Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently put to another blog entry at this site:
Obviously no one ever asks “am I going to prison”. Are you incapable of raising an important topic yourself?
I raise the death threats all the time, Bizarro. Usually the discussion starts on something substantive and eventually we get to a part of the story that sounds unbelievable. I might say “we know today how to reduce the risk of stock investing by 70 percent.” When I hear myself say those words, there is a part of my brain that clicks on and says to me “the person hearing these words is going to have a hard time understanding how that could be so and yet he has never heard about it before.” So I will add a little explanation. I will say something like: “The reason you haven’t heard about this is that millions of people have a huge emotional investment in Buy-and-Hold. They used it to plan their retirements. It’s not possible to talk about what works without explaining what doesn’t work. But people get emotional when you do that. I was a Buy-and-Holder myself until the night of August 27, 2002, when John Greaney threatened to kill my wife and children if I continued posting honestly about safe withdrawal rates and 200 of my friends from the Retire Early board endorsed his post. That told me that this Buy-and-Hold stuff is just too darn emotional and we need a true research-based investing strategy, one fit for use by humans.”
People can respond to that in different ways, Bizarro.
Just about everyone condemns the death threats. They say “that’s crazy” or “that’s unbelievable” or something like that. But THEY DO NOT ASK FOLLOW-UPS.
It is a very rare event for anyone hearing about the death threats to say “well, did the site ban those people?” or “did you go to the police?” or “did you try telling John Bogle about this and seeing how he felt knowing that his investing strategy caused people to advance death threats?” PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE DEATH THREATS. PEOPLE ARE IN DENIAL RE THIS ASPECT OF THE STORY.”
Do you see?
We are as a society suffering a huge case of cognitive dissonance, the biggest and most damaging case ever experienced in history. We don’t want to know.
BUT WE NEED TO KNOW. Buy-and-Hold is killing us. It caused the economic crisis. It has caused FOUR economic crises since 1870 (that’s four out of the four we experienced in that time-period). It has caused the destruction of many once-fine discussion boards and blogs. It is in the process of sending you Goons to prison. All sorts of bad stuff.
Me talking about it does not by itself change anything. I need to talk about it. If I don’t I am myself participating in the cover-up and I am setting myself up for a prison sentence following the next crash. But me coming forward and saying “this Buy-and-Hold stuff is a big pile of smelly garbage” does not by itself get the job done. I need the New York Times writing this stuff up on the front page. I need Old Saint Jack giving an “I Was Wrong” speech. I need the Ban on Honest Posting reversed at every board and blog that has adopted it.
I do what I can to make all that good stuff happen, Bizarro. But I am not Superman. You might be surprised to learn this but not everyone in this world listens to everything I say. I told the site administrator at Motley Fool about Greaney’s death threats and I asked him to take appropriate action. His response was to send me an e-mail telling me that my suggestions were “thoughtful” and that he agreed with me that it would be “ideal” if Greaney were to permit honest posting on retirement planning at a board focused on retirement planning. I of course agreed with him that that would indeed be “ideal.”
But I did not possess the access to the buttons I needed to push to get Greaney removed from that board. I did not. I could ask. I could even demand. But I could not myself push the buttons. So the buttons remained unpushed.
And I cannot compel people to engage in a discussion of how long the prison sentences should be for you Goons.
I would like to see such a discussion. I believe that, if we were to have such a discussion, the prison sentences would end up being shorter and there would be fewer people serving them. If you Goons saw other people talking about this stuff, you would be less inclined to engage in the behavior that will cause you to go to prison following the next crash. But I am not God. I don’t get to say what people will ask me about or what people will talk about. I can make suggestions. In extreme cases, I can even advance demands. But I do not myself control what the outcome of my suggestions or demands will be. Others are responsible for that.
If you are unhappy that I am not talking to enough people about the prison sentence thing, please take it up with some of these others. It is not me holding back that discussion! It is not!
Fair enough, my old friend?