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David Hines [userpic]

getting Zumboed: what's fair game?

November 2nd, 2008 (01:34 pm)
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I usually stay away from politics posts, but I thought this was an interesting item. A few days ago, USA TODAY ran an "Obama's making inroads with Republicans!" article. The piece focuses specifically on business executives, and one of the guys they quoted was a fellow named Dan Cooper, who lives in Montana and owns a company that makes custom rifles. They've got a very good reputation among gun aficionados. Cooper started sending Obama money after his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, and decided to vote for him this year, he said.

The reaction of gun enthusiasts was immediate, and strongly negative. Within a few days, the complaints had led to Cooper getting ousted from his own company.

This story is noteworthy for multiple reasons, and I thought it might be interesting to folks on my flist who occasionally wonder what gun nuts think. Because you may see some commentary on this in some other places, and I wanted to give some background on things you might miss if you're not familiar with this particular corner of society.

Cooper has other reasons to vote for Obama -- among other things, he's unhappy about the war (USA Today is not specific, but I suspect they mean Iraq) and feels the Republicans have moved too far to the right -- but I mention this background to explain that Obama partisans trying to get gun enthusiasts to vote for their guy should really emphasize other issues the gun enthusiast might support Obama on, because gun rights really aren't a selling point for his candidacy. The objection to Obama among gun nuts isn't just because Obama is liberal and gun nuts tend to be conservative; there's actually some fairly strong history on this issue. Obama served as a director of the strongly anti-gun Joyce Foundation, which (among other things) paid people to write anti-gun-rights law review articles, and bought dedicated issues of law review journals in which to run them. (There is a lot of astroturfing on the anti-gun side of things, probably because not nearly as many people care passionately about banning guns as care passionately about owning them; the American Hunters and Shooters Organization, for example, is a false flag organization staffed by anti-gun activists that was designed to peel off gun owners from the NRA; it failed at that, so now it just pretends to be a pro-gun group in order to give cover to anti-gun politicians and get quoted in newspapers.)

The Cooper thing isn't without precedent. A while back, an outdoor writer named Jim Zumbo (the Washington Post described him as well-known, but most gun nuts I knew hadn't heard of him before this) decried the use of the AR-15 in hunting, saying he'd go so far as to call ARs "terrorist rifles." Problem: the AR-15 is *the most popular rifle in America.* It's used by sportsmen, hobbyists, kit-builders, competitors. They didn't take kindly to Zumbo telling them to go screw themselves. And returned the favor. In spades. Zumbo's career went up in smoke, and his name became a verb. Dan Cooper? He got Zumboed.

But here's the thing: when I read about what happened to Dan Cooper, my first thought wasn't of Jim Zumbo. It was of Jonathan Crutchley.

Crutchley is one of the two founders of Manhunt. If you're a gay man, you know about Manhunt and may well be logged into it as you read this. If you're not a gay man, you've probably never heard of it. I hadn't, until I read this extremely interesting article. Manhunt is a gay male hook-up site. Pick a profile name, tell people what you're into, where you'd like to meet up, your physical stats, and when you want it (most often selected option: "Right Now!"), and look around for what you want. As article author Michael Joseph Gross explains, "This wealth of information makes Manhunt seem the most efficient place for its target customers to find sex, because the site’s comprehensive search function can produce in seconds a list of, say, brown-eyed bottoms within one mile of your zip code wanting to get it on 'Right Now!'"

Gross's musings about whether Manhunt and internet cruising in general were having a corrosive effect on gay men -- himself included -- caused a bit of a stir, but they weren't the big shocker. No, there was something else: Manhunt co-founder Jonathan Crutchley was described in the article as "a liberal Republican with a tight white beard."

That was all. That was enough.

Crutchley resigned from Manhunt's board in short order after a search of public records confirmed his donations to the McCain campaign. This caused Politico's Ben Smith to quip, "The executives of a gay sex site are apparently more concerned about the perception that they're associated with John McCain than McCain is about the association with them." That's not wrong; check out the statement from his partner, Larry Basile. *Man,* that's harsh. Compare it to the statement from Dan Cooper's board!

The Crutchley thing didn't sit well with me, and I found it more troubling than I found the Zumbo or Cooper incidents. I know that politics is hardball, and it's never more so than when dealing with things people find deeply and personally important. But Crutchley didn't campaign for McCain, didn't even publically state his support; he privately gave the campaign money, which became known because of a throwaway line in a news article led to a search of information available under public records laws. That seems like it's going over the line to me.

Of course, I'm a heterosexual gun enthusiast, so I'd be inclined to think that way.

What do you guys think? Where would you, personally, draw the line on stuff like that?


Posted by: Mara (marag)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Outraged Cookie Monster

I think it's terrible that both people got kicked out. I would draw the line that someone should only be pushed out if their political opinions would have some effect on their work. But who the frell cares that a guy who runs a hookup site votes Republican? What, do they think he's trying to kill off the other gay men with too much sex? ::eyeroll::

Similarly, why does it matter if a guy who makes rifles votes Democratic? Is he hiding secret pro-Obama messages in the decorations or something?

Now, if someone were in a lobbying job, it would be relevant to learn they were supporting someone in opposition to their views. It might very well be relevant if they were a senior person at certain nonprofits.

But a gun manufacturer? I might be worried if he turned out to be giving money to the Nazi party, but anything tamer than that just doesn't matter.

::coughs:: I have no idea if that's coherent or not. I blame the cold medicine.

Posted by: masgramondou (masgramondou)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)

So if you're the owner of a site for gay hunters* to find other partners to go shooting with in the wilds which side is more shocked if you admit to donating/supporting their opponent?

*Just in case it isn't obvious, I mean hunters who are gay not hunters of gays

Posted by: Aiglet (aiglet)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)

I think this is a pernicious symptom of the way people are starting to not distinguish between "personal" and "professional," especially for people vaguely in the public eye.

If someone's political opinions are not affecting their work performance, or in any way changing the way they do things... They were doing their job well while being Republican or pro-Obama before you knew about it, why should it be any different now that you know?

Posted by: trinfaneb (trinfaneb)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)

Both situations are pretty asinine. But people love to find scapegoats to channel their anger and fear onto, that's just the way some humans are wired.

Posted by: amonitrate (amonitrate)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I personally don't think one's political affiliations should have anything to do with whether or not you're the best person for a particular job, unless that job is specifically partisan. This doesn't seem to be the case with any of these examples, so no. I don't think it's fair that all three saw their careers go down the crapper. That's getting to a scary place in American politics, IMO.

Posted by: Jayman (smjayman)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)

Given how polarizing the gun issue seems to be, I think that making any political endorsement as a gun manufacturer is akin to jumping into a minefield. Of course you can do it safely, just endorse whomever the NRA/GOA/etc., is endorsing. That said, I'm of the opinion that making political endorsements when that is not part of your job is a dangerous idea. (See for reference: Dixie Chicks.) Really, the only thing you can do by making an endorsement is disenfranchise some of your potential customers. Is anybody ever swayed by a political endorsement made by some random 3rd party? Maybe they are and perhaps I am wrong, I certainly don't claim any great insight in this problem, but I don't see it in my personal life.

Posted by: Sinanju (sinanju)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)

Clearly customers of Cooper's company were swayed by his endorsement--but not in the fashion he might have hoped for.

I'm not surprised by their reaction. Zumbo wasn't the first to feel the wrath of gun owners. Smith & Wesson suffered greatly as well when they stabbed gun owners in the back some years back. Too many years of anti-gun types trying to divide and conquer gun owners by demonizing particular types of guns while assuring people who didn't own Saturday Night Specials or "assault rifles" or whatever that they would be left alone have left their mark. Especially since such assurances were always lies.

The activist gun owners do their best these days to make sure anyone who even thinks about throwing other gun owners under the bus in some short-sighted deal with the anti-gun types suffers for it. And rightly so, in my opinion. Cooper hasn't actually tried to stab anyone in the back, but his support for Obama suggests very poor judgment; no matter what Obama says now about his views on gun ownership, his actions in the past are clear. He's not to be trusted on the issue.

Cooper is. of course, free to vote for (and support) whomever he likes. But so are his customers.

Posted by: Jayman (smjayman)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)

Touche, I didn't mean "swayed to not buy our product," so much as "swayed in who to vote for." ;) I don't blame gun owners for getting up in arms about Cooper's endorsement. Gauging by Obama's prior voting and speech records, he is no friend to gun owners. I think that the internet has given gun owners a place to coordinate activist efforts and because of this, anybody out there spreading firearms misinformation should beware. (Zumbo was a notable example, obviously.)

Posted by: Sophomore Hipster (bats_eye)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Babylon 5

But the thing is I'm not a gun nut, and given that I live in Britain I obviously don't have any strong feelings on the issue because it isn't a big thing over here. But the idea of people voting for candidates due to their opinions on gun ownership strikes me a lot like voting for them over their opinion of batman comics.

Cooper is getting into trouble because he voted (publicly) for an anti gun politician and it honestly surprises me that that's something people care about to that extreme. I mean, I would assume that he would be doing it because he agreed with Obama's stance over other things. But apparently his stance on those other things is generally irrelevant to people as long as he's anti gun. Which frankly baffles me. Culture Clash, man.

Posted by: Sinanju (sinanju)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)

Yeah, a culture clash pretty much explains it. Guns may not be a big deal to you, or to voters in Britain generally, but they are a big deal here to a lot of people--including me. And they're a big political issue because people like Obama have made them a big political issue by trying to outlaw them. The National Rifle Association was around for a long time as a hunter safety and sporting association before it became politically active. When politicians are perpetually trying to limit or eliminate a fundamental right, and one of those explicitly listed in the Constitution, a lot of people get very exercised over it.

I was never going to vote for Obama, but there have been politicians I might have supported were it not for their support for gun control. I'm not always a single issue voter, but gun control is a good litmus test in my view. If a politician doesn't trust me, I see no reason why I should trust him.

Posted by: Drooling Fan Girl (droolfangrrl)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)

"But the most powerful secrets that live on Manhunt aren’t the ones we keep from the outside world. The most powerful secrets on Manhunt are the ones we keep from ourselves. Practically every gay man has his own version of this secret, which we learned to keep while growing up in the closet: the secret fear that, if we were truly known, we would never be loved."

:( yeah i know not what you're talking about, but good writing and a sad idea

Posted by: Mari (marici)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
communing with plants

I have a bit of sympathy for the Crutchley case. It reminds me of access to abortion: if you are rich and independent, you will always have access to abortion. The people abortion rights most protect are the poor and dependent, those for whom crossing state lines is as big as a trip to Australia would be for your or me. So the case against rich white male Republicans is this: you can compensate for all the missing social privilege with wealth and majority privilege, and the consequences to those less lucky than you are not your problem.

On the other hand, private vote is private for a reason. It was stupid for him to let his leanings be published in the original article, and unethical to publish his contribution record, in my opinion. For all three cases, the victim could have saved himself a world of trouble by keeping his trap shut, but I'm not sure I like a world where only politicians speak publically on sensitive issues.

Posted by: Jayman (smjayman)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)

I'm going to draw a comparison from abortion to gun rights. (Don't freak on me.) Abortion laws affect the poor and dependent, because they don't have the money to gain that access. Gun control laws have similar effects. The rich can always get around these laws. If you have enough money, any nifty firearm is available to you, no matter what. It makes me wonder why that cause hasn't been taken up more by the Democrats, quite honestly.

Posted by: Mari (marici)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
bears belief as a tree bears apples

Sorry, I was getting there in thinking about this myself -- as you say, gun laws do a lot more to ban poor people from owning guns than rich. I doubt you'll convince me it's as important, but I agree the difference is one of degree.

One of the ugliest aspects of gun control laws for me is how often they appear to be attempting to ban poor/disenfranchised people from owning guns.

Thinking a bit, it's ok by me to boycott a bus company for how it seats people so it should be ok for any policy of the company. The journalist was boycotted on a specifically work-related issue, his writing. I think the line that shouldn't be crossed was the boycott for private matters, who you vote and donate to. If that's ok, it's ok to boycott for too many things.

Posted by: Sinanju (sinanju)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)

I think customers have a right to boycott a company for any reason they see fit. Individually, they're always perfectly within their rights to refuse to do business with someone for any reason--or no reason. Collectively, they still have that right. This is no different than the hotel/convention center that was in the news recently.

In that case, the hotel owner advertised his support for McCain despite his facility being located in a very heavily pro-Obama neighborhood. A lot of people got very exercised over that, and began organizing to deprive him of business by boycotting his facility. (I have no idea whether it blew over or is still an issue.)

He was within his rights to announce his support for McCain, just as Cooper was within his rights to announce his support for Obama. But their customers (existing or potential) are also within their rights to voice their unhappiness and to refuse (publicly and collectively) to do business with them. In both cases, their political views don't have any direct effect on the operation of the business--but taking a political stand may have consequences--something they might be wise to take into consideration in the future.

Posted by: Mari (marici)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
always going home

I acknowledge up front this may be hyperextending your statement -- more thinking out loud.

If it's ok to boycott for any political opinion, is it ok to boycott for any religion? How about for nature, like boycotting stores run by men?

How far does the financial expression of disagreement extend? Can you hire or fire based on it? Clearly not legally in the US, but do you feel one should be able to?

Posted by: Sinanju (sinanju)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)

As I said, I think customers always have a right to boycott any given business for any reason they see fit--or for no reason. They have no obligation to spend their money in any particular business, and no obligation to justify their decision to anyone else. (Which is not to say that they can't do so for stupid reasons--but it's their money until and unless they willingly exchange it for something.)

Posted by: Jayman (smjayman)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)

Provided one doesn't make public their voting and donating records, then such things shouldn't be cause for any sort of boycott. The problem, as I see it, is mixing personal beliefs with a business plan, and that doesn't always work out so well.

Posted by: 3fgburner (3fgburner)
Posted at: November 16th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)

"One of the ugliest aspects of gun control laws for me is how often they appear to be attempting to ban poor/disenfranchised people from owning guns."

Bingo. Gun control was originally racially motivated. Virginia, in 1640, outlawed possession of arms by blacks, both slave and free. Note that this is even earlier than the law (mid 1670s) prohibiting blacks from owning whites.

Southern gun control, post-Civil War, was enshrined in the Black Codes enacted to keep newly-freed blacks down.

Northern gun control was aimed primarily at immigrants, for example the Irish and Italians. New York's Sullivan law is an interesting example of discrimination BY Irish, AGAINST Italians. It was also pretty much explicitly enacted as OSHA for crooks. The Sullivan Act was a response to Italian shippers' use of guns in self-defense against Irish gangs.

Posted by: The Weasel King (theweaselking)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 02:53 pm (UTC)

Manhunt co-founder Jonathan Crutchley was described in the article as "a liberal Republican with a tight white beard."

That was all. That was enough.

Not true. In the very article you just linked, they pointed out that it was Crutchley's repeated, long-term, and substantial support of anti-gay causes and bigoted politicians.

This has *nothing* to do with him describing himself as a "liberal Republican", and everything to do with his material support of people who feel that gays should be killed.

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)

I feel bad for Cooper. He was booted out of a company he founded.

It wouldn't have happened if it was a private company rather than a public one. It can take a surprisingly small but vocal portion of your customer base to frighten a board to take action. If he owned the company himself, he might have weathered the storm.

I hope he has a nice, fat bank account.

But I believe very definitely in spending my money at vendors who won't funnel their profits into causes I disagree with.

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