jms resigns rastb5

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Open Letter
Title: jms resigns rastb5
From: J. Michael Straczynski
Addressed To: fans
Date(s): 27 Nov 1995
Medium: Usenet
Fandom: Babylon 5
External Links: Jms resigns rastb5; archive link
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jms resigns rastb5 is a 1995 open letter by J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5.

Straczynski wrote a follow-up a few days later. See from jms: benedictions.

For more context, see The Great War of Rastb5: How a cabal of trolls in the Babylon 5 newsgroup led the show’s creator to flouncing from the newsgroup, ultimately causing the most responded to RFD in Usenet history and the creation of a 2nd Babylon 5 newsgroup (2021).

Some Topics Discussed

  • Babylon 5
  • trolls and online behavior
  • showrunners and writers such as himself and their online presence
  • rastb5
  • the difficulty/impossibility of getting fans to behave
  • power and control

The Open Letter

I've been debating this step for, quite literally, months now. What has finally tipped the balance is seeing the extent to which rastb5 has been virtually taken hostage by a very few people who have no interest in this forum except to tear down this show in general, and me in particular.

To that effect, they lie, manufacture facts, speculate based on premises that have no basis whatsoever in reality, engage in smear campaigns, insult and abuse users of this area, drop innuendo when they have nothing else to grab onto...they leap into threads that should by all rights be reasonably safe from flame and turn them into referendums on whether or not jms is a liar, in the kind of logic that stems from "are you still beating your wife?" premises.

The progression is always the same: a smear message, or an outright fabrication, gets posted; it generates heated replies from other users; those users are then attacked for being unthinking followers or sycophants (when the reality is that the original message was bone-headed and simply *wrong), thus ensuring that the conversation is not about the subject anymore, but rather the conversation becomes about the conversation...and in that form, it can go on forever, spreading out into more and more threads until all you see after a while are flames in every direction.

I try to stay out of it as much as I can...but sooner or later something so odious, so despicable, such an obvious, irredeemable lie gets posted that I lose my temper and have to respond. I sit here, and take sucker punches to the face, every single time I sign on from some of the outrageous stuff that goes on here; I take it quietly, but after you're punched in the face three, four, five times a day, for weeks at a time, damn it sooner or later you're going to hit back, and hard. And that's when the same cadre of imbeciles comes back and says, "Gee, look at that, see how badly he behaves?"

More and more lately, I have been signing on here, and by the time I log off, I'm furious. Furious for the unsubstantiated character assassination directed against me...and over the course of the year plus I've been here, not one -- not ONE -- of the allegations from Fuller, Fuller or Thaxton have *ever* been proven out, but they just forget that and move on to the next well as the attacks on other users here who have chosen to defend me against these baseless attacks.

In the past, where it's been just a few threads here and there, and I knew what they were, I could just avoid them. But in their ceaseless attacks, designed to provoke a response from me, they have begun throwing their nets consistently wider, so that they're all over the place; I can't avoid the hassles and the grief. And if I see some of this crap, which is untrue and unfair and designed for no other reason than to cause me grief...I get angry, and when I get angry, I can't write, and that hurts the show.

And I will not allow the show to be hurt. When it crosses that stops. One way or another.

I've tried reasonable appeals; those were taken as signs of weakness, turned into further attacks, and ultimately failed. I've asked people here *not* to respond to these abusive individuals, because if they get only silence for their efforts, they will go away; they live for the echo of pain caused by their words; find validation and reason to live in that echo. That failed. And now the level of toxicity has risen to a level that can no longer be tolerated.

And before anyone even *tries* to turn this into "oh, joe just doesn't want to hear negative stuff about his show, he doesn't want to hear any criticism, he just wants to be god" (and you know who you are, and fuck you too), it's got *nothing* to do with criticism of the show, positive or negative, made from having genuinly thought out the problems. I've always responded well to any kind of criticism that is well-considered, and always will.

This has to do with a small handful of people who have, through their incessant, stalking, compulsive behavior ruined this forum for not only me but a great deal of other people who've emailed me to say that they don't post here any more, because they've gotten tired of being attacked, tired of reading the endless tirades and smears and assaults on me and other users. The good people get driven away, and the bad people refuse to go, or to moderate their behavior, and there is no mechanism currently in place for others here to moderate their behavior.

I have become, in many ways, the football used to pull others on either side of the line into an ugly and destructive game. And the only way to stop it is to remove the football.

So I am posting this as notice that I will be resigning from effective the end of the month. To Ron and the Rangers...stop sending me the list at that time.

Because the simple reality is that once I'm gone, the prime lure for those who've turned this place into a constant flame zone for the last year will have left. And in time, so will they. It's sad when a handful of people can take something that is of value to thousands, potentially tens of thousands, of users worldwide, and chew away at it until there's nothing left, simply because of their own twisted obsession.

I cannot go to bed, or get up in the morning, furious over the latest offense committed here by the tyrannical few; I've lost endless hours sitting here angry over the falsehoods and the smears and the innuendo. I can't afford to do that anymore.

And just so they cannot weasel their way out of it later, cannot say "well, it wasn't me, it was just the climate, it was the fault of those guys over there...look, a comet...." I point the finger squarely at the Theron Fuller, Deborah Fuller, and Ford Thaxton, with a couple of other accomplices not worthy of comment. I hope you enjoy seeing your names in a post by me, folks, since that's what seems to excite you, because this particular message is likely to be the last. You've finally succeeded in driving me off rastb5, which was clearly your intent from the start.

I will continue to be present on CIS, Genie, AOL and a few other places, which have more than their share of critical commentaries, but are moderated to prevent this kind of abusive behavior. When the rastb5-info group is open, I will post to that area, and take questions via that forum. But I will no longer post to, or read the main rastb5 area any longer. I simply can't afford the heartache anymore.

The experiment in interaction between viewers and the makers of B5 will continue; they just will continue in other places.

People ask why more producers don't come on-line. This is the reason. Because there are some people out there who are obsessed with anyone who has even the smallest celebrity (and there ain't much smaller celebrity than being a producer); people who feel it is their god-given obligation to tear down the other person, and to make sure that there cannot *possibly* be anyone in their universe more important than they themselves. They do not sow, neither do they reap; they only shred and tear and abuse.

If you're ever going to see more producers on-line, you're going to have to look seriously into ways to keep the least reputable elements from turning it into a bloodbath. Because when some say, as has been said here, "it's my right to say this, and you have to take it," the response is, "No, I don't." If you stay, you become an enabler, a co-dependent, who allows the abuse to continue by the conscious decision to remain where you can be hit.

To the rest of you: I apologize for having to take this step. Some of you know how difficult this decision has been for me, the long months I've spent debating it back and forth with friends, family and other netters. I have enjoyed the exchange, have learned much from the commentaries, and the discussion, have made many friends and acquaintances. Were there any way I could stay, be sure that I would. But when I have to stare at a monitor, when a script deadline is upon me, and all I can think of is, "That goddamned liar is spreading the same old crap *again*," then something has got to go. In this case, that's me.

Because sure as hell, they won't. Not until their punching bag

With the obvious exceptions, I will miss you greatly. As stated above, I'll be here through the end of the month, just to finish clearing out stuff, and ease this transition, though probably in somewhat reduced capacity. I hope to see many of you via the new info group. Though the discussion will not be quite so free wheeling as it is here, because of the moderated structure there, it will be good to look upon your faces (well, your pixels) in the months to come there.

Again, my apologies. I wish this could be handled in some other way, but that doesn't seem likely. You cannot know how your words, and your efforts, on behalf of B5, have been appreciated not just by me, but by everyone involved with the show. It's been a great experience, a chance to learn, and a hell of a ride. See you on the flip side.

With great affection, J. Michael Straczynski

Fan Comments


The unabridged flounce is 1,654 words long and very evocative, with paternalistic deifying qualities (“I have become, in many ways, the football used to pull others on either side of the line into an ugly and destructive game. And the only way to stop it is to remove the football”). This and its follow-up post on December 1st are definitely worth a read.

From a modern day perspective, this rings as excessive and even dangerous. A show creator leveraging his celebrity to essentially sic his fans on his enemies? And, in a way, it brings credence to what some of the “trolls” like Fuller have been saying. There is something odd about how JMS’s word became law, and any detractors were seen as automatically in the wrong. Having said that, as we’ve seen Fuller, Thaxton, etc. were terrorizing this newsgroup in that they were widely hated and also flinging accusations without proof at any opportunity. It’s easy to see how JMS (and others) lost their cool with this cabal of trolls.