Censored Republic


 And, I, for one, am tired of taking orders from cokeheads and felons! Elect another one and I'll tell you what. I'll be ready for war! ~ FreeRepublic founder and owner Jim Robinson, on 8/20/99

A few weeks ago, I joined the so-called FreeRepublic forum, primarily to post new columns by Root Strikers that I thought the FReepers would enjoy.  I knew that a number of people had been banned from the forum for posting columns that didn’t toe the party line, so I deliberately didn’t post any columns or messages that might get me banned.  Over the next ten days or so, I posted about three columns.  Based on FReepers’ responses, they were very well received.  Little did I know that trouble was brewing.

My days of laissez faire posting on FreeRepublic would soon come to an abrupt end, as this thread foretold.  In case that page has been deleted by the time you read this, one FReeper asks another, “I wonder what happened to ogre68 [my handle]? As there is no current FReeper by that name.”  The other FReeper replies, “Alas, another goes down the memory hole.”  Yes, down the memory hole, which, as this site describes, was “a document disposal system described in George Orwell's famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The candidates for this system were generally documents whose continued existence would very likely undermine the legitimacy of the State. For the sake of preserving that all-important legitimacy, the inevitable fate of these documents was incineration. They were erased from living memory through a highly bureaucratized system of book burning.”  No incinerators or bureaucracy is needed today, just one person with a delete key.

The next time I tried to post a column, I got a screen that said, “Your posting privilege has been revoked [with no warning].  Reason: You see on the front page of strike-the-root where it has links to "The Progressive", "Mother Jones", "Common Dreams", "The Memory Hole", "Subversive Liberty", and "Working for Change"?  That is a clue--find a leftist site to peddle the site to.” So my posting privilege was revoked not because of the content of the columns I posted or because of a comment I made but because of six links (out of 117) at the bottom of the main page, which of course was never posted on FreeRepublic. 

This highlights a fundamental difference between free thinkers such as myself and most conservatives: We support free speech, free debate and free inquiry in the pursuit of the truth, while most conservatives do not.  I don’t link to The ProgressiveMother JonesCommon Dreams or Working for Change because I agree with most of what’s on their sites (which is leftist nonsense)but because they often have worthwhile things to say, especially in the areas of war and civil liberties.  I don’t worry that my readers will be swayed by their socialist arguments.  I trust my readers to be able to find the truth in the market of ideas.  If you cater to readers who are fed a steady dose of the party line, then I can see how they might not be able to handle different ideas.  They might see an original STR column posted on FreeRepublic, click on the link to STR’s main page, scroll all the way down to the bottom right corner, click on The Progressive, and then read a column like this one, which might lead them to fly their American flag only 364 days per year instead of 365.  I realize that most of the content on those sites is socialist hogwash, and I de-emphasize them by placing them in the bottom right corner.  But they don’t threaten my intellectual masculinity.  I’m not sure why the censor objected to The Memory Hole, unless it reminded him too much of what he was doing.  I’m sure he objected to Subversive Liberty because of the first word in the title (I doubt he even looked at the site); anything with “subversive” in the title must be a threat to the holy Constitution.  Pulling the four leftist sites above out of 117 links was disingenuous, because if one did a casual perusal of STR, it would be obvious that STR is dedicated to liberty.

What I think the censor objected to most, though he didn’t say it, was the heading that the leftist sites fell under: “Anti-War Sites.”  As Mr. Robinson wrote soon after September 11:

Lots of grumbling lately about deleted posts. Well, my friends, the simple truth is the game has changed. We are now at war. We have been attacked by a vicious cold-blooded force of international terrorists who want to destroy our nation, our freedom and our way of life. There is no doubt about this. Knowing this, I am alarmed to read some of the stuff that has been posted to FR in the last few days. This is not the time to raise doubts about our leaders. This is not the time to raise conspiracy theories. This is not the time to second guess our intelligence agencies. This is war. This is survival of our way of life. We must unite behind our Commander-in-chief and do all we possibly can to support him and our war efforts. We do not have a choice in this matter. 

Well, Mr. Robinson, you were right: They elected another cokehead and felon1, and now you’re ready for war.

Of course, FreeRepublic is your site, and you are free to censor it however you wish.  But if you do, please remove these sentences from your site: “…Free Republic is not edited or censored….” and “But, most importantly, visitors are encouraged to comment on the news of the day here, and especially to contribute whatever information they may have to help others better understand a particular story.”  They make you look like a liar.

Also realize that actions have consequences.  As Justin Raimondo recently wrote:

FreeRepublic.com is the original conservative news and discussion site, and it is still the biggest. But much of the elan is gone, and I fear that dear old FR shows definite signs of senility. Gone are the free-wheeling ways of the 90s, when Jim Robinson's virtual community of conservatives was, paradoxically, an oasis of freethinking revolutionary thought on the internet--and downright fun. Also addictive. But the post-9/11 FR is quite a different place. The free discussion of ideas that operated as a general rule . . . has been replaced by a regime of ‘administrative monitors’ who censor individual comments and often pull entire threads.”

And as Robert Momenteller wrote in this column:

So, it shouldn't have been any surprise to me to find dozens of e-mails this week expressing outrage over Robinson's deleting of Todd Fahey's news article. Apparently, Robinson's moronic hall monitors have deleted this article numerous times over the last week by dozens of posters. While such censorship can be expected from our mainstream press, it's a sad day when an alternative (supposedly conservative) website that calls itself FreeRepublic and boasts about an open discussion forum hops on the socialist express.  While opinion articles have been nuked for months that don't fall into the Bush dynasty guidelines, this is the first time that we are aware of that such degeneracy now extends to news stories. We have been told by most FR posters that the reason the article got pulled is because the author's name is Todd Fahey. So, all those FReepers who do not read EZ were denied a news scoop for a week because Robinson doesn't like Fahey? Oh my! Things are even worse than one could have ever imagined. Now with authors being added to the blackball hit list, friends of Pravda will surely find their way to donate to JR's coffer.”

Well, now the degeneracy extends to columns published on websites that have links to unapproved sites.

There is a stereotype of conservatives that they are narrow-minded or closed-minded, and I think it’s largely deserved.  Their true colors really came through after 9/11 (e.g., Ari Fliescher telling reporters that people “need to watch what they say, watch what they do,” and groups like the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and Americans for Victory Over Terrorismtrying to stifle dissent).  For conservatives, war changes the terms of the debate, so that any dissent threatens our very survival and therefore borders on treason.

FreeRepublic was once a freewheeling forum, but Mr. Robinson has apparently decided to use it to promote the so-called War on Terrorism, which is his prerogative.  But if people want the party line, all they need to do is turn on the lobotomy box or open the daily rag.  Most Internet users go online to be exposed to new ideas, to see things from a different perspective, and to connect and communicate with other people.  Because of FreeRepublic’s censorship, it is no longer possible to do those things at that site.

As FreeRepublic censors and deletes, it reminds me of a dying star.  FReepers and lurkers get fed up with being censored and being exposed to nothing but the party line, and peel off to form new stars.  Websites such as Strike The Root and anti-state.com that offer open, freewheeling forums are booming, whereas the traffic on FreeRepublic seems to be stagnant.  New forums such as LibertyForum and collaborative blogs such as the ones at No Treason and Breaking All The Rules are popping up all over the place, taking eyeballs away from FreeRepublic.  It is no longer 1996, Mr. Robinson, and FreeRepublic is no longer the only game in town.  If you want FreeRepublic to become something other than a glorified Ann Coulter fan club, you had better wake up to that fact.

Mr. Robinson, you were once a dissident, but now you operate the memory hole for the regime.  You once spoke of going to war if another cokehead felon was elected President, and now you unleash the dogs of war for such a man.  It’s ironic that your website is called FreeRepublic, because as SARTRE wrote in this column, “Attitudes like [those of] Mr. Robinson pave the way to a republic no longer free . . . . The choice is simple, be a bunkmate of Thoreau or become a jailer, alongside Robinson.”

Which will you be, a dissident or a jailer?

1 I’m not sure if the drunk driving charge would have been a felony, but I believe that possessing or using cocaine is a felony, and the sale of the Harken stock was never fully investigated.  

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Columns on STR: 33

Strike edits Strike The Root.