Saturday, August 20, 2005 and the beatroot

Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved, anti-war mother who is camped outside George Bush’s holiday ranch in Texas at the moment, is being harangued by counter protesters from the rightwing, The beatroot has had encounters with this lot, too. is an American newsgroup which uploads articles from sites from around the world and then members – there are at least 50,000, known as freepies – discuss, debate, or abuse. And they regularly take my stuff from the radio station web site I work for.

For instance, an article I wrote about the Polish role in the French and Dutch EU referenda this summer, Polish plumber puts a spanner in the works, drew these comments from the freepies.

“The Poles have saved Europe... again. Who would have thought it, 25 years ago?” Or, “Well a Polish electrician brought down the Soviet Empire.”

Harmless stuff. But one comment nearly made the beatroot choke on his beetroot soup.

“Wow, I thought I was reading Mark Steyn for a moment. Nice article!”

Hang on there, freepies! Mark Steyn is the author of occasionally entertaining rightwing rants in the UK Daily Telegraph, and all over the place in the US. But he has the usual base prejudices of the conservative which make the beatroot barf – homophobia, etc.

So being compared to him is a dubious compliment. And there isn’t anything rightwing about that article, either.

(For the record, the beatroot is not right or left wing. That old duality has bitten the dust. These days the real duality is between authoritarianism and libertarianism. And both the Bush and Blair governments show the same liking for creeping authoritarianism.)

The freepies: who are these guys? members are a mixed bunch, representing all the nuances of the US rightwing. Freepies are mainly made up of:

Neocons: people who think like Rumsfelt, et al, (and Christopher Hitchins). They favour taking the American dream to the world, and liberating nations from tyranny by bombing and invading them.

Paleo-conservatives: Pat Buchanan types. Protectionist, isolationist, religious, with just a whiff of anti-Semitism.

Liberationist conservatives: Charlton Heston types. Small state conservatives, anti-gun control (even for British cops in London!).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – Bush’s ranch – Cindy Sheehan sits and waits for George to come and talk to her about why her son died in Iraq (something about a war going on down there, Cindy).

And the freepies hate her guts.’s habit of uploading whole articles from other web sites has got them into trouble on the grounds that this is not ‘fair use’ of copyrighted material. Last year they were successfully sued by both the New York Times and Washington Post.

Maybe the beatroot should get a good lawyer?