Post-Scarcity Economics in Star Trek and My Weird Brain, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I started writing about post-scarcity economics as they appear in Star Trek.  The medium is a sort of socratic exercise good-naturedly carried out with a fellow Star Trek fan on a popular Star Trek Facebook group.  The names have been redacted to protect the innocent and many of the comments altered and combined with others I’ve seen to create an ur-text for this kind of discussion.  Part one of this strange thought experiment can be found here.

ANONYMOUS: YOU HAVE GOOD EXPLANATION FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE, I GUESS, BUT DOESN’T IT ALL STRIKE YOU AS FAINTLY RIDICULOUS?

Oh, yeah.  It’s optimistic as hell.  But if you ask me, Star Trek does present a decent if pollyannaish model for how human society will have to start working.  Because the alternative is too awful to allow.  Automation is effectively already a post-scarcity technology in that it will erode the relationship between value and human labor.  In that sense, you only have two choices: one, a society in which money holds less sway over our lives than it does currently, or two, a society in which the mechanisms of value generation are almost entirely in the hands of a select few.

ANONYMOUS: I THINK WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN REALITY — IF ALL RESOURCES WERE MADE INFINITELY AVAILABLE AT ZERO COST — IS THAT HUMANS WOULD IMMEDIATELY OVER-INDULGE IN ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIVES, LIKE THE FAT AND MECHANICALLY-INFANTILIZED CREW MEMBERS IN WALL-E.

Me: Well, it’s certainly possible.  I honestly don’t think it’s a scenario you have to put too much worry into, though.  Most people enjoy working more than they enjoy hedonism.  People want to feel like their lives have meaning.  The meeting of their physical needs would do nothing to satiate their curiosity or ambition — any of their higher-order functions.

I do, however, believe turning up the dial on automation and scarcity reduction carries with it substantial existential risks for humanity (and that those risks are closer than we think), I would just disagree about what those risks are.  Regardless, I’m trying to be an optimist and plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.  I like to believe humans usually arrive at the best versions of themselves — or at least better versions than we used to be, even if it means a lot of pain and struggle in the interim.

ANONYMOUS: “MANY PEOPLE ENJOY WORKING MORE THAN THEY ENJOY HEDONISM AND MOST PEOPLE WANT THE FEELING THAT THEIR LIFE HAS MEANING.”  WHAT YOU’RE SAYING HERE DOES NOT MATCH UP WITH WHAT I’VE SEEN OUT IN THE WORLD!

Me: Then look again!  Try to keep in mind that post-scarcity doesn’t happen all at once.  Even in Star Trek, replicators don’t just spring into being over night.  The original series didn’t even have replicators.  And yet they still talked about themselves as having the values of a post-scarcity society.  As human technology increases, the need for human labor decreases (see: The Jetsons).  This is the rule of automation, going all the way back to Henry Ford and the assembly line.  (Unfortunately, while Ford decreased the work week, benefitting workers as a whole, capitalism in general has no incentive to share these gains.)  Still, while the general trend will be one of displacement and unrest, it’s not like people will find themselves with infinite peace and free time over night.  In fact, there will most likely be a long and gradual period of social and cultural realignment that will probably be quite violent.  (See: 2024 and Sisko’s experiences with makeshift ghettos for the unemployed and mentally ill.)

I mean, dude.  Think about it.  Some people work for charity organizations.  Some become teachers, even though it doesn’t pay well.  Scientists and astronauts do not receive comparatively high rewards, either in terms of money or prestige and yet competition for those positions is fierce.  I myself am a writer and I can promise you, even if you gave me all the money in the world, I wouldn’t stop writing. I might change how I worked — take more time with projects, work on things that meant more to me personally.  And none of that would be a bad thing, necessarily.

And that’s the point.  Look at how many people hate their jobs or the way they work, but are forced to continue by circumstance.  Viewing it from the outside, I can see how you’d think those people would rather stay home.  But what if they could pursue the work they wanted, without fear of ending up homeless or hungry or dead?  Look at how many people get depressed or angry on workers comp. or unemployment.

I’m not saying everyone.  There are undoubtedly some people who just want to relax and enjoy their time with friends and family.  And that’s okay.  But I think if you really think about it, it’s pretty far from the majority.  People like to feel useful — they want to feel like their lives have meaning.  The real challenge comes when half or more people are put out of work.  What happens then?  You either manage to shift the culture, in regards to the American puritanical view that your work is equal to your value, or you’re going to have a big problem on your hands.

ANONYMOUS: MAYBE.  BUT DON’T FALL INTO ANY NAIVE OPTIMISM ON HUMANITY’S ACCOUNT — I THINK YOU’D BE MAKING A MISTAKE.

Oh, I completely agree with you.  Look, there are tremendous existential risks in what we’re talking about.  But I think what you have to worry about far more than a lazy, self-indulgent populace leading to the destruction of our culture, is the scenario in which Elon Musk and the Koch Bros. own all the replicators and the public owns none.  (In this case, just think of replicators as a metaphor for hyper-automation to see just how quickly things could go wrong.  That’s when future human society either gets really bad, really violent, or both.)

Oh, and one more thing that’s maybe relevant to your point: I would argue a reduction in scarcity norms and an increase in automation are inevitable.  Some might disagree on the time frame it will take to reach crisis point, but I think it’s reasonable to assume we’re close.  So whether we agree or disagree on what the risks might be, we should all be talking about it.  And not as some bit of far-off science-fiction.  But a problem we’ll be seriously facing in our lifetimes!

And there you have it.  My weird-ass politics laid out in the context of my weird-ass fandom — feel free to keep it coming on those naming ideas.  I’m going to need to call myself something.  (Or maybe I’ll just show people this blog post whenever they ask about my politics.  That’ll send them running away screaming.)

Here’s a picture of Spock with a cat.

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Post-Scarcity Economics in Star Trek and My Weird Brain

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IN KEEPING WITH YESTERDAY’S THOUGHTS:

Sometimes, I get into arguments on the internet.  The below is hopefully more of a debate, presented more or less as it took place on a popular Star Trek facebook group. It began — as all arguments do — with a Picard meme.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Star Trek fan.  And while the Star Trek franchise is undoubtedly a weird way to engage with such a serious subject, it’s one I’ve found helpful in crystalizing my thinking on post-scarcity social order.

Some of this is definitely based in the esoterica of the franchise, but my feeling is it transcends it enough to be worthwhile in its ideas about post-scarcity as a concept.  My thinking here is influenced by “The Four Futures: Life After Capitalism” by Peter Frase, “Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek” by Manu Saadia and my friend Jackson Lanzing, who used to spend hours with me, late into the night, debating the merits of future economic systems.  Offered for those who would like a sense of the current state of my weird-ass politics — obviously not a complete survey, but it does paint a picture of my current obsessions, both technological and otherwise.

The names have been redacted to protect the innocent and the text altered enough that I can hopefully repost it here without anything particularly identifiable making it through.

ANONYMOUS: I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT HUMANITY WOULD DO AWAY WITH CURRENCY OR AT LEAST SOME MEANS TO “PAY” FOR A RESOURCE (E.G., TRADE).  RESOURCE COMPETITION IS INHERENT IN ALL FORMS OF LIFE.  TO ASSUME  HUMANS COULD SUDDENLY CUT THAT INSTINCT LOOSE, EVEN WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A DEVASTATING WAR OR FIRST CONTACT SCENARIO, SEEMS (TO QUOTE EVERYONE’S FAVORITE POINTY-EARED VULCAN) “ILLOGICAL.”

Me: Why would you pay for a thing that is infinite?  Why charge for it when all of your needs are met?

ANONYMOUS: IT’S JUST HUMAN NATURE.

Me: Is it, though?  There are plenty of instinctual behaviors that society has managed to reign in through a combination of technology and social institutions.  You might want to kill or steal, but you wouldn’t.  (Or at least most people wouldn’t, if put in your position.)  That’s because your survival threats are minimized and your social thriving  is contingent on “playing ball” from a social perspective.  There’s no reason to believe we couldn’t max out our pro-social behaviors from the standpoint of resource competition, especially if we had access to post-scarcity tech.

(For more on this, look at Steven Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” — largely speaking, brutish human impulse has been on the down slope for most of our history, precisely because of our technological development.)

ANONYMOUS: IN BIOLOGY, THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED A “LIMITING RESOURCE.”  THERE IS ALWAYS ONE OR MULTIPLE RESOURCES THAT ARE IN DEMAND IN ANY BIOME OR SOCIAL ORDER.  SO, IF ENERGY IS PLENTIFUL AND REPLICATORS CAN MAKE ANYTHING HUMANS MIGHT NEED, THE NEXT QUESTION IS HOW EFFICIENT ARE REPLICATORS — WHAT DO THEY NEED TO WORK?

Me: I mean, as insane as it might seem, this is made very clear by the cannon: there are no limiting resources.  Or, your limiting resources are so sufficiently minimized that they might as well not exist.  This is not dissimilar to the real world.  If a thing is so cheap that it is effectively free, it is usually given freely, even if there is a fractional cost.  In a society where all limiting resources are thus so infinitesimally small, it is not hard to imagine that there could be no benefit in resource hoarding and exploitation and a huge social cost inclining one against it.  Greed and self-interest do not disappear, but end up channeled into more productive ends.

Star Trek has made much — by implication and outright explanation — of what they call the “reputational economy.”  Essentially, greed and the profit motive are channeled into increasing one’s reputation, instead of accruing wealth.  This isn’t that different from how modern humans function.  Our pursuit of money, after certain survival needs are taken care of, is usually a pursuit of prestige.  But there are all kinds of examples of prestige seeking that aren’t related to money.  On a college campus, prestige might go to the smartest student or the best athlete.  On the internet, it might go to the person with the most views.  Ask any social psychologist and they’ll tell you as much.

The Federation, at least as it’s explained to us by the characters on the shows, simply seems to be a society in which the relationship between social value and prestige seeking is in perfect balance.  I.E, the things that make you famous and increase your social standing are actually the things that benefit your society.  It is an economy of a sort (because competition is an inescapable part of human nature), but one that does not require money, especially as a prerequisite for survival.

ANONYMOUS: I’VE HEARD THIS ARGUMENT BEFORE.  YOU’RE A MARXIST — YOU THINK CURRENCY IS A MODERN INVENTION WITH NO INSTINCTUAL BASIS.

Me: Not quite!  Admittedly, I’m not any kind of a Marxist scholar, so it’s possible I might misunderstand their position, but I think where I get off the train with them is I don’t believe capitalism is inherently evil.  At least no more than monarchy, feudalism, or nationalism.  These things are social technologies that carried us from one stage of social organization to the next.  They are, of course, brutal and ugly in retrospect and as modern humans, we rightly reject many of their core tenants.  But they were the best tech available at the time.  (I would say the same thing about religion, by the way and I think most Star Trek would back me up on that, but many would probably disagree.)  I see currency the same way — it was a very helpful method of social organization, if one that helped a great many people while hurting a great many others.  But it’s fast outpacing its usefulness by any metric.

As for having an instinctual basis, I imagine it does, or we wouldn’t have arrived at it — but there’s probably something I don’t understand here?

I’m doing more than just answering your question now, but in Star Trek, we’re right about at the point where poor people are getting thrown into camps and the world spins off into global conflict.  I think that makes sense.  The end point of automation is either abundance and hierarchy (i.e., neofedualism) or abundance and egalitarianism.  There is no middle ground.  Continuing to cling to capitalism will only guarantee an existential crisis for our social institutions, and human survival generally.  Best to start thinking about this stuff now — while we still have time.

ANONYMOUS: BUT STAR TREK IS FICTION.  IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO PROVIDE A WORKING MODEL FOR HOW SOCIETY COULD FUNCTION.

Me: Fiction like cell phones were fiction before engineers who grew up watching TOS invented them in the 1980s?  I don’t mean to be flip — I agree with you.  But I genuinely believe fiction has a place in our discussion of what we would like the future to look like.  Of course Star Trek doesn’t offer a meaningful blueprint.  But it does offer an end point — a north star to guide our thinking.  Even if we wouldn’t want it to look exactly like that, it’s at least a starting point for the conversation.

I’d argue there’s actually something brilliant about how Star Trek handles its technology, both social and otherwise.  It’s kind of unique in science fiction for presenting a universe that  purportedly adheres to the tenants of known scientific principles, but deliberately avoids explaining how things work.  At least on the show itself, the audience had no idea how a communicator worked, or a warp drive — it was enough to know that they did.  And then an engineer who watched the show thought, “Hey, that’s cool!  Let’s make something like that!”  Or, “We already have this idea for this other thing.  What if it worked more like Kirk’s communicator?”

The influence of Star Trek on the STEM fields is undeniable.  With the rise of automation and post-scarcity problems, I’d love to see more economists and sociologists take up the challenge in the same way many scientists and engineers did.  Most of us would agree Star Trek holds at least some of the elements of an ideal future — regardless of how achievable they may or may not be — so how do we get from here to there?

I’m staying a bit from your point, but let me offer one more thing in response: I think the above is exactly how the writers intended it to work.  Sure, Star Trek was never meant to provide a true blueprint for future society.  But neither was it meant to be a bit of escapist fantasy, in which we didn’t consider the larger ideas being presented.  Their goal was to get us to look at the modern world and figure out how to build a better, kinder, and more compassionate version of it.  It would be a shame to just ignore that.

That’s it for now.  More tomorrow.

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Post-Scarcity Politics?

I’m often at a loss to describe my politics.  I used to refer to myself as a Social Democrat and a Capitalist, but that was just a way to make my views more palatable and ensure they went down easy in a crowd — I was a Socialist and afraid to admit it.  Since then, my views on capitalism and currency have grown more complex.  The term “Socialist” doesn’t fit the bill because there’s a technological and predictive dimension to my politics.  I don’t hate capitalism — I just see it as a failed social technology; or, at least, tech that is rapidly outliving its usefulness.

A friend of mine suggested “Futurist” for this viewpoint, but a) that word has come to mean something entirely different, re: a hobby or occupation, and b) it sounds pretty douchey.  It all sounds douchey, to be honest — far flung speculation about what the future might look like when real people are suffering in the present.  If there’s a paramount rule of science-fiction, it’s that humans are terrible at predicting what the future is going to look like and science-fiction writers more terrible than most.

But we’re good at telling you what we’re afraid of — and the things we’re afraid of can’t help but shape our politics.

Mine have mostly to do with post-scarcity and automation.  I think the gradual dissolution of capitalism is the goal.  I think a suite of social programs are needed to combat the rise of a robotic labor force: free healthcare, free housing, Universal Basic Income (or some equivalent workaround).  I think post-scarcity is closer than we think and maybe it’s already here.  (To a Victorian, we’re already post-scarcity with our abundant food and efficient distribution networks.)  I think ignoring these ideas will ensure the destruction of our social institutions and way of life.

What the hell do you call that… ?  Pre-post scarcity-ism?

Suggestions welcome.

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A Goodbye to Vast: Hopefully Not Forever, But For Now

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This is hard for me.  Honestly, it might be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write.  And given that I make a modest living killing my darlings, that’s saying something.  But I’ve put it off and put it off, and now (for a lot of very good reasons having to do with schedule and production) can do so no longer.  In fact, I’ve put it off too long already.  So I’m just going to say it; try to keep this post as brief as possible, because if I said everything I wanted to say, deep down, it would never get written, and I’d be letting down people I care about deeply.

I’m sorry to report that, given time and other commitments, I will not be returning to Vast this season.  I’m honestly heartbroken.  I think I can say without hyperbole, and with total respect to anyone who ever enjoyed my performance as Hans, that however disappointed you feel reading this, I’m more disappointed to have to write it.  I can only tell you that there were aspects of this decision that were outside my control.

This totally sucks, but there are so many projects I want to get out there.  Vast has taught me how much I like interacting with an audience directly, without the barriers of studio or network.  Honestly, being a freelancer will always mean a certain amount of gunslinging, and I’m cool with that, but watching the passion you all bring to the show has been inspiring.

It was a new experience, putting out the deepest and most vulnerable part of myself, and watching people react.  It’s true what Arthur Miller said, “The best work anybody ever does is that which is on the verge of embarrassing us, always.”  I want to use this time to deliver more experiences like that, for both of us.  As much as I wish there was a better way to go about doing that, for right now, there isn’t.

For what it’s worth, Jack and I are already talking about ways to keep me involved.  And I have no intention of leaving the #vast community, and all you wonderful people.  I want to throw my support behind the cast and the show.  What I know of what’s planned for Season 2 is a mind bender.  Keep watching — I know I will.

Most of all, I’m grateful to the fans.  You’re what makes this show special.  I can’t thank you enough for the time we spent together.  I hope we get to do it more.

The eye shines bright — stay metal.   I love you all.

– Jon “Hans” Callan

Broadcast VAST (Or Where Can I Watch Your Spaceship Show?)

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I wanted to write a post about VAST.  Something I could direct people to when they inevitably asked me where they can actually watch this wonderful show we’ve been making.

For those who don’t know, VAST is a live-streamed weekly role playing game featuring a truly astounding collection of writers, actors, and nerdly tastemakers.  It’s run by my friend and cohort Jackson Lanzing (Joyride, Hacktivist) and involves two parties (or crews, to use the sci-fi parlance) in opposition.  Each with very different goals and a universe-ending threat in between.

It’s based – in rules and spirit – on a homebrew game of an existing science-fiction property.  It’s a game we’ve been playing for years.  One that’s become slightly mythic in certain (nerd) circles around LA and which people actually wanted to buy.  Jack told these certain people that this would be a bad idea, for a number of reasons – not the least of which is that this certain franchise can’t be owned by anyone except the people who own it.

He had an alternate pitch.  What if we delivered to them an original science-fiction universe?  One where the characters and underlying IP could be owned by the people who funded it?

What would work about this model are those things that would make us different from a normal roleplaying game: two ships.  Two crews.  Asymmetric gameplay.  Imagine The Hunt for Red October or Balance of Terror played out as two separate, but interconnected games of Dungeons and Dragons.  Now imagine that chase took place across the entire universe; each decision made by each party reverberating across to the other game and back; like a seizure, traveling from one hemisphere of the brain to the other in unstoppable feedback loop.

Like Pandemic Legacy, the game you end up with permanently scars the landscape.  Player and audience fundamentally altering the universe, even as they discover it together.

If that sounds fun to you, your next question is likely: where can I watch it?

Well, it turns out that’s complicated.  Not crazy complicated, but as the old models of television go extinct and are replaced, there’s a lot to figure out.  So let’s run through it, shall we?

Vast is one of the launch shows for Geek & Sundry’s Alpha subscription service.  Once that service is ready, it will be available for a monthly fee of $4.99.  That’s in addition to other Alpha-exclusive shows.  (If you’re a regular twitch subscriber, don’t worry.  You’ll already be getting six months of Alpha free.)  And the platform will host regular Geek & Sundry content 48-hours before it goes live by normal means.  In addition to all the rest, members will get access to a variety of special events, prizes and discounts.  (Don’t ask me what.  No idea.  But I bet it’s cool.)

One more thing.  For a number of good reasons too complicated to get into here, it was decided VAST would be launching before Alpha does.  That means, right now, you can only get an Alpha subscription through invitation (though that’ll be changing soon).  This is actually good news for you.  Because it means the first four episodes of VAST will be made available live through Twitch and on YouTube for a limited time.  This gives you a reasonable window to try the show, get wildly excited, and decide to give Geek & Sundry their $4.99 per month, plus whatever else they want to keep beaming it out onto your interwebs.

I will say, I’ve seen a bit of Alpha and the coolest thing about it is all the things you can’t do on Twitch, most of which involve audience interaction.  These are things VAST intends to take full advantage of: viewers brought into the game space, puzzles and riddles that are too much for players to solve on our own.  The first to crack these cyphers actually get brought onto our crew as science and intelligence officers.

By way of some final word, I’ve loved this game since it was homebrew.  We often joked before it was a show that it was methadone for the writing and acting we did in our day jobs – all of that sweet high, none of the pain.  Which is actually very dangerous when you think about it, given that we make our living through that discomfort.  (If it was easy, everyone would do it.)  But if we’ve done our jobs and translated even a piece of that experience into something the audience can share, I have no doubt this series will be very special.

Please watch.  And, if you like it, let people know.  It really is like nothing else.

Original IP.  Original characters… original VAST.

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WGA Elections – David Slack

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I did something today.  Something I’d like you to do, too.

I voted.

If you’re a WGA member, you’ve already received the materials you need to vote for your new Board of Directors.  You have until September 19th to complete those materials and there’s a lot of good choices this year.  (I don’t know Glen Mazzara personally, but I’ve been impressed with his no bullshit attitude and his dedication to true diversity in the writers room.)

The candidate I do know personally – and whole heartedly endorse – is David Slack.  No one will fight harder for you or be less likely to back down from that fight.

I know this because David has done work for us at the Animation Writers Caucus.  (That’s the Writers Guild committee dedicated to getting animation writers covered by the WGA, the same as the rest of their peers, instead of as animators, which is how the system is set up now.  It’s a group I also dedicate my time to, and a worthy cause.)  He’s been a speaker, a mentor, and a friend to many I know personally.

David Slack use to be an animation writer, just like a lot of my friends.  He wrote and produced the fantastic Teen Titans series for Warner Bros. in 2003 before moving on to a career in live-action,  working his way up through the ranks on shows like Law and Order and Person of Interest.

Some move from one level to another, higher echelon and forget the world they left behind.  Not David.

He shows constant interest in the working conditions for animation writers, and, speaking personally, has given enormously of his time and expertise, answering endless questions, and helping me strategize my career.  And for no other reason than he used to be in my shoes.  That’s the kind of empathy and solidarity you want from someone representing your interests.

Let’s face it: this job is hard.  All too often we’re exploited: for our love, for our passion, our fear  – that there are others out there willing to replace us, the younger, the more willing, or that that path ahead to bigger and better things get narrower, if not non-existent, for those that rock the boat.  But we have a built-in counter-weight to the ugly prospect of speaking up as a lone entity, and that’s speaking up collectively.

We are stronger together than we are separately.  That’s not the notion behind any union – and that’s the notion we need to keep in mind now, in 2016.

So please consider making your voice heard in our union this year, and voting for my friend, David Slack.

https://davidslackwga.wordpress.com

24 Years

Apparently, twenty-four years ago tonight, the Batman: Animated Series premiered. I watched it. I loved it. It taught me about Batman and the DC Universe as a whole by extension. But given that this show presages Justice League Action and the best phase of my working career, my gratitude and admiration for the work done here is deeper than even I thought possible.

24 years of Batman everybody.  And we’re still not done. 🙂

Outrage Porn and the Commodification of Fan Spaces

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This is great.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do.

There’s a lot to it, not all of which I agree with, and much of it comes from a very different culture than is the river in which I generally swim (to borrow a parlance from Gary Panter).  I don’t put much stock in the idea of queer-baiting, for instance (at least as it relates to properties like Sherlock and Supernatural; which, it seems, have an established interpretation that a small, but vocal subset of fans choose to ignore, and then get mad when the show does not legitimize their reading).

To me, the important point is the degree to which the passion of fandom can and does become commodified.  And not in the usual sense of the people who sell us t-shirts and Enterprise model kits.

What’s different now is the people who profit off passion in the form of controversy: the outrage machine and its click-based profit motive writ large over nerd culture.  Make no mistake, it’s a business to these people.  They need your shares.  Which is why the manufactured controversies are becoming more frequent and less substantial with each new cycle.

Just look at the recent example of Barb and Stranger Things. In all other respects, the recent Netflix prestige series is celebrated as a well-written and even female-friendly show.

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Justice for Barb, I guess?

Not every character can be the hero of the story.  Audiences intuitively understand this.  If the story were about Barb, it would require its own sacrifices, characters cut down before their time, just as unfairly as Barb was.

But it’s not about story, it’s about politics.  And our politics are about our passions.

I have my own theories on this.  I believe it goes way beyond fan culture.  The world is a messed up place.  People have legitimate grievances.  And voicing those grievances in the form of theoretically righteous indignation feels good.  So good we might actually be addicted to it.

Just look at this data, from Weibo, the Chinese social media platform that’s essentially China’s Twitter.  It indicates anger spreads faster than any other emotion in web sharing.

We’re becoming increasingly segmented – victims of the bubble – and the controversy-makers pit our bubbles against each other to drive traffic and ad revenue.

And believe me when I say, they’re counting on your addiction.  Controversy-peddlers don’t care about your issue.  In fact, in many cases, they’re actively opposed to it, or have a vested interest in trivializing it.  That’s how thousands of fans end up going after Nick Spencer for (allegedly) making Captain America a Nazi.  That doesn’t benefit them, however legitimate their grievance might (or might not) be.  It benefits advertising revenue, and possibly Marvel, who keep their product in the public eye and at the center of the conversation.

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Seems legit.

So what do we do about it?  Unlike the author, I don’t believe we can put the genie back in the bottle.  Nor do I think it would be morally or ethically right to return fandom, and its otherwise voiceless groups, to safe spaces only, free from economic exploitation.  I think it might be foolish to even think those spaces exist.  The suits know about Tumblr now and they’re not likely to forget fandom’s home address.

The best thing we can do is talk about it.  We need to be aware of ourselves caught in the gears of the outrage machine.

No one can tell you what issues should or shouldn’t be important to you.  There is injustice in the world, objects worthy of your ire.  But next time, before you click share, it might be worth asking, “Who benefits?”  Because it might not be who you think.

A Milestone for Comics

I yearn to be able to one day contribute as much to the conversation (about everything: race, class, society, life) as Dwayne McDuffie did. Does anyone know if the Milestone books are available on Comixology? If not, they should be. It seems that with the national conversation where it is today, they were frustratingly, brilliantly ahead of their time. And it seems that almost every other week there is a think piece about a new reader discovering that.

I am proud by the way, enormously, heart-wrenchingly proud, to count Matt Wayne as a friend and teacher.  A man who was there for Ground Zero of a movement that tried to change everything about comics, without laying a finger on the things that worked.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-superman-crossover-that-perfectly-explained-white-p-1785744977