I have a confession to make. I operated a hate site way back in aught three and aught four. At least, that was what Google labeled me as. Was I really operating a hate site and what does that say about Google fifteen years hence? To answer that, I feel I need to go into some background on my personal political evolution. A political evolution that despite my desire to be apolitical, instead compelled me to operate the “hate” site.
I had been a Libertarian most of my adult life by this time, but I had largely become apolitical during the Clinton years. I found the Clinton presidency to be particularly cynical in its political agenda. I did not jump on the Perot bandwagon, though. I felt that the Libertarians could have won in 1992 had they selected Dick Bodie as their nominee rather than Andre Marrou. I was saddened by what I saw as a lack of tolerance in the rejection of the Bodie candidacy. There is no way that the political parties could have yanked the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters to block the Libertarian from participating had Bodie been on the ticket. His race would have prevented this exclusion. However, the Libertarian exclusion and Perot‘s impact on the nineties elections are for another essay.
I became quite disillusioned with politics during the last decade of the twentieth century. It was a conscious decision to be apolitical. Being able to say that I was registered as a Libertarian made that fairly easy. The party had yet to capitulate to the Republicans. Midway through the nineties, my first son was born. This focused me on one thing, economics, not politics. I needed to make sure I was employable and could provide for my family. I threw myself into this effort. By the end of the decade, my wife had given birth to our second son. There were four people living on one income behind the Orange Curtain. That is not an easy thing to do, but it made it easy to ignore politics. I kept my nose to the grindstone.
Even the day the planes hit the towers in New York, September 11th, I worked all day. I was doing consulting work. I was working from my couch all that day. As I sat there with my laptop, I struggled to churn out the code I was being paid to deliver while I watched the craziness back East. I could not understand where the heck the Air Force was. Jeez, I knew NORAD existed, where the heck was American air cover as planes ran into buildings?
Nonetheless, I kept working. I had seen terrorism before in the country. The towers had been attacked in the early nineties with a truck bomb in the parking garage. There had been a bomb exploded by a domestic terrorist in Oklahoma City, too. As well as a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics, again by another domestic terrorist. In fact, my whole life had been peppered by “terrorist incidents” on American soil. I had lived through an entire decade of hijackers taking American planes to Cuba without having to repeal the Bill of Rights at the airport in the seventies, the nation was now much different.
I began to understand that the rest of the country saw this as something different and not just another terrorist incident. Planes were grounded everywhere. The Republicans even revived the Clinton response to the domestic terror attacks, the Department of Homeland Security. It became clear that even though my worldview saw 9/11 as a continuation of a thread that had been running through the nation since my birth, others did not see it that way. The world had changed significantly I kept being told. We needed to invade Afghanistan to get bin Laden and punish the Taliban for not giving him up. I struggled to maintain my apolitical stance.
I had let my Libertarian party membership lapse, but Harry Browne, the 2000 Libertarian candidate, got on CNN and pleaded for sanity. He was the only politician that took this position on the news. He pointed out that terrorism had been historically handled by law enforcement. Interpol was an international cooperative law enforcement organization that existed for this reason. He argued that this was a police matter not a matter for military invasion. His speech got me to pay another year or two of dues to the party, but accomplished little else. There was a blood lust in the air and into Kabul my nation went.
I maintained my apolitical stance though. It was difficult, but I held my tongue UNTIL there was talk of invading Iraq in late 2002. There was no good reason for this. Anyone that knew anything about Islam knew that the secular Sunni, Hussein, and the fundamentalist, bin Laden, were NOT going to be working together. It was ludicrous on the face of it. The tie-wearing Hussein working with the fundamentalist bin Laden was an improbable photo opportunity. Nonetheless, the narrative was pushed AND PUSHED HARD. I was struggling to maintain my silence.
My grandfather had fought in the Battle of the Bulge. My father deployed to the Vietnam theater as a sailor for so long I barely knew him. These men taught me that maintaining silence when there is a debate about war is its own kind of evil. If war happens, people are going to die. Silence becomes a very difficult thing to maintain, especially if you honestly oppose the action.
There was SO much opposition to the invasion of Iraq, domestically and internationally as 2002 ended that it seemed very unlikely that it would happen. I continued to stay mostly silent, though I had begun to “slip” sometimes and my true feelings on the war came through. I hated that, because I volunteered at my kids’ elementary school. I did not want my politics to stigmatize my children.
Despite so much activism against the invasion, the Democrats began to fall apart in opposition. The Democratic Speaker of the House visited the White House after “Tail Gunner Joe” Lieberman came out in enthusiastic support for regime change. As we got into 2003, I could see the administration was determined to go into Iraq after weapons of mass destruction and appeared to have lined up the political support to do so.
Opposition on the street to the invasion remained loud, visible and vocal in 2003, though. Even I started to speak out to anyone who would listen to me. Then Colin Powell spoke at the United Nations. I respected Colin Powell. He truly seemed like a man very unlikely to lie about war. I knew that we were really going to invade Iraq. When Powell supported administration plans to invade Iraq at the U.N. I actually dropped opposition briefly after hearing the speech.
Later, I saw information about the documents the United States had presented at the U.N. Documents being used to justify an invasion. Because I was a subscriber on a somewhat obscure listserv, I saw the Niger uranium documents signed by a diplomat not in power at the time. It was the type of information that was hard to deny, especially before things got so out of hand with Photoshop and “fake news” as they are today.
And that is when I decided to put up a site. I figured these links to information needed to propagated more widely. I figured that the information and the knowledge would help cool the blood lust that appeared to have gripped my nation. I started off with the link to the forged Niger uranium documents. I coded it and put it up as www.anyonebutbushin2004.com. I mostly just aggregated links of other journalists that were surfacing facts that discredited the WMD claims. I was trying to get my country from occupying Iraq, killing numerous innocents and squandering trillions in a foolish effort that would accomplish nothing positive.
I also started putting together slogans, “Support the Troops, Get them out of Babylon” or “Nobody Died When Clinton Lied” and similar themes. I put them on bumper stickers and the like. I had been involved in the Internet fairly early, so I knew Google AdSense was a good way to get traffic. I tried to advertise on Google. I was just selling bumper stickers and other schwag on my site, but I also wanted to get information out into the zeitgeist. However, Google said I was operating a hate site. Google banned me from advertising in late 2003.
Several times I reapplied in early 2004, trying to adjust my content to comply with criteria that I was not even sure about. Google had not specifically called out any aspect or post on my blog/site that was “hateful”, but simply refused to allow me to advertise. This was fifteen years ago, but already Google was dominating the advertising space.
No matter how I changed things, I could not advertise. I would get approved for a day or two and then banned again. I finally gave up and wrote to my Senators, Feinstein and Boxer. Feinstein did not even bother to respond, but at least Boxer’s office responded with “We will investigate.” Nonetheless, nothing changed for me. I could not advertise on Google and I never heard back from Boxer’s office
Then just a week before the election, I got an email from the search engine guru Danny Sullivan. I might have been one of the first subscribers to his SEO newsletter as I had been coding web sites as far back as 1995. His email was touting Internet advertising as the new way for politics to reach the people. Several times he wrote about AdSense and how politically agnostic the tech companies were, ESPECIALLY Google. I immediately wrote to him and asked, “…then why is anyonebutbushin2004.com banned?”
He reviewed the site and wrote back the same day. He agreed I was not operating a hate site in any way. He said he would follow up with his contacts at Google. Viola! the next day I am not banned. Of course, the election was less than a week away and my ability to leverage AdSense was severely abridged. It really no longer mattered whether I was operating a hate site or not by the first week of November. The election was around the corner.
As the years have gone by I had sort of forgotten about anyonebutbushin2004.com as just another failed attempt by me to get the word out on corporate manipulation of our media. I was very disappointed by my inability to get any attention to the forged Niger documents, but I am used to such failures. This essay is just my experience. I understand that this is all anecdotal, but what if others had a similar things happen with Google or other tech giants?
As I hear Google and Facebook et al institute allegedly NEW policies to fight “hate sites” as if they never really thought about this before, it annoys me. Fifteen years ago, I was blocked from advertising. It had an effect on the traffic my site got and whether my aggregated links were seen by many or just a few. I know it is hard to believe that some nobody might be targeted for information suppression, but is it not also hard to believe that obviously forged documents could have been used to launch a war? Forged documents that a few nobodies like myself saw in March of 2003 BEFORE the invasion of Iraq.
I have data mined the WayBack machine at archive.org and posted those images in this article so you can get an idea of the content. It actually was not too inflammatory unless you were a real hard core Republican perhaps. Who knows what the future holds? As others begin to see their Twitter histories used against them, I thought it might also be wise to document why Google might have such a black mark against me. Below is the last posting to anyonebushin2004.com
I was not operating a hate site and it is ludicrous to say I was. How did that happen? What controls have been put in place today o prevent similar mistakes? These entities have too much power. I think it might be time to see these big tech companies as “public utilities” and not private companies. They simply control too much of every day life for them to be allowed to do as they please without recourse and without due process.
BTW-I did not give up either www.libertarian-socialism.org