When news emerged that sci-fi books recommended by conservative-leaning author Brad R. Torgersen had swept the prestigious Hugo Awards nominations, sections of the mainstream media flew into an all-too-predictable panic. Disturbed by the idea that popular culture might liberate itself from “progressive” elites, journalists across multiple publications went into attack mode.
After the news broke, a series of brazenly inaccurate reports appeared in the mainstream press, some of which had to undergo humiliating corrections later in the week. Despite being conceived by Hispanic author Larry Correia and openly declaring their indifference to race and gender, the media accused Torgersen and Correia’s campaign of being “against diversity” in sci-fi.
One of the most egregious errors came from Entertainment Weekly, which ran a headline accusing Correia and Torgersen of running a “racist, misogynistic voting campaign”. After a stern letter from Torgersen himself, Entertainment Weekly changed the headline and updated the article with a correction that acknowledged the sheer extent of their inaccuracy. The reporter who wrote the article later deleted her Twitter account.
“CORRECTION: After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.
This story has been updated to more accurately reflect this. EW regrets the error.”
The Daily Telegraph also fell victim to the panicked narrative, running a story that accused Torgersen’s campaign of “preventing female authors and authors of colour” from being “proportionally represented”. The article, which was published without a byline, was almost completely re-written following complaints.
As you might expect, the most hysterical reporting came from the tabloid blog Gawker, which accused Torgersen’s campaign of being a “front” for “GamerGate’s misogynistic war on women”. Gawker has been obsessed with the gamers’ movement ever since it cost them over a million dollars in advertising revenue. But if gamergate were really about misogyny (hint: it isn’t), then supporting Torgersen’s campaign, which included more than a dozen female nominees, would be a terrible way of going about it.
The only comparison that can be made between Torgersen’s campaign and GamerGate is in how the press reacted to it. Similarly to GamerGate, multiple press outlets were pushing a single opinion – that Torgersen’s campaign was racist, sexist, and reactionary. This bore a strong resemblance to the “Gamers are Dead” narrative that ran across multiple publications in August 2014. In both cases, anti-elite campaigns were smeared as bigoted and exclusionary, despite their diversity of support.
— Popehat (@Popehat) April 7, 2015
The debate reached a nadir when Torgersen felt compelled to post a picture of his mixed-race family, only to once again be accused of racism by Salon.com contributor Arthur Chu. Female supporters of Torgersen’s campaign, such as Cedar Sanderson and Sarah Hoyt were also sidelined by the press. Just like supporters of “NotYourShield”, women and minorities who object to the narrative were ignored and even belittled.
Torgersen and Correia have done more than expose the cliquish nature of the Hugo Awards. They have also exposed the crisis of the mainstream media and its approach to identity politics. Reporters across multiple publications are credulously repeating narratives spun by activists, with scant attempts to interrogate their arguments or reach out to their critics. Whether it’s the sycophantic reporting of Pao vs Kleiner , the disastrous UVA gang rape story, or internal disputes in sci-fi and gaming, the signs of journalistic failure are everywhere.
Moreover, as much as might wish it to be so, it isn’t just right-wingers who are sick of the mainstream media. Tired of the constant narrative-spinning, liberals and left-libertarians are also abandoning them in droves. Without serious changes to the way they handle stories involving race, gender, and other forms of identity, the media’s credibility will continue to decline.