[See also: VDARE.COM vs. Free Republic]
The shot heard around the Internet has been fired on FreeRepublic.com. The owner Jim Robinson and his moderators have launched a sniper style purge against members that disagree with the President's 'guest worker' amnesty or support more control of illegal immigration. Free Republic is an amazing tool for those looking for a good debate and news from around the country.
The problem for the administration of the site is that their creation is allowing the participants to learn that the Bush immigration record and plans are shockingly out of line with the views of most conservatives. The management's answer to this conflict between the majority of conservatives and the influence of the White House on their Web site has become electronic executions and censorship.
Members and readers of Free Republic would be surprised to know that many members of their community have fallen silent on the discussions about illegal immigration lately because free speech is an illusion on FreeRepublic.com. They are silent because they have been banned from the Web site without warning, cause, or explanation in most cases. For weeks the moderators have been suspending and banning new members that chimed in quickly on the immigration debates.[Cache of ALIPAC posts, banned]
Now this trend has broadened as the first groups of long-term users were suspended or banned this past week. Although Robinson and his staff removed many members of the Free Republic community in the first few days of the purge, those that religiously support President Bush's immigration plan, open borders and approve of public benefits for illegal aliens remain on the forum. Those that were banned were the members that wanted more done to control illegal immigration and a strict observance to the President's Oath of Office.
By taking sides with the open borders lobby, Jim Robinson has taken a position that is at odds with more than 80 percent of the Free Republic community and the majority of conservatives in America. The fact he is using tactics his own users would find unethical to censor articles and silence opposition with banishments and intimidation is of great concern to all of us as Americans. New members of Free Republic and those that are not aware of Robinson's covert attempts to stifle debate should be warned.
Free Republic is one of the Internet's most popular news and debate forums. They enjoy a high profile on the web while promoting their site as a conservative free speech zone that does not censor debate and information. The site's notoriety peaked last year when participants played an important role in the CBS/Dan Rather document scandal. Although the site is privately owned and Robinson is free to do as he likes, these recent purges have left long term members wondering if the White House or Republican National Committee has undue influence at Free Republic.
In light of the fact that rule abiding and lawful members of the Free Republic community have been shunned simply for their opinions has sent many longstanding members and financial contributors looking for a new place to express themselves. Many are simply walking away from their accounts because of what they consider a deceptive and unethical practice that is contrary to the founding principals of Free Republic.
The Free Republic Open Borders Lobby (FROBLs) is a group of Free Republic members that support the President's immigration record and amnesty plan. They are jubilant that Robinson and his moderators have joined their side of the debate by targeting their opposition. One regular supporter of the Bush immigration plan that posts under the name Bayourod, exclaimed "there aren't that many of you left, and the ones that are, are mostly lightweights who don't understand the issues. Watch for the ones who call other FReepers names. They are the immature ones who are (in) way over their heads." Other posts make it clear that those members that represent the minority view in favor of the Bush immigration plan are quite aware of and supportive of the banishing of their opposition as well. The FROBLSs may be in the loop, but many other Free Republic users do not know that their counterparts are being treated unfairly.
Once Free Republic bans a particular user, they lock them out of the site by blocking their IP (Internet Protocol) address so the banished can't communicate with other users. This allows Robinson and his moderators to operate with little fear that the rest of the community will be notified of their effort to shape debate on the site.
This is not the first purge of users that Free Republic has engaged in and there are unwritten "rules" that indicate they have taken a stance against others in the immigration reform movement. Although the Terms of Service rules for the site do not list these considerations, users may find their post quickly deleted and their account suspended for mention of certain reform groups, authors and other websites.
Free Republic participants have documented censorship of material from or mention of groups like VDARE.com, Rense.com, American Patrol, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, 9/11 Families for a Secure America, ETHER ZONE, News with Views, author Frosty Wooldridge, Save Our State, the Minuteman Project and others.
Congressman Tom Tancredo, Pat Buchanan, and the organization Team America PAC are under constant verbal assault by the FROBLs. Anyone that is concerned about illegal immigration is falsely labeled as a racist, wacko, tin-foil hat wearing, conspiracy theorist, third party supporter and a Bush basher that could cost the GOP the presidency in 2008. Although the majority of conservatives on the site respectfully disagree with President Bush's immigration policy, these views are being silenced by removal or the threat of removal.
A large group of Free Republic members gathered in a forum at www.alipac.us to ask Mr. Robinson why he has engaged in this method of affecting the discussions on his website. Although Mr. Robinson has been invited repeatedly to respond to these concerns, he has declined to comment. As one poster says "JR's silence speaks volumes. Not to mention the fact that JR's silencing tactics speak volumes, too! It's just creepy and shameful."
Activists and former contributing members of Free Republic are working hard to spread the word that Robinson and his moderators have declared themselves political combatants against the immigration reform movement. These Paul Reveres consider those that run Free Republic as keepers of the gate that are willing to turn the site into a political advertising wing for the Bush Administration against the wishes of the Freepers. The predicted political revolt in the conservative community against the Bush immigration policies has become a reality. Free Republic has fired upon their own loyal supporters and what they hoped would be secretive deeds in the night have become the shots heard around the Internet.
William Gheen [email him] is the President of Americans for Legal Immigration