Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fun With FReepers Redux

It was just too tempting, and I had to see what would happen.

About a year back I wrote about my experiences trying to engage in friendly banter on Free Republic. Those who are familiar with the site are well aware that they have a very low tolerance for people who disagree with their general "conservative" principles, and would rather see genocidal messages of the right posted than even the most reasoned and moderate liberal arguments. I don't often go there these days, but I was curious to see how they would be reacting to a totally non-political topic - Floyd Lanids's positive test.

First off there were the predictable lines like, "Of course Landis tested high in testosterone. The French don't have much." That was funny, but after about the dozenth different commenter posted basically the same joke, it got a bit old. Not to mention the fact that millions of women would probably beg to differ, but that's a discussion for another day. Once they got down to serious discussion on topic, it was pretty much as monolithic as one would expect from Free Republic. They all seem to think that the French are somehow out to get Landis or, at the very least, they buy his story that his high testosterone level is natural - despite the fact that it only showed itself to be naturally high on one particular day. (You can go to Free Republic and do a search under "Landis" if you want to read some of their nonsense.)

What's shocking is that these good ol' guilty-before-proof, hang-'em-without-any-appeals, law & order types were so willing to give Landis the benefit of the doubt. I can't blame them for that, because everyone deserves the presumption of innocence, but it seems so out of character for these folks. I don't think they were sticking up for defendants' rights when it came to O.J. Simpson or Scott Peterson or the prisoners in Guantanemo Bay. And experience teaches us that athletes who test positive always proclaim their innocence, but are usually full of shit. (Maybe they should test the B sample for shit instead of testosterone to confirm.) That being said, the Free Republic loyalists seem convinced that this is all a scam perpetrated by "the French" to discredit another American Tour de France champion like they tried to do with Lance Armstrong. There are a lot of problems with that hypothesis. First of all, the International Cycling Union is not just French. Secondly, unlike with Armstrong where there is just speculation and fuzziness regarding results of a test six years after the fact, they have an actual positive test from Landis. So "the French" aren't in the business of planting evidence on American cyclists - I don't recall Mark Fuhrman moving there (speaking of Simpson.)

So it turned into a flag-waving bunker in which the world was out to get successful Americans. I got myself a new login and posted two comments. The first one mentioned the fact that plenty of other riders weren't even allowed to start the race without ever testing positive, and a few of them have even been cleared since then. I also mentioned the name Michelle Smith (Irish gold medal winning swimmer) as an example of a non-American who constantly dogged drug suspicions without ever testing positive, so this wasn't a question of being out to get Americans. My other comment posed this question: If Oscar Perreiro had finished ahead of Landis and tested positive for testosterone, would you be defending him with the same vigour or gleefully proclaiming Landis as the champion?

Those were perfectly reasonable posts, don't you think? This is a non-political subject, and I don't think either side of the issue is partisan in any way. However, the FReepers seem to believe that to speak out against Landis is to speak out against America. I wasn't even speaking against him, just bringing up hypotheticals and illustrations. But I was guilty of questioning FReeper wisdom and, as we've all heard, you're either with them or against them. My comments were deleted, and my posting privileges revoked.

That's all I need to say. I report, you decide.

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