Yes, David old friend. “Some will no doubt object to this.”
Word came out earlier this week (to those not previously in the know) that JPFO founder Aaron Zelman received a postumous “Bill of Rights Award” at Alan Gottlieb’s 2014 Gun Rights Policy Conference.
Now, the GRPC is a big deal and surely few people on this planet deserve a Bill of Rights award more than Aaron (my friend, co-author, and tireless crusader for ALL the Bill of Rights).
But as fellow TZP blogger Sheila Stokes-Begley wrote in an email: “Coming from SAF, is this a little like Obama congratulating someone for being an excellent constitutional scholar? They may well be an excellent constitutional scholar, the problem lies in knowing the compliment came from a man who wouldn’t know a constitutional scholar from a cartoonist.”
As you may know, TZP was created in response (and in protest) to the Gottlieb/SAF buyout of JPFO. Short version of the story: Aaron Zelman was a man who never compromised on any issue of principle and Gottlieb never met a compromise he didn’t like.
In the post linked above, David Codrea notes that he was “… invited to an evening working meeting/closed-door advisory session supplemental to the GRPC, and heard no evidence that there were plans to bastardize the mission, and plenty of plans to make the organization viable without involving compromises.”
Though I surely wish I could have been a fly on the wall at that meeting, I don’t doubt David’s description at all. David is a hero of gun rights and a man of great integrity. When he and the very sweet Kurt Hofmann decided to stay on with the new JPFO when Nicki, Sheila, Brad, Ilana, and I left, I wished them well.
But I admit I laughed when I read David’s description of that meeting. Because of course Gottlieb and Co. are not going to have a meeting in which they rub their hands together like cartoon villains and cackle “Bwaahahaaaa!” while they eeeeevilly plot to turn JPFO from a no-compromise outfit into some watered-down imitation of itself.
That’s not the way it works. In the world of corporations and politics, inconvenient predecessors are gotten rid of and policies and views are mutated … politely. Just as SAF is doing.
First they pull the cagey (though rather painfully obvious) PR stunt of “honoring” Aaron to show that they’re really not such bad guys after all. But that’s a cheap, meaningless gesture. It fools only those who haven’t been watching closely. Then they’re going to make some improvements to sadly neglected portions of JPFO’s infrastructure (oh, that creaky old website!). They may come out with a few new projects. They’ll almost certainly use Gottlieb/Merrill’s huge fundraising operation to bring in a lot more money. At first things will look GOOD! GOOD! GOOD! By golly, look what wonders SAF is doing to save the legacy of Aaron Zelman and preserve gun rights!
Then slowly, over a period of years, they’ll turn JPFO into …
… into what, it’s hard to say. Will it just be some bland, almost-forgotten thing? That’s what KeepAndBearArms.com became after Gottlieb bought it. One of the most lively, popular gunsites on the ‘Net is now a backwater.
Or will JPFO live and appear to thrive while subtly toning down its positions?
At this point, nobody can say. I can only say that it’s simply not within Gottlieb’s character to perpetuate Aaron’s character.
Very likely the first real test will be how the new JPFO responds the next time Gottlieb pushes for universal background checks. Don’t ever forget that Gottlieb called Manchin-Toomey a “win” and a “godsend.” Although he eventually removed his support from that particular bill, he still advocates universal background checks. He was still pumping hard for them at this year’s GRPC.
And this was after buying JPFO, folks. This was during the same weekend as that meeting to pretend that JPFO will be allowed to live “without compromises.”
So tell me this: Next time Gottlieb pushes his UBC agenda, what will JPFO’s staff and writers do? Go along quietly? Keep their mouths shut? Actually agree with Gottlieb?
Or will they — as they would do if JPFO remained its real self — shout to the rooftops that UBCs are wrong, dangerous, anti-rights, a front door to registration, and a backdoor to confiscation? Will JPFO’s spokespeople bravely inform the world that Gottlieb is selling us all out?
And if JPFO writers and staff actually did have the courage and fortitude to speak up and oppose their boss, what will SAF and Gottlieb do then? Will Gottlieb applaud and say, “Isn’t it great? See, I really meant it when I said I wanted JPFO to remain hardcore and uncompromising?”
Or will he purge the purists (or let them quit in protest and replace them with more compliant types) and continue what was always inevitable — making JPFO over in his own image?
Time will decide. Maybe — could be — Gottlieb will give up his advocacy of universal government control of firearm sales and avoid that potential conflict. But he and some of his shadier minions can wave awards over Aaron’s grave every day of the week and it wouldn’t change a thing. “Honoring” dead people is one of the tidier ways of turning them into powerless pictures on a wall, names on a plaque, hallowed (and ignored) institutions — and therefore shoving their real, inconvenient views out of the conversation.
* Shady minions do not include David, Kurt, or webmaster Chris, who are all great people worthy of high regard.