Shootout at the Gun Blog Corral: Stuck in the Middle with You

Bring Popcorn

Bring Popcorn

What’s that old saying?  “Life would be easy if it weren’t for other people”.

Do you like guns?  If you’re here, you probably do.

Do you know a lot about guns?  Some of you do, some of you don’t.  Some are aware of where you stand on the gun knowledge spectrum, and others are not.

Do you want to talk about and learn about guns?  Once again, if you’re here, you probably do.

It would be great if we could all discuss the things we like and learn more about them.  But like any activity, once you add people into the mix it can get pretty complicated and annoying.

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There are a lot of gun blogs staking their claim on a piece of the internet.  Some are informative, some are amusing, some are technical, some are personal.  Much like Rule 34: no matter what your gun kink is, there is a blog to sate your needs.

But gun blog consumers are not free to float through the gun blog universe without impediment.  Just as Apple and MicroSoft cast huge (and polarizing) shadows on the computing world, gun bloggery has to contend with 2 massive entities that project massive gravity wells.  Forces so large, their event horizons overlap, and woe to anyone that gets caught in between them.

What are these two gunblogosphere navigation hazards?

One is the upstart TTAG (The Truth About Guns), run by Robert Farago,  After creating (and selling off) The Truth About Cars, Farago set his sights on monetizing a gun blog.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I cross-posted some of my early posts on TTAG many moons ago.  But I disagreed with some of Farago’s editorial changes on my writing, and decided that I would stick to my own venue.  I don’t hate the man, I just have a different way of doing things.)

Since that time, Farago has brought on a large number of gun writers, many who were new to gun blogging.  Some are good, others not as good.  But Farago has made clear that he intends to monetize TTAG, and uses SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to maximize his traffic.  And he has achieved a high level of site traffic, with links from high-volume sites like SaysUncle (but not lately) and InstaPundit.

In the course of doing so, he has also run afoul of other gun bloggers by “borrowing” or “stealing” content (depends on which side you talk to) by pushing the boundaries of the Fair Use Doctrine.  For the record, I think TTAG crossed the line on multiple occasions.  He also has tended to react badly when other bloggers complain about his appropriation of their work.

The other massive gravity well is, basically, a cult of personality.  A mutual-admiration society, really, with a few key very opinionated high-mass players around whom the rest of the group orbits.  Not surprisingly, as the creators of a large volume of gun blog content, this group was the victim of many of TTAG’s Fair Use infringements, and ended up organizing an unofficial boycott of TTAG after Farago was unwise enough to suggest that there was a boycott (when there wasn’t one).

But that is not to say that this other force in the gunblogging universe is comprised of sweetness & light.  There are plenty of good people in this group, but some of the ringleaders are not very nice at all.  And they have no qualms about throwing their weight around to ensure that their voice is the loudest in the chorus.  It has happened before, and just happened again too.  Hence this post.

If it were a voice of fairness, this ringleader shouting, that might not be a bad thing.  But guns are as polarizing as any other subject, maybe even more so.  Biases abound, opinions differ widely, and not everyone is willing to admit that they hold biases.  Instead, some of the ringleaders attack anyone and anything that threatens their views or their authority.  If you point out an undeniable problem with the ringleader’s position, you will find that the goalposts of the debate get moved arbitrarily to better suit the ringleader’s debate position.   If someone disagrees with them, or even expresses displeasure over being attacked, the rest of the group piles on, hypocrisy be damned.  Not because the ringleader is right, but because they are part of the group and don’t want to make waves or be ostracized.  I can remember the cliques in junior high school very well, from before I grew up into a responsible self-sufficient adult with a mortgage and health insurance.  Some very intelligent people belonged to some very dubious social circles, and as a result did plenty of dumb things.  It made no sense to me then, or now.

It isn’t surprising, really.  Along with the many good things the internet gave us, it also has some downsides.  For one, it gives a voice to anyone that cares to speak, and that can be a good thing.  If not for the internet, we never would have had Hugh Howey’s “Wool”.  But on the other hand, some of the people that cling so dearly to their online influence are those that have no relevance in the real world.

Without mentioning any names, a few minutes of Googling told the backstory of recent events as plain as day.  You take a person with little formal education, and no career or accomplishments to speak of, but suddenly give them a soapbox and some followers, well that is a recipe for an online bully.  Their self-esteem is predicated on remaining the alpha dog of their pack.  Without their internet muscles, they won’t get their free hat at the SHOT Show.  If you are shocked that they react badly to dissenting opinion, shame on you.

So where does that leave the gun blog consumer, or even a new as-yet-unaligned gun blogger?

You can gravitate towards one of the two camps, as close as you feel comfortable doing.  Maybe you agree with one or the other camp’s positions more; maybe you find the personality of one group more amenable.  Maybe you just want to belong to something, and aren’t too choosy about your company.

Or you can try to chart a course around and between these two juggernauts.  While that sounds great in principle, as we at YGN found out, it is impossible to be the Switzerland of the internet.  If you express an opinion, you will be judged by all, and many will try to put you in a group which you never consciously joined.  And both of these juggernauts have vast event horizons.  You cannot avoid them both.  Farago is mostly a live & let live concern; if you aren’t in his camp he ignores you on a personal level while perhaps filching some of your content.  The cult of personality is quick to label and ostracize, however.  It’s their way or the highway.

We at YGN will do what we always do: say what is on our minds.

Speaking only for myself, I take great pains to treat others as they treat me.  If you’re polite, that’s how I behave towards you.  And if you’re combative or rude, I will give it right back to you regardless of the consequences.  No one is above criticism.

I had no patience for cliques in junior high, and I have no patience for them now.

 

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