As some of you may know, the formerly quasi-conservative Little Green Footballs jumped ship and went full-bore liberal moonbat in a matter of weeks. The conversion started when Barack Obama was elected, and the site’s proprietor – Charles Johnson – swung his allegiance, his viewpoint, and his post material drastically leftward.
But something else changed rather quickly. Johnson started banning registered commenters at an incredible rate. Some of them probably deserved it, because they went over the line in their attacks, but others were banned for merely disagreeing with Johnson’s new found political slant. Like Philly radio tool Michael Smerconish, Johnson told his conservative readers to go frak themselves, and embraced the moonbat hordes.
This story got personal for me when I was banned from the site a few months ago. I was a registered user at LGF for a few years, and posted over 4,000 comments before being thrown down the memory hole. What was my sin? I down-dinged a post a post where Johnson was calling conservative talk show hosts racist idiots. (Every comment at LGF has a “dinger” connected to it. That way, you can either up-ding a post you like, or down-ding a post you don’t.) I didn’t like the tone of his post, so I down-dinged it. Bam, gone.
In the weeks that followed, Johnson has banned over 1,700 registered commenters. 1,700. It has lost him a lot of readers – I’ll never go back – but it has gained him some notoriety, as Ace pointed out last night:
I know what you’re thinking, as I thought that too — Funny, but why is it when LGF was getting 500,000 hits a day on the right, he wasn’t worth a profile, and now that he’s getting 100,000 or less and on the left, he is?
Yeah, that’s true. That’s probably why [the New York Times] commissioned the piece. A funny thing happened on the way to publishing it, though. They discovered he’s kind of a narcissistic lunatic.
Wow, when the NYT thinks you’re a lunatic . . .
THE QUESTIONING OF Johnson’s tactics started to come not just from without L.G.F. but also from within. Readers both casual and loyal spoke up in the comment threads to ask, sometimes diplomatically and sometimes not, whether all this casual flinging of epithets like “fascist” wasn’t maybe an overreaction. Johnson’s response, in thousands of cases, was to block their accounts and ban some of them from viewing the blog. “Get off my Web site” was a common farewell. (Johnson insists that this is not true — that no one has ever been banned from L.G.F. merely for disagreeing with him — but the anecdotal evidence to the contrary is voluminous, and the fact that the offending comments were instantly and permanently deleted makes it impossible to check others’ records against his.)
Therein lies the beauty of it. No one can ever call him on the reasons for the bannings because he destroys the evidence. Convenient, huh?
No one ever said L.G.F., or any blog, had to be about the free exchange of ideas. “It’s his sandbox,” Pamela Geller says simply. “He can do whatever he wants.” Still, if you read L.G.F. today, you will find it hard to miss the paradox that a site whose origins, and whose greatest crisis, were rooted in opposition to totalitarianism now reads at times like a blog version of “Animal Farm.” Johnson seems obsessed with what others think of him, posting much more often than he used to about references to himself elsewhere on the Internet and breaking into comment threads (a recent one was about the relative merits of top- versus front-loaded washing machines) to call commenters’ attention to yet another attack on him that was posted at some other site. On the home page, you can click to see the Top 10 comments of the day, as voted on by registered users; typically, half of those comments will be from Johnson himself. Even longtime commenters have been disappeared for one wrong remark, or one too many, and when it comes to wondering where they went or why, a kind of fearful self-censorship obtains. He has banned readers because he has seen them commenting on other sites of which he does not approve. He is, as he reminds them, always watching. L.G.F. still has more than 34,000 registered users, but the comment threads are dominated by the same two dozen or so names. And a handful of those have been empowered by Johnson sub rosa to watch as well — to delete critical comments and, if necessary, to recommend the offenders for banishment. It is a cult of personality — not that there’s any compelling reason, really, that it or any blog should be presumed to be anything else.
People who know me know that I DESPISE Pamela Gellar, but she is absolutely correct here. It’s his blog, and he can do what he wants, no matter how insane his actions may be.
“This is one area where I did change,” Johnson admitted. “I realized you can’t just let it be free speech. It doesn’t work that way on the Internet. Total free speech is a recipe for anarchy when people can’t see each other.”
Yeah, that free speech thing is a real downer, eh Charles? The end result of his fascist – yes, I am using his favorite word against him – comment policy is that the only comments there are of the ass-kissing variety. I challenge you to read the comments on any post and not find at least one lickspittle saying, “You’re right, Charles!” or “Great point, Charles!” It’s embarrassing. The NYT continues:
IN THE LAST DAY of November, Johnson delivered the final blow to his old alliances. In a post that he said took him about three minutes to write, he listed 10 reasons “Why I Parted Ways With the Right.” The “reasons” themselves amounted to little more than laundry lists: “Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.),” for instance. In the voluminous comment thread attached, Johnson was characteristically interested less in discussing the break itself than in discussing the reaction to it — calling readers’ attention to the number of times it was “re-tweeted,” linking to attacks on him, citing praise from quarters that not long ago would have considered him toxic.
That was the last real post I ever read at LGF, and it was only because it was such a big story. Had I been able to comment there, I would have pointed out that Johnson parted ways with the right months earlier, but I didn’t have commenting privileges. Boo hoo.
Now, I figure you’re thinking one of two things:
1. “Wyatt, why the Hell would we care about this?”
2. “Wyatt, what took you so long to rant about LGF?”
Well, here are the (hopefully) short answers. First, you don’t have to care about it, but I posted it because I felt betrayed by Johnson and his blog after his switcheroo. It would be akin to me coming here one day and saying I wouldn’t post any more babe photos, and every regular commenter here would be banned. I spent a lot of time at LGF, made a lot of good internet friends, and posted over 4,000 comments. To tell you the truth, I’m still pissed about the whole thing and I needed to vent.
Second, it took so long because I wanted someone or something to paint an accurate picture of how bizarre it got over there. The NYT article shows that – however inadvertently – and Ace’s comments sealed the deal. Probably lazy on my part, but what can you do. Besides, better blogs than this were posting better stories about the debacle, so I backed off. And to be honest, LGF has spies everywhere, and I didn’t need a troll hassle over the holidays. I also didn’t want to alienate people here who are still loyal to Johnson, but at this point, I don’t much care anymore.
So there you have it, my LGF/Charles Johnson catharsis. It may be the longest thing I have ever posted here, and if you were bored by it, I apologize. Most days I try to post for you guys – specifically, something you’ll like. This post was for me.
UPDATE: Dennis Prager, a man I truly respect, has a terrific response to Johnson’s inane reasons for leaving the Right. You can find it here.