During the past few years, regular readers of online gun blogs and forums have been exposed to a great deal of marketing when it comes to gun lubes. Everything from “you can eat it” to “nano technology” has been thrown into lubricant ads to entice buyers into picking one brand over another.
Some of the claims are valid while others are perhaps… less valid.
Blogger Andrew Tuohy recently decided to take an close look at one particular gun lubricant: Fireclean. After doing some testing on the product, he wrote an article or two on the lube and what testing he had done. Tuohy drew some reasonable conclusions and the rest of the internet seemingly jumped off the deep end with accusations, statements and guesses about both Tuohy and the company.
Fast forward to today: Tuohy is now being sued by Fireclean for defamation.
My concern is the larger issue of companies suing reviewers, and the chilling effect that has on free speech.
Let me level with you for a second. There are a lot of shoddy reviews being done in the media on behalf of some of the firearms companies. Some print publications will run only reviews of products that are made by advertisers. Additionally, those “reviews” are often written in such a way as to ensure the checks from those advertisers keep coming in.
Well, newsflash: the same happens online as well.
There are a number of “new media” gun content providers who earn money through advertising. Some of them work very closely with the manufacturers to ensure that products are only cast in the best of light. Sometimes these de facto advertising platforms are operated by very popular internet personalities.
If those channels are sought by the public for the purpose of entertainment only – no problem. However, when people rely on them for good information about how a product performs, that is a problem. Firearms and related gear are often relied on for self-defense, and bullshit can get you killed.
There are a number of internet outlets that provide information about products in a relatively unbiased manner: when a product fails, it is reported. That is information that you, the reader, need – and deserve – to have.
I have taken great strides over the years to improve the quality of information I provide in my reviews. I also disclose all of the biases that influence any review I write. I’ve even eliminated advertising from the site so no manufacturer can lean on me for a “good” review.
The problem is manufacturers can use lawsuits as a weapon against us.
Most bloggers earn very little – if any – money from their website or YouTube channel. Those of us who do earn money are feeding our families, not buying luxury sports cars. A company can file a lawsuit and pressure a little guy into silence. That is why I think the Fireclean v. Tuohy lawsuit is so important.
Fireclean may have a valid complaint against Tuohy, though I personally do not think they do. Ultimately, I leave that in the hands of a jury.
The problem I see is that Fireclean is using the courts to silence someone who put out “negative” information on their product instead of simply countering him in the marketplace of ideas. If Tuohy’s research and testing was bunk, it would seem to me that the company could have easily countered that with facts, and even done so in a way that could have brought more customers in through the door.
Instead, we have a lawsuit. The very filing of the lawsuit will likely cause more than one blogger to reconsider hitting the publish button on an honest article about how poorly a gun performed. You, the average Joe, looking for information about your next purchase, are denied the information you deserve.
If you feel it is important to support Tuohy and unbiased commentary on gun products, visit Tuohy’s GoFundMe page here.