Revenge of the Baen, the Jason Sanford Report, and the Quest for Justice (or is it Vengeance?)


Baen books logo.

What a mess.

Scrolling through twitter this morning (it always comes back to twitter), I found Paul Weimer’s thread (never heard of him before this) citing File 770‘s article Baen Strikes Back; Sanford Under Growing Storm of Harassment.

As you may remember from my previous blog post, a whole bunch of nastiness has been happening, not really exactly at Baen Books, but because of an investigative piece written by Jason Sanford titled Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence.

That was three days ago and this has gotten anything but better.

According to the aforementioned “Strikes Back” write up, a number of people have come to Baen’s defense, and some of them in a spectacularly hostile manner (so much so that Sanford has temporarily locked down his social media accounts based on a great deal of harassment including death threats).


Jason Sanford – found on his website and twitter account.

Okay, given the evidence presented, some members of the Baen’s Bar forum were at least suggesting violence against “leftist” cities up to and including murder.

Sanford reported on this and began receiving death threats.

File 770 and other outlets reported on these events and at some point, Baen temporarily shut down their forum.

But it didn’t end there (naively, I assumed it would).

You have push back from folks such as Jason Cordova, Sarah A. Hoyt, Eric Flint, Cedar Sanderson and so on.

I’ll state again for the record, that I don’t know and haven’t even heard of the majority of these people before this whole thing went down, including Sanford.

Hoyt did post this image on her blog, which seems to illustrate her position on the matter.


Found at Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog.

Her post is rather brief, but it did quote Larry Correia, who I have heard of, and he said:

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.

He goes on to say:

Toni Weisskopf is a strong believer in free speech. She publishes books by republicans, libertarians, democrats, and socialists, it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we entertain our readers. Toni doesn’t tell us what we can or can’t speak about.

Let’s stop for a moment. Yes, I support free speech and in addition to being on Facebook and twitter, I’m also on MeWe and Parler (calm down, it’s not as bad as it seems). Yes, in a sparsely or completely unmonitored web environment, the lowest common denominator will be highly active. But then there are the rest of us who’d just like to talk about smaller government, our Christian or Jewish beliefs, loving our grandchildren, and how Firefly is really a libertarian manifesto, without being flamed or censored.

However, there are limits to even free speech.

Even if the people on the Baen forum really weren’t going to shoot out electrical transformers in major metropolitan areas and kill enough leftists (as in human beings) so they wouldn’t be able to come back very quickly, the threats themselves are horrifying.

Imagine being a conservative and hearing leftists say they will restrict or cancel the First and Second Amendments, restrict access to in-person worship in churches, reprogram us to have different political / social beliefs, advocating for keeping us from doing commerce, or even going so far as to say that physical violence against us is justifiable and desired? (has anyone really said that?)

There’s a line in the first Star Trek pilot The Cage (1965). When Captain Pike is captured by the Talosians and Pike is “talking tough” to them, the Talosian leader refers to his “primitive fear-threat reaction.”

I’ve seen examples of that from people on twitter who apparently really hated Rush Limbaugh so much, they celebrated his death by lung cancer. Even when I pointed out that no matter how badly they thought of him, they could rise above his level by not issuing vile insults, they doubled down and lowered themselves even further than he ever did.


AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

You saw exactly the same thing on January 6th with the far-right protesters invading the Capitol complex, and because of that, five people died.

You could even make an argument that the protests, looting, and rioting following the death of George Floyd was the same basic psychological, biological response.

People can say and do crazy things when they’re afraid.

The verbal and even physical hostility and violence against people perceived to be Trump supporters is understandable (though not desirable) when you realize just how much so many people were terrified of Donald Trump.

The threats made by certain parties at Baen’s Bar is also understandable if you realize that they also felt threatened, and a response of at least verbal (textual) violence against those they feared was based on the same “primitive fear-threat response”.

But is it justifiable?


At the end of the day, if you say all you want is peace and to end the violence, responding against your perceived adversaries with violence kind of takes away the validity of your statements.

We get everything from drive-by shootings to full-scale wars based on those emotions and motivations.

I think the defense of Baen Books in general and the Baen Bar in specific is rooted in the same reaction. People feel threatened, if not their lives then their livelihoods. My personal perception is that there is very little room for conservative or libertarian (they’re different) writers and artists in the Science Fiction and Fantasy industry, so maybe some (a lot…most) of those feelings are valid.

However, threatening violence in a credible fashion (and credibility is somewhat dependent on perception), even if the intent to follow through isn’t present, can still look pretty ugly.

In writing this, I’m probably going to catch flack from both the left and the right (Addendum: so far, especially from the right). My one advantage is that I’m so “small” that the major players in this game are unlikely to take much notice of me (and certainly, I’d like to stay off of Mike Glyer’s radar since my one foray into commenting there led to a lot of “unpleasant” responses by 770 readers…yes, leftists are human, thus the “primitive fear-threat response” applies to them, too).

As an aside, I also had to stop following Camestros Felapton (pseudonym) on his blog and on twitter some weeks ago, not because of his comments, but a few of his readers basically went berserk when I mentioned I was a conservative (which the blog owner knew and didn’t seem to take personally). The blog owner didn’t intervene, which I took as a sign, and it became yet another swimming pool I vacated rather than fall victim to more “offended” sharks.

So when is this all going to stop?

As far as the Baen Bar report, people will eventually run out of steam and find some other outrage to focus upon (both on the left and the right). Human beings have such short attention spans on social media.

But in a larger context, I wonder if it will ever stop. I speak of “the left” and “the right” but people, in terms of their political and social beliefs, run a broad scale. There really aren’t just the two ends of the line. Most of us exist somewhere in-between the poles, and we even slightly shift one direction or the other on any given day.

Maybe it will never end. That’s the curse of social media and the ability to almost instantaneously express our opinions (on blogs without censorship of any kind) to anyone with internet access and who happens to surf on in.

I’d like to think of myself as a voice of reason shouting into a cyclone of emotional chaos, but I doubt few will see it that way.

I will say that I think publishers like Baen should continue to exist. Again, according to my perception, there are far too few publishers who are willing to even consider an author who isn’t of a certain leftist perspective, regardless of how well that author may write.

Even Sanford’s original report points this out relative to Baen:

Baen and the company’s current publisher, Toni Weisskopf, market many of their books toward a specific subset of readers, what John Scalzi has called the Orthodox Church of Heinlein [See Note 4] As a result of this editorial bent, the press frequently publishes books by outspokenly conservative SF authors such as Tom Kratman, Larry Correia, John Ringo, and Sarah A. Hoyt.

However, it’d be a mistake to think Baen only publishes socially conservative writers. Bestselling Baen author Eric Flint, for example, was a long-time progressive political activist and member of the Socialist Workers Party. Other authors published by Baen include Joanna Russ, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Harry Turtledove, none of whom fit into the conservative author narrative.

The “Orthodox Church of Heinlein” crack comes from John Scalzi who not only thinks he’s a “grown up” because he laces his writing with the word “fuck” but actually pulls up his “big boy pants” in offense when people like me point that out.

Sanford makes publishing conservative authors sound like a bad thing, a terrible aberration in an otherwise leftist, socialist, sane, and safe universe.

If that indeed is true (and how would I know?), then Sanford, and maybe a lot of other folks, are missing an important point.

Hate speech aside, the majority of those of us who lean even slightly right of center (or are too close to center even on the left side of the scale), aren’t interested in hate, killing, shooting transformers, revolutions, civil wars, and free helicopter rides (I had to block someone on multiple social media platforms because he said he sincerely was all for that sort of thing), that is unless we’re writing a science fiction dystopia that happens to include those elements.

You don’t hear from us most of the time because we’re not the ones making all the noise.

A good friend of mine, who I haven’t seen for nearly a year, is like me in many ways. He’s a Christian, conservative, a long-time comic book and science fiction fan, and probably one of the most peaceful people I know. He also suffers from ALS, which means he’s dying by inches. I haven’t seen him for so long because of COVID, but really, at this stage in the development  of his disorder, getting a cold might prove fatal.

Did I mention he’s peaceful? He’s also a brilliant software developer (no, not all political conservatives failed the eighth grade and live in trailer parks). He’s also a Christian and frankly, a much better person than I probably ever will be. He does not and never has advocated for violence. Imagine that, a conservative who isn’t violent. We’re out there. Some of us are writers (my fiction work is strictly after hours and on the weekends, but I’ve been a technical writer and published textbook author for 20 years).

Yes, hate in all its forms, regardless of the social, political, and ideological source, must be resisted, and people of good conscience, again regardless of the social, political, and ideological viewpoints, should and will resist it.

In writing this blog post, in my own small way, I’m resisting it. That said, although the centerpiece of this article is the Baen Bar, it covers much more territory. If you justify your own hostility (“oh, but mine isn’t as bad/not the same because…”) while condemning another, you are no better.

Yes condemn violence and hostility where it actually occurs, but don’t use that as an excuse to also condemn anyone who has the label as “conservative” or “right” or “libertarian” or “Republican”. It’s just as wrong when people also condemn all “liberals” or “leftists” or “Democrats.”

blind justice

Found at Max Planck Institute

Extremism on either end of the scale is harmful, and both extreme left and right can be the basis for totalitarian dictatorships (history presents many examples). If you want to get on your high horse and rant against something, then yes, rant against extremes.

But also remember, unlike many of the specifics being cited, the majority of us along the political-ideological scale, aren’t into all of that. No one is, unless they choose to be.

Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale): What if I do Rachel? My parents deserved justice.
Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes): You’re not talking about justice. You’re talking about revenge.
Batman/Bruce Wayne: Sometimes they’re the same.
Rachel Dawes: No, they’re never the same. Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about you making yourself feel better, which is why we have an impartial system.

-From Batman Begins (2005)

Justice or revenge. The quote above aside, down here at the level of being human, in the pool of our own emotions where we feel threatened, sometimes it’s hard for us to tell the difference. Unfortunately, that means on some occasions (and perhaps many) when we think we’re being just, such as potentially blaming over 100 million people in the U.S. for the attitudes and actions of relative few, we aren’t. Are you?

P.S. Don’t kill Baen. If you really are just, then the world in general and SF/F in particular desperately needs balance rather than highly biasing the scale.

23 thoughts on “Revenge of the Baen, the Jason Sanford Report, and the Quest for Justice (or is it Vengeance?)

  1. Interesting how this spontaneous protest had Baen’s service providers’ contact info and hit them all within four hours of the initial post dropping, and the continuous drumbeat ever since.

    Just a grassroots effort, not a hint of, say, a direct competitor of Baen coordinating the op. No, sir!


    • I’ve heard of that possibility. Would this mean Sanford was part of an overall conspiracy or is said-competitor taking advantage of the situation? Oh, cute fake email address.


  2. Well, that was interesting. In a private conservative creators’ group on Facebook, I was just accused of writing the longest apology for those attacking Baen. A lot of conservatives feel Sanford’s report is part of a coordinated effort to destroy Baen as a publisher.If that’s true, then it would confirm my concerns that the SF/F industry as a whole wants only a “certain kind” of author contributing speculative fiction. Is that paranoid, or can both leftists and conservatives be up to no good?

    I told you that both the left and right would rake me over the coals for this one.


  3. Where does it end?

    Read about the excesses of the Spanish Left in February-March 1936 when they took power. That is how it begins.

    How it ends? Barcelona. Guernica. Madrid. The Alcazar. Or, if you prefer a more recent example, China’s cultural revolution in the 1960s.

    This morning, Biden announced he won’t rule out using executive orders to seize guns. Because the Bill of Rights is just a piece of paper.

    It ends with a body count.

    I wish I had not lived long enough to see this in America.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TLDR, well for the most part. I did see this:

      When we’re in an argument with someone, we should be thinking about how they can change their mind and look good – maintain or even enhance their face – at the same time.

      I thought I was striking a middle ground, but the responses I’ve getting both on social media and, to a much smaller degree, here, seem to indicate that people want me to take a hard side, far left or far right (I’m sure many of them don’t really see themselves as “far”). Even if the article is valid, most of social media are the moral equivalent of a surly mob armed with pitchforks and flaming torches going after whatever “monster” they believe threatens them.


      • I think you give reasonable considered responses, and no, wouldn’t think you need to take a harder stance. The part of the article that appealed to me was describing low context versus high context conversations, and the insight into all the outrage as evidence of people not being able to handle confrontation. We would seem to be on the same page of seeing the outrage as mobs.

        As for me, I’ve just been blocked by an author who I had met at LonCon who I thought I had a connection with to engage her on this subject, but clearly that was a bad assumption. I feel that WorldCon fandom, something I’ve been associated with for forty years, has become something I’m no longer a good fit for.


      • It’s a rather tragic state of affairs, especially when most of us just want to write a good story and have fun with it. The Cons, as you say, have been taken over to engage only a certain subset of creators and fans. More’s the pity.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. James,

    I’m sorry you’ve run into the flying shit gibbons of File770. I encountered them on my first foray into organised Worldcon fandom six years ago. Many of the regular posters are still there and, with a couple of exceptions (Camestros is generally polite), seem incapable of having a conversation without sealioning, deliberate misquoting, claiming to be bored, nitpicking individual words out of a long comment, or accusing the person posting of ‘not having done enough research’.

    Mike Glyer attempted to follow me on Twitter a year ago, presumably in the hope of shit-stirring with something I’d written (he would have been deeply disappointed), and promptly became the second person I’ve ever blocked on a social media platform. Since then, if I go to the site and see a fan trying to argue with them, I use my Google-fu and try to warn them what they’re dealing with. The worst File770 regulars tend to auto-repeat the same tactics with everyone, regardless of topic or political affiliation, which means it’s usually easy to warn off newbies.

    Anyway, I noticed your blogposts and your apparent desire to interact with SF&F fans who weren’t going to shoot at you (metaphorically speaking) while I was following the Baen situation on Twitter. We are around, so feel free to follow or chat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. You probably know you posted the same comment four times using two different email addresses. Don’t know what accounted for that, but I appreciate the support.


    • Thanks for the input. I’ve considered collecting all of the URLs the information that refutes Sanford’s report, but I suspect anyone who is interested knows all about them. I have difficulty believing that any one viewpoint in this mess is totally bad and the other totally good. I can believe that at least some people at Baen’s Bar could have gone too far but given the timing of things, I also don’t have a hard time believing that someone or several someones took advantage of the situation. Maybe Sanford was a willing participant, and maybe he was just a “useful idiot.”

      As far as a competitor deliberately trying to take down Baen Books by unscrupulous means, assuming that’s a valid point, is it just getting rid of a company cutting into your business or did someone want to eliminate a publisher that worked with authors across the entire political scale? Given the way I perceive the SF/F industry slanting exceptionally left, I find the latter explanation more credible, but who knows. Everyone seems more informed about this situation, but then again, everyone seems more emotionally invested in being either “left” or “right.”

      Regardless of the outcome, one of these days I hope writers and publishers get back to the point where science fiction is just supposed to be fun.


      • As someone who’s thinking of writing a blog post about this affair, I’d be interested in seeing those URLs collated. So far I’ve read the responses from Larry Correia, David Weber and Eric Flint, and none convinced me. Correia and Weber’s posts boiled down to petty name-calling and assertions (but not proof) of dishonesty. Flint offered some rebuttals that seemed (to me) credible, but only to comparatively trivial aspects of Sanford’s piece. I have yet to see anyone convincingly refute his main thesis: that members of the Baen forum, up to and including at least one moderator, have advocated domestic terrorism. (Flint tries, but ends up downplaying instead of refuting, casting the posters in question as rowdy Walter Mitties rather than credible threats)


  5. I’ve heard from a tweet by Sanford on twitter, that he’s received death threats as a result of his investigation of the Baen forums, and assuming that’s true (I haven’t actually seen these threats), I certainly do not support threatening a person’s life for having an opinion or engaging in some sort of journalistic investigation. That said, I do believe, given the far-reaching impact on Baen Books and particularly editor Toni Weisskopf, that Sanford’s report in specific, and his qualifications in general are open to scrutiny. Of course, Sanford has taken down access to his web presence (social media sites and so on), so it’s more difficult to find out what he has said or done. For instance, what are his journalistic qualifications and, as some have alleged, did he have any personal stake in damaging Baen?
    In addition to Smith’s commentary (with more to come), Richard Paolinelli who has credentials as a professional journalist, has been taking a look at things: and
    This all seems far from over, even though Weisskopf has been cancelled, or rather “uninvited” by DisCon III as a Guest of Honor at Worldcon 2021. Is that “mission accomplished” or can we expect more fallout from Sanford’s investigation? Rather than engaging in threats or name calling, it would be helpful for the facts to be produced, and if Sanford is indeed above reproach, then why won’t he answer questions?


    • I’m afraid that James Sanford is in a no-win situation. Whatever reply he gives will be seen negatively. This is one of the reasons I dislike the social media flame wars. No one wins, everyone loses.


      • That’s true. I suppose when you conduct such an investigations, it’s prudent to get all your proverbial ducks in a row first. Then again, Sanford may not have realized what a storm he was stirring up. Of course his detractors will say he’s either a dupe being used by those who want to damage Baen’s reputation or he’s part of that effort. It’s why I’m unable to pick a side. Nothing is clear cut to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I thought of a way. He issues an apology to Baen and Toni, saying something along the lines of: I should’ve have consulted with them first, and that I fully support Toni’s shuttering of the forum for her investigation.

        Then add something to the effect it was not my desire/intention to have Toni dis-invited, and ask that the WorldCon comittee reverse their decision as an act of good faith etc., etc.

        Of course, Hell will freeze over, but that’s my advice, worth every red cent you paid for it.


      • Agreed. That’ll never happen. Even if Jason realizes this would be the better part of valor, he’s put his reputation on the line with this one, and humility just isn’t in the cards at this point.

        Then again. Hell froze over

        Liked by 1 person

      • I did take your basic suggestion (without mentioning your name) and tagged WorldCon and Jason on twitter with the idea, if for no other reason than to put the moral/ethical ball back in their court.

        Liked by 1 person

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