Oh boy, the bad boys are at it again. There was an online forum at Baen Books where, as such things happen, there was a wide-ranging and diverse discussion, which is usually a good thing…except that if the management of the forum is slack, it tends to slide into shabbier and shabbier conversation, and soon enough, it’s overwhelmed with shitposters. Honestly, have we learned nothing in the past couple of decades? If you don’t have rules, if you don’t have active management of the discussion, you inevitably end up with 4chan. And no one wants another 4chan.
A writer, Jason Sanford, blew the whistle on the shenanigans going on there. Remember, this is a site run by a professional publishing house; you’d expect some minimal level of decorum. Instead, they got this:
Baen’s Bar has also become well-known in the genre community as a place where racism, sexism, homophobia and general fascism continually pop up. For example, a Baen’s Bar user from India was nicknamed “The Swarthy Menace” on the forum by author Tom Kratman. People on the forum thought that was the height of clever humor.
Racist comments and innuendos frequently appear in many forum discussions. In a thread last year titled “Soft Civil War & Trump’s Army,” user Captrandy wrote that political conflicts in the USA could be solved if “all the angry and non angry white males should stop going to work for a month or so.” In another political thread, user Pugmak wrote “Simple competence has been declared white supremacy. Knowing how to do your job and expecting others to do likewise is now white supremacy and workplace oppression.”
And that’s just the beginning. Baen Books publishes a number of conservative writers, who have conservative fans, who were all fired up about the events on 6 January and started posting calls to political violence. They were the usual idiots, the usual gun-fondling fantasy warriors.
Returning to discussions on the pending second American Civil War, which appears to a favorite topic on the Bar, user Peke wrote on January 8, 2021, that “I can see a smallish force with good skills at explosive handling, bringing a large city to its knees just through a few well-placed booms at some of the points I mentioned.”
Fortunately, that topic caught the attention of moderators. That’s sarcasm on my part because a few posts after Peke’s comment a moderator named James S Cochrane responded to the pending civil war thread by saying “You aren’t seeing a lot of public commentary because all communications are insecure. But most of the former SpecOps people I know have gone quiet. People who trained for twenty years to lead insurgencies or put rounds on target at a mile plus. The Left has also driven off a lot of cops who couldn’t stomach their behavior, most major cities are seriously understaffed at this point.”
That’s right, it’s a moderated discussion board, but the moderators are also playing with their weaponry with one hand, while typing with the other.
The fallout from this unregulated keyboard militia running amok is that Toni Weisskopf, publisher at Baen Books, and nominal grown-up in charge of the circus, has had her Guest of Honor invitation to Worldcon retracted, and the forum has been shut down, at least temporarily. Sanford is getting harassed with death threats. The usual suspects — the various flavors of puppies — are outraged.
It seems to me that a reasonable action has been taken against irresponsible speech, though. It’s entirely fair to refuse to honor someone who is supposed to be in charge who has not been doing her duty, and has allowed a public space to turn into a cesspit. I haven’t seen any sensible defenses of the behavior that was allowed to flourish on Baen’s forum. I tried; here’s an author named Eric Flint who pointed out (probably correctly) that it was only a few bad actors who were saying the stupid stuff.
This is the “great menace of Baen’s Bar” that Sanford yaps about. A handful of people—okay, two handfuls, tops—most of whom you have never heard of, who spout absolute twaddle. Yes, a fair amount of it is violent-sounding twaddle, but the violence is of a masturbatory nature.
Then he goes on to say that Baen Books publishes stuff by some liberal, left wing authors. Again, I believe him. But no one has been claiming anything different. The problem is that you’ve got this double handful of people posting violent masturbatory twaddle, as he admits, and no one was doing anything about it. It’s a moderated board! Why not kick out the violently masturbating twaddlers and make the whole experience more pleasant and productive for everyone else? That’s the objection, that such garbage was allowed to fester, and whoever was supposed to be running the show wasn’t running the show. The argument that it was a tiny minority of troublemakers is irrelevant if the troublemakers were given free rein.
Imagine a bakery that is shut down by a health inspector who finds rats frolicking in the kitchen. Mr Flint is like the dedicated customer who argues that he really liked their croissants, they used the best ingredients, and there weren’t that many rat droppings in his food. Only a handful, OK, maybe two handfuls of rat turds in his flaky, buttery, delicious croissant, so why are you closing his favorite bakery and fining the owner? I’m not only going to question his reasoning, but his taste, when I suggest that maybe they’d be even better without all the rat poop.