BasedCon 2023 Becomes the Culture Wars Battlefield of Its Dreams

Two days ago Id Software co-founder and former Oculus VR CTO John Carmack told his 1 million Twitter followers that he’d be attending Rob Kroese’s BasedCon again this year as a guest. When he was at BasedCon last year it flew under the radar, but gaming news outlet PC Gamer has turned this week’s announcement into a major story: “Doom co-creator John Carmack is headlining a ‘toxic and proud’ sci-fi convention that rails against ‘woke propaganda'”.

… Carmack is known for having something of a libertarian bent—he recently defended the idea of self-made billionaires (opens in new tab), for instance—and has never seemed particularly concerned about his public image. And he gets a lot of slack, because he’s a little weird and he made Doom and Quake. But headlining an event like this is a step too far for a lot of his followers on social media….

The pushback is typified by Alastair McBain’s tweet: “You literally made a game about shooting fascists but I guess now that they’re heading a con it’s totally excusable.”

And that’s the way BasedCon in its third year has finally struck the publicity goldmine Rob Kroese was always looking for. Because you can’t be an important right-winger if nobody is complaining about you. File 770 merely teased about the original announcement of the event in its 2021 post “BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees”. That was enough to inspire Kroese to run this meme on the BasedCon 2022 home page for months.

On the convention website Kroese explains what “based” means to him and why his con has that name.

Why “BasedCon”?

Rob Kroese

In internet parlance, “based” means something like “in touch with reality.” Based behavior is the opposite of social justice activism, which is about meaningless virtue signaling and beating up strawmen. Some based beliefs include:

  • Men cannot give birth
  • Guns don’t kill people; people kill people
  • A fetus is a human being
  • Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried
  • Discriminating against white people is racism

BasedCon isn’t about pushing any particular ideology, but honest conversations have to start with a shared understanding of reality. If you think people with a certain skin color can’t be racist or you expect people to use made-up pronouns when talking about you, you may want to do a reality check before coming to BasedCon.

The BasedCon “About” page also devotes several paragraphs to the now-familiar “lost cause” genre narrative, for example —

Sci-fi cons used to be a lot of fun. They were places where people of all colors and creeds could get together to talk and learn about science fiction and fantasy books, games, movies, and TV shows. Then, starting a few years ago, things changed. Cons became increasingly dominated by a small clique of authoritarian jerks who made them into venues for pushing social justice dogma and, in the name of “inclusiveness,” shut down any opinions that didn’t align with progressive orthodoxy. You may remember the Sad Puppies saga, which culminated in WorldCon voters selecting “No Award” in several categories of the Hugo Awards rather than reward people outside their tribe…

Of course, after today’s coverage on myriad game industry websites, Kroese claims sympathizers are making his cash register ring.

In contrast, John Carmack, who initially spoke only about what fun he had last year at BasedCon, has written a long and defensive response to the criticism he’s receiving and now claims he really “felt a little uncomfortable” a year ago.

Meanwhile, other right-wing sff writers are loath to see this publicity bonanza wasted on Kroese alone. Within hours Jon Del Arroz had produced a video about it to help sell his comics: “WOKE Journalist Tries To Cancel DOOM Creator For Attending ‘Non-Woke’ Sci-Fi Convention!”.


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28 thoughts on “BasedCon 2023 Becomes the Culture Wars Battlefield of Its Dreams

  1. Mike, thanks for the article. You are absolutely right that this has been a publicity goldmine for me. You are incorrect in the implication that I sought this out. I never wanted to start BasedCon. I used to enjoy going to sci-fi cons. I don’t anymore. So I started my own, where likeminded people could hang out and talk about sci-fi without getting hit over the head with progressive politics. John Carmack came last time on a whim and had a good time. As far as I know, no one said a word to him about politics. Politics rarely came up at all at the last 2 BasedCons. We talked about spaceships, time travel and AI. It was a good time, with good food and nice people.

    BasedCon doesn’t exist because of me. It exists because of people like you and your readers. I would love nothing more than for BasedCon to be unnecessary, but I literally just set up a website that says “We don’t suck like other sci-fi cons do these days” and people line up to give me money. You should think about why that is. And if you want to see us fail, for the love of God, stop freaking out about us. Every time some progressive rag talks about how “ugly” and “toxic” we are (or ridicules us as “cringe”), I get 10 more signups. It’s within your power to shut us down. This post is a good start, although you’d probably have been better off just ignoring us completely.

    I never wanted to start a sci-fi con. I don’t particularly like controversy or drama. This shit gives me anxiety. I feel terrible for John, who just wanted to hang out with some authors he’d read and talk about spaceships and AI. Consider ignoring us and starving us of oxygen as a strategy. I can go back to writing books and you can do your thing. Or you can keep ridiculing us and/or calling us Nazis and see BasedCon continue to grow 20% a year.

    Cheers,

  2. “BasedCon isn’t about pushing any particular ideology…”
    Looks at the text preceding that statement
    Uhm…

    But what do I know? Perhaps I’m just part of the Outrage Machine. (Great band name, by the way.)

  3. Yes, they’re exhausting.

    But I think it’s a fine idea for them to have their own cons.

    I do think it’s cute of Carmack to be telling us he was “uncomfortable” next year, and so now he’s going back as a guest.

  4. Anne Marble says But what do I know? Perhaps I’m just part of the Outrage Machine. (Great band name, by the way.)

    Ok, we all have an ideological bent, period. Denying that we do have one is damn stupid. What we do with that ideological bent is what matters.

    And yes the Con has an ideological bent. How could it not have one given the participants?

  5. There is nothing sadder than a self-made billionaire on Mother’s Day, with no-one to call or send a card to.

  6. Nothing to add regarding Kroese, Carmack, or the con.

    I have read a couple of Kroese’s works and found them enjoyable and inventive. “Titan” from the “Mammon” series was particularly interesting.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Make Orwell fiction again.

  7. Recapitulating phylogeny through sheer force of personal genius is not for everyone.

  8. It’s curious how left/centre-left criticism still works as a publicity boost for people on the right.

    “Every time some progressive rag talks about how “ugly” and “toxic” we are (or ridicules us as “cringe”), I get 10 more signups. ”

    That’s weird given all I’ve seen from the right of SFF in the past few years is claims about how much they are ignoring, not engaging with, don’t care about, have divorced from etc from voices and places they deem corrupted by the left/SJWs/wokeness.

    Years later, there is still this vacuum of ideas on the right. It is defined by opposition. It relies on being in opposition to the left rather than being for something.

  9. I’ll start out by saying that I think that it’s totally fine that Kroese is running a con that caters to a particular population that he is a part of. At some level, its really the fundamental idea behind the history of con organizing, creating spaces for niche communities to talk to each other.

    But there is a certain irony in the way Kroese frames his particular project in his comment. Kroese notes, “So I started my own, where likeminded people could hang out and talk about sci-fi without getting hit over the head with progressive politics.” In effect, Kroese wants a community space where he can avoid particular types of speech act, which make that space no longer fun for him.

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that, but I can’t help but note that fans with the views of Kroese often mock fans who don’t want to deal with sexism or homophobia or racism by calling them ‘snowflakes’ that want to stay in their ‘safe spaces.’ I’m obviously more sympathetic with the kinds of speech limitations of the latter group to Kroese’s framework, but both are essentially doing the same thing, creating a set of community guidelines that effectively curate who can and will participate in the space.

    I don’t think that there is a problem in either case, after all its possible to organize your own events on your own premises, but let’s be honest about the basic premise.

  10. @Camestros

    I disagree. There isn’t a vacuum of ideas outside of the left. That discussion remains focused on individual autonomy, individual liberty, and the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control. There are also musings on how technology may unfold from rayguns to interstellar travel to the implications of AI.

    The problem is that non-leftist perspectives are summarily disregarded if they do not include rigid fealty to various identitarian preferences. Part of that summary disregard is reflexively labeling those non-leftist positions as being “racist/sexist/transphobic/etc.” despite there being no serious evidence of that sort of extremist sentiment.

    Repeatedly saying that a house is painted green and yellow when it is clearly painted blue and eggshell eventually becomes a clear signal to people that prefer fidelity of chromatographic reality.

    Alternatively, labeling non-racists as “racist” only serves to provide cover for actual racists.

    [tagline is timely but completely random]

    Regards,
    Dann
    Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech. – George Carlin

  11. @Dann665–

    I disagree. There isn’t a vacuum of ideas outside of the left. That discussion remains focused on individual autonomy, individual liberty, and the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control.

    Hey, Dann, tell us how the right’s rush to ban abortion starting at six weeks (usually before a woman knows she’s pregnant), and making restrictions so tight that women can’t get treated for ectopic pregnancy which will kill her horribly before the fetus is even remotely an actual baby, and making women whose much-wanted pregnancies are ending in a fetus dead in the womb or with deformities incompatible with life, either deliver the corpse, or deliver a baby she holds in her arms while it dies in her arms within hours or she has to be in extremis before the fetus that’s either dead or will die in hours is removed, advances the cause of “individual freedom, individual autonomy, and reducing the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control.”

    No, that’s not about corporate bad behavior or regulation thereof, but if it were really individual freedom and autonomy you were concerned about, you wouldn’t be wasting your time whining about corporations being taxed, and having to face some restrictions on how they’re allowed to treat employees, pollute the environment, and avoid taxes.

  12. …Jon Del Arroz had produced a video…

    Who?

    Best,
    John
    “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” – Frank Wilhoit.

  13. Dann665 on May 19, 2023 at 2:15 pm said:

    @Camestros

    I disagree. There isn’t a vacuum of ideas outside of the left. That discussion remains focused on individual autonomy, individual liberty, and the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control. There are also musings on how technology may unfold from rayguns to interstellar travel to the implications of AI.

    I said there is a vacuum of ideas on the right – “outside of the left” includes the centre and the discussion on individual autonomy, individual liberty, and the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control are essentially the ones of the broad strand of thought of liberalism (which includes classical liberalism and some versions of conservatism). That strand of debate is essentially dead on the right. While you may see occasional appeals to such ideas, there is next to no consistency or coherent positions on such issues as say police violence, prison conditions, even the right to defend yourself with a gun is not a principle that I see CONSISTENTLY held by people on the right even those who wrap their identity around the second amendment.

  14. @Robert Wood

    In effect, Kroese wants a community space where he can avoid particular types of speech act, which make that space no longer fun for him.

    Part of what BasedCon lists as their beliefs is just (regressive) opinion — abortion bad, etc. But it’s very obvious what particular animus leads to saying things like “men can’t get pregnant”. They phrase it like an opinion, but unless they dispute the fact that trans men can get pregnant, the purpose of that plank is simply to insult and dismiss trans people. Of course, they then circle back to insult and emphasize this more more by complaining about pronouns. I don’t think it’s certain speech acts they want to avoid so much as the presence of a particular group of people, who they treat as the living representation of everything wrong with the world.

  15. @Camestros “That’s weird given…” it’s almost as if their enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.

  16. @Banks, I suspect that this is a both and situation. I think that you are absolutely right that they are deliberately excluding trans folks, but they also want a situation where no one is going to bring up the fact that they are a bunch of bigots. In addition, I suspect that they aren’t big fans of codes of conduct that restrict racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic behavior.

  17. I don’t mind Kroese and his pals having their own little rightwing con. After all, it means that they leave the rest of us alone.

    However, what I don’t get is how Kroese, Carmack and others claim that regular non-based cons are no longer fun, because programming is full of race, gender, LGBTQ and social justice panels. Now I was just at a con this weekend and I have been at several other cons. And yes, there were panels on race, gender, LGBTQ and other social justice topics. However, there were also panels on space, on the future of food, on Star Trek, on Doctor Who, on translation, on lingustics, on how dubbing works, etc… So if you don’t want to see the race, gender, LGBTQ, etc… panels, then just don’t attend them. Simple as that.

    But I suspect it’s not just “There a panels I don’t care for” that’s the problem. It’s also that there will be women, POC and LGBTQ people at the con and that there will be a code of conduct which forbids others from discirminating against them or makign derogatory comments. And that’s what really bothers them. That there are people and ideas being discussed at a con that they object to. I guess they’re afraid that the ideas behind a panel on criticial race theory will penetrate walls and drift into the “Military SF – How to write better pew pew” panel next door.

  18. @Cora, at the notoriously lefty Nine Worlds convention I once was on a panel called “We Have Always Fought: Women in Mil-SF”. So we had critical race theory and how to write better pew pew all in one room!

  19. I have two things from Kroesses Post here that makes me laugh. First he doesn’t like controversy, sorry then he should have formuled his advertisment of his con a bit different.
    On the other hand it is refreshing to see as a bogeyman, that the con will grew. (I kind of agree that talking about everything makes it more seen, so yes probably Mike is responsible for people going to the con) But this is so nontreatening.
    Btw I remember in the original puppydebate reference to a very puppyfriendly con, which had a limited membership. Is Basecon really the only rightwingcon in the USA?

  20. @Cora:

    I don’t mind Kroese and his pals having their own little rightwing con. After all, it means that they leave the rest of us alone.

    I agree. It reminds me of occasions during my college years when one of the fraternity houses was having a big party – I was delighted, since it meant that the rest of the campus was more fun for a while. I didn’t begrudge the frat gang their beer (real beer – this was back when people who were concerned that their masculinity was contingent (i.e. fraternity members) avoided ‘light beer’ like they avoided thought) and vomit, as long as they were away from me.

    Kroese, though, it seems, isn’t quite as happy to go off with his (I’ll use the default masculine here, since I’m not sure of Kroese’s pronouns) friends and have fun; he seems a bit sad because his idea of fun is not pleasant times with friends, but rather bonding with friends by lying about people who dare enjoy themselves in ways he doesn’t like. More’s the pity. He’d be happier if he liked freedom, I suspect; right now, he just seems desperate for attention, like these guys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGWDTG5jgqI, so I’ll do the worst thing I can imagine doing to him – turn my attention away from him towards science fiction and my own friends.

  21. @Camestros

    I said there is a vacuum of ideas on the right – “outside of the left” includes the centre and the discussion on individual autonomy, individual liberty, and the problems resulting from excessive levels of governmental control are essentially the ones of the broad strand of thought of liberalism (which includes classical liberalism and some versions of conservatism). That strand of debate is essentially dead on the right.

    My point is that “the right” is home to many different perspectives. Which you clearly understand.

    As far as a lack of consistency goes, that kind of goes hand in glove with people discussing issues from different perspectives to arrive at a mutually agreeable position. I’m more concerned about monolithically held opinions.

    At the same time, there are a few things that used to be considered pretty well settled on the right (free markets, opposition to state-mandated industrial policies to name a couple) that are sadly in decline.

    @Cora Buhlert

    However, what I don’t get is how Kroese, Carmack and others claim that regular non-based cons are no longer fun, because programming is full of race, gender, LGBTQ and social justice panels.

    I’m pretty sure that I’ve previously related my experience listening to one panelist with the singular skill of twisting every question so that they could include some facet of trans-identity into their response. Which was really too bad because their first couple of responses were interesting and informative. I’d have appreciated their position more if they had allowed the conversation to move on to other topics. Apparently even discussions about choreographing sword fights aren’t “safe” from an identitarian focus.

    Couple that behavior with the tendency to overreact as was illustrated in the response to Mercedes Lackey’s less than stellar choice of words.

    As far as Mr. Kroese goes, someone may want to square his willingness to have a trans panel at BasedCon and his opposition to parents locking their trans child out of the house with the presumed motives that have been tossed about here.

    Regards,
    Dann
    We adore chaos because we love to produce order. – M.C. Escher

  22. @Dann

    Linking to someone’s tweets when their account is private is not especially productive. You’ll have to quote them or screenshot them if you wish to share anything.

    Although I would personally consider it a bit rude to share a private account’s tweets in public without express permission.

  23. In the first of those two tweets one of the top replies is the ‘attack helicopter’ variant of the one joke, which honestly is about as well as you can expect any such panel to go.

  24. @Meredith

    I didn’t know that his tweets were locked down from viewing. I thought he only shut down replies temporarily while he was writing.

    I agree that sharing his locked-down tweets without permission would be a bad call. I’ve asked. We will see.

    Although his opinions (as summarized above) probably fall well short of what some might consider being properly supportive of trans folks, they do demonstrate a level of tolerance and sympathy that is not present in the presumptions of some of his critics. Given the raison d’être for BasedCon, I think those comments are worth including.

    Regards,
    Dann
    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. – Isaac Asimov

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