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My Kerodin Mea Culpas: III Arms and Others
Back in 2012, the idea of liberty-oriented get-togethers, or PATCONs, short for Patriot Conventions, was taking off. TL Davis had issued an open invitation to attend his Liberty Summit in Mercer, Pennsylvania, which was intended to be a Mother-Of-All-PATCONs. Earlier that year, TL attended our Georgia PATCON, where all of us bounced a lot of ideas around. When the Liberty Summit rolled around, since no one else from Georgia was going, I decided to go, bringing some of those ideas to share with the larger group. Some of those ideas were controversial, but were intended to be discussed in an open forum among friends face-to-face to determine the best way forward. TL asked me if I wanted some time to speak, and I asked for an hour to try to compress into that time some of the complex ideas we had discussed at the Georgia PATCON over a two-day session. I also took some time to vent my own personal frustration of what had happened to the country I had fought for, and shouted "we see you" to the surrounding hills as an expression that those who were destroying our nation could not hide in the shadows. Having vented myself, I turned to my list of hastily prepared notes outlining our concepts. One such idea was that ongoing feuds, such as the one between Kerodin and Vanderboegh, need not be destructive, but instead could become instructive. By the various sites highlighting the differences between various positions (all positions, not just theirs) and letting newbies decide for themselves which was more appealing, they would, in effect, "vote" for any given position by continuing to patronize various sites. And, by crosslinking between sites in an organized way, not just based on buddy-of-the-day arrangements, newbies could navigate from interest area to interest area as their understanding of the problem evolved. That last part is important: very few of us sprang from the womb fully enlightened as to the political, social and economic woes of the day. Most people have views of the world that cannot be assigned to specific good/bad categories, but instead are clumped into different groups depending on the issues, and that these views evolve as they learn more about reality. Statisticians would refer to these as "bins", and expecting people to sign loyalty blood oaths to any particular set of principles is doomed to result in a bunch of individuals in their basements wondering why no one else is on their side. Globalists would love such a result. In the real world, it would be better for people to task-organize themselves for various issues, with flexible acceptance if some of those bins didn't happen to coincide on every issue. (As an aside, this is precisely why some sites tirelessly exhume the same ideas over and over in a fashion some call "frog-cutting": it isn't to resolve an issue or to precipitate fights, it is to educate newbies with these issues so they can decide paths and interests for themselves.) The Kerodin/Vanderboegh episodes were particularly concerning in that these often devolved into what I termed "Jerry Springer Moments", but that there was an alternative if the parties could at least agree to disagree. The alternative approach would be to continue to disagree, perhaps vehemently, yet not let the discussions devolve into social-justice-warrior (SJW) style ad hominem. If the participants could not agree to stick to the issues, then behavioral shaming would be the rule. For example, it is perfectly OK to say someone is an "ex-con" or "ex-communist", if those labels are factual, but to misrepresent someone's position, or to resort to name calling such as "so-and-so is a stinky poo-poo" (and now, finally, attacking someone's livelihood, which I, years ago, called Vocational Terrorism, hint, hint) would be subject to censure. This way, people could still have arguments, but that no one would have to be concerned that a real fight is going on, just an argument over positions and concepts. As a result, the newbies, the future sprouts of any important change, could educate themselves, find a comfortable conceptual home, and then contribute and grow. In an effort of diplomacy (probably not the best first job for a former Marine, but we do what we can), I applied crediting techniques and told the assembled multitudes that Vanderboegh was doing an excellent job in his work. I also credited Kerodin with having played an important role with his site, a claim I still back given his work at the time: there is no question that the guy has been, and remains, an effective recruiter (I also sometimes wonder whether my subconscious mind didn't choose that particular phrasing for other reasons, time will tell). I also told the crowd that although Vanderboegh and I don't see eye to eye on all issues, I can still support his efforts, and that no one should think that because we don't agree that anyone should be expected to take sides. I encouraged, without naming names, that others could adopt the same position and be supportive of the overall effort without agreeing on all particulars. Further, if someone saw an argument and thought that there was a Jerry Springer Moment brewing, that to not worry, it wouldn't have to turn into one. And even sites like Bill Nye's Gas-Mask-Nuns was helpful bringing the fire-eaters into the mix, even if some of the participants couldn't play nice. Could I have said all that better? Of course. Mea Culpa #1. Did I think I was among friends who would give me the benefit of the doubt so that I didn't have to pick and choose and parse every single word in a complex matrix of ideas? Absolutely. Mea Culpa #2. After stewing a few minutes while I was talking, and receiving whispers from his orbiters, Kerodin exploded, and told the crowd that he wanted to be part of none of it, and to leave him out. Within moments, many in the crowd turned hostile and it degenerated from there. The mood of the crowd was definitely different from the Georgia PATCON. In Georgia, we had a brain-storming session among friends, with many people arguing against some positions, holding firm on some and ceding others and vice-versa. In Mercer, it was all politics and positioning and seemed like a prepared near-ambush. I chalked it up to an ungenteel Yankee thing and drove on. If I had understood the climate better, I would have been in negotiation mode, or better, just said "hi" and then gathered information about who was worth a damn. Mea Culpa #3. Shortly after that portion of the exercise, Kerodin hit the road and went home early. I figured no big deal, we can straighten things out in emails. Mea Culpa #4. Now, Kerodin and I had already exchanged several emails about distribution of several of the ongoing III business projects (and separately, political position articles). Having done domestic and international logistics for several product lines already, I knew a lot of the ins and outs of this sort of thing, and also was trying to organize regional distribution for III and other lines, including warehousing to keep gunshow dealers stocked with various bling and trinkets. I was offering my services more or less as a shadow, to keep the toxicity of some of my positions, including the whole Mercer blowup, from affecting the success of the various projects. It wasn't about Tom, it was about making these things successful and giving frustrated people an intellectual home lest they pull a Joe Stack and do something rash and wasteful. After Mercer, though, a wall came down. Boom. He sent me an email telling me that he didn't want my support with any of his projects, and to keep his name out of my mouth. He then launched the "We Stand Apart" attack ad (Google that and "Baugh" to read for yourselves; if it disappears, I have it archived). I read that and thought "hmmm, that is mighty peculiar." It didn't represent my position, nor what I said at Mercer with 100% fidelity. In particular, he totally twisted the bin concept from "recognize the fact that people show up with biases and will prefer some sites over others but give them trails of interest to follow" into "assign people into categories against their will and then herd them like some malignant sociopath might, giggle giggle", and then he conflated this perversion with the idea of developing sales and marketing skills, all of which is completely absurd. There are other perversions in that article as well (which makes me question much of what he writes about others, good and bad), but in keeping in line with not going or letting things go Jerry Springer, I let it go. If I was that off base, or came off that off base, then I just had to suck it up. This started a three-year, more or less, self-imposed penance, during which time I saw this same peculiar assessment time and again, where half-truths and insinuations seemed to be the rule of the day. (As another aside, I am proud of three aspects of that projected ad hominem article of his, though. One, I am tied with Justin for the first person to be banned from commenting on his site, although I never posted anything derogatory there, so that was strange. Second, I am probably the only guy to get him to say Vanderboegh was right about something. Third, I use this as evidence that yes, indeed, we do stand apart, even though I have tried to help some of his efforts from the shadows, not for his benefit, but for the benefit of the others involved.) Now, the best mea-culpa is still on the way. And it is a biggie. Along about this time a couple of guys asked to see me about something. One of them was at that Georgia PATCON (the other might have been but I wasn't sure). Guy #2 has a reputation as a kick-ass machinist, though, and both of them wanted to go into business making firearms specifically for the liberty market. To help keep quality high without Guy #2, or anyone else, needing to become an expert on everything all at once, and in volume, we discussed an open-source model where anybody with a relevant skill could contribute, so that different pieces and parts and systems could come together from wherever they were best done. Profits would be plowed back not only into this business, but also into other liberty-related startups. Awesome idea, laid out right there to me in the Dairy Queen in Forsyth, Georgia, in the spring of 2012. And they wanted my help getting it started. But I was still struggling with recovering from the 2008 Atlanta real estate crash, and was buried in servicing two clients' short-fused projects, and so I wouldn't be able to even get started on it for months. But this was too good of an idea to keep bottled up on the shelf that long. So then I did the biggie. I said, "Go see Kerodin, he likes supporting this kind of thing, maybe he can get you some exposure for the idea and some supporters to get started." Mea Culpa Freaking Number 5. F**k (this is a family site). These guys looked at me, astonished, and said, "Doesn't he hate you?" Me: "Yeah, so don't bring my name up, but if he does say I'm weird or something. He does get a lot of traffic, though, and can probably find someone to help." This, by the way, has been an effective way to get him behind things. Either don't mention me at all, but if my name comes up, bash me. Try it. It works great. I've never been a crowd-funding kind of guy, all of my business things are usually self-funded, or funded by a close-knit group of insiders, and I didn't have the resources at the time to make this work well. What I expected him to do was to put out the word, "hey fans, here is a great idea. Let's help these folks get started" and then someone who could help would get involved. What I did not expect was that the ex-con would take effective reins of a FREAKING GUN COMPANY and impose himself as a top dog in the entire venture, exposing it all to a rash of completely predictable crap. And then not involve the ace machinist who had the idea, or at least someone with similar experience, or better yet, someone with an actual 07 license and related experience. And totally overturn the open-source community nature of it all, including trademarking a number. I don't know whether the Georgia guys went to him with the idea and he absorbed it into the borg, or whether it originated independently elsewhere and when (without a paper trail of the concept we will never know for sure) but again, f**k. Now, don't get me wrong. I think it is asinine for there to be laws prohibiting felons from owning firearms. If they've done their time and are no longer a menace to society, then welcome back to liberty, friend. If they are a menace, keep their asses locked up, or gas them like unwanted puppies. And my personal opinion of his hard-time is that it is unjust for him to have been locked up in a federal hell-hole for what is a scumbag move at worst (but his techniques have become refined since then) when rapists and corrupt public officials walk the streets with impunity. I also don't think that being a felon is a bar to employment at a gun company. I'm sure Ruger or Colt or Remington or S&W has a bunch of them driving pallets around with forklifts or even test-firing guns or working on the CNCs. But they probably aren't in the corner office and in the public eye. Remember, we're talking here about a political movement, one which would be public relations candy to hammer into the ground, easy pickin' for any politically-savvy prosecutor to get himself recognized in the big leagues, handing the militias a black eye in the process. By any objective measure, in this country today, lawfare is the rule of the day, where legalities and truth no longer count for much, and subjective optics drive investigations and prosecutions. And so, in this climate, we put the most politically toxic figure in our corner office? And then block anyone else from doing it better? Months later, by the time I really clued into what was going on, it was announced on his site and he was soliciting for investors. So why didn't I jump in there? Ever heard of a concept called "tortious interference"? Look it up. He has (or else legal terms like that come imprinted into his soul at birth). Would it apply in this case? Maybe, maybe not. In any event, I didn't want to harm, by speaking up and making it look as stupid as it was, the people who had already forked over cash, which was presumably quite a bit early on (if this claim is not true, and someone invested thinking others already had when said others had not, consider whether or not that claim of prior investment would be fraudulent). And, I wanted that venture, and the others, to succeed. I also didn't want to give him an excuse to fail. After a while, when the behavioral patterns became more clear, it seemed to me as if he kept picking fights on purpose. "Why?", I asked myself. One answer I came up with early on was that if there was enough chaos around these projects, then that alone could be an excuse for failure. I could imagine a scenario in which an investor's meeting hears "gee whilikers fellas, this would have worked if it wasn't for mean ol' Baugh (or whomever) making us all look bad. Be mad at him for your money being gone, not me." In other words, it appeared that this guy had assembled around him various financial hostages, and to speak bad about the principal would harm those hostages, who were innocent of anything other than naive optimism and enthusiasm. Clever. Don't bomb the babies duct-taped to the nuclear weapons plant, you meanies. So I kept my mouth shut, at least until the nuclear weapons plant blew itself up. Mea Culpa #6. And I got other people to keep theirs shut along the way. For a long time, almost every fight that started brewing (except this recent one which grew exponentially faster than I could contact the various participants), I would contact the other side and ask them to cool it, not just for the business interests, but also to avoid feeding the sociopathic construct (which I think was deliberately created by bad guys, a different long story). The white nationalists were particularly fun to stand down back in 2013 or so. But, this is where he seemed to get the "I am an avenging god sent to punish you for your sins" complex and refined the vocational terrorism thing after practicing on some of the earlier prototypes. But by keeping the pressure off him from time to time, I also helped create a monster who thought he was actually backing people down, thus making him seem more stout than his fellows, and thus become more attractive to incoming newbies, and ultimately, more damaging to militias looking for support where any could be found. Mea Culpa #7. So, there's my Kerodin mea culpas. If I hadn't sent those guys into his maw, it may have worked out OK and the investors may have not lost their money, or those guys might have launched their own company with my help and made III Arms irrelevant. Separately, if I had presented things better at Mercer, and hadn't tried to stand down various combatants, he might have learned some humility before it was too late (however, given various ear-whisperers, the path may have been the same, regardless). Now line up to kick my snarglies. These two Georgia boys get the first kicks, Miller gets the third, all the rest line up in descending order of lost investment. And after you all are done kicking, and I am crying like a little girl, he will still do his thing. He will still be good at attracting frustrated newbies, and then just as good at bouncing them off to more helpful sites once they see the wackadooisms. So, in this way, as long as he continues to operate his site, he will still be part of the binning and routing concept, and can still play an important role, even if you have to cut him off from any contact or participation. Just be prepared to appropriately receive and brief the newbies once they come your way.
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