On Sunday, The New York Times Magazine featured an article on Charles Johnson, whose website – littlegreenfootballs – had for years been very popular among conservatives and among all those who believed that Islamic terror and Islamic religious totalitarianism were the greatest expressions of contemporary evil. The reason for the article was that Mr. Johnson has made a 180-degree turn and is now profoundly, even stridently, anti-right. This is my letter to him.
As you know, over the years, I was so impressed with your near-daily documentation of developments in the Islamist world that I twice had you on my national radio show – both times face to face in my studio. And you, in turn, periodically cited my radio show and would tell your many readers when they could hear you on my show.
So it came as somewhat of a shock to see your 180-degree turn from waging war on Islamist evil to waging war on your erstwhile allies and supporters on the right. You attempted to explain this reversal on Nov. 30, 2009, when you published “Why I Parted Ways With The Right.”
You offered 10 reasons, and I would like to respond to them.
First, as disappointed as I am with your metamorphosis, I still have gratitude for all the good you did and I respect your change as a sincere act of conscience. But neither this gratitude nor this respect elevates my regard for your 10 points. They are well beneath the intellectual and moral level of your prior work. They sound like something Keith Olbermann would write if he were given 10 minutes to come up with an attack on conservatives.
1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, etc.).
Associating the American right with fascism is done only by leftist ideologues and propagandists, not by serious critics. It is akin to calling everyone on the left a Communist. As for the specific examples, forgive me, but in 28 years as a talk show host and columnist, I had never heard of Robert Stacy McCain or of Vlaams Belang. Nor did the BNP or SIOE register on my intellectual radar screen.
I looked them up and found that McCain is a former editor at the Washington Times charged with racist views. So what?
The BNP is the British National Party, a racist group that in the last U.K. general election received 0.7 percent of the popular vote. So what?
SIOE stands for Stop Islamisation of Europe. I perused its website, and while there are ideas I disagree with (e.g., the group does not believe that there are any Muslim moderates), the desire to stop the “Islamization” of Europe is hardly fascist; it is more likely animated by anti-fascism.
Vlaams Belang is a Flemish nationalist political party that won 17 out of 150 seats in Belgium ’s Chamber of Representatives. From what I could gather from a cursory glance at the party’s platform, it is an ultra-nationalist Flemish party, many of whose language protection and secessionist ideals are virtually identical to those of the Party Quebecois, a party passionately supported by the left.
In any event, what do any of these groups have to do with mainstream American right institutions such the Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute; or with mainstream conservative publications and websites such as the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Townhall.com or Commentary; or with mainstream American conservatives such as Bill Kristol, Thomas Sowell, Hugh Hewitt, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, as well as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh?
2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.).
I agree with the late William Buckley that some of Pat Buchanan’s views could be construed as anti-Jewish; I don’t know who McCain or Lew Rockwell represent among mainstream conservatives; and to label Ann Coulter a white supremacist (or bigot) is slander.
3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.).
“The entire religious right” wants to throw “women back into the dark ages?” As a religious (Jewish) conservative, perhaps I am a member of that group, and I find the charge absurd. The one example you give – anti-abortion – is invalid. To those who regard the unborn as worthy of life (except in the almost never occurring case of it being a threat to its mother’s life), opposition to abortion is no more anti-woman than opposition to rape is anti-man. The only people who wish to throw women into the dark ages are the people you, Charles, used to fight. That is why your change of heart has actually hurt the battle for women’s dignity and equality.
4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.).
So, Charles, all those scientists who question or deny that human activity is causing a global warming that will render much of life on earth extinct are “anti-science?”
Has the possibility occurred to you that those who are skeptical of what they consider hysteria cherish science at least as much as you do? In fact, they suspect that – for political, social, financial, psychological and/or herd-following reasons – it is the “global warming” hysterics who are more likely to be anti-science.
Activist scientists, liberal media and leftist interest groups brought us the false alarm of an imminent heterosexual AIDS pandemic in America , the false alarm about silicon breast implants leading to disease and the nonsense about how dangerous nuclear power is. They were anti-science, not us skeptics who have been right every time I can think of.
5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.).
This charge is particularly ugly. It appears that you have decided to fight all the “hate” you allege to be on the right with your own hate. Why exactly is it “homophobic bigotry” to want to maintain the millennia-old definition of marriage as the union of men and women? The hubris of those who not only want to change the definition of the most important institution in society but believe everyone who ever advocated male-female marriage was a bigot – meaning everyone who ever lived before you, Charles – is as breathtaking as it is speech-suppressing.
6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.).
What you call “anti-government lunacy” most Americans regard as preserving the greatest protector of individual liberty – limited government.
7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.).
I am no fan of Alex Jones, who, coincidentally, has attacked me on his website as a “Jewish propagandist.” But please. The amount of hate speech in one Keith Olbermann commentary dwarfs any 12 months of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. In any event, the real irony here is that before your inexplicable change, it was you who devoted years to documenting the greatest amount of hate speech on earth today – that coming from within the Islamic world. If you still hated hate speech, you would still be doing that important work.
As for believing in conspiracy theories, your new team wins hands down – from multiple assassins of JFK to the American government being behind 9-11 (it was even believed by a high-ranking member of the Obama administration) to the war in Iraq waged on behalf of Halliburton.
8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic , Ace of Spades, etc.).
From what I have seen, your examples do not justify your charge. Moreover, for every right-wing “raging hate” speech website, there are probably three on the left. The major conservative sites are overwhelmingly rational and devoid of “raging hate.” Given my longtime respect for you, Charles, it pains me that it is your list of 10 reasons for abandoning the right that is a prime example of “raging hate.”
9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.).
I saw Pamela Geller’s site (The New York Times Magazine article about you cited it – Atlas Shrugs – and mentioned nothing remotely approaching your charges against her or her site) and I’ve interviewed Robert Spencer. Your charges against them only cheapen the words “fascism,” violence” and “genocide.”
10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source).
The charge is a lie. Period. Those who cannot argue with the right always accuse it of racism. It used to work, Charles. But it is increasingly obvious to all but fellow leftists that the charge is specious. Opposition to President Obama has nothing to do with his race. Indeed, he continues to be more popular than his policies.
When you were on the politically and morally right side, Charles, you provided massive evidence for your positions. Now you throw verbal bombs. What happened? If you would like to tell me on my radio show, you are invited to do so. I miss you.
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