The method of Charles Johnson

A reader directed me to last night’s thread at “Little Green Footballs”: “The Mask Comes off at Brussels Journal.” Uh, what’s that again? The mask comes off? Is Brussels Journal—a website that has always had a moderate, restrained tone, not nearly as blunt and critical as, say, VFR—now somehow sinister? To Charles Johnson, LGF’s oracular host, it is.

For Johnson, the main thing that constitutes Brussels Journal’s taking its mask off and revealing the lizard-like reality within is that Paul Belien has responded to Charles Johnson’s attacks on him. Johnson writes:

Belien lashes out at me again, calling me a “Stalinist” and a “Nazi” (simultaneously! that’s a neat trick).

But what Belien actually says in the post, which Johnson himself quotes, is that Johnson

still adheres to the Stalinist (or Nazi) methods of the past. One of these Stalinist (or Nazi) principles is the principle of guilt by association.

So Belien did not say that Johnson is a Stalinist or Nazi. He was not engaging in substance-less, Charles Johnson-type name calling. He said Johnson uses Stalinist or Nazi methods, and he defined, in a de-limited way, what he means by such methods. Thus he didn’t say (as Ralph Peters said about the leading Islam critics a year ago when he called them Nazi-like) that Johnson lusts to mass murder millions of people; he simply said that Johnson, in the manner of Nazis and Stalinists, seeks through the principle of guilt by association to destroy people’s reputations and turn them into pariahs.

Belien is apparently referring to the same thing I demonstrated yesterday, that Johnson, in purporting to discover what a person stands for, does not examine what the target has actually said. Instead, he hunts out the target’s associations, or, rather, he hunts out the target’s indirect associations, involving at least two degrees of separation, such as the fact that Belien was interviewed on the same Internet radio program on which David Duke was also interviewed, and on that basis Johnson pronounced a final, not-to-be appealed judgment upon Belien: “The more I look into what Brussels Journal really stands for, the more repugnant it seems,” a comment that in turn led Johnson’s numerous readership to wipe their hands of Belien as well.

Basically LGF seems to consist of Charles Johnson consigning people to oblivion on the basis of no facts and no arguments, followed by Johnson’s followers crying, “Yes, Charles, yes! LGF is the greatest website! I’m so proud to be at LGF!”, along with various other grunts and one-line ejaculations that convey no intelligible ideas but only assent. So there is the marginalization of the Outsider by the Leader, and the mindless banding together of followers around the Leader based on such marginalization of the Outsider. Sound familiar? I can’t say I have ever seen anything remotely resembling this kind of behavior at Brussels Journal. I have, however, seen it in abundance every time I’ve read “Little Green Footballs” in the few days that I’ve been perusing the site. Take a look at the current LGF thread, “The Mask Comes Off,” and see the mindless, mob quality of it.

In any case, Johnson evidently doesn’t know the difference between Belien’s saying that Johnson uses the Stalinist and Nazi method of ascribing guilt by association (which Belien did say, and which is true), and Belien’s saying that Johnson himself is a Stalinist or Nazi (which Belien did not say, and which is not true). Furthermore, since both Stalinists and Nazis used that method to marginalize and ostracize opponents, as Johnson himself does, the contradiction that Johnson purports to find in Belien’s comment (“how can I, Charles Johnson, be both a Stalinist and a Nazi?”) does not exist.

Furthermore, it would be absurd to say that Johnson is a Stalinist or a Nazi, because Johnson is a modern liberal, a person for whom non-discrimination is the highest value and discrimination the greatest sin. That’s why Johnson hates Vlaams Belang and Paul Belien so much. In seeking to preserve Europe from Islamization, VB and Belien argue that Muslims are not compatible with us and our civilization, and this, in Johnson’s view, makes VB and Belien creatures of darkness, enemies of society. Johnson’s belief on this point is pure liberal belief, not Nazi or Communist belief. Yet Johnson’s own example shows that liberals are fully capable of using Communist and Nazi methods to silence and expel non-liberals. And that is the main news in this whole brouhaha.

Johnson, ideologue that he is, is nothing if not hard-headed. Having just been reasonably accused by Belien of using the Stalinist and Nazi method of guilt by association, does Johnson lay off it? No, he does more of it:

Here’s an article by Paul Belien himself, published at the hard-core (some say extremist) anti-immigrant web site Anti-Immigration Party Banned In Belgium, by Paul Belien.

And Belien’s article was linked with approval at the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review, on a page full of other bizarre and antisemitic articles.

Nice company Paul Belien runs with.

First, notice the cowardly little device: “some say” that Vdare is extremist. Does Johnson himself say it is extremist? No, but he slyly lets his readers believe it is extremist, because of what unnamed others have said.

More remarkable is Johnson’s comment that Belien’s article was linked “with approval” at the Holocaust-denying Institute of Historical Review. What could the phrase “with approval” suggest to the average inattentive reader, other than that Belien personally gave his approval to IHR to link his article? What is Johnson’s basis for suggesting any connection between Belien and IHR? Does Johnson not know that the Web is free and that people can link anything on the Web that they want to link?

So, on the basis of the fact that Belien published an article at a website that “some say” is extremist, and the fact that a Holocaust-denying site linked Belien’s article, Johnson concludes, “Nice company Paul Belien runs with.” There’s the method of Johnson for you.

Finally, note that Johnson says nothing about the actual Belien article at Vdare—which, by the way, happens to be an excellent article (see below).

Johnson’s smears don’t stop with the totalitarian device of guilt by association. He also accuses Belien of launching “a disgusting attack on Bruce Bawer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and myself.” Let’s look again at Belien’s post and consider what this “disgusting attack” consists of. First, Belien quotes a November 1, 2007 comment by Bruce Bawer addressed to Johnson, in which Bawer supports Johnson’s attack on Vlaams Belang and refers to Belien and those who agree with him as “a bunch of little Euro-fascists.” Belien says nothing more about Bawer, either in the initial blog entry or the ensuing discussion. Belien simply quotes Bawer calling Belien a “little Euro-fascist,” and, for this, Johnson accuses Belien of a “disgusting attack on Bruce Bawer.”

Johnson’s weapon here, like his attribution of guilt by association, also comes from the armory of Stalin and Hitler. It is called the Big Lie, which consists of falsely ascribing to your target the wicked act that you are actually committing against him. In reality, Johnson’s ally Bawer has engaged in a disgusting attack on Belien; Belien quotes this attack; and Johnson calls Belien’s quotation of his ally Bawer a “disgusting attack” on Bawer.

And what is Belien’s next “disgusting attack”? Well, he quotes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the February 1, 2006 issue of the Flemish newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen (a quote I also discussed at VFR at the time). Ali said:

I would ban the VB [Vlaams Belang] because it hardly differs from the Hofstad group [a Jihadist terror network in the Netherlands, involved in the assassination of Theo van Gogh]. Though the VB members have not committed any violent crimes yet, they are just postponing them and waiting until they have an absolute majority. On many issues they have exactly the same opinions as the Muslim extremists: on the position of women, on the suppression of gays, on abortion. This way of thinking will lead straight to genocide.

That’s it. Belien doesn’t say anything about Ali. He simply quotes her statement that the Vlaams Belang’s thinking is genocidal and that “on many issues they have exactly the same opinions as the Muslim extremists.” Yet for Belien’s merely quoting Ali, Johnson says that Belien has engaged in a “disgusting attack” on Ali, and several of Johnson’s followers believe this and declare that they’ve had it with Paul Belien, this terrible person, this extremist with whom good people should have nothing to do.

As for Belien’s 2004 article, which Johnson suggests is very damaging to Belien, I had never read the piece before and it happens to be the most informative article I’ve ever seen about (1) Belgian history and the reasons for the Flemish-Walloon conflict; (2) the Belgian anti-racism laws under which Vlaams Blok, the predecessor of Vlaams Belang, was forced to disband; and (3) Vlaams Blok’s actual “offenses,” which, under Belgium’s anti-hate law, include not only any critical statement about Islam, but any association with anyone who says anything critical about Islam. Since Vlaams Blok leaders had criticized Islam (which is a hate crime), and since all members of Vlaams Blok by virtue of their membership in the party were associated with this hate crime and therefore could be charged with hate crimes themselves, the only way the entire party could avoid being charged as criminals was to disband the party.

Belgium’s anti-racism law sounds as though it could have been written by Charles Johnson himself.

Finally, in searching for something in the real world that would justify the attacks on Vlaams Belang, I read its platform at Wikipedia. Could someone tell me what is beyond the pale or racist here? What is even extreme? The party seems nationalist in the good and moral sense of the word, Christian in opposing abortion, and liberty-loving in opposing excessive state power. It sounds like a party that American conservatives ought naturally to support. But that hasn’t happened, has it? Instead, led by Charles Johnson, cop for the New World Order, an entire contingent of American “conservatives” is attacking the Vlaams Belang leaders and their defender Paul Belien as extremist haters, without a single fact to back up the charge.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

A cop for the New World Order—that pretty much sums it up. Charles is a 9/11 “conservative,” intelligent enough to recognize the Islamic threat, but too weak-willed to lose the mountains of PC liberal baggage he carries. I believe he’s a musician by trade. Saw him on TV once, he’s a long-haired fellow, kind of looks like a stereotypical California surfer dude. I totally agree with your observation that his prominence is indicative of the sorry state of American conservatism today.

Mr. Anachronism writes:

One of the reasons that there appears to be such alarming uniformity of (stupid, semi-literate) response among the commenters at Little Green Footballs, may be that Charles Johnson tends to block the account of anyone who dares to disagree with him, or even knows more than he does. Recently timid Mr. Anachronism posted several messages there noting that Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Bat Ye’or, etc., had spoken at the same Counterjihad conference as fascist Dewinter and repugnant Belien, and wondering why, by Mr. Johnson’s own Rules of Guilt by Association, Mr. Johnson was not accordingly referring also to these esteemed personages as fascists and repugnants. Guess what? For this outrageous speculation, now Mr. Anachronism’s account at Little Green Footballs has been blocked!

LA replies:

Mr. Anachronism, nice to hear from you, it’s been a while.

According to his own rules, he blocks accounts for specific behaviors, like rudeness, silliness, profanity, etc. If you can nail it down that he closed you out just for asking a good question, that would be most interesting.

But on your larger point, that the suppression of any intelligent dissent at LGF results in vast conformity and brainlessness, it makes the regime of Johnson sound like, oh, like the regime of Bush and Podhoretz.

> Charles Johnson tends to block the account of anyone who dares to disagree with him, or even knows more than he does

Which immediately suggests the following:

At midnight, Charles Johnson
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do.

Terry Morris writes:

LGF must be the most unserious site I’ve ever visited. The posting of 800 plus comments to a single article, many of which, perhaps most of which (but how could a serious person know? how could any serious person wade through all of that?) are just mind-numbing worshipful one liners praising the supreme worthy and most high Charles Johnson. The site has a lot of cultic qualities to it. And apparently Johnson has decided it’s high time to rid himself and his loyal following of any and all dissenters who question the ingredients of his cocktail.

A reader writes:

A perfect example of the cult-like groupthink at LGF was when a poster wrote that he liked both LGF and the Brussels Journal and wished we could all get along. Of course he was viciously denounced—by people who until two weeks ago held Paul Belien in high esteem. It’s one thing for Charles “Dear Leader” Johnson to turn on a dime, but it truly is astonishing to see hundreds or thousands of his followers do the same. “We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

Laurie S. writes:

Indeed. LGF has increasingly become a site where bloggers look to see which way Charles’s wind is blowing, then scurry around in an attempt to see who can be his loudest cheerleader.

The level of discourse over there has dropped significantly the more that he has become personally involved on the comment threads. Step out of line too far, and you are subjected to the taunts and bullying of the cheerleaders, and ultimately you are hounded by Charles or plain-out banned. This fast and furious, widespread banning is a recent phenomenon, and is directly related to the Cult of Personality.

There is little patience for those who do not fall quickly into line. If one voices legitimate questions, particularly in regards to this Vlaam Belangs thing, one is labeled a Nazi sympathizer.

It’s interesting to see what I always regarded as left-wing tactics used on a so-called conservative blog.

If one cares to peruse the threads on this topic at LGF over the last couple of weeks, you will see that nowhere does Charles post about the ideas that actually came out of the forum in Belgium. He has distracted everyone from the positive, and tried to gain attention strictly on the basis of the negative. There is some legitimacy to the issue of white Nationalists and what they do to the larger anti-jihad movement. But the forum issues per se have been ignored, and I think it was deliberate choice on his part to go in that direction.

So now everyone at LGF is in a mad scurry to prove a negative—“I am not racist.” (Because if you can’t prove it—Charles may ban you.)

Too bad. LGF has done a lot of good but now is fast becoming irrelevant. This didn’t have to happen.

Milos L. writes:

How long do you think before they attach the phrase “peace be upon him” whenever they write Charles’ name?

Mr. Anachronism writes:

Unfortunately I cannot find the actual post because I am not able any longer to load LGF. I merely receive an error message stating that the browser is unable to access the site. Is it really possible that Mr. Johnson has resorted to the almost insane act of banning my particular computer from opening his sacred web page? No, surely I am being paranoid….

In any case, you may easily believe that Mr. Anachronism’s message was neither rude, silly, nor profane. I merely pointed out that by Mr. Johnson’s own standards, he himself must be regarded as fascist/repugnant because he had failed to anathematize Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, and Bat Ye’or for speaking at the Counterjihad conference with the incalculably evil Filip Dewinter and Paul Belien. And I added something about the Two Minutes Hate, and closed with some little mockery along the lines of, “Oh no—it’s the rat cage for you!”

Tell me—was this outrageous?

LA replies:

Alas, with the business of the rat cage and the two minutes hate, I don’t think we can say that he expelled you merely for asking a good question.

However, your argument is perfect:

“by Mr. Johnson’s own standards, he himself must be regarded as fascist/repugnant because he had failed to anathematize Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, and Bat Ye’or for speaking at the Counterjihad conference with the incalculably evil Filip Dewinter and Paul Belien.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 03, 2007 07:45 PM | Send

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