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DiabloViejo
05-13-2012, 09:42 PM
Meet the Former Right-Wing Blogger Who Realized Conservatives Are Crazy
Charles Johnson was among the nation's leading "anti-jihad" bloggers until he realized that his compatriots were totally nuts.
May 7, 2012
AlterNet.org (http://www.alternet.org/media/155309/Meet_the_Former_Right-Wing_Blogger_Who_Realized_Conservatives_Are_Crazy/?page=entire)

For years, Charles Johnson was a prominent right-wing ďwar-blogger.Ē On his site, Little Green Footballs , he coined the term ďanti-idiotarian,Ē wrote frequently of a ďleftist-Islamist axis,Ē called Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas ďa fanatical, deadly enemy of Western civilizationĒ and inspired the hawkish Israeli journalist Gil Ronen to gush , ďIf anyone ever compiles a list of Internet sites that contribute to Israelís public relations effort, Johnson's site will probably come in first, far above the Israeli Foreign Ministry's site.Ē His comments section became an infamous hotbed of xenophobia and wingnuttery.

That was then and this is now. Visit LGF (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/) today, and you'll find posts decrying his former fellow travelers' knee-jerk Islamophobia, debunking the Breitbrats' steaming piles of nonsense and defending the Obama administration against scurrilous charges from Fox News. Johnson has undergone a remarkable political transformation over the past five years, but it didn't come without a cost; he is now among the top targets of the right blogosphere Ė an apostate drawing an enormous amount of venom from people he once considered his allies.

This week, Charles Johnson appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour. Below is a lightly edited transcript (you can listen to the whole show here (http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/920188/alternet_radio:_may_day_in_oakland;_a_reformed_rig ht-wing_blogger_speaks_out;_wall_street's_driving) ).

Joshua Holland: Charles, Iíll be honest, I used to find you kind of terrifying. Not in a personal way, but as a prominent member of this group of so-called war bloggers. You were prominent in that group. You co-founded Pajamas Media and you were widely credited with helping to bring down Dan Rather after he reported on George W. Bushís Air National Guard service. You used to be really filled with Islamophobia and xenophobia. James Wolcott of Vanity Fair once compared your site to ďa disorganized Nuremberg rally.Ē

Charles Johnson: Yeah, Iíve heard worse. Thatís a fair enough description. If you actually go back before the 9/11 attacks and read what I wrote on my blog youíll find that I actually was never what youíd think of as a right-winger at all.

JH: You were always kind of an anachronistic right-wing blogger. Youíre a highly accomplished jazz guitarist; you always seemed to care about the environment. What were your politics like on September 10 or during the Clinton years?

CJ: My politics in one sense didn't change because even when I started to be more associated with right-wing blogs and that whole milieu I was still what you call a social liberal. I never went in for the religious right stuff. In fact the rising importance and power of those kind of people in the Republican Party is one of the reasons why I finally had to just go elsewhere.

JH: September 11th was a traumatic experience for the entire country. We all felt that way. Is it fair to say that you kind of snapped?

CJ: In a sense I guess you can say that. It hit me really hard. I grew up in New York and I was actually interested in architecture, so I followed the construction of the World Trade Center. It helped that I had a really personal connection to the area. It hit me really hard.

I donít know if I snapped so much as I really wanted to know more about what was going on. I tend to focus real intensely on things when I get interested. Thatís what happened with the blog. I focused on fundamentalist Islam and radical Islam. Over the years I began to be involved with people like Robert Spencer and Frank Gaffney. If I had known some of the things I know about them now Iíd like to think I wouldnít have been associated with them, but you live and you learn, I guess.

JH: Right. You were a very early entrant into the blogging world. By the time I started reading blogs, maybe in 2002 or 2003, you were very much like Robert Spencer. You were using this method common to people who have a fear of Islam which is finding examples of Muslims doing terrible things, and then at least implying, if not stating outright, that these horrific incidents represent the Muslim community outright.

CJ: Thatís a fair criticism, and thatís one of the reasons why Iíve changed my focus. Iíve realized that to be true. At that point I had to say to myself that this doesnít really make sense, knowing what I know now about some of the motivations of people like Spencer and the like. Thatís one of the big reasons Iíve changed the focus of my blog.

Just to be clear, I was never really known as a right-winger until after the September 11th attacks. On my blog there were some pretty harsh criticisms of George W. Bush prior to the 2000 elections. And I didnít vote for him.

JH: OK, so along the way you began to see things a little differently and you started to criticize your erstwhile allies. You started calling out Fox News inaccuracies. You called Jim Hoft, the dumbest person on the internet, a ďborderline illiterate bigot.Ē

CJ: I stand by those words.

JH: Theyíre not even controversial, Charles. Along the way, and correct me if Iím wrong because I was an outsider looking in, it seems the tipping point came in 2007 when you had this epic flame war with Pamela Geller, who remains one of the countryís biggest bigots to this day. Geller was behind this ridiculous Ground Zero mosque controversy and was an apparent inspiration for Anders Breivik, who murdered 70-plus Norwegians last year. Tell me about that incident. And what is Vlaams Belang?

CJ: So youíve been googling around a bit. Actually the split between me and the far-right blogging scene had begun before that, but that was one of the big schism points. It wasnít just Pamela Geller, but Robert Spencer and those who called themselves the ďanti-Jihad bloggers.Ē They had gone to Belgium to have a meeting with a bunch of European like-minded bloggers and other personalities. When I discovered that one of the people there was Filip Dewinter of the Belgian Vlaams Belang party, which actually is a successor to a party called Vlaams Blok, which was banned by the Belgian government for their neo-Nazi roots and extreme-right hate speech. What they did is basically reform the image of the party, but didnít change much else.

When I discovered that this was one of the people they were making alliances with, I said I canít. This is not for me. I started to criticize people like Pamela Geller. Geller in response started to lash out at me with incredible viciousness, which is kind of her standard mode of operation, and it went from there. Basically the more I looked into and really started to investigate the connections that were forming between these people and the American anti-Jihad blogging scene, the more I realized thereís something really wrong here. Weíre talking about people who are fascists, who not only have neo-Nazi connections but also have connections to real, oldtime Nazis, the real Nazis from the Third Reich.

At that point I had a real gut check. It was a moment where things kind of changed -- I began to look at things differently.

JH: Geller continues to dance with European far-right-wing parties like the English Defense League as well. And, as you say, she lashed out with lupine ferocity. She wrote at one point that your ďcampaign to destroy the most effective voices on the right from within has been completely exposed.Ē That you ďhave been outed for the mole, the plant, the dis-informationalistĒ that you are.

CJ: Both her and Robert Spencer question whoís paying me. They have all kinds of conspiracy theories about who bought me out, and is that even really me anymore?

JH: Itís George Soros, right?

CJ: Of course! Heís always behind it. But really what theyíre doing is trying to divert attention from the very real issues I bring up about the people they associate with. Thatís the bottom line with those people. All these personal attacks are really an attempt to divert attention away from the facts.

JH: On some level, blogging communities do form. It must have been kind of nerve-racking to switch sides when you'd developed these allegiances in these ongoing blog wars. Did you have second thoughts? Were you worried about whether you would be villified?

CJ: Absolutely I had feelings like that. Emotionally, it wasnít easy to go through all this stuff, but sometimes you have to and hopefully you come out the other side better. Iíve always looked at my blog not as something I wanted to be the most popular place. Believe it or not, I try not to do things that just make my blog more popular on purpose. What I try to do is be as honest, straightforward and factual as I can. Thatís kind of always been my intent, and sometimes above and sometimes below the line. Whether a whole bunch of other bloggers suddenly stop linking to me or said bad things about me, I canít let that influence what I do. It doesnít make any sense, otherwise I wonít be doing it anymore.

JH: Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who studies the relationship between cognitive styles and ideology. He says that one of the attributes -- and he says itís a positive attribute -- that conservatives display more prominently than liberals is loyalty. Loyalty is a good thing, but it has a dark side, which is tribalism. Theyíre more likely to have these tribal inclinations. I think you experienced what going against the tribe looks like first-hand.

CJ: That's evident in my Twitter timeline -- even in the last week, itís been really nuts out there. I think it was Gandhi who said first they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win? They tried to ignore me, and now theyíre going kind of in the mocking mode and graduating toward the attacking mode. Hopefully weíll continue on with this analogy.

JH: The New York Times said you moved into a gated community because you were worried about these online threats. Is that true?

CJ: Iíve actually told other people that they kind of exaggerated that. They asked me what caused me to move into this gated community here. Really it was just that I found a nice place that happened to be in a gated community. It really wasnít because I was worried about the threats, although I have had some threats, including one from a neo-Nazi who is a friend of blogger Stacy McCain. That was a concern, but it wasnít the primary reason at all.

JH: Now what about the other side? From my perspective, once you shifted the focus of your writing I had no hesitation adding you to my RSS feed, and following you on Twitter. Were there people on the left who you'd tangled with in the past who had a harder time accepting you into their fold?

CJ: Absolutely. There have been one or two, but most people have been willing to just see where Iím at now and see what Iíve said about the stuff I wrote in the past. A lot of it I do regret, thereís no doubt about it. Hopefully all I can do is continue to do what I do, and be as straight and true to what I believe as possible.

JH: You say you have regrets. I wonder is there one thing that you regret more than others? Is there something that stands out in your mind?

<span style="color: #FF0000">CJ: I was totally wrong about Barack Obama. Thatís one of my main regrets at this point. I really fell for a lot of the right wing propaganda, and I thought he was going to be a communist and a radical leftist and all that stuff. I believed a lot of the propaganda about him. If I could go back I would vote for him now, but we donít have that time machine yet. Thatís actually one of the main things. I should not have been so ready to accept it. That was one of the things that really woke me up, seeing the truth as opposed to all the lies that were being spread by this blizzard of propaganda.
</span>
JH: I had Eric Boehlert on the show a few weeks ago. Heís with Media Matters. He said something really interesting. He said that in the era of Obama, when things have really gone off the deep end on the right, they donít bother debunking a lot of the right-wing media outlets that they used to track regularly because theyíve become so transparently crazy that nobody pays attention to them.

CJ: Thatís a great point. Sometimes I actually stop myself from copying or covering that stuff as well, because it does seem like just another crazy or absurd thing. At this point theyíre so far out there that thereís absolutely no concern for reality on these blogs. And they never back down and never correct anything.

JH: They certainly donít. Do you think that their influence has truly waned? We saw Mitt Romney try to court right-wing bloggers this week.

CJ: I think influence is an interesting thing thatís hard to measure. The effects of the Tea Party on the Republican Party was definitely exacerbated by the right-wing blogs. I donít really know how much of that Mitt Romney meeting was just pandering and how much of it was a genuine attempt to curry favor with the base. Some of the people they invited are weird choices if you really know their background. Some of these people have been incredibly vicious toward Romney, but thatís politics.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America.

Gayle in MD
05-14-2012, 05:59 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> CJ: I was totally wrong about Barack Obama. Thatís one of my main regrets at this point. I really fell for a lot of the right wing propaganda, and I thought he was going to be a communist and a radical leftist and all that stuff. I believed a lot of the propaganda about him. If I could go back I would vote for him now, but we donít have that time machine yet. Thatís actually one of the main things. I should not have been so ready to accept it. That was one of the things that really woke me up, seeing the truth as opposed to all the lies that were being spread by this blizzard of propaganda.

</div></div>

Wow! He didn't see through Bush et al?

Those who were on the right and didn't back off Republicanism, after eight years of George Bush, are usually forever hopeless.

G.

Stretch
05-14-2012, 07:25 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Gayle in MD</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> CJ: I was totally wrong about Barack Obama. Thatís one of my main regrets at this point. I really fell for a lot of the right wing propaganda, and I thought he was going to be a communist and a radical leftist and all that stuff. I believed a lot of the propaganda about him. If I could go back I would vote for him now, but we donít have that time machine yet. Thatís actually one of the main things. I should not have been so ready to accept it. That was one of the things that really woke me up, seeing the truth as opposed to all the lies that were being spread by this blizzard of propaganda.

</div></div>

Wow! He didn't see through Bush et al?

Those who were on the right and didn't back off Republicanism, after eight years of George Bush, are usually forever hopeless.

G. </div></div>

I can see where they didn't back off. It was a huge joy ride with the countries credit card, heady stuff. i found it interesting that Media Matters is not even bothering to debunk a lot of what comes out of the right wing media outlets as it's so transparently crazy now that know one is bothering to listen. The same thing happened here with you know who wall papering the place with the latest outrage de jour. Then crys that there is no response, DUH! St.

Gayle in MD
05-14-2012, 11:31 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Stretch</div><div class="ubbcode-body"><div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Gayle in MD</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> CJ: I was totally wrong about Barack Obama. Thatís one of my main regrets at this point. I really fell for a lot of the right wing propaganda, and I thought he was going to be a communist and a radical leftist and all that stuff. I believed a lot of the propaganda about him. If I could go back I would vote for him now, but we donít have that time machine yet. Thatís actually one of the main things. I should not have been so ready to accept it. That was one of the things that really woke me up, seeing the truth as opposed to all the lies that were being spread by this blizzard of propaganda.

</div></div>

Wow! He didn't see through Bush et al?

Those who were on the right and didn't back off Republicanism, after eight years of George Bush, are usually forever hopeless.

G. </div></div>

I can see where they didn't back off. It was a huge joy ride with the countries credit card, heady stuff. i found it interesting that Media Matters is not even bothering to debunk a lot of what comes out of the right wing media outlets as it's so transparently crazy now that know one is bothering to listen. The same thing happened here with you know who wall papering the place with the latest outrage de jour. Then crys that there is no response, DUH! St. </div></div>


<span style="color: #990000">

Yeah, why bother! The toddlers of the world can't abide being ignored! Like all children, they think it's all about them. /forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/crazy.gif

LOL, I crack up every time Boehner gets out there saying 'Where are the jobs!!!!????' since these Repiglican obstructionist nutjobs have had their heads firmly planted in the country's collective vagina ever since they won the majority!

This House of Reps should be nicknamed the Vagina Chronicles!
When Mitch McConnell clearly stated that their number one goal was to destroy President Obama's administration, in the midst of an economic crisis, which REPIGLICANS caused, and followed up with nothing BUT obstruction, that should have been enough to throw every single REpiglican out of office this next election.

Repiglicans proved, they care ONLY about the Party, and screw the country.

Republicans called Romney a Vulture Capitalist. Now, suddenly he's A-OK!

Lemmings! "The Pledge" proves it.

G. </span>