Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Origins and funding
Free Republic was founded in 1996 by Jim Robinson of Fresno, California. The site gained popularity during the President Clinton impeachment controversy when protests and write-in campaigns were organized on it.
The site is funded by donations requested of its members, often by a banner-type graphic on the site.
There is no membership structure, or regional chiefs. Users of Free Republic ("Freepers") organize local gatherings on the various message boards. There is a member directory, but like most internet forums nearly everyone has a pseudonym and few people divulge their true identity in their online profiles. All members are afforded a mail service that allows them to send, receive and store private messages to each other. Many also inform other members about certain interest areas on "ping lists," lists of users interested in a certain subject that are alerted to ongoing discussions on that topic.
Members post articles from news sources and then then discuss them with subsequent replies to the original post, and to each other.
The Free Republic community is largely united on certain political staples of the conservative movement, including having a strong dislike for President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, and opposing gun control, abortion, and what it considers to be "the gay agenda," particularly same-sex marriage.
On some issues, however, the Free Republic membership is divided. Three main groups can be observed on the forum: neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, and libertarians, with neoconservatism being represented in the large majority of posts. Divisive issues include evolution, immigration control, free trade, and the legalization of soft drugs.
Comments posted by users of Free Republic are often insults directed at liberal political figures, institutions, ideology, liberals in general, and the media. Most of the comments are short, with some posts of longer length and substance. Free Republic does not seek to be a board that represents all political viewpoints: it is a meeting point for those to the right of the political center in America, and articles posted which contain unwelcome (usually liberal) views are customarily ridiculed and tagged with the words BARF ALERT after the headline, a feature meant to warn the reader in advance of an opinion running counter to the prevailing perspective of the site's intended audience. Freepers are often called to vote en masse in off-site online polls, and there is a daily prayer for Bush. The moderators often remove or ban posters who criticize Israel, the Iraq or Afghanistan war, etc., from its discussion boards. Material that criticizes the administration of George W. Bush is typically not permitted, and posts which do are quickly censored and the member banned. Some topics may be broached by members who have belonged for a longer period of time to the forum, but are forbidden to newcomers.
Although Free Republic has an official policy of not permitting racism, some posts allegedly show it. Examples include calling Palestinian children "bombs still growing" (a reference to suicide bombing), racial references in the song parody Crying (Frying Abu-Jamal) , and frequent references to the French as "weasels" ; however, many posters receive suspensions or even bans for posting material considered racist.
The manipulation of online polls by Free Republic has not been without controversy. The practice involves making a post directing members to vote en masse in an online poll, particularly those on television network or newspaper websites, with the intended goal of significantly affecting the final outcome. Known as "freeping" a poll, the practice is not unique to Free Republic, and as the practice has become well known even liberal websites have been known to direct their members to "freep" a poll.
Free Republic in the national spotlight
In August 2004 Jerome Corsi, co-author of the controversial and influential book Unfit for Command, was accused by the liberal organization Media Matters for America of making comments on Free Republic that were allegedly homophobic and contained insulting references to liberal political figures. Subsequently, John O'Neil , the book's other co-author, attempted to distance himself from Corsi and attempted to downplay Corsi's involvement in the writing of the book.
In September 2004, one Freeper ("Buckhead") was the first to question the authenticity of certain memos pertaining to George W. Bush's service in the national guard aired on CBS known as the "Killian documents". This story quickly catapulted Free Republic into the national spotlight, and while CBS initially maintained that the memos were authentic, it later said that it could not verify the authenticity of the documents.
Lawsuit and settlement
Because it has been a practice of its users to copy and paste copyrighted news stories in their entirety to its discussion boards, Free Republic was sued by The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. (Reuters and The Wall Street Journal were part of the original consortium threatening legal action, but they dropped out before the lawsuit was filed.) Many members view the lawsuit as an unsuccessful conspiracy by a "liberal media" to stifle the organization; founder Robinson referred to the suit as "a life and death struggle with elements of the socialist propaganda machine."
In a negotiated settlement, Free Republic agreed to remove the posted articles, and paid these two newspapers $5,000 each. Neither party was awarded any damages, legal fees or costs. Today, other publishers, such as Condé Nast, have joined The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times in objecting to the posting of entire copyrighted articles. Users now post excerpts from such publishers (as allowed by fair use), and the site filters submissions against a watchlist of "banned" sources, by request of their webmaster or as a result of the lawsuit, as a precaution against future lawsuits.
- Official website
- Statement by the founder of Free Republic
- Pitt, William Rivers. "God Sees The Freepers." Editorial. Truthout: 9 June 2001.
- Pitt, William Rivers. "God Still Sees The Freepers." Editorial. Truthout: 12 June 2001.
- Niman, Michael I. "Disturbing the Peace: Creepy 'FReepers' Target Activists." ArtVoice: 13 March 2003.
- Stein, Jeff. "Free-for-all at Free Republic: Lucianne Goldberg, Matt Drudge and other friends abandon the Clinton-bashing Web site over its attacks on George W. Bush Salon, 13 July 1999.
- Best of freerepublic.com
- DUmmie FUnnies a popular satirical thread about Democratic Underground
- Comments made by Jerome Corsi on Free Republic
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