January 6th, Baen’s Bar, and the Definition of “Evil”


AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Addendum, 2-17-2021, 4:45 a.m. mountain time: Just an update from File 770 (still not a fan but it is an information source) on the whole Baen Bar fiasco. Of course, from that perspective, all conservatives are evil, but while 770 is also heavily biased, we must make certain that our own behavior and attitudes doesn’t support violence. No one is going to (I hope) cancel us because we believe in smaller government, the freedom to worship as we wish, free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and eating actual beef hamburgers in opposition to the dictates of Bill Gates.

Original content starts here: Oh, good grief. Here we go again. I can just hear it. “All people even slightly to the right of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are Trump, Hitler, and Satan combined.”

What do I mean?

Well first off, a little personal background.

When I started reading science fiction in the 1960s and 70s, it was well before we had any idea of an “internet” much less “social media.” Today, we can investigate pretty much anyone’s past, at least up to a point. And not just individuals, but organizations as well. Thus we can make some sort of determination if we want to be associated with people and groups with a particular “reputation” before we partake of any of their “wares.”

When I was reading science fiction, first as a teen and then as a young and then not-so-young adult, I neither knew nor cared about a writer’s or publisher’s politics or social opinions. Unless that somehow affected the writer’s stories (and, for example, Robert Heinlein’s politics and social views certainly did affect his stories), it didn’t matter. Although I did acquire some perspectives from what I consumed, I mainly read science fiction because it was (is and should be) fun.

But this morning, I was wandering around twitter and saw a tweet from Cora Buhlert to Jason Sanford (I won’t tag him on twitter because I have no idea how he’d react to me) saying she was sorry he had to put up with something. Actually, it was this:


Screenshot from twitter

I had no context for what was being said, so I moved on (he should have said “facts” rather than “truth,” but never mind).

Quite apart from all that, I decided to peek in on Mike Glyer’s File 770 fanzine just to see what was going on. There I found both Pixel Scroll 2/15/21 A Hit! A Palpatine Hit! (see item 1: Investigation of Baen’s Bar) and Weisskopf Announces Hiatus for Baen’s Bar.

You can click on those two links and find out pretty much what I did. I really had no idea there were science fiction publishers that “leaned right,” let alone private forums sponsored by said-publishers that did the same. Based on almost everything I’ve researched (which is hardly exhaustive) about the SF/F industry, it seemed they leaned overwhelmingly left, making me just one tiny red (well not really since I’m an independent rather than Republican or Democrat) fleck of conservative in an enormous ocean of blue (containing more than a few sharks gliding just under the surface).

Okay, here is Baen Books which publishes a lot of science fiction as you can see. I was about as aware of them as I was any of these other publishers, which is to say, not much. I just recognized the name.

On the Pixel roll, I found:

Jason Sanford has published an investigative report on the disturbing number of right-wing users calling for political violence on Baen’s Bar, the private message board of the SF/F publisher Baen Books. Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence, a public post on Patreon.

Sanford wrote and Glyer quoted:

A moderator with the username Theoryman wrote, “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.”


[T]his user is a moderator for Baen’s Bar, meaning the publishing company selected this user to monitor and manage discussions on their forum.

As I mentioned before, you can click the links I provided to get the whole story, but my take on all this is going to be different than most other people’s.

baen's bar

Screenshot from the Baen’s Books website.

As a self-confessed “conservative” (no, that doesn’t automatically equate to “Son of Satan”), I’m deeply concerned how the actions and speech of a relatively small but vocal group of people who also call themselves “conservative” is going to have on the rest of us.

For quite some time, but particularly since the January 6 Capitol riots, uprising, insurrection or whatever you want to call it, in social media and sometimes in the news, every single member of the Republican party has been equated with racism, sexism, misogyny, violence, domestic terrorism, and just about any other kind of evil you want to name.

Don’t believe me? How about the article Republican Party is now a terrorist organization — and none of this is a surprise by “Salon.” Or look at Put the Republican Party on the Domestic Terrorist Watch List at “The American Prospect”.

According to the Salon article:

In refusing to convict Donald Trump for his crimes against democracy, the Republican Party has announced that Republican presidents are above the law and can act with impunity, as kings or dictators do — and that this is now true for Republican officials on the federal, local and state level as well.

In total, the Republican Party has created a precedent that right-wing political violence and terrorism, including coups and other attempts to overthrow legal elections, are now acceptable in the United States — as long as they are perpetrated by Republicans and their allies against Democrats and others deemed to be “un-American.”

This is the essence of fascism and authoritarianism. Such beliefs and values have broad support among Republican voters and other members of the right wing more generally.

That last sentence was an amazing example of a glaring generality, but anyway…

I won’t go into the examples of left-wing politicians and organizations that have either intimated or outright said that violence against the right is justifiable and desirable because that’s not my point (I only mention it to remind readers that we do not live in a strictly polarized universe, regardless of how the news markets it).

What people who don’t belong to various organizations and collections of human beings believe about them is only what they read about or watch or listen to from sources they likely trust.

So if I believe everyone slightly left of center is the equivalent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who many of you may like and even celebrate, but who I consider rather unrealistic in her planning for the planet, national budget, the First Amendment, and viewing the world through her own self-acknowledged issues), I would be stereotyping people on the left as much as I believe people on the right are being stereotyped.

However, when I develop a personal relationship with people who have political/social views unlike mine, I sometimes (but not all the time) find that we are more alike than unalike.

That said, in social media, because of the Trump era, various BLM and Antifa “mostly peaceful but often incendiary” protests for the majority of 2020, the aforementioned January 6th incident, the whole COVID, Masks, Social Distancing, Vaccine, “if you don’t mask up and get a shot immediately, you are a mass murderer” collection of events and attitudes, my interactions with people I used to be able to “agree to disagree with” has become highly problematic.

It’s gotten to the point to where either they’ve dropped me like a hot rock on social media or I’ve dropped them. It’s really too bad because many of us used to kind of like each other and in some cases, we were once friends. I was developing a relationship with a young lady on twitter, but then I was critical of something Rashida Tlaib said, and suddenly I was history.

The same with some of my concerns involving the current Vice President Kamala Harris or other left-wing popular icons. Yes, I have attitudes and opinions, too.

However, getting back to the main theme, political and social disagreement is not violence. Yes, I read the quotes from Baen’s Bar and yes, they threatened violence. Yes, far right-wing white nationalists performed acts of violence on January 6th in Washington D.C. I don’t condone any of that and no conservative I know personally does either.

Chances are the vast, vast majority of us that lean right in one sense or another (conservatives run along a scale just as liberals do…there’s no “one size fits all”) don’t condone these acts, either.

But we’re being painted with the same broad brush, so it seems it’s possible to be guilty of being evil just because of how the word “conservative” is being stereo-typically defined.

I read an article (which I can’t find right now in a quick Google search) that said people aren’t being cancelled just because they’re conservative. It was meant to address the recent firing of Gina Carano by Disney/Lucasfilm for her conservative tweets and Instagram.

Fair enough. Yes, conservatives, and Christian churches can and are very “cancel culture” oriented as well. In fact, I’ve never been in a more “you’ve got to watch your ass” environment than in a Christian Church. One wrong word or attitude, and you are out. Trust me, I’ve been there on more than one occasion.

But that doesn’t make such judgments against others right. Just because someone is left or right may not mean they’re dangerous or evil or Nazis or whatever. Also, just because the right cancels people doesn’t automatically mean the left doesn’t.

I’d argue that although Trump, COVID, and the various riots enacted by numerous groups over the past year have exacerbated the polarization of America, it’s really been coming for a very long time.

If we don’t want events such as Baen’s Bar to taint a lot of people who don’t deserve that reputation, what can we do?

We can at least try to reach across the aisle (far, far easier said than done) and talk to each other. I’ve tried, and only managed limited success. More often than not, commenting on twitter or on a blog to someone who is unlike me draws quite a bit of fire and accusations based on assumptions about a group rather than facts about me.

This probably won’t do any good. It never has before. Still, even as I can feel myself becoming more cynical and wanting to close myself off from people and groups who would rather label me than consider the possibility I could actually be human, I’ve got to try. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one left who wants to. That’s likely untrue because, as I said, the ones who do want to just be peaceful, get along, and write good stories, aren’t the ones making all the noise, and certainly we’re not the ones making the threats.

Well, this is “Hitler” and “Satan” signing off…for now.

Oh, and I expect a certain someone to make one or more comments complaining about me. I’ll have to decide whether or not to approve them based on their content. Yeah, if twitter and Facebook can do that, I guess I can as well.

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