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January 22, 2010

Oh My: NYT Profiles Charles Johnson

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 they commissioned the piece.

A funny thing happened on the way to publishing it, though.

They discovered he's kind of a dick.

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.)

...

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.

“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.”

And oh dear: Check out this dead-bang center shot at the target:

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.

Thanks to beedubya.



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posted by Ace at 10:49 PM

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