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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
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Tuesday, 9 February 2021

I'm Like Other Girls

 So, people who remember the 90s and early 2000s, or even the early 10s, might remember the recurring cultural fixation on being "unlike other girls." A Youtuber I particularly enjoy just put out an excellent video essay on the topic, and it covers a really interesting angle that isn't necessarily being talked about much. 

A quick note about gender to preface things - some of the people who look like "other girls" are either transgender or non-gender conforming, and the issue of gender for trans people, especially re: gender performance for both personal reasons and survival reasons, is really complicated. I don't experience dysphoria for my presented or physical gender, but I wanted to mention that when I say "women" and "men," I am primarily talking about cis people - but I am aware trans people can also experience periods of trying desperately to conform while hiding their inner selves/real gender. (The real gender is the one by which someone identifies, just to be clear; also, genders and the expression/performance thereof can shift over time.)

So, with that note out of the way, kindly consider the latest iteration of feminine cannibalism.

Where it comes from 

It seems as though a lot of the people who talk about this are baffled about the causes of this hate. A millennial who remembers the brief period of modern society before the internet can confirm that it was very possible to be bullied for failing to conform to societal beauty standards - something that was particularly common in the 90s and 2000s. 

The thing is - it wasn't so much the actual "popular girls" who were nasty. It was mostly their seconds-in-command or the girls who wanted to be them. The invisible middle-layer of girls who were neither social outcasts nor truly universally liked. In the brutal hierarchical world of junior high (and sometimes high school), clawing for attention, especially from guys, is a vicious game. 

The thing is, parents also made some of these comparisons. Something absolutely burned into my mind is the moment in the Muppet Cinderella, featuring Brandy, when her aunt says, "you look like a girl from one of those rap videos!" in a dismayed and scolding tone - and the character's uncle comments, "you look like a girl from one of those rap videos" in a significantly warmer tone, while looking his niece (!) up and down. It was a tiny moment, but I can still recite those two lines of dialogue from memory roughly sixteen years later...and that says a lot. 

Authors, we need to knock it off

Being that I'm not only a writer, but that I also edit in the industry, I can absolutely confirm that a ton of romance books written for adults and by adults still have this internalized misogyny - including books by queer men. A lot of people are starting to unpack this deep-seated and knee-jerk hate, which is pretty great, but quite a few people still don't - and it sucks. A nemesis who may be promiscuous, blonde, shallow, vicious, or all of the above crops up quite often. Romance movies are so, so bad for this - and what shocked me was that most of those terrible romantic comedies I saw growing up were written, directed, and produced by men, especially men who sneered at the whole format. So...basically, men were presenting a "cool girl" and saying that she was better than other women. And as Aonso and some of the other creators linked in this essay put it, we wonder why women hate each other and themselves.

When it changed for me 

Two things happened when I was a teenager that made an important crack in my understanding of other women - first of all, I started to be attracted to girls. It's possible to hate people you're attracted to; look at incels, for example. Hell, that term was coined by a bi woman and was used by her and other queer people who felt undateable, and were trying to fix themselves so they could find love. (As usual, the worst kind of men invent nothing, and make what they steal, worse.) 

The other thing was - after a terribly unpleasant stint in private school in eleventh grade, which was a terrible five-month period, I returned to public school - but I started to dress the way I had always secretly wanted to. That meant (sigh) the boy-jeans that fit me under sarongs, long circle skirts with embroidery, peasant shirts, and that kind of thing. I had always loved clothing like that, and a brief stint of wearing a uniform made me decide firmly that I was going to wear the clothes I loved, damn it. 

And somehow, people not only thought that was cool - but they liked me and were friendly. It helped that the high school had a reputation for being nerdy and academic, but it was still an inner-city school, which made for a diverse population. And here's the twist - not only did I not get bullied, I had a great year and a half there, and I even friendly relationships with some popular girls. Finding out that pretty girls, even actual teen models, could be fun, smart, and sweet changed everything. 

I had a bad period with my counselling faculty in university as well, which sparked a nearly fatal depression - but that didn't make me hate all other women. The thing is, "nerdy" and "unconventional" girls can be just as vicious and mean as the "popular" ones - and to my later surprise, men can be every bit as petty and vicious and underhanded. I've seen it in professional communities, both my own and in the medical and business worlds, and I've even seen this kind of backbiting in queer communities. So why does it keep happening?

The core of the problem 

In psychological terms, it appears that most girls and plenty of women (and men) seem to not only view others based on their external interests - but as Aonso puts it, they assume that other people aren't as genuine about their interests, and are either "faking it" or doing it for "clout" or "attention". The thing is - a lack of theory of mind, understanding that other people have their own inner worlds, combined with a presumption of an external locus of control (i.e. letting the world's judgements determine what's important to you and what you should do), perfectly describe the things we assume about other women. But - it's easily disproven by talking to these "other girls". One of the greatest revelations of my life was discovering just how many "dumb" girls were pretending to be stupid just to avoid intimidating men and others. 

A fundamental lack of empathy for "other girls" is the justification for hating them. In the earlier decades, bullying definitely was an issue, but it doesn't fully explain why this hatred for the "other girl" is so deeply encoded. 

Combined with the mournful loneliness of societal prejudices experienced for failing to conform, as well as social rejection, plenty of "not like other girls" girls/people turn inward and try to find something about themselves to like. Being unlike one's tormentors is generally the first thing to notice - and accepting one's differences, especially if they result in being othered, can be comforting. 

However, just because it's a coping mechanism doesn't mean it's healthy. Destructive social dynamics are the price of being a member of a social species. The only way to deal with it is fighting the internalized social protocols of Western culture (i.e. don't talk about what's Important to you, don't say things that will make waves, even if they're really nice compliments; be innocuous but not too boring, etc). The patriarchial standards based in the most toxic core of North American culture, especially WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) and whiteness culture, are killing all of us. But they don't have to, because we are already more than what we've been taught to be.

What I think now

In addition to this, a memorable social psychology class of mine focused on the ways that "alternative" people - which, I suppose, includes yours truly - still conform to dress codes within their own subcultures. When one considers an "alternative" girl next to, say, a sports team, of course she looks different. But stick that girl on tiktok and look under the right hashtags, and it's easy to see more visual similarities between clothing styles of alternative people. So - those "other girls" just need to band together and enjoy each other's company and similarities, and with the internet, that's possible like never before.

So, other girls? They're great! Finding out that first of all, pretty girls aren't actually vicious monsters out to destroy relationships and friendships, was wonderful. There are a lot of other people who adore reading, writing, talking about social justice issues and politics, tabletop RPGs, knitting, moody folk and rock music, true crime of the cult and con artist variety, history, shiny rocks, magic, making jewelry, baking and cooking, fashion, drawing, tea, and learning languages (to cite most of the interests I can think of at this exact moment). Not only that, I've learned to present my interests more appealingly in conversation, so they're more approachable and so I can hit the highlights for people who are interested but less knowledgeable. Discovering the joy of shared interests and the skill of sharing my interests has made my adulthood a rich and socially satisfying period, and I can only hope others can attain this level of warmth, friendship, and support.

Next time that little nasty whisper rears its head, or next time some guy mentions that a woman is "not like other girls" - ask, "what's wrong with other girls?" Embracing the shadow-side of other-girlness, and learning how to do makeup, dress provocatively, and appreciate one's own sexuality (or lack thereof) will not magically turn a woman into a brainless zombie or a soul-sucking, seductive vampire. If anything, we should explore these societally-shamed tropes, and appreciate the diversity of people who both identify under and branch out from the feminine gender. We have barely even begun to create societal roles for nonbinary people, but trans and nonbinary folks are also bringing forth a lot of creativity and wonderful content. Masculinity and femininity should be umbrellas, not cages - but self-hatred has never unlocked a cage from within. 

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partner-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Friday, 29 January 2021

Marx's Loophole

 So, I mentioned in a previous article that I've been agonizing over leftist infighting issues for - well - a few years now. Despite the sharp tone of my previous posts and some others, it should be noted that I don't hate modern communists - in fact, I generally agree with a lot of their aims (with the exception of the small number of dictator apologists). I am, however, significantly more comfortable around people who talk about democratic socialism and who generally aren't demanding a one-party state, because of my previously stated vehement opposition to totalitarianism. 

But today, I want to take a stab at a greatly revered dead old white male theorist's basic ideas. This is another article I've been considering for some time, but I'm going to endeavour to make it less lengthy and meandering than my last release. (Especially because I'm not entirely sure most of my readers are here for extended musings on political theory from an admitted non-expert.) 

In a nutshell, then, Marxism doesn't work and is incomplete, and we on the left need to stop making everything try to fit its exact circumscriptions. 

There are two relatively simple reasons why I would put this relatively obvious theory forward, and they both come down to the scientific fact that we are social animals. 

Money represents attention; both represent power

In other social species, such as chickens, chimpanzees, bonobos, or dolphins, hierarchies naturally develop. Before I learned about more of the basic concepts of anarchism, I thought it was devoted to resisting hierarchies under all circumstances, which struck me as innately ridiculous. How could one organize and get anything done without some kind of chain of command? Then I found out that the point was destroying unjust and entrenched hierarchies, which made more sense - but is still a tricky proposition.

The thing is, as anyone who's spent five minutes on the leftist internet will tell you, those hierarchies will recapitulate themselves, even without monetary incentives. Memes and art are shared freely, as is fanfiction, and that certainly supports the idea that resources are being artificially restricted from the public by the actions of the wealthy and their corporations - but the people who produce these things and the algorithms that promote and share them are not created equal. Unjust hierarchies are not only bone-deep, but are inevitably recycled, even when they're reversed. Attention is a form of currency and exchange because it represents power; money also represents power. But trying to remove power from human society and interactions is like trying to run a battery without electricity. 

The most we can do is try to redistribute power as equitably as possible, while working intentionally to compensate for historical and present-day injustices. I don't believe there will ever be an end point, because new injustices will happen as the world progresses - but trying to compensate for them brings improvements, and a better world. The alternative is to just try and embrace the inequality, which is pretty much the thesis of fascism - and if you haven't gotten the idea from my other articles, fascism is bad. Not only that, it's fundamentally unsustainable and precarious. Even if it didn't lead to suffering and injustice, it wouldn't work. But communism as depicted in Marx's writings doesn't exactly work either, because of this whole power and imbalance thing I keep talking about.

The fight for justice will never end

It is vitally important, even required, resist and break down unjust hierarchies, even the most entrenched. As stated previously, I don't support attempting this with violence, but resisting and protesting fascists is also a form of societal self-defense. Being present at white supremacist rallies discourages them, because fascism is fundamentally a belief requiring cowardice. 

Unfortunately, despite their many flaws, democracies are the best system we've come up with for self-determination thus far. It seems like fascism is, rather than a one-time event, cyclical. One thing that Star Wars (I know, shut up, hear me out) represents well is that democracies are always going to be susceptible to fascism and predatory conservatism. But the alternative is totalitarianism, and that, we must fight. As Benjamin Franklin put it, "A republic, gentlemen - if you can keep it." 

There is no "one last person to take resources from and then we can yeet into the beautiful future" stage. There is no socialist paradise. It's like the stuff in the New Testament about building the Kingdom of God on earth, and which leftist christians understand as being "hey not being a dick is a continuous process." There will be no messianic Revolution where All the Bad People Die and the Rest of Us get to live in Egalitarian Heaven. 

(I'm not Christian, but I do really like ex-Christian and leftist Christian media; it's been good for my spiritual health.)

Can we have a beautiful future? I don't know, but we can certainly try to make now better. The healthier our democracies and systems become, the more resilient they'll be to the next wave of fascist or conservative backlashes. 

Humanity will never be able to stop trying to balance altruism and self-interest. Even if we damage the planet to the point that we struggle to inhabit it, I very much doubt that we'll actually go extinct. However, if we refuse the temptation to discard the tools at hand, and use our cracked, damaged systems to their fullest extent, we stand more than a snowball's chance in hell of conquering our worst instincts and remedying historical and present atrocities. 


And yes, I know she's called "Tank Girl," and that modern-day dictator apologists are known as "tankies," but the point still stands.

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partner-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Friday, 22 January 2021

The Horseshoe's Penumbra

People who've read The Meaning Wars series might recall that in book 2, The Stolen: Two Short Stories, the novella "Wordthieves" depicts a society that has some of the trappings of leftist and liberal groups - meditation, organic food, yoga, vegetarianism, basic housing and healthcare - yet behaves like Christian extremists. To wit, they exert behavioural control over members, demand obedience and a lack of questioning, 

Part of my goal with this was to vent frustration at the controlling behaviour and culture present in the Health Sciences faculty I was studying in, under a now (thankfully) deposed Department Head. The other purpose of the depiction was to criticize an unsettling behaviour I noticed - the way the trappings of the left and liberals (yoga, vegetarianism, Buddhist iconography, incense, crystals, etcetera) sometimes came with behaviour that matched oppressive philosophical standards from the right - name, Christian Evangelical-style refusal to countenance criticism. In other words, people could get real defensive about their spirituality and lifestyles, and be strangely hostile to science in ways that I normally encountered at the hands of casual Christian extremists (aka members of the Canadian Bible belt). I figured it was because changing one's external beliefs doesn't unteach the behavioural standards of the restrictive religious culture. 

What's the difference between a leftist and a liberal, anyway?

It would be easier to define this answer if it wasn't for the vicious and contemptuous purity-testing present among segments of the left. The broad left is fractious, rowdy, and often disagrees with itself to the point of self-parody. Never mind extreme standards of orthodoxy; merely forging an orthodoxy from the heterodoxy can be difficult at best. Certain stances, like the idea of universal healthcare, education, childcare, and reproductive rights access are popular; however, the manner in which these things can be accomplished is often an issue of great debate. The uplifting of voices of marginalized groups is held as important; exactly who gets to speak when, and who is most correct or most important in a given circumstance, is often the kind of debate topic that ruins friendships. (This is not a joke; I've seen it happen, and it's a lot less funny when it happens to you.) 

Some seek to reference historical applications of the term. During the Cold War, being "liberal" and "conservative" meant supporting capitalism over communism. The links between "economic freedom" and personal control/totalitarianism were forged in iron - even though the totalitarian governments self-proclaimed as communist were no more "communist" than buffalo wings are derived from bison. It's impossible to ignore history, the way neo-liberalism in the 80s meant doing your own thing and making money as a goal, trying to accrue power despite the cost - yet also being a global citizen, open to new experiences, and boldly expressing self-determination. 

Trying to map the old standards onto the modern ones badly ignores how much things have changed in the last forty-odd years. A common insult in certain parts of Twitter (and now Discord instead of Facebook, I assume) is to call someone a "liberal," which basically implies that said person is capitulating to the State, to false prophets, 
or isn't radical enough. It's supposed to be a reference to neo-liberalism of the 80s - but in context, it often makes little sense when held up against that criteria. 

Use a better word, please

I'd also like to talk about something related - the infamous, often contested Centre. Here's the thing - when I pop my head out of the leftist stronghold spaces I tend to prefer online, and talk to people who are less inclined to, say, anarchism, or at least radical restructuring, I've noticed that I keep not meeting any centrists. People who hold some sort of bland, mythical centrist stance don't actually exist. "But Nancy Pelosi and Justin Trudeau!" some might cry. Improper commitment to progressive ideas does not equate to actually believing in some kind of weird lukewarm centre. Outside of politics, "centrists" or divided voters tend to have a mixture of viewpoints that pull them in different directions. Some leftists consider reaching out to the centre useless, but experts on cults and conversion suggest that outreach - as much as it can be exhausting - is better than waiting for the far right to do the reaching out, as we saw with QAnon, which successfully radicalized former Obama voters. 

We're not so different, you and I...

However, it's worth considering who the left would prefer to ally with - the "centrists" or the most extreme radicals. 

Leftist Twitter, Facebook, and other circles have some morally questionable corners; that's not surprising in any group, but can still be upsetting. The embrace of Stalinism and Maoism by young Americans, even queer ones, is baffling in some ways. The calls for violence crop up repeatedly - as do praise for gun culture and self-defense. I've voiced discomfort with leftist retaliatory battle cries before. 

Nowadays, frankly, I'm far more comfortable with saying "eat the rich!" and "all cops are bastards" because I understand more about how entrenched oppression works. Shaming cops and trying to unnerve the very wealthy are a little different from actually organizing, say, a raid on Jeff Bezo's private compound. There, I draw the line. I've whimpered in the past about fears of the left taking on the extreme right's tactics because "we're better and won't be corrupted" - but what actually happens is just that the extreme right gains new members. 
Here's why I wouldn't recommend the latter category. I've spent a few years now trying to research and keep an eye on extremist leftist groups - the tiny, tiny number of people who believe that Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro and the Kims of North Korea have been wronged by history. While it's undeniable that the CIA undermined socialist democracies in South America and Europe, and one can say that sure, some of these revolutionary leaders had good ideas, the totalitarian regimes that eventually came to power should not be apologized for. The fact that Churchill was a racist does not excuse the anti-Semitism, homophobia, and Ukrainian genocide caused by Joseph Stalin. 

For a long time, I've tried to figure out how to write an article saying both that this small group of people is pretty much insignificant online, and that they should be watched carefully in case their beliefs leach into the wider left. I noticed that wandering through a series of Leftbook pages - fan pages that support far, far left beliefs - there was a surprising amount of apologia for the dictators mentioned above, as well as gun adoration and what looked an awful lot like vague calls to violence. 

Trying to question individual leftists about these things resulted in a sort of foot-dragging annoyance in the responses. "So are you willing to actually launch a raid on a billionaire's compound?" I demanded. "And if so, what about the possibility of them using their employees as human shields?" As one might imagine, the replies to that were often vague and hostile. 

I tried to reconcile this violent streak in the dustiest corners of the leftist movement with the broad goals of electoral reform, voter enfranchisement, and the policy issues I've mentioned elsewhere. Granted, the system is in bad shape, but is the alternative violent insurrection? 

If yes, you might be a fascist

It was seeing a former leftist advocating for the Capitol Hill terrorists that made everything crystal clear. I'd run across the concept of "red fascism" previously. The fact that totalitarian governments calling themselves "communist" hunted for "fascists," with secret police when necessary, does not mean those regimes were not, in fact, still totalitarian or fascist. But it still shocked me to see an avowed anti-fascist referring to terrorists as family, and proclaiming that any actions to the contrary were "neo-liberal capitulation." 

The dramatic irony of defending the fascists they have professed to hate, simply because the FBI is more fascist, gave me a lot to laugh at. Thinking about it for a while wiped the smile right off my face. 

The big mistake

People - previously including myself - tend to think that the left and the right curve towards each other with these behaviours, but what it really represents is a sort of snapping-off point. The actual values espoused by leftism and liberalism broadly speaking - personal self-determination, protection of rights of others - experience some conflict with the values of capitalism and conservatism. These definitions of words shift, of course - many people talk about liberalism and neo-liberalism interchangeably, even though that's deeply confusing and inaccurate (please stop, Twitter). There was a time when conservative governments actually did things like conserve air, water, and national parks. 

But at the present moment, when leftists start having things in common with the alt-right, I would contend that they are no longer leftists. In attempting to weld the horseshoe's diverging branches together, one of them has snapped off and gotten stuck to the other. 

Violent insurrection and overthrow of a government is incompatible with advocating for a peaceful society. Yes, the system is messed up, but trying to accelerate change with a militaristic coup - if it works at all - will not produce the kind of world we want. 

This article is too long, but it could still be longer. Suffice to say, most of the "radical left" is not represented by qualms expressed in this article. But a very, very, very small number of people are unwilling to deal with anything less than instantaneous change - and those people may think they're holding leftist ideals, but they've lost the plot. 

At the end of the day, all we can do is call out these violent mutterings within our own ranks. Fascism is fascism, even if some of the people calling for it seem - at first - to be calling for the correct sorts of changes. There's a reason Hitler used the term "national socialist" for his party, and it's because smuggling right-wing ideas in with a left-wing package works pretty well. 

Unless, of course, as soon as you notice what they're up to, you kick the fascists out.

Have you run into these people? Do you have a counterargument you’d like to make? Hit me up in the comments below. 

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partner-in-crime and Max the cat. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Monday, 18 January 2021

Horseshoe Theory is Not Enough

 I was crawling through my Discord and Facebook threads about politics and chatting with friends when a buddy shared a screenshot of a tweet that made my jaw drop. (Discord is a social chatting platform similar to old IRC chats, but with a nicer interface; if you don't know what Facebook and Twitter are, I would like to know the location of your rock, and exactly how many other blind salamanders live under it, because it should probably be protected by UNESCO.) 

Anyway, there's a content producer called Peter Coffin. They create video essays on Youtube, and since I tend to watch my fair share of "Leftube"/"Breadtube"/educational and witty videos about current events and philosophical topics, I've come across their work. They're very aggressively against "horseshoe theory," which is the idea that the extreme left and the extreme right bend around to being similar to each other. This makes it seem as though the center/centrism is the most rational perspective and belief - obviously, I personally disagree with that. 

(All screenshots were taken on January 15th, around 12 AM, by myself.)  

The tweets I've screenshotted here are, to put it colloquially, cursed as fuck. Proceed with caution (and some type of memory-scrubbing agent, especially for that Pence tweet).

However, the way this political theorist has spoken about Gamergate has been - to put it mildly - a warning sign. Gamergaters launched targeted harassment at game designers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, among others, citing their role in...somehow prejudicing the industry against white men? "It's about ethics in games journalism" became a rallying cry - but any amount of examination made that ostensible excuse fall apart like a dessicated wasp nest. 

To reiterate: they (Peter Coffin) are sympathizing with people who created an entire narrative structure to validate their anger at BIPoC, women (+), and LGBTQ people for both wanting to be represented in games and designing their own games and stories. 

If nothing else, more art makes art better. Straight people, white people, and especially men actually benefit from these stories existing, because it will lead to more nuances and better stories being told for them, too. 

Gamergate, QAnon, and MAGA

Unfortunately, when people equate a desire for representation with hate, and when they also ignore power structures, we get things like the violence against Black Lives Matter protestors. These movements share very similar ethics and values. In fact, the pickup artist community and the "manosphere," as well as the incel movements, have all been linked to the alt-right. These communities directly feed into each other and stoke violent hatred. 

And why wouldn't they? Defensive, angry people hearing that their way of life is Bad, Actually are going to group together. Unfortunately, arguing with these people online tends to push them further into their bubbles. Discussion etiquette is in a dire state, but some arguments are also too stupid to be countenanced. Instead, de-radicalization therapies and approaches are more effective. 

Trying to debate a cultist doesn't work. I've tried. Unfortunately, understanding how the violent kind of radicalization and cults work has given me insight into something unpleasant. The left doesn't become like the right - rather, the alt-right tends to use the trappings of the left, and sometimes, converts us. Two groups of people who distrust the government, albeit for drastically different reasons, can come together over that link. The same thing happens with flat Earthers - some believe in a dome, and some believe in a weird ice-wall thing, but they're basically just united by their opposition, rather than a core set of principles.  

And when people get so focused on one element of inequality that it blots out their understanding of all others - for instance, class reductionists like Coffin, who think that capitalism and clout culture are the only explanation for every problem - their logic tends to disintegrate.


But empathy? 

Here's the thing. Empathy with the people on the other side is actually important. I speak in harsh terms about white supremacists because we can't excuse their behaviour, but understanding their anger and fear is important. Hell, even understanding why rich, powerful people probably don't want to hand over their comforts and resources helps. 

But as much as the institutions punishing the protestors suck, and as much as they've been used against the oppressed, it doesn't mean that we should sympathize with people who believed the election was fraudulent because their candidate didn't win. My Canadian representatives and my preferred American candidates haven't won every single election, but the correct response to that state is to protest or strike and use democratic means when possible. Even setting aside the absolutely awful, stupid things Trump and his movement stand for, vicious and abusive tantrums are unacceptable. 

Sympathizing with people choosing to attempt the murder of others is bad, actually. Seeing this perspective voiced by someone who has been so adamant about the fact that horseshoe theory is fake is painfully ironic. 

What can we learn from Peter's screwups? 

There's plenty to laugh at and cringe at here. The most important thing to take away from all this is approaching all of our ideas with caution and awareness of our biases. Empathy and pragmatism have to go hand-in-hand. Finally, if we try to make everything fit a single pattern, all we'll do is draw a red-string conspiracy board, and strangle ourselves. 


Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partner-in-crime and their two cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible. Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Friday, 15 January 2021

Just Desserts

 Oh, how the turn tables. 

With Trump impeached for the second time in one term - a historic first for the US - I wanted to take a moment to really just savour the backlash against him and the fascist movement threatening him. 

Despite what a small number of people on the left and liberals are saying - you know, that we ought to be kind to these discontented "patriots" trying to do their best, etcetera - the reprecussions have been severe. Delayed, granted - this should have happened years ago. Trump should never have been allowed to run. The deplatforming should have started with Alex Jones' denial of the Sandy Hook shooting, but it was allowed to go on. Still, I cannot help but celebrate. 

It was so overdue. 

Koch, Disney, and Hallmark  are a few of the names rescinding or "reconsidering" or pulling funding outright from either the Republican Congress and Senate members who encouraged the riot, or the entirety of the GOP. Dow Chemical - you know, from Dow Jones in the stock market? - announced a similar kneecapping. And this comes after Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tiktok, even Pinterest. The app Parler, which was funded heavily by a GOP supporter,  has been scrubbed from the Apple and Google app stores. 

If you're wondering why I'm gleeful rather than concerned about this, I've written about the paradox of tolerance before. Suffice to say that saying something does not mean that anyone is obligated to listen to or support what is said. Furthermore, here in Canada, we distinguish between free speech and credible threats of violence. "I could strangle him, I'm so mad" may be incriminating, but is not a crime; "We should go strangle him right now, and I'll drive. Get the rope and a shovel" has a specificity that makes it dangerous. 

After years of the Black Lives Matter movement and of antifascist protestors and the black blocs being painted as terrorists, and years of LGBTQ+ and BIPoC being silenced and treated more harshly than others on these very platforms, the other side is getting a taste of it. It will never make up for the fact that people who simply didn't want to be murdered by institutional forces were fired, traumatized, threatened, and worse - but it's progress. 


The catch 

Unfortunately, it's not over yet. The violence in DC may betoken a wave of terrorism on Inauguration Day. Journalist Sarah Kenzior and her colleague Andrea Chalupa, as well as reporters from Slate and Vox, expressed concerns that further conflict and sabotage will occur at various state capitols - as well as at the Inauguration itself. 

As much as I'm blowing the world's tiniest noisemaker over this victory, we can't be complacent. We have to be vigilant. White supremacy-based, Christian-rooted violence has been underestimated for decades, and now we're reaping the price. 

Listen. The FBI, RCMP, police, and other bodies of law enforcement are tools of colonialism and oppression. I wish it were otherwise, but police officers were present on both sides of the terrorist acts at the Hill. Both Canada and the USA are settler nations on stolen land, founded on oppression - but these messy democracies are the best we've got, and we can keep working from within them to vote, protest, and strike for change. Democracy has to be protected and defended, and we cannot assume that the fascists, conspiracy theorists, and cult followers in Trump's motley crew will rest. 

A brave and careful person going by the handle donk_enby scrubbed terabites of identifying information from Parler, helping the FBI locate these terrorists. This is not "thought-crime" or any of the buzzwords invoked by conservatives and centrists who skim-read a few paragraphs of 1984. These were actual criminal and morally reprehensible actions, the type of which all social species have to deal with and circumscribe for their own survival. 

Even if you dislike, loathe, or distrust these institutions, the fact that they're doing what they're designed for is a win. The system is bad, but we must try to bend it to our will, and take advantage of this moment of reprisal. 


In the meantime, while we catch our breaths, we can spare a moment to smile. For once, something fair happened to people who wanted to hurt others. A bunch of Gen Z staffers who endured school shooting drills saved the lives of many elected representatives. 

Retaliatory murder does not bring justice - only pain and and more disorder. Instead, we need restorative justice - and the prosecution of the white wannabe secessionists is a little start in that direction. 


Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partner-in-crime and their two cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible. Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi