Defining the A-C and Answering Critics
From time to time, the topic of The Authentic-Campaigner crops up on discussion boards, Facebook, and where ever reenactors gather to grumble about what bothers them. Folks are often upset by what they perceive as mistreatment when they first visit the AC. Old hands are often upset by incessant questions by newbies who insist on being spoon-fed answers to the most trail-worn questions. Beyond that, people get bent out of shape at the elitism of the old hands and the mod staff. And don’t get people started on the “Approved Vendors”.
Unmet expectations are the source of most of our disappointments, rather than the actions or inactions of others. With this in-mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to put “pen to paper” and explain what the AC is and is not.
Perhaps if I let you know what to expect, I can help you avoid disappointment…
What is The Authentic-Campaigner?
From the beginning, way back in the nineteen-hundreds, the AC was a collection of articles and links to articles full of all sorts of great information, previously not generally available. Prior to the interwebs, it was more difficult to access information about what was “correct” and more importantly “why”. Perhaps you had a friend that copied the “Hardcracker Handbook” for you, or maybe you subscribed to “The Watchdog”. If you went to an event and there was a guy there selling some rockin’-awesome reproduction widget, you had to jump on it, because you never knew if you’d have another chance (I still regret not grabbing a Wis Vets blanket at the 135th Antietam!). In that day and age, there were a lot of people coming to realize that what they’d been led to believe was “correct” by their pard, captain, or unit authenticity shaman, wasn’t quite right… but they didn’t know why. Most good ideas start with the recognition of an unmet need: “If only…”
… there was a way that the general population of reenactors could access reliable documentation to help them make the leap from an impression based on what they’ve been told to one based on what is correct.
And there you have it – The founding principle of the AC:
To spread the “good word” of authenticity to the hobby.
(a paraphrase of our founder, Paul Calloway)
“OK, John, that sounds good and all. But, what’s with all the intolerance?”
I hear you. Notice that I haven’t mentioned one word yet about discussion fora. Those came later… a couple of YEARS later. Once the functionality of a discussion forum was added, something became clear: If the AC was to be a place that would enable people to “make the leap” to the mindset of an authentic reenactor, then it was necessary for people to put aside some old ways of thinking. Things like:
- “I’m not going to go out and get dysentery and lice, so why should I spend $150 on a pair of pants”
- “You can’t see my [insert anachronism here], so why does it matter”
If people are going to strive toward some sort of “ideal”, they don’t need naysayers telling them they’re stupid or crazy. So, we have the rule, “No Farbism Allowed”. That rule might seem a little vague, but, simply put, it means:
- that you don’t badmouth a person for trying to do it right.
- that you don’t badmouth a maker’s historically-accurate products simply because you think the cost is out-of-line.
Have you read anything that makes you mad yet? If so, I’d like to know what. What I am describing here is a supportive community where people will help you improve and they won’t tolerate anyone telling you that you’re stupid, naïve, foolish, or crazy for doing so.
So, why do new users on the AC feel attacked when they post simple questions?
(1) Its not an attack - The moderators are simply enforcing the rules.
(2) They don’t read first.
There is a HUGE amount of great information in the articles posted on or linked to the AC. The information has been accumulated over the last 40+ years of the hobby by some really great researchers and talented living historians. You do yourself a disservice in this hobby if you don’t learn what these people can teach you through their writing.
What’s more, the discussion boards (knock on wood) have survived since 2004 without a data-destroying crash. That’s about EIGHT YEARS of posts and replies on almost every conceivable topic related to the hobby!! Think about that for a second…
…thanks for giving that some thought.
So, if your first post on the AC is “Who makes the best cartridge box?”, or “How should I clean my musket?”, or “What goes in my haversack?”, you should expect to hear from a moderator or other members asking you to either read the articles, use the search function, or both before asking your question. The odds are pretty good that your answer is out there and probably will pop up quickly with a brief search. And, if it’s not out there, you probably have a question worth posting!
It might seem complex, but its not. Hang out for a while and read the posts. You’ll catch on quickly.
For those thinking, “So, what’s the big deal if I ask the same question again?”…
If the answer you seek is in one of the articles, you’re basically telling the author, “I don’t feel like reading your stupid article, just gimme the Cliff’s Notes version… and make it snappy, will ya!” All we ask is that you respect the people who have donated the time to share their expertise with you.
In our age of instant communication and instant gratification, it is easy to take for granted the fact that you can post a question and have experts like Scott Cross, Curt Schmidt, Paul McKee, or any one of a host of others answer your question. I would have given my eye-teeth for that when I was 16 starting out in the hobby. Instead, I walked into the hobby blind, spent my hard-earned money on gear that I later sold for pennies on the dollar, and found myself repeatedly wondering why what I DID at events didn’t match what I read about, and why I didn’t LOOK like the soldiers that I saw in the photographs in books.
And, now to REALLY ruffle some feathers… Let’s talk about “Approved Vendors”.
What is an “Approved Vendor” on the AC?
They are the sponsors of the site. They pay the bills. It’s just like when you see a beer commercial during a football game.
Why “Approved” then?
Honestly, it may have been a poor choice of words. But, let me offer an explanation:
If the point of the site is to help people improve, then we can’t let “just anyone” advertise. So, selection of sponsors of the site is a two-way street:
FIRST – The vendor must WANT to sponsor the site. We can’t force anyone to give us money.
SECOND – The AC crew needs to be sure that the vendor meets a couple simple criteria:
(1) the vendor makes things that will help people have a better impression (authentic clothing or gear, books with information that help people improve, computer programs that will help people do something to improve, or whatever).
(2) the vendor is reliable. If you make the most completely awesome widget, a true REPLICA, but you’re rude to your customers, you deliver goods long after the date promised, or you don’t deliver the goods you’ve been paid to deliver, we don’t want your money or the headaches that come with it.
So, if you don’t see an ad banner for your favorite vendor, please don’t assume that they were rejected by some clandestine committee, meeting in a smoke-filled room. If they make good stuff and have good customer service, then the odds are pretty good that they don’t need or want to advertise on the AC.
I’ll be honest, if a candy bar company wants to come in and be my “sugar daddy” and just pay all the bills, I’m cool with that. They won’t help you improve your impression, but they’ll give me back a lot of my time. I’ve got principles, but I also have priorities. If someone out there wants to pay all the bills for the site, you’re approved!
However, unless or until that happens - and I’m not holding my breath - the AC will be sticking by the small business owners who’ve been sticking by the AC.
…and, to all of our approved vendors: Thank you for your support of the site. Without you, there is no Authentic-Campaigner. I am humbly grateful for your support.
So, I hope I’ve cleared some things up for folks out there. I hope this little (cough) note will help clarify what the AC is about, what its goals are, and what you can expect.
I hope that The Authentic-Campaigner is useful to you as you seek to improve your impression, find other authentic reenactors, and decide what events you choose to attend.