Thursday, September 17, 2009

The answer to what happened to Charles Johnson

There's an old southern punchline coming up. You may or may not think it's worth wading through this to get to it... I may be reading things wrong, but it seems that many bloggers, blog commenters, Twitterers, and so on, are wondering what happened to Charles Johnson. Little Green Footballs made a big splash in 2004 when they gained attention for giving exposure to the fake Texas Air Guard memos. You remember? The scandal that brought down Dan Rather. Charles Johnson and Little Green Footballs was the darling of conservatives after that. Sure, the blog was big ... or big for a blog in 2004 ... before that, but that story gave blogs, not just LGF, lots of attention. Over the last few years, though, many -- not a majority, but a lot -- online conservatives have come to have, shall we say, less than kind things to say about Mr. Johnson. What do they not like? His rabid anti-creationist stance. His seemingly rapid willingness to ban users. His attacks on other conservatives. His condescending attitude towards those who disagree with him. His ... okay, you get the idea. They think he's a jerk. They compare him to Kos or HuffPo. Which is the conservative equivalent of when liberals compare you to Hitler. But are they right? Yes, much of the time, the criticism is justified. But so what? Let's take the whole banning thing first. Blogs ain't cheap. Heck, I spend way too much money on my little blog and don't make any money on it. Or not much. Less than I spend. And I have a little piss-ant blog. Bigger blogs, like Instapundit, IMAO, Michelle Malkin ... or Little Green Footballs ... cost a lot of money to run. And a lot of time and effort. Heck, if you put your money, sweat, and time into something, you'd feel like you can do what you want with it. And Charles Johnson does. So, why do conservatives get upset about that? We didn't mind when Ronald Reagan said he was paying for the microphone and wasn't going to let others determine how it was used. Why should we mind when Charles Johnson does the same thing? Because he acts like a jerk about it? So what? I've been accused of acting like a jerk. I usually respond with "I'm not acting." What about the attacks on conservatives? Actually, that's nothing new for him. Many of LGF's posts from February 7, 2001 to September 11, 2001 are gone. At least, from what I remember of the posts during that time period. You may not be aware of this, but before the 9/11 attacks, LGF attacked George W. Bush (whom he called by the Molly Ivins-inspired nickname of "shrub."). Not many of those anti-Bush posts remain, but a few are still around: After 9/11, Johnson became a overall supporter of Bush's efforts. Then, there's the whole creation vs evolution thing. Johnson has no respect whatsoever for anyone who believes in creationism, or intelligent design. Many of those banned from LGF cite that topic at the reason. The thing is, not all conservatives believe in evolution, and not all conservatives believe in creationism or intelligent design. Religion is a touchy subject. It makes some people crazy. Some fly planes into buildings on account of it. And some who don't believe in God lump all religious people into the same group, forgetting that it wasn't a bunch of Methodists that flew those planes into buildings. Or Baptists. Or Jews. Or Mormons, Or... well, you get the point. Some atheists and agnostics, though, simply see religion as an area where we don't agree, but don't fight. Johnson, though, has been trashing creationists for some time. It's not a new development: So, those that have been suddenly surprised by the attitudes of Mr. Johnson really shouldn't be surprised. Those that have seen a "long, slow slide" by Mr. Johnson shouldn't be surprised. None of what they are complaining about is new. Those that jumped on the Charles Johnson bandwagon in 2004 (or in September 2001), didn't seem to understand what they were getting into. They didn't read his old stuff. They were all laughing and joking and getting along and never noticed what all was being said or done. You know. Like many Americans with Barack Obama. Now, this is not to say that people should just accept that Charles Johnson is just that way and everything's hunky dory. And that's the punchline... What happened to Charles Johnson? Nothing. He's always been that way. (See? I warned you it might not be worth the wait.)


  1. mmm, i know CJ was more to the left than alot of people realized, but...

    look, i am an evolutionist of sorts, but at some point, his blog became all evolution, all the time. okay, i exaggerate, but tons upon tons of evolution things. and so i expressed my displeasure and... bam, banned.

    And he has recently taken to bending over backwards to defend obama in the belief he is keeping us all moderate. its one thing to rail against birthers. i mean, on one hand, i was surprised to find out that a president didn't have to prove his eligibility before taking the oath of office, but on the other hand it looks like it is extremely unlikely that he is not a natural born citizen. But then again, there are other examples that have been ridiculus. Obama bows before the saudi king. conservatives didn't like that, said american president should not bow to foreign dictators. so then he post an image that he claims showed Bush bowing, which turned out to be completely bogus. so then he said, "well, i meant metaphorically." that was a serious credibility-losing moment, there.

    when i rarely go back, i occassionally see the terrorist-hating charles i know and love, but i would say he spends about 2/3 of his time now talking about evolution and defending obama speciously.

    And that isn't to say that there wasn't alot you could say. Bush holding the Saudi prince's hand isn't the same as bowing, but it isn't so different to make Obama a radical break. But to say bush actually bowed is crap and to pretend that metaphorically doing so and actually doing so is the same thing is silly.

    So yeah the roots of this conduct was always there, but what brings out the "what happened" impulse in me is the change in emphasis and yes even being intellectually dishonest. its the saddest thing since the decline of Andrew Sullivan.

  2. Chuck does not allow disagreement. Not even on the most minor issues. If he says it is raining then it doesn't matter if you look out the window and you mention that the sky is blue where you are: BAM! Ban Hammer! No discussion. As you say, it is his blog. But it isn't very interesting to people who are attacked for no reason other than voicing an honest opinion and asking for clarification. No wonder the comments are often private now. If you could see the hatred boiling up when the curtains are closed you would be truly disgusted. Chuck is not a nice person.

  3. Thanks, Basil. I've been wondering, too, and don't really know that this insight helps much but it's good to know that people really care. Not the bitter people, people who get banned and stuff. America is where you get freedom of speech, not on anybody's blog: it's their blog, their rules, and their point of yelling at the world, if that's what they want to do. You made a good point there, Basil, especially with the Reagan comment.

    I just found LGF one day by accident three or four years, and really liked it, and got useful tips, too, about OpenDNS and sites like Zooborns. His coverage of Israel is terrific, too, and so are his photos. That's also where I got into Keith Jarrett videos.

    It has changed, and I don't go there too often right now, but I do go there. He seems to be the sort of person who will tackle the world up front, directly, and in detail; the good that can come out of it is the Dan Rather thing. The bad is that the world is a heckuva lot bigger than anybody, and it *will* hurt you bad when you do that. Maybe right now is a dark part of the cycle in that struggle we all go through, if we're honest. Sometimes, everybody just needs to be reminded that the light is ultimately stronger than the dark.

    Charles Johnson, this one's for you:

    Thanks for all those good tips, and I'll keep checkin' in anonymously, like I've always done. It's a great blog.

  4. I got banned super fast on the creation thing. Doesn't bother me because that place is not for me anyway - those comment threads are so long they can take over your life. Way to big of a crowd and too closed minded a lot of times.

  5. Glad it's not just me but I stopped visiting there a long time ago

  6. The dude is an autistic manchild. Completely unwanting to deal with the real world. Some "artists" are that way - autistic in many ways, unable to grasp the fact there are other people and other thoughts than his own. It's just how his brain functions - even if he has temporary enlightment seasons.

  7. First, flattered to be the poster-child for non-jerk atheists :-)

    Second, excellent analysis on the situation. I started reading LGF for the Rather memos, then stopped because I wasn't interested in his other topics, and his comment counts were always in the three-digit range.

    I tend not to read blogs that consistently have comment threads longer than the posts. I'm in it for the conversation.

  8. Basil, I started a campaign to boycott LGF; you can read about it here:

    I have also made some graphics available to anyone who wants them, for posting on their blogs if they so choose.

    The reason was not because I disagree with Charles Johnson's changing political views (even though I do disagree). The reason was due to his constant slandering of conservative bloggers and pundits, accusing them of racism in a most libelous way.

    "Ban the Libel Blogger" is the theme. I don't care if he's a liberal now, but I do care that he slanders people with great viciousness.

  9. I've been trying to convince other Southern conservatives for years that folks like Charles Johnson, Christopher Hitchens, and Hillary Clinton have ALWAYS been for big government and cultural reconstruction at home and abroad -- and for that very reason, we should be very, very careful about joining with them on anything.

    I argue the same point here.

  10. Nothing gets on my tits as bad as bloggers complaining how expensive their blog is. Well, one other thing does: bloggers begging for money to pay for their blog and trying to guilt people into giving money (Dean Esmay, Jeff Goldstein).

    Blogs are totally, completely free. If you are paying for your own server space, bandwidth and domain, and it doesn't pay for itself, you're running a self-indulgent vanity blog, and it's a hobby. Don't expect others to pay for your hobbies. If it's too expensive, suck it up and get a Blogger or Wordpress account. Don't whinge about the costs and how you provide this wonderful service for free and how grateful we should all be.

    We run a site with a lot of content (I won't link it here, it's very NSFW, but certainly not hardcore) that you could never maintain as a blog. It supports itself and is actually in the black due to adult and until recently, gambling ads. Our boss won't pay for a blog that doesn't support itself on our servers, it gets too much traffic and we post too many images, so we use Wordpress. It's pretty customizable, we have a distinct URL, and best of all, it's free.

    It's really disgusting to see someone like Esmay complain he can't feed his kids, so please send some money so he can pay his server costs. Anyone who maintains a vanity blog over medical bills or feeding their kids is worse than a moron, they are evil.

    Johnson is free to ban whomever he likes. Only a fool would post there anyway. The best revenge is to post your comments about him on your own blog, and his obsessive googling of his own name will reveal your thoughts to him, and he won't be able to do a damn thing about it.

    Disliking the guy for his disgusting lies and smearing of good people, which you don't address, is a different matter. No one cares if a leftist is a leftist; people don't hate Kos because he's a leftist, they hate him because he's a douchebag. Ditto Charles "Douchebag" Johnson.

  11. I began following LGF off and on around 2002 or 03. After a few months I realized that CJ was more of a libertarian than conservative - or accuratley, a liberal libertarian. After 2004, many conservatives assumed he was one of thier own- big mistake. But in CJ's defense; it is not up to him to expound his entire CV. And, I think he enjoyed the limelight with all of the attention he got. Between 2004 and 2007, most of his post dealt with Islamic fascism.

    However, today he spends most of his time targeting christians, "fringe rightwingers" (as he defines them), creationists, and assorted rightwing badboys (Beck, Stacy McCain, Rush). I have had an account there for almost 6 years, but for the last year or so I found his blog quite boring and tedious. Most of the witty people who used to post comments there are long gone. And CJs new crusade, Climate Change, is just a recital of the Alarmist's narrative (consenus, science is settled, etc...).

    I think CJ fancies himself a Guardian of Science. He is a talented web programmer, but that hardly makes him an expert of micro-biology, cosmology, and atmospheric physics. In short, his opinions are no better informed than most of ours. But LGF is his blog; therefore, he is king.

    Also, I did notice a very large drop off in comments there. Many of his threads are filled by perhaps no more than a few hundred hanger-oners. In the past, his threads would attract close to a thousand comments within an hour or so. Not anymore. I don't have any site meter stats, but I would guess his hits are way down.

  12. He's no expert in microbiology, cosmology, and atmospheric physics. But he can read polls and statistics and see where the scientists in those relevant subjects stand. And guess where they stand.

    Scientists are firmly in the camp that believes GW is caused in part at least by man, and that evolution is a theory AND a fact. You can argue elsewhere, like perhaps that the data is wrong (it's not) or that there's some other possibility that is equally supported (none that we've seen) but you would be an ignoramus of the highest order to try and argue that the polls of scientists that show them overwhelmingly in favor of certain positions are lies or something.

  13. For me, I left because of the sheer nastiness that you got if you disagreed with a view shared by CJ and anyone who was a member of his choir. I originally wrote a note to him asking to have my account deleted and it wasn't until I dared to up-ding a comment that had twenty down-dings. Apparently that was the last straw. I waited so long to belong to that site, too. Even got a Hat tip once for an article I submitted. What a flipping shame I deluded myself as to what he was really all about. Basil's right.


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