Stephen Speicher

Response To Charges Against THE FORUM

367 posts in this topic

It is time to set the record straight. Betsy and I are distressed by several charges made against us on Diana Hsieh's NoodleFood and other forums that we consider unwarranted and untrue, and extremely unjust.

Many members of THE FORUM, particularly those on both sides of the recent controversies, know firsthand how hard we work to keep the debates respectful, avoid flame wars, and keep the focus on facts and values. Yet some critics have asserted that our moderation of THE FORUM is unfair.

While most critics merely assert "unfair moderation," I know of only one who actually tried to provide any evidence. I deleted a post by Tom Miovas from THE FORUM. He posted it elsewhere and several critics have pointed to it as prima facie evidence of our "unfair moderation." Here is the missing context.

Long before THE FORUM, I had a friendly relationship with Tom Miovas for many years. We had a number of private discussions on several subjects and I even personally helped Tom get through a rather troubling time in his life. When Tom joined THE FORUM almost a year ago, one of the first posts he made was a rather long promotion of his philosophical essays on his website, replete with URL pointers to each of a whole host of categories. I deleted Tom's post and on December 1, 2005 in part by way of explanation, I wrote the following to him:

I do not want postings on THE FORUM promoting off-site intellectual content that I have no control over. So, thanks for the post, but I am returning it back to you. Feel free, however, to engage in actual discussion on threads in THE FORUM instead.

This was followed shortly after by another post, one having virtually nothing to do with the thread to which he posted, advertising Tom's framed art prints business. I deleted that post and on December 13, 2005, I wrote to Tom:

I deleted this post because it has nothing to do with the thread. If you want you can post the essence of this in the CAPITALIST CORNER, which would be more appropriate.

Tom responded to another post with a somewhat out-of-context essay, and on January 7, 2006 I wrote to Tom:

And, Tom, I don't mean to imply that you should not start a thread of your own. Just keep in mind that these should be posts, not essays.

And not much later, in January 20, 2006, I deleted another of Tom's posts and wrote to him:

I deleted this post. I discussed the issue of promoting your site with you before. Please do not post here again unless you have serious interest in discussion, rather than repeating your older essays and posts or advertising your site.

All in all I had to delete quite a few of Tom's posts.

Now, some ten months later, Tom tried to post something I found particularly offensive. The first version of his post had a disrespectful reference to Leonard Peikoff. I deleted the post and on October 27, 2006, I wrote the following to Tom:

Hi,

I deleted this post. Reference to "Objectivist Pope," whether in scare quotes or not, is offensive and not appropriate for THE FORUM. I stopped reading your post at that point, so if you have any other language or tone of that nature, make sure you remove and/or change it before re-posting.

Tom removed his "Objectivist Pope" remark and posted again, and I again deleted his post, writing to him on October 30, 2006:

I deleted this post. Among other things, you are putting words in someone else's mouth with your "making it all up" remark.

Tom, I'd rather you not post to THE FORUM again. Your major contact with THE FORUM has been to occasionally drop by and post something here that you posted elsewhere, squeezing it into some thread where it often barely applies. You have shown little intention of engaging, but instead wind up using THE FORUM as a drive-by depository for a few of your writings. I think you not posting here would serve both of our interests best.

My suggestion that Tom not post here was the culmination of the history I outlined above. And even then Tom could have responded to me with some sort of indication that he had heard and understood my concern -- a concern that I had communicated to him several times in the past -- and if he had convincingly communicated that he would change his approach, then in spite of his history on THE FORUM, and in deference to our past friendship, I would have agreed to yet another chance.

Instead, Tom took his rejected post to the other forum and asked people to judge us by it -- neglecting to provide the information and context that justified my action.

We find this sad, but even more sad are the unjust and unwarranted charges some of our other critics have made against us (see additional posts).

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In response to Tom's Miovas' post on the other forum (see Post #1 above), another poster complained that her post was also deleted. However, she also neglected to mention the reason for deletion:

I deleted this post. Your remarks going to other members' motivation are inappropriate for THE FORUM, as are the insulting personal remarks you made.

A much more serious charge was made on yet a different forum:

Since I was one of the ones suddenly deleted when it became obvious that I wasn't buying the evidence being presented, I want to add my voice of dissent. I was deleted for 1. disagreeing with Stephen's sudden limiting of debate which was applied ex post facto and 2. formatting incorrectly (I didn't understand how to use the quote function). I left immediately.

He was not "suddenly deleted," and he did not leave immediately. In fact, he made another post some 14 hours after the post he refers to was deleted.

Item "1." that he cites was deleted because it was off topic for the thread, not because he "wasn't buying the evidence being presented" or my supposedly "sudden limiting of debate." In fact, in a private message I told him that he is welcome to make his post by starting a separate thread. Observe there are quite a few posters on THE FORUM who don't buy my arguments and they are still here and posting.

Item "2." is standard FORUM policy, as anyone who has ever messed up his quotes well knows.

Unlike several other boards and blogs -- especially those owned and/or frequented by some who criticize THE FORUM for being "unfair" -- we do have some standards around here. We do not permit filthy language, speaking to others' motivations, direct personal insults, and posts that are formatted improperly.

Is that "unfair moderation," or just having higher standards?

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Last week I got an e-mail from a (former) CyberNet subscriber saying

I was stunned to see where you, as administrator, allowed multiple comments, some of which your own husband made, against Diana Hsieh, impugning her intellectual honesty and her moral integrity because she supported Leonard Peikoff's position on this election. These posts are also derisive and contemptuous of Dr. Peikoff in a way that is so despicable, it is worse than any Kelly-ite attack of him. At least David Kelley and his ilk made no pretense at thinking highly of Dr. Peikoff when they smeared him.

In a later e-mail she wrote

We can never be on the same side as long as you maintain your contempt of Leonard Peikoff and Diana Hsieh.

The fact is I don't "maintain contempt" for either one. That is totally false. While I do disagree with some recent statements by both, and have said so publicly and given my reasons politely, that only means I think they are wrong about some issues, not contemptible. Both Stephen and I have the deepest respect for Dr. Peikoff and for his great accomplishments. We have so stated several times, and in detail, in the recent debates and elsewhere.

Diana herself quit THE FORUM, then posted this message to Stephen, publicly, on Objectivism Online (a board Stephen does not post to):

From what I've seen, you've permitted grossly unjust moral attacks on Dr. Peikoff while silencing his reasonable and polite defenders. You've crushed your opposition -- not by good argument, but by insults, attacks, and unfair moderation.

So please delete my account on The Forum. As I've said, my respect for Dr. Peikoff actually means something to me.

Just look at the facts. Just look at THE FORUM.

You will find posts questioning, agreeing with, disagreeing with, defending, and criticizing some of Peikoff's and Diana's statements and actions, but where are the personal insults or attacks or anything impugning any person's intellectual honesty or moral integrity? There were posts that did, or came close to doing, that -- on both sides -- but thanks to our "unfair moderation," those posts were deleted and we suggested their authors rewrite them and remove the personal attacks.

[because THE FORUM is post-moderated, unacceptable posts will go out by e-mail as soon as they are posted and remain on THE FORUM until they are deleted. We regret it if anyone was offended by a not-yet-deleted post. We also invite members who get posts by e-mail to compare the "before" they got by e-mail with the "after" that remains on THE FORUM (if the post wasn't deleted entirely). With all the heavy moderation and time the recent controversial threads required, we were swamped and may also have missed something that should have been pulled. We regret that too.]

Last, but not least, I don't know why Diana continues to sanction and to post to two other forums with very different standards than ours.

On Objectivism Online, the board owner and admin reacted to Dr. Peikoff's statement by writing

I think Dr Peikoff is losing his grip on reality.

Another member concurred saying

He's in his mid-70's after all...it's about the right time for him to start suffering from dementia and senility.

The second board is even worse. There are attacks on, and ridicule directed at, both Dr. Peikoff and Diana including the board owner's statement that

In my view, one of these positions is off the wall (Peikoff's and Diana's, henceforth referred to as "Hsiekoff's") and the other is realistic.

[...]

Hsiekoff's view is crazy.

There were more personal attacks and vulgar insults on both Diana and Dr Peikoff by other members of that board. Quite a few insults came from real Kelleyites who frequent that board and were associates of Diana in her TOC years.

Despite Diana's active participation on that board, she apparently didn't change any minds. One very recent post from the board's owner reads:

Sick Hsiekovians ...

I hope you sick, mindless, treasonous bastards who slavishly followed Leonard's depraved orders are reading this. In case I haven't already made it clear, you make me [word not allowed on THE FORUM] sick.

Diana quit THE FORUM to protest alleged personal attacks on Dr. Peikoff and herself and for our moderation policies. If, as Diana said, it was because "my respect for Dr. Peikoff actually means something to me," does her participating actively in those other boards make any sense?

Those are some facts and context concerning Diana Hsieh and her claims about Stephen, me, and THE FORUM. Judge for yourself.

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Thank you both for starting this thread. I want to voice my strong support for the work Stephen and Betsy have done. There are many threads where I have been in opposition to their point of view, but I have always been treated with respect and intellectual honesty. I too have had a few posts deleted for getting carried away and impuning a persons motives, or for improper formatting. This is entirely proper for Betsy and Stephen as the owners of this forum. I rarely post to other blogs/forums because I can not tolerate the abusive language and personal attacks. I have personnally read many of the misrepresentations from other forums/blogs that have been directed at Stephen and Betsy. I have not seen any that are justified in the slightest.

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I would like to second Paul's backing of the Speichers as I hold them and THE FORUM in the utmost regard.

I have personally had so many post deleted by Stephen that I sometimes fear his patience is growing thin with me. But, I have always been able to re-post if the improper language is corrected or a certain tone is discarded. I do not find this offensive toward me and when I have had a chance to calm down and think it over I have never disagreed with the deletion.

I have also disagreed with certain statements or post by Stephen, Betsy and many other people on THE FORUM. But, this has never kept me from trying to either convince them of my reasons or listen/read their's.

Overall I find this forum, THE FORUM, the best most objective place for Objectivist to discuss ideas actively and receive a mutual benefit.

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While I don't post nearly to the extent the Ray or Paul do, I did post to HPO when Stephen was a regular there, and I've always found him to be fair. Of course, the same goes for Betsy. As to posting here, I've only had a couple of post rejections, and for technical reasons, not for content.

I very much value this forum for the insights I've gained into the philosophy.

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This is trully a great forum, especially due to the Speichers many insights. In the rather brief time I've been here, I've always found them to be fair moderators.

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The main reason that I have always liked this Objectivist-oriented internet FORUM best, of the ones I've seen, is how well-moderated it is. I've had posts deleted too. And in at least one case, I knew what I'd done wrong, knew that my post would very likely be deleted, but just couldn't let it go.

And it did get deleted, with reason. So I just forwarded the deletion message and deleted post along as a private message to the poster at whom I had directed it, and we had a private exchange. Fine for me, I had my say with the one I cared to communicate my evaluation to, and better for readers. Personally, I'd rather be stopped and/or re-directed once in a while, than have no appropriate moderation. I have experienced the latter, and have seen rational expression suffer, and possible rational resolutions remain out of reach.

Over time, the Speichers have enacted various innovations to the FORUMS to accommodate every reasonable desire of members. Examples are the member's essay and fiction sections, the capitalist corner, the self-help area, and the grammar section.

I believe that one can think anything, and can say a lot in private to those close to him, who understand his context, his moods, frustrations, etc. But what one should write on an internet FORUM that will remain in public for who-knows-how-long is another matter. In this context, one can think and say plenty; but here, if one fails to engage in rational moderation, the expression of his sentiments will be moderated for him; which requires constant attention -- it's a lot of work.

And I think that the work that the Speichers have put into this FORUM is a labor of love, done for the advancement of something that is worth loving, i.e. Objectivism. I am personally grateful for the FORUM and for the effort that the Speichers have put into the continuance and maintenance of a 'place' where one can discuss ideas rationally.

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This is the best moderated forum I have ever participated in, bar none.

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The value gained from THE FORUM is incalculable, and I thank the Speichers very, very much for their efforts and benevolence.

I have learnt a great deal on THE FORUM but have never had to pay a cent: their profit is selfishly spiritual. This fact by itself outweighs any concern I may have about any deleted post.

I also hope the Speichers will simply ignore THE FORUM's detractors. Reality, the ultimate arbiter, is ever on the side of the good.

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I was deleted for [...] 2. formatting incorrectly (I didn't understand how to use the quote function). I left immediately.

Maybe it's worth pointing out (in case there's anyone who doesn't know) that this forum is set up slightly differently than some of the other forums discussed in this thread. At Objectivism Online, for example, if a post is formatted incorrectly, the moderators have the ability to edit the post and fix the errors without deleting the post. They also have the ability to change any content they want, without the original poster ever necessarily being notified. At THE FORUM, on the other hand, the moderators do not have the ability to edit the posts at all, only to delete them (in which case a message is always--AFAIK--sent to the original poster) or let them remain as they were originally posted. Also, members do not have the ability to edit their own posts and fix formatting mistakes or other errors they may have contained.

While this leads to more posts being deleted on this FORUM than on others, which some might see as an inconvenience, it also provides the benefit (which I think is well worth it) of knowing that when you post something on the FORUM, it is your words and will always be your words, as long as it remains on the FORUM. It also requires posters to carefully edit and think out posts before submitting them, because there is no chance to change what's been said once it's posted. I like this format, and I think it contributes to the overall higher quality of posts here, as compared to other forums. I have had my share of posts deleted here, too, and always with good reasons (and polite explanations). I have also had posts edited without notification on OO.net--always for formatting reasons (as far as I know), but I don't see why having a post deleted on this FORUM should be more offensive than having posts edited on that one--I look at it as simply the Law of the Land. Sometimes I like to post on OO.net when I'm "thinking out loud," perhaps because it is a little less pressure. But I like to post more serious things on THE FORUM.

Is that "unfair moderation," or just having higher standards?

My vote (since I didn't submit any in the recent elections) is for bolder standards. : )

Last, but not least, I don't know why Diana continues to sanction and to post to two other forums with very different standards than ours.

The exact same thing was going through my mind when I read her post on OO.net.. She did criticize the offensive comments made against Dr. Peikoff on that thread--but why did she choose to continue posting there whereas she refuses to come here anymore?

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I have had a great many posts deleted as well, but the wrong was always on my side of the fence; I have never had a post deleted unfairly.

Thanks to the Speichers for creating such a great forum B)

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I want to thank Stephen and Betsy for putting together THE FORUM in the first place and for doing such a wonderful job with their moderation, insights, and encouragement of other posters. It's been great for keeping up to date on all things Objectivist, for sharing values, for discussing ideas, and venting anger over frustrating cultural developments.

When I first encountered Objectivism 15 years ago, there were several factors that attracted me to it: the logic of the thought; the pro-capitalism/business perspective; the romantic art; but more than anything, the independent, firsthanded thinking.

Over the years I've met a number of Objectivists who would parrot this or that or could quote chapter and verse from the Objectivist literature. (I admit I briefly went through that phase, too, but that was many years ago.) Yet they lacked the understanding to really explain their point; it was just a matter of blind repetition. That still goes on, but I don't see that very often on THE FORUM.

On the specific issue that led to this thread (the 2006 election and Peikoff's comments) there has been plenty of open, rational discussion of the issue and Betsy and Stephen have kept things very civil. Rather than attacking the motives of others or their moral characters, the discussion has focused properly on the issues, the facts, and the principles.

Kudos to THE FORUM as the place to come for open, civil debate.

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The Speichers' deletions of several of my posts have always been just, with good reasons clearly given---with which I agreed, and from which I learned. I hold Stephen and Betsy in the highest regard, among the most honorable people on the face of the earth. I am proud to know them and to be associated with them on this, their Forum.

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On Objectivism Online, the board owner and admin reacted to Dr. Peikoff's statement by writing

Just for the record, when Diana confronted me with that statement, I clarified and rescinded it on that same thread a few pages later and explained that I have the greatest respect for Dr. Peikoff. By the day of the election, further research and a conversation with Craig Briddle had changed my views enough that I was rooting for the Democrats - at least in my state.

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This is by far the most enjoyable Objectivist site on which to exchange views and information. I still subscribe to HBL, an excellent list, but I rarely post there, these days, because [a] I have a job and have to provide value for value, occasionally, and given the sheer volume that Harry has to cope with on, essentially, a single-threaded group (unless you set up your own filtering scheme) -- it is difficult to post anything there until the discussion has flagged and it's no longer timely. And Harry is certainly more demanding as to format and content than Stephen, in my experience.

Betsy and Stephen have created a site, a mechanism, and attracted a great group of people, on which it is possible to find, quickly and easily, what interests me and to respond in a more immediate, informal context. Of course I've had posts returned, one when I opened my big mouth and pointed out that I was waaayy off topic B)

I had no idea any of this attempted site demolition was going on, but, as I'm generally first-handed and I can see what Betsy & Stephen have created and maintained, and I know them and admire them both greatly, I couldn't care less what Ms. Hsieh and Mr. Miovas say about them and their motives. I know differently.

Thanks B & S! Keep up the great work.

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I recently received this e-mail:

I found the overall thrust of the thread "Where are the Bloggers" to be an attack on Dr. Peikoff and Diana Hsieh. Stephen's initial post on the thread is inflammatory, taunting the unnamed Diana to publicly criticize Dr. Peikoff's moral condemnation of Objectivists who disagree with him. I heard from [name deleted] that Stephen edited this post to tone down the language, so apparently even Stephen realized it was too inflammatory. I also heard from [name deleted] that Stephen's initial post was followed by a post from Diana which was deleted before I could read it. I don't know if it was deleted at her request or by Stephen's own decision. [Name deleted] read Diana's post before it was deleted and this is his summary:

"She basically said that she agreed with Peikoff 100%. She didn't agree with Stephen's attitude and thought it was insulting. She thought he was referring to her and that he should have mentioned her by name. She said she was going to write something on her own blog, and was thinking of posting it to the Forum, but she changed her mind and will not post it to the Forum because of Stephen's attitude."

Based on that summary, I don't see why Diana's post had to be deleted without an explanation.

I asked Stephen to check his records in the matter and this is what he had to say:

Betsy, here are the facts about Diana and the "Where are the bloggers

..." thread.

I created the thread and Diana responded with this post:

Oct 25 2006, 11:47 AM

I plan on blogging on Dr. Peikoff's letter: I agree with and support it

100%. I've just been too busy with other work to write the post. (For

the record, he didn't condemn all those who disagree with him as immoral

or dishonest.)

I would have also posted my blog post on the relevant thread of The

Forum, but your snide remarks have given me good reason to reconsider. A

person's views on Founder's College are completely irrelevant to this

debate, so you're just slinging mud. (Obviously, some of that mud was

specifically aimed at me. Next time, why not just mention me by name?)

Given the tone you've seen fit to set, I'll stay away.

I deleted her post because "your snide remarks" and "you're just slinging mud," were inappropriate for THE FORUM.

In a PM Diana said she objected to my post. After speaking to [name deleted] I decided that my thread-starter post was too provocative. I emailed Diana and said:

***********************************************

From: Stephen Speicher [mailto:stephen@speicher.com]

Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 3:16 PM

To: Diana Hsieh

Subject: Peikoff commentary

Hi Diana,

I deleted my original post, which contained language too provocative,

and created a new thread on the topic which more clearly expresses my

concerns.

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s...indpost&p=41791

-

Stephen

***********************************************

Diana wrote back to me:

**********************************************

From: Diana Hsieh [mailto:diana@dianahsieh.com]

Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 3:34 PM

To: 'Stephen Speicher'

Subject: RE: Peikoff commentary

Stephen,

I sent my recent PM before I saw this e-mail. I do very much appreciate

the changes you made. They remove my objections to your original post.

I'll post something appropriate in reply.

Diana.

**********************************************

Diana never posted and I never heard from her about this again.

--

Stephen

stephen@speicher.com

Ignorance is just a placeholder for knowledge.

Forums.4AynRandFans.com is a place that holds knowledge.

-----------------------------------------------------------

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There is another aspect of the charges being made (see previous posts by Betsy and me) that is especially unjust. It is bad enough that those making the charges omitted the relevant context, distorted the facts, and said things that were outright false. What makes it even worse is that they made, and continue to make, charges against us in other forums -- forums we don't belong to and do not post to. I hold people who act that way in contempt.

If they had really wanted justice, why didn't they complain to us and give us a chance to do something about it or set the record straight? Instead, they did us an injustice, and that is why they were suspended from THE FORUM.

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A number of people have used my forum to express dissatisfaction with THE FORUM because, as they told me, critical posts about THE FORUM tend to get deleted.

I don't see anything inherently wrong with discussing the policies of other sites on my forum (just as the policies of my site are being questioned here) but I have deleted unfair attacks on THE FORUM at Stephen's request every time he's asked before.

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... but I have deleted unfair attacks on THE FORUM at Stephen's request every time he's asked before.

This is a misleading statement. "[E]very time" implies that I have a continuing relationship with "HeroicLife." which I do not. Shortly after leaving his forum almost two years ago, I made a single request to remove an extremely offensive post, and I have not communicated with him since, I do not regularly read his forum and I do not know what other offensive posts may be there.

(Please note that this thread is primarily for our response to our critics and I will not allow any further diversion from that topic.)

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I find this to be the most enjoyable forum to be at, as well.

I haven't had too many posts deleted but each time, it has been fair with the reasons clearly mentioned as to why. The best part, the post is returned to me so my work is not lost, so I can repost it after I modify it or keep it in archives if I want to make the point elsewhere or document it.

If the Speichers were about stifling stuff, why would they return posts to their authors?

I am one of those people who pretty much live on the internet. I have seen a lot of the posts that get deleted before the moderaters even get to them. I have not seen a single case in which I have disputed the moderaters decisions.

I hold both Stephen and Betsy, in very high regard. It is a sad day indeed when two people get attacked for something they do so well.

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I also want to express my support for THE FORUM. I have read other forums/blogs but do not participate because of the quality and lack of standards the other forums maintain.

The standards THE FORUM has set are very much like the military's. The standard of excellence is set high and this becomes the norm. As long as an individual meets these standards, the individual can go about his business and express himself. I keep this in mind each time I make a post especially when my views disagree with the other individuals I am disageeing with.

THE FORUM has brought great value to my life and I enjoy every moment that I participate.

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There are two separate issues here: allegations of unfair treatment of Diana or Dr. Peikoff, and allegations of harsh moderatorship.

On the issue of treatment, and uproar about the '06 elections, as I've said elsewhere both sides have crossed the line; I have seen many people on this board be (justly) offended by comments first made by the other side, and allegations of unfair treatment can apply to both parties. I also note that other Objectivist forums (either through lack of moderation or through policy) have exhibited a much lesser respect for Dr. Peikoff, and frankly for Diana, than this forum, as Betsy amply demonstrated in this thread. No one on this Forum would even think of coming up with the reprehensible "Hsiekoff" monicker, or else would have that post deleted so fast he wouldn't know what hit them. So in regards to respect for Dr. Peikoff's and Diana's person, this forum has been far more respectful (!) than all the rest; but as for inflamatory words, they had been thrown around by both sides.

Now let me say a little bit about moderation. The moderation on this forum is tough, and is certainly far stricter than on any other Internet forum I've ever been to. But if you don't think of it as an Internet forum, then this policy begins to take on a different shape. Think of this place as like a book -- things are written down and they cannot be changed; ideas can evolve through time, but at all times they must look presentable; etc. All of this places a far greater burden on Stephen than on any of us; if he wishes to maintain this very high standard of postership, that's his prerogative. The key point is -- don't take deletions personally, as they will happen to almost everyone at some point or other (even to Stephen himself!). But what will remain will be a set of high-quality, presentable posts that can be referred to for ever after, which was most likely the purpose all along. This forum will never devolve into a bewildering mishmash of threads and posts that plague other forums (Objectivist or otherwise).

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