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"walls of the city" logo conceptualized by Oleg Volk and executed by Linoge. Logo is © "walls of the city".

"smoke and thunder" has burned itself out

People confuse me. Ok, that is not exactly the most earth-shattering of revelations out there, but consider: if one were starting a brand-spanking-new social media / social networking site that no one had ever heard of before, would you run around, insulting and demeaning those very people you are hoping to recruit to your system; or would you choose… a different path?

Yeah, me too. However, if one listens to the visionary genius (*cough*) behind "Smoke and Thunder"*, it would appear as though we are wrong.

You see, in the just-over-24-hours since the story originally broke, the administrator of SmokeandThunder.com – supposedly the up-and-coming social network for firearm owners – has been scampering hither and yon, copy-pasting pretty much the same anti-gun-blogger diatribe everywhere he goes, and throwing in additional personal attacks and bonus insults whenever he gets the chance.

No, seriously, I am not making this up.

In fact, here are some wonderful examples of the "touch of class" that "Smoke & Thunder" wants to bring to the gunblogger ‘verse; I would stress that all of these are written by someone claiming to be "Smoke & Thunder" or "Smoke & Thunder Admin" – I have not included screencaps because I am lazy, and these quotes come from sites I know not to engage in Reasoned Discourse.

#1:

You would not know a functionally sound website if it slapped you in the face. Some websites are more and do more than just blabber/blather for self admiration.

I find this one particularly amusing, given that it was addressing Erin Pallette, whose site actually loads (unlike SmokeandThunder.com, which frequently hangs on every browser I have attempted to view it in) and whose content is publicly available without idiotic login requirements. Even better, the irony of the last sentence when compared to the non-step self-fellation of "Smoke & Thunder" is almost too much to bear.

#2:

Go back to sleep, in your nice comfy coffin before the sun comes up.

Again, this comment was addressing Erin, who has made it clear in the past that she leads an "alternate" lifestyle ("’Alternate" to what?" is my typical response – who wants to be normal?), but do I really need to explain just how childishly moronic this kind of behavior is?

#3:

Don’t be ridiculous. TTAG is written in plain english by real writers, not half-cocked bloggers. TTAG is actually attractive to regular people and newbies, who are the future of gun ownership. I can’t say that about most blogs.

Ah, yes, us "half-cocked bloggers" who maintain sites that are not "actually attractive to regular people and newbies". Y’know, compared to a half-cocked idiot who is frantically trying to insult damned near everyone in his intended customer base and who maintains a site that looks like it was designed by a mentally deficient woodchuck on cocaine. Also, gunbloggers / gun owners are not "regular people"? Way to perpetuate a stereotype, jackass. (Oh, and you do have to love the sucking-up to The Truth About Guns; if that is not damning, I do not know what is.)

#4:

Several of the comments above are a sad commentary on many (but not all) of the personalities in the online gun “community”. Pissy, quick to judge, little or no understanding of what “fair use” is, and perhaps most importantly, little or no appeal to newbies and young people who are the furture of gun ownership.

[…]

Robb Allem… Can you see your hand when you wave it in front of your face?

I simply do not know where to begin… the typos, the scare quotes around "community", the complete disconnect from reality, the inability to see the growth in the firearm market and the fact that new gunblogs are springing up almost every day… "What is this I don’t even" seems wholly appropriate in this case.

And, finally, bonus threats!

Nobody is immune from being profiled, linked, reviewed, praised, or villified. You are next to be profiled on Smoke & Thunder.

You just have to love the ominous sound of that, do you not? ‘Cause Barron is so very worried about being "vilified" on a site that no one has heard of and few people care about in the slightest. Yeah, I am sure he is.

However, let us take a moment and put "Smoke & Thunder Admin"’s words into practice… on… say… him. Courtesy of Alan on Gunblogger Conspiracy, I was informed that some folks did, indeed, have a phone conversation with SmokeandThunder.com’s owner/operator, an individual by the name of Michael Frank. His phone number** belongs to a cell phone out of Manchester, New Hampshire, and a very simple Google search gives us an all-too-interesting first return:

Michael Frank filed this action against the City of Manchester and two City officials after he was denied a peddler’s license. His principal federal claim is that the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process by failing to give him a constitutionally adequate post-deprivation hearing. As I explain in greater detail below, Frank’s claim fails because he does not have a protectable property interest in a peddler’s license.

[…]

Frank first sought a peddler’s license on May 8, 2009. His application seemed doomed from the start, however, because the certified criminal record he produced with his application included a disqualifying conviction for simple assault.*fn2 Frank attempted to address this difficulty on May 21, when he succeeded in having the assault case dismissed. City officials, however, would not accept the court records showing that the conviction had been dismissed because it remained on his certified criminal record.

Frank’s problems were compounded when Gary Simmons, the assistant police chief and one of the defendants in this case, learned that Frank had two charges of possession of child pornography pending against him in Massachusetts.*fn3 Because of these pending charges, Simmons refused to sign Frank’s application on behalf of the police department.

To steal a line from Robb Allen (I really need to get that guy some pants, especially since I do not think he has had a chance to use this line yet), no wonder this guy is peddling his bulldren all over the intertubes – he cannot peddle it anywhere else! …*badum-tish*.

Seriously, though, is this the same guy who is behind "Smoke and Thunder"? Honestly, I have no idea, and no way to prove it either direction – as I said before, the WHOIS listing for his site is very thoroughly blocked, and he has not at all indicated who he is or what affiliations he may or may not have***. However, per Michael’s own statement, no one is "immune from being profiled"… and he said nothing about that profile being accurate.

(To be absolutely clear, I am in no way implying or stating that the "Michael Frank" listed in the above court document is the same "Michael Frank" behind "Smoke & Thunder", neither am I accusing the latter of simple assault nor child pornography. I am, however, pointing to an interesting coincidence, and observing that they could be one-and-the-same.)

So why is all of this important? To put it simply, we have no idea who the owner of SmokeandThunder.com is or what he is going to do with our information; however, to quote Hsoi, we do know what they are doing right now:

But let’s set aside the legal questions. Let’s just look at what they’re doing.

They’re being dicks.

Look at the postings on their own site. Look at the comments they left on Miguel’s site. Their attitude is that if you don’t like what we’re doing, then YOU are the asshole for not allowing them to piggy-back off what you’ve built (e.g. the name, likeness, and thus reputation of folks like Oleg Volk, Tam, Breda, Unc, Caleb Giddings, and so on). Their handling, their “public relations” skills really leave something to be desired.

So you have to wonder… are they just assholes? are they just stupid? Or is there something uglier going on? Who knows.

And, as Barron observes, the conclusions one can draw from this behavior are not heartening:

You’re actions thus far provide me no reason to trust or believe anything you do or say. You have done nothing but be rude, abusive, and abrasive to a group of individuals you claim are doing nothing but damaging the right to keep and bear arms community. If that’s the case, why is it that you’re the only person who makes that claim while over and over we hear about how supportive and kind the gun blogger community is? Further why are you fighting so hard to retain the profiles of high profile gun bloggers who you say are useless and not helpful to the gun rights community?

In other words, I would strongly recommend against affiliating yourself, in any way, with "Smoke & Thunder", found at smokeandthunder.com. We do not know who they are, we do not know what they are up to, we do not know what their endgame is, their site appears to be one hell of a security hazard, and they sure as hell are nowhere near "friends" of the firearm community, the gunblogging community, or the firearm industry. Additionally, just to make myself abundantly clear, neither I, Linoge, nor this webpage, "walls of the city", have any affiliation, account, membership, or association whatsoever with the new website "Smoke & Thunder" found at "smokeandthunder.com", nor will I or this site ever have such an affiliation (link intentionally omitted). Any attempt to portray me or my site having an account at that webpage is a blatant and absolute lie, and should be regarded as such.

Finally, Hsoi and Michael Frank are both correct – there is no such thing as bad publicity, which is exactly why I have refrained from directly linking to SmokeandThunder.com (and fair warning, Michael – if you post here, I will nuke the link from your username), though I have been liberally using the name and web address throughout my two posts on them… Google likes keywords, after all. However, in light of "do not feed the trolls", hopefully this will be my last post on the matter, barring any unforeseen developments or changes. Now that I have disassociated myself from it as best I can, I am willing to let the site fade into the obscurity it so deserves.

(* – I feel rather sorry for the folks at this other Smoke & Thunder. Through no fault of their own, a complete jackass has gone and named his insulting and highly misleading site the same exact thing as theirs, and this unfortunate decision will unquestionably tarnish their public image and perception, which is rather disappointing, given there are not many sites out there that can claim to be "specialists in muzzle loading supplies and accoutrements of the Fur Trade Era". Hopefully SmokeandThunder.com’s idiocy will blow over (pun intended) in short order, and they will be none the wiser.

** – I do have his phone number, though I see no reason to post it publicly here; I will, however, say that if you were to run another simple Google search for it, this would be one of the first returns you would receive:

michaelfrankphonereview_thumb

How… interesting. Ultimately meaningless, given the nature of the site and the anonymity of the comments, but… interesting.

*** – This, alone, puts me on edge. Granted, we all start out as nobodies, and most of us employ some kind of online moniker; however, none of us have started their time in the gunny community by aggregating personal and internet information on other writers, webloggers, and companies, and then holding it as some kind of bizarre hostage. If someone like Robb or Uncle were to launch this kind of thing, after first checking with their desired players to see if they were onboard, that would be one thing, but I do not know the administrator of "Smoke & Thunder", and I have absolutely no cause or reason to trust him or his motives.)

26 comments to "smoke and thunder" has burned itself out

  • If TTAG is the future we should just shut off the Internet now, it was a bad idea.

  • GREAT POST! Awash in brutal honesty.

    As for TTAG being the future, I doubt it. Right now the game is being judged by raw traffic numbers, which TTAGs has in spades thanks to SEO.

    But given that direct links given by TTAG has generated almost no traffic. If I were a company attempting to sell a product that wouldn’t strike me as money well spent.

    And given that they generally know jack about guns, and give spurious negative reviews for the sake of controversy.

  • @ Alan: Unfortunately, the ‘verse needs both righteous people and jackasses, and, at least with TTAG, the jackasses have taken over the asylum.

    @ Weer’d Beard: Somebody needed to say it – might as well be me :).

    And TTAG is definitely a matter of quantity versus quality… They can supposedly bring the eyeballs to the advertisements that people put up there, and sometimes, that is all some companies care about. Their “superiority” will only last a while, and, eventually, Karma is a bitch.

  • Whoa! I wouldn’t want to be this guy right now. Is there a corrolary to the Streisand Effect? Ordinarily the Streisand Effect says that if you call attention to something you don’t like and threaten someone to get rid of the info, your threats have the perverse effect of broadcasting the original charge. In this case we might have a case of a guy being a total douche, calling attention to his previous cases of being a total douche. Might.

    If it turns out to be the same guy, it will be another in a long line of “leopards don’t change their spots” stories.

  • Ken O

    Fuck those limp dick, anencephalitic assholes. Ugh. Unfriendly to newbies. Yeah, that’s why Breda is friends with my bride on FB and encourages her growth as a gunchick. How many new shooters did Breda bring in? Oleg is one of the most kind, thoughtful and generous people I have never had the pleasure of meeting face to face. It just burns my ass that these guys simultaneously belittle the blogger community while trying to co-opt the popularity of some of it’s finest members as a recruitment tool. To my mind, using those blogger’s well established handles and reputations in this manner borders upon theft if intellectual property; if not for the copy righted material on many of these blogs, the bloggers would have no reputation.

  • My response to all this is simple: a quickly growing, not quite hysterical laughter.

    There is just so much concentrated FAIL that I can’t contain it.

  • I nominate this guy for the 2012 Gunmart Blog Award to go with his TTAG Best Blog of 2012 Award. Anyone who refers to Breda as a “cranky blogger” when she politely asks for her info to be removed deserves it. Gunmart, if you will remember, was the blogger who wouldn’t take down the picture of Breda when she asked.

  • No such thing as bad publicity? What about Ocean Marketing and GunsAmerica? I’d say they garnered very, very bad publicity very, very quickly. The only thing we need now is for Tamara to say something about this and S&T’s destruction will be complete.

    (That last line needs to be read in Darth Vader’s voice for full effect.)

    Also, Linoge, thank you so much for coming to my defense! It’s very sweet of you. I feel like a proper damsel now. *bats eyelashes*

  • Pyrotek85

    @ Erin Palette:

    I’m not sure that ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ applies to the gun community either. The tendency I’ve seen is that we’re quite loyal to good companies/brands/people but will not hesitate to call someone out over bad behavior/quality.

  • @ Sean D Sorrentino: I have to stress that the court record is entirely coincidental – there are no direct ties between our Smoke and Thunder owner and the person who tried to bring a case against Manchester aside from their names. And, unfortunately, that is a fairly common name. Again, I am not saying it is not him, but neither am I saying it is him.

    If definitive information arises disproving the connection, I will be more than happy to redact the relevant portions of my post. Something tells me to doubt that possibility, though.

    But, yeah, pissing off people who know their way around the cortex is just plain dumb.

    @ Ken O: While what they are doing is arguably legal – honestly, my understanding of copyright and trademark laws is far from complete – Smoke and Thunder’s behavior is unquestoinably unethical. As you say, they are attempting to make use of the reputations of their betters and seniors in order to carve out their own place on the ‘tubes, and that is a particularly scummy thing indeed.

    I have no patience for people like that. If you cannot make it on your own, what you have to offer probably is not worth it to begin with.

    @ bluesun: This does seem to be an ever-escalating spiral of outright idiocy, does it not? One almost has to wonder what he will try next…

    @ John Richardson: Well, that would go nicely with his Faragosis Sufferer of the Month account.

    And, hell, Breda is not a blogger any more ;).

    @ Erin Palette: While Ocean Marketing may have suffered from the negative attention they received, they were also on the receiving end of one of the largest publicity attacks I have ever witnessed, and I have to wonder how much of that actually bled over to the company they were representing.

    As for GA, while gunbloggers are no longer patronizing them, what about the rest of the firearm-owning world?

    And sorry if that seemed a bit knee-jerky – there are few enough people in this world who can tolerate me; I get rather twitchy when those few get unfairly maligned.

    @ Pyrotek85: Unfortunately, even amongst the gunbloggers, the number of folks who actually pay attention to specifics is fairly small. In fact, I am more than willing to bet that more than a few firearm owners continue to buy HS Precision stocks and firearms equipped with them, despite the company being voluntarily affiliated with a certain Lon Horiuchi.

    After all, HSP still exists…

  • Oh, no, you were VERY clear that you have no way to know that these people are the same. No reasonable person could claim that you said they were the same, merely that they were the same name and that the phone number had a terrible accusation attached.

  • I feel rather sorry for the folks at this other Smoke & Thunder. Through no fault of their own, a complete jackass has gone and named his insulting and highly misleading site the same exact thing as theirs, and this unfortunate decision will unquestionably tarnish their public image and perception

    Hmmm… I wonder if there’s grounds for legal action in that. Especially since the evil S&T has ads, so they are making some money off the name while creating a negative association with the name of a pre-existing internet business. That’s generally a bad idea(TM).

    And Breda will always be a blogger. She’s just on indefinite hiatus, that’s all. :P

  • @ Linoge:

    Say what now? No no no, don’t apologize, I was being sincere! I don’t think anyone has defended my honor before, and I quite enjoyed it. :D

  • Ken O

    This whole alienating the people you are trying to recruit thing seems to be about as epic an example of FAIL as the HS Precision-Lon Horiuchi endorsement.

  • […] look, it gets even better. Frank’s problems were compounded when Gary Simmons, the assistant police chief and one of the […]

  • Wow, you fucked this dude up. Well done.

  • I find it rather… interesting that in his comment at El Bombardero’s blog he doesn’t deny being the same Michael Frank that you found, despite that being the focus of the post. It leads me to believe that you got him.

  • Good point, Jake!

    I think smoke and thunder needs to read the legal disclaimers on pedophilia!

  • Linoge just emailed me this clarification, and I thought I’d make it a comment here since he can’t at the moment:

    I cannot comment at the moment, but I wanted to clear up a point you raised here http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2012/02/smoke-and-thunder-has-burned-itself-out.html#comment-20403 – the folks at Guns for Everyone edited their post to include my revelation regarding the potential pedophilia charges *after* Michael commented there. Personally, I would have stuck some kind of [Update HHMM] [/Update] tag around that, or posted it separately, but Michael DID respond to the post BEFORE the pedophilia stuff went up.

    More interestingly is that he completely ignored the court case / charges on Barron’s post: http://www.the-minuteman.org/content/2012/February/21/Never-Piss-Your-Customer-Base-Barron-Barnett It is easy to overlook (third paragraph of his Conclusions section), but Barron linked to the peddler court hearing BEFORE Michael commented on the post, and Michael completely ignored it. Personally, I think the man – given his problems with the English language – simply overlooked it, but that case is more appropriate for what you all are talking about :).

    Linoge: Feel free to make your own clarification and delete this comment later if you would like. I just wanted to make the clarification available right away, to keep the facts straight for anyone who stumbles on this before you get a chance.

  • If gun-bloggers and the frameworks of existing gun forums are so lame and ineffectual, how did any gun-oriented folk manage to find each other in the first place? I’d like to think S&T did not intend to impugn or insult the very folks whose patronage they wished to curry, but jerkyness, condescension and sexism are generally not qualities I associate with my gun-oriented friends. Indeed, the people with whom I shoot are the most refined, erudite and genteel folk I’ve ever met. I’ll stick with what’s working for me.

  • @ Sean D Sorrentino: Pretty much exactly that – I have no evidence that those two “Michael Frank”s are the same people, only that they share the same names.

    I do, however, currently have some suspicions that we are not dealing with a “Michael Frank” at all…

    @ Jake: Honestly, I do not know… The other S&T does not appear to have any copyright or trademark to the phrase, but they certainly do have a pre-existing claim to the words. On the flip side, the perverted mind behind the bad S&T does not seem to be trying to hijack their credibility, only ours.

    Thanks for posting the clarification… I wish Bombardero had made that obvious on his site, given that your interpretation is perfectly reasonable looking back on it, but such is life :).

    Erin Palette wrote:

    I don’t think anyone has defended my honor before…

    Now, see, that is just sad… Not that you enjoyed it, but rather that it was necessary, and that it was a novel experience for you.

    Of course, before I got all cynical and assholish, I was once accused of being a gentleman, so I have a … particular … view on such things.

    @ Ken O: I really do not comprehend the logic or rationale behind it… who does he think he is going to recruit to his site after this fallout?

    @ El Bombardero: Honestly, he did most of this to himself – I just pointed it out.

    @ Weer’d Beard: In the particular case of Guns for Everyone, it is not strictly accurate, as Jake kindly copy-pasted for me. However, in the case of Barron’s post, it is entirely accurate – he pointed it out, and S&T Admin glossed right past it on his way to attacking and demeaning Barron.

    @ phlegmfatale: Seriously. I only got into guns because of gunbloggers, and I only started blogging because of gunbloggers… and I am far from alone in that anecdote. We have get togethers, we have conferences, we have events, and this dick rolls up and proclaims, without a shred of evidence or authority, “YOUR DOIN IT WRONG!” (sic)?

    Hell with him.

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