I’m the NRA, and I’ve had enough!

Relax. This isn’t a rant. It’s a two-pronged lesson in public relations brought to you by a group in which I hold a membership card. Arrgh!

Here’s hoping the NRA is among the 20% who regularly monitor blogs. It’ll save me sending a nasty email to complain about the group’s public relations “attack-tics.” This is one NRA member who’s had enough.

zumbo1.jpgWhat triggers my post today is the NRA’s recent attack on Jim Zumbo, long-time hunting writer and sportsman. I own two of Jim’s books and have benefited from his outdoor wisdom. But thanks to a “slip of the blog” and the swiftness of the pro-gun propaganda machine, Jim’s 40-year run may be over.

Jim’s misstep was a fairly innocent blog post that said sportsmen really don’t need weapons like the rapid-fire AR15 rifle to pop prairie dogs and other varmints. It just isn’t sporting, he said. But it was his unfortunate choice of words that sealed his fate. nra.jpg

Some excerpts from Jim’s post about AR15 rifles:

Excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I’ll go so far as to call them “terrorist” rifles. 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.

He went on to say:

As hunters, we don’t need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let’s divorce ourselves from them. I say game departments should ban them from the praries (sic) and woods.

For the full text of Zumbo’s post and his follow-up mea culpa: Hunting Sense.

PR lesson No. 1: Honest blogging can be hazardous to your career.

Jim, Jim, Jim. You never, never, never use the “B” word when talking to gun advocates. You know that. In NRA circles, no one supports banning anything except gun-grabbing politicians. You also don’t use the term “assault weapon,” let alone “terrorist rifle.” They’re just rifles, Jim, plain old rifles. You’ve been hanging with these guys for 40 years, Jim. You know what sets them off.

Had Zumbo written the passage for an Outdoor Life article, his editor would’ve shifted to more gun-friendly semantics. But when we blog, we tend to blog alone. In Jim’s case, a 250-word post became his career-ending move.

Here’s a summary of the consequences, lifted from a New York Times editorial aptly titled, “Overkill.”

Even though Mr. Zumbo quickly disavowed his words and apologized, he lost his blog, was dumped by Outdoor Life magazine and was disowned by the National Rifle Association, after 40 years of membership. His corporate sponsors, including the gunmaker Remington, ditched him. His cable show was canceled. The N.R.A. issued a chilling statement warning Congress to take heed of Mr. Zumbo’s fate. By the time Blaine Harden told his story in The Washington Post, Mr. Zumbo was professionally dead.

To keep things fair, here are statements from the NRA, Remington, and Outdoor Life. It clearly pained OL’s Todd Smith to be part of Jim’s demise, but to stand by his friend would almost certainly brought him a similar fate.

Smith chose not to take that risk. So did Remington officials who, threatened with a boycott by the gun bloggers, also decided to cut and run. The Outdoor Channel felt pressure from its advertisers, all of whom were staring down the barrel of a pro-gun army hellbent on taking out Zumbo.

PR Lesson No. 2: Blogs are fast and effective weapons.

While I don’t condone what the NRA and its legion of bloggers have done, I’m kind of in awe of it. The NRA and its many supporting groups understand grassroots campaigns and how to drive them with emotional words, threatening tones, and the speed of Web 2.0.

And of course, when the gun blogs get to blazing away, it’s not long before the MSM hops on for the ride. While most mainstream media aren’t sympathetic to the NRA, they’re more than willing to report the blog craziness and, in turn, to fan the flames. We learned that last week at Kent State, didn’t we?

If you come here often, you know this blog isn’t about guns or politics. It’s about a 2-way communication model of public relations. I believe in this symmetrical view of communication, because I’ve seen it work. The NRA believes in 1-way PR modeled after the propagandists of old. It works by destroying all in its path — friend and foe — and listening to no one but itself.

Not all pro-gun bloggers support the NRA’s treatment of Jim Zumbo. For some reasoned discussion: Hunting Sense, Black Bear Blog, Neil Rogers.

In closing, I should mention that Jim is on his way to becoming an Internet legend. Some bloggers already have placed the verb “zumboed” into the Web 2.0 lexicon, right alongside “dooced.”


15 Responses to I’m the NRA, and I’ve had enough!

  1. Zumboed… I like it! It is right up there with Xeroxed as well.

    Zumbo will become an Internet legend whether it be for his statements or against them. When the smoke settles and time begins to heal, we’ll all look back on this and accept Zumbo as Zumboed, but we will never forget him.

  2. Kevin Baker says:

    First, I’d like to point out to you that “the NRA’s treatment of Jim Zumbo” was far behind the curve. There are a LOT of people who belong to one or more of the gun boards (and are not bloggers) who do not hold NRA memberships because they believe the NRA is far too willing to compromise. They believe the GOA is “moderate.” Zumbo published his piece on a Friday. On SUNDAY the President of Remington – from Europe – distanced himself and his company from Zumbo in a comment on the original post. On MONDAY Remington announced it was severing ties – followed by Mossy Oak, Cabelas, Gerber, etc. The NRA did not announce its separation from Mr. Zumbo until Thursday, I believe.

    What you’re attributing to the NRA is the honest, grassroots reaction of literally tens of thousands of gun owners who are on the web. As one gunblogger put it, “Poor Lefties; they’ve been playing on astroturf so long that they don’t know grassroots even when fed a mouthful of divot.” It would appear that the general public has the same problem.

    Is the NRA the source of this single-mindedness? I some part, yes. However there’s a chicken vs. egg question that comes up. Certainly many members of the NRA are hunters and sport shooters who joined the NRA in order to preserve their particular hobbies, but there are many like me who joined because the NRA is the 800lb gorilla when it comes to political action. My understanding of the Second Amendment leads me to the NRA (and the GOA and the JPFO and the SAF) – not vice-versa.

    I’m heartened to realize that tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of people out there share my views.

    You write: “I believe in this symmetrical view of communication, because I’ve seen it work. The NRA believes in 1-way PR modeled after the propagandists of old. It works by destroying all in its path — friend and foe — and listening to no one but itself.” But it’s been brought to this by countering organizations, The Violence Policy Center, the Brady Campaign, the (now defunct) Million Mom March, Handgun Control, etc. etc. All of those are propaganda organizations as well – which have, as someone once said, conducted a decades-long slow-motion hate crime against guns and gun owners.

    A 2-way communication model only works if both sides use the same language and have goals which are not incompatible. But one side invents terms like “assault weapons,” “cop-killer bullets,” and “plastic firearms” and are out (at least in the case of the Violence Policy Center) admittedly to ban firearms from public possession. They’re the ones who have made this into a propaganda war. We no longer speak to each other, but to the electorate, and the method is a propaganda battle. Their side has the assistance of the major media. For our side to be effective, we must not only be louder, we must also be united in our purpose.

    As you noted, “never, never, never use the ‘B’ word when talking to gun advocates.” Jim Zumbo violated that rule. He paid the price. Welcome to the free market. The NRA is not to blame for Zumbo’s career-crashing mistake – he is. I haven’t “had enough,” I’m heartened by the speed and power of the grassroots response. Now I hope we can act as powerfully and as unified against each and every NEW attack against our right to arms raised by our legislatures. That remains to be seen. We’re used to being attacked on that front. It was getting stabbed in the back – unintentionally or not – that prompted the vehemence of the Zumbo reaction.

  3. Eric says:

    I too am a supporter of the right to bear arms. While I’m not a member, I also support the NRA.
    Why, oh why though, do certain special interest groups feel it is necessary to go overboard? I remember the pro-choice groups being all up in arms when Scott Peterson was to be charged with the murder of his unborn child. They feared pro-life groups would use it as a foothold to outlaw abortion.
    It’s extremist actions like these that make people unwilling to listen to any other messages the group may attempt to communicate.

  4. Tony Trennel says:

    Zumbo confused varmint shooting with licensed hunting, in particular big game (thats what he does/did). Now most states do not allow .223 cal for BG hunting. But those Ar 15 type rifles are legion in target shooting and other events. He should have thought about this aspect before condeming an entire class as “terrorist” etc. I’m an avid big game hunter, don’t have an AR type but would get one in .308 for target work — my cals all relate to hunting.

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    If you read Zumbo’s entire post, he says that maybe he’s “living in a vacuum.” And it would seem he was when it comes to the AR15. Zumbo also should have thought more carefully about his audience — something I preach daily to my public relations students. But the NRA and the gun bloggers still went overboard. A friend for 40 years, Zumbo has earned some consideration.

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Apologies to Kevin, whose comments somehow were caught in the spam filter, thus the late publication.

  7. John Guthrie says:

    I suggest you all read Dick Metcalf’s upcoming article in Petersen’s Hunting. It was submitted long before Zumbo’s debacle. As for Zumbo’z actions, he obviously had not learned much about the origin of hunting rifles (they all were originally “assault rifles”) or the multitude of applications for these tools. I personally don’t own or have a desire to own a military firearm, but there is no difference in their function from any other semi auto.
    In conclusion, the anti’s love a stunt like this and he has done great damage to our position.

  8. Nathan Harding says:

    Please explain where you think the NRA was in the lead on this? Thye have never been in the lead. This was a grassroots wildfire that just woke up a large number of gun owners who are sick of elitist big game/bird hunter types who think their antique bolt actions and o/u’s are acceptable but modern firearms are uncivilized.

  9. Bill Sledzik says:

    You are correct, Nathan. The NRA appears to be getting fat and slow on the uptake. Seems that all of Zumbo’s sponsors and the gun bloggers were the first to pile on in this shameless character assassination. I stand corrected. But those who trashed the good name of Jim Zumbo should still be ashamed. When you consider Jim’s audience, he definitely misspoke. We call do from time to time. Usually I still get to go to work the next day. I’m not arguing guns here, I’m arguing common decency.

  10. Independent Conservative says:

    He still hasn’t changed or gotten a clue!
    Even his newest attempts at atonement still fall into the lefts trap of trying to justify these rifles as having a “sporting or hunting purpose”. He just doesn’t seem to let it sink in that the 2ND IS NOT ABOUT HUNTING OR SPORT!! Its about “We the people” having the right to arm and defend ourselves from ALL enemies foriegn or domestic. And lately they have been as much domestic(liberals) as foriegn!
    He NEEDS to learn that EVERY gun law that has ANY effect on ANY law abiding citizen is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The 2nd doesn’t grant us this right it simply affirms it.

  11. Steve Easker says:

    Bill, since you worked 16 years as a PR professional, you should know that one “Aw Sh#t” wipes out all the “Atta Boys” you’ve ever gotten.

    Jim Zumbo screwed up royally and is now paying the price. Was his apology sincere? Doesn’t matter. His damage is done and can’t be undone. Here is a quote from Zumbo’s own web page.


    “U.S. Senator Carl Levin used some of my remarks to further his anti-gun platform, placing them in the Congressional Record.”

    Now isn’t that just special. Jim provided more ammunition for one of the biggest anti-gunners in Congress.

    Jim Zumbo is suppose to be a professional journalist and author on hunting. His sponsors PAY HIM because he helps promote activities that help their business. Now he makes comments that alienate a large portion of these companies customers and helps the anti’s efforts to get rid of hunting and private gun ownership. But he just “misspoke” so all should be forgiven. Bull!! He didn’t misspeak, he wrote exactly what he felt and articulated it quite clearly. It wasn’t until he got called on the carpet for it that he recanted and started backpedaling. Sorry he doesn’t deserve a second chance.

  12. Bill Sledzik says:

    You’re right, Steve. There are no second chances, especially when we’re dealing with the NRA and the hardcore of the gun lobby. It’s one of the reasons I’m embarrassed to be a member, and why I wrote this post. Zumbo misspoke, and he should probably have known about the applications of the ARs in modern varmint hunting. But I’m willing to give him a pass for all his past service to the sport, and his sportsmanship, period. Class act, that Jim Zumbo.

    I’ll go huntin’ with Zumbo anyday. Not sure I’d say the same about the Nudge — though I enjoy his cookbook a great deal and was a huge fan of the Amboy Dukes.

  13. […] how little it takes to set them off. If you’ve forgotten, ask legendary hunter and sportsman Jim Zumbo. He’ll tell […]

  14. Tyler Durden says:

    This is about what I’d expect from a “PR professional” (i.e. a professional liar). Jim Zumbo is a liar and a fraud, and just you he’s one of the rich country-clubbers that thinks he’s superior to everyone else and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about gun owners, attacks on the 2nd Amendment as long as you get to keep your toys and do your “hunting” b.s. (you clowns are about as much of a real hunter as Barbara Boxer). Hey, if the gun-grabbers in congress want to ban those nasty old “assault rifles” (btw moron, the DoD defines an assault rifle as a select-fire weapon, which I’ll simplify in deference to you, that’s one that can fire full-auto and semi-auto; the military style rifles available to the common man who isn’t rich and doesn’t have a Class III license is strictly semi-auto) well that’s OK with assholes like you and Zumbo. An apology? This guy isn’t sorry for anything except getting his high paying gigs cancelled, he hasn’t changed his mind about military style semi-autos and he’s got that “hunters are real shooters and we’re better than you are” attitude. Guys like him would sell out their own mother to save their ass and keep their toys. Looks like there is a lot of others of his ilk here too, and they make me just as sick as Zumbo does. He reminds me of Don Imus falling all over Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton after his “nappy headed ho’s” stupidity and getting thrown off TV and radio. Now he’s on FOX, the station of fascists, proving like Zumbo on his new Outdoor Channel gig that shit floats. What a colossal liar Zumbo is; “I was wrong” (after he suffers a justified backlash, NRA should have thrown him out), “I had to go to Ted Nuget and be educated” (shades of Imus–how stupid do you have to be to not know about versatile uses of military style semi-autos, and does this asshole really think that the 2nd Amendment was put into the constitution so he and you and the other armchair Daniel Boone’s can go kill a deer drinking at a pond?). “I wasn’t trying to be devisive”–that’s the all time show stopper. Read his blog comments again, it’s ‘hunters are a community and other gun owners like that those nasty military style gun owners are terrorists and should be banned and we don’t need their taint”. This guy is so full of shit it’s unreal. No one with two working brain cells would believe him. “My remarks were misrepresented, I was just tired”. The Joe Barton defense, after getting dropped like a hot rock when he showed his true colors (pink) he starts the inevitable excuse making. A “friend for 40 years”? Friend of whom, rich dicks like you that they’re better than anyone else? With friends like that, who needs enemies. I hope that when Big Brother decides that the time is right for declaring martial law, you and Zumbo are the first two put in the gulag. And you need to get your leftwing incurable smartass kicked.

  15. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the comment/rant, Tyler. Although no one will ever see it at this late date, it does more to make my case against NRA extremism than anything I could have said.

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