I’m going to depart from my usual commentary to talk about something that’s happening in the industry.
You may have heard on social media that a lawsuit has been filed by a gun lubricant company against Andrew Tuohy, a popular blogger. I won’t recount the details here, but you can get the story at the Vuurwapen Blog site, and a third-party account at The Firearm Blog.
I’m not going to comment on the merits of the suit or of how I believe it will end, but rather to point out to you that lawsuits are a powerful tool to prevent commentary — even factual and non-partisan commentary — from existing. In fact, such suits are called SLAPP: Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, and many states — recognizing the chilling effect of these suits on free speech — have laws to prevent them. (I checked, and the state in which this particular suit was filed seems to have no such statute. Isn’t that interesting?)
The revolution that the internet has wrought has given us a much broader base of information than we ever had before. Twenty years ago we relied on gun magazines, whose editorial content was often bought and paid for by their advertisers, for information about products we trusted to save our lives. Frankly, there were (and still are) products presented in those magazines as being perfectly suited to self defense but whose reliability and effectiveness are in grave doubt. It’s only because of the internet, where a wide variety of information both good and bad is available, that people can find out the whole story and make their decisions based on point and counterpoint.
This blog, for instance, exists because the traditional magazine media can’t make any money on deep discussions about self defense or training issues. I can point you to many more bloggers who are in the same position. We do what we do because we feel the information is important, even if it doesn’t pay the big bucks.
This lawsuit, should the plaintiff prevail, would definitely have the effect of reducing the information that we all share. Who would want to put out bad news about any product, even if completely unbiased and factual, for fear of being sued? It would be easier for us to keep our collective mouths shut while the hired shills have their say in complete peace, and let you figure things out for yourself — just like the old days.
It gets worse: how about the many regular Joes and Janes who share their experiences on the various forums and social media outlets? How long will it be before someone sues the guy in Peoria who said he bought Product X and “it sucked”?
My blogging colleague Richard Johnson at Guns, Holsters & Gear has written a superb essay about this lawsuit, and I encourage you to read it. I also encourage you to go to Tuohy’s GoFundMe page for his legal defense and contribute a few dollars.
Regardless of what you think about the product in question or about Tuohy himself, if you want to continue to enjoy the free flow of information that makes the internet what it is then you should consider a donation.
– Grant Cunningham
(P.S.: I will be deleting any attempts to debate the merits of the product in question, the test protocols, whether either party “got what’s coming to them”, or anything that references personalities in the case. Please limit your discussion to the effects of lawsuits on free speech in the digital age.)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons