I have always found it disturbing when I encounter groups that suffer no disagreement with their ideas. The obvious example of this sort of dictated thinking are cults but it is no less unhealthy when found in other circles.
Disagreement and debate are, on the whole, a sign of a healthy community. Disagreement for its own sake (especially trolling) less so but a community or scene where there can be no deviation from the prescribed norms worry me.
Suppression of dissent is undesirable in all aspects of society and for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is that the ability to question things leads to change, improvement, and correction of errors. However, I have seen too many attempts to suppress dissent recently to not be worried by the trend.
The cult of Brexit
On the national stage, anyone expressing doubts over Brexit is harassed by parties that stand to gain from the Brexit process. When I wrote for Author Buzz about reports of Brexit’s risks to authors, the backlash was nothing short of alarming. Nothing on the level of certain tabloids calling for the hanging of judges for upholding the law, but alarming nevertheless.
It is a short path from suppressing those you disagree with to the kind of oppressive regime where journalists are rounded up and shot for daring to hold opinions. If art has always done one thing well, it is to question society and hold it to account. While I do not know if what I do is good enough to be called art, it is what I aspire to.
Should any cult like the Brexit one took control of the country, I have no doubt I’d be one of the first in front of the firing squad.
The case of price per story
More recently, I finally got round to finishing one of the many draft articles I have on my todo list. This article was about how to work out the minimum price per story when selling your work. The article makes passing mention of a writer’s group that I feel takes advantage of people by paying too little for work. It compares the £10 per story to the actual amount you should earn just to be on an equal footing with people serving fries with those burgers (ten times more).
Almost right away, on multiple social media channels and here on my blog, the foot soldiers of this cult showed up not to rebut my logic but to castigate me for daring to disagree with the tiny clique. What really disturbed me is how it seemed that they had gotten together beforehand to determine the line their response would take.
While many comments were taken down quickly the effect was nevertheless chilling.
The trolls of the cult of Thanet Writers
Just like the Brexit extremists, the trolls of the cult in question had nothing to say about my main point – that a 1200 word story should earn over £100 – but were full of indignation that I dared to disagree with one small group’s pricing policy. I was left wondering what they stood to gain from such an aggressive response unless the truth was just too uncomfortable to face.
Maybe like the Brexit extremists, these trolls had an agenda and the truth threatened that agenda? Who can say for sure?
Yes, I dared disagree because “for the exposure”, and “well it’s better than nothing” are blights on the artistic community. I will not be silenced just because this tiny outfit uses the same questionable bullying tactics as UKIP. If you want to write to build links (a perfectly valid marketing technique) then go for it. If you want to write for free – perhaps because you just want to get your words “out there” – again good for you. But do not for a minute try to suggest that an hourly rate of a few pence is anything other than exploitative.
I refuse to stop objecting to something I see as bad for the community because you do not like it. Freedom of speech is a cardinal rule for a free society. If that freedom is to be suppressed, liberty means nothing. As George Orwell wrote, “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
The truth – like it or hate it – is still the truth. There are only a few reasons why you should work for free (or very cheap). Here is a flowchart to help you work out if you should.
(Infographic from shouldiworkforfree.com)
Facts not fakes, please
I am quite prepared to read any well-reasoned objections or counter-arguments. Please go head, if you can, and try to explain why Brexit is good for authors despite the evidence otherwise. Feel free to explain why you think £10 for five days work is a good thing. I do not think you can, but go right ahead and try. Seriously, give it your best shot.
I have no problem with the idea I could be wrong. I’m only human and so cannot possibly be right all the time. But a wall of suspiciously similar comments only proves that you know how to use proxies. It says to me there is but a single mind hiding behind others to try and push an agenda. With both Brexit and with local publishing, that is just not healthy. If you have something to say, say it yourself. I may still disagree but at least I could respect you.
These latest attempts at suppression of dissent have, if anything, strengthened my resolve to keep talking about these subjects. Not necessarily here – this blog seems to mostly be about roleplay and fantasy fiction. But I will keep speaking up. My message will remain the same – Brexit is bad for authors and £10 a story is an insultingly low price. If you think me wrong – show me facts. Present your evidence.
Shouting me down does not change the truth of what I have to say. Getting a bunch of lackeys to all come to me with the same message does not convince me of a strong consensus. A debate is never framed by monkeys at keyboards. That’s what cults do, not artists.
This behaviour simply shows me that a dangerous cult exists. Cults must be challenged.