Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Ender Bender 15: Chapter 9, "Locke & Demosthenes" (Part 2)

In this chapter, Orson Scott Card pioneers trolling, sockpuppeting, and catfishing.

No, seriously. Valentine and Peter get access to the unrestricted Internet and immediately begin creating anonymous accounts with fake identities and getting into debates.
At first Peter insisted that they be deliberately inflammatory. "We can't learn how our style of writing is working unless we get responses—and if we're bland, no one will answer."
That's, like, the textbook definition of trolling from back in the Usenet/BBS days, before it just meant sending death threats to trans people.

The feedback they get helps them make their writing sound more adult, and once they do that, they can properly catfish the world's leaders. Their literal stated goal is to generate memes that influence global political agendas and eventually become so Internet famous by staging arguments with each other under their titular pseudonyms that by the time anyone figures out they're a couple of kids, nobody will be able to stop listening.

Orson "Lowtax" Card.

Valentine's character gets an offer to write a column for a west coast newsnet.
"I can't do a weekly column," Valentine said. "I don't even have a monthly period yet."
Well, it's true, they sure don't talk like real kids.

Valentine doesn't like the way Peter's forced her character to be a "fairly paranoid anti-Russian writer," so I guess Orson Scott Card invented Louise Mensch too. Look, folks, I was not at all prepared for this chapter to be so relevant to 2018. (Future Tom's note: this post was written in 2018. For 2020 readers, feel free to update this trenchant political reference to Rachel Maddow, I guess).

Way Future Tom's Note: Obviously I wrote the preceding paragraph in 2018 and revised it in 2020. I thought about re-revising it, but the political landscape regarding Russia has become so completely different since 2018 that there's not really a way to salvage the joke. Like, all the "fairly paranoid" types now are on Russia's side. What a difference a few years makes. I leave the unedited paragraph for you as an exercise in joke archaeology.

And when Valentine stands up to Peter?
"Are you sure you're not having a period, little woman?"
Father Wiggin likes the cut of Demosthenes's jib, and Valentine's upset because she was sure only an idiot would agree with the ridiculous strawman arguments she puts into Demosthenes's articles. Arrogant teens starting accounts to troll people under the names of long-dead philosophers, and older generations falling for obvious strawman political accounts is so prescient it hurts my teeth.

Locke gets a column in a New England newsnet, Peter talks about the Wiggin kids' collective pubic hair, and oh dear I've thrown my iPad across the room.

Future Tom's note: there's no way that's actually in the book, right? I would have remembered that, right?
A few days later Locke got picked up for a column in a New England newsnet, specifically to provide a contrasting view for their popular column from Demosthenes. "Not bad for two kids who've only got about eight pubic hairs between them," Peter said.
Way Future Tom's Note: You can tell this is bit is from 2023 because it's an I Think You Should Leave reference. I recently scrolled through the reviews for Ender's Game on The Storygraph, and I just can't get over, especially in our current age of moral panics from the Puriteens and the anti-"Groomer" crusaders, how nobody seems to remark on the abundance of gross lines and creepy moments in this extremely popular book. I am increasingly convinced that more recent printings have edited out some of the more egregious content, because it feels like the only rational explanation beyond the entire world conspiring to gaslight me about a bad sci-fi novel from the '80s.

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