This is another Hugo Award/ Sad Puppy post. I wish it were not true but there is something that needs to be said. The title of this piece says I am defending Irene Gallo regarding the remarks she made on her Facebook page. I am, to a point. And by the end of this article I know she will be angry at me for doing so. The gaffe was ugly and nothing I have to say will make it look any better. I am serious about what I am saying here. I say this because it can be difficult to deal with the fact that someone hates you and actually believes you hate them and their beliefs in return.
I had an epiphany yesterday. Not the sort of epiphany that makes you happy. I haven’t figured out anything that would bring about peace in the Middle East or come up with an energy solution everybody can live with. Oh, how I wish it were so. This is the sort of epiphany that makes you cry into the night sky for an alien abduction. The probing from the aliens would be worth it just to get away from the level of foolishness involved.
First, let me point out I believe Irene Gallo has been honest throughout this whole affair. She had no reason to lie to her friend when he asked her about the Sad Puppies campaign. She was safe on her personal Facebook page which she often used to help advertise various items for her employer, Tor Books. Under most circumstances, this would be commendable in an employee. It shows loyalty and initiative any employer would find desirable. Things went horribly wrong for her. Here is the quote from the thread that started the whole thing:
As I said above, she had no reason to lie. If she were lying then she is a cruel and manipulative person that is steering someone who is unaware of the controversies surrounding the Hugo Awards by libeling a group of people with abhorrent names and beliefs they do not hold. I have seen nothing that makes me believe that. I have met evil and manipulative people and I do not believe she is one of them.
I am now going to digress a moment. To those who have been appalled at what has been said about them, hold your bile. You will see why in a bit. To those of you who have been defending her by saying we are misinterpreting what she said, just stop it. You are impugning this woman’s honor and integrity. She has not been unclear or mealy-mouthed in anything she has said. Nor are your opponents or anybody else incapable of understanding what she has written in plain English. She was not using any obscure definition of Nazi or Fascism when she said what she said. You sound like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carol’s “Through the Looking Glass”. And you are not master of anything. To those of you who have defended her by crying about a #WarOnWomen on Twitter and elsewhere, get a grip. This has nothing to do with her gender. The response would have been the same if the Puppies had been called Nazis by a man. I know I am not a Nazi. You know you are not a Nazi. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you choose not to associate with Nazis. I know, darn well, I don’t associate with them. And if someone called you a Nazi you would respond with as much, if not more, vigor than the Puppies have. You are damseling her. The reason she is having trouble defending herself is that her statement was abhorrent and she had nothing but cat pictures to back it up. Deal with it.
Now we get to the part that makes me sick to my stomach. You see, I have found it is best to take my opponents at their word. I have found that most people are honest in their dealing with others when they see no need to lie. Nobody is the villain in their own mind nor do they want to be.
When the Sad Puppies first responded on Ms. Gallo’s thread they immediately began asking, pointedly, what she had to back up her assertions. The Sad Puppies know they are not Neo-Nazis and were justifiably angered that someone would call them such. The problem is they skipped a question they should have asked: Do you believe what you wrote?
I have come to the realization Irene Gallo actually believes the two Puppy campaigns are run by Neo-Nazis. Until someone closely associated with her or she, herself, tells me otherwise I will stand by that belief. It does not make what she said any better. It just shines a light on how bad things have become.
It does not matter what you know of yourself. If someone believes you are a Neo-Nazi then that person sees no reason not to call you a Neo-Nazi. They are simply speaking the truth as they see it. If she believes it, she did not lie. And, to her, asking her to apologize for calling you a Nazi would be asking her to lie.
That Brad Torgersen has been in an interracial Marriage for 20+ years and is raising a child with this wonderful woman doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Peter Grant has actually exchanged gunfire with Neo-Nazis while working to end Apartheid in South Africa. It doesn’t matter that the Ku Klux Klan trespassed and burned a cross on my grandparent’s farm when I was 10 years old. We can deny we are Neo-Nazis all we want. That’s exactly what a Neo-Nazi would do*. Do you know who else would deny being a Neo-Nazi? Someone who is not a Neo-Nazi.
It is worse than this one woman’s beliefs. I am sure many of her supporters believe what she has said as well. Look at those who defended her by saying Tor Books threw her under the bus. To them, Tom Doherty looks like Neville Chamberlain appeasing Germany prior to WWII. It’s actually management disciplining an employee that said some stuff that could damage their company online. But facts and reality are nothing compared to what they believe.
So what does this change? Unfortunately, very little. It merely explains why the two sides are so entrenched. When one side is convinced the other is evil there can be no compromise. Of course, if you are provably wrong about those who you believe to be evil it makes you look like either an ass, a fool, or a conspiracy theorist. These are not mutually exclusive.
This does not change our response. It only makes sense to deny when we are accused of being something we are not. When these accusations are thrown, and they will be thrown again, we must continue to ask for proof of them. I’ve seen what they throw out. When they start telling you about “Confederate Politics” or similar silliness you’ve won because there hasn’t been a Confederacy since 1865.
It does mean we should temper our response in pity rather than anger. The person throwing out such vile accusations isn’t necessarily foolish, they may simply be obtuse. It is difficult to change deeply held beliefs, especially when knowing that you were wrong makes you look stupid or makes you the villain of your own narrative. It is frustrating to deal with. Keep your cool.
But how can she continue to hold these thoughts when confronted with the fact that they are absurd when compared to reality? People know many things that just are not true. Allow me to present the fallacy of the alligator’s color. Without looking anything up, what color is an Alligator? Green? That’s what color it is on the University of Florida sports logo and in dozens, if not hundreds of children’s books. Now Google a photograph of an alligator. What color is it? Alligators are actually black. Why do we think they are green? Because that is what we have been told and we never had any reason to doubt the Florida Gator’s logo. This works for other beliefs as well.
I do not know if Tor Books has made a final decision on Irene Gallo’s fate yet. I do not think Mr. Doherty’s and Ms. Gallo’s statements are the end of it. I do hope Tor Books will ask Ms. Gallo if she believed she was protecting her company from Neo-Nazis when she made her inflammatory post. Yes, it is absurd on the face of it, but that changes nothing about what she may have believed and continues to believe for all I know. I do not know what I would do if faced with such a decision. Is losing a loyal, valuable, and capable employee worth the reputation loss from keeping her after the damage she has caused? I am glad I do not have to make that call.
I am saddened that there are people who think my friends and I are racist, homophobic, Neo-Nazis. This only means the fight over the Hugo Awards has reached a new low. And that it cannot end well. This does not mean we will stop fighting. It simply means we should pity them. They hate because they do not know any better.
*Actually, it is the opposite of what most Neo-Nazis would do. It is disgusting, but they see nothing wrong with their beliefs and will gladly tell you about them. If you disagree, ask a Law Enforcement Officer that has had dealings with them or, even better, infiltrated them.