Set forth below are the texts of an e-mail sent to me by Crystal (owner of the Budgeting in the Fun Stuff blog) and Jackie (owner of the The Debt Stuff blog) on October 14, 2014, followed by my response:
You should totally respond to Evan. To get the word out there, you just need bloggers to post. To get bloggers to post, you just have to be a person we know that won’t get personal with the assholes of the blogging world. We weren’t saying that you shouldn’t post. Your posts just need to be informational and positive every time. Never put any focus on the goons at all. Don’t reply to the goons. Just reply to the Evans. That was our general point. Does that make sense?
I would say reply in one (short) paragraph to Evan 🙂
And to keep all references to stuff that’s gone on in the past out of your posts/comments.
I haven’t gotten a comment on the one on my site, but that’s not at all unusual. I noticed some people did tweet/repin it though.
After I finish this response, I will put up a brief response to Evan.
What you say about the Goon matter almost makes sense to me but not quite. I 100 percent agree with the idea of always being informational and positive. And I know that people hate it when I talk about the Goons. But there are problems that come about from not responding to them.
The Goons are assholes. That’s fair to say. But on a lot of other issues a lot of them are NOT assholes. They believe in Buy-and-Hold. They lie about all sorts of things. But they are not lying about that. The reason why they act like assholes is that they are insecure in their beliefs. They have doubts in their own minds and, when I point out what the research says, I stir up their insecurities and they lash out.
There was one discussion board where they were having a debate as to whether I should be banned and one guy said: “Rob is the politest guy that I have ever met on the internet but he irritates me to no end!” That guy was not a Goon. He would not say something kind about me if he was a Goon. But he did vote for silencing me. My stuff really does bother even good and smart people. It is hard for people to accept that they have made a mistake with their retirement money. The Goons exploit that reality. But it is not only the Goons that are the problem.
I had a weekly column for a long time at the “Out of Your Rut” site. Kevin, the owner of the site, LOVED my stuff. He loved it so much that he told me that he wanted to start paying me even though I never asked for payment. Kevin has lots of friends in the social media and so the column would regularly get positive comments. I once wrote about how John Bogle caused the economic crisis (through his advocacy of Buy-and-Hold). One guy got upset about that. He likes Bogle and he didn’t like hearing that. I like Bogle too. He is one of my heroes. I wrote another column at the same site in which I praised Bogle to the skies. 90 percent of what Valuation-Informed Indexing is about is taken from Bogle. So the problem is not that I don’t like Bogle. The problem is that I am PERCEIVED as having something against Bogle even though that is not at all what I feel in my heart (I do believe that Bogle was the lead voice in favor of the investing strategy that caused the economic crisis but I do not believe that it was his intention to cause an economic crisis.).
It’s not my intent to be argumentative here. I appreciate that you are sincere and are trying to give me helpful advice. I am trying to be frank. I am trying to show the true nature of the problem. What is going to happen to people’s retirement money is a sensitive question. No one started out with bad motives. But people are in tough spots. Emotions are raw. The biggest problem that I have is that my case is research-based. If it were just my opinion, people could say “oh, that’s just that crazy guy saying crazy things again” and we could all be friends. But the Buy-and-Holders take pride in promoting a research-based strategy and it hurts them to hear that it is a very different strategy that is really supported by the research.
I will give one more example that perhaps will put a human face on the story. I had a friend named “Brian” when I worked at Ernst & Young. We used to go to lunch several times a week in the late 1990s.
Sometimes we talked about stock investing. He always said that I was “crazy” in a friendly and warm way. I would say “yes, I know that I am crazy, Brian, but that’s what I sincerely believe” and all was fine. A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a story saying that I was right about safe withdrawal rates.
Brian knew that that was the issue that got me banned from numerous boards years ago. So he called me
on the telephone and said “How does it feel to be vindicated after all these years?” I said that I guessed it
felt good but that discussion of what the research says re SWRs is still banned at all those boards. He said
that he didn’t believe that and that he was going to put up a post repeating what the Wall Street Journal said at the Bogleheads Forum and see what happened. He bet me $5 that he would not be banned. He was banned within 30 seconds.
It’s hard for people to admit that they are wrong when they have invested years of their lives saying the wrong thing and telling others the wrong thing. That’s the real issue here. As a society we have to turn the boat around and it is a hard business because we have so much invested in the old way of thinking.
I’m not sure what my response adds up to. I am not trying to argue with you. I think I am just passing along thoughts gathered from 12 years experience trying to get the word out about these matters. I don’t think the Goons are the entire problem. I think that people tolerate behavior from them that they would not tolerate in other circumstances because they find it painful to hear parts of the message.
I will promise to ponder what you said a bit more. I will go back and re-read your e-mail several times. I don’t feel that I can promise not to talk about the Goons on an across-the-board basis because I feel that they are part of the story. But I of course acknowledge that I can get things wrong and that I need to try to be open to feedback from people who are obviously trying to help. So I will make some effort to challenge my own beliefs re all this.
Hopefully it will all work out for the best in the end.