SILICON LOUNGE: Dubya's Porn

George W. Bush just won't let GWBush.com die. It's as if he wants as many people as possible to go to the parody site and read "Fear and Loathing in East Texas," a tongue-in-cheek supplement to a Bush autobiography to recapture the years 1968-74. "We were somewhere in New Haven around the edge of campus when the drugs began to take hold," it "quotes" Bush saying. Or, you can see a visual of Bush with a coke straw up his hose. Or you can buy a "G.W. Bush: Not a Crackhead Anymore" T-shirt.

The site, posted by computer programmer Zack Exley in spring 1999, has been a source of disdain for the Bush campaign, which tried desperately to squelch the site. At a May 21, 1999, press conference in Austin, Bush ensured that the site would be a runaway success. He declared, "There ought to be limits to freedom," and called Exley -- a former union organizer from Massachusetts -- a "garbageman." The campaign from the party of little government regulation (wink, wink) then filed a case with the Federal Election Commission, saying that the site should be declared a political action committee, and thus regulated -- a plea that the FEC recently rejected. Then last December, the Bush campaign started spinning its hatred of the Exley site another direction, then telling reporters that the site was pornographic, a theme Bush repeated last week when he discussed his "laissez-faire" approach to technology regulation in an interview with ZDNet.com (http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2591261,00.html).

"It's one thing to make fun of me. I'm used to that ... But it's entirely another thing to have pictures of nude women" associated with his name, he told the ZDNet interviewer. It is indeed another thing: untrue. The GWBush.com site, which I've monitored from its outset, has not or does not link to pornographic images, as I learned in a December investigation for the Village Voice (http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9952/ladd.shtml).

In an interview then about GWBush.com, Bush 2000 attorney Ben Ginsberg brought up the supposed porn himself to explain why Bush2000 had so vigorously opposed the parody site. "There were a set of links on that site that included links to pornography," Ginsberg told me. Those links, he added, included porn images posted at "analsex.com and fuckers.com." I then asked Ginsberg for proof, and he quickly faxed me a printout of an apparent gwbush.com links page dated April 8, 1999. Indeed, the site names "anal sex" and "fuckers" -- but no actual URLs -- are listed among several dozen hyperlinks.

It did not take long to get to the bottom of the links. The page is actually part of the RTMark site (rtmark.com/links.html), a San Francisco anti-corporate group that originally designed gwbush.com for Exley in April, but did not stay involved. Most interesting, the disputed links are two of many parody links: "Fuckers" actually links to "Slaveway Superstores," a genetically engineered food parody that has absolutely nothing to do with sex. "Anal Sex" links to www.ourfirstanalsex.com, an old, text-heavy parody of "Our First Web Sex," a widely talked about sex-cam hoax. The copy is indeed distasteful, but does not contain graphic images (unless you count a dark silhouette of a couple having sex, which doesn't even show a nipple -- certainly, the Bob Jones University staff would certainly disapprove, but porn? You be the judge).

It seems that any type of Web parody goes far above the heads of the Bush campaign. I pointed out to Ginsberg that the links he provided were to parody sites and did not contain graphic images. His response: "Did we do the detailed research on each site, to slice the bologna to see if they were real or parody sites? In our minds, these were porn sites and completely inappropriate to have as part of our official Web site."

The Rutherford Institute, which represented Paula Jones against President Clinton, has offered to defend Exley in a defamation suit against Bush2000 over the pornography allegation. Rutherford chief litigation counsel Steve Aden said in December about Bush's charge: "That is not true. We checked it out ourselves," adding that the Bush campaign had to know they were twisting the truth to make Exley look bad. "They knew. They either were disregarding the truth or recklessly disregarding the truth," Aden added.

Aden said that the Rutherford Institute wants to look out for free-speech rights on the Web. "You shouldn't have your free speech chilled just because someone with a helluva lot of money wants to be president and will not stop at squelching First Amendment rights to do so," Aden said.

Of course, Bush clearly doesn't know when to shut up -- and seems intent on drawing as many visitors as possible to GWBush.com, despite threats of defamation lawsuits by conservative think tanks and individual citizens. (The site can already claim "millions and millions served," thanks to Bush.) And, as a result of Bush's comment to ZDNet, Exley once again is considering Rutherford's offer to take on Bush. "It makes me so mad," Exley says of Bush's latest grenade. "He went even further this time."

E-mail comments to donna@shutup101.com.

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