards the group that includes among other revolting characters actual, literal Nazis, then you are sympathizing with them. And if you want to play semantic games with words, a Nazi sympathizer is exactly what that makes you.

Care to examine your narratives?

Or at least hearing out those who do?

"So, that image you have in your mind when you hear "Antifa"? The protester wearing all black, including a hood and facemask, amidst a whole bunch of others dressed the same way? That's not Antifa."Antifa," which is a term many decades old, means one thing, and one thing only: Anti-Fascist. If you oppose fascism, you're Antifa. Full stop. 
The image you're thinking of is the Black Bloc, a tactic designed to grant protesters anonymity while they take actions that might get the in trouble. It's a tactic, not an organization. Yes, some--SOME--Antifa groups utilize the Black Bloc. Many more do not. And lots of other movements use the Black Bloc, too, including a variety of anarchist groups. And here's the rub; not even people in a single specific Black Bloc crowd know the identities, let alone political ideologies, of everyone with them.  
Now, it is also true that most of the reports of Black Bloc Antifa violence have proved to be either lies or misrepresentations. But even those that are genuine? Do not represent Antifa as a movement, or most people who identify as Antifa. And every single time you post that they do, EVERY SINGLE TIME you equate "Antifa" with "violence," you are spreading Nazi talking points for them."

--Ari Marmell