Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently put to the Joe Taxpayer blog:
Some debate these issues like religion.
99 percent of the world probably thinks that was so of me. I truly do not think it was. I knew about the errors in Greaney’s SWR study when I put my first post to the Motley Fool board in May 1999. I didn’t put forward my famous post pointing out the errors in the study until the morning of May 13, 2002. So getting those studies corrected obviously was not a religion to me in those days!
There’s one thing that really is like a religion to me. Free Speech. I’m a journalist. It’s all I ever wanted to be. It’s in my blood. So, yes, the idea that people use intimidation tactics to block a very important discussion that thousands of people have expressed a desire to have for 11 years rubs my fur the wrong way. Guilty as charged re that one!
The other one that might come close to being a religion with me is the idea that you don’t betray your fellow community members, no matter what. There were hundreds of us who worked together to build the Retire Early board at Motley Fool into the most successful board in the history of the site. Those people shared private stuff about their finances. I shared in their joy when they achieved important milestones. Those people became friends to me. You don’t betray your friends because some internet Goon makes clear what his Goon Squad will do to you if you refuse. You’re not the same person as you once were once you go along with something like that.
Hey! Motley Fool promised me in its posting rules that it would protect me from the sorts of individuals who have put up posts in “defense” of Mel Lindauer and John Greaney. If I had known that you had to show up with a Goon Squad to be able to say what you truly believe, I would have formed one of my own!
Actually, I probably wouldn’t have. I don’t think Goon squads are ever really going to be my thing. If I HAD a Goon Squad, I would probably post in opposition to my OWN Goon Squad. That’s how deep this Free Speech thing goes with me.
Here’s an interesting historical fact that few newcomers to this stuff know — I dropped out of the discussions on Friday, May 17, 2002. The Goons had become just too brutal and I had had enough and I announced that I was leaving the board and I had every intention of sticking to it.
God had other plans for me. The following afternoon, a retired government engineer (John Walter Russell) who had never posted to the board before put up a post doing a sensitivity analysis of the Greaney study to see whether I was truly off my rocker or not. John found that the sensitivity numbers for the retirement study were so bad that an aspiring retiree would have to be 100 percent loco to give two seconds consideration to the idea of using that study to plan a retirement. He wrote a post titled “Hocus Is Really Onto Something (and I Am Having a Ball!). About 50 of my fellow community members endorsed the post. Dozens of posters came forward to say that this was the most exciting discussion we had ever seen at that board.
I was back! What else are you gonna do in those sorts of circumstances? You can’t let all of your buds down and still look at the man in the mirror the next day.
John Walter Russell? He spent the next seven-plus years of his life (John died in October, 2009) researching my investing ideas. He became the most loved poster in the history of both the Retire Early and Indexing discussion-board communities. He ended up having so much wonderful research that he created a site of his own to share it with all the people asking about it (the site passed to me on John’s death).
Things sometimes work out for the best when you work up the courage to do the right thing.
Or so I am informed by one of those crazy hunches that I have been known to experience from time to time!