The False Appeal To Popular Culture

One of the arguments advanced by the canine contingent of fandom is that the Hugo Awards are supposed to be a popular choice award.  They then imply, or outright accuse, Worldcon, WSFS and convention-going old fogeys of committing that most unpatriotic act of reserving the vote to themselves.  Words like politburo, socialism, and communism wait in the wings, and somewhere back there in the shadows I think I can see the John Birch Society.

Stating that for all practical purposes the vote remains a democratic one by virtue of the fact that anyone can join WSFS and thus acquire a vote, fall on deaf ears.  WSFS wants money for that privilege, rendering it at best undemocratic and, at worst, turning it into a pay-to-play scheme designed to disenfranchise the rabble.REAL Fans.

But it never rose to the top of the arguments advanced for and against puppy slates as there were many other components of this battle far more heinous (like the total affront to fandom, for one).

The other night I happened to catch a bit of Greta Van Susteren’s babbling on Fox News (I find her the most innocuous of Fox’s trained seal rabble-ranters) and she was going on and on about Tom Brady’s four game suspension that had just been upheld by the NFL Commissioner following an appeal.

As a displaced New York Giants fan, I’ve got little respect for the Patriots or Tom Brady (nor for any Boston area team;  the entire city seems to have a chip on its shoulder, reflected in the stuttering performance of its professional team franchises).  I’m now referring to the local NFL franchise as the Cheatriots and Brady as the Cheater-in-Charge.  When I first moved to NH and the conversation turned to sports, I’d ask the natives if they knew why the team was referred to as the New England Patriots and when they professed ignorance I’d loudly crow “because no city would have them!”.  Run-of-the-mill sports smack-talk for me, but a terrible affront to local fans who really (and I mean really) take their sports teams seriously. (I feel justified in my condemnation though.  Go compare the lifetime record of the Giants as opposed to Boston’s.  Of course, that won’t protect me from getting the tar whaled out of me if I ever went to a local game…)

Anyway, enough sports talk.  My point is this.  Greta was harping on the fact that the NFL Commissioner imposed Brady’s suspension and then upheld it himself following an appeal.  Her beef was that the NFL was not being operated in a democratic manner.  She implied that the fans ought to get a vote, a say in the final decision and that it was possibly illegal, if not downright undemocratic, that the very same person who imposed the penalty got to decide whether or not to reverse his own decision.

My comment (I very frequently yell back at Fox news whenever it happens to be on) was “NFL rules.  Closed community.  Totally legal and you ought to know that, Greta, being a lawyer and all.”

Why was Greta misleading the public into believing that a closed corporation (with special privileges granted by Congress) ought to be subject to some man-in-the-street’s misunderstood version of democracy?

It’s practically the same argument being made by the puppies.  ‘We don’t like the results, you’re undemocratic, wisdom of the crowds, hur hur hur’.

I’m reminded of the equation that the intelligence of a mob can be derived by dividing the lowest IQ in the mob by the number of people in the mob.  I forget who said that, but its pretty spot-on.  Doctor Viktor Frankenstein created a monster in his own lab, using his own money and his own time, but we didn’t get a say.  Kill the monster! (From the film, not the book.)

I’m sensing that this generalized belief that every and any institution that impacts the public should be democratized in some fashion, especially when a vocal minority feels unrepresented, or, at least in the puppy’s case, wants to claim that territory for its own.  Why don’t we get to vote on everything?  Isn’t this ‘Merika?  Didn’t our founding fathers bless us with Democracy and the freedom to do and say whatever we want?

Actually, no.  We don’t live in a democracy.  You can go sit in the gallery in Congress and raise your hand when they take a vote, but you’re going to be ignored.

Actually, no.  You can’t do or say anything you want, whenever and wherever you want.  There are laws, ordnances, statutes and rules.

And surprisingly enough, one of the rules that we’ve all inherited is the right of assembly.  People are allowed to get together and, within other limitations we’ve imposed upon ourselves, we are allowed to form institutions, associations, unions, collectives, corporations and businesses.  Those assemblages, to one degree or another, are allowed to build walls around themselves that create legal entities that operate within the public sphere, but that are subject to different rules internally.  We’d not be recognizable as the good ol’ US of A if this weren’t so.

This system allows science fiction conventions to impose behavioral rules within the bounds of the convention that attendees voluntarily subject themselves to.  Regular attendees do not get to vote on the language of the anti-harassment rules – but they do get to decide whether or not they wish to live under those rules for a weekend.

We’ve got a VFW Hall here in town.  Members have voted themselves special privileges (use of the hall, low-cost liquor, etc) and have restricted those privileges to a special class of citizen.  If we apply van Susteren-Puppy think to that situation:  that’s unfair!  I want dollar beers too!  Everyone should be allowed to use the hall!  Who do those people think they are!?

Churches don’t pay taxes!  That’s unfair!  I shouldn’t have to pay taxes either!

Only adults are allowed to smoke cigarettes!  That’s unfair!

Only kids are allowed in the kiddie pool.  That’s unfair!

I find it exceedingly amusing that, at its base, both Greta’s and the puppy’s argument are invoking socialism.

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