Weisskopf Announces Hiatus for Baen’s Bar

Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf told participants that the company’s online forum Baen’s Bar will be “taking a break” as of midday February 16. The announcement 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 said:

It’s 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. 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.—Toni Weisskopf, Publisher

Source: https://bar.baen.com/index.php?t=msg&th=171954&start=0& (login required)

Sanford’s report of the disturbing number of right-wing users calling for political violence on Baen’s Bar has been met with retaliation in social media. He tweeted, “Instead of anyone dealing with my report on the Baen Books forum by, you know, simply banning advocacy of political violence there, I’m now getting death threats and harassment.”

When asked by a user how long Baen’s Bar will be on break, Weisskopf replied, “As brief as is possible. But no, not sure yet how brief that brief will be.”

 [Thanks to Ben Bird Person for the story.]

135 thoughts on “Weisskopf Announces Hiatus for Baen’s Bar

  1. Weisskopf: speech not everyone agrees with

    Considering that Baen’s Bar has always prided itself on hosting “speech not everyone agrees with”, this is some seriously bizarre weasel wording. Surely saying “speech that may be unlawful” should have been sufficient.

  2. I’m not sure what the hierarchy of power and responsibility over Baen’s Bar is, but that this is only happening now, today, in response to Sanford making the ugly situation public, even though the posts encouraging violence had been steadily ramping up since Election Day – that doesn’t say anything good about those in charge. The most generous benefit-of-the-doubt assumption is that Weisskopf et al knew nothing about was going on in the forum for which they are responsible, such that they had to learn about it from the Twitter rebroadcast of the Genre Grapevine post. And that would be grossly negligent of them. Still, a much more generous assumption than the one I’m inclined to make, which is that they knew and approved, and are only moving to stop it, or at least appear to stop it, now that the unflattering truth has become more widely known.

  3. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: I was curious why in Sanford’s article at two points (the beginning and end) he ruled out the possibility that Toni Weisskopf and corporate Baen might find these views compatible (“I doubt Weisskopf supports violent comments like those found on her forum, and I also doubt Baen Books as a company does.”) It was a departure from his practice of providing supporting receipts — really no more than an aspirational statement.

  4. Good for flipping the circuit breakers.

    I’ll note that Larry Correia’s fan pages on Facebook & MeWe have had a “no boogaloo” rule for some time — presumably to avoid exactly this “oops we accidentally tormented insurrection” situation

  5. “I doubt” rules out nothing it clearly flags something as an opinion rather than a fact.

  6. Since there have already been death threats against Sanford just for reporting what gets discussed there, I think escalation seems likely now that Baen has suspended activity on the forum. More threats against Sanford, probably, and maybe some against Weisskopf.

  7. Laura Resnick: maybe some against Weisskopf.

    Nah, that message, “It’s been brought to my attention by some helpful folks that speech not everyone agrees with… and encourage all our readers to enjoy their lawful conversations elsewhere for the time being” is code for “Dammit, now that this speech with which I was fine has become very public, I have to pretend to care about it and be seen as doing something.”

    The Barflies will know exactly how to interpret that statement, and nobody’s going to be making threats in that direction.

  8. Not sure if the weasel words are because Weisskopf supports the kind of statements that have been made or don’t want to alienate their customer base, but I think the time to differentiate between these have long since passed.

    If she can’t manage to take a stand against the statements made in the forums she is responsible for, then I absolutely think DisCon 3 should uninvite her as GoH. After the storming of the Capitol, weaseling isn’t good enough.

  9. Well it’s no great surprise that a message board encouraging T*m K******m to be an active participant attracts that kind of message. And the whole thing smacks of the same sort of laziness I expect from Baen these days.

  10. After the death threats that Sanford has gotten…yeah.

    The way Weisskopf’s statement is written makes me wonder how much she did know and tactily accept before the report

    “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light”

  11. Okay, that was a necesary steep, that will not get TW the release that she believes it will.
    I am also thinking that Worldcon should do somethink about it.

    speech not everyone agrees with

    This is worded so weekly for hate. I got the impression that they shout down their forum and then reopen it, trying to delete as little as posible. (perhabs unfair, but thats how it sounds)
    Their are 2 posibilitys: The nicer on, is that she failed in controlling the bar, by trusting the wrong people and not controlling them. Which is still an epic failure exspecially now. And no one was looking at Bean’s Bar and telling Weiskopf anythink? Has the place becoming alt-right central?

    The less nicer for Weiskopf is that she agrees with everythink written there or doesn’t care.

    Epic fail, criminal neglet or been part of it, I will watch how far Bean falls and if they get out.

  12. Baen’s Bar gives a dedicated sub-forum and moderator privileges to a well known Nazi apologist, whose behavior in these comments sections have been so horrible they’ve been banned and their name will get the comment flagged for moderation. That is not a mere failure of oversight.

  13. @Chris Hensley:

    I said an epic failure of oversight. I agree that was predictable and holy shit they gave moderationprivilige to the tank? Who can think for a second, this is not one of the most horrible ideas you can have, you don’t give modpowers to the biggest problem in your forum, argh.
    I mean I am perhabs to nice, that I could see TW as someone who just doesn’t care about her forum at all, and gave this to underlings, but this is one case where I say, that people should be fired and Bean’s Bar probably not be opened again.

  14. StefanB: holy shit they gave moderation privilige to the tank? Who can think for a second, this is not one of the most horrible ideas you can have, you don’t give mod powers to the biggest problem in your forum, argh

    Weisskopf called Tank Marmot a “military SF star” and had him write the afterword to Baen’s reprint of Heinlein’s Sixth Column, in which he wrote admiringly of the clever psychological strategy of kidnapping the women from the opponent’s side and raping them (which is probably why Baen no longer has Heinlein reprint rights).

    Weisskopf knows exactly who and what Tank Marmot is, and she’s fully onboard with him.

  15. JJ: That doesn’t chance the fact, that is unbelivable stupid to use him as a moderator.
    I am to nice to Toni Weiskopf, I know. My point is even if I try to be, it makes her dangerously incompetend.
    I give her the benefit of a doubt, that she was to uninterested to notice, that in her forum, there were deadtreads runing around and this is to much probably.
    I am trying from best case scenario here, which is basicly hands over the ears and singing lalala. Let’s look how Bean trys to dig themselves out.
    I don’t think the hellhole that was Bean’s forum is savable, and every participant has some questions to ask him or herself.
    I allready said, that this years Worldcon has to react, uninviting Toni Weiskopf as guest of honor seems to me the wisest curse of action.

  16. Well weasel-worded, Ms Weisskopf.

    I suspect that what’ll be needed is some serious clean-up among the volunteer moderators. I also suspect nothing like that will actually happen. Because that could be perceived as limiting the freeze peach.

  17. Baen’s Bar members who haven’t been around that long might not realize this is not the first time the Bar had a hiatus. The Bar had one shortly after discussions went haywire following 9/11 and the “debates” that ensued.

    I don’t remember if there were death threats — and I don’t think there were. I seem to remember this was done to keep the peace and reinforce their own rules of conduct. It’s possible something was done because fans (and authors?) were complaining about ho bad it was. And pointing out their own rules of conduct were being ignored.

    The main difference… After 9/11, it took only days for Baen Books to take the board down after things got heated. The management (which was Jim Baen at that time, with help from Arnold) strongly implied that they might decide to close down the Bar. There was no promise that it would come back. There were no phrases like “speech not everyone agrees with.”

    But it was also a different Bar back then, even if some of the same players were there. The loss of Arnold (who retired due to illness in 2010) may have had a bigger impact than people realized.

  18. StefanB says I allready said, that this years Worldcon has to react, uninviting Toni Weiskopf as guest of honor seems to me the wisest curse of action.

    I fully agree. And Weiskopf is quite delusional if she thinks that her toxic forums can be cleaned up as those forums are simply the people that use them. Is she going to tell them they cannot post in the manner that they’ve been doing so? I think not.

  19. I’m kind of torn about the “Toni Weiskopf must be disinvited” thing. On the one hand, inviting her in the first place is a fairly clear sign that I am not their target audience, but there’s no reason to expect everything to be aimed just at me. One the other hand, I think she should be given a chance to clean her house

  20. Shutting down Baen’s Bar temporarily stops the New York Times and other mainstream outlets from following up Jason Sanford’s report with their own dive through the messages, which would turn this into a much bigger PR problem for the publisher.

    Though Baen’s Bar contains over 800,000 messages, I don’t regard it as plausible that Weisskopf and Baen’s other management knew nothing about what was going on in their forum. They would have received complaints in email about egregious behavior. There also were times that offensive forum content was covered elsewhere, like the post on File 770 in January that quoted a Baen author calling on Trump to create an armed militia.

    Baen needs to make a clear statement that calls for political violence are not acceptable and it should apologize for allowing these posts on its forum. It should explain the steps it will take to prevent that kind of discussion from happening again.

  21. Weisskopf isn’t going to “clean house,” although, yeah, she should have some time to demonstrate that, or to surprise us. But if nothing substantial changes, she needs to be disinvited. Advocating the violent overthrow of the lawfully elected government isn’t “a difference of opinion.”

    That statement reads as if she’s grudgingly doing the absolute minimum Baen’s lawyers told her she had to do, and I expect no positive changes to come from it.

  22. @Mike: That’s an aspirational statement, and possibly also an attempt to keep himself out of legal trouble. It might let him say something like “What on Earth are you asking me to retract? It says right here in the article, twice, that I doubt either Baen Books or Weisskopf supports political violence. Are you asking a court to require me to retract that statement?”

    (I am, still, not a lawyer.)

  23. I’m curious about the “have become” part of “speech […] that may have become unlawful speech”.

    Is Weiskopf implying that the kind of speech her moderators have participated in used to be lawful, but have become unlawful recently due to some narrowing of free speech regulations in USA? Or is it just a clumsy way of saying “behaviour has deteriorated”?

  24. @ vicki and mike: My sense was that he was trying to leave room for Baen Books and Weiskopf to save face and make changes, i.e., he was being tactful and aspirational. So I guess I agree with mike.

  25. This is a statement designed to do the bare minimum to avoid liability; describing a call for a mass casualty event “speech not everyone agrees with” say either what Weiskopf really thinks here, or what she is uninterested in criticizing. And that was far from the only call for blood.

    No one can accuse her of not knowing her authors, or her customers. The question is, are people, for old times sake, willing to look past her being fine with these things, because it would be awkward to address?

  26. That report was surprising not because hate speech was going on in Baen’s Bar (look at who they publish and cater to), it was surprising because of the degree.

    Oh my gods…

    Toni’s words are very telling.

    If that is how the publishers head speaks in reaponse to reports about political violence, I want nothing to do with them. Theur leadership let alone their biggest “fans” make me feel unsafe.

    When I eventually look to get published, I will never go to Baen Books. Not even if they allowed me to pick my own book cover instead of…whatever they like to use.

  27. Or is it just a clumsy way of saying “behaviour has deteriorated”?

    Trying to downplay things by suggesting that individuals may have strayed over the line occasionally is what that sounds like to me.

  28. rcade wrote:

    Shutting down Baen’s Bar temporarily stops the New York Times and other mainstream outlets from following up Jason Sanford’s report with their own dive through the messages, which would turn this into a much bigger PR problem for the publisher.

    That’s a good point, and I hadn’t thought of it. In the past, major news outlets didn’t cover SF/F that closely. They usually didn’t review the books (or the books were reviewed sneeringly); they didn’t give obituaries to all but the major authors; etc. (Or they reported on them if there was something shocking about their death.)

    Now, SF/F publishing is somewhat cooler, and news outlets have to post more content. So once this story is picked up by more online outlets, it should get the attention of the major outlets. (Especially as this combines publishing and politics.) Then, if they go to Baen’s Bar and see it was taken down, they’ll most likely assume the publisher did its job.

  29. Hey, the time machine finally brought me back!

    Yeah, it completely stretches credibility beyond any reasonable limit to pretend that a publisher who routinely associates with her authors in person has no idea who they are, especially given how vocal this particular litter is.

    Toni knows exactly what she’s saying with that mealy-mouthed noncommittal pap, and so do all the Barflies. Perhaps a handful of posts will get edited or removed, maybe a couple of authors will get asked to lay low for a little while, but I don’t see it going any further than that.

  30. For some reason that Twitter thread is borked. I saw it once in chronological order from beginning to end but never again. Here’s what Tager wrote:

    I was at a shitty crustpunk bar once getting an after-work beer. One of those shitholes where the bartenders clearly hate you. So the bartender and I were ignoring one another when someone sits next to me and he immediately says, “no. get out.”

    And the dude next to me says, “hey i’m not doing anything, i’m a paying customer.” and the bartender reaches under the counter for a bat or something and says, “out. now.” and the dude leaves, kind of yelling. And he was dressed in a punk uniform, I noticed

    Anyway, I asked what that was about and the bartender was like, “you didn’t see his vest but it was all nazi shit. Iron crosses and stuff. You get to recognize them.” And i was like, ohok and he continues.

    “you have to nip it in the bud immediately. These guys come in and it’s always a nice, polite one. And you serve them because you don’t want to cause a scene. And then they become a regular and after awhile they bring a friend. And that dude is cool too.

    And then THEY bring friends and the friends bring friends and they stop being cool and then you realize, oh shit, this is a Nazi bar now. And it’s too late because they’re entrenched and if you try to kick them out, they cause a PROBLEM. So you have to shut them down.

    And i was like, ‘oh damn.’ and he said “yeah, you have to ignore their reasonable arguments because their end goal is to be terrible, awful people.”

    And then he went back to ignoring me. But I haven’t forgotten that at all.

  31. @JJ re:

    The Barflies will know exactly how to interpret that statement, and nobody’s going to be making threats in that direction.

    I’ve never looked at the Bar. But that would be giving the Barflies credit for a lot more temperance than has been shown by right-wing extremists elsewhere, who have instantly branded as targets anyone they’d previously supported who did anything to thwart them.

  32. Sanford’s article has gotten a mention on Publisher Weekly’s Twitter feed. I would expect a story in PW magazine and on their website. This story will be getting out. Also, Baen Books is a very small company. This is not a large company where things might be lost in the company’s bureaucracy. Baen’s Bar has always been a main feature of the company. Since they make announcements and post fiction on the bar, I’m sure that a paid staff member is checking it often. I’m betting that Weisskopf knew very much of what was going on, but she didn’t want to alienate a major core of Baen’s readership. Baen Books is distributed by Simon & Schuster. I’m wondering if they may have to start looking for a new distributor.

  33. I have had an account at Baen’s bar for more than twenty years, I think, and I used to be a regular there, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time. It developed into a cesspit of conspiracy theories, racism, misogyny, and homophobia over a long time, and you could see the beginnings of it as early as during Jim Baen’s tenure.

    That said, there were people over at the Bar who were concerned about what was happening, and tried to tell the moderators and probably Toni Weisskopf as well what was happening. So she was most assuredly not unaware what was going on before Sanford’s report.

  34. As usual, Weisskopf gives a nod and wink, providing cover. I’m surprised she bothered closing it temporarily. Maybe Baen retains a lawyer with half a brain. I don’t expect much to come of this. Maybe just making it tougher to join the bar (pardon my cynicism). [ETA: By that I mean, making it tougher for new people to join, so Baen & their moderators can more easily avoid more reporting and accountability.]

    @JJ: “Nah, that message . . .” – Exactly!

    @Rob Thornton: “Weisskopf’s only concern seems to be that Baen got caught.” – Bingo! As publisher, granted, she should be concerned about that, but LORDY, it shouldn’t be her first or only concern.

    @rcade: Thanks, I read the story on the thread (had to read his replies-to-replies to get the whole thing) and it was great!

    @Various: I’m no fan of hers, but I favor waiting to see how things develop instead of asking now that she be dropped as Worldcon GoH.

  35. It will be interesting to see if any of the non-rightist authors that Baen publishes have any reaction. Off the top of my head I can think of M. Lackey, L.M. Bujold and Eric Flint, who’s pretty SJW-ish in an old school socialist/union kind of way. Particularly since Flint’s been migrating a fair amount of his 1632/Ring of Fire stuff to his own small press.

    I was gonna add a snark about Baen’s cover art, but it’s not worth it. They got bigger problems.

    Also got to say in connection with Correia, “Cancel culture”? Really?

  36. And naturally it took the MHI commentariat all of an hour to test the theory that Baen’s capitulated, reject that in favor of it being a coordinated attack by The Left (complete with the problematic content really being false-flag posts by Seekrit Leftist Infiltrators), assert that this is really about smashing Baen into nonexistence by denying them distribution, denounce such coordinated attacks as despicable lefty tactics, and finally call for a coordinated attack on Sanford’s Patreon account.

    Y’know, I wonder how long it’ll take for them to figure out that if a couple of billionaires on the right decided to buy a web hosting company, it could be a safe harbor for all these poor little oppressed conservatives… and then wonder why none of them have done so yet. Couldn’t be because platform TOSes are carefully crafted to prevent legal trouble for the platform, and that the content being objected to is prohibited because it’s actually illegal, could it? Heavens, that might mean that all those platforms aren’t actually run to push lefty agendas, but to comply with federal laws, so it’s not a giant conspiracy after all! Mercy!

    It was satisfying to see JdA get his ass handed to him by his supposed fellow travelers, though. A twit without a country, I suppose…

  37. Lackey and Dixon left the bar many years ago-owing to the treatment they got because of their politics, so the writing’s been on the wall for awhile (I was a Bar member at the time this happened). I left myself years ago, because the racism and homophobia were profound. As far as Lois Bujold, she doesn’t social media at all and did not have a forum there she participated in. I cannot imagine she’d appreciate it.

  38. Also got to say in connection with Correia, “Cancel culture”? Really?

    I believe the canonical Baen’s Bar response to this would be, “If you can’t take the heat, Correia, get out of the kitchen.”

    (When marginalized people get bullied into silence and/or lose their jobs, they call it “If you can’t take the heat…” and “invisible hand of the free market, what can you do?” When mainstream right-wing pundits get criticized for speaking favorably of actual terrorism and assassinations, they call it “cancel culture”.)

  39. Larry Correia’s so allergic to factuality he tells his blog readers Jason Sanford is a “nobody, wannabe writer” instead of naming him. Sanford’s a two-time Nebula Award nominee (best novella in 2009 and best novelette in 2016) whose stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Interzone, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and many other publications. He’s also the founding editor of storySouth. Other than that, though, and about a dozen other things I left out for brevity, he’s a complete unknown.

  40. @Anne Marble: Yes, I was around for the hiatus after 9/11, and I don’t recall death threats precisely, but there were a lot of very angry Conservative Barflies who were lashing out, both on the Bar and in private emails. The Publisher shut down the Bar to interrupt the cycle of anger, but also to protect himself from liability.

    Weisskopf isn’t as astute as Jim Baen was, and she’s more aligned with the RW members (JB was Libertarian, and contrarian, so he didn’t completely fall for RW stuff).

    Tank Marmot simply amplifies hate everywhere he goes. I could not point out a more vile and angry man anywhere, unless I looked at the seething pits of White Supremacy online. I can only hope he comes to the full attention of authorities, and before he accomplishes any of his vile, hateful ideals.

    Of course, I write this on February 16 of 3777, so this is all history to me now.

  41. @Rev Bob
    It was freakin’ hilarious to see in the comments at MHI Larry Correia get into a hissyfit with JdA over which of them had the honor of being Martin Niemöller’s martyr who the SJW’s had ‘come for’ first, though they are both patently still there.

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