On the Saturday before the election, a historical political demonstration took place on the grounds of the Washington Monument. It was a gathering of Freepers, people who regularly read and post on the Internet web site, FreeRepublic.com, whose common purpose was to express their outrage at the corruption of the Clinton administration and to call for Clinton’s impeachment. Having come from all across America, almost everyone there knew virtually no one else when they arrived, except through cyberspace and by handles, or self-given nicknames.
FreeRepublic represents a new found freedom to spread information. 10,000 individuals post articles taken from various publications and their own comments. Once the articles or comments are posted, other Freepers step in to elucidate, criticize, contradict, ridicule or make jokes about the posted articles and prior comments. The commentary by Freepers responding to an article and each others postings can often go on for 10 pages or more, and usually reveal a savvy and sophisticated observer of the news.
The driving force and creator of FreeRepublic.com is Jim Robinson, founder and CEO of a software development and internet company. A progressive case of Muscular Dystrophy put Robinson in a wheel chair and forced him to give up the business. Besides being the operator for and guardian of FreeRepublic, he now owns and operates an internet web site development company.
After seeing a group of Clinton protesters in Philadelphia beaten up by a group of union thugs, Robinson decided to come to Washington to protest outside the White House. His announcement that he would do so energized the Freepers, whose numbers are estimated to be 150,000 in terms of readers including the 10,000 who actually post articles and comments. Robinson stated, “I’m not a politician or a journalist, nor would I want to be. I am a concerned American. One of the reasons I started FreeRepublic.com was because I could see that a lot of the people running government are corrupt. I’d like to see a lot of them go to jail.”
The web site has become so popular, and threatening to mainstream media outlets as well as to the Clinton administration, that it is now being sued by the Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. The issue is whether posting these articles is somehow a copyright infringement violation. But no one pays to read the postings, and no one profits from it, other than through the power of information and debate. According to Anne Williamson, writing for WorldNetDaily, another new media internet force for change, FreeRepublic’s position is that it is protected under the fair use doctrine, which (quote) “permits the nonprofit use of copyrighted material for purposes of public discussion.”
The demonstration drew a prominent line-up of speakers involved in various legal actions and with inside knowledge of some of the more corrupt activity of the administration. Between two and four thousand attended, depending on who was doing the estimating, and C-SPAN gave it live national TV coverage for more than four hours. Matt Drudge covered it on his show. There was very little other TV coverage of the event.