Posted on August 22, 2016
So Long, Free Republic
It’s been real, but not anymore
Greetings from one of the “zotted.”
For those who don’t know, which until recently included myself, the verb “zot” means to revoke one's posting privileges at the Free Republic website. I learned this firsthand, after posting a recent column that was critical of Donald Trump and his campaign strategy.
Free Republic is a private site, owned and operated by Jim Robinson, whose zotting rights are absolute. Those who post on his site are merely guests, and if I’m no longer welcome there, then so be it. The point here isn’t to challenge Robinson’s right to maintain his site as he chooses. It is only to point out that the formerly conservative FR is not what it once was, and thus is now misrepresenting itself when it solicits donations.
I realized what had happened when I saw that my offending article, “Trump’s Free Fall,” had been changed on FR to read “Zotted Troll’s Free Fall,” presumably in reference to me. Heaven knows what they think the word “troll” means anymore. It seems the only qualification for becoming one is to disagree with someone who can’t defend his own argument.
This was actually my third piece that was critical of Trump to one degree or another, one of the previous two having been pulled from the site without explanation. In hindsight, perhaps I should have realized then that I’d been placed on double secret probation, but I was unaware of FR’s anti-anti-Trump policy until I researched it after being zotted. Robinson had announced in a May 11th post that “those who can’t live with our immediate goal [of electing Trump] need to either keep it to themselves or sit it out (from FR) for the duration.” This led The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski to liken FR to collegiate “safe spaces,” where emotionally frail students are shielded from opposing viewpoints and other harsh realities of life.
A pox upon me for not making a point of it to read all of Robinson’s posts, but I had thought FR was a forum for the free exchange of ideas and arguments among conservatives. Had I known that it now prohibited conservatives from criticizing a non-conservative candidate for his many offenses against conservatism, I would have respected Robinson’s wishes and stopped posting on his site at that time. One would think Robinson could have e-mailed all those who were registered with FR and informed us of this new restriction. On the other hand, that might have deprived him of the pleasure of publicly drumming out the undesirables.
FR presents itself to prospective donors as “the premier online gathering place for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the web.” Yet it now demands groveling, sycophantic devotion to a candidate who says George W. Bush should have been impeached, credits Planned Parenthood with fictitious good works that have nothing to do with its mission, praises the unconstitutional deprivation of property by the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision, promises to stimulate the economy with massive amounts of pork-barrel deficit spending, expresses ambivalence about whether men should be allowed to use ladies’ rest rooms, and accuses opponents of federalized health care of wanting to “let people die in the streets.”
As for the independence of those who post on FR, you can get an idea where that’s headed by reading the comments beneath Robinson’s proclamation. “Sounds good, Mr. Robinson. Totally agree with your position” … “With you 110%” … “Hear! Hear! All in for Trump!” … “YES! Bump for Donald Trump!” Well, what did you expect? Dissent? He had just explained to them that none would be tolerated.
What would you think if you’d donated money for the purpose of maintaining a forum for independent conservatives, only to see it morph into an echo chamber of unquestioning zealots yammering “Trump, Trump, Trumpedy-Trump” at each other from now until November? There’s not even any attempt to persuade anyone, because anyone who might chime in has already been pre-persuaded under threat of zotting. There’s just a mindless cycle of noise, which will be listened to only by those who already find its repetition soothing.
If you create an organization dedicated to developing a cure for a deadly disease, and one day you change its mission to capturing Bigfoot instead, you have an ethical obligation to make that fact explicit to all potential contributors. The same holds true for FR’s metamorphosis. Once you’ve fused your organization’s identity with that of a man like Donald Trump, however, ethics are the first conservative value to be zotted.
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press