We’ve been covering the ongoing drama that has resulted from Vuurwapen Blog’s analysis of FIREClean for some time now. To bring you up to speed, VB posted some analysis that indicated that FIREClean was chemically similar to standard vegetable oils such as Crisco. As it tends to do, the internet then went crazy, immediately latching onto the idea that FIREClean = Crisco and taking that idea to its absurd conclusion. Naturally FIREClean wasn’t pleased about the chain of events. As we reported earlier . . .
the company’s filed a lawsuit against blogger Andrew Tuohy and Everett Baker, the chemist. As you might imagine the internet response was generally unfavorable to this turn of events, believing it to be an attack on the press and freedom of speech by a large company trying to crush a tiny blogger.
FIRECLean has now issued a statement on the kerfuffle, hoping to turn the narrative around. From their Facebook page:
FireClean LLC has recently filed a lawsuit against Andrew Tuohy and Everett Baker, asserting defamation and Virginia Business Conspiracy Act claims against these defendants, who with the specific purpose of harming FireClean, initiated a protracted and intentional smear campaign against the company.
FIREClean’s patent application was publicly accessible online two years before Tuohy wrote about FIREClean®. The patent application, on the very first page, describes a product that is composed of at least three substances, which may be plant or vegetable-based oils, and which make up between 25 and 100 percent of the formulation. Tuohy never undertook to test this statement. He chose a test that would give him the result he wanted so that he could publish sensational headlines. An infrared spectroscopy analysis was not sufficient to distinguish FIREClean® from Crisco vegetable or canola oil, and Tuohy knew this. Moreover, even after publishing his articles, Tuohy was alerted to this fact by other readers of his blog, and he never undertook to correct his analysis or conclusions.
When Tuohy told us that he intended to publish his first article- the night before he published it- and told us what his conclusions would be, we asked him for a chance to read it first, so we could provide a proper response. He refused. In his blog post he stated, “That is not how this blog works.”
Clearly, Tuohy wanted to turn a blind eye to anything that might tamper down his eye-grabbing headlines. He wanted readership, not the truth.
Some recent public social media comments have compared our suit against Tuohy to a David-versus-Goliath First Amendment case. It is anything but that. In fact, Tuohy has as many aircraft registered in his name as FireClean has employees (two). FireClean is a small business that has been subject to an unprovoked and unfair attack.
FIREClean® is not Crisco Vegetable nor Canola oil – nor otherwise common vegetable oil. FIREClean® is a proprietary, high-efficiency formulation that yielded unprecedented results in Tuohy’s own live-fire use. Tuohy’s separate statements that are the subject of our lawsuit were false, continuous, persistent, and maliciously made. FireClean has no choice but self defense. Anyone who thinks the company is wrong for doing so has clearly never had their livelihood attacked by someone engaged in a protracted smear campaign.
The Citizens of the United States of America certainly enjoy the freedom of speech provided in the First Amendment. But just as it is illegal to run into a crowded theater and yell “fire” when there is no fire, there are limits on—and repercussions to—speech that is intentionally or negligently false, that causes harm to another. These are the rights that we seek to vindicate.
FIRECLean references the fact that Andrew Tuohy owns two airplanes, a clear attempt to reverse David vs. Goliath narrative and portray Tuohy as a wealthy individual trying to squash the “mom and pop” shop producing FIREClean. A quick search of the FAA Registration Database shows two registrations for Tuohy, a Cessna 150M (one of the cheapest and smallest certified aircraft you can own, usually costing between $20,000 and $25,000…less than a small car) and a second one for a small video-equipped drone.
[UPDATE: Andrew chimed in down in the comments and pointed out that the registration for that Cessna 150M (N66686) has expired, and what actually happened was that he reserved it for future use on another drone. So he doesn’t actually own a certified aircraft. Just some relatively inexpensive drones.]
As someone who also has a N-Number to his name, I know the costs involved, and while it definitely adds some cool points to Tuohy’s ledger, it in no way refutes the idea that FIREClean is using its considerable resources against an individual of more limited means. Reality definitely doesn’t match up with the narrative that FIREClean is trying to offer.
It appears that FIREClean has dug themselves a PR hole and they’re desperately trying to climb out of it. Tuohy may have gone a little too far in some of the comparisons he drew between FIREClean’s product and Crisco, but the underlying analysis appears accurate and the results themselves are presented in a factual manner. I get the feeling that FIREClean can see the writing on the wall — public opinion has swung against them and there’s now no good ending to this lawsuit.
Winning seems unlikely, but if they do then they will forever be known as the company that crushes negative reviews with legal action and stifles free speech. Losing the lawsuit is more probable, but even then their reputation is already tarnished in the public eye and they’ll be known for bringing frivolous lawsuits against anyone who disagrees with them. I’m not sure which outcome is worse.
The best thing for both parties would be for FIREClean to drop the matter. They have a good product…they should have let it speak for itself. People would have eventually forgotten the whole “FIREClean = Crisco” thing, but with the lawsuit dredged it all up again and has probably permanently branded the product. The Streisand Effect is real, folks.
We’ll continue to watch as this progresses. In the mean time Tuohy has started a GoFundMe account to raise money for his legal defense, which can be found here.