A few days ago, I wrote about how much it hurts to have a friend betray you – to steal your property and your trust.
I haven’t been a member of the High Road for a very long time, and I have no stake in the game. It’s not my site. I don’t go there. But hundreds of others do every day. They enjoy it. They have created a community there that one person is attempting to destroy with a selfish drive for some kind of vengeance or spoiled rotten desire to proclaim himself the winner at all costs.
According to Oleg, one of his administrators, a man whom he considered a friend, not only stole his effort from under him, but also locked out and banned every administrator or member who dared voice opposition to his actions.
Support for Oleg’s drive to recover his site and his efforts has been overwhelming. Numerous blogs have picked up the cause, as have numerous online communities. Stories and rumors have circulated for several days about who the true owner of the High Road is. Knowing what I know, knowing who Oleg is, and having known him for eight years, I am inclined to support him.
But I will let you make up your own minds. Here’s the story from the eyes of Peter (Bayou Renaissance Man), who used to be one of the moderators on the site.
Controversy surrounding The High Road
(THR) firearms forum has recently erupted into the public eye, which is
very unfortunate, in my opinion. I’m aware of postings about the matter
on THR itself; Armed Polite Society; View From The Porch; Xavier Thoughts; Wandering Thoughts; The Armed School Teacher; FreeThinker; Walls Of The City; the AR15.com forum; and Oleg Volk’s LiveJournal. I’m sure there are many others.
one of the founding moderators of THR, I’ve had many questions directed
at me as to what’s going on: and in the interests of openness,
transparency and honesty, I’d like to take the opportunity to answer
those questions here.
First, THR was founded by Oleg Volk, who’s
a well-known photographer and activist on Second Amendment issues. Oleg
is a personal friend, and a man whom I respect highly. I was one of the
first people to be invited to serve as a moderator on THR, even before
the board “went live” in December 2002. I was honored and privileged to
serve as such for several years, before the pressure of other
circumstances forced me to scale back my activities there early in
2007. I’m still a moderator there, but “without portfolio”, as it were.
Second, the domain name for THR was initially registered (and owned) by Mr. Rich Lucibella, the founder and owner of The Firing Line
(TFL), another firearms forum. It was Mr. Lucibella’s decision to close
down TFL that led to the founding of THR: and, some time later, TFL was
resurrected and is again one of the foremost forums of its kind on the
Internet. Mr. Lucibella supported Oleg and his moderators in every
conceivable way during THR’s establishment, and I have the highest
regard for him.
Third, the technical support “guru” who helped
establish THR’s hardware and software facilities is Mr. Derek Zeanah.
Startup and ongoing costs were to be met (and, as far as I am aware,
were indeed met) by contributions from the moderators, and in one case
by a fund-raiser held among the membership. It was not intended or
desired that Mr. Zeanah use his own funds and resources to support THR,
and to the best of my knowledge and belief this has never happened.
Whenever he’s spoken of the need for funds in the Staff Forum,
arrangements have been made among the Staff to get the money to him.
few months ago the possibility came up that THR might be acquired by a
major outside interest, which would guarantee the board’s independence,
and by sponsoring it allow Oleg to devote more time to it and to Second
Amendment/RKBA issues. Oleg, as the owner and boss of the forum,
decided to investigate this option, and advised the staff of its
existence. At this point Mr. Zeanah apparently decided that he held
co-ownership of THR (something that had never been discussed at all in
the Staff Forum, and that had never previously even been mentioned),
and objected strenuously.
It also emerged that some time
previously, Mr. Lucibella had transferred ownership of THR’s domain
name to Oleg, sending the details to Mr. Zeanah (as tech support guru)
to make the arrangements. Instead of doing as Mr. Lucibella had
requested, Mr. Zeanah appears to have transferred THR’s domain name to
himself, and now claims ownership of it. (Of course, as tech support
guru and owner of THR’s hosting service, he already physically controls
the server, software and database.)
Mr. Zeanah denies that he
“stole” or “misappropriated” THR’s domain name, and insists that he
offered to transfer it to a corporate entity: but the company he
established to do so was a sole proprietorship under Georgia State law,
with himself registered as the owner. The counter to his assertions is
best delivered by Mr. Lucibella, who is on the record as follows:
no time was I aware that Derek was acting as anything but Oleg’s
personal agent. Had I been aware that Derek was acting for his own
benefit I would never have transferred the domain name to him. It is my
position that Mr. Zeanah had fraudulently misrepresented himself to me.
If he persists in publicly hiding behind my statements, taken out of
context, I will have little choice but to join this legal fray, recover
the domain name thru the courts and pursue Mr. Zeanah for my legal fees.
Zeanah has persistently blocked Oleg’s attempts to resolve the
situation, insisting that he shares ownership of THR and is owed money.
Oleg has finally had to lay the matter before the courts, as the only
way to obtain justice.
should like to state, for the record, that as far as I am aware, and
according to all the information at my disposal, Oleg is in the right
on this matter. I confirm that from the beginning, nobody else was ever
mentioned as having any ownership interest or rights at all in THR, and
I confirm that from the beginning, Oleg has been universally
acknowledged by the Staff as the “boss”, the “head honcho”, and the
owner of the board. An examination of traffic in the Staff Forum from
Day One of THR’s existence will confirm this. If necessary I am willing
to appear in court to attest to this under oath.
I should also
like to state that Mr. Lucibella is known to me, not in person, but
through long association on TFL and on another mailing list to which
both of us belong. I accept his statement (given above) unreservedly,
and I think it makes the position very clear.
I don’t understand
what Mr. Zeanah is trying to achieve by first, shutting down THR
unilaterally (and, I might add, without any authority to do so) when
the news broke (it’s since come up again), and second, by banning those
members of staff and others who publicly support Oleg’s position. He’s
using his physical control of THR’s servers to enforce some form of
“thought control” on the forum – which won’t last long, of course. I
daresay my access to THR might well be revoked by him once he reads
this: but I’m confident it will be restored when he loses the
now-pending court case (as he inevitably will – the weight of evidence
is overwhelmingly on Oleg’s side in this matter). I simply don’t know
what Mr. Zeanah is trying to achieve: and I think that now that things
have gone this far, he’s on a hiding to nowhere. This might become a
very expensive millstone around his neck.
I hope that this makes
the position clearer to those of my readers and friends who’ve asked
about it. I’m very sad that this nastiness has affected THR, one of the
finest forums of its kind on the Internet: but I hope that it will
speedily be resolved, and that THR will soon recover and return to
I trust that any readers who contract out the hosting
and/or supervision and/or support of their Internet services and/or
operations to another person or company will learn from this very nasty
situation, and draw the appropriate conclusions.
I’ve never met Peter in person. I’ve spoken to him on the phone at Oleg’s insistence, when Peter was visiting Oleg a few months ago, because Oleg has an interest in introducing friends of his who have similar interests. Peter seems like an honorable man. He’s intelligent and engaging. He’s been there from the beginning – from the birth of THR, and so has David Miller, another former moderator at the site who wrote the story you’re about to read below.
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A Fairy Tale –
No point in changing the names to protect anybody, the
characters and moral of the story should be obvious.
Once upon a time there were two brothers, Oleg and Derek.
One day, Oleg brought home a kitten from school.
“Look what my friend Rich gave me!” said an
excited Oleg, “Will you help me take care of her?”
Derek said, “Sure, I love kittens. I’m happy to
help. What can I do?”
“You can be in charge of feeding her. I’ll pay for
all her food.”
replied Oleg, as he handed the kitten to Derek. “Her
name is THR.”
Every day, Oleg would invite his friends over to play
with the kitten.THR grew really fast and needed a lot more food than Oleg
could afford, so some of his friends offered to help Oleg pay. Since Oleg
didn’t have a lot of money, he happily accepted. Oleg told them to give the
money to Derek since he was in charge of care and feeding. Derek did a great
job feeding THR and even paid for some cat food himself.
One day after school, when all of Oleg’s friends were
over playing with THR, Oleg told Derek that he was thinking about letting their
neighbor, Mr. Wealthy; take care of THR for a while. Mr. Wealthy said that he
would pay for all of the THR’s food and would still let everybody come over and
play with her any time they wanted. Imagine Oleg’s surprise when Derek grabbed
THR by the scruff of the neck and yelled, “NO! You can’t do that!”
“But she’s my cat.” said Oleg. “You just
take care of her. Give her back now!”
“No!” shouted Derek as he ran toward the house
with the frightened cat.
“This is my cat too! I take care of her more than
you do. All you and your friends do is play with her while I do all the
work!” And he ran into the house and slammed the door leaving all the
neighborhood kids standing outside in shock.
The next day, Derek brought THR outside just like Oleg
used to do, except he had a baseball bat with him. He said all the kids could
play with THR just like before, but Oleg wasn’t allowed anywhere near her.
But some of Oleg’s friends weren’t happy with Derek. They
told him that THR belonged to Oleg and that he should give her back. Derek
didn’t like hearing this, so he told these kids that they couldn’t play with
THR anymore and he made them leave. He even threatened them with the bat. He
told the other kids to just keep playing with THR like always – and don’t talk
about who owns her. A lot of kids did what Derek told them to do because all
they cared about was playing with THR.
Every time Oleg tried to come near THR, Derek would
threaten to hit the cat with the baseball bat. Some of the kids yelled at Oleg.
“Stop it! Stop it! You’re going to kill THR!”
Oleg told them, “But she’s my cat, and Derek is the
one holding the bat, not me.”
The kids didn’t care. They kept yelling at Oleg like it
was his fault.
Oleg had no choice but to tell on Derek. He walked into
the house and told his mom what Derek had done. As the two of them walked back
outside, Oleg heard all the neighborhood kids screaming. As he came around the
side of the house, he saw them all running away. There stood Derek by the front
stoop with a flaccid cat in his hands; a baseball bat at his feet. “You
want your cat back?! Here it is!” he said, as he threw THR’s limp body
Oleg ran and caught THR before she could hit the ground.
There was a strange sound when he caught the cat, like a cross between a groan
and a purr. Derek’s mother was furious and sent Derek to his room. “Just
wait until your father comes home!” she scolded. Derek knew he was going
to get the belt.
Meanwhile, some of Oleg’s friends had come back to the
place where Oleg was holding his badly wounded cat. “She’s not dead,”
whimpered Oleg. “But she’s hurt real bad.” Together, the kids
took THR to the veterinary hospital. The vet patched up what he could and gave
the injured cat some medicine; then he gave THR back to Oleg.
“I don’t know if she’s going to live or not,”
the vet said, “She needs a lot of care and attention. It depends on
(c)2008 David J. Miller All rights reserved.
To many of you, this may seem silly. It’s an Internet forum. It’s just a damn message board! Why is it even worth it? Just give the carcass to Derek and start over! This is petty! Stop with the drama!
I can understand the sentiments. Really I can.
But here’s my take on it… THR is not just an online community. It’s the result of someone’s hard work and effort. It is what it is due to the efforts of a lot of people. And it is what it is due to, in no small part, to the sweat, resources, time and effort of Oleg Volk. It’s not just about an Internet forum. It’s about someone who betrayed a trust and who stole the efforts of another’s work – the efforts of a FRIEND’s work – for no reason other than selfish greed and a puerile desire to come out a winner.
I would encourage you to consider all the facts in this situation, and if you decide that Oleg’s claim has merit, support his lawsuit.