Bushwhackers and Bully Pulpits

masthead for article detailing abuses on Cobra forums Cobra blog sites

(July, 2002)

As a Cobra (or Daytona Coupe or GT40) aficionado, you’re a member in good standing of a splendid community of fellow Shelby-metal owners and admirers. From my 35+ years of photographing and driving and writing about Cobras and Daytona Coupes and GT40s, I estimate that at least 99.7% of our area-of-interest brethren are certifiably fine chaps in every respect. Probably a conservative estimate. What other fraternity could you join that you could summarize so glowingly?

None the less there is that lamentable 0.3%. You may have heard them characterized as “the fringe,” or “the few bad apples in the barrel,” “assault squads,” or as one club president astutely labeled them, “bushwhackers.” As an unfortunate corollary, though, that 99.7% tend to be “The Silent Majority,” while the 0.3% bad apples tend to be loud and obnoxious and fixed in a perpetual attack mode. Cynical assumptions and unfounded accusations constitute their raison d’être (reason for existence). I’ve periodically been on these bushwhackers’ hit list, as have others in the industry.

Case 1: About 10 or 11 years ago, when I was at the very epicenter of reporting/ revealing the illegal (indeed: criminal) practices of a large, Florida-based telepredator in the kit car industry, I received a particularly malignant “personal assault” letter from one of that firm’s customers. In thoroughly predictable fashion, the fellow challenged my reporting, asserted that nothing that I had reported was true—that (verbatim) “It is you, Mr. Scott, who should be indicted.” Moreover, in the unfailing pattern of all cynics, I had to possess some ulterior, avaricious motive… I was writing those investigatory articles only because they weren’t an advertiser. Sigh. Quite true, they weren’t an advertiser… but only due to the fact that I had kicked them out as an advertiser out 2 or 3 years before (and when I booted them out, they were our LARGEST advertiser). Bushwhacker du jour wasn’t aware of those facts… simply because he never bothered to ask. Once someone sets sail to pursue a cynical agenda, the very last thing he seeks to do is run it aground on a shoal of rock-solid facts. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon (i.e., his accusing me of having a sinister motive) as “projected personality,” whereby he, with his clearly-manifest agenda, accuses his target (me) of possessing an agenda. In any event, the accusation of possessing some avaricious ulterior motive clearly seems to be a reflex condition pervading the DNA of The Fringe.

This bushwhacker had engaged in all of the predictable assault tactics of The Fringe, including taking for granted that his assumptions were facts… not only before he assaulted me… but more pertinent to this story… before his kit was delivered. You see, he hadn’t yet taken delivery, he’d merely sent them a lot of money, and he was incensed that I had found fault with his provider of choice.

But shucks, shuffle shuffle, there’s a marvelous conclusion to that micro-saga: more than 3 years after he’d paid for his kit in full, long after he’d mailed that poisonous missive to me, his kit was finally delivered to him. Everything I’d cautioned the world about that firm was right on target: the quality of both fiberglass body parts and the chassis was universally wretched; nothing fit; more parts were missing than were delivered; the weld quality was abysmal and the paint was already peeling off the frame rails; he was charged more than SEVEN TIMES what he’d been quoted to deliver his kit (the firm’s boiler-room bunco artist had quoted him $350; he was charged over $2600). Moreover, he’d phoned them no fewer than 75 times over that 3-year period to demand his kit without ever getting even a single returned call… then another few dozen calls thereafter to demand his missing parts… the roster of grievances went on and on. Did he ever contact me to apologize? You gotta be kidding… after all, this fine fellow was a charter member of the 0.3% bushwhacker fringe. I learned of these final-inning details purely by chance—in a phone call from the owner of the shop he’d contracted to take over the well-nigh impossible and justifiably expensive task of assembling his crappy kit. Sigh.

Case 2: Sometime in 1995 I received a phone call from a long-time college-buddy friend on the east coast, during which he cautioned me against participating in Internet “forums.” Seems he’d joined some topical discussion group, and promptly became concerned that some postings seemed to be a bit unfriendly. He didn’t think too much about it. Then in one of his postings he aroused the ire of some woman in Los Angeles, who accused him of being “a male-chauvinist pig” and “an a–hole,” among other disparaging terms. He reread his posting, and altho’ he couldn’t fathom what had offended her, none the less he apologized profusely, only to have her proceed with her attack, even enlisting a couple of her colleagues to broaden the assault in subsequent postings. Ms. Bushwhacker’s initial personal assault catapulted (in predictable forum fashion) into a full-blown lynch mob. Dismayed, my friend abandoned the discussion group altogether. He advised me to never make the mistake of partaking in an online forum, concluding that the topical forum of his regrettable experience was populated mostly by nice people, but that they were intimidated and browbeat by “a pool of circling sharks” representing only a microscopic fraction of the participants.

Over time my friend’s admonition faded from my memory. Sometime in 1996 or early ’97, I received an email from a reader who was urging me to set up a forum on KitCar, and he asked me to look up a specific site, which was some street rod subsite, as I recall on GeoCities, and he asked me to let him know what I thought of the site and how it worked. So I called up the site, whereupon the very first posting I read was some fellow who was thinking about purchasing a street rod kit from that same telepredator I referred to above. Seems he’d heard that there might be some quality concerns.

Heedless of my friend’s warning, I replied to this fellow’s post, providing him with details about quality considerations; moreover, I went to my databases and looked up and provided him with the names/ numbers of several people in the industry (including 2 or 3 of the firm’s customer/victims) who were better qualified than I to expand upon quality concerns of that specific kit. I added that the firm was under investigation by several state and federal agencies. I concluded by stating that the reason I was aware of all of this was because I’d conducted an intensive investigation and had recently published an 11,000+ word investigatory article in my “Complete Guide to Cobra Replicas” about the firm and its business practices and product concerns, and that if he had further specific questions, he was welcome to phone me.

That should’ve been the end of the story. But only 2 or 3 days later the same reader who had originally asked me to look up the site, emailed me again, almost sheepishly, to advise me that I should read the subsequent postings on that site. I called up the site, and was astonished to read a reply posting (from the 0.3% bushwhacker fringe) that demanded “Who is ’Curt Scott’? Why couldn’t he just answer the guy’s question instead of trying to sell him a book?” This was a preposterous accusation, since that fellow was looking to purchase a street rod, not a Cobra. And another posting from a fellow bushwhacker stated “Yeah, why couldn’t he just provide more details.” I guess these b-whackers would’ve been satisfied only if I had sat there for 8 or 9 hours and keyboarded-in all 11,000 words of that article. Sigh. That was the first time… and I assure you, the last time... I’ve ever posted anything on a forum.

Case 3: A couple of years ago, one forum bushwhacker (one Wayne McAllaster of Fremont, California) was having such fun assaulting me during a Jerry Springer–style forum attackfest, he just couldn’t get enough of it. So he decided to assault me via personal email; in true bushwhacker fashion he emailed me a series of particularly vicious missives, during the course of which he accused me of having cheated him in some fashion or another. He felt such conviction that I’d cheated him, in fact, that he changed his name to “Craig Morgan” and emailed his poisonous missives from what he confidently deemed to be a fail-safe anonymous Hotmail account. Shucks, if you think someone has cheated you, would you elect to change your name and tender your accusation by “anonymous” email? But that’s the modus operandi of the bushwhacker fringe. I’ve been advised that Mr. McAllaster/ Morgan—whatever he’s calling himself this week—has been at a number of carshows I’ve attended and covered… but, in unfailing bushwhacker form, he scurries away like the proverbial scared rabbit when he sees me heading in his direction.

One jaded erstwhile participant in a forum emailed me his reason for abandoning forums altogether: “Instead of being an enlightening discussion group, it more closely resembles a symposium of cynics and party spoilers, most of them spending their time congratulating one another about how wonderful and informative their site is.”

The idea of a forum is fine in theory… it’s the reality that spoils it for all the rest of us. I’ve been advised by several people that there are hopeful signs that the administrators of many of the Internet forums—perhaps for legal-liability considerations—are less tolerant of abuses and personal assaults today than in the past. None the less, occasionally each forum reveals its susceptibility to be a bully pulpit for the 0.3% bushwhacker fringe. And that’s why you’re unlikely to ever see a forum/ discussion group on CobraCountry.

Not to worry. I’ll carry on, traveling and writing and photographing and covering Cobra and GT40 events and editorializing for you and the rest of that 99.7%; it’s unlikely I’ll lose much sleep that I’m not accommodating that 0.3% riding drag at the back of the herd.

Curt Scott’s standard CobraCountry signature

6 November 2002: Today I received what is no doubt a sincere and contrite (and signed!) email response from a Cobra replica owner in northern California that reads in part:

“Dear Curt… I just finished reading your bushwackers editorial… Im sure Im one of those people your writing about… you may recognize my name… let me just say my comments were ill considred and unfair and out of character and you have my very sincere apology…”

Good heavens! There may be hope for the species just yet.


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