Research Rabbit Hole: right wing ‘cancel culture’ from 2007

Maybe American readers were aware of this story from 2007 but as it was within the world of gun hobbyists, it was new to me. I know nothing about it other than what I’ve just been reading but it came up while I was following some Debarkle related research.

According to Wikipedia, Jim Zumbo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Zumbo ) is/was an editor for Outdoor Magazine [ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ] and presented Jim Zumbo Outdoors on The Outdoor Channel [ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ]. Now, to my mind that is an overuse of the word ‘outdoors’. I spend a lot time outside but I don’t build an identity around it but I digress.

Again, according to Wikipedia, in 2007 Zumbo wrote a post on his blog were he was overtly critical of hunters using AR-15 style rifles when hunting.

“Sorry, folks, in my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting. We don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them, which is an obvious concern. I’ve always been comfortable with the statement that hunters don’t use assault rifles. We’ve always been proud of our “sporting firearms.””

Now naturally, the right-wing gun community being deeply committed to freedom of speech, reacted in a calm manner and was respectful of Mr Zumbo’s right to criticise other people’s gun choices. Let’s check Wikipedia:

“Many firearms industry lobbyists were outraged that Zumbo suggested an outright ban on a type of popular rifle for reasons of “personal bias”.[4] In response to the flood of threatened boycotts, Remington ArmsCEO Tommy Millner fired Zumbo as a spokesman on February 19,[5] The Outdoor Channel announced that Zumbo programming would be on a temporary hiatus, but did not sever their affiliations with Zumbo. His online blog was discontinued “for the time being” by Outdoor Life on February 19.[6] Outdoor Life subsequently dropped him completely, stating on its webpage that Zumbo would no longer be contributing to the publication once the last of his columns already to press had been printed. Gerber Knives and Mossy Oak severed all of their business dealings with Zumbo as well, as did a majority of his other sponsors.”

Wow, it’s almost like the exact opposite of what I just said!

Anyway, the relevance will become clearer in the next Debarkle chapter – now with more people called “Zumbo” in it than before!

51 thoughts on “Research Rabbit Hole: right wing ‘cancel culture’ from 2007

  1. When it’s perceived as action against them: “Cancel Culture!” “Censorship!”

    When it’s done by them: “It’s freedom of association!”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The Right created cancel culture with their book banning campaigns against authors like Judi Blume. Hell the House Un-American Committee can be argued was an example of very early cancel culture was it was an attempt to erase a certain culture for the American polity.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Conservatives spent decades railing against “Satanism” and “Witchcraft” in fantasy novels and role-playing games. Liberals condemned and mocked them for it. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it doesn’t feel so comfortable any more, does it?

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      1. Chris M: Makes you think.

        Yes, when the far-right gun-nuts cancel their own and don’t see a problem with that, it definitely makes you think that they are a bunch of mealy-mouthed hypocrites, doesn’t it?

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Not really: Conservatives scream Cancel Culture, because cancelling is what they want when they oppose something and assume its what everyone is planning on doing. They are afraid of loosing control over who gets cancelled (the same way they only want to vote, if the right people are voting)

        Liked by 3 people

    1. This anology would only work if there really was Satanism and Witchcraft in fantasy novels and RPGs. Since there never was and it was all bullshit from the start….I say nice try, but you fail. But we have some lovely parting gifts for you!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. When conservatives scream and cry about satanism and witchcraft, a totally made up thing that never actually happened, real people get hurt. Innocent people, often. This is absolutely nothing like the Satanic Panic because a) the racism is really there and b) taking them out of print wasn’t a decision made by Democrats or the Left. It was a decision made by a private company acting in their own interest. Basically, the free market in action.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “…real people get hurt.”

        Yes, this. I had a student whose parents, during the whole Satanic scare, found some fantasy novels in her bedroom. They brought their pastor and half a dozen other good people from their church in to perform an actual exorcism over her. This student was my nurse when I was in the ER recently, and she still has not entirely recovered from the experience, though she’s better than she was when she was my student.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It’s a clear sign of their illogic that they don’t realize witchcraft doesn’t work!!! It’s made up!

        I mean, I’m absolutely sure that an Eastern European immigrant and a 400+ year old woman can’t have a giant battle in a sealed-off New Jersey town. Nor that you could get to a magical boarding school via walking through the wall in a London station. Or an average copper ends up apprenticed to the last wizard in England because he talked to a ghost.

        But distinguishing reality from fantasy has never been a talent of the RWNJ.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well it’s not really a surprising story. The NRA was mainly a hunting group that was focused on responsible gun ownership and wildlife conservation. And gradually a lot of yahoos who wanted to use AR-15’s and such when hunting, as well as getting drunk and not knowing what they were doing, kept taking over more and more of the hunting scene and joining the NRA. So hunters left the NRA, normal people’s gun ownership went down in the U.S., their finances dropped and the yahoos took over the organization and made a deal with gun companies. The NRA’s change to an extremist gun lobby that was anti-wildlife conservation and anti-gun safety developed over just a few decades. Once they found they could leverage political power with Republican politicians, they went full extremist and pulled a lot of gun folk along with them into being rabidly against any sort of gun control.

    The whole identity of the ammosexual is that they are superior because they have deadly military rifles and aren’t wimpy like others who don’t love high powered guns and therefore cannot supposedly live off the land and be an effective Red Dawn militia unit. So saying that the hunters using AR-15’s to decimate deer wasn’t being a real hunter, it’s a wonder he didn’t get shot by someone.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. It turns out that the entire purpose of the NRA in the last few years has been to funnel money into Wayne LaPierre’s pocket, so he could continue to live the life he felt he was entitled to. And since there’s a limited number of gun owners to fleece in the US, he had to keep turning the volume up higher and higher, and coming up with more extreme and ridiculous causes. (No one noticed that Obama didn’t take away people’s guns, for example.). I think that due to LaPierre’s constant embezzlement the NRA was forced to declare bankruptcy, and I’m hoping that’s the end of it and that a new organization takes its place, one that’s just a place for people to talk about their hobby.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. My dad was a member of the NRA until they approved of cop-killer bullets. Said that had nothing to do with hunting.
      And my dad repaired ships in the Pacific theater during WW2, so I think he out manly-manned today’s ammosexuals.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My hunter grandpa was skippering one of those very ships, so that’s pretty damn manly-manned too.

        Proof today’s gun nuts really are overcompensating for something.

        Like

  5. Really, that’s entirely typical conservative behaviour. “Do what I say, not what I do” is their main rule in life, right next to “always accuse your adversaries of doing what you’re doing.”

    If it weren’t for egregious hypocrisy, conservatives wouldn’t have any values at all.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The desire to silence anyone who disagrees with you is very human, but before social media, it was a lot of work to organize enough people to do it, and it took a lot of time too. That results in far more people being cancelled and for much more petty reasons.

    Back in the early 90s, I remember a campaign against a local radio talk show host on a clear channel (one with reach from Canada to Mexico) who was openly homophobic–to such a degree that it was arguable that he was calling for violence against gay people. It took an entire year to get most of his advertisers to quit sponsoring the show. During that time, we had ample time to talk to him, to talk to the station, and to get feedback from our own community. In the end, the station cancelled his show, even though it was still one of their most-listened-to programs, simply because they couldn’t sell advertising for it anymore. Some people were uneasy about the tactic–even then–but at least we were 100% sure the target was legitimate and that we had done all we could by other means.

    Today, though, Twitter mobs form in hours, often spurred on by people with ulterior motives who operate in bad faith. The victims are almost never actual enemies of the cause (whether right or left); they’re allies who deviated from the official party line. That’s how you get things like the cancelling of the trans woman who wrote the “attack helicopter” story.

    The biggest difference between the left-wing cancelling and the right-wing flavor is that the left-wing version includes huge numbers of people who aren’t even part of the cause; they’re just joining in to try to show people how good they are. E.g. when people cancelled the trans woman who wrote the “attack helicopter” story for Clarkesworld, the vast majority of people tweeting their indignation were straight people who admitted they didn’t even read the story. As far as I can tell, the right-wing cancellers always belong to the groups they’re fighting for. I don’t think you had a lot of non-gun-owners lobbying to cancel Zumbo just because they wanted their friends to see how pro-gun they were.

    Like

    1. I don’t think the Isabel Fall situation is a good example. I also don’t think “the vast majority of people tweeting their indignation were straight people who admitted they didn’t even read the story” is a good description of events or gets to the heart of how the discussion became so damaging. There was a post-hoc rationalization of the arguments once it was made clear that Fall was trans, leading to the multiple phases of the arguments being framed as cis-people-cancel-trans-person.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I didn’t mean to imply they did it on purpose. It was an example of cis people who were so eager to “signal their virtue” that they cancelled a trans person by mistake. When people who really did read the story tried to tell them the author was obviously trans, they simply doubled down. I don’t think a single one of them ever made an unqualified apology. “Oh, my! I’ve made a terrible mistake! I’m so sorry!”

        My point, though, is that this wouldn’t have happened before social media because during the time it would take to get anyone organized, everyone would figure out it was a mistake and quietly move on to something else. Clarkeworld would have had time to add a notice at the top of the story to head off future confusion.

        Like

      2. //Oh, I didn’t mean to imply they did it on purpose.//

        No, I understand that. My point was while there was a lot of cis people talking about it, there was a lot of arguments from transgender people. For example, a person who was critical of the story based on the title and having not read it was Alexandra Erin and her arguments were thoughtful and careful as to why she wasn’t reading it. The apparent conflict among trans-voices over the story would have been particularly painful for the author – and the arguments weren’t shallow ones but substantive ones.

        //My point, though, is that this wouldn’t have happened before social media because during the time it would take to get anyone organized, everyone would figure out it was a mistake and quietly move on to something else. //

        Maybe, it would also have taken longer to clarify the issue. If there is one thing I’ve learned from the deep dives in the earlier Debarkle chapters, is that fan feuds are ever present and were as prevelant in the past as they are now…but as you say, the pace of them is quicker. I don’t know if it would have been a happier outcome for Isabel Fall, if it had been months of speculation on her identity and further months while people learnt that they had misunderstood.

        I should add — I still don’t think we know the whole story here. There is a lot of oddness that I can’t easily encapsulate about the whole thing. I feel like there is a piece missing from the story but I’m not sure what.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. camestrosfelapton: I should add — I still don’t think we know the whole story here. There is a lot of oddness that I can’t easily encapsulate about the whole thing. I feel like there is a piece missing from the story but I’m not sure what.

        I agree. I still don’t believe, given the story as written, “the author was obviously trans”. And my objection to the story was not “virtue-signaling”, it was that the story pretty clearly read to me as mocking trans people. Being told afterward that the author was trans, I went back and read it again — and it still read to me as mocking trans people. So my assessment of the story was, if it was intended to read as a trans person reclaiming a harmful meme, it didn’t succeed at that; it didn’t read that way to a lot of cis and LGBTQ people.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I agree with JJ, the story was easier to read as mockery than reclamation. I don’t think it works as reclaiming the meme unless you already know the author’s biography—which means it doesn’t stand on it’s own.

        Like

      5. @JJ @Connie Collins: And my objection to the story was not “virtue-signaling”, it was that the story pretty clearly read to me as mocking trans people.
        It didn’t read that way to me at all, but of course, YMMV, and this is a risk any writer faces when tackling such a fraught subject, whatever their intent.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. The uproar about the Isabel Fall story also didn’t happen very fast, because the story was available online at Clarkesworld for at least a week before Clarkesworld tweeted out a link and the uproar began. I remember this very clearly, because I checked out that issue of Clarkesworld the week before the uproar, read the excellent novelette “Monster” by Naomi Kritzer, scanned out the helicopter story because of its striking title and thought, “Uhm, I’m not sure about this one, it feels a bit transphobic”. Then one week later, the internet suddenly fell on Neil Clarke’s and Isabel Fall’s head and I thought, “Oh yes, that story. I did have a weird feeling about it.”

        That said, the reactions to the helicopter story could have been managed better, if Neil Clarke, who was in hospital at the time, had responded more quickly. And some of the claims, e.g. that the author’s birthdate was a Nazi code, were simply ridiculous. And I do feel sorry for Isabel Fall whose only sin was writing a clunky story. Neil Clarke was the one who should have suspected that there might be controversy, Though I have no idea whether his hospital stay was planned or not.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. What gets missed is between the release and the later subsequent chaos, was a period where the story was being hyped by a number of people. It had gained some word of mouth popularity initially, which raised its profile on social media.

        It was that wave that brought the story to a lot of people’s attention and raised quizzical eyebrows. That’s when rumours of it being maybe some sort of Puppy hoax etc started.

        I spent some time following back chains of tweets at the time because people asked me if it was some sort of shenanigans. As far as I can see, it was just a bunch of different people who liked it. If there was a common connection it was some adjacency with furry and transhumanist fandoms. However, I think that was purely because of the story’s content and themes. I don’t think I said so at the time but before Isabell Fall said that they were transgender, I had wondered if the author was coming from a different place re identity, body and transformation

        Like

      8. “I feel like there is a piece missing from the story but I’m not sure what.”

        I think the missing piece is the fact that Isabel Fall has absolutely no social media presence associated with her professional identity, which is unusual for an author in this day and age (but hardly inexplicable, as there are plenty of legitimate reasons why someone might opt out of Twitter et al). We’re used to authors being front and centre of any literary controversy, so in a case like this where the writer is keeping themself to themself, there’s a gap in the conversation.

        Liked by 3 people

      9. Apparently, Neil Clarke’s hospital stay was unplanned, so it was simply a series of unfortunate coincidences.that the story was published and blew up at a time when the editor was unavailable to react.

        Like

  7. This Yank has never heard the story before. Nor had my wife Deirdre, who used to be an NRA-certified shooting instructor back in her northeast-Vermont days (before I met her). Deirdre says, however, that she is shocked, shocked, to discover gambling in this casino… sorry, I mean, not the tiniest bit surprised, on account of the very history that Kat Goodwin relates upthread. (Deirdre intends to also comment, soon.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I never heard it either, being neither an ammosexual nor an Outdoor person.

      But he was right. Anyone can take out a deer with an AK-47 or an AR-15. My grandpa just barely allowed himself a magnifying scope and managed to get his limit every year for decades (Grandma made him quit when he turned 80; I think it’s the only time I ever heard her say “For God’s sake!”).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. All Norwegians are outdoor fanatics about as much as all Americans are gun nuts.

      (I’m sorry if this destroys any idolized ideas you have of your ancestral land.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many Germans actually are into hiking and outdoors, though only comparatively few of us are into guns, mostly hunters and sport shooters who are harmless and responsible folks.

        Like

  8. As Greg says upthread, Twitter has supercharged cancel culture and made it less rational. You only get a distorted summary of the issue in a sentence or two, there may be a link to a longer essay but no one reads that, they just like and retweet and move on.
    I have done the same myself in the past, after a couple of embarrassments when I learned the whole story, I have now resolved to wait 48 hours to get more viewpoints before commenting or signing anything. But often in 48 hours, it’s already over, the person already withdrew or were fired or whatever.

    Like

  9. As an USian and gun hobbyist, I was aware of this incident at the time although I didn’t remember it until you mentioned it. Perhaps tangentially, this incident highlighted a rift in the gun owner space. There are a group of gun owners, many of them (like me) who’ve grown up around guns and see them as tools. The tool group thinks that, much like you don’t need a sledgehammer to mount a picture on the wall, you don’t need an AR-15 for, well, much of anything.

    The other group of gun owners, most of whom came to guns as adults, see any limit on them having any type of gun they want as a major problem. Jim Zumbo is in the former group; the people who got him cancelled are in the later.

    I see something similar in the current conservative movement in the US. There are groups (such as the Lincoln Project) who are trying to advance coherent policies. These groups also have some coherent moral code, which includes things such as “taking over the Capitol by force is bad.” There’s a second group, heavily correlated with the Puppies, that is almost entirely “my side good, your side bad.”

    So maybe this isn’t as tangential as I thought.

    Like

  10. A slightly related story is that Remington Arms are now bankrupt. The cause of this was largely due to the financial tomfoolery of a private equity fund. But what actually pushed them over the edge was Donald Trump being elected, and gun nuts no longer feeling the need to panic buy guns. Specifically not panic buying those AR-15 style rifles Remington was banking on selling.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Well, as long as we’re delving into Zumbology and the ur-history of “cancel culture” in spasms of right-wing anger: One year after l’affair Zumbo (2008), President/CEO Dan Cooper got resigned (by the Board of Directors) from the apparently major manufacturer of custom rifles he himself cofounded, Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc.

      Why? Because it came out that Mr. Cooper had, entirely n his private, non-company capacity, supported Barack Obama for President. This personal exercise of his citizenship rights was deemed unacceptable in a representative of a firearms manufacturer, and requested President/CEO Cooper’s resignation.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. He could have claimed that Barack Obama being President was good for sales, so he was acting for the good of the company.

        Liked by 2 people

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