I had never heard of Baen Books, and that’s on me. It’s apparently a big player in the Science Fiction genre, something I’m not into, so there’s no reason I would know of it, but there’s plenty of reason why plenty of other people do know of it.

I first heard about Baen Books was when I saw a link to this article at Monster Hunter Nation, Publishing House Baen Books Attacked By Cancel Culture:

Baen Books is a sci-fi/fantasy publishing house that has been around since the early 1980s. They’ve published thousands of titles from hundreds of authors. Baen is notable in our current time period because it is one of the only traditional publishers who does not bend the knee to the woke mob. Our publisher, Toni Weisskopf, truly believes in free speech. Baen’s Bar is one of the oldest forums on the internet. It’s a place for authors and fans to hang out and talk. Today Toni is shutting down the Bar in order to stave off a Parler style cancel culture attack against Baen’s service providers.

Yesterday some nobody, wannabe writer, social justice twit released a hit piece “expose” about how posters on Baen’s Bar were fomenting insurrection or some such nonsense. It was the usual bullshit hit piece (the sad part is, by saying the usual, half the country immediately knows exactly what I’m talking about). It was lots of pearl clutching over regular people not toeing their arbitrary political lines, misquotes, errors, quotes taken out of context, and some flat out lies.

However, this was clearly part of a coordinated attack in order to materially harm our business, because immediately after the hit piece was released complaints were filed with the various internet companies Baen uses for services to pressure them into kicking us off the internet. This hit piece was presented as “evidence”. Without going into details the companies then contacted Baen about these “serious allegations” so last night Baen temporarily took down the Bar forum to protect the rest of the company from being deplatformed.

The expose at issue was by a science fiction author writing on his own for his Patreon account, asserting Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence. I encourage you to read through it, and I think you will find that most of what is complained about is not advocacy of violence, but opinions the author doesn’t like, or at most innuendo about violence:

There are also a number of threads on the forum discussing how to equip militia members. During one of these threads, a user asked “The crux of the matter is what does a militia unit do these days? Are they static defenders? Are they light infantry? Are they recon? What exactly, is their role?”

User APPilot, who claims to be a pilot out of Missouri, started a thread on January 10, 2021, titled “Behind Enemy Lines” by saying:

“Is it real enough yet? Are we going to sit by and watch as we did during the late 30’s and let the pograms play out? Are we gonna let the Katyn Forest repeat? Wait until there is proof the bodies are stacking up? The lack of immediacy on the right is disgusting.”

I could go on, but I think you should be getting an idea of the types of comments on the Bar encouraging political violence.

But what really irked the investigator of the Baen comment section was that it appeared there were a lot of refugees from other platforms:

Since the November 3rd elections, Baen’s Bar has seen a surge of new registrants.[See Note 6] While most of these new members have not yet posted anything, some of these users appeared to join the forum because other platforms they used, such as Parler and now-banned Reddits, had been shut down.

For example, a user named Turk joined on January 11, 2021, writing “I heard about this site on a few other forums. Conservative but not rabidly or idiotically.”

So what did Turk believe qualified as “not” being rabidly or idiotically conservative? When someone on the forum praised the police officer who led the rioters away from the Senate floor during the Capitol siege, Turk said, “He should have let them invade the senate floor. Time those POS’s faced a little reality.” The rest of that thread then discussed how the riot wasn’t that bad because not many cops were really hurt (fact check: over 100 were injured, a number of them seriously) and “only” 5 people were killed, which to forum users meant the siege wasn’t that serious.

This view was shared by others on the Bar, with user Arun.tblp describing the Capitol siege as a “peaceful protest.”

The investigator found a small number of comments in a very active forum, and used those to portray the forum as dangerous.

Why would someone spend such time going through a comment section? Maybe it was just to effect a change in moderation of comments, not part of a plan as the Monster Hunter Nation article suggested.  Another author who is published by Baen Books suggests a sinister motive after reviewing the specific comments in question:

He does this in order to obscure what is the single most outstanding feature of the meat of his essay, which is that his argument is entirely based on selective anecdotes—ironically, a favorite argumentative tactic of right wingers. In fact, what he does is exactly what I criticized the Sad Puppies for doing in a series of essays I wrote on the Hugo ruckus back in 2015. (For which I got an Alfie award, by the way.) They would race around and collect a bunch—rather small bunch—of statements by various people, most of whom you’d never heard of, that they considered outrageous and present them as proof that there was a great conspiracy to commit wrong-doing.

The attempted deplatforming is the story here. It’s the weak point of any website. And the comment sections can be weaponized in the deplatforming effort, it’s one of the reasons so many comment sections have closed.  (Remember how American Thinker recently suspended its comments as a precaution?). It is a particular risk to websites that do not have large staff and want to permit free exchange. Commenters who make even violent innuendo are putting websites at risk because there are a lot of people waiting for the opportunity to deplatform others.

The Publisher of Baen Books, Toni Weisskopf, issued this statement:

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, 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. 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.

The publisher has been canceled by a sci-fi conference, which was to honor Weisskopf as Guest of Honor.

This is what now might be called a Parler Attack. Parler had been unfairly smeared as the organizing platform for the Capitol Hill riot, when in fact our own and other analyses show that Department of Justice criminal complaints focus far more heavily on organizing on Facebook and Twitter.

Parler got a bum rap, and that bum rap was exploited by Apple, Google, and Amazon Web Services to take Parler down for a month (it came back only through the hard efforts of its team). When someone writes an article claiming that Baen Books sponsors a violent forum, the implications are obvious — deplatforming.

Anyone who is right of center needs to plan for Parler Attacks. We are, though you never know if plans work until they are tested.

This isn’t simply cancel culture. The policing of speech by busy-bodies like the guy who wrote about Baen Books is more insideous even than bullying by Big Tech. A good explanation of how control is maintained through surveillance by citizens appears in an article by Lauren Reiff at Medium from May 2020, The Psychological Impact of the Soviet Union’s Reign & Fall:

The recipe for a successful dictatorial regime would be incomplete without internal, silent policing of thought and action among citizenry. Creating a nation of subdued minds was forever at the top of the communist agenda. This was a necessary prescription for the iron fist of collectivism to work.

The dissident members of a population would need to be stamped out and summarily done away with. The will of the critics would need to be — no, not suppressed — but brutally snapped in half, given to equating resistance with ultimate futility.

That said, the pressures of obedience and ideological conformity operated both horizontally and vertically. Which is to say, the powers-from-above exerted force towards these ends in addition to the population keeping their fellow neighbor in check, for fear that the other might betray their dissent to the authorities. Such was the claustrophobic atmosphere so emblematic of the communist society.

Anyone who works on a campus knows this claustrophobic atmosphere in which there are numerous institutionalized methods of keeping dissidents in line. A mere accusation, even if anonymous, brings the full weight of the bureaucracy down on the target, and any snippet of incorrect thought could generate a petition or protest or attempted cancelation. So people hide, while others hunt.

That’s where we are at in the age of the Parler Attack. Those who refuse to hide need to be prepared.

 

 
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