Cigarettes, guns and alcohol are everybody's idea of a good time, so an invitation to a late-July pints-and-pistols fest at a well-known Anaheim bar seemed merely the height of neighborliness—until we turned out to be the only guests, armed or otherwise.
The e-mailed invitation—from JonyLuck@aol.com—was a hoax, one of several in recent weeks directing recipients to "Bring your cigarettes and your GUN" to a smokers and Second Amendment rights rally at Anaheim's Loose Moose Saloon "to put up an armed response to the Tobacco Nazis."
Loose Moose owner Dave Koontz says, "I don't want anything to do with [the e-mail]." He figures JonyLuck intends to drive away his customers; Koontz claims the e-mail is behind a unusual drop in business during days on which the Loose Moose is supposed to be OC gun-nut headquarters. On July 31, the day we turned out, customers were outnumbered by bartenders.
The reason for the hoax: Koontz guesses it's to punish him for his role in Americans for Individual Rights (AIR), a group working to repeal a 1998 state law that bans smoking in bars, clubs and casinos. JonyLuck is likely to be a play on the name of AIR coalition member Lucky Johns, a chain of local bars.
AIR's anti-anti-smoking barroom rallies have included live music, beer drinking and smoking a few cigarettes—a bit of civil disobedience and a lot of fun. But no guns.
Like Koontz, AIR president and Lucky Johns owner John Johnson says he has encountered the disturbing e-mails. The latest one made the pro-smoking activists sound like "crazed gun nuts."
So who is JonyLuck? Our reply to JonyLuck@aol.com was returned undeliverable. When Koontz asked a computer-savvy friend to trace Web sites that carried the e-mail to their originator, the links had been canceled. America Online (AOL), the ISP in the e-mail address, could not turn up a profile for JonyLuck. Even if it had, the Virginia-based company cannot legally divulge the identity of an AOL member without a subpoena.
An AOL spokesperson said it's simple to create a screen name, send out e-mails under that name, and then erase the name so that the sender can't be tracked. Then, too, the spokesperson claimed, some so-called aol.com screen names do not even belong to AOL members.
Cynthia Hallett of Americans for Non-smokers' Rights is aware of rallies like AIR's but denies her organization perpetrated the e-mail hoax. The anti-smoking movement has scored huge victories in California without hoaxes she says—in addition to the ban on smoking in bars, voters last year approved a new tax on cigarettes. "For the most part, people are happy about smoke-free bars," Hallett asserts.
But Geri Howard isn't so sure. Once a member of an anti-smoking group, Howard claims her fellow activists occasionally resort to monkey-wrenching the opposition. "Nonsmokers will go to any length to do their thing," Howard said. "I broke off from the group because of tendencies to go farther than I wanted to go."
When asked if anti-smokers could have orchestrated the Loose Moose e-mail, Howard replied, "I wouldn't be surprised; they'll do anything."