Since my switch over to Blogcritics I have not thrown myself into a lot of overt political controversy. It’s been kind of a nice break, but to avoid this particular flap would be nothing less than cowardice.
Charles Johnson, who runs the exemplary and brave Little Green Footballs site is suffering for sins Islamic militants and their apologists simply cannot abide: honesty and success.
James Taranto of Best of the Web Today summarizes the situation well:
- Johnson, a Los Angeles-based Web designer, has one of the nicest-looking blogs around, and it’s packed with interesting information, mostly on the war and the barbarity of radical Islam.
MSNBC.com has a feature called Weblog Central, apparently written by someone named Will Femia. On Friday Femina cited LGF in his “Best of Blogs” feature. But then on Sunday, Femina posted an update, saying he’d heard from LGF critics who object, in Femia’s words, to “the fact that LGF has, over time, increased its focus on militant Islam and terrorism.” Femia updated his original description of LGF to say the following:
- This site is the focus of considerable controversy for its focus (and particularly the focus of the constituents in its comments section) on Islamic culture and dogma as the source of Islamic terror. As a popular, active, and well presented site, it is worth checking out, but some may find its content hateful or even racist.
This is an outrageous smear. The accusation of “racism” doesn’t even make sense; is anyone stupid enough to think Islam is a race? And while there’s plenty of hate on LGF, Charles Johnson isn’t the source of it. He is simply documenting the murderously hateful ideology of radical Islam. It makes no more sense to call Johnson “hateful” than it would make to call the Anti-Defamation League anti-Semitic.
….This isn’t the first time Johnson has been falsely accused of running a hate site. Back in August, the Arab News’s splenetic news editor, John Bradley, described LGF as “a hate-mail oriented, extreme right-wing website that acts as a kind of magnet for Arab-haters.” There are, of course, haters and racists on America’s far right–but for the most part they are making common cause with radical Islamists. The Arab News, for example, has published the works of David Duke and the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review, not to mention an article just last week that denounced the “subhuman Zionist lobby.”
This is the real face of hate. Some people prefer to avert their gaze from such viciousness and barbarity, and that is their prerogative. They don’t have to log in to Little Green Footballs. But to call Johnson a racist and a hater is an outrageous smear, one that Femia repeated even if he didn’t endorse it. MSNBC owes Charles Johnson an apology
Thank you James, very nice summary.
But my interest in this scuffle goes further: I know Charles personally, have spoken with him at some length, and you will not meet a person less inclined toward rash or intemperate generalization. Charles is a musician and an inveterate computer freak who was – is – broadly liberal and nonjudgmental in a laid-back musicianly sort of way.
He described himself to me here:
- a think-for-yourself social liberal, leaning toward libertarianism, but without the loony stuff.
Before 9/11, I wouldn’t have read one word of the National Review, for example. But the fall of the WTC had an extraordinary clarifying effect for me, and while I still consider myself basically liberal, many of the people most identified with that camp have behaved disgracefully since then.
And Charles has been relentlessly alert to hypocrisy, dissembling, euphemism, and the foul stench of hatred wherever it it has reared its ugly head ever since. He has not blinked; he has not yielded, and he has been tremendously successful. He is thus resented by targets of his vigilance: Islamic militants and their mealy-mouthed defenders, who see ANY accusation leveled at ANY Muslim as a general attack on Islam.
Another bastion of resistance to Johnson’s steely gaze are bloggers who resent Johnson’s wild success, his resistance to equivocation, his devoted, active, articulate readers.
Ironically, it is the very success, confidence and bravery LGF displays that most drives the Islamists themselves in their hatred of the West: Charles Johnson has unwittingly but fittingly become a synecdoche of the entire global struggle. I am proud to call him my friend.
There is a notable parallel between the political transformations of Christopher Hitchens and Charles Johnson since 9/11 (and many others including myself for that matter). Note Hitchens’ recent essay from the WaPo:
- The most depressing thing, for me at any rate, has been to see so much of the Left so determined to hamper this process, which is why, after 20 years, I have given up my column in the Nation magazine. The Left has employed arguments as contemptible as those on whose behalf they have been trotted out. It maintained that any resistance to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo would lead to a wider war, chaos and/or the rallying of the Serbs to Milosevic. It forecast massive quagmires and intolerable civilian casualties. If this sounds familiar, it may be because you are hearing it again now and heard it last year from those who thought the Taliban-al Qaeda base in Afghanistan was not worth fighting about.
But the element of bad faith in the argument is far worse than the feeble-minded hysteria of its logic. In the Balkans, those on the Left and Right who favored intervention could not live with the idea that Europe would permit the extermination of its oldest Muslim minority. At that point, the sensibilities of Islam did not seem to matter to the Ramsey Clarks and Noam Chomskys, who thought and wrote of national-socialist and Orthodox Serbia as if it were mounting a gallant resistance to globalization. (Saddam, of course, took Milosevic’s side even though the Serb leader was destroying mosques and murdering Muslims.)
Now, however, the same people are all frenzied about an American-led “attack on the Muslim world.” Are the Kurds not Muslims? Is the new Afghan government not Muslim? Will not the next Iraqi government be Muslim also? This meaningless demagogy among the peaceniks can only be explained by a masochistic refusal to admit that our own civil society has any merit, or by a nostalgia for Stalinism that I can sometimes actually taste as well as smell.
This from a former socialist, which Charles was not, but you get the point.
PS – Charles played guitar on the Stanley Clarke and George Duke records, among many others.