On Brad Torgersen’s Straw Man Left


If I could have a nickel for every time a Sad/Rabid Puppy used a straw man version of the left to defend unethical behavior, I’d probably be a lot less broke than I already am.  Alas, straw man arguments don’t come with free nickels.  Instead, they come with a headache.

Recently, self-styled Sad Puppy voice actor Brad Torgersen left a rather strange comment on Sarah Hoyt’s blog.12  I say “rather strange” not because what Brad wrote is out of character for him, but rather because what he wrote is just plain delusional.  As is characteristic of SP/RP rants, Torgersen’s argument relies entirely on straw man fallacies, but it is the veracity with which Brad continues to argue these straw men that leads me to wonder whether the man is actually playing a game of Asshole Author or truly a believer.

Torgersen begins his rant with a well-oiled canard one hears in conservative circles:

Brad R. Torgersen | August 13, 2015 at 3:36 pm | Reply
Lately, I have thought this: if conservatives believe the purpose of government is to preserve liberty, liberals believe the purpose of government is to perfect the human condition. One of these goals is achievable. The other is a well-intended road to Hell.

Conservatives are for liberty; liberals are for…something else or whatever.  The truth is that the left — and I’m setting aside the fringe loons of both sides — is about liberty, too, but we have (sometimes) drastically different views on how liberty can be attained.  For one, contemporary American leftists believe the State has a responsibility to preserve our rights by making society more equitable through rule of law and, where the State is rightly inactive, rule of social “law.”  This doesn’t always work out, as we’ve seen, but I would argue that it does more good than bad.

The right, however, seems interested in a version liberty wherein the government keeps its nose out of things even if mass injustices are being perpetrated by everyday citizens against everyday citizens.  That might work out if everyday citizens weren’t doing horrible things to one another and violating one another’s rights, but anyone with ten minutes on their hands to Google can see how well that works out for people.  Personal liberty is certainly important, but not when it comes at the expense of others.

This is in no way to suggest that leftists such as myself have all the answers to all the problems in the U.S., though some on the left like to pretend they do.  But to argue that we don’t care about liberty is absurd.  The difference is that we interpret liberty quite differently.  Not just the liberty of one man, but the liberty of all.

The Futurians were an egg-headed bunch of ambitiously political chaps who thought the purpose of science fiction should be to proselytize Marxism, and extoll the virtues of a Marxist future. Many of them went on to be important writers and editors in the field. The consciousness of the field is therefore strongly shaped by these overtly politicized beginnings — to include the Marxist mindset that art should serve the project of improving society.

Now, these weren’t cynically malevolent Stalinists. Rather, they were starry-eyed Walter Duranty-type believers in the inevitability of the redistributive “scientific state” which would end poverty, end wars, end classism, and other “isms” as identified during the Long Struggle to make the world be “better.”

The Futurians — in 1939 — did not have our 20/20 hindsight of the Soviet Experiment, with its gulags and mass graves.

The rage-inducing part is that the great-grandchildren of the Futurians do have that 20/20 hindsight, and they learn absolutely nothing from it. They want to repeat the horror: the intrusive and omnipresent state control, the armies of Cheka police enforcing state-mandated doctrine, the unpersoning, the ritual Mao-style shamings and reeducation, the use of “fair game” tactics against designated targets; and the associates and families of same. Destroying businesses. Destroying lives. A mass chilling effect. And so much worse.

We want to “repeat the horror”?  Please show me this long list of leftists who want to imprison millions for being imagined enemies of the State.  Show me the leftist who wants to see armies marching down streets or forced education camps, and on and on and on.  It’s like you took a nap in 1950 and awoke in 2015 not realizing that Reagan punched the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union bankrupted itself and the folks on the left went, “yeah, all that fascism and oppression associated with that lot is just no good.”  Please, Mr. Torgersen, hurry up and thaw out.  Your brain is still frozen in the Cold War!

Now, to be fair here, I won’t deny that some people on the left are overzealous in their approach to social justice.  Indeed, I do think there are real issues facing us today in how we present ourselves online.  But guess what?  It’s not just the left who has instigators against free thought.  The right does, too.  The right has consistently and abusively fought to alter what is taught to our kids, even though it is often based on inaccurate historical information or blatantly biased interpretations of history.  At the same time as students on college campuses are calling for entire subjects to be cut out of the curriculum, the religious right have been doing their damnedest to neuter the teaching of evolution in public schools, to change the teaching of history to be more jingoistic than ever before, to bankrupt educational systems, ban books, remove teachers for challenging existing thought patterns, and so on.

You’re having a laugh if you think you’re even close to dealing with reality here.

People think gulags can’t happen here.

Actually, we don’t. The difference between the right and the left is that the right seems perfectly happy with creating a system as abusive as gulags — see Guantanamo and the industrial-scale prison system in this country — while the left (see Bernie Sanders) has been saying for years that this is as abusive and horrifying as it sounds.  The point is that we don’t want gulags in the United States or anywhere, and when you look across Western Europe, where these evil principles of socialism and capitalism and democracy have found variations of interaction and success, you’ll see that gulags aren’t of interest there either.  Example:  Norway.  Go read up on their prison system.  And their extremely low recidivism rates.  Go on.  I’ll wait.

Most of the Commissars of the new Cheka — the Political Correctness zealots — would happily see camps opened and filled to overflowing. They’ve already figured out how to manipulate campuses with political courts that operate in place of the actual law. They are actively working within the political framework of cities and states and the federal government, to get the laws perverted so that political courts can operate with full state authority. “Hatred” is the new enemy, and HATRED is the label that is applied to “Anything and anyone we don’t like,” according to the Commissars.

See above about our position on the prison system.  Or genocide.  Or camps for undesirables.  Remember the outrage over that politician or pastor or whatever who said we should round up all the gays and stick them in their own little camp away from society?  How many leftists of note can you count on your hands have ever said they want to create prisons for thought criminals?  Bernie Sanders certainly hasn’t said anything of the sort, and he’s about as close to a viable socialist candidate the U.S. has seen since the early 1900s.

Remember, too, that it’s the left who have been clammering to get body cameras on police officers so we can monitor what the State does and who have argued in almost every election since 2000 for more transparency in government.3

Remember, too, that your own side has spent half this year coming up with new acronyms and names for the people you’ve deemed the enemy; you have declared your hate hard-on so clearly to people who don’t agree with you that instances like this one are becoming almost comical and, sadly, expected.  That’s right.  We expect your postings to be delusional, hyperbolic, and hate-filled, because you and the other leaders of your movement have written such nonsense so often it’s basically become the SP/RP standard.

Look in the mirror, Brad.  Take off the SP/RP contacts and look real hard.

Columnist Cathy Young, who saw the Soviet system from the inside, recently excerpted a startlingly grotesque — and increasingly familiar — chapter from a novel, regarding the days of the Soviet world at its terrifying zenith.

This is the passage that caught my eye the most:

what sort of things was he saying before? No, comrades, expelling Shevchuk is easy, but it’s not enough. Not enough! We have to investigate the entire teaching staff and the school administrators, we need to find out how the school could have allowed an unhealthy environment to thrive in which this Shevchuk could operate with impunity. I think, comrades, that we need to send a Party commission to the school. And to identify all the unhealthy elements that may be present.

America is Mother Russia.  We all know this.

Let me re-fiddle that for you:

What sort of things were they saying before? No, expelling Correia or Torgersen is easy, but it’s not enough. Not enough! We have to investigate the entire science fiction field and the publishers, we need to find out how the field could have allowed an unsafe environment to thrive in which these cisnormative, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic authors could operate with impunity. I think, comrades, that we need to send a Hate Crimes commission to Worldcon. And to identify all the unsafe elements that may be present.

Well, this is a drastic distortion of reality if I ever saw one.  It never occurred to you that the reason so many people don’t like you or Correia might be that both of you are assholes who write shit like this?  Because, to be frank, I don’t know many people who don’t think both of you are assholes and would rather avoid you at a convention than have to interact with you even long enough just to say “excuse me” while squeezing by to take a piss.

Did it also not occur to you that perhaps people of color and women don’t want to be harassed at conventions, that gay people don’t want to have to engage with homophobes in private spaces?  Has it not occurred to you and your ilk that perhaps what you’re not getting is that you’ve been afforded centuries of automatic respect and that this respect is often not afforded to people who are different?  Is it so much to ask that Tom Kratman refer to a person by their preferred gender pronoun?  Is it so much to ask that a woman not be sexually harassed at a convention?

Is it so much to ask that you bear the consequences of engaging with people who believe acid attacks on women are OK, that burning the Hugos to the ground is OK, that gays are an abomination that would be better off dead, that Stand Your Ground laws are designed for white people to protect themselves from black people…?

Is it so much to ask that hate like this not be welcomed in fandom precisely because it is harmful to the whole?  Do you not see how much damage hate can do?  Do you not see how much damage you and your ilk have done this year alone, how fractured you have made fandom, how much hate you have dispensed and how much hate you have produced?  The hate isn’t isolated to one side here, Brad.  I don’t think we’ve seen so much hatred in fandom since RaceFail, and that’s not on “the left.”  That’s on you.  You did this.  Willingly.  And you continue to do it.  Willingly.4

So, the field is essentially returning to its Marxist roots. But the starry-eyedness is mostly gone. Now we’re down to the raw hate of the thing: the vengeance-minded outliers and weirdos, determined to punish wrongdoing and wrongthinking and wrongfeeling. Which means, of course, smoking out all the wrongfans having all the wrongfun with their wrongstuff.

Nope.  If you love science fiction and/or fantasy, you’re a fan.  Just because you’re a delusional asshole doesn’t mean you’re not a fan.  Try again.

If they could clap us in shackles, put us into the boxcars, and send us to the icy wastes to die, they would do it in a heartbeat.

Because — by golly! — somebody has to make things be safe!

Seriously?  Brad, as I’ve said many times already:  I think you’re a giant asshole, and a delusional one at that.  But I have no interest in locking you up or having your murdered.  Why would I when I don’t even want to have the unpleasant experience of having to interact with you in person?  I don’t know anyone who wants to lock you up and have you sent to your death.  Nobody.  There might be another delusional asshole out there who wants these things, but you’re not talking about a random dudebro living in a rundown Winnebago in southern California.  You’re talking about all of us.

I imagine you know that nobody wants to kill you.  If you actually believed that and weren’t just talking out of your ass because you’re a conspiracy theory-spouting Alex Jones wannabe, I imagine you’d have called the police by now to report all the people who actually want to kill you.  But you don’t believe that, right?  You don’t actually believe all the shit you wrote in that comment.  You can’t be that delusional, right?

At this point, I feel sorry for you because you have spent so much of your life being paranoid and screaming at clouds.  I feel sorry for you because you have harmed so many people who may never be able to forgive you.  I feel sorry for you because you’ll probably be remembered in the sf/f history books more for what you’ve done in the last two years than for any of your fiction.  And I feel sorry for you because though you will still be published, you have tarnished your career with a black mark that cannot be unseen.

And what makes it ironic is that you did it to yourself.

  1. The comment was in response to a post which begins innocuously enough, but quickly turns to Hoyt’s typical ranting delusions, at which point I stopped reading.
  2. Thanks to Paul Weimer for finding this gem.
  3. The right has argued this, too, when it was convenient, but not when it might do them harm.  To be fair, this is also a problem among the left if you define the Democratic Party as a “left” party, which I don’t.
  4. Let’s not forget that it was a Sad Puppy who called the police on David Gerrold for what amounted to Gerrold saying mean things on the Internet.  Unlike your side, Brad, I’m not going to call the police on you.  I don’t want to get you accidentally shot or arrested on spurious charges or to create the kind of stress a call from a SWAT team or heavily-armed police officer might cause.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

9 thoughts on “On Brad Torgersen’s Straw Man Left

  1. One might note that the Constitution that Torgersen pledged to uphold and defend disagrees with Torgersen about what the purpose of government. It says it is:

    “. . .to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty . . .”

    One might note that “liberty” is only one of the goals of government. I wonder if Torgersen knows this.

  2. Let’s not forget that it was a Sad Puppy who called the police on David Gerrold for what amounted to Gerrold saying mean things on the Internet.

    And their leader Vox has done things like that too.

    • Has he? I know he’s said some pretty disgusting stuff, but I’ve not heard anything about him calling the police on someone. Threatening, more or less, sure.

Leave a Reply