"How Much Freedom Do you Really Need?"

Eric Renderking Fisk | March 12th, 2007 Bookmark and Share

This topic is just too important to leave to just the forum. But that's where this topic was brought up. Sunday night one of our members "Kan Smiley" started a topic about Jim Zumbo, a former writer for "Outdoor Life" who was fired for his comments about hunters using Assault 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. I've always been comfortable with the statement that hunters don't use assault rifles. We've always been proud of our sporting firearms."

You can read the story that Kan Smiley linked to on the forum on The Times Argus website, The official statement by the magazine "Outdoor Life And Jim Zumbo Part Ways," By Todd. W. Smith, Editor-in-Chief, and other news about this story here.

I'm very apprehensive about posting my thoughts and beliefs on this topic. It's mine field with serious repercussions if I'm not careful with my remarks. Jim Zumbo proved that with one misspoken word or phrase can ruin a whole career and destroy a reputation built over a life time. I could be one Rant away from alienating the current and loyal readers of The Fedora Chronicles. I wrote on the forum that I'm on the fence about this issue. Why? Well... to paraphrase quote Casablanca... I'm able to sympathies with both the Fox and The Hound.

On one side of the argument, I can understand the anger of the hunters towards Mr. Zumbo. You can read his comments and believe that he's lumping owners of assault rifles with terrorists - those who use an over-powering automatic or sub automatic rifle to shoot game that's also the same weapon used by the insurgence in Iraq and Al-Qaeda training camps and thus there's no difference between these groups would make someone angry. Being lumped with a group of terrorists is enough to make anyone angry, worse so if you actually own one of those rifles or have strong beliefs about the Spirit and the Letter of the Law, The Second Amendment to The Constitution.

I can also understand the point of view of the publishers of "Outdoor Life" and it's advertisers, such as Remington. You don't want a guy representing you who insulted and alienated many of your readers by calling them terrorists.

I also understand Mr. Zumbo's predicament .. He made a life out of telling stories and giving advice about hunting. For a generation his was "America's Hunter." Almost reverend and revered by many who read his articles ritually and religiously. He was paid to do a job - write about what he thinks and sees. The job of a writer in any publication is to write something informative and engaging... don't bore the readers. At times a writer (like myself) hammers out something that's going to rub people the wrong way. I've written things that have torqued people off here on The Fedora Chronicles, other websites and even newspapers (I used to pride myself on the number of hate filled response I got, a death threat was a Grand Slam in the sport of Confrontational Writing.)

This isn't an easy "cut and dry" situation here, is it? I don't think there's one definitive "Right" answer while I'm looking at it objectively. The people who I have the greatest sympathy for, though, is the Editors of "Outdoor Life" who have The First Amendment (Freedom Of Speech) and The Second Amendment (The Right To Own And Bare Arms) at odds with each other. Do you allow someone the right to say what he feels believes about the ownership of some firearms and the banning of others, do you cave to those who believe that American's should be allowed to own what every fire arm they wish? Do you favor the Freedom Of Speech over The Right to own any type of fire arm? Do you cave in to please your advertisers?

The real issue is about the line where tolerance of other people's opinions and when those boundaries are stretched towards or even past our breaking point. More to the point, it's about freedom and how much freedom is too much. As the topic of this rant asks, "How much Freedom Do We Really Need?"

How much do we really believe in free speech? At what point do we allow people to say what they really believe until we tell them to shut up or try to get their publications closed or their websites shut down. There's a growing list of people and organizations that want The Fedora Chronicles shut down because we allow people to discuss issues they don't allow, including criticism of Retro-Gear vendors or popular movies that everyone else enjoyed (or are thought to believe they "MUST" enjoy.)

On one extreme I've had to ban or suspend members of the forum because of the use of foul language (how much course language am I willing to tolerate and how free is really "free" when I have to accommodate a broader audience that includes people as young as 14 and older people who grew up during a time when lose language wasn't spoken in mixed company..) and rude behavior. On the other extreme members have asked to be removed from our members list because they didn't like one conversation or what a poster said ONCE while they enjoyed every other aspect of the forum. How much "Free Speech" is truly free when it's sometimes offensive or breaks boundaries? How much freedom do we really tolerate despite how we say we're for it absolutely? Running this website has been a test for me to see how tolerant I really am, often times I've failed that test. But have past more often, I believe.

When it comes to owning firearms, to what extent should people be allowed to own, maintain and use them? At what point should society say "No more" and reasonable people say, "OK, I agree?" What firearms do must of us agree the average citizen should be allowed to own? What firearms should be allowed and what fire arms should be banned? Unfortunately, just allowing this debate angers some people - there are those who want the discussion ended because they want all firearms banned and no citizen should be allowed to own anything and the only people who should be allowed to possess firearms are the Police, Government and military... and those people are usually the ones with such a violent distrust of the police, Government and Military. At least that's my observation. (Also, it's my observation that those who are against The Patriot Act are also for stricter gun control. My observation, if it's an inaccurate perception feel free to let me know via The Forum.)

Then there are those who believe there should be no ban on any fire arm, period... and will site the what they believe was the intention of the writers of The Constitution. Any talk about any ban on any fire arm should be prohibitive. Mere talk or debate about what fire arms should be banned is simply offensive! No! No debate, no debate or I'll quit! (Hasn't happened here, but it's happened on other forums so often that they don't allow political discussions anymore... which is another why The Fedora Chronicles came into existence and why we're so controversial.)

Personally, I'm a "Right Tool For The Right Job" type of firearm owner and advocate. What you need or want a fire arm for should be the type of fire arm you own. I also look back at history and see what happened when civilians where prohibited from owning firearms.

"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future."

That's a hotly contested quote attributed to Adolph Hitler which may or may not be true. But the fact remains that on Nazi Weapons Law of March 18, 1938 paved the way for a faster rate of growth of control under fascist tyranny. Once the government disallows the ownership and use of firearms, it's much easier for a dictatorship to treat citizens like sheep and lead the lambs to slaughter. Even a democracy such as ours can show signs of erosion in our rights when people are not allowed to defend themselves. A dictatorship can arise in a democracy when a population is forbidden from defending itself while being over-taxed. (It's hard to mount a rebellion when you have no guns and you have to work over-time or two jobs to make ends meet.)

I'm worried that the mere debate about issues such this in a polarized political environment is causing a greater division in our society, even among like-minded people on our site and forum. The mere discussion of these issues causes alienation and could cause people to leave groups where such discussions should be allowed, (it hasn't happened here yet but I could see how it could potentially happen as it's happened elsewhere.) We can't even talk about this issue with out people taking offense? Someone should lose their jobs or their websites because they simply voiced an opinion? What kind of world are we living in and what what I are turning it into? If someone doesn't go along with the "Orwellian Group Think" just once then the group should just be allowed to cast that person aside dispite years of loyalty and hard work? What does that make us? Who are we becoming besides what we hate because we know all to well the answer to the question: "How much freedom do we really need?"

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Is there such a thing as 'too much freedom?'

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