Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Post: Shattering Narratives... And Kneecaps, by Declan Finn

I just realized today that I forgot to post this particular contribution from Declan Finn. Oops! Hope he doesn't hold that - or the mixed review I wrote on Monday - against me.

A while back, I was on a radio show where the topic was "shattering the narrative." It was political in nature, but it basically took stories that "everyone" knows to be true and then ripped them to shreds.  I would rather shatter kneecaps than narratives, but I'm told that's illegal.

I hate narratives.  Odd, I know, for an author of fiction, but I hate narrative in everyday life.  There's a difference between "tell me a story" -- be it fiction or not -- and "this MUST BE TRUE because it sounds right."

Heck. I'll give you a for-instance: What do the UVA rape case, GamerGate, and Dan Brown have in common? They succeed because of liberal narratives

In the case of UVA, Rolling Stone never once checked the story of "gang rape at a frat house." They never talked with the university or the accuser's friends or even looked at fraternity membership rosters to see if any of the names given by the V/C (victim / complainant) matched the names on the fraternity rolls.  After all, her story sounded right. It checked alllllll the little boxes that every good liberal wants to hear: male patriarchy / evil male culture / a victim all neat and tidy with a bow on top...

And then the story fell apart at the barest perusal of the facts. The Washington Post debunked most of the story with a simple fact-check. That was it.

Then there's Anita Sarkeesian and the creatures who inspired GamerGate. For them, the story is "video gamers are evil misogynistic psychopaths and their games are misogyny in purist form, and THIS! MUST! CHANGE!"  This is a charge that might work a little better if the examples cited weren't cherry picked slices of video games shown as representing the whole of the game. 

You know, if honesty had anything to do with it.

But it fits the narrative.  The GamerGate losers have painted themselves as the victims, bravely standing up to patriarchy, threatened with death, etc, etc, blah blah blah. I'd take them seriously if it weren't so obviously put on.

And then there's Dan Brown.  His works are filled with such historical inaccuracies and patent lies that the historian inside me has a banner moment ... a Bruce Banner moment.

But Dan Brown's work ticks off all the right boxes -- devout Catholics are evil. Religion hates science. Religion is backwards and stupid and The Truth Will Defeat Religion. And somehow, the truth looks like such a twisted version of Wicca that even my ex the Wiccan wanted to kill Dan Brown.

Let's ignore that Da Vinci worked for the church an awful lot. Let's ignore that most scientific advancements were backed by churches. Let's ignore that nuns were the first CEOs of large corporations. Let's ignore that the Catholic church couldn't have excommunicated Newton for his theory of gravity, because Newton was British and Anglican, not Catholic.  In fact, let's ignore every last minute of recorded history, because hey, Dan Brown fits the narrative.


Here's a funny fact for you: Tom Clancy murdered Dan Brown before Brown was popular.  Don't believe me? In Tom Clancy's book Rainbow 6, his heroes went up against a band of eco-terrorists who wanted to wipe out all human life on Earth in order to save the planet, the adorable widdle animals, etc.  By the end of the book, well, things end badly for them.

In Dan Brown's latest schlock fest, Inferno, (SPOILERS!) the "good ending" is to wipe out one third of the planet. Because that's what's best for everyone. Because of overpopulation and the environment, don't you know? Say what you like, he fits the narrative.

If one looks at my pet issue, Pope Pius XII, you see much the same thing. Pius XII has been known as "Hitler's Pope" ever since the book of the same name came out in the late 90s. The story was simple: Pope Pius XII, the Pope of World War II, either did nothing to save Jews from the Holocaust / inspired the Holocaust / was responsible for the Holocaust.  The version depends on how deeply psychotic you wish to go. The depressing part about it is that there is so much of a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, I made three books out of it.

But this ... all of this ... is what ideology does, and what makes it different from a philosophy. 

A good philosophy takes data, and will mold around the data, incorporating it into the philosophical system.  It's like Thomas Aquinas; philosophers like Peter Kreeft and the late Ralph McInerny have used current science and effortlessly plugged it into Aquinas' natural law.

Ideology will take the facts, then warp, twist, and shape them so that they fit the ideology. It's like the New York Times: All the News that fits the tint.  Truth doesn't matter, just the narrative.  It's like the line from the film Basic: you gotta tell the story right.

And it doesn't matter who the story hurts. I know almost a dozen rape victims, so I can only begin to imagine how much harm the lies of the UVA rape case will bring to actual rape victims and the prosecution of their rapists.  The Sarkeesians of the world have already provoked raged- filled reactions from nearly every gamer, and will probably take down several video game sites by the time they're done.  And Brown? I can only imagine how many nutcases Brown has prompted to go out and hurt somebody.

But these narratives have been allowed to exist because the people who spout them are accepted by a certain class of people, who have largely existed within their own echo chambers. 

It's a sad day when I can find more truth in a John Ringo science fiction novel about cannibalistic alien mongol hordes than I can in my local newspaper.

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