Saturday, February 24, 2007

Career killing statements and the 1st Amendment

By now I'm sure most shooters have heard about the career suicide that Jim Zumbo commited on his blog about a week ago. I've known about Zumbo for years. I'm no particular fan, but I've read a lot of stories written by him over the last long time, and while I can't really recall any of them, I didn't hate them, either. He's an experienced hunter that's been a lot of places I'd like to go hunt. He's one of the Charmed Ones: guys that get to hunt and be outdoors for a living. Its not a great way to get rich, but its a heck of a good life, and not an easy career to get into. There aren't a whole bunch of people that can have those jobs. They're somewhat rare in terms of the entire population.

Because they're rare opportunities, and are high profile gigs, words from people in positions like that carry a lot of weight. When Zumbo or any other well known writer puts his name on a product and declares it the Next Big Thing, they are essentially making it the Next Big Thing. The weight of what a major writer, or actor, musician or just about anyone else in the public eye of their particular industry, says carries way more weight than anything I have to say. I doubt anyone reading what I write has their mind changed even a little bit. Someone can read what Zumbo said and base their next major investment, perhaps thousands of dollars, on his words. I don't have that kind of power.

Zumbo's self destruction was inevitable, and is exactly what should have happened, given what he said. Personally, I wanna see that happen to anyone in his position that shares his views. Dave Petzal, you're next. When you take a large portion of the shooting populace, and the entire Coalition Military Forces, and tell them that owning an AR or AK makes them a terrorist, you deserve to have your position of influence taken away. That's the same thing that happened to the Dixie Chicks, too: open mouth, insert foot (or feet, in their case), have paydays taken away. That is the way of it.

The funny thing to me, though, is that as soon as that happens, the hue and cry of "Censorship!" comes out. Allegedly, ol' Jimmy Zumbo was being censored for his comments. The Chicklets were censored because country radio wouldn't play their songs. Here's a newsflash for ya: having a First Amendment guarrantee of free speech does NOT, I say again, does NOT (underlined, and with exclamation points!) give you a pass on paying the consequences of your statements. Words have meanings. When those that supply your paychecks and free stuff (the general public, ultimately) get mad about something stupid, idiotic, thoughtless, moronic, untrue, ignorant, and/or inflammatory that comes out of your pie hole, you get to pay the bill for it. They call your sponsors, your label, your employer, and demand your head. They can do that. Its a simple matter of the populace saying "I don't like that guy. If he's associated with you, I don't want to give you any money for what you produce", and the producer feeling the pinch. That's not censorship, that's cause and effect.

Jimmy, I still don't think you understand how badly you screwed the pooch. You might have saved the job if you'd done a real appology, but you didn't. Same thing happened to the Chicklets: they didn't really apologize, either (and even if they'd done more of one, nobody in country music was gonna believe it anyway) and they paid the price. They still sold platinum, but not to the level they had before, and not to the fans that got them where they are. Eventually, I think it will be seen that they too have crucified their careers. They can have a last single called "Would You Like Fries With That, Baby?"

When you're in the public view, you better understand your audience. All it takes is one thoughtless idea to be laid bare, and all you've worked for is over. Jim Zumbo has been a writer and outdoors celebrity for something like 40 years. That's all over now, because he didn't understand. The real shame is that he probably still doesn't understand, and hates black rifle shooters even more now to boot.

Don't mess with Joe Sixpack. He'll hammer you to the backyard shed just to watch you squirm when you deserve it. You will pay a price for the things you say. How far you fall depends on how high you've been lifted up.

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