I started off my internet writing on a message forum. That forum was owned by Primedia & called the Guns & Ammo Forum. It got its name from a magazine that Primedia publishes. I spent the better part of three years on that forum, following it as its URL changed. I made a few friends, a few adversaries & a helluva lot of arguments. As of the 30th of October I no longer post there. This is my attempt to explain why, for my benefit, for my friends that I’ve made over the years at G&A Forum benefit, & for those of you who know nothing about Primedia, the G&A Forum & the NRA’s connection, power & influence & there apparent hatred of KeepAndBearArms.com.
As I said, I posted over there for quite a while. The Forum originally had 2 sections: the General Shooting Forum & the Second Amendment Forum. It is now a very large forum with many sections, but for our purpose I’ll mainly speak of the Second Amendment Forum.
Another thing that would be helpful for y’all to know is that I posted under the screen name miketgtr71. Though I doubt my writing style & my points would be too easily confused with many people over there, should you decide to visit for yourself then that’s the screen name I used.
When I first started posting there I was just waking up from the political slumber we are all born in. This was ideal because the Second Amendment Forum was slumbering as well. I forget the ratio, but the General Shooting Forum had ten pages or so of posts to perhaps 2 pages of posts at the Second Amendment Forum. It just wasn’t getting the traffic it should have received.
Being new to the message board system I started off rather cautiously. I posted simple questions & engaged in polite debates. Then I found another internet resource that seemed to be just what the Second Amendment Forum needed: KeepAndBearArms.com. (KABA for short)
KABA had news stories, organized by day, which related directly or indirectly to the Right to Arms. So I took what I thought was of interest & posted it on the Second Amendment Forum. Sometimes I’d post seven or more of their stories a day, but usually at least one or two. This picked things up over there. People started coming over & seeing what was going on. Most importantly they started commenting to the posts. I didn’t do it all by myself but I did do a lot to get the Second Amendment Forum going in the beginning.
Now one of the reasons I write is to help formulate ideas. Some people like to sit & think, others like to distract themselves, but when I have an idea or theory that is bubbling just below the surface & I want to explain it or expand upon it, I write about it. If it makes sense to me on paper, then I usually think it’s solid enough to test with more rigorous forms of scrutiny.
A lot of the ideas I believe about Rights, particularly the Right to Arms, were formed by writing about them on the G&A Forums, & solidified by arguing their defense on those same forums.
But now here’s where it gets interesting: some of the arguments would last for months, & I believe a few of them are still going on despite my self-exile. In the summer of 2001 I remember months long debates with people who supported the wave of CCW laws that was washing over the country, while I & a few others argued that CCW permits were taking what should be a Right & transforming it into a mere privilege. Some would still bring those arguments over CCW up, even within the last few days & while discussing different subjects.
It was during those CCW debates that I realized a few things about people. One is that no matter how brief or elaborate your statements are, some people will always misunderstand them. The other is that when some people disagree with your ideas, the only recourse they know is to attack you as a person.
There were times when it got pretty nasty over there. No one threatened to kill me (that I’m aware of) but the level of name calling used by some in place of reasoned argument was beneath most grade school students.
Roughly around that same time, Primedia felt it was necessary to add a moderator to the G&A Forums. Now as some of you may know, heavy handed moderation can literally kill a Forum. We were very fortunate in that the person chosen to moderate realized this as well. Basically he attempted to keep things civil, to some degree, & steer us away from topics that didn’t directly or indirectly relate to the Right to Arms. He did allow a lot of leeway in determining what was directly or indirectly related however, which was another wise decision on his part as it kept the Forum from being too dull.
One thing I did always wonder about though, was the personally directed attacks waged at me & those who agreed with me were never really addressed by the moderator. Not that I’m complaining, as at the time I took this to mean he thought I & the others could handle ourselves without his help, but it struck me as odd then & I believe I have a more credible explanation for that now. But that will come as the tale unfolds.
I kept posting & arguing with the people over there until Primedia decided to change the URL. I believe they did this twice in a few months, but truthfully I don’t recall exactly what the order of events was. I was e-mailed by a friend & informed the URL had changed. So I drifted on over there & started posting again. But one thing made me post less than usual at first. That was the old Forum had been almost completely erased. I complained to the moderator but his answer relayed that I shouldn’t be so sentimental, as nothing on the net is permanent. I spent countless hours arguing subtle points with people who argued passionately against those points. I was a bit put off at the thought of my writing being subject to a company’s whim & erased without a second thought. So my posting slacked off considerably solely because I didn’t wish to waste my words if they could be erased at a moments notice.
About the same time I was looking for a more active role in this whole Right to Arms struggle; something a little more immediately effective than trying to convince the choir that some tunes were off key as it were. I e-mailed Angel Shamaya, who runs KABA, & asked him about the possibility of getting a constitutional amendment passed that would shore up the Right to Arms. He then patiently explained the cost, in time & money that such a move would entail, along with the chances of success. I still think it could be done, but his answer told me that there was no backing available for such an endeavor, & when it comes down to it, you usually need at least as much cash as your enemies have in order to win. His answer told me, in short that the cash wasn’t there & to look for something else.
Then I found a blog. Actually a friend from the G&A Forum, Mark, turned me onto a blog. I started reading them. Then, as you may have guessed, I started my own blog. Actually that’s not 100% accurate either. I envisioned this to be a group blog, with the same friend Mark as one of the group. Unfortunately he has a very busy life & has had time to post once, which is a shame because he’s a very insightful fellow.
I started posting on the blog & to varying degrees neglected the G&A Forum. I’d still drop by & read, maybe posting a quick reply, but the months long ultra intense arguments were no more, at least not to any great degree. & the Forum was doing fine without me. There were a few who held somewhat similar views that would do a more than adequate job of expressing those opinions we had in agreement.
But now we get to the heart of the matter. The NRA has, of late, done some very, very questionable things. They’ve argued in court for firearm registration, they’ve called two specific legislators who consistently vote for gun control patriots, they’ve pushed for an expansion of a gun control law (namely the Brady Law); been supportive of strict efforts at gun control enforcement, & attorneys & various other employees of the NRA have been trying to undermine the Silveira vs. Lockyer appeal.
On the Second Amendment Forum a few people have posted copies of alerts they’ve received via e-mail from various pro-gun groups (such as RMGO & GOA) that told of these questionable actions of the NRA. Needless to say I was in on this. I probably didn’t start the majority of the posts that were critical of the NRA, but I participated in all that I could & definitely posted more in opposition to the NRA than all the other posters combined. This was due to NRA apologists who attempted to justify every action or statement the NRA made.
For the most part though, I wouldn’t post anything on a thread someone else started until there was opposition to it. Not that I didn’t instigate my fair share of arguments through being the original poster of things that were critical of the NRA, but I was never a lone voice arguing with myself. There were NRA apologists a-plenty to keep me occupied. I was frequently outnumbered & ganged up on as it were. This was all fine & good. I never minded arguing with multiple people at once, even if as a group they took me on instead of one by one. If you ever wish to hone your debating skills I’d recommend getting in as many of these verbal frays as possible.
A few things that did bother me about this particular bunch was they had a habit of resorting to name calling & other offensive tactics instead of refuting ideas logically & with reason, they frequently would drift off subject to bring up some other argument that was totally unrelated to the topic at hand, & perhaps the most aggravating was they never conceded when they were proven wrong or mistaken. Now this is not true for every one I argued with over there, but for more than a few. To illustrate imagine saying that a table has a plate with a sandwich on it & you feel the table isn’t stable enough to support the weight. Then imagine being attacked as a ‘table hater’ who obviously knows nothing about how to prepare lunch meat & listening to long invective-filled rants about how Oscar Meyer is the best bologna bar none. Then imagine having someone deny that the table is there at all, saying rather it’s a couch & you’re just not seeing it correctly.
Granted, this wasn’t true of every argument or every one I argued with, otherwise I’d have bailed long ago. There have actually been some very intelligent, productive debates. But when the NRA is the object of critique, they tended to be more like the example I provided than anything out of the collective works of Plato.
But then the really odd things began. First someone mentioned an article found over at KABA about the NRA referring to the aforementioned gun control supporting legislators as patriotic. That’s when the moderator, who had a long standing self imposed policy of neutrality stepped in. He had done it once before, & that was a few months back, but not since.
Now a few months back if I recall correctly I accused the NRA of being pro gun control as evidenced by their support of Project Exile. The moderator stepped in there & asked how this could be so since Project Exile was a law & therefore the NRA could not support it. To make a long story short I sent a few e mails to an NRA rep & he replied that he knew nothing about the NRA supporting gun control & that it was a silly notion. His answer was vague as hell though, & it turns out that the NRA does support Project Exile. By support I mean condone, although I do believe some of their money may in fact go towards advertising & promoting Project Exile as well. But that was the extent of his intervention at that time.
As I was saying, or typing rather, the moderator jumped in. His position was that he had looked at the site & the article contained within that site & concluded that it was a half truth, or some such distortion & the author of that article was being dishonest.
The article concerned a news story that showed Sen. Dingell, along with three other legislators, as they held a press conference to promote a bill, which would enhance the Brady Law by forcing the states through extortion to add every state record available to the NICS database. I believe it was Senator Dingell who said that all the legislators that were present, were patriotic Americans because of their support for this bill. Those legislators were Rep. Dingell, Sen. Craig, Rep. McCarthy & Sen. Schumer. Rep. Dingell is a former NRA Director & Sen. Craig is a current NRA Director. Rep. McCarthy is an ardent gun control supporter who currently sponsors a bill to extend & expand the Assault Weapons Ban, & Sen. Schumer is one of the most ardent gun control proponents to come along since firearms were invented.
Here is the exact quote that was in dispute:
"You're looking up here and you're thinking, 'Strange bedfellows,'" Dingell told reporters. "We're not. We're all patriotic Americans. We're all interested in one thing: Seeing to it that the law is enforced and that criminals are caught."
The nature of the dispute is this: in an opinion piece written by Angel Shamaya & found at KABA, Mr. Shamaya used the following words to summarize the situation:
“NRA's former and current board members took the stage with two of America's premier gun banners, smiling as they announced unequivocal support for this new gun control bill. Rep. Dingell called the two gun prohibitionists “patriotic Americans” and praised them in other ways.”
The moderator claimed that Mr. Shamaya’s paraphrasing of events & words was a deceitful summarization of what happened. So Mr. Shamaya appeared on the forum in his own defense. An argument ensued involving many members & the moderator himself.
Also other arguments erupted concerning the NRA & KABA respectively. Of particular note was a thread started by a notable second generation gun writer, also an employee of Primedia, who opined that the criticisms directed against the NRA were silly & their only purpose was to fuel some ulterior motive of those NRA "bashers". This is consistent with similar statements he has made on a radio show that he hosts. At the time I heard his statements on his radio show I just assumed he was speaking in generalities, but now I’m inclined to think he had specific websites in mind.
In general Mr. Shamaya & KABA were accused of lying in order to promote their site & solicit donations away from the NRA, while anyone who defended KABA, Mr. Shamaya, or in general criticized the NRA had their character attacked & their motivations questioned, in some instances by the moderator himself.
One other thing that may be worth mentioning is that two NRA apologists have appeared on the site within the last few days. One appears to be involved with the NRA, though whether he is just an upper level member or a paid employee is unknown to me. The other also appears to be affiliated with the NRA either professionally or socially. Now the former has appeared on several different forums & has a unique style: he starts a thread & then leaves. For some reason he does not stick around to discuss, pro or con, any of the comments he makes. In essence he’d best be described as an NRA spammer. The other seems…well…’bubbly’. She has posted a few times in threads started by the NRA spammer & seems so full of faith & optimism in the NRA that even if I agreed with the NRA it’d truly be sickening. She describes her self as an amateur NRA spokesman. I mention these two simply because their appearance seemed too well timed to be a coincidence, although this is purely speculative.
Through the course of the arguments & several other threads & too many posts to mention, it was concluded by the moderator that KABA was a site filled with distortions, lies & disinformation, most of which was aimed at the NRA for the purpose of promoting themselves. Further it was decided that the Second Amendment Forum had somehow been taken over by “radical hate mongers” & the Forum would be “taken back” for the mainstream reasonable members. No links "promoting" KABA will be allowed & anyone who persisted in such will be banned. However “reasonable” criticisms of the NRA will be allowed. & no solicitations will be tolerated, unless it’s a member urging another to join the NRA, which is excepted because they’re a “reputable non-profit organization”.
Which leads me to here; the site is owned & operated by Primedia. It’s a private site available for viewing by the general public without charge, & membership is required to participate in those forums. In short, it’s their dime & they can call what ever shots they wish. I am not in dispute with that & would not alter it were it within my power.
However I can see writing when it’s on the wall. I can even read some of that writing as the wall comes crashing down on me. I have no doubt “reasonable” criticisms of the NRA will be arguing over what color ball caps they should give with membership renewals as opposed to questioning why they support gun control. & any post that links to anything at KABA will be deleted, no matter the content of that info. I’m sure of this because a post of mine containing a non-NRA related link to KABA was deleted.
Here is what I believe happened:
The moderator may have honestly, but mistakenly felt that Mr. Shamaya had misled his readers with the aforementioned quotes. The second generation gun writer mentioned previously does not like those who critique the NRA. Chances are he stopped by, saw some of the NRA “bashing” that was going on & complained about it to the head honchos over at Primedia. Primedia in turn probably applied some pressure, though it’s uncertain how much was applied or how much was necessary, to the moderator & asked that those NRA “bashers” be taken care of. Then, to shore up the faithful, two pro or semi-pro NRA apologists show up. I somehow don’t think their appearance is mere coincidence, but whether they showed up on their own or at the request of a person or organization is unknown. I don’t generally believe in coincidences & I don’t get the feeling now should be the time to start, but I have nothing to go on except for the timing.
This explanation makes sense to me because prior to the second generation gun writer showing up over there, the moderator had been at least having a civil dialogue on the credibility of KABA. He was making some rather blunt accusations, but at least he was attempting to be friendly about it. Afterwards the moderator took on a different tone, which lead up to his conclusions & decisions. This could merely be coincidence, but then again it could be connected in the way I have just mentioned or perhaps in some different way. & then the outside NRA apologists suddenly start posting, which as I said leads me to believe there’s more to the situation than meets the eye.
I do not know how much of this involves chance, but as I said before I don't particularly believe in chance. I do know that another part of the equation is that KABA & Mr. Shamaya have been the targets of some vicious attacks because of their critiques of the NRA & their support of pro-gun causes the NRA doesn't care for. The moderator did mention KABA specifically in an attempt to discredit it as a source of information. So I would not be surprised if all this was orchestrated, at least in part, by some NRA official who has influence with Primedia.
Of course this is all speculation & I stress I have no credible evidence to back up the theory I have. The reasons that the events unfolded the way they did may be completely different than the reasons I have just speculated upon. & ultimately, reasons take second place to actions when judging a situation.
In any event Primedia &/or the moderator does not wish any credence be given to KABA &/or those with similar anti-NRA views such as expressed at KABA. They do not wish their forum to be a source of open debate nor its members to express sentiments that are not “reasonable” criticisms of the NRA. I don't mind going rounds with the other members, even when they become abusive. But when management starts picking sides things tend to become less than fair, or honest. I no longer feel welcome to post freely there, nor would anyone who questions the NRA or defends those who question the NRA. & I say all this with deep regret, as I spent a large amount of my time on those forums, particularly the Second Amendment Forum. It is with even more regret that, whatever the reason may be, Primedia wishes to stifle debate that doesn't reflect admiration for the NRA. In other words, Primedia sees censorship, as opposed to reasoned refutation & debate, as the solution to those who criticize the NRA.
So I won’t be posting over there any more. In fact I do believe I’m gonna have my subscription to Guns & Ammo cancelled. & I doubt I will spend any money on any Primedia publications. That’s a shame, cause I liked G&A as a magazine, aside from the occasional NRA employee written article in their Second Amendment section. Also I am considering removing the G&A links as well as the links to any other Primedia owned &/or affiliated enterprise from this site, but haven't yet made up my mind.
My readership is not large. & partly that is my fault, because I do not post nearly as often as I should, nor do I promote myself as I should. So I doubt this will rock Primedia to their knees. But sometimes you have to do things not because they'll be effective, but because principle demands it.
So that is the long, drawn out story about how I started writing on a forum, which lead to a blog, which lead to me blogging about the forum's desire for censorship & my leaving said forum because of that censorship.
If you wish to check out the Guns & Ammo Second Amendment Forum, feel free. But I think it would be more appropriate for them to change the name to the Guns & Ammo Pro-NRA Forum, since a debate on the true meaning of “…shall not be infringed” might offend someone.