One of the principles that was drummed into me by my parents was that 'voluntary association implies approval". Let me reiterate that at greater length, because it's important: if one voluntarily associates with a particular group, or cause, or political party, or whatever, this necessarily implies that one approves of it. (This doesn't apply to involuntary association, of course. One usually can't choose one's siblings, or one's comrades in arms during military service, or one's fellow employees. If one doesn't have a choice whether or not to associate with them, one can't automatically be assumed to like or support them.)
One can think of many examples of how this applies in everyday life. For example, if one repeatedly attends religious services led by, and listens to sermons preached by, Fred Phelps or Jeremiah Wright or Louis Farrakhan, one may be assumed to endorse and support their perspectives. If one shops only at stores or Web sites endorsed by lifestyle advocates such as The Happy Hippie or Greener Spots, one may be assumed to endorse the latters' perspective on the environment and conservation, and their business practices.
This brings me to an issue that's reared its ugly head in these pages before. Back in July last year, Linoge, blogging at Walls Of The City, undertook an excellent piece of investigation which revealed that several apparently independent Internet ammunition retailers were, in fact, one and the same corporation, operating under different identities without acknowledging or revealing this. A follow-up investigation revealed that there were no less than six Web sites involved. I wrote about this at the time, here and here.
Linoge summed up my own misgivings about this situation in this passage from his second article.
"I do not mind any of these companies being 'drop shippers' – in truth, being an industrial engineer, the concept of drop shipping appeals to me greatly on a variety of levels. As I tried to explain in the previous post, my bone of contention with Lucky Gunner is that they operate multiple, separate, disjoint storefronts as if they were competitors, and do not make the fact that they are all the same company publicly known anywhere – I, personally, find this to be rather misleading, manipulative, and deceptive."
I couldn't agree more! It astonished me at the time that some of my friends in the blogosphere tried to defend Lucky Gunner and its associated Web sites as merely using a legitimate commercial technique to boost sales. Let's look at some dictionary definitions of the terms Linoge uses above.
1. to lead or guide wrongly; lead astray.
2. to lead into error of conduct, thought, or judgment.
1. to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people's feelings.
1. to mislead by a false appearance or statement.
4. to mislead or falsely persuade others; practice deceit: an engaging manner that easily deceives.
I agree with Linoge's use of those terms. That's why, to this day, I won't do business with, or recommend to others, any of the companies or Web sites he identified as being involved in such practices, namely:
- Military Ballistics Industries
Unfortunately, I've noticed recently that some bloggers whose work I otherwise like and respect are voluntarily associating themselves with these companies and/or Web sites. If 'voluntary association implies approval', then I submit that by doing so, they are approving such practices as well. Perhaps they weren't aware of past controversy, or they may have additional information that persuades them that the company(ies) concerned are, indeed, legitimate, honest and upright outfits. (I should point out that using bloggers to garner publicity was an explicit marketing objective of these companies/Web sites, as identified by Linoge in his first investigative article.)
I'm very unhappy to see this. I hope the bloggers concerned, and any others who are tempted to do likewise, will reconsider their alliance with a company or companies who, to this day, have not responded to the concerns identified by Linoge last year. Instead, they've continued to employ commercial tactics that I, for one, find ethically questionable to the point of being unacceptable. I also hope that those who share my concerns about this will make that clear to the companies involved.
I'd like to throw this open to comments from readers. Do you think that I - and Linoge, and others who are concerned by such business practices - are being unfair? Are we entitled to expect and require honesty, openness and integrity from those with whom we do business? Or are we hopelessly out of touch with the times? Please let us know your views in Comments.
EDITED TO ADD: A follow-up post may be found here.