I want to start off my post here by saying that I apologize for making all of you continue to live, and relive, this current disaster. I'd been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks however and given the people involved here, I've got some words to say, and I can't rest easy not having said them. It is also going to be long, and I ask that you please try to bear with me until the end.
Like most of you, I am a leftist. I'm not terribly well versed in Goob's politics but I am aware that they tend to be on the other end of the spectrum. But HLP is not about politics for me, it is about space pixels.
I joined HLP in 2006 or 2007 as an edgy, isolated teenager amped up on American middle school
propaganda history and yearning for a sense of duty and camaraderie. I saw good and evil everywhere and was big on the GenDisc conspiracy theory bandwagon, generally had a complete distrust of authority, and this was only amplified by the irony that Sandwich's "benevolent dictatorship" rhetoric was not considered outrageous or uncouth back in the day - it was par for the course for the site's administration at the time.
With this in mind, I made a pretty big ass out of myself, and in a community that seemed to be run by an imposing, monolithic group of others, I distinctly remember that it was Goober who was the one who actually took the time to talk with me. Who made himself available for dialogue, and generally tried to steer me in the right direction in a sea of folks who (probably rightfully) trolled me into oblivion. I even managed to get myself monkey'd, on a forum that's always been lax on the disciplinary side even in jest.
I returned on and off for awhile, but didn't seriously pick up FS modding and properly start teaching myself to FRED up until the past couple of years. Gone were the days of conspiracy theories and everything a fight to win, but one aspect remained - HLP did still largely seem to be an imposing meritocracy, and the people who knew their way around FSO's inner workings seemed unapproachable or irritable to me most of the time. Having just resigned from a four year developer/staff tenure at another gaming community, I definitely understood it. But it was still disheartening.
Re-enter Goober, and enter Axem.
Over the past year I relied on these two more than any other community members for support. People who were masters of their craft, approachable, and humble. People who didn't make me feel small, or unwelcome, or in over my head. People who didn't make me feel like an other, and provided all the resources I needed to become a proficient modder of FSO in my own right.
I returned to find them gone after attempting to drop Axem a message in private and finding I could not, as I no longer shared a server with him. That was my introduction to this, and yeah, it hurt.
As a community leader not all that long ago myself, yes, unequivocally I would have called for and pursued disciplinary action against a staff member making implied legal threats against community members. However, I think a fact lost on everyone here is that Goober, for all his responsibility and "power" here, never ceased to be a person. I find the measures undertaken by the staff to be inadequate and messy, but not in the way many others saw fit to call them out on.
There's a report button and Goober should have used it, but does his lack of a measured response befitting his role abdicate Mjn - an esteemed senior member of the community - of the accusations against him? Are we free to apply labels here to others in this forum which would, in the real world, see us potentially fired from workplaces, and ostracized by family and friends?
Another angle worth considering here is that we have all had an incredibly trying year - particularly here in the United States - and likely the most difficult of many of our lifetimes. Tensions are running incredibly high between covid, ongoing protests, and imminent elections. Should perhaps, then, some degree of leeway and understanding (I think the proposed second chance in Axem's original post was exemplary here) be extended to both Mjn and Goober? It appears that this line of thought might have been applied to one party here, but not the other.
Lastly, I can't express my disappointment enough that Sandwich was left in the dark on this, and that the ensuing confusion resulted in the loss of Axem. I think I speak for a great many when I say that that man was an infallible pillar of this community, and that we are all much poorer for the loss of him. It may not be what happened, but it's easy from an outsider perspective to read this as HLP's administration caving to a might-makes-right attitude of doubling down harder on Goober after the community called for his removal, and a convenient exclusion of staff members from discussion that may have been more sympathetic to him. Again, I don't necessarily believe this is what transpired, and I'm willing to extend some benefit of the doubt, but nobody should be under any illusion that those are not the optics on it.
Mistakes were made, and given everything I shared above, I'm not sure that the apology made is one I personally can accept at this time. I'm too invested here in certain projects to dip out now, and while I hope for some semblance of a return to normalcy, these are lasting wounds. I don't think any of us could blame Axem for not returning, or Goober for or Sandwich for leaving as well.
If I have any closing thoughts here, it would be that I have concerns about the state of HLP's staff as a bit of an echochamber, and if there is any decision that could be made which would be reassuring, it would be the hiring of new staff members who, while perhaps not as confrontational as Goober, march to the beat of their own drum.