Johnathon Dee of the New York Times gets much right about how the fracas spun out of control.
It was a kind of orgy of delinking, an intentionally set brush fire meant to clear the psychic area around Johnson and ensure that no one would connect him to anyone else, period, unless he first said it was O.K. No one would define Johnson’s allegiances but Johnson. Of course, much of this was accomplished by the very methods he felt so threatened by: a kind of six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon approach to political rectitude, in which the existence of even a search-engine-generated connection between two people anywhere in the world implied a mutual back-scratching, an ideological partnership. It was unfair and simplistic and petulant, but it also seems to have achieved its goal. Very few people on the right want to be linked with Charles Johnson anymore.
I sure don't. I won't link to him. I don't even like having his or his blog's name mentioned here in these quotes.
The following paragraph is essential to understanding how that place devolved into what it has become. I am very surprised that Johnathon Dee included it. I am grateful that he did.
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.
That place got freaky weird.
Cults and abusive spouses threaten their victims with being cast-out. They will tell their victims, and it will be echoed by their enablers, that they would be nothing without their leader/spouse. They are also slowly but then thoroughly isolated from friends and relatives outside the group/family. Even speaking to or associating with casual acquaintances or strangers on the outside is discouraged and sometimes even forbidden.
These are powerful tools of control. As you can see from what Johnathon Dee describes, those tools were evident in their use, even if their named intent was for something else. When these methods start out small and grow in their utilization over time, the victim may not even recognize that they are being manipulated in this way. They become like the frogs sitting in a pan of cool water with the heat set on low.
But . . .
This is the internet . . .
I would never have thought such relationships could be made on the web.
Now I am certain that they can.
I used to think that internet cults were an impossibility.
Now I believe that they are possible and even real.