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Response to George Donnelly

George Donnelly has, over the past two days, engaged in speech and action that is damaging to myself and to the Free State Project. Regrettably, his continued promotion of false information, primarily about me, leads me to publish this response. I am responding principally due to the publication of his blog titled “I Deleted the Free State Project Facebook Page that I Created Because I’m Not Food for Parasites.” That blog has been promoted to Free State Project participants, some of whom may be misled by it. I do not wish for them to be misled, hence this response.


In the course of this response, I intend to accomplish the following:


1: Identify the false statements Mr. Donnelly makes in his blog post and elsewhere.


2: Share other relevant information that may help people decide whether Mr. Donnelly and/or myself are people they would like to associate with.


3: Solicit feedback regarding my words and deeds with an aim towards improving my communication and management skills going forward.


As I do these three things, I aim to be as truthful as I can possibly be – it is not my intent to falsely represent myself, or Mr. Donnelly. Further, while I hope to sufficiently correct Mr. Donnelly and provide adequate information to those who are considering association with Mr. Donnelly, I neither wish to technically nor in-spirit defame him or commit libel.


1: Identify the false statements Mr. Donnelly makes in his blog post and elsewhere.


Mr. Donnelly made many false statements in the above referenced blog. Below are responses to some of the false statements. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of false statements from the above listed blog, nor is it an exhaustive list of all of the false statements Mr. Donnelly has made over the last two days.


i. “He claimed complete power over the page even though he never contributed to it.” - I did not make this precise claim and would not have made such a claim.


First, Facebook owns the facebook website and sets the terms for its use. They, not I, have “complete power” over the page. Second, Facebook's Pages Terms states: “2. You may only administer a Facebook Page if you are an authorized representative of the subject of the Page.” The claim I made was simply that Mr. Donnelly needs to want to make an effort to represent the Free State Project appropriately if he is to be an administrator. I never stated “I have complete power of the page.” Third, while the Free State Project delegates representative authority to me on a day-to-day basis, I have no legitimate authority that is not granted by the Free State Project's Board. It is the Board, not me individually, who has the legitimate authority to authorize people to represent the Free State Project. Finally, the assertion that I never contributed to the page is also both false and contradictory to what I actually said.


ii: “Then he threatened to tell Facebook I was not an official representative of the Free State Project.” - This is clearly false and Mr. Donnelly's quote demonstrates this.


What I said was that “If you don’t [want to make an effort to represent the Free State Project appropriately], then you’re violating Facebook’s terms by being an admin for an organization you don’t represent.” I was simply stating a fact. I did not threaten to tell Facebook anything and, when falsely accused of doing so, clarified at least twice.


First, I was asked to be specific about my assertion of misinformation. In response, in included this: “1: I threatened to tell Facebook that George isn't a representative of the FSP – not true (I *did* copy to George Facebook's terms, which he claims to respect elsewhere, indicating that only representatives of the subject should be admins.)” - Note: I not only refute the assertion, I indicate my reason for doing so. The claims I refer to of George's respect of Facebook's terms were in comments on the now-deleted page. At least once (I think at least twice, but I'm relying on my fallible memory now) he stated that he doesn't want to start a second account to post to the FSP's page because that would violate Facebook's terms.


Second, Mr. Donnelly stated: “The real question is whether I can trust you not to go behind my back and get my account deleted.” I responded: “And no, I'm not interested in trying to get you deleted.”


Mr. Donnelly has continued to make the false claim that I “threatened to tell Facebook...” despite the fact I did not do so, he has not published any evidence to support his claim, and I (at least) twice clearly indicated I was not making such a threat. I do feel it was important for Mr. Donnelly to know about the terms problem for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, I believed Mr. Donnelly would simply respect those terms on his own based on prior comments he had made.


iii: “Varrin Swearingen and Jason Sorens made me feel like crap because I played a leading role in developing a nice promotional tool for the Free State Project.” - This is also false. First, neither Dr. Sorens nor myself can control Mr. Donnelly's emotions. Second, it is practically impossible for anyone to be absolutely certain of another person's true motive. Third, my stated motive was consistely and repeatedly communicated as ensuring that “Free State Project” doesn't post things inappropriate for the Free State Project to say. For example, “The principle problem here is that the post appears to come from the FSP,” and “It is important to post only appropriate things as an admin.”


iv: “Instead of acting with honor, Varrin lied about his threats.” - This is also false. I did not make such a threat and no evidence of such a threat has ever been presented. See ii above.


v: “Between a rock and a hard place, and after waiting several hours for Varrin to retract his threats, I finally deleted the page.” - This quote was posted well after I said “I'm not interested in trying to get you deleted.” I wrote that 11 minutes after Mr. Donnelly expressed his concern despite the fact I never actually threatened to do that in the first place.


vi: “Varrin alleged publicly that I deleted the threads about this from my Facebook profile.” - This is also not true. What I said was: “Unfortunately I no longer have all of the factual information regarding our exchanges due to the page deletion and George's removal of me from his friends list (and maybe deletion of posts on his wall, too?).” That was a question, not an allegation. The links to those threads in my history now go to blank places and due to my lack of access to Mr. Donnelly's wall, I have no way of directly observing whether those threads still exist or not.


2: Share other relevant information that may help people decide whether Mr. Donnelly and/or myself are people they would like to associate with.


i: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to have a very low regard for truth. This is demonstrated above and this point does not need to be repeated.


ii: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to have a low regard for communication etiquette. He demonstrates this repeatedly by publicly copying emails to him without permission from the authors, and by publicizing conflict.


iii: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to be disinterested in resolving conflict. Rather, he appears interested in perpetuating it. He demonstrates this in his refusal to talk on the phone to work on resolving this conflict after being both publicly and privately invited to do so. He further demonstrates this by continuing the conflict with his blog post well after taking the action he felt necessary to resolve the problem (deleting the Free State Project Facebook page).


iv: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to be interested in defaming people in response to conflict. In this case, he demonstrates this by by calling me a liar, and calling into question my trustworthiness. He did so even though I clearly did not lie in the ways he states, my record of trustworthiness is reasonably well established, and I took no actions in this case which could clearly be characterized as untrustworthy. As he was doing these things, Mr. Donnelly made numerous false statements and demonstrated his own untrustworthiness by publicly copying non-public emails, ignoring reasonable requests, responding to constructive criticism with hostility, refusing to work to resolve conflict, and ultimately destroying the Free State Project Facebook page.


There are many more things I could say, but I feel these things should be sufficient to help interested parties decide whether Mr. Donnelly is reasonable, trustworthy, or honest.


3: Solicit feedback regarding my words and deeds with an aim towards improving my communication and management skills going forward.


I do not pretend to be perfect. I do put forth my best effort to do whatever I do as excellently as I can. I do not always meet my own expectations, nor do I always meet the expectations of others.


It is not my intent to please everyone. That simply can't be done. It is, however, my intent to be the best I can be. I suspect some people who have observed the interactions between Mr. Donnelly and myself may have useful, constructive criticism to offer me. I welcome that useful, constructive criticism and hope it would be provided in a reasonable fashion. I would best accept that via email to me at my personal email address and/or president at freestateproject dot org.


Thank you in advance for your suggestions on how to better handle difficult situations such as these.






Based on subsequent comments by yourself and others, I would like to provide an addendum to my response. 

I'm sorry you feel like I threatened you in the way you state.  I have tried to explain that I didn't actually threaten you, I didn't intend to threaten you, and after being alerted to your lack of trust, made it clear that I wasn't interested in doing what you thought I was threatening to do.  I did all of these things *before* you deleted the page and the record of those things is clear and well-documented.  If I somehow failed to make it clear that I wasn't threatening to report you and/or persuade Facebook to delete you, I apologize for that lack of clarity. 

I have outlined in my response my reason for citing Facebook's terms:  You had already repeatedly cited them yourself as your *reason* for not wanting to start a second account to post things to the Free State Project Facebook page as yourself.  Therefore, it appeared to me that you respected Facebook's terms.  I intended to appeal to your respect for Facebook's terms, not to threaten to attempt to persuade Facebook to enforce their terms.  I intended to do the former and not the latter and stand by both of those.

However, I'm truly sorry if my communication to you about all of that was not clear enough.

For the record, I'd like to publicly apologize for two more things:

1:  I should not have recommended starting a second account.  When I did so, I was not thinking about that being in violation of Facebook's terms.  Thank you for pointing that out to me and for encouraging me to put forth effort to respecting Facebook's terms.  My suggestion was clearly inappropriate, I subsequently corrected it (as has already been documented), and I do apologize for it.

2:  I apologize for using the term "nuclear option."  I intended that phrase, in the context, to be a short and hopefully mildly humorous (even if sarcastic) phrase meaning: "Varrin files some form of report to Facebook indicating inappropriate content which may result in George's account deletion."  That was poor judgment on my part under the circumstances.  If there was any "nuclear option", it was deleting the Free State Project Facebook page.  You actually did that.  I still think, under the circumstances, it would be poor judgment to call it that, so I'll do my best to refrain from calling it that.


Edit: added addendum 10-11-10 12:29L

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