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in defense of Charles Johnson

in defense of Charles Johnson

lgf.jpg
Charles Johnson is not a hateful racist, despite what the authors of MSNBC Weblog Central may think, or what their readers think.

There has been a question as to whether MSNBC should take down the link to Little Green Footballs because some readers have protested Weblog Central highlighting such a "hateful" site.

Underneath the link to LGF, the blurb says "A popular but controversial Warblog focusing on militant Islam and terrorism. Is this news or hate?" It's news with a personal take, which is basically what weblogs, more specifically newsblogs, are.

Charles dedicates most of his blog to one subject because that is what is close to his heart and his mind. His opinions, and the opinions of his readers, are one-sided because people tend to form discussion groups when their views are the same. Take a look at weblogs.com recently updated list. Click through some of the sites. The tech blogs tend to attract commenters who are interested in technology. The blogs about gardening or comics or cats attract people with the same interests. Why should politics be held to a different standard?

LGF is not a pay newspaper. It is not a piece of the larger, commercial media that has a responsibility to be fair and unbiased. Charles is not a reporter, he is a person with a weblog, and he uses that space - his own space the he pays for - to write down his opinions.

I don't see hate on LGF. I don't see anything mean-spirited. I don't see racism. I see one person who defends Israel with all his heart, one person who reports on the issue of terrorism in the Middle East with a passion and a fury.

If you don't like LGF, the solution is simple. Don't read it. But it is certainly not your business to try to prohibit others from reading it too, or linking to it.

Had MSNBC not taken the link to my own weblog down today (it was up for a littel over a week) I would have asked them to take it down. They are pandering to people whose only purpose in writing to Weblog Central about LGF is to screech that their opinion is the only one that matters. Did their browser not come with that little "x" button up in the right hand corner?

I know for a fact, having had dealings with Charles, that he is a kind, warm, intelligent person. He does not deserve the hate that is being thrown at him right now.

Comments

Damn straight! Well said!

Good post! Bravo!!!

"It is not a piece of the larger, commercial media that has a responsibility to be fair and biased."

I'm guessing you meant "unbiased". I got a great chuckle out of the way it was written.

Oh, and yeah.. I got past the chuckle & read the rest of the entry. Well said.

i agree with you michele. i find charles too extreme for my tastes, but not in what he says or how he says it...his political bent is just farther to one side of the spectrum than mine...i never am incensed by what he says, or riled up, or angered by it...his opinions are quite well-thought out and impassioned and erudite. that's what blogging is for.

i'll support his right to blog his own mind 100% (and yours, too!)

I started reading LGF about 6-8(?) months ago. I recently stopped because I found it so one sided and I personally thought it to be somewhat anti-human rights (palestine, still human). I check it out every once and a while to re-align that part of me that needs to be shaken when I feel like mentally giving up this whole exercise in humanity/debate/anger/confusion/patriotism (etc...) that we've all faced since 9/11.

Sometimes I just want to pretend it's 9/10 again, but I know that will never happen. I need the LGF's out there to smack my ass and make me look at one fiercely compelling opinion.

My lost point was that like most other blog readers, and blog writers, we all have the right to "speak", and MSNBC or not, we (collectively) will read and heard.

And we will find each other on our own. To argue and hug alike.

Well said, Michele. As always.

I don't know LGF at all, so my question is not about that. I guess I don't follow the argument here--do not people have as much right to say that they are offended by something as LGF has to say whatever it is he has to say? If some folks find what LGF has to say offensive, it couldn't be more American of them to say so, with their feet and with their words, no?

Also, MSN probably loves the controversy, because it brings them hits. My bet is that they won't take the link down, which is exactly right. They threw up the link to let people know about it, and now everyone is welcome to say whatever squabbley thing they want to pro or con.

Where's the fault in that? If MSN took it down, then I'd have a different opinion. I think there is a genuine question about whether LGF crosses the line or not, and I say that not based on my reading of the site (because as I said, I have not) but based on how people respond to it. I know there are some people who are genuinely offended by it. And some who love it. I know this because they blog about it.

So I guess I just don't see where the problem is here, and I mean that genuinely, not rhetorically.

Jadedju,
The detractors have just as much right to bring up their concerns as LGFs supporters, but to cause MSNBC to change the caption from a recommendation that the site be explored to an illustration of the 'fine line' between news and hatred is too much. These people, Anil especially, have had little, if anything, positive to say about LGF. Anil showed up on the debate withn LGF about the MSNBC posting to gloat, while changing (outwardly) his previous positions, which had become too apparently hateful in their own right. A point about this debate necessarily involves one's views on free speech; Anil has encouraged Charles to cut the more radical comments, the less radical comments, the pro-Israel comments, the anti-anti-semitic comments, the comments pointing out that he has no right to demand this, and the posts by any one who he has, for some reason, chosen to despise. Charles has not swayed to these demands (which is not to say that Charles doesn't moderate the comments, since he regularly deletes the most vicious and ugly attacks, while confronting and correcting the near-deletions), nor has he done the spiteful thing and banned Anil or his cronies from LGF. What makes Anil's claims worse, however, is that he repeatedly drops in, accuses many of us of racism/bigotry/bias/spite/hate/[[place your buzzword here]] and then drops off. He is undebatably a troll in this aspect, but his unsubstantiated claims in many of these posts would drive anyone BUT Charles to ban him forever.

In terms of the MSNBC caption, it bases the whole recommendation of LGF on the fact that it is suspected of anti-arab, anti-Islamic hatefulness, rather than as a news source for REAL news stories that are hard to find, which may or may not have problematic commentators.

Please do stop by and see for yourself. And thanks to the wonderful host of this site for his defense.

-Ratz

Ratz, I get enough hate mail and death threats without you coming here and telling lies. I haven't changed my story, I didn't go to LGF to gloat, I went to refute things that people were saying about me that weren't true.

I didn't encourage Charles to cut the more radical comments, I encouraged him to be consistent with his stance on other sites that have hateful posts: either contradict them or delete them. Charles makes a strong argument that a site's host is responsible for hateful posts on that site, and I'm expecting he'd include his own site in that rule.

I don't drop in and troll and leave, I come, make my comments, and then respond as time permits. I don't know about other posters on LGF, but I don't have all day to go leave comments on a site where people falsely accuse me of anti-semitism, mock my name, resort to homophobia, and call me anti-american, even though we share most of the same political views.

Please do take a look at LGF, and form your own opinions. I don't understand how I suddenly became reponsible for what MSNBC prints, since I have no contact or affiliation with them, but I think that the discourse on LGF detracts from the legitimate points that Charles tries to make. Read the site and see if you don't agree.

Anil,

Be a mensch for once in your life. Take responsibility for what you started.

Michele,

A wonderful post.

Anil,

Be a mensch for once in your life. Take responsibility for what you started.

Michele,

A wonderful post.

Michele,
what you're basically is saying is for the critics of LGF to shut up because everybody has a right to speak.. or, atleast, that was what you were saying before you edited this post of yours.

You don't see racism at LGF, I'm so happy for you, I wish I shared your blissful ignorance.

I edited this post? When? What did it say before I edited it? What planet are you on?

I never asked the critics of LGF to shut up. My point of the post was that the author of Weblog Central let himself be coerced into labeling LGF as a hate site because of a few dissenters who wanted to turn this into a controversy.

I'm still confused as to the editing bit. Please tell me what leads you to believe I changed anything.

Don't even sweat it, michele.

Well said, Michele, per usual. :-)

I started reading LGF a few months ago, because this web-logger links to news items I wouldn't otherwise see.

In this debate about "hate speech", Anil Dash and other accusers of Charles Johnstone should cite his entries on LGF that are "hateful". With links, please, so we can judge for ourselves.

The comments are a different matter. Along with the wheat of passionate and sensible arguments, I definitely see hateful and false chaff. Blowing in from many directions.

Mr. Johnstone's disclaimer reads: "Comments are open and unmoderated, although obscene or abusive remarks may be deleted. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Little Green Footballs."

As far as I can see, the only way to protect Mr. Dash's sensitive ears is to outlaw open forums on the Web. This old argument about hate speech versus free speech is being ignored in the pursuit of an anti-LGF agenda.

Three requests for Johnstone-bashers:

(1) Those citations and links.

(2) Your proposal for prohibiting the speech you find offensive while protecting the open exchange of ideas. A frank statement that free speech is less important than regulation of hate speech will also do.

(3) A large number of websites are filled by their owners with hateful content, and lack "redeeming social value" (do you need examples?) Why have you chosen to target LGF?

(1) There are ample links to posts filled with hate on my site, as well as on wrongwaygoback.com.

(2) I don't think site owners should be held responsible for the comments of others on their site: Charles does. He's said it repeatedly about sites hosting anti-semitic content. He says I should be held responsible for what MSNBC posts, though I've never had contact with them. But he feels he shouldn't be held responsible for his own.

(3) Because LGF is allegedly not a hate site. Are you saying it is? Because then it's not worth fighting to redeem. Or, if it's not, then why is Charles comfortable hosting those who don't make a distinction between the millions of good, honest, hard-working, decent muslims and the true dangers to all of us? Don't you think he cheapens his message by being unspecific in his targets and associating with bigots?

More to the point, why is my site flooded with comments labelling me an anti-semite, and accusations of unamericanism, and allegations that I side with terrorists, when none of these things are true? Don't those tactics bother you a lot more than someone objecting to bigotry on LGF?

Please feel free to copy your response to my email, I'm having to defend myself on so many sites that it's hard to keep track of them all.

Dear Mr. Dash,

Your civil and fast response to my questions confirms my impression of you as an honest person struggling with the issues at hand. We can agree on that while disagreeing on political questions.

Q (1) was a request for links to hateful speech by Charles Johnson on his website. You responded that "There are ample links to posts filled with hate on my site, as well as on wrongwaygoback.com".

I could only see links to comments, not the issue here. No points.

Q (2): "Your proposal for prohibiting the speech you find offensive while protecting the open exchange of ideas." Your response: "I don't think site owners should be held responsible for the comments of others on their site: Charles does. He's said it repeatedly about sites hosting anti-semitic content. He says I should be held responsible for what MSNBC posts, though I've never had contact with them. But he feels he shouldn't be held responsible for his own."

Your reply is a non-sequitor, no points. I somewhat doubt that "Charles does" think as you say, because it's contradicted by his own comments policy!

Q (3) "A large number of websites are filled by their owners with hateful content, and lack 'redeeming social value' ... Why have you chosen to target LGF?" Your response: "Because LGF is allegedly not a hate site. Are you saying it is? ... Or, if it's not, then why is Charles comfortable hosting those who don't make a distinction between the millions of good, honest, hard-working, decent muslims and the true dangers to all of us? Don't you think he cheapens his message by being unspecific in his targets and associating with bigots?"

This reply is on target--we just disagree (full credit!). I say LGF is not a hate site. My guess would be that Mr. Johnson is not "comfortable" with those hateful posts in the comments section. Your assumption is that he's a bigot; mine is that he's a free-speech advocate--my original point, which you have not rebutted with evidence. And, yes, I do think Mr. Johnson's important messages about the true dangers facing us are cheapened by the flame wars that rage in some comments sections.

You also wrote:
"More to the point, why is my site flooded with comments labelling me an anti-semite, and accusations of unamericanism, and allegations that I side with terrorists, when none of these things are true? Don't those tactics bother you a lot more than someone objecting to bigotry on LGF?"

Good points. You archived a moving essay that you wrote for your hometown newspaper on the one year anniversary of the attacks ("On Being an American", 9/11/02). Would I feel the same way? I don't know, I'm not you, so I'm glad to read your thoughts and learn something. Would I embrace you as a fellow American? Absolutely!

And I tracked back a link from your site to LGF comments (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=4179#c0018). Well, Mr. Dash, there are some thoughtful voices there, and some hotheads--and you're right there with the angriest, trading insults, turning up the heat, mixing it up. Er, is this a habit? You didn't go into the biker bar for a cuppa tea, or to pour oil on the troubled waters you saw! Could you have withheld the epithets and engaged in constructive dialogue? I say yes, you say no; we'll never know now.

Anyway, my answer is still, no, you don't deserve to be insulted and called names. You (like this hostess) put a piece of yourself out for the public to see, and that's a sight more than I'm willing to do. Politically, I think you are way off base (feeling doubtlessly mutual), and I wonder about your temper...but I don't doubt your sincerity or patriotism.

If Charles is a free-speech advocate, why does he ban people who don't side with him? If his devotion to the ideals of free speech is so strong that he refuses to ban the drooling racist trogolodytes, why then does he ban the so-called "idiotarians" for conduct far less abusive? It seems that if he was interested in freedom of speech, he would be interested in freedom of speech for BOTH sides.

PS: The English language is not adequate to express my hate for the word "Idiotarian". I want to steal a DeLorean and travel back in time to the day that word was coined, find its originator, and throw him off a bridge into an airplane propellor flying over a river of acid filled with spikes.

Mookie, I would have loved to engage in some friendly discourse with you, but like most people who leave drivel in my comments, you left no email address.

Charles does not ban people who disagree with him. He bans people that disagree with him in an abusive manner. Scroll through his comments and you can see tons of posts from Anil Dash, his most vehement opponent.

If you are looking for the person who coined the phrase Idiotarian, please see Dailypundit.com.

I'll stand by and watch while he kills you with words before you can even begin to debate him.

By the way, DeLoreans don't travel back in time. That was a movie, hun. You know...fiction.

Of course DeLoreans do not travel back through time. Thank you for turning a lame joke into an astoudningly lame insult.

Even if Charles only bans people who vehemently disagree (I don't think this is true but if we argue that we'll never get anywhere), that is still inconsistent. If he does not ban racists because he is committed to free speech, why then does he infringe upon the free speech of abusive people? (I personbally think the abusive and the racists should be banned into the Moon, but I'm just trying to establish internal consistency here.)

Charles, from what I gather, argued that the racist cockhole Clearguidance.org was responsible for the racist and anti-Semitic comments on the boards despite their disclaimer stating they were not responsible for user-posted content (He also claimed I was affiliated with them. I'm still trying to figure that one out.) If this is how it is for CG, why should it be any different from LGF?

Dear Mookie,

You raise many points, in a rapid-fire way.

At the base of some of your outrage, you don't understand "free speech" as it is commonly meant, i.e. as it is protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. This is shown by your comment that Charles Johnson "infringe[s] upon the free speech of abusive people..."

There is an "aha" moment waiting for you; if you do a little research you will understand why your accusation is a non-sequitor.

As for the comparison between LGF and Clear Guidance, I, too, have been reflecting on that. As an American who is not a fundamentalist Muslim, I feel that some of the speech on Clear Guidance that I have seen is personally threatening. It is part of an Islamist campaign that includes the application of violence, including murder of my fellow citizens. By contrast, I'd say the worst 5% of speech in the LGF comments is angry, hateful, illogical, deeply offensive, and/or stupid--but I don't see incitement on the scale of Clear Guidance. Anyway, I don't know if my feeling that speech is incitement means that it ought to be legally denied the protection available under the First Amendment.

PS--I like the word "idiotarian". I think it highlights an important divide in the "anti-war" movement, between those who honor what is best in the post-Enlightenment Western tradition, and those who operate outside it. In the 1930s, the deeds and words of well-meaning (and not-well-meaning) Westerners gave aid and comfort to the dominant totalitarians of the time. Today, the deeds and words of well-meaning (and not-well-meaning) Westerners again give aid and comfort to totalitarian dictators.

Change the behavior, not the label.

Dear Mookie,

You raise many points, in a rapid-fire way.

At the base of some of your outrage, you don't understand "free speech" as it is commonly meant, i.e. as it is protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. This is shown by your comment that Charles Johnson "infringe[s] upon the free speech of abusive people..."

There is an "aha" moment waiting for you; if you do a little research you will understand why your accusation is a non-sequitor.

As for the comparison between LGF and Clear Guidance, I, too, have been reflecting on that. As an American who is not a fundamentalist Muslim, I feel that some of the speech on Clear Guidance that I have seen is personally threatening. It is part of an Islamist campaign that includes the application of violence, including murder of my fellow citizens. By contrast, I'd say the worst 5% of speech in the LGF comments is angry, hateful, illogical, deeply offensive, and/or stupid--but I don't see incitement on the scale of Clear Guidance. Anyway, I don't know if my feeling that speech is incitement means that it ought to be legally denied the protection available under the First Amendment.

PS--I like the word "idiotarian". I think it highlights an important divide in the "anti-war" movement, between those who honor what is best in the post-Enlightenment Western tradition, and those who operate outside it. In the 1930s, the deeds and words of well-meaning (and not-well-meaning) Westerners gave aid and comfort to the dominant totalitarians of the time. Today, the deeds and words of well-meaning (and not-well-meaning) Westerners again give aid and comfort to totalitarian dictators.

Change the behavior, not the label.

I'm not "outraged" that he's infringing on the free speech of abusive people. I mentioned that specifically. I AM outraged that he CLAIMS that he is upholding free speech when he is, in fact, not. If the speech he bans from hsi site is not protected, then the racism should not be either.

PS: I despise the word "idiotarian" and wish horrible death on anyone who uses it. It's like calling all of your political opponents "doodyheadists" -- whether or not it's in accordance with what you feel, by using such a term you not only throw any chance of debate out of the window, but you sound like an absolute moron. You are saying, in essence, that anyone who doesn't agree with you is an idiot.

And I STILL want to know, if all LGF does is report the truth, and this makes it above criticism, how does MSNBC reporting the truth make it a fascist smear campaign? Some people think that LGF is racist. MSNBC reported that some people think LGF is racist. Tell me, O Sacred Defenders Of Free Speech and Anti-Idiotarianism, how these behaviors are any different? Do you believe that you are above criticism because you report on Very Important Issues? Do you think that anyone who criticises LGF should be silenced? Because that sounds fascist to me, far moreso than Anil is for thinking you're racist.

Who the hell are you talking to, Mookie? Take it back to the LGF boards where you first let your idiocy loose.

Dear Mookie,

I see you’re not big on dialog, which involves answering questions thoughtfully as well as coming up with new items. My last try--

>I AM outraged that he CLAIMS that he is upholding free speech when he is, in fact, not.

So you didn’t take the “free speech challenge” and look anything up. Cliff Notes, then:

1. Most free speech issues are about the individual’s relationship with the government, not posters’ with webmasters. Remind me who has been prevented from starting a web-log by Mr. Johnson?

2. Certain classes of speech are not protected, e.g. incitement to violence. “Speech I think is racist” doesn’t qualify, sorry.

3. The “marketplace of ideas” is supposed to be up to the job of countering vile ideas. Hey, y’know what? Most of the vilest posts on LGF are countered! In just this way! But sometimes other posters leave trolls alone; maybe that should be illegal? In any case, refreshing behavior on that website compared to Clear Guidance.

>PS: I despise the word "idiotarian" and wish horrible death on anyone who uses it.

I think you’re being allegorical rather than threatening me, so I won’t complain to Michelle, or Clear Guidance either.

>[By using "idiotarian",] you are saying, in essence, that anyone who doesn't agree with you is an idiot.

Sez you. I don’t agree with Mort Halperin’s (TAP) or James Fallows’ (Atlantic) recently published anti-war essays, but neither is an idiotarian. Their arguments are logical and based on reality. Both authors talk about likely consequences and their relative moral merits.

See, it’s not all that difficult to be anti-war and a non-idiotarian. Just don’t serve as a useful idiot by giving aid and comfort to tyrants. Put another way, read Rosenbaum’s essay “Goodbye to all that” (http://www.observer.com/pages/story.asp?ID=6435), and show that you live on the author’s planet (hint: you don’t have to agree with him).

>Tell me, O Sacred Defenders Of Free Speech and Anti-Idiotarianism [snip]

Sorry, I couldn’t parse your question from among the insults.

You are a liar and a hypocrite. You know full well that nearly none of the vile posts on LGF are "countered".

You know that if "speech I think is racist" is protected, then so is the speech Charles bans on his site, and you know that I am not saying that it should not be banned -- a weblog proprietor is well within his rights if he bans someone for liking the wrong football team, because it's his goddamn weblog -- but that I am saying Charles should not lie about his intentions.

You know that I am not trying to "censor" anyone, I am just speaking my piece that Charles is the owner of a vile cesspool of hyper-conservative racist xenophobes.

You know what i was trying to ask, yet you refuse to answer because the answer is not convenient to you. You turn my stomach, and I hope to whatever god watching Earth that you don't vote.

Dear Mookie,

Type slower or think faster.
Or take your medication.

>liar-hypocrite-turn my stomach

Disagreeing with civility is unknown to you.

We won't be conversing again unless you find Jesus or reach Step 9. Whichever.

No need to respond as you''ll be shouting into a void, I won't be back here to check.

Good luck.