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Baen Bar closed down.

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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by The E   » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:10 am

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The lesson here, one that facebook, twitter et al had to learn too, is that moderation can't be held at a distance, or be left without supervision.

If Baen's intent is to be a publisher for authors of all stripes that fit within the editorial vision of what "a Baen book" is supposed to be, and for the Baen community to be equally diverse in opinions and backgrounds as its stable of authors is supposed to be, then its community moderation team needs to be selected, instructed and if necessary trained and pruned so that those ideals and values are being upheld.

Baen has failed at that, both as a publisher and as the core of a community. RFC bristles against Baen being described as "conservative", but one Eric Flint does not political heterodoxy make. A lot of Baen's high-profile output and a lot of its most engaged "fans" are highly political and far on the conservative side of the spectrum; this isn't necessarily a recipe for disaster, but it is how echo chambers come into being, especially if everyone involved in the baen hierarchy thinks that "free speech" must be absolute and inviolate and that "robust discourse" is incompatible with active moderation.

---

Incidentally, for those interested in community moderation, I recommend reading this essay. I found it highly illuminating in regards to my own approach to reconciling "Free Speech is good" as an ideal and "effective moderation must be exclusionary" as a reality.
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Tararoys   » Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:03 pm

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Disappointing but not surprising that Weber proves to be much less heroic than any of his characters, and decides to punch down by calling a much less well-heeled member of the Sci Fi industry a 'moral pygmy' for pointing out the 'let's kill our enemies and their families and their children and their allies and their whole society unto the nth generation' rhetoric that has shown up on Baen's Bar for years. Nothing in that article is a surprise to anyone familiar with the posters the quotes are attributed to.

Baen's Bar is only tolerable if you come into it with a gladiatorial attitude and ready to fight with every interaction, or if you come into it willing to not say a word about the people who are drawing blood from each other and advocating for 'war to the knife,' get what you came for, and leave. Abusers and enablers, essentially.

I started on Baen's Bar when Echos of Honor came out and I only quit last December. Certain subforums on the Bar like Miles To Go are nice places to hang out and fan.

But it has never like a safe place. When I was a teenager I idolized Honor Harrington and started a conversation about real life sexual harrassment and rape because of Field of Dishonor. I was informed that incidents from my life that I detailed *weren't actually real harrassment.* I took that to heart, and was like, ok, I need to become stronger so these "small things" (like an 80 year member of my civil air patrol squadron old propositioning me for sex as a teenager) didn't bother me, and I shut up about rape.

As a woman who wanted to go in the Military I tried to engage with some 'women in the military' topics, and quickly learned that if I came in asserting an opinion, people would start a brawl, but if I came in as a 'young earnest woman looking for advice from big strong men' they would switch to a sort of paternal 'help the plucky youngster' mode. Even so, I couldn't completely hide how condescended to that made me feel, got dogpiled a couple of times, and shut up about hat as well.

I once critiqued Ghost, especially the scene where the main character rapes a prostitute. I was informed by a barfly that it wasn't rape, it was 'very very inconsiderate sex.'

I once saw a conversation where a man who said he was black complained about the lack of good black characters in science fiction. People listed the bad guys in Farnham's Freehold, Podkayne from Podkayne of Mars (who is POC but is depicted as white on the cover), and Queen Elizabeth of Manticore, and he got run off when he started arguing that those characters didn't do it for him.

I went on the forum for survivalist advice, and all of their advice centered around equipment, processes, and procedures, and living completely independent and alone without backoup. Nothing about building a community or finding reliable allies, or about building a society where homelessness didn't happen. So basically what I learned from them was survivalist LARPING and not actually how to survive.

So many people there claim to be 'protecting' something. The constitution, gun rights, their women, their livelyhood, the right to freedom of speech- and they don't seem the least bit concerned about how to build an environment where it's safe to start out with an unformed opinion and grow into a different one. You have to spring fully-formed from the brow of zeus, ready and armed for battle, to have a chance there. What the hell?

It felt like a place that was *supposed* to be safe, where you could go and have interesting conversations and get good advice and nerd out, but I can list dozens of topics on the bar that I wouldn't even be willing to speculate about because people would completely lose it and start firing off death threats.

By tolerating compeltely unmoderated speech, and by allowing 'old hands' to completely cream newbies Baen has sacrified the safety of anyone that isn't willing to go to a 'war to the knife' over anything they care about on that forum.

In fact, that seems to be how Baen picks new authors. When Jim Baen was still alive, John Ringo apparently came onto the forum and picked a knock-down drag-out fight with Jim over the quality of military sci-fi. He got a writing contract.

Sanford cites violence on the forum, and gets called a moral pygmy.

It shows that reporting out violence is a greater sin than actually committing it.

-Tara

clancy688 wrote:David Weber has also commented on this.

https://www.facebook.com/10000070935040 ... 222209983/

To say that I'm disappointed by his response is an understatement. While his argument for free speech is essentially true (I, too, absolutely hate Cancel culture and think that some leftist excesses are a big threat to freedom of opinion), but he completely ignores the case for hate speech on the bar which has been made.

Liberty after all stops where someone elses nose begins, and inciting and welcoming violence is *not* covered by free speech. And Baen has a moral (and probably legal) obligation to keep something like this from happening. Which they apparently failed, hence the shutdown.

A redditor yesterday wrote the following and I found myself in complete agreement:

I am rather happy that David Weber didn't show up. I'd like to at least preserve the illusion that he doesn't support the current nonsense.


And thus this illusion has been squashed.



clancy688 wrote:David Weber has also commented on this.

https://www.facebook.com/10000070935040 ... 222209983/

To say that I'm disappointed by his response is an understatement. While his argument for free speech is essentially true (I, too, absolutely hate Cancel culture and think that some leftist excesses are a big threat to freedom of opinion), but he completely ignores the case for hate speech on the bar which has been made.

Liberty after all stops where someone elses nose begins, and inciting and welcoming violence is *not* covered by free speech. And Baen has a moral (and probably legal) obligation to keep something like this from happening. Which they apparently failed, hence the shutdown.

A redditor yesterday wrote the following and I found myself in complete agreement:

I am rather happy that David Weber didn't show up. I'd like to at least preserve the illusion that he doesn't support the current nonsense.


And thus this illusion has been squashed.
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Joat42   » Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:14 pm

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Tararoys wrote:By tolerating completely unmoderated speech, and by allowing 'old hands' to completely cream newbies Baen has sacrificed the safety of anyone that isn't willing to go to a 'war to the knife' over anything they care about on that forum.

That's one of the problems how some view free speech. They use free speech as an excuse to attack others that doesn't fit into their worldview or say the "wrong" things, because that's their "right". It's the "worst people problem", ie a platform or forum that allows shitty behavior that's not allowed elsewhere will soon mostly consists of the worst people. We have seen what happens to those types of platforms, like Parler, 4chan, 8kun etc, and now Baen. You can't have a hands off approach to moderation unless your goal is to create a cesspool of assholes.

In regards to Davids response, I don't think he has actually seen the toxicity that existed on the Baen forum and instead wrote something as an emotional knee-jerk reaction without going deeper into the details of Sanford's post. Regardless, there are a lot of David's fans that are very disappointed how he responded, he should know better.

---
Jack of all trades and destructive tinkerer.


Anyone who have simple solutions for complex problems is a fool.
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Dilandu   » Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:10 pm

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While you guys are preparing to lynch RFC for the dreadful mindcrime of advocating free speech, I would post this response from Eric Flint:

https://ericflint.net/information/controversy-about-baens-bar/?fbclid=IwAR2dndvMDVA_j5UF0KagMPtQlQ_T_Dzn0cpRMQOnpOvlMAVJwhKlC8qvvnM

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.
------------------------------

Oh well, if shortening the front is what the Germans crave,
Let's shorten it to very end - the length of Fuhrer's grave.

(Red Army lyrics from 1945)
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Eyal   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 1:17 am

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Dilandu wrote:While you guys are preparing to lynch RFC for the dreadful mindcrime of advocating free speech, I would post this response from Eric Flint:

https://ericflint.net/information/controversy-about-baens-bar/?fbclid=IwAR2dndvMDVA_j5UF0KagMPtQlQ_T_Dzn0cpRMQOnpOvlMAVJwhKlC8qvvnM

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.


While Flint does have some points, I think he's downplaying the issue. By his own admission, he hasn't been in the Politics subforum for a very long time and AFAIK it's been over a decade since he last engaged in the Bar on even his own subforum. While I agree that the concerns of consequences of political extremism on the Bar are overblown, there's no denying that such extremism exists. And while he lauds the "no hitting" rule, that seems to be honored more in the breach, especially if the target doesn't toe the Bar's conservative line - you want to express any vaguely left-wing opinions there, better grow some very thick skin. That atmosphere is a big reason I left the Bar (I was never a prolific poster, but I would regularly lurk there). Flint also completely ignores that some of the "nobodies" he's complaining about Sanford accusing are actually Bar moderators.
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Dilandu   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 1:37 am

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Eyal wrote:
While Flint does have some points, I think he's downplaying the issue. By his own admission, he hasn't been in the Politics subforum for a very long time and AFAIK it's been over a decade since he last engaged in the Bar on even his own subforum. While I agree that the concerns of consequences of political extremism on the Bar are overblown, there's no denying that such extremism exists. And while he lauds the "no hitting" rule, that seems to be honored more in the breach, especially if the target doesn't toe the Bar's conservative line - you want to express any vaguely left-wing opinions there, better grow some very thick skin. That atmosphere is a big reason I left the Bar (I was never a prolific poster, but I would regularly lurk there). Flint also completely ignores that some of the "nobodies" he's complaining about Sanford accusing are actually Bar moderators.


I was here. And frankly, if this is what someone considered the "calls for violence", then I wonder what would he thinks of the average MMORPG player chat? Immediately demand that all those terrible maniacs and rapists being put behind bars, before they massacred everyone?

Seriously, the bunch of armchair militiamens were exchanging their empty wet dreams about being rough tough warriors figthing against hordes of decadent left. Thats what was happening in the Bar. Nothing more, nothing less (as usual). I could bet that if anyone of barflies would be offered a place in real insurgency, he would break all Olympic running records on his way to police station, hysterically demanding to immediately arrest those "terrible insurgents".

The whole thing essentially boil down to "mall ninjas being jerks as usual". If not for the paranoid atmosphere after Capitol "insurgency", nobody would pay any attention to them. But apparently, mr. Sanford decided to capitalize on this atmosphere to propel himself into popularity (frankly, before this whole mess he was obscure to the point of nonexistence) and by attacking Baen, create an image of brave protector of liberty.
------------------------------

Oh well, if shortening the front is what the Germans crave,
Let's shorten it to very end - the length of Fuhrer's grave.

(Red Army lyrics from 1945)
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by clancy688   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:23 am

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Dilandu wrote:While you guys are preparing to lynch RFC for the dreadful mindcrime of advocating free speech


Excuse me, but what the fuck? Have you actually read the replies in this thread? Merely stating our disappointment in DW constitutes lynching?

Don't understand me wrong, I'm pretty sure that there is a lot of lynching going around in this sad affair, but it's not us lynching DW. What's happening to Sanford, on the other hand...


The whole thing essentially boil down to "mall ninjas being jerks as usual". If not for the paranoid atmosphere after Capitol "insurgency", nobody would pay any attention to them.


Which is precisely the point. The capitol business showed pretty clearly that those "armchair militiamans" aren't quite the harmless keyboard rambos you're trying to present them as. Their "fantasies" already spilled over in the real world, causing death and destruction.

But apparently, mr. Sanford decided to capitalize on this atmosphere to propel himself into popularity (frankly, before this whole mess he was obscure to the point of nonexistence) and by attacking Baen, create an image of brave protector of liberty.


Or he's just sincerely concerned.


To just summarize what's been said about the accusations:
- Sanford's article is a deliberate hit piece to advance his own nefarious goals
- There can't be any incitement of violence in the bar, so there obviously isn't any, QED
- The "Baenflies" are just a harmless bunch of people playing out their insurrectionist fantasies, ofc everything is fiction and it obviously will never spill over into the real world, how could it?
- You know, all of the above doesn't actually matter anyway because you guys are the baddies here and attacking our free speech with your cancel culture!

That about sums it up?
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Dilandu   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:40 am

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clancy688 wrote:Which is precisely the point. The capitol business showed pretty clearly that those "armchair militiamans" aren't quite the harmless keyboard rambos you're trying to present them as. Their "fantasies" already spilled over in the real world, causing death and destruction.


Oh please, BLM riots also caused death and destruction, but for "some" reasons there is no massive sites closure or something for their support. Seriously, your belief in mass media is laughable. Instead of considering the whole Capitol situation as what it actually is - embarassing blunder with some unfortunate victims - you are full-time hysterical, trembling with fear about some mysterious right-wing conspiracy.
------------------------------

Oh well, if shortening the front is what the Germans crave,
Let's shorten it to very end - the length of Fuhrer's grave.

(Red Army lyrics from 1945)
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by Dilandu   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:48 am

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clancy688 wrote:To just summarize what's been said about the accusations:
- Sanford's article is a deliberate hit piece to advance his own nefarious goals


Rather obviously it is. Recall all those moral panics about violent video games, hip-hop music and "Dungeon & Dragons", and you could easily see the pattern how someone is movijg to capitalise on it. For what possible reason should we consider Sanford as someone else than typical attention whore?

- There can't be any incitement of violence in the bar, so there obviously isn't any, QED


I someties wonder, are we in the same Internet? Took literally any hot topic - from politics to music - and you always found someone threatening to murder, rape, or murder than rape somwone he didn't like.
- The "Baenflies" are just a harmless bunch of people playing out their insurrectionist fantasies, ofc everything is fiction and it obviously will never spill over into the real world, how could it?


Exactly. The whole Capitol mess rather clearly surprized them as everyone else. All their "calls for the insurrection" appeared AFTER the whole thing, not BEFORE it.

- You know, all of the above doesn't actually matter anyway because you guys are the baddies here and attacking our free speech with your cancel culture!


What all of the above? A bunch of nonsense, cherry-picked quotes, and attempts to capitalize mass panic?
------------------------------

Oh well, if shortening the front is what the Germans crave,
Let's shorten it to very end - the length of Fuhrer's grave.

(Red Army lyrics from 1945)
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Re: Baen Bar closed down.
Post by The E   » Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:12 am

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Dilandu, there's a provable link between (for example) people posting what Eric Flint calls "masturbatory fantasies about violence" on men's rights forums and people radicalizing themselves there to such an extent that they commit murders. Flint is right to point out that, taken individually, these incidents are less destructive (and certainly less effective) than the incidents of politically motivated violence he himself was present for and remembers, but that doesn't change the issue that Sanford was talking about.
The problem here is that he (and, for that matter you) is seemingly unaware of a phenomenon called stochastic terrorism. We've seen communities with a relatively insular outlook (like some of the Baen's Bar subfora) self-radicalize and act as an incubator for people going deep into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory and paranoia, some of whom may even lash out and storm a pizza place to free the children they're sure are held there for Democrats to rape (to choose a random example).

Is this as big a problem as, say, an organized militia with relatively good organization and communication deciding to wage war on the state for allowing black people to vote would be? No. But it encourages an environment conducive to random acts of violence; it is terrorism in the purest sense as it raises the threat of violence by a lot.

Flint tries to minimize this: He points out, correctly I might add, that the posts Sanford presents are not representative of the vast majority of posts on the Bar, and that the users pointed out as problems are only a tiny minority compared to the bar's active (as opposed to registered) population. But that's not the point here: Yes, all of that is true, but the accusation isn't "Baen's Bar is full of white supremacists daydreaming about a civil war" - it's "white supremacists are daydreaming about a civil war on the bar and this is tolerated by the staff", which due to the factors pointed out above, is an issue that Baen should address.

---

Speaking of what Flint wrote, while his take is certainly better than RFCs and actively engages with Sanford's post, it is still fatally flawed.
He defends Baen against the accusation of being a "conservative" publisher by pointing out that he is Baen's most singularly prolific writer - but that doesn't change the fact that Baen's lineup does include people from the far right end of the spectrum as well, and that Baen's public reputation is that of a conservative publisher that will absolutely publish books in which every evil in the world can be traced back to someone being too liberal. This is a topic Flint spends consiuderable amount of writing on, as he sees it from the insider's perspective of knowing Jim Baen and Toni Weisskopf personally and having a good idea of what their intentions and priorities are in curating the Baen brand, and he rates the suggestion that Baen has a reputation for conservative opinions as personally insulting both to him, Jim Baen, Toni Weisskopf and other lefty writers who publish with Baen.

He accuses Sanford of cherry-picking, of taking things out of context - And it's true, Sanford does do that, from a certain point of view. If you have a forum with millions of posts made by thousands of people over decades, a sudden influx of a few dozen posters who post vile shit in a short period of time doesn't register as anything but a drop in the ocean if we take the output of the bar in its entirety. But that's talking past the actual problem Sanford is talking about: The issue he raises is that Baen's Bar, as an outgrowth of Baen the publishing house, doesn't have policies in place to set moderation standards that would set effective limits on what is and isn't accepted discourse, which can be seen by there being no official response to people daydreaming about a civil war even after a bunch of these daydreamers got together to actually storm the capitol to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Flint further points out that he doesn't see the problem because he stopped reading or participating in political discussions on the Bar decades ago, because it was all too stupid for him, and that he doesn't tolerate these discussions in the subfora he is directly responsible for. Good on him! Unfortunately for his post, this also makes it completely irrelevant. If I don't deal drugs, and do not allow drugs to be dealt in any establishment I own, does that then mean that I can firmly state that my city doesn't have a drug problem? No, of course not.

This is what I meant earlier by survivorship bias: Flint doesn't see a problem because he found a way to compartmentalize the stupid away and doesn't consider it to be his problem, and is now incensed that someone dares point out that a problem might exist.

Flint finishes his essay with the words
I will now say the same thing to Jason Sanford and anyone who takes his essay seriously. “If you really can’t tell the difference between a genuine threat of violence and some blowhards jacking off on a science fiction web site, you need to take a remedial course in common sense.”


I can absolutely tell the difference between a direct threat of imminent violence and people posting on a message board.
However: We live in an environment where "people posting on a message board" were creating an elaborate conspiracy theory from whole cloth where pizza parlors were secretly sites where kidnapped children were trafficked to the rich and powerful that at least one person took seriously enough to hold the employees of a pizza place at gunpoint. The risk that something like this happens is low, granted; it takes a lot of stuff to make things go that wrong. But if you're a community moderator, you have to ask yourself this: Knowing that the risk of someone daydreaming so hard that they shove their guns in people's faces exists, can you justify letting people do that without occasionally pumping the brakes or pouring some water over a discussion that goes beyond the boundaries of rhetorical hyperbole?
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