Maniacs, Vandals, and Neanderthals

A few days ago in comments it was strongly suggested I drop the Neanderthal tag-line. For example:

But I’ve never been fond of ”Ramblings of a red-necked, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal.” Those words have bothered me for years, every time I visit your site, over the years.

Before I dive in, I openly state that I approach this from a marketing/advertising angle. It’s my job to wrap my mind around slogans n’ such.

I understand the concept of seizing control of negative words. In some situations this technique is effective. However, I’ve never liked the tongue-in-cheek words quoted above. You, Joe, and your cohort Lyle, are *nothing near* rambling, knuckle-dragging, or anything near Neanderthal.


I direct lots of people (including representatives in the media) to this blog. I cringe every time I have to do this, because the first thing they’ll read is the header. Yes, readers will get to the hearty content, but self-deprecation *does not* work in the case of this blog.

I thought about this quite a bit and decided I needed to give a little more history.

Barb and I went to high school in Orofino Idaho–Home of the Maniacs. We went to college at the University of Idaho (as did/do all of our kids) where we were Vandals. So maybe calling myself a “red-necked, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal” comes natural. The Maniac name has been under attack for at least 40 years that I know of and they/we proudly stuck to the name. “You think it is insulting and/or degrading to be called a Maniac? That’s your problem. We’re proud to be called that.”

I see advantages and disadvantages to using the tag-line. The disadvantages have been outlined in the comments to the post linked above. I think those disadvantages are minor. I readily admit I’m not a marketing person. But while a case might be made that I am attempting to market ideas I’m not really interested in people that are so susceptible to a “marketing image” that they are unable to “get past” the tag-line. If they get hung up on that then they are, in many ways, my enemy. Distortions such as “assault weapons”, “weapons of choice”, “sniper rifles”, and “Saturday Night Specials” are in their domain and those type of people are who I attack. If those type of people happen to be on my side of an issue I’ll probably be tone it down some but I still will find them contemptible.

The advantage of having a tag-line like what I have is that my enemies underestimate me. Keep in mind I use “enemies” as a shorthand for “philosophical/political enemies”, not enemies in the sense of literally “kill or be killed”. Read the post for the details but basically my enemies already think of my kind as stupid, violent, racist, women hating, and crude. Giving them a tag-line that agrees with their prejudices causes them to stop their mental processing at that point. And they treat me as such without processing the actual facts and logic of my writing. This leaves them more susceptible to attack. For example, they sometimes have attempted to claim they are better than me because of my (supposed) lack of education. Informing them that I have a MSEE (Electrical Engineering) and asking them what degrees they have causes them to go strangely silent. When I appear to fit their preconceived notion of a gun owner they attack with far, far less than adequate resources. This makes it all the easier for me to counterattack with overwhelming force.

So, the bottom line is I’m not going to change the tone of the tag-line but I might be persuaded to change “Neanderthal” to “Maniac”. I still consider myself a Maniac but that doesn’t fit the stereotype the anti-gun people have of us quite as well so I favor Neanderthal at this time.

Sorry Stephanie (and others), you are going to have to keep cringing for now.


18 thoughts on “Maniacs, Vandals, and Neanderthals

  1. For those of us in the know, we wear our “Neanderthal” tag with pride. What do they want? Should we call ourselves metrosexuals? I think not!

  2. Joe, the h.s. or college mascots are irrelevant to your 2009 tagline. The essence of your blog intent is clarified in these 3 sentences:

    ”Giving them a tag-line that agrees with their prejudices causes them to stop their mental processing at that point. And they treat me as such without processing the actual facts and logic of my writing. This leaves them more susceptible to attack.”

    You want to, and expect to, be treated like a Neanderthal. You wish to entice attack from others.

    It now makes absolutely perfect sense why you’d preserve your longtime tagline. No need to apologize.

  3. Terry, it’s not about what do ”they” want. It’s about what you want (your intent), and about how you choose to portray yourself.

    Some black people say they’re in the know, and they wear their “nigger” tag with pride.

  4. Well, you could replace neanderthal with troglodyte. The meanings are close, (at least in common parlance, and it still carries the same mental image, plus most journos would be forced to look the word up…

  5. Steph, it is common to call someone a neanderthal when describing a man who behaves like a real man. I was poking fun at(as Arnold said),girly-men.

  6. Joe’s basic personality precludes the construction of a moderate ethos. He explained the tactics he’s employing and they fit him well. Being less “in-your-face” would be dishonest for him. He has little tolerance for that sort of dishonesty. He has even less sympathy for folks whose sensitivities beg for softer edges. This limits his rhetorical options. All of which is fine. It’s a big ol Interweb and there may be other places you can go for Diet Joe. It might be a worthwhile project to package Diet Joe for the coastal markets.

  7. This batch o’ comments all relates to Joe’s initial post in which he asked readers, “Do you like the new theme?” In the end, he stuck with his status quo tagline. This indicates Joe’s initial question was a search for approval rather than critical input. Which is fine. But had I known that, I would’ve bothered to reply. Not a good use of my time.

    When it comes to strategic communications, rounding up friends w/ expertise in communications/marketing will yield a very different response than computers/science pros.

    Personally, when I go-a-gunning or simply write about guns n’ pyros, and if the scope is beyond my area of expertise, I turn to the science-tech types for advice. And I listen. When immersed in branding work, I turn to my markety pals for input. And I listen.

  8. The tagline wasn’t something I was requesting input on. But I did give that input very serious thought over several days.

    The theme affects the readability, layout (there were intially problems with comments being pushed down below the end of the right column), and tone of the content. I fixed the layout problems, I received input that the watermark was too dark and interferred with the reading of the posts. I lightened the watermark even though on all the computers I tested it with the readability was just fine.

  9. We’re all shaped by our life experiences. It’s the food of perception. Using awareness of others’ perceptions can work in your favor. Discounting those perceptions can work against you.

    Whether you or I like it or not, image matters. Words matter. Branding matters.

    How you choose to portray yourself towards others matters. Regarding perceptions towards “redneck” or words like “Neanderthal,” I again encourage all to re-read Bill Waites’ 2/15 comments.

    Interesting . . . there appears to be a gender-divided response towards loaded words like “redneck.” (I could elaborate, but it’s not a good use of my time right now… that f:m topic could be a book in itself.) Point: Bill had access to — and took into consideration — valuable female input about the “redneck” word.

    When I think of gun owners and where they consistently choose to put their energies, I automatically bounce back to the ’00 Gun Rights Policy Conference…

    A speaker (Waldron or Gottlieb — the name fails me) addressed the crowd, urging gunfolk to seize being on the offense about their message, rather than dwell on the defense. He challenged the gun movement to scrap slogans and words which do nothing (if not hurt) public perception. He urged the audience reframe/rewrite public perception, and to stop letting the other side define you.

  10. Lastly, Terry, when I hear “Neanderthal,” I don’t envision a “man who behaves like a real man” as you described. When I hear “Neanderthal” subhumans who run government come to my mind. Not tough-guy manly men. Neanderthals were/are men and women. A few years ago, I read a book in which the author coined the phrase “rule by Neanderthal” to describe elected officials. So accurate.

    Terry, have you ever met Joe Huffman in person, face-to-face? He’s far from the manly-man type. I don’t mean that as a put-down to Joe (though some might see it as such). I know several men (all familiar w/ Joe’s blog) who’ve met Joe vis-a-vis and have actually described Joe as “surprisingly feminine.” Others (again, pre-exposed to Joe’s blog) met Joe in person and told me they “thought he’d be tough guy.”

    Just so happens I was watching a Sopranos episode today. Vito Spatafore’s son was a makeup-wearing Goth, engaging in “antisocial” behavior. As a result, the macho mob intervened, sending the teen away to h.s. military academy, against his will, so he could learn to “behave like a real man.”

    By no means do I intend to paint Joe as a Goth or girly-man. Huffman’s a gun/explosives guy, but hardly strikes me as a “man who behaves like a real man.”

  11. “Do you like the new theme?” =

    Asking: “Do you like the layout, readability, content?” … would’ve yielded a null response from me.

    Nonetheless, it’s been interesting to read your actual blog intent + the chitchat from site visitors. My redneck roots are knee-deep. Redneckedness is one of my fave topics . . . have been closely following Jim Goad since ’94. Suggested read for your core audience:

    The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks, and White Trash Became America’s Scapegoats, (c)1998.

    In particular, Chapter 8: What’s So Bad About Hatemongers, Gun Nuts, and Paranoid, Tax-Resisting Extremists? + Chapter 10: Several Compelling Arguments for the Enslavement of All White Liberals.

  12. “Theme” in this context has a very specific technical meaning. I have not enabled there selection on my blog but if you go to the bottom left column of this blog you will see a selection list for available themes. Chosing a different theme does not change the title of the blog or the tagline (some themes may not show the tagline but that is a minor point).

  13. Feminine. Funny. Stephanie you are swinging wide of the target now and we are embarrassed for you. Joe made his decision. It is time to stop.

  14. I look up to Joe as a man, a father and a friend. I think people completely lost touch with what makes a Real Man.

    Machismo is a form of masculine culture. It includes assertiveness or standing up for one’s rights, responsibility, selflessness, general code of ethics, sincerity, and respect

    Joe does this everyday on his blog.

  15. I know several men (all familiar w/ Joe’s blog) who’ve met Joe vis-a-vis and have actually described Joe as “surprisingly feminine.” Others (again, pre-exposed to Joe’s blog) met Joe in person and told me they “thought he’d be tough guy.”

    Um, cite your sources. If you can give a specific name of someone saying “Joe is surprisingly feminine” I call bull shit. As someone who LIVES with Joe Huffman and has known him for twenty years I can’t say there is anything blatantly “feminine” about him. Just because someone isn’t acting brutish doesn’t mean they unmanly.

  16. Xenia – modern advertising portrays men as ignorant, incompetent, and altogether useless, while portraying women as all-knowing, all-doing, and completely “together”. This has been a trend for several years. Doubt it? Watch two hours of prime-time programming on any major network.

    This leads to the common perception (among mass-media idiotarians) that any man who knows anything, is competent at anything, or generally useful as being “surprisingly feminine”, as those are portrayed as feminine traits in today’s media (in fact, the past several years’ media). Thanks, mass media.

    As an aside, your photography is beautiful. Joe is (in my opinion) holding back on bragging about your talent. I hope to meet you and shake your hand this April.

    Joe – that is, without reservation, the most eloquent description of “rope-a-dope” I’ve ever read. Keep OUR enemies underestimating you, and we’ll all be better off. Keep it up, and I REALLY look forward to meeting you and shaking your hand this April.

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