Sci-fi author Jason Sanford has presented a small number of cherry-picked posts, all of which reference conservative rhetoric, to accuse the Baen’s Bar forums belonging to sci-fi and fantasy publisher Baen Books of being “used to advocate for political violence.”
On February 15th, Sanford, whose short stories has been featured in such anthologies as Million Writers Award: The Best New Online Voices and magazines as Asimov’s Science Fiction, published a self-described “investigative report” to his Patreon account accusing “Baen’s Bar, the private forum run by the science fiction and fantasy publishing company Baen Books,” of “being used to advocate for extremist political violence.”
“Baen Books is a historically important genre publisher. I don’t believe the company supports the advocacy of political violence on their forum, but they are also doing little to stop their forum from being used for this purpose,” said Sanford. “They have the ability to deal with this issue but simply choose not to.”
“As I will show, this attitude toward their forum desperately needs to change,” he continued.
Noting that though “the Bar had 64,280 registered users, although there appear to be only a few thousand active members,” Sanford then makes clear that his issue is specifically with those more conservatively inclined, claiming that, despite how “the publishing company may publish authors with a range of political views, the Baen’s Bar forum definitely has a conservative tilt.”
He then asserted, “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.”
“Racist comments and innuendos frequently appear in many forum discussions,” Sanford further accused. “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.’”
He continued, “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.’”
Sanford then proceeded to present a small number of posts, ranging in rhetoric and made by only nine users out of the Bar’s aforementioned 64,280 (0.00014% of the forum’s userbase), as evidence that “since the 2020 Presidential election, the forum has seen a large number of posts urging violence against political opponents.”
Admittedly, some of the comments cited by Sanford do feature violent rhetoric, particularly in reference to the concept of a second American Civil War between the ‘right’ and the ‘left’.
In one thread, a user asserted that “The point [of a Civil War] is to kill enough of [the left] that they can not arise for another 50 years… or more.”
Another wrote that “The problem isn’t that you killed too many, but that you killed too few.” The former user also stated that the U.S. Capitol police officer who shot the now-deceased Ashli Babbitt “needs doxed[, as] after that, the problem will take care of itself.”
However, other comments simply discussed topics from a conservative view point, such as in one discussion on the contradiction between how the left and right are treated by the media or shared their opinions on what a potential Second Civil War could entail.
In a thread dedicated to the aforementioned Babbitt, a user wrote “Since the week of the event, There has been very little said, compared to the sort of coverage you see for someone like George Floyd or Jacob Blake. Look at some ugly facts; She was White. She was not a large woman. She was unarmed. The only thing that would have got this swept under the rug faster, was if the shooter had been black.”
“You aren’t seeing a lot of public commentary because all communications are insecure,” stated moderator James S Cochrane in regards to their thoughts on a supposed Second Civil War. “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.”
Sanford argued that the forum should take similar action in banning discussion around the 2020 U.S. Presidential election as it has against several topics which “have mired in muck, choked to death, and sunk out of sight several times over.”
He pointed to the “2000 United States Presidential election, the US Civil War, gender rights, questions related to ‘why Mr. Ringo completely dismisses Canada and any contribution Canada could make to a defense of North America,’ women in combat, abortion, and a few random topics such as [author] Mercedes Lackey.”
Sanford then offered up Gamergate as an example of how an event can “quickly [be] turned into a vector for online radicalization which infected other aspects of society, including global politics.”
“This isn’t to say Gamergate started all the troubles in our world, or to imply that Baen’s Bar is the next Gamergate,” said Sanford, pointing to a Twitter thread authored by Brianna Wu on the event in support of his argument. “But as I said at the start of this report, when online radicalization and threats of violence are ignored there are frequently unintended and even deadly consequences.”
In conclusion to his ‘report,’, Sanford asked why the publisher was “providing a platform for such comments” and declared that they “need to immediately stop allowing their forums to be used for this purpose.”
That same day, following Sanford’s accusations, Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf posted to the Baen’s Bar forum to inform users it had “been brought to my attention by some helpful folks that speech not everyone agrees with, and that may have become unlawful speech, has occurred on Baen’s Bar.”
He added, “In order to fully investigate those serious allegations, and any violations of the Bar “no hitting” rule, we will be taking a break from the Bar as of noon February 16th, and encourage all our readers to enjoy their lawful conversations elsewhere for the time being.”
In an official statement posted to the official Baen Books website, Weisskopf further explained that “The moderators are volunteers. The readers, editors, and writers post and interact on the Bar at their own desire. Some conversations have been gone over so many times, they’ve been retired as simply too boring to contemplate again. Sometimes the rhetoric can get heated. We do not endorse the publication of unlawful speech. We have received no complaints about the content of the Bar from its users.”
“That said,” added Weisskopf, “it has come to our attention that allegations about the Bar have been made elsewhere. We take these allegations seriously, and consequently have put the Bar on hiatus while we investigate. But we will not commit censorship of lawful speech.”
“It is not Baen Books’ policy to police the opinions of its readers, its authors, its artists, its editors, or indeed anyone else,” she concluded. “This applies to posts at the Bar, or on social media, on their own websites, or indeed anywhere else. On the Bar, the publisher does not select what is allowed to be posted, and does not hijack an individual’s messages for their own purposes. Similarly, the posts do not represent the publisher’s opinion, except in a deep belief that free speech is worthy in and of itself.”
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