Is Lou Dobbs's Club Getting Swamped by Unwelcome Visitors?
The former CNN host this week launched Independent America, a membership service offered through his Web site, loudobbs.com. For $5.95 a month, or $49.95 a year, fans of Dobbs's nonpartisan-but-conservative political sentiments can get access to daily video Webcasts, weekly Web chats, a commercial-free version of his podcast, discussion boards, and more.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% But eagle-eyed Dobbs fans are claiming that the digital paywall meant to keep non-subscribers from accessing premium content hasn't kept unregistered visitors out of the promised land.
Dobbs's agents say hundreds, or even thousands, of unregistered users infiltrate the site's porous security barrier every day, accessing its members-only areas, including discussion forums and podcasts. Some pay hackers as much as a month's salary to sneak them past the authorities. Those who get caught immediately are held overnight, then returned to the other side of the paywall -- knowing full well that they can pay another hacker tomorrow to get them across again.
Freedom vs. Freeloaders
But some undocumented visitors do manage to sneak into Dobbs's site, where they lead quiet lives -- or, more insidiously, pose as paying members, so they can log into chat rooms and enjoy other members-only privileges. And, having discovered the richness of the site's offerings, these visitors sometimes encourage friends and family members to join them.
"These unwanted and unwelcome freeloaders are a drain on our resources," Gary ("Liberty") Bell, the Webmaster of loudobbs.com, tells DailyFinance. "We only have so much bandwidth and so much time to devote to comment-moderation. It ought to go to our paying customers, not a bunch of lowlifes who don't even know the culture."
Bell claims that users who sneak into loudobbs.com are more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors -- starting drunken chat-room fights, say, or using excessive capitalization. Some, he says, have snuck across the paywall with harmful computer code, known as worms or viruses. "They should keep their bad manners and filthy habits where they belong -- on the outside," says Bell.
Doing 'Unglamourous Work'
But many non-paying users believe they have just as much right to enjoy Independent America as any member. "I've been on this site since Day One," says one commenter, BirtherBoy86. "My father and my father's father grew up dreaming of a place where Lou's message would be available for every man to hear. I'm a part of this community, like it or not."
What people like Bell don't realize, BirtherBoy86 says, is that non-paying users are really the drivers of the site. "We do all the difficult, unglamourous work that the legal members don't want to do," he says. "We read Dobbs's books. We tee up softball questions for his weekly Q&A. Paying members think that kind of work's beneath them, but the system would collapse without us."
Whatever the merits of this argument, some paid subscribers are angry enough to take matters into their own hands. RushforPrez2012, another message-board frequenter, has started a group called the Lou Rangers, whose volunteers take turns patrolling the site for infiltrators.
Though they've been branded "digilantes" by those who oppose their methods, RushforPrez2012 insists the Lou Rangers don't take any actions when they catch a violator, beyond reporting him to the relevant authorities. "They ought to go back to whatever godforsaken hellhole they crawled out of," he says. "Independent America is for Independent Americans."
Note: While Dobbs's site is real, the other people and events portrayed after the first two paragraphs are wholly satirical. Sorry, Mr. Drudge.