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The Story of a FReeper Chapter
A Publius Essay | 14 February 2002 | Publius

Posted on 02/14/2002 11:07:37 AM PST by Publius

The Puget Sound Free Republic Chapter has been in existence since June 1998, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride. While starting a chapter is not all that difficult, keeping one alive is a genuine challenge. People come and people go from this site, and maintaining an active chapter is more than enough work for one individual. This is the story of one chapter. My purpose is to provide some object lessons for other Chapter Executives and some pointers for those who want to start and maintain a chapter.

In the Beginning

In the dark ages, Free Republic had neither FReepmail nor state home pages nor individual home pages. In the spring of 1998, “MaryBug” began collecting the names of people she thought might be from the Puget Sound area. She posted a thread about gathering local FReepers at a meeting place, and people responded. The lunch meeting was scheduled for a June Saturday at Ivar’s Acres of Clams on the Seattle waterfront. It was a small start. Only twenty people -- give or take a few -- showed up. But it was auspicious.

Our star was “LittleLulu”, also known as Michelle Malkin, who came with her husband Jesse. Michelle was then the self-described “token conservative” on the Seattle Times editorial board. It was a delight seeing a writer of note who was female, minority, conservative and gorgeous all at the same time. Shortly after the meeting, Michelle wrote an op-ed for the Times where she described our meeting. I should note here that I owe Michelle big time. She mentioned me in the article and made me sound much more intelligent than I really am.

The one thing that stood out was that most of us had military backgrounds. A lot of us worked at Boeing. In the politically correct principal city of what James Farley, FDR’s Postmaster General and political fixer, referred to as “the Soviet of Washington”, a group of like-minded citizens had reached out from the anonymity of the Internet to meet and organize. It would be hard for me to describe that moment in my own life. I was a lonely libertarian, clueless in Seattle, until the day I met my fellow FReepers.

The Impeachment Wave

Free Republic has seen tidal waves of change over the years. With impeachment, a whole new tide of people came to the site. ”MaryBug” held the chapter together and helped “Seattle” put together our second FReeper Meet at his West Seattle home overlooking Elliott Bay in September 1998. “Seattle” owned a dot-com business devoted to outdoorsmen and big game hunters. At his house we feasted on such delicacies as moose kielbasa, corned elk and bear pastrami, not to mention fresh clams, mussels and oysters. The beer flowed freely, much of it into my mouth.

After Clinton ducked conviction, however, the tide washed out, and many Puget Sound FReepers disappeared into the waves. Even “MaryBug” disappeared as her computer crashed and burned. (She thought Clinton’s NSA had attacked her.) At that moment, as the chapter disintegrated, I stepped to the fore to keep it going. I don’t attribute this to superior qualities of leadership. It was just that I was again becoming clueless in Seattle.

The Mechanics of Managing a Chapter

By this time Free Republic had some useful tools, including FReepmail and personal and state home pages.

In September 1999, “Seattle” hosted another FReeper Meet at his home. This now required me to perform the role of Communications Director.

Our June 2000 FReeper Meet was our last outing at the home of “Seattle”, and we met and were conquered by the righteous home brew of “Billthedrill”. By this time we had developed a ritual to begin the festivities, and I traditionally waited for everyone to arrive before invoking it. We called it the “Three Toasts of the Puget Sound Chapter”.

With the chapter organized, I decided to shoot for quarterly FReeper Meets.

An Honor Guard for the Hog

For our September 2000 FReeper Meet, “Right in Seattle” volunteered his home at Browns Point overlooking Commencement Bay. The event was to be a hog roast, complete with a “Name the Hog Contest”. “Right” was an expert in the art of smoking a hog, and he informed us that the hog would require an all-night honor guard. Rather than carry rifles and pace the vicinity of the smoker, the honor guard would bravely stay up, drink beer, listen to music and check on the fire and the temperature. “Right”, “Gov’t Mule” and I bravely shouldered our burden and made sure the hog was smoking at just the right temperature. I brought some classical music, that being my obsession, and “Mule” brought some of the most obnoxious techno-punk I’ve ever heard. (After enough beer, it didn’t sound any worse than Stockhausen or Cage.)

We had over 40 FReepers and family members present the next day. “Diane Fineswine” was delicious, and the twelve year old son of “Vineyard” took digital photographs that were pasted onto a web site and then posted to a “Live from the Hog Roast” thread on Free Republic.

We even had some militia FReepers from far-away eastern Washington show up, dressed in their cammies. Shortly after the Hog Roast, the eastern Washington folks joined up with “Noumenon” in the Idaho chapter.

The Disputed Election Wave and the Christmas Party

By this time I had a clear grasp of the nature of the Puget Sound Chapter. We were a group of like-minded people who liked to meet over good food and beer and discuss the issues. We were a laid-back crowd and weren’t terribly interested in demonstrating or making a fuss. After watching the Seattle police in action during the World Trade riots, we thought discretion was the better part of valor.

And then Al Gore tried to steal the election.

It was time for us to mobilize, become agile street fighters and take on the role of “thugs in Dockers”. But we needed a leader or two. And that was when a whole new wave of FReepers entered the chapter, thanks to some aggressive recruiting on my part. “Libertina” joined up, and with “CMSGOP” and “Big Ern” she helped bring Puget Sound FReepers to a demonstration in downtown Seattle, the belly of the beast. The marchers with their “W1” signs drew many a one-finger salute from the local inhabitants, but the police liked us. The local NBC affiliate covered the march, but explained to its viewers that it was a pro-Gore event! Talk about media bias!

About this time “Billthedrill” and I began working on a semi-formal FReeper Christmas Party at a fancy hotel across Lake Washington, and we heavily subsidized this event to keep the price down to $30 per person. But very few people were interested in paying money for a FReeper Meet. One said he wouldn’t come to any event that required wearing a suit. Another said he wouldn’t come to any event that wasn’t free of charge. Others simply couldn’t afford it. Out of a chapter of 84 FReepers, only 11 sent in a positive RSVP.

On the day the Electoral College voted, we held that Christmas Party, and it was a resounding success in spite of the low turnout. For the first time we now had the “Four Toasts of the Puget Sound Chapter”, for the toast in third position was, “To President George Walker Bush and Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney.” That was worth the price of admission alone.

The crowd included some of the leading conservative intellects of the area (I thought), and we had everything from financial analysts and software engineers to a Lithuanian MD. The level of conversation would have turned a university faculty green with envy, and it was worth every painful dollar I’d had to spend. But I wasn’t going to do it again.

The Last Meet and the Executive Committee

In March 2001, “PatriotPride” hosted a Saint Paddy’s Day FReeper Meet at his home in Newcastle. Along with a lot of fine corned beef and cabbage, we quaffed prodigious quantities of the magnificent home brew of “Billthedrill”.

Shortly afterward, I put together an Executive Committee for the chapter because I no longer had the time to perform all the tasks necessary for the many roles I was fulfilling. On a Saturday morning in April, I met with “Libertina,” “Big Ern” and “Billthedrill” at the home of “MaryBug”, where we divvied up responsibilities and began planning for a June FReeper Meet. “Big Ern” sent out a FReepergram asking for a volunteer to hold the Meet, but nobody wanted to host it. June came and went.

When “MaryBug” left the committee due to ill health, we met in August at the home of “Libertina” and planned for a second September Hog Roast, but the events of 9/11 stopped it cold. The host of the Hog Roast was banned from Free Republic, and everything dissolved into utter chaos.

There was no attempt at a Christmas gathering, although the Executive Committee, again hosted by “Libertina” in December, planned for a FReeper Meet in February or March. Due to pressures at work, I stepped aside as Chapter Executive and handed the reins to “Libertina”. Today she and “Billthedrill” and “Big Ern” run the chapter, as I will soon be required to step away from involvement in the Executive Committee altogether.

Lessons Learned

After over four years with Free Republic and nearly three years as Chapter Executive, I’ve learned some lessons about the reality of running an organization like a FReeper Chapter.

I hope this provides some guidance to those who head chapters or want to organize chapters. It’s a rocky road, and not that many FReepers will appreciate all the work that goes into it. But without this kind of work, the Disputed Election might have turned out very differently. We need leaders. We can’t all just lurk anymore.


TOPICS: Activism/Chapters; Free Republic
KEYWORDS: chapter; chapters; frchapters; pittsburgh; washington
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1 posted on 02/14/2002 11:07:37 AM PST by Publius
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To: Libertina; Billthedrill; big ern
Ping.
2 posted on 02/14/2002 11:08:07 AM PST by Publius
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To: ex-Texan; Issaquahking
Ping.
3 posted on 02/14/2002 11:09:45 AM PST by Publius
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To: *Pittsburgh
interesting
4 posted on 02/14/2002 11:17:51 AM PST by mountaineer
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To: Jim Robinson; diotima; BobJ
Ping.
5 posted on 02/14/2002 11:20:53 AM PST by Publius
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To: cmsgop
Please post those two pictures from the Hog Roast. Chapter Execs should see what a happy and successful chapter looks like. (And Diane Fineswine never looked better.)
6 posted on 02/14/2002 11:28:42 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Thanks for the history. There has indeed be many changes since impeachment....
7 posted on 02/14/2002 11:32:05 AM PST by dutchess
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To: Publius
Well done, as the Florida Chapter's President since our one and only formal meeting (a long time ago, btw), I concur with everthing that you said.

OTOH, our history is different in that we have done numerous Freeps as Florida was such a key state in the last election.

We do take these Freeps as opportunities to gather socially afterwards and we did that quite a bit.

I liken a Freeper Chapter to the Continental Army. Washington never had more than 20,000 troops at any one time. They came and went with the planting & harvesting seasons. Freepers come and go with the political seasons.

This ebb & flow I have come to accept. It probably is how this just works out.

8 posted on 02/14/2002 11:32:15 AM PST by Seeking the truth
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To: Publius; LurkerNoMore!; wontbackdown; SlyFox; nagdt; Smartaleck; Jolly Green; outlawcam; rdb3
Publius, thanks for posting this.
9 posted on 02/14/2002 11:35:10 AM PST by Ms. AntiFeminazi
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To: Seeking the truth
Your comparison to the Continental Army is interesting. I've always compared us to the Committees of Correspondence that galvanized resistance to British tyranny. We're probably somewhere in between.
10 posted on 02/14/2002 11:35:36 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
BUMP

Very interesting to see what goes into starting and keeping a chapter. It's amazing all of the work you folks have to put in. Probably why there are so few official chapters.

11 posted on 02/14/2002 11:35:46 AM PST by LoneGOPinCT
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: Publius
Thanks for the Ping!
13 posted on 02/14/2002 11:39:45 AM PST by diotima
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To: Publius; the Shrew
Way to go, Publius! I always appreciate people who go out of their way to give others the benefit of their experience.

Thought you would appreciate one insight into this subject, TS.

14 posted on 02/14/2002 11:46:43 AM PST by EternalVigilance
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To: LoneGOPinCT
The problem is that chapters get founded with great regularity, but they tend to fall apart when the workload gets too big for one person. That almost happened to us.

I've advised no fewer than 3 people in Oregon how to get a chapter started, and there was one meeting that I know of. But there are good FReepers in Oregon still trying to start a chapter and keep it going. And two of those three people gave up when they heard what they had to do.

15 posted on 02/14/2002 11:47:31 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius;Seeking the truth

For any given FReeper Meet, at best only half the chapter will agree to come no matter how far in advance you plan the event. For many FReepers, this site is one of the most important things in their lives. But for the rest, it?s not important enough to motivate them to change their schedules to attend an event.

The sentence I bolded above is why I feel FR is a microcosm of the entire country. I know I probably sound cranky and cynical (and I guess I am) but the vast majority of the people on this site can "talk the talk" but when push comes to shove they are just not willing to "walk the walk". In that respect, they are really no better than those we call sheeple. For those who might tell me to come down off my pedestal, I'm not up on one. Just stating a conclusion I've reached over the past four years.

16 posted on 02/14/2002 11:49:18 AM PST by MrConfettiMan
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To: Publius
Well Done!


17 posted on 02/14/2002 11:51:10 AM PST by cmsgop
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To: Publius
I would like to add a couple of comments to Publius's post.

The freepers here in Washington are sprawled out all over the state. It's difficult to get everyone together on a weekend to attend an event that might take up to a 3 hour each way commute. Plus, then you can't really partake in the excellent home brewed beer!.

I give Publius great credit for all his hard work, but trying to organize chapter events when our population covers so much geography might well be an impossible task.

18 posted on 02/14/2002 11:52:09 AM PST by noexcuses
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To: Publius
Here we are at the Dec 2000 anti Gore Rally kicking A$$ and taking names.


19 posted on 02/14/2002 11:53:55 AM PST by cmsgop
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To: MrConfettiMan
So Mr "sheeple", are you up for a DC Chapter picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive this summer? I think we can get Richmond and Roanoke to show.
20 posted on 02/14/2002 11:54:38 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: Publius
Pre March Tribute to Registered.....:*)Me and an un-named Puget Sound Member.


21 posted on 02/14/2002 11:56:27 AM PST by cmsgop
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To: Publius
And here is a Toast to Publius......THE "GUSTO" OF THE PUGET SOUND FREEPERS!

I TOAST YOU MY FRIEND!!!


22 posted on 02/14/2002 11:59:22 AM PST by cmsgop
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To: cmsgop;publius
We missed you guys at the Cantwell/Clinton freep :-)
23 posted on 02/14/2002 12:01:52 PM PST by noexcuses
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To: cmsgop
Re #19:

Would you believe those SOB's at Channel 5 took a close, limited shot of the crowd and had the gall to tell their viewers that we were demonstrating for Gore?

24 posted on 02/14/2002 12:02:35 PM PST by Publius
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To: cmsgop
Bump! & bookmarked.
25 posted on 02/14/2002 12:06:58 PM PST by abner
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To: Publius
That was news to me. We had so many abusive "RATS" "Commies" afer us that day,Spiting ,Lunging into our line,tossing pennies at us. It was kinda Scary.

But it made our beliefs stronger and our voices LOUDER!!!!!!!
26 posted on 02/14/2002 12:07:52 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: noexcuses
I m Sorry about missing that too.
27 posted on 02/14/2002 12:09:10 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: MrConfettiMan
You're right, Joe. That's what I found out also.

Having said that, this keeps me going.

...It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen to set brush fires in people's minds...Sam Adams

28 posted on 02/14/2002 12:09:14 PM PST by Seeking the truth
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To: cmsgop
The downtown Seattle liberals are the rudest people in the world for sure.
29 posted on 02/14/2002 12:10:40 PM PST by noexcuses
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To: cmsgop
I saw the coverage on Channel 5. There was no mention of spitting, lunging or pennies thrown by the crowd. Just a shot of the crowd taken at such an angle that the signs didn't fit into the picture. And then Dennis Bounds from KING-TV pontifically orating that we were demonstrating for Gore.
30 posted on 02/14/2002 12:18:11 PM PST by Publius
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To: noexcuses
So True.......If we hadn't had a GREAT POLICE FORCE around us at all times, we could have made National News that day if you catch my drift. There were little kids with parents there,Nuns, friggin every walk of Life was represented in that march.


31 posted on 02/14/2002 12:21:14 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: Publius; pocat; the irate magistrate; MasonGal
Thanks for your experienced advice. Very helpful.
32 posted on 02/14/2002 12:21:23 PM PST by Fred Mertz
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To: cmsgop
Interesting that at least some Seattle police force appear to be conservative - at least the fine officers around us waiting for slick to show up were outspoken about their distate for x42.
33 posted on 02/14/2002 12:24:27 PM PST by noexcuses
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To: Publius
Thanks, bookmarked and bumped!
34 posted on 02/14/2002 12:31:12 PM PST by Jim Robinson
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To: Publius
A quick ping whilst I attend to an emergency at work. More later - haven't given up on a FReepmeet...another St. Paddy's theme may well be in order here if we're going to have advertisement time. Anyone on this thread interested? I just bottled a nice amber (yum!) and will be putting up a brown ale this very evening. Ought to be ready by March...
35 posted on 02/14/2002 12:32:02 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill
You're making my mouth water!
36 posted on 02/14/2002 12:35:17 PM PST by Publius
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To: noexcuses
Yes,SPD is Great as well as Tukwila and a few King County.LOL! I would say most are conservitive but not all. I get to debate the Law Enforcement "Leftists" from time to time and I always WIN!!!!!!!!!
37 posted on 02/14/2002 12:36:09 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: RIGHT IN SEATTLE
I Miss The Pig!!!!!!!!


38 posted on 02/14/2002 12:50:01 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: cmsgop
Diane Fineswine came apart without the aid of any utensils. Best damn pork I've ever had.
39 posted on 02/14/2002 12:52:11 PM PST by Publius
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To: LittleLulu
Ping.
40 posted on 02/14/2002 12:54:39 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius;Howlin;Southflanknorthpawsis
Oh Yeah!!!!! BEST DAMM PORK EVER!
41 posted on 02/14/2002 12:56:41 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: Publius
BTW I love Michelle Malkin, She Rocks, and she is HOT!
42 posted on 02/14/2002 12:58:31 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: cmsgop
It was a sad day when Michelle and Jesse Malkin left Seattle for Maryland. I hear she still lurks here on occasion.
43 posted on 02/14/2002 1:03:30 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
"They're usually just recycling what they read from us first," said a Seattle-area Freeper who calls himself "Publius" (the famous pseudonym of the authors of the Federalist Papers).

Michelle Malkin!!!!!!
44 posted on 02/14/2002 1:14:26 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: cmsgop
BEST DAMM PORK EVER!

LOL !!!!!!!!!!

45 posted on 02/14/2002 1:37:29 PM PST by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: cmsgop
Michelle made me look good. I owe her one.
46 posted on 02/14/2002 1:39:20 PM PST by Publius
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To: MrConfettiMan; Ms. AntiFeminazi
the vast majority of the people on this site can "talk the talk" but when push comes to shove they are just not willing to "walk the walk".

You have to realize though that the first and best job we do here on this site is what we type into it. We are letting the world know what we think and when people read our responses or the articles we post they will find out many things. For example, people just like us will know that they are not alone in how they feel. Any media types, be they radio, tv or print will know what a vocal segment of the population feels about stuff. Government officials can read the mood of the populus here WITHOUT having to pay some high-falutin' pollster to do a poll for them.

Don't sell your fellow Freepers short. I know some extremely busy people who are doing their level best just to log on for 30 minutes a day. Consider it a blessed luxury that you have the time and the gumption to do something extra.

47 posted on 02/14/2002 1:49:16 PM PST by Slyfox
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To: AppyPappy
I don't live close to DC anymore. I'm in Maryland these days, near Annapolis.
48 posted on 02/14/2002 5:13:37 PM PST by MrConfettiMan
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To: Seeking the truth
The difference is you're still going strong, Gene.

I haven't been motivated to help "solve the country's woes" since early '99.

Most would say I'd given up and I suppose they're right.

49 posted on 02/14/2002 5:17:23 PM PST by MrConfettiMan
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To: Slyfox
Consider it a blessed luxury that you have the time and the gumption to do something extra.

That's just it, Slyfox. I haven't had the gumption for some years now. I guess that disqualifies me from complaining. :)

50 posted on 02/14/2002 5:19:23 PM PST by MrConfettiMan
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