In case you haven’t heard, “right wing” blogs are engaged in a bitter civil war pitting former friends and colleagues against one another in a bloody battle for conservatism’s soul.
David Weigel, a generally fair reporter who has also written some entertaining stuff for Reason Magazine, writes a story in the Washington Independent (Well, they say they are) that gives the lowdown on the current food fight between LGF’s Charles Johnson and a trio of anti-jihad bloggers including of Pam Geller (Atlas Shrugs), Robert Spencer (Jihad Watch), and my old friend Dymphna at Gates of Vienna.
Charles, who I always thought of as more of a political independent than anything, was interviewed by Weigel for the piece and had some rather churlish things to say about his enemies; namely that they are either kooks or bigots — and perhaps worse:
“I don’t think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore,” Johnson said. “It’s all a bunch of kooks. I’ve watch some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts.”
Johnson’s disgust with the terrorism-focused conservative blogosphere has had a traumatic effect on a dogged and dogmatic community of bloggers and scholars. When Johnson began blogging about Islam and terrorism after 9/11, he inspired untold other supporters of an aggressive war on terror to start their own Websites, link up, and push back against “Dhimmitude” - organizations and foreign policy decision makers that were “soft” on terrorism. Now, some of his followers have started blogs that track Johnson’s “madness,” while a video that portrays Johnson as Adolf Hitler going mad in his bunker makes the rounds.
“He’s the reason I started blogging,” said Atlas Shrugs editor Pamela Geller, a New Yorker who says she was “mugged by Sept. 11? and started reading LGF for news and fellowship. “I wrote birthday messages to him. I respected and admired him.”
Robert Spencer, the director of JihadWatch and the author of the bestselling, “Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,” had an established career as a critic of militant Islam before he met Johnson. “But right after 9/11, he was the only one out there reporting on this,” Spencer said. “He built my Website. I learned how to blog from reading his stuff.”
Johnson has turned hard against Spencer and Geller, attacking the former for joining a “genocidal Facebook group,” while referring to the latter as a “shrieking lunatic,” and labeling both of them “hatebloggers.” Johnson now points to Geller’s posts about Barack Obama’s heritage and her quest to fund a headstone for the victim of a Muslim honor killing as proof that “the woman is deranged.” Other bloggers in the movement have been purged from Johnson’s blogroll or pilloried on the site, never to be mentioned again. The most successful sites that arose in LGF’s wake, including Gateway Pundit, Gates of Vienna, and Brussels Journal, are also on the outs.
Read the rest of the article for background on the tussle.
I would find it hard to take sides in this dispute. It seems a cop out to say that both sides are wrong and right but that is sincerely how I judge it. I know most of the principles, have met and spoken with some of them, and admire much of the work they have done in the past. I frankly don’t know who is exaggerating but at this point, both sides are talking past each other so it really doesn’t matter. I think Charles has some legitimate concerns about some bloggers and commenters in the anti-jihad blogosphere (one can see them stinking up any post about Muslims just about anywhere) but calling Pam a “shrieking lunatic” is ridiculous. Perhaps she was “shrieking” at being lumped together with Nazis. I know I would be.
The same goes for Charles’s other targets. Dymphna and the Baron are two very thoughtful writers who I don’t always agree with but are hardly bigots. Pamela, bless her, is more excitable (if you met her, you’d be charmed by her enthusiasm for everything in life), and I disagreed with her emphasis on Obama’s origins. But she is far more passionate than she is “kooky” and that kind of criticism is subjective anyway (I should know). Spencer is a genuine scholar - but uses sources sometimes I find problematic, as do the others.
The problem as I see it is that Charles used a blunderbuss when he should have employed a scalpel in his criticism. The anti-jihad sites mentioned above as well as a few others have spawned dozens of blogs that employ a riotously misguided and uncomprehending view of the Islamic faith and Muslims in general when discussing the very real threat coming from extremists. Not quite “The only good Muslim, is a dead Muslim” but close. It is pathetic to read some of these sites as writers attempt to “explain” jihad by taking quotes from the Koran out of context as “proof” that all Muslims are at war with us. No doubt, a few of them will make an appearance in the comments section of this post. I will be branded a “dhimmi” or, as Pam unfairly characterized Charles, “a leftist blogger.”
Combatting worldwide jihad is important. As I’ve written before, the left refuses to engage in this war to defend the west, partly because they do not believe much in “western values” anymore (or at least their superiority to what the jihadists want to replace them with), but also out of fear that they will offend people who practice the Muslim faith. What European liberals and our own left fail to comprehend is that while the number of extremists who want to kill us is small, their actions are cheered (and supported financially) by millions of others. This attitude, especially on the part of the European left, has led to compromises on free speech, freedom of religion, and other cherished values that the left seems willing to make in the name of establishing comity with Muslims.
I can understand Johnson’s reluctance to endorse the lunatic fringe of the anti-jihadist movement and one should always be careful with whom they associate. But both sides in this dust up are blinded by the personal insults and fail to see they are both still fighting the same war. The bloggers mentioned above are not always as circumspect in their language and writing as perhaps they should be with regard to Muslims and the Islamic faith but they are hardly bigots nor have they ever advocated genocide against Muslims or, as far as I know, forcing American Muslims to emigrate. I have seen those views expressed on fringe blogs, however, and Johnson’s complaint should be heard by all.
Charles Johnson is not a leftist. He may not be a “right winger” but he is hardly a liberal. His views on some fringe conservatives who believe in creationism match my own as did his take on Glenn Beck (don’t go there). One of my primary tormentors, Stacey McCain, sees apostasy in Johnson’s critique, however, and is ready to strip him of his membership in the Conservative Book Club and take away his key to the Haliburton Executive Washroom:
I’d like to explain to Charles Johnson why he’s wrong, but if he won’t listen to Robert Spencer, there’s no reason to expect he’d listen to me. Johnson supported the GWOT, which ended the day Bush left the White House, and thus ended Johnson’s only real interest in politics.
Johnson is not “political” in the sense of trying to calculate ways to build a broad, enduring coalition that amounts to at least 50-percent-plus-one. He cares nothing about, say, figuring out how to elect Lt. Col. Allen West in FL-22 or how to defeat Bud Cramer in AL-5. And since he’s never looked at politics in that way, he doesn’t grasp the connection between defeating the Left on foreign policy and defeating the Left on domestic issues like “card check” and health care.
You know who does see those connections? The Left. And they’ve won, because Bush and the Republicans never really understood the real enemy they were fighting. Charles Johnson is just collateral damage in this conflict, incidental to the Left’s triumph.
If he had thought about it (and thank the lord he didn’t), Stacey would no doubt have lumped me in with Johnson because of some of my views. But I question Mr. McCain’s definition of who or what is “political.” In the larger scheme of things, there is little difference between what Johnson or Moran does and “trying to calculate ways to build a broad, enduring coalition” of conservatives by writing happy days are here again blog posts or even making concrete recommendations about how to accomplish that worthy goal.
I write about how I believe conservatives can regain power just as Stacey does. I recommend strategies just as Mr. McCain does. The problem is that Stacey doesn’t agree with me (or Johnson) and hence, we are discredited because, having set himself up as an arbiter of “true conservatism” (And why not? Many agree with him.), he can justifiably drum me and anyone else out of his ever devolving clique of “real” conservatives.
Is his definition of who is a legitimate “conservative” getting narrower or is it just my imagination?
I like Stacey despite his picking on me. He is a fine southern gentleman and smart as a whip. But I would caution him not to slam the door in the face of those who, regardless of their stands on some issues, are still his natural allies. I doubt whether Johnson voted for Obama nor do I think he would vote for many Democrats as the party is currently constituted. But a stay at home is as bad as a no vote as the November election showed.
What profit a man that he win the conservatives but lose the election?