The Free Republic must be held accountable
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 by Dan E. Moldea
On September 29, 1999, I posted an open letter at the ultra-conservative FreeRepublic.com--one of the largest and, in my opinion, most dangerous political forums on the Internet. During the four-day period prior to my letter, these Freeper-sharks had posted no fewer than a half-dozen defamatory threads about me, including, "Moldea Blackmailed Congress During Clinton's Impeachment," "The Curious Case of Dan Moldea," and "The Evil of Dan Moldea Exposed." All of these threads wound up on search engines throughout the Internet.
With the publication of my letter, I made the decision to take the time to challenge any and all such defamations with my own public responses--which would also appear on those same search engines. I advise others who have been the victims of Free Republic shark attacks to do the same. (Also see: Los Angeles Times & Washington Post v. Free Republic and Graham v. Oppenheimer.)
To date, I have received three public retractions for reckless and malicious charges leveled against me.
Here is a portion of my letter:
Over the past several months, friends and colleagues of mine have expressed their concerns about the numerous, baseless accusations of criminal activity that have been leveled against me at the Free Republic--many of which have wound up on search engines throughout the Internet. As a tribute to your effectiveness, I have admittedly been harmed by the lynch-mob atmosphere revolving around many of these posts, particularly those which have been not only false and misleading but reckless and malicious.
In short, many of you have drawn ridiculous and irresponsible conclusions about people, subjects, and events you know nothing about. And most of you have done so under false names, which is very frustrating to people, like me, who have to live with these charges without any means of making those responsible accountable for what they write.
Although I have no objection to those who use cyberspace handles for benign purposes, it is simply unfair that someone may state false facts and even allege criminal behavior anonymously. And I believe that making such statements without giving one's name is not only irresponsible but cowardly. The perennial argument that anonymity protects against retribution is lame and disingenuous.
The fact is that many of you post anonymously under your [Internet] handles (i.e. moneyrunner, sourcery, Doctor Raoul) to evade responsibility for your mindless speculations, half-baked opinions, and poorly-sourced facts. When people have no responsibility for what they say, they are apt to say anything. And the posts from the recent threads against me serve as a testament to that.
Thus, I respectfully ask those Freepers who do not accuse anonymously to stand up against those who do--and, in the process, help to curtail the venomous incivility endemic to this web site among those who disagree, especially when they are using fake names. . . .
That was the reason for my first Free Republic thread on May 19, 1999. I posted an article, "I Did Not Write 'The Mob President,'" initially on my web site and then on yours. The reason? One of your Freeper colleagues, who used an anonymous handle, had earlier posted a published story about President Clinton, called "The Mob President," and then falsely credited me with writing this piece--which I did not write and with which I completely disagreed.
After seeing my thread on the Free Republic, the person responsible did the honorable thing: [she] came online and accepted responsibility. That should have been the end of the matter, but my friends and I continued to see this story posted and reposted all over the web, still with my byline. Other than your super-responsible Alamo-Girl, who has made sincere efforts to correct this situation, I have been alone, trying to correct the record.
Consequently, over the past several days, I have been searching through Free Republic's archives and posting my side of the story on those threads in which I have been accused of something, particularly something criminal.
From now on, when someone seeks information about me on a search engine and clicks onto a Free Republic thread, they will, hopefully, get my version of events to balance the other things that have been written.
That is the sole purpose for what I have been doing here in the belly of the beast. And, not surprisingly, I have been taking a ton of grief because I have the audacity to come here and defend myself.
Even though most of you couldn't care less about me, I still ask you to do what I have always done: Stand up and identify yourself when you put something in writing.
A final note (December 2000): Obviously, I am concerned about the threat these people pose. In the midst of the 2000 presidential election, hundreds of anonymous activists within the Free Republic community appointed themselves as storm troopers for the Far Right. Not content simply to defeat Al Gore politically, they wanted to destroy him personally--in a manner not unlike the Free Republic's relentless effort against President Bill Clinton.
And they will surely continue to level false and misleading charges, anonymously, against the supporters of Clinton-Gore--while defaming at will. Already, numerous Freepers have compiled an updated "Hollywood blacklist," naming a variety of liberal celebrities. Also, although Free Republic claims not to be a hate site, it permitted Freepers to name the Democrats they hate most. And many of these Free Republic posters--including several who claim to be Christians--joked about and even encouraged the murder of journalists.
During the dramatic aftermath of the November 7 balloting, these right-wing zealots successfully organized anti-Gore rallies and protests throughout the United States. In effect, they decided to establish a clear public presence and to make FreeRepublic.com "a household name." With the election of George W. Bush, they are now embolden and will not just go away. Already, GOP activists are reaching out to Freepers and asking them to participate in a "ground war" against the anticipated critics of the new administration.
A newfound accountability for what these Freepers do and say should accompany their increased visibility. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that they will suddenly accept responsibility for their actions and statements voluntarily.
They are going to need help.
Dan E. Moldea
(Banned by the Free Republic on January 3 while trying to post a defense.)