Saturday, January 23, 2010

The New York Times Exposes A Blogger Suffering From A Self-Inflicted Flame-War

Many of us knew that the New York Times would be publishing a feature article about a certain blogger this month. That his melodramatic flouncing away from “the right” would attract the attention of the New York Times was no surprise. What was surprising was how thorough the New York Times article was. It wasn't the "puff piece" that we had expected that blogger to get.

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.


  1. Finally got the banning stick from there this week- maybe 24 hours before that NYT article began to gain traction.

    I swore that I'd leave quietly and make a clean break, but that didn't lost the siren song of schadenfreude over the pony-tailed one's reaction to Scott Brown election was too much for me to resist. He penned a thread declaring that the evil, sinister forces behind the 'Tea Party' movement were soley responsible for the GOP winning what used to be Teddy Kennedy's seat in one of the bluest states in America. I challeneged him on that and his replies (that I was throwing out dumb strawman arguments) clearly showed that he knew nothing about politics of the electorate in Massachusetts. Playing on his paranoia, I also posted a tongue-in-cheek post procilaiming I discovered Scott Brown's a high-ranking member of a secretive, well-armed milita that's been historically known to skirmish with government forces and linked to the Massachusetts National Guard homepage. He said soemthing about his post hitting a raw nerve and I told him apparently Brown's election must've struck a nerve, too.

    Although I posted at CC under a nome de guerre, it wouldn't have taken alot of sleuthing to realize who I was, given that I posted to my own blog at both his site and more frequently at CC. Hell, my blog even got a hat-tip from 'mashed up bag of meat with makeup' [according to certian MSNBC 'personalities'] Michelle Malkin for sending her an item on some unions endorsing Brown, which is a big no-no in the husky one's increasingly isolated and lonely view.

    The only surprise is that it took this long for me to get the stick. Blocking my account as punishment is only effective for as long as I hold any value in having an account there. I suppose the easy thing to do is to blame the influx of neo-Koslings for the rapid downward spiral, but Charles is the one who allowed...hell...wanted it to happen.

  2. Hi Fenway Nation,


    I made my dash across no-man’s-land and slipped over the wall in early October of 2009.

    I haven’t been back, not even to see if I have been blocked.

    After his official “flounce” in November, I expected many others to climb over the wall for freedom as well. Some have. Others have not.

    Many of those that have remained may not leave it even though it now runs counter to who they were and what they supported when they first signed up. They have a large emotional investment in that place and it may be very tough for them to just let it go. They will have a hard time of it over the next couple years and that is unfortunate. I am hopeful that they will free themselves of it in time.

    And then there are those that are perfectly happy with what it has become.

    They can have it.

    A community can form around a blog but a community is not chained to it. Much of what that community was has been shattered, with some cast-out and others that have fled from it.

    The community that remains there may build anew or blow apart again as it meets the uncertainties of the future.

    We shall see.

    But I won’t watch.

    I am now done with it.


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It is an unfortunate fact of life that there are people out there in the wilds of the Internet that think it cute to post racist and Nazi garbage on other peoples websites. Some of these thugs are even enabled by people who should know better. In my opinion, both the thugs and their enablers are worse than spammers.

I have recently made enemies with a particular group of these people who have done just that on another website. I don't intend to make it easy for them to do that to me.

In light of that, comment moderation will be used here on this humble and very obscure little blog.

I will check in several times each day to approve appropriate comments.

For the most part, I will allow just about any type of comment except for spam and Kilgorian excrement.