Baen’s Bar Returns

Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf turned the Baen’s Bar forum back on today, ending the hiatus that came in the aftermath of Jason Sanford’s February 15 article “Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence”, a public post on Patreon.  

Weisskopf explained the decision to restore the Bar and commented on its policies going forward in “What I Saw at the Bar 2021”.

I’ve now had time to review the recent allegations made about Baen’s Bar, both specific and general.

And I can say with confidence that not a one of them is justified. What I saw was a vibrant, international community of readers who enjoyed engaging with each other for civilized discourse about everything from slush to scampi, from swords to shamans. I’ve gone through hundreds of posts, though admittedly not all of the hundreds of thousands of posts that were made over the decades long history of the Bar.

Were there posts that I disagreed with? Yes, some quite strongly. But that’s point of free speech. Were there posts which taken out of the context of the discussion they were in could be misconstrued? Yes. I did not see illegal speech even in the most heated discussions. And I did see long-time users step in to calm discussions down—which is what happens in healthy forums….

Weisskopf lays down the rules of conduct – which are the same the Bar has subscribed to all along.

There are traditional rules of the Bar decreed by the God Emperor Himself, Jim Baen of Sainted Memory, the most important of which after “no illegal posts,” are “no hitting” and “don’t be a butthead.”

A later paragraph about what topics are likely to be discussed in the forums includes this line about Tom Kratman —

Kratman is going to be discussing the past, present, and future of war, everywhere, involving everyone—and he has to abide by these rules, too.

But these evidently are not limits on Kratman posting such things as his January 8 item coaching the next stage of the insurrection. It’s still there, the one that begins —

So where do Trump and the nation go from here?

He needs to do three things; start his own news channel, start his own party, and start his own well-armed militia as part of the party.

The militia – again, a _well_armed_ militia – is necessary to present a threat in being to the powers that be such that, should they use extra-, pseudo-, and quasi-legal means to try to suppress the party, the price presented will be far too high.  The militia will be heavily infiltrated; this is a given.  No matter; it will not be there for any purpose but to present a serious threat of major combat, and the shame of defeat, and the reality of death, to the tactical elements, police and military, that may be used against the party….

Weisskopf’s statement closes with this peroration:

But let me put this very clearly: if you are seeking to plan imminent violence, from whatever political direction or none at all, that won’t fly. Equally, if the mere existence of an opinion that differs from yours means that you want that opinion eradicated from the Bar: that won’t fly either.

Despite the warnings, that the kind of thing Kratman uses the Bar for remains within bounds tells readers that the real limits on conduct are set right where you’d predict – the same place they always were.

The only thing that would have come as a surprise is if the status quo had not been fully restored. And there are no surprises to report.

[Thanks to George Phillies and Michael J. Lowrey for the story. Art by Alexis Gilliland.]

47 thoughts on “Baen’s Bar Returns

  1. Saddened but not surprised by this. The fact that Weisskopf refuses to concede any criticism of Baen’s Bar and is willing to allow it be used as an organizing tool for Trump’s Fascisti makes me think that the organizers of Discon III were amply justified in withdrawing their invitation to her.

  2. Disgusted but not surprised that the Marmot’s open coaching and calling for a heavily armed political party prepared to use those arms to enforce its will is welcome on Baen’s Bar.

  3. Carl Rosenberg: the organizers of Discon III were amply justified in withdrawing their invitation to her.

    Yes, this is exactly what Weisskopf said she would do in her original statement, and it’s exactly what she did. Any claims that DisCon III was premature in making its decision are now demonstrably wrong.

    And I don’t think Worldcon should be honoring someone who is happy to have their website hosting racist hate speech and incitement to insurrection and murder; that would send a very wrong message to the members of Worldcon – and to the people who might consider attending because they think Worldcon is okay with that.

  4. I know of at least one other convention at which she became a non-GOH due to the same reasons that DisCon III made the change.

    Reading this, they certainly made the right choice also.

  5. This is my complete lack of surprise. There was never any chance she was going to turn against the white supremacist contingent of SFF fandom.

  6. So the Bar isn’t “cancelled”. And its proprietor is doubling down. How completely unsurprising.

  7. So now we got confirmation that it was the correct decision to boot Weisskopf as GoH to Worldcon.

  8. Discon made absolutly the right choice and all the comments basicly point it out (also our host) that this was clear from the beginning.

    To the good news(sarcasmmode): Eric Flints Series has its resurce back and now there is no more reason to send death-treads to Sanford any longer (not that facts ever stop those people)

    The not so good news(for Bean): More so than the original statement that puts Bean completly in the alt-right camp. Kratmans statments are now pretty much Weiskopf statements, without any doubt.
    And this forum stands for Bean, it is their oficial forum.
    For every new writer that should be a warning sign. For anyone even thinking about posting at this forum it should also be.
    Perhaps the bar has been gone for a long time, but now it is out of the open. No posibility to hide anymore.
    No more weaselwords to hide.

  9. Surprised? No. Saddened? Slightly.

    Although a change here would probably have required Weisskopf to discipline one of her authors, potentially alienating him (both as a forum contributor and as an author) and possibly his presumably vocal fans.

    In the short term, this probably makes some level of economic sense. But, in the long term, this is another nail in the coffin of Baen, and that’s another small publisher that will eventually go away due to avoidable decisions by the management.

  10. “… not a one of them is justified.”
    :facepalm:
    The only way that is true is if she was talking about text format. Sorry… Copy editing joke.

    OK, she is pleasing the vocal authors and the vocal fans. That does make economic sense. But only in the short term.

    What about the many fans who stopped buying most (or any) of their books because of issues like this? Not just left-leaning fans but conservatives and moderates who might sgrer with some of the ideology but who don’t like the actions of the publisher, don’t like the lack of civility on some of the boards, or don’t like the way some authors seem to be told they can do no wrong?

    Also, if one of the rules is “No hitting,” then either follow that or admit that’s not really the rule and admit that “hitting” is allowed when done by certain posters but not others. Or clarify the meaning of the rule as “No hitting” might not be specific enough.

    Treating fellow readers like human beings on a message board should not be a political issue

    But I am glad the 1632 boards are back, as well as the boards that weren’t infected by hitting.

  11. Toni Weisskopf’s statement is contradictory. She wants the world to think there was nothing inappropriate on the company forum but she’s also doing things that indicate otherwise — transferring the ownership to a new company called SFF Forums, moving to a domain off baen.com and requiring a purchase from Baen to be a member.

    As a longtime forum moderator, I am not surprised that Baen’s Bar became so toxic based on the management attitude her statement demonstrates. Weisskopf shows that she’s not engaged in the content by saying “I’ve gone through hundreds of posts,” which means Jason Sanford has read more of the forum than she did. She also indicates that she doesn’t want moderators to actually moderate by removing users and removing posts.

    She writes, “Moving forward, please understand that the moderators will not be some sort of posting police.” If they aren’t, they aren’t moderators.

    But there are things she does want them to police.

    Though Weisskopf hasn’t ever said that “kill enough of them that they cannot arise for another 50 years” from a Baen’s Bar moderator was out of bounds, there are two things she does want moderated: “it’s being a butthead to put up links to other publishers, or charity efforts not previously approved by the moderators.”

    Who among us does not feel better that Baen’s Bar will not tolerate links to unapproved charity efforts?

  12. Well, with this reaction, especially condoning Tank Marmot explicitly, whose writing on ‘past and future of war’ seems to include hosting posts by himself and his fanbois calling for further insurrection after Jan 6th, Toni gives herself away as the Nazi-enabling person she is. Discon rightly pulled her GoH status.

    “But Toni is Jewish”, cry the Baen fanbois. Well, sorry guys, but it was the heads of the Jewish Councils who helped the Nazis empty the ghettos who were Jewish too.

  13. For the life of me I don’t know why Baen didn’t just tell people they don’t have a problem with Kratman (and others) posts, so fuck off. Because it’s clear that’s what they meant.

    They want an F/SF oriented forum where people can say the things Jason Sanford found objectionable. That’s the end goal. Just own it and move on.

  14. Mike, You are most welcome for my small contribution to your much longer story.

    Note that it is now BaensBar.net not bar.baen.com, so it is an entirely separate URL, with a new named person in the tech support group.

  15. SFF Forums LLC is a new corporation that filed articles of organization in Georgia on Feb. 25, nine days after Baen’s Bar was taken offline by Weisskopf following the Sanford report. There’s no information in the state corporations database on the officers of the corporation.

    None of the old links from bar.baen.com redirect to the new domain.

  16. No surprise. And honestly, if the bar hadn’t reopened, they’d just have found some other place to plot their insurrections.

  17. So basically, if I understand this correctly, she denies there was any speech at Baen’s Bar that violated guidelines encouraging violence – but she’s not putting back the board unchanged, with the same posts of the moderators fantasizing about mass murder undeleted, and the moderators in question still in authority? There will be a new iteration of the boards, changes in moderation? I’d specifically like to know if those moderators’ masturbatory fantasy posts longing for mass violence that Sanford put in his articles are still up and those moderators still active as such (though I don’t have the capacity to check). If she removed them, then it looks like she’s trying to protect Baen by improving moderation while appeasing Marmot and other extremist fanboys by not admitting she’d done so. If she left those posts up and those moderators in charge, she’s all in with them. Does anyone know which?

  18. @jayn,

    Well, at least on Marmot’s board there are no changes. I took the chance and pulled down the last half year in NNTP format, and checked it.

  19. @Mart

    Thanks. I really didn’t think Weiskopf would do anything to rein Marmot in – he’s one of her cash cows. But the volunteer moderators like “Theoryman” who Sanford quoted in his article…

    “As I’ve already pointed out, rendering ANY large city is uninhabitable is quite easy… And the Left lives in cities. The question is just how many of its inhabitants will survive…” Theoryman later in the thread suggested shooting transformers in cities with high-power rifles to make the cities “uninhabitable until restored,” adding in another post that “The point is to kill enough of them that they can not arise for another 50 years… or more.”

    …and another moderator named Ben-David who was screenshot by someone else (not in Sanford’s article) calling for blood in the streets and driving liberals into the sea or “sell them as slave to the Arabs and Africans. They ALL want white slaves after all…” – those moderators are different from Marmot in that they are anonymous, unpaid flunkeys who are presumably NOT producing any direct profit to Baen and don’t command a large fanbase of users of their own. If she’s protecting THEM, lovingly preserving their mass-murder fantasies undeleted and allowing them to continue to wield moderator authority over Baen’s Bar users – to me, that would be a far more ominous sign of malignancy than the merely venal action of publicly cheerleading Marmot to please his fanboys and avoid their wrath while quietly getting rid of the extremist moderators and erasing the evidence of their extremity without publicly admitting she’s doing so.

  20. jayn: To further your point — a post in the Bar dated April 8 identifies Theoryman as a forum administrator “in training” and a “moderator-at-large.” They’re just about top dog.

  21. Once upon a time I admired Baen for giving LMB her start and for early moves on e-books.

    Sigh.

    But I can’t say I’m surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised.

  22. Here’s a little ditty for you.

    Guess who just got back today?
    Them wild-eyed barflies that’d been away
    Haven’t changed, hadn’t much to say
    But man, I still think them cats are crazy
    They were askin’ if you were around
    How you was, where you could be found
    Told them you were livin’ downtown
    Drivin’ all the liberals crazy

    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    I said, the barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town

    Spread the word around…
    Guess who’s back in town!
    You spread the word around!

    Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill
    Down at Baen’s Bar and grill
    The drink will flow, and blood will spill
    And if the barflies wanna fight, you better let ’em
    That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favourite song
    The nights are gettin’ warmer, it won’t be long
    Won’t be long ’til summer comes
    Now that the barflies are here again

    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    (Spread the word around)
    The barflies are back in town
    The barflies are back in town
    (The barflies are back, the barflies are back)

  23. @jayn

    Nope. Blazes has not been purged either, all of theoryman’s violent incitement is still there.

    Although I note, fscking sneaky bastards, that the NNTP feed for Blazes and Politics has been purged, and only contains new posts since the Bar got back up. So obviously they don’t want anybody to do what I just did with Marmot’s forum, and grab an off-line copy. Either incompetence, or the act of someone who thinks they have something to hide.

  24. @Mart: Either incompetence, or the act of someone who thinks they have something to hide.
    I’m gonna go with “both”.

  25. Well, I can see that there’s no point in checking Baen’s Bar if I’m looking for high-quality, imaginative filking. 😀

  26. I note that amongst the things that are banned in this ‘Free Speech Haven’ is linking to other publishers. So for instance, a link to a story on tor.com could get you banned.

    “it’s being a butthead to put up links to other publishers, or charity efforts not previously approved by the moderators, and to run down Baen’s authors.”

    (From Weisskopf’s statement.)

    This seems to betray that they consider other publishers to be the enemy.

    As an aside, one of the hallmarks of being a cult is limiting spread of information from outsiders…

  27. I still like Toni. Have photos I’ve taken of her going back decades. And I still like the stuff that Baen publishes, especially the “1632” books.

    I was happy to take photos for Baen at the various ABA/Book Expo conventions over the years.

    I’ve never been on the forum, have no interest in doing so.

  28. @Mart
    Thanks. So, all the moderators who posted violent fantasies of urban mass murder are still approved moderators and their violent fantasy posts about mass murder are still up there – just not immediately accessible on the front page, so as not to put off casual users and newbies?

    Wow. Malignant AND venal.

  29. Without going into it further, I will point out that all of the “free speech” defenses that Toni keeps trotting out are entirely disingenuous.

    As has been noted several times in this thread, Baen’s Bar doesn’t provide for or defend “free speech”. They limit a wide range of speech, including commercial speech (posting links to other publisher’s websites, for example) and political speech (“running down” Baen authors), to go along with a variety of other restricted topics.

    At that point, you’re not defending “free speech”. You’re just picking and choosing what speech you find acceptable. So despite her protestations, Toni, by her actions, is loudly and clearly saying she is okay with neo-Nazis plotting insurrection and mass murder on her forums.

    She can’t hide behind the “free speech” platitudes for this, because she already crossed that bridge. Now she has to own her love of neo-Nazi rhetoric.

  30. @Jay Blanc

    As an aside, one of the hallmarks of being a cult is limiting spread of information from outsiders…

    I’ve had the impression that Baen is increasingly becoming a cult rather than a publisher for a while now.

  31. @Cora Buhlert: They’ve been cult-like for a long time, though.

    Apparently they even have a god (Baen; sheesh, enough with the Jim Baen worship) and a high priestess (Weisskopf).

    “No hitting” – meaninglessly vague. “Don’t be a butthead” – not using a normal definition of that.

    Bleah, well, this is mostly what I expected. I wonder if having another company own the domain, etc. really shields them much, as presumably it’s intended to. At least, I’d be surprised if she or Baen-the-company weren’t owners or part owners of this “startup.”

  32. @jayn,

    Well, the web interface to the bar is unchanged. If a post is not front page it’s because it’s old. The ‘musings on the future’ thread, which was full of promotion of violence, is currently on page 3 of the Blazes forum, because it mostly ran in late November 2020.

    What they did do is on the alternative interface, the NNTP feed; they purged all old posts from that feed. The obvious reason of course is that NNTP is a distributed protocol, so that anyone reading that feed can archive all posts that Baen offers. So if you want to keep people from building an off-line archive, you purge that feed.

  33. @Jay Blanc

    I got clarification from Toni, that was a case of overly strident wording, not the radical policy change it looked like.

    My questions:

    I’ve got a question about this bit:

    “Oh, and it’s Baen’s Bar-it’s being a butthead to put up links to other publishers,”

    How strictly is this intended to be enforced as written (it appears to be an absolute prohibition), and is it intended as a policy change? Interpreted as written at maximum strictness it’d mean we couldn’t mention Eric’s RoF press which would effectively brick the 1632 boards and force them to relocate elsewhere. Just based on that, I assume it’s written more strictly than is intended.

    Previously talking about books by Baen authors published elsewhere, occasional threads about non-Baen books were allowed as long as no one was being obnoxious about it. Are “well known author X’s latest book in the Y series is out”, or “has anyone else read the book by new author Z, I think they’re off to a great start” still allowed?”

    Toni’s reply:

    Just so. Baen.com sells Ring of Fire ebooks, so certainly they’d be allowed, for sure; ditto books by our authors from other publishers that we don’t sell at baen.com. (Yet.)

    I am less happy about the large amount of non-Baen snippeting going on in Authors. That does seem to go against the spirit of the rule. I may have to Say Something over there.

    But in general, recommendations in friendly conversation–sure, no biggie.

  34. @Daniel Neely

    This seems like a row-back… Right up until she also makes it clear she’s not happy with Baen Authors sharing previews from non-Baen published books on her forum. (A practice that is called ‘snippeting’ in Baen-bar jargon.)

    And Weisskopf has used up her allowance of expectation of good faith. I entirely expect it to be applied in just the same even and fair-handed way the No-Hitting rule was. (Or the ‘Global Warming’ rule, or the ‘Abortion’ rule…)

  35. I wonder if having another company own the domain, etc. really shields them much, as presumably it’s intended to. At least, I’d be surprised if she or Baen-the-company weren’t owners or part owners of this “startup.”

    I’m not a lawyer but I’m having trouble seeing what transferring the forum to SFF Forums LLC accomplishes.

    Membership in the forum requires buying something from Baen or donating to the forum, the domain and site have Baen’s name in it, and Baen is still participating in setting moderation policy.

  36. @rcade

    Opinions on how ‘the law’ works on Baen’s Bar tend towards the “Sovereign Citizen” ideas of magic incantations of protection. I think they might imagine the ‘limited liability’ shield protects them from all liability.

  37. rcade: I’m not a lawyer but I’m having trouble seeing what transferring the forum to SFF Forums LLC accomplishes… Baen is still participating in setting moderation policy.

    Yeah, given that Weisskopf has announced that she’s still dictating moderation policy, she can hardly claim lack of responsibility for what gets posted there. So even if the shell company gives her plausible legal deniability (and it may or may not actually do that), it still doesn’t give her any deniability when it come to other cons choosing to – or choosing not to – ask her to be a Guest of Honor.

    All the members of a convention have to do is point to this statement when they point out that Weisskopf’s business practices are inconsistent with convention Codes of Conduct.

  38. Perhaps it’s not Toni Weisskopf who is shielded by the new LLC, but the other investors in Baen Books.

    The thing I’m mildly curious about is that an LLC is supposed to carry on a business — so there must be a revenue stream somewhere in the design.

  39. @Mike Glyer: Excellent points, especially about the other investors in Baen! I’d been wondering where they sat in all this; maybe that’s the only purpose of the LLC.

  40. There is a bit of US law (Section 230) (that Trump wanted to repeal) that makes social media (etc.) sites not liable for user-created content. But I can imagine that this might not hold up if harassment was plotted in a forum AND site moderators, or other representatives of the site operator, were involved, exposing Baen’s Bar to a civil suit. By making the Bar operated by a separate sacrificial legal entity Baen Books avoids liability.

    IANAL

  41. “And honestly, if the bar hadn’t reopened, they’d just have found some other place to plot their insurrections.” This is very true, but it’s rather disturbing (to SF readers, fans, writers, editors and others involved with SF) that a chat room affiliated with a well-known SF publisher gives a home to this kind of thing.

  42. My decision to buy some Baen Books in spite of the Bar’s reputation has become harder with these recent events. Jason Sanford’s report was fair to Toni Weisskopf and Baen. He didn’t have to state, “I doubt Weisskopf supports violent comments like those found on her forum, and I also doubt Baen Books as a company does.”

    She could have reciprocated that fairness by acknowledging that he raised some concerns that were justified. Instead she wants the world to think there were never any problems on the forum she closed down for two months and moved to a new company.

    Speaking of that company, perhaps the purpose of SFF Forums LLC is not to shield Baen from liability but to show that Baen isn’t going to keep the bar afloat. Either it’s funded, managed and moderated by Barflies for the long haul or it goes away.

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