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.
Only a jury can make a legal determination of the facts in this case, and I will not attempt to do so. You can visit Tuohy’s site here and visit Fireclean’s site here.
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. AÂ 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 FirecleanÂ is using the courts to silence someone who put out “negative” information on their product instead of simply counteringÂ 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 causeÂ 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.
10 replies on “Fireclean v. Tuohy Lawsuit”
When a company sues over a review, it makes them look like they have something to hide and, in turn, makes me skeptical about buying their products.
I had a similar thought.
I never would have purchased FC based on the numerous reviews I read from multiple sources on the internet and in gun forums. Suing a reviewer only strengthens my conviction what I read is not only true, but the owners of the product are looking to capitalize with a frivolous lawsuit.
Fireclean was never on my list of things to try because I am very happy with the products I already use. Like you, I have seen other negative things said about the product long before Tuohy did an article about it.
All you have to do is find the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for a product. (It comes from OSHA laws. I’ve been professionally involved with MSDS in the workplace.) The MSDS is supposed to provide the exact chemicals in such a product as well as other information regarding hazards, etc. The reason the MSDS exists is for worker/employee safety rights regarding chemicals that are in the workplace, however they are often available online. (There is one, for example, even for white-out in the office environment.) If, however, the MSDS does not show the exact chemicals for so-called “proprietary” (read “money”) reasons, I will purposely not buy the product. I want to know what is in it. If an MSDS does not seem to be available at all, then I can decide whether or not to buy the product as well. Indeed, there are products on the market that are verified as being nothing more than mineral oil or vegetable oil. When you find out what is in it, you can do other research online to find out more about the chemicals if you wish. You can also decide whether or not you are dealing with marketing hype or if the product truly appears to be a mixture or solution that may provide your desired results. In any case, the MSDS is sometimes one more tool for the consumer to make a more informed decision. And, it eliminates speculative accusations.
It’s interesting to note that many MSDS sheets, in addition to listing “proprietary” for many categories, can also include factually incorrect information. See this blog post, which is also written by Tuohy’s codefendant and one of the people who did some of his testing:
Unfortunately, true, good catch. I was trying to keep it short and just make the basic point. Although there are some legal issues about the use of the MSDS and possibly some liabilities for employers or manufacturers if they are inaccurate (if, for example, there was a spill or an exposure that resulted in injury), like a lot of things there does not appear to be consistent and effective inspection and enforcement of compliance by regulatory agencies until after the incident is over. Consequently, in many cases it appears to be a lot of the “honor” system. The evidence you point out would seem to imply that there isn’t a lot of honor!
Fireclean has refused to actually say what is in their lube. Their patent application, which is not an issued patent and is all they quote in their complaint, is very vague. But does not actually exclude what Andrew said.