Giving Jim Zumbo The Final Word On Zumbomania

I had not intended to blog any more about Jim Zumbo and the predicament he created for himself nearly a week ago with his blog, but I’ve changed my mind.   In complete fairness to a fellow sportsman who admittedly made a terrible mistake and has now paid dearly for his misjudgment, I offer the following excerpt from Ted Nugent’s Forum posted earlier this morning.   See if you detect a more contrite Jim Zumbo in this statement (reprinted below) than what was originally offered up in his apology posted on his former blog last Sunday [now with no active link].

The last few days have been an educational experience, to say the least. My ill-conceived inflammatory blog, as all of you now know, set off a firestorm that, I’m told, has never before been equaled. I’m not proud of that.

Let me say this at the outset. My words here are from the heart, and all mine. No one can censor me, and I answer to no one but myself. And I have no one to blame but myself. Outdoor Life, a magazine that I worked for full-time as Hunting Editor for almost 30 years, fired me yesterday. My TV show was cancelled yesterday. Many of my sponsors have issued statements on their website to sever all relationships. This may cause many of you to do backflips and dance in the streets, but, of course, I’m not laughing, nor am I looking for sympathy. I don’t want a pity party.

They say hindsight is golden. Looking back, I can’t believe I said the words “ban” and “terrorist” in the context that I did. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that. I can explain this as sheer ignorance and an irresponsible use of words. What I’ve learned over the last few days has enlightened and amazed me. As a guy who hunts 200 days a year, does seminars on hunting, wrote for six hunting magazines, had a hunting TV show, and wrote 20 books on hunting, how could I have been so ignorant and out of touch with reality in the world of hunting and shooting? 

But I was. I really can’t explain it, maybe because I just summarily dismissed the firearms in question in my mind when I saw them in magazines and catalogs. I saw one “black” firearm in a hunting camp in all my 50 years of hunting, and I shot one last year off a boat when fishing in Alaska. To tell the truth, it was fun and I enjoyed it immensely, but I never considered one for use in hunting. I have to tell you that I have had a revelation. I’m learning that many of my pals own AR-15’s and similar firearms and indeed use them for hunting. I was totally unaware that they were being used for legitimate hunting purposes. That is the absolute truth.

My biggest regret is not the financial impact of all this. I’m almost 67 and retirement is an option. The dreadful impact here is that I inadvertently struck a spear into the hearts of the people I love most…America’s gun owners. And, even though this huge cadre of dedicated people have succeeded in stripping me of my career, I hold no grudges. I will continue to stand as firm on pro hunting as I’ve ever done. But what’s different now is that I’ll do all I can to educate others who are, or were, as ignorant as I was about “black” rifles and the controversy that surrounds them. My promise to you is that I’ll learn all I can about these firearms, and by the time this week is out, I’ll order one. The NUGE has invited me to hunt with him using AR-15’s, and I’m eager to go, and learn. I’ll do all I can to spread the word.

I understand that many of you will not accept this apology, believing that the damage has been done and there’s no way to repair it. You have that right. But let me say this. I mentioned this above, and I’ll repeat it. I’m willing to seize this opportunity to educate hunters and shooters who shared my ignorance. If you’re willing to allow me to do that, we can indeed, in my mind, form a stronger bond within our ranks. Maybe in a roundabout way we can bring something good out of this.

Jim Zumbo

Certainly words from a battered and bruised man who has been through much during the past several days.   His whole life has changed.   No more job with Outdoor Life.   No more television show.   No more sweet deals with corporate sponsors the likes of Remington, Cabela’s, Gerber and others.   All of this happening in just a few day’s time.   In so many ways it seems unfair, yet what has happened to Zumbo’s career is perhaps the “worse case scenario” of being in the public’s spotlight and making a major blunder.

I could have posted the very same words on my blog that got him in trouble and no doubt would have also received some nasty comments and e-mails from readers.   But ultimately my life would have proceeded on with likely no other consequences for having spoken my mind.   Doesn’t happen that way when your name achieves a certain level of notoriety.   Zumbo was high-profile and in the public’s eye.   Forty years of writing for one of the most prestigious outdoor publications usually equates credibility and sage wisdom.   More than anything Zumbo blindsided the gun lovers of this world with comments that somehow just were not consistent with what we expected to hear…or perhaps it would be more accurate to say what we wanted to hear.

My hunch is we have not heard the last from Jim Zumbo.   He has a lot of fences to mend especially with some of his sportsmen brethren, and I suspect he will attempt to do just that.   We have more important battles to wage in protecting our rights as gun owners and sportsmen than to continue dwelling on this event.   By all appearances the fury is now over…and everyone must move on.   We gain nothing further by celebrating over one of our own who has stumbled and now miserably failed thanks to some clouded judgment they just happened to openly express on the Internet.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.

Zumbo: The Internet’s Latest Whipping Boy?

I’ve spent the past several days trying to digest and better understand the flurry that has revolved around Jim Zumbo and his blog post from last Friday. [I’d like to link to it but Outdoor Life has taken it down and the cached copies on the Internet are not actively linking at this time].   As Jim Shepherd wrote in his daily The Shooting Wire, he states “…Another lesson is one we all should remember: clicking on “SEND” is pulling a trigger—it’s no more possible to recall digital words than it is to put a bullet back into a barrel.”   Oh, how true that is.   And nobody now understands that statement better than Jim Zumbo.

Let’s step back for a moment and take a more objective look at this matter.   Besides, I want to point out I have no real gripe with Zumbo…the guy just made a terrible mistake and is now paying a heavy price for having done so.   I’m sure when he woke up last Friday morning he could never have imagined in his wildest dreams that by day’s end his life would be in such utter turmoil and professional chaos.   Face it, Zumbo is and shall likely remain one of the most recognizable personalities of the outdoors industry.   Indeed, the guy has some serious P.R. challenges to overcome…especially if he wants to remain respected as an outdoors communicator, but the next several weeks and months will no doubt be pivotal in how he is remembered by the legions of people he has communicated to for the past four decades.

I often write this blog very late at night before I turn in to bed.   Admittedly there is many a night when I am perhaps too fatigued to be writing(and thinking clearly), but I do so anyway because blogging is a daily activity for me that I do only when time will allow.   I’d like it to be different, but the fact is my job, my family and other important commitments in my life must get completed first.

I suspect this was largely the same for Zumbo.   In his blog he had posted that he had spent last Friday with several executives from Remington (his former sponsor) doing what many spokesmen do for their sponsor…test product.   Seems quite reasonable to me that in his blog that evening he would make mention of his activities of the day and try to work in a few promotional “plugs” for that sponsor.   I suspect that’s what Zumbo was attempting to do by touting the virtues of Remington’s new .17 cal. Spitfire bullet.   Where he committed his fatal sin was rambling on and on negatively about one class of firearms with hopes of promoting his preferred use of traditional “sporting firearms.”

Tom Gresham has a well written piece on his web site that is worth a read.   It chronicals how Jim Zumbo committed career suicide and in just a matter of hours after posting the blog his personal and professional life would never again be the same.   Tom brings up another critical point that I think is the real story to come out of this fiasco.   That is what Gresham calls the “Zumbo Effect”.   Where the rank and file gun owner can largely be so apathetic toward acting to protect their gun-owning rights, it has now been proven that a particular incident can almost immediately galvanize the masses to act…and do so very effectively and quickly.   Just ask Zumbo.

What truly amazes me is how the Internet has grown into such a powerful communications medium during the past few years.   It can turn elections because of a candidate’s misstep, it can reveal inaccuracies found in people’s resumes prompting them to be fired, last year about this time it helped alert the public about tainted dog food killing hundreds of beloved pets, and now we learn it can be used as a backlash reacting to unpopular opinion.

Indeed, I feel sorry for Zumbo in many ways.   On one hand as a sage, old writer he should have known better than to say what was written.   Furthermore, I’m sure Zumbo understands that if you write about how you feel this can have some unpopular consequences.   Still, I’m quite confident Zumbo never wanted it to end quite this way…alienating sponsors and disenfranchising the legions of his past readers.   Throughout his journalistic career he has written for magazines with editors who had the luxury of time to scrutinize his work…with the opportunity to correct errant statements that perhaps another person would think should not be made.

Well, that’s not how a blog works, my friend.   You write the words…you perhaps re-read them a time or two before hitting the “send button” and then it’s over.   I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there have been certain topical posts I’ve made where after hitting “send” I was just waiting for the negative comments to roll in.   With certain emotionally charged topics you just never can predict how the public sentiment will show up in the comments to a post.

But you can be damn sure of one thing now after this incident.   At Zumbo’s expense it has been a necessary wake-up call to all of us sportsmen that when it comes to talking or writing about guns we better be crystal clear in our statements and not say anything that will help feed the anti-gunners.    Consider this an important lesson learned at someone else’s expense.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.

Zumbo’s Blog – Proof There Is Little Room For Error

Remember growing up and watching TV or the movies where the characters would sometimes get devoured by quicksand.   Just one false step and the substance would suck the living victim down into an inescapable, perhaps bottomless pit with very little opportunity for self-rescue.   It made for good movie plots…and when the victim disappeared from sight and would never be heard from again…about the only evidence of their unfortunate plight was usually a cowboy hat floating on the surface of the mysterious sand.

I can’t help but think that the once popular Jim Zumbo, Outdoor Life’s long-time hunting editor, has stepped into the proverbial “quicksand.”   Comments made on his blog post from last Friday have stirred such a raw passion (perhaps call it an obsession) in cyberspace among many gun owners the likes of which have never been seen by this group in the modern age of internet communication.   In a nutshell, Zumbo posted on his blog that he saw no legitimate purpose [my words] for the “assault” style rifles in the hunting community.   In fact, he went on to refer to them as “terrorist weapons.”   In a matter of hours after making this faux pas, Zumbo was the topic of a fire storm of folks looking to hang his storied outdoor writing career and his personal reputation at the stake.

So, you don’t think any of this is serious business, huh?   Well, think again.   Not only has Outdoor Life removed Zumbo’s blog from their website and issued a statement instead…Remington Arms has also quickly acted to sever all ties to their once high-vis outdoor spokesperson.   In a bit of irony, Zumbo was actually with some of Remington’s top brass testing Remington products during a coyote hunt earlier in the day when the infamous blog post was made later that evening.   Some insiders believe that sponsors like Cabela’s, Gerber Knives, and others could now drop like dominos thanks to this expanding P.R. nightmare Zumbo has created for himself.   Ultimately, I’d be surprised if Zumbo’s television show sponsorships don’t also begin to dry up, too, as companies act to divist themselves from this proven lightening rod of a spokesperson.

Perhaps the best place to begin reading this now infamous blog post is here.

Click here to see that this controversy has even hit the mainstream newspapers and I’m sure more will follow.

For a good sampling of what other bloggers and forum users are saying about Zumbo, click here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

I think we can all agree that what Zumbo said was a really stupid thing.   Hell, he even admits that now…“activating his mouth before engaging his brain.”   On Sunday during the Gun Talk Radio program with Tom Gresham, Zumbo was a guest and used that nationwide forum to explain himself and offer an apology.   In effect, he stated how he had underestimated the popularity of “AR-15 style guns” with sportsmen throughout the country.   You can down-load and listen to the entire interview here.   I might add several of the callers who followed Zumbo rejected his apology and his reasoning.

I guess here’s the problem I have with Zumbo.   Granted, he is a self-professed “hunting writer” and not much of a “gun writer.”   I suppose it’s possible to be one exclusive of the other…but that doesn’t quite cut it for me.   Look, Zumbo boasts on his personal website that he has hunted deer in every state.   Personally, I have always hated that sort of in-your-face opportunity gluttony when many sportsmen who help support the corporate sponsors for this guy feel lucky to hunt in just their own home state.   How can a guy with that much hunting experience, lucky enough to travel throughout the country, be so ignorant and unaware of what many common sportsmen perceive as important guns in their hunting collection.

ZumboYup, Zumbo stepped into the equivalent of the bloggers quicksand with his comments posted last Friday night.   Stated he was tired after a long day in the field and didn’t give much thought to what he was writing about before hitting the “send” button on his computer.   If you ever needed an example of just what a powerful tool the blog can be just look how it has changed Zumbo’s life.   When all is said and done, it just might be Zumbo’s big ol’ hat that we find floating on the quicksand as evidence someone recently treaded where perhaps they ought not to have been.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.