Response to Robert Rapier NAiG Article
The following is a response to a calumnious article written by Robert Rapier that has been posted at the No Answers in Genesis (NAiG) website. All hyperlinks will pop-up a window containing the email or document that substantiates my claim. The reader will find that many of the claims made in the article are easily refuted with indisputable facts, because of email documentation that can be confirmed. Most of these emails were sent to the board administrators at the time, two well-respected Christians named Optional and Samuel Bollinger. Samuel has returned to the board and is its current administrator. He will vouch for my account and the emails he received. I was recently saddened by the news that Optional had gone to be with the LORD. This fine man and fellow brother in Christ has much more enjoyable things to do now!
What Really Happened?
The following is a chronological account of the events. My goal here is to stick to the facts and avoid innuendo or hearsay.
I had been a fairly regular participant of the Organization of Creation Websites (OCW) message board for about two years1. After watching the board deteriorate due to a high number of evolutionist trolls, I volunteered to help clean up the mess as a non-anonymous moderator in a special thread. The current board admin, Optional, gladly accepted (it was around this time that Samuel returned as a co-administrator). I was then encouraged by an interested party to moderate anonymously, which I proposed to Optional, and he again gladly accepted. On January 7th at 9:00pm, I was handed the keys to Moderator 3. After some testing on the night of January 8th, I began moderating the evening of January 10th.
On the morning of January 14th, Samuel announced Optional's resignation. In this same email Samuel asked me to help out as an administrator, for which I accepted. In this email I also express a desire for another moderator to help out, and Samuel agreed because he also did not have much time available. The next night (Jan 15), I handed over moderating duties to a friend. This was the end of moderating for me, due to the obvious conflict of interest I felt. I soon became too busy to help with much of anything with the OCW board, as this email exchange with Samuel alludes to. At some point during this period I publicly announced to the board that I had been the moderator early on but was no longer moderating2.
On the morning of January 23, Optional sent me an email informing me that since he was paying the bills, he was going to shut down the board unless OCW members took over payments. This was certainly a reasonable request on his part. I asked him to send a message to OCW, but instead he gave me the list, so I sent a message to OCW the next night, January 24th, at 9:48pm. As can be seen in the email, my recommendation to the group was to shut down the message board, and move the OCW webpage to a member's webspace and keep the URL (the OCW webpage was a separate entity from the message board). I did not see a good reason to keep the message board unless we got serious commitments to run it. The next morning (January 25th), Samuel responded that he did not want to spend the time or monetary resources to commit to it. At about 11:00am I noticed the board was offline and sent Optional this email. He responded and indicated he was essentially reclaiming the board. Within a few hours Optional reclaimed the board and renamed it from OCW message board to CreationWeb message board. Here was my response to Optional's email.
Even though I wasn't prepared to move forward with the message board, I admittedly became upset after reflecting on what occurred. For one, I didn't receive sufficient feedback on the moderating. My impression was that the board's plug was being pulled due to funding issues, not moderation concerns. I also felt badly for the time the new Mod 3 had freely donated. This was volunteer time, even if people did not agree with it. After my email to Optional, I sent a separate email to the YECs of the board voicing my concerns about the board and its past problems, and its future direction (these emails are available but not posted here because they are not necessary to address the NAiG article's allegations). Most YECs responded and all ensuing discussions were amiable with a few friendly disagreements. I subsequently asked Optional to remove me from the new board's membership. That was pretty much it, until recent rumors that culminated in Robert's article that has dragged me back into the old OCW affair.
False Claims in the Article
The above account, with overwhelming corroborating email evidence that is verifiable, clearly contradicts much of the claims made in the NAG article. Now let's examine several of these s false allegations:
1. "I later learned that the original takeover of the board by Fred Williams et al. had been hostile".
This is obviously false, as all the preceding emails proved. At no point in the goings-on of OCW did I ever even remotely attempt a "hostile" takeover.
2. "...Optional had eventually written a script to disable them and regain control of the board (for which he had been paying the bills)."
This implies that a hostile reclaiming of the board was required, which the emails above prove is not true. In fact, the email I sent to Optional and all the OCW members proves that I recommended letting Optional pull the plug on the board! I also have amiable emails from Optional immediately after he pulled the plug, though we did disagree on board management and I bowed out in protest.
3. "It was not lost on me that every post deleted to that point had been critical of Mr. Williams" and "...all of the original posts that were edited or deleted were those critical of Williams"
This is false, as my moderation sample proves. Also, the original policy called for removing posts in their entirety and sending the post intact to the author with the corrections noted. If the post was resubmitted, it likely would not have had an indication it had been moderated. Thus, Robert could have easily missed these particular moderation events. This policy changed after a moderated post was sent to John Boy via PM but was not received3. Unfortunately John Boy had to retype most of his post from memory. His frustration over this was certainly understandable.
I remember clearly taking great care with the moderation I performed in the thread I had posted to. I removed non-related posts, and edited a single unsubstantiated accusation in a lengthy post by John Boy. But this is not excuse, I have admitted since this occurred that moderating in a thread I was posting to was an error in judgment on my part, regardless of what I edited.
4. However, I was recently informed that not only was Williams Moderator 3, Walter ReMine was Moderator 4!
First, though a Mod 4 account was set up, I am unaware of anyone ever being assigned to Mod 4 during that time. To my knowledge, the only anonymous moderator in the Creation/Evolution forum was Mod 3. Here is an email I sent to an evolutionist named Steve (aka Sumac). If there was a Mod 4 there would be no reason to not include his edits in the stats I gave Steve.
Sometime in June the OCW message board crashed and from what I understand much data was lost. Apparently during attempts to retrieve the data Walter Remine's name appeared in some of the garbled data and the speculation was that he was Mod 4. But Mr. Remine's only involvement in the board was via an email to me, which I shared with OCW, where he offered suggestions for forum guidelines (a few of which were incorporated). I also asked Mr. Remine if he would help moderate, but he declined. For the record, Moderator 3 was a YEC friend who wishes to remain anonymous. I am the only one who knows his identity.
5. I want to state for the record that I gave Fred Williams a chance to respond to these accusations by posting some of this information in the guest book at his website.
Robert never directly gave me a chance to respond. Instead, he anonymously posted some information to my guestbook under the name "Bob Marley". I did not respond to this entry because it was anonymous and there was no return email. If anyone checks my guestbook they will see that I very seldom respond to people who do not leave their email address.
I also chose not to respond to an email I received about that same time from Scott Page (aka Huxter), because I was aware of Optional's condition and out of respect for him I didn't want to engage in any public battle over these allegations that may involve him.
True Claims in the Article
[The items I list below are the ones I am familiar with, so I don't mean to imply they are the only true items in Robert's article. Other parts of Robert's article may be true, such as his account of his debate with ReMine, but I don't know enough to comment on it]
1. Heavy-handed moderation.
This is true, the moderation was heavy-handed.
Before the changes, several creationists had complained that the OCW message board had deteriorated to a point where it was indiscernible from Talk.Origins. I agreed, and thus why Optional and I began brainstorming a new method of moderation in an attempt to address the problem. This method proved to be very unpopular, even among several creationists as Robert pointed out. But for the record, I personally never received a single PM or email from any creationist complaining about the moderation. The only feedback I received were from a few posts I read on the board. I missed some of the posted complaints because I was only visiting the board once a day at most, and apparently they were removed soon after being posted, as Robert said.
Looking back I think it would have been helpful if the admins and moderators would have pooled all the suggestions and complaints together, then reach a consensus on how to address them. But unfortunately there wasn't a good level of communication among the various moderators and administrators, for which I am partly to blame.
2. I moderated in a thread I was active in.
I have many times acknowledged this was an error in judgment on my part, and an error I will never make again. It was this brief conflict of interest I partook in that in no small part led to my departure from moderating.
I hope the historical account I provided above will dissolve much of the disinformation that has arisen involving the events of last January. Almost all of the claims in the article are based on innuendo and hearsay. Some of the claims happen to be true, many of them are not true. In almost all instances where I am in dispute with certain claims in the article, I have indisputable, verifiable email evidence to support my position.
For the record, after exchanging emails with Robert and becoming privy to what led him to write the article, I don't blame him for writing it. For good reasons I am not going to deal with this particular matter in public.
I cannot close without again acknowledging that I made errors in judgment in this whole affair. For starters, I should have never moderated a thread I was involved in. I should have also worked to keep a better line of communication with the moderators in the other forums. My problem was that I frankly did not want to devote much time to the board. After I gave up moderating my preference was to abandon the board altogether (as this email to OCW members alluded to). I also think it would have been better if the new Mod 3 would not have been anonymous among the other moderators/admins. This request for strict anonymity was part of the problem in the lack of communication that took place. Finally, during my brief stint moderating, I was not forthcoming with several evolutionists about my early moderating until I made several public announcements of my role2. For all of the above I offer my deepest apologies.
I fear that some of this miscommunication led to a subtle rift between Optional and myself, even though neither of us ever expressed genuine displeasure with the other, aside from our differences of opinion for the direction of the message board. I feel responsible for not taking the time to mend this. In late spring I did try to contact Optional after finding out that an evolutionist had implied I questioned the message board's Christianity. Unfortunately I did not see this evolutionists' insinuation until several months after he made it, so it was possible some damage may have already been done. I assured Optional in the June email that I never questioned his Christianity, but instead had merely disagreed with how the board was run and said disagreements are OK to have. I never heard back, and unfortunately later learned of his dire health situation, and his recent passing away. Optional is the blessed one, he is with Christ in paradise and now I really envy him! I look forward to meeting him some day and laughing about this whole affair.
I will close by saying that the historical account I provided above is the complete truth of what transpired last January, and as far as I'm concerned this matter is closed and I will no longer comment on it.
1. I don't have a lot of knowledge of OCW's roots, but I believe it was started about 3 years ago by some college students. The OCW group was a very loose knit, informal organization. The website was essentially a link list of creationist websites. It also had a feedback form for questions, an email list for members to discuss science among themselves, and a message board. To my knowledge no questions were ever submitted to the feedback form. The email list was seldom used, and when it was the discussions were usually very brief. I believe Samuel originated the message board, but early on for personal reasons relinquished the board to Optional. It was early in OCW's history that I was asked to become a member of OCW and contribute to the message board.
2. I made both a public announcement in the 'Announcements' portion of the OCW board, and a follow-up clarification on the NAG message board. Unfortunately I did not save either posts and they have since been lost. Also unknown is precisely when I made these posts, though I am certain the OCW announcement was between the 19th and 22nd of January. No one disputes I made these announcements. In the OCW announcement I acknowledged that I had moderated early on but had handed over the reigns to a new moderator (I recall that one of the reasons I made the announcement was to explain the moderator switch in order to alleviate heat the new moderator was taking, since he was getting flooded with PMs accusing him of being me). Some unknown time after the announcement, I believe within a week, I saw a post Robert made to the NAG board where he had protested the fact I denied specifically being Mod3. I promptly responded and confirmed I had indeed moderated under the Mod 3 moniker during my brief stint, and indicated this should have been obvious since Mod 3 was the only active anonymous moderator at the time (I think Samuel moderated a little during this period, but he did so non-anonymously). But Robert still protested this because I apparently denied being Mod 3 to Sumac after the OCW public announcement and before my clarification on the NAG board (my exchange with Sumac must have been via PM since I have no record of it). I thought about this and I honestly can't remember the details, such as the ifs and whys I would have intentionally told Sumac I was not Mod 3. However, I've debated Sumac long enough to say that I feel confident to take him at his word. I just know I really had no personal motive to hide the fact that my moderation stint was specifically under the Mod 3 moniker, other than perhaps to deflect heat from the current Mod 3. Perhaps this is why Robert in his article admits he was "surprised" I clarified this. It seems obvious that I had no reason to do so if I had some ulterior motive to avoid the precise Mod 3 label. Nevertheless, I offer my mea culpa.
3. I seem to recall the problem was due to John Boy's PM box being full. It also could have been due to two or more 'John Boy' user IDs. Duplicate IDs had been a problem in the past on the OCW message board. I don't remember the cause of this problem, I just remember Optional mentioning it as something he needed to fix.