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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charles Johnson and Robert Stacy McCain

When I first started this blog just under a year ago, I was ignorant of who was who in the blogosphere. Believe it or not, Memeorandum is not the world.

But I did know about Little Green Footballs. I'm not sure why.

Over the months, it became obvious that no one provokes or responds to blog wars better (or worse, depending on your perspective) than Charles Johnson who runs LGF. Given the legend of "don't cross Charles Johnson" I stayed out of those things because ... who cares and what's the point?

But the blog war started yesterday by LGF against Robert Stacy McCain of The Other McCain deserves comment.

Robert Stacy McCain is someone I never have met or even spoken with, but I do read his blog, some of his posts at American Spectator, and sometimes we link to each other's posts. I have not devoted my life to studying McCain's life or writings; rather, in college I studied Bolshevism and other "isms" which remain fashionable among the Left in America in substance if not name.

So imagine my surprise to read yesterday that LGF has declared McCain to be a racist and white supremacist. McCain's responses are here, here and here (and multiplying by the hour)[added: something of a summation here]. But Johnson's post didn't ring true to me for several reasons independent of McCain's responses.

First, nothing I had read over the past year written by McCain supported such a conclusion.

Second, the snippets of sentences and clauses quoted in Johnson's post smelled like the type of truncated, piecemeal plucking of words out of context which is de rigeur these days when the race card is to be played.

It reminded me of a screen shot Johnson posted when Barack Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, purporting to show George Bush also bowing to the Saudi King. In fact, as I posted at the time, the screen shot was deceptive because it did not reflect that Bush was bowing, but merely lowering his head to have a medal placed around his neck. Johnson later changed the post text to reflect the medal placement, without acknowledging what had been done.

A small incident, perhaps, but the point is that what you see in a snippet or out of context not always is accurate or fair.

Third, so much of the charge revolved around guilt by association. Not the "you sat in his church for 20 years" type of association Barack Obama had with Jeremiah Wright. The "you write articles for a magazine, the owner of which" .... blah blah blah. Or you linked to someone who once did this or that.

Guilt by linkage hardly persuades me of anything. I mean, I have linked to LGF and The Other McCain, so what does that make me?

Fourth, the LGF attack appeared to be payback for McCain's defense of Pam Geller when LGF attacked her. Payback attacks always are suspicious.

Last for this post, but not necessarily least, the attack does seem to reflect what McCain calls "anti-Southern prejudice, especially among the intellectual elite." We do not treat the history and cultures of ancient Egypt, various modern North African Arab ethnic groups, various black African tribes, the Europeans, and others, all of whom owned or traded in slaves, as being restricted to that history of slave ownership and racism.

But the "South" has become political. Having gone through Northeastern liberal public schools, college and law school, I know almost nothing about the history and culture of the South other than slavery and segregation.

In the last 40 years, as the South moved from Democratic to Republican, the equation of racism with Southern Republicans has been pounded into the heads of multiple generations even though the segregationists mostly were Democrats. How many 20-somethings do you think are aware that George Wallace was a Democrat and was shot while running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party?

The point is not that we should not acknowledge and own up to the negative aspects of the history of the South. We have spent the past half-century trying to make amends and deal with the fall out, and should continue to do so. But to equate pride in one's Southern heritage with being a racist is not fair unless there is something more. And there doesn't seem to be "more" in the case of Robert Stacy McCain, or if there is, Charles Johnson hasn't made the case.

I detest the use of the race card in American politics and on the blogosphere. As I have said before, "suppression of legitimate political expression through false accusations of racism" is the defining theme to emerge from the 2008 political campaign. We see it every day, even when we debate health care.

With good reason, being tagged a racist is about as damaging a tag as exists because the damage is caused once the accusation is made.

And that is the point. If you want to ruin someone's reputation, just keep posting the words "racist" in close proximity to their name on the internet so that web search engines associate the person and the accusation. That is what some people tried to do to Glenn Beck recently by making accusations of past criminal conduct in the form of a question for the very purpose of influencing Google and other search engines.

The false accusation of racism is a despicable tactic. It damages the person against whom it is made and the victims of true racism.

And that is why I felt it necessary to speak up this time.

Related Posts
Health Care Race Card Played From Bottom of Deck
Saturday Night Card Game
"Race" As Political Weapon

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  1. Bravo ... no need to say more...

  2. Ah..the flip side is of course is that if you call racism on every little thing then at some point it will become diluted. Just like the boy who cried wolf, no one will believe it. I also believe that it is generational. These legacy organizations such as the NAACP continue to resort to the tactics of the 60's without realizing that the world has moved on. There is a whole generation of African Americans who have grown up middle class, went to school and so forth who frankly dont know what the NAACP is talking about. On a side note...I agree with the whole out of context argument that blogs so easily fall into when debating. Here is the most recent example I think will pop up in the next few days.

  3. While we do have him to thank for de-authenticating the Rathergate documents, Charles Johnson seems to have gotten weird over the past 6 months or so. It's almost like he has a strange sine qua non to be non-conformist to any one group or association at all costs. Over the past month, for example, he has been saying Palin "lied" with her "death panels" comments, without showing how, exactly, she "lied". But he has also been saying there is "no proof" that Van Jones was a truther, because to Johnson, Jones's signature on the 911truth petition (nor some of Jones's earlier statements about 9-11) is nowhere near "proof" he actually believed 9-11 was an inside job. (Johnson contends truthers have lied to potential petition signers in the past in order to garner their support/signature). I posted a challenge to Johnson to prove whether Palin's claims about "death panels" were if fact a lie, asking him to apply the same standard of guilt to Palin as he had applied to Van Jones. Instead of responding, he deleted my post and deleted my account. He routinely deletes posts and deletes accounts in this fashion; one suspects his censorship of his readers is what probably catalyzed the Little Green Footballs 2 website.

    For fun, head over to LGF and read around in the comments; you'll notice right away how there are very few dissenting or combative voices, but plenty of weird, sycophantic ones where Charles Johnson is often treated like some kind of diety. Does it mean Johnson is automatically wrong in this blog war? No. Does it mean that anything Charles Johnson says should be viewed in context of the overall kind of blogger he continually demonstrates himself to be? I'd say yes, absolutely.

  4. The immediate liberal response to anything they don't have an answer for is, "YOU'RE A RACIST!"

    It's moot in my opinion.

  5. As a reformed left-liberal, I can attest to the power of using the Race Card in shutting up the enemy. It worked for years. Now...not so much. Like Nazi, fascist, and Hitler analogies, racist is just a word. Too bad, really. There is real racism out there; its use nowadays seems...I dunno...pathetic, empty...even desperate.

    Fr. Philip

  6. Excellent post. I have known McCain for fifteen years and have some insight into the slanders against him. I can assure you that McCain is not remotely "racist" or white-supremacist. He is fine man who has in the past spoken out against racism and defended blacks against racial slurs. I don't want to promote my blog on your site, but if you are interested, check out my post "I know Robert Stacy McCain better than Charles Johnson."

  7. The irony in the racist tag, which is generally afforded to "conservatives" by "liberals," is that the Republican party has been the party of colorblindness for decades. Obviously it would be misleading to suggest that the modern Democratic party has a direct link to the segregationists, but the concept of central treatment of one race differently than another is one of the pillars of the Democratic platform (esp. affirmative action and similar policies).

  8. I looked at the links that Charles provided, and the only damning quotations attributed to RSM are the following:

    "[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us."

    That's from New York Press, and there's no link to where he got that quote.

    Then there's this from the extremely unreliable Southern Poverty Law Center, again with no source:

    Or, as LOS [League of the South] member and Washington Times national reporter Robert Stacy McCain says in an essay posted on the League’s main site, slavery was 'generally' characterized by 'cordial and affectionate relations between white and black Southerners.'"

    As for the first quote, which has been circulated throughout the internet, this entry at AllExperts quotes RSM as roundly denying having said that thing.

    The provenance of the second quote is dubious as well. They allege that he said these things on white supremacist web sites that no longer exist, so hey, allege away!

  9. "Guilt by linkage hardly persuades me of anything. I mean, I have linked to LGF and The Other McCain, so what does that make me?"

    Uhhh, a self hating racist.

  10. dicentra,
    Having read two books on the history of American slavery, I can attest to the accuracy of whoever commented on cordial relations between master and slave being common in the ante-bellum South. During the Great Depression the Writer’s Project was part of the WPA and many former slaves were interviewed and their testimony written down. They, the former slaves, are the ones who described this politically incorrect truth. If something is factually true, it cannot be “racist.”

    There was a practical reason (as well as a humanitarian one) for being kind to the slaves: happy slaves were more productive and did not try to run away.

    Whether McCain ever said it or not is irrelevant. Web sources attribute the remark to one that McCain allegedly stated in a speech to Sons of Confederate Veterans.

    The first comment on interracial marriage was spoken by Michael Hill, President of the League of the South. It was misattributed to McCain and other bloggers, including CJ at LGF, repeated it, as did the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have been friends with McCain for 15 years and he has always known that I am in an interracial marriage. It is highly doubtful that McCain cares who marries whom (as long as they are of the opposite sex).

  11. Johnson has also bitterly attacked Robert Spencer, who defended himself reasonably and sufficiently...but that did not satisfy CJ. His accusations are getting wilder and less rational almost daily. He has a problem.

  12. I have not read Little Green Footballs for more than 3 years. The reason is that I think that Charles Johnson crossed the line over a religious matter. Put it this way, I am Catholic and during my education I learned about both Genesis and evolution at my Catholic school. One was taught in the religion class and the other was taught during science. I happen to think that there is room for both within a school system - in other words I am not against the teaching of Intelligent Design so long as the theory of Evolution is taught at the same time. That way the children get what an expanded view rather than the narrow view of one explanation or the other. What I found is that Charles Johnson was going well and truly over the top in his comments, so I stopped reading Little Green Footballs. There are better blogs around than his.

    One of those better blogs is McCain's blog. I only came across his writings this year, and I have never found anything that is remotely racist. In fact, I could never see how stating the fact that in most cases (there were exceptions) the Southern master and slave relationship was cordial rather than acrimonious is wrong.

    I see this from the point of view as an outsider, therefore I think it is important to point out that the KKK was started by a Democrat, not by the Republicans. It was George Wallace who tried to prevent black students entering the premises of a university, and as you stated George Wallace ran as a Democrat candidate for the Presidency. He was well known for his racism - very well known.

    Charles Johnson has written some good pieces in the past but these rants and attempted smears of others is the very reason why I will not read his blog.

  13. I notice by the comments that I'm not the only one who noticed LGF coming off the rails. It started with the creationist wars. Apparently, Johnson is hellbent on proving anything but creationist theory. While I'm not one, I do respect their point of view and said so on his blog adding as much as science has proven, there are still far more theory than fact when it comes to the origins of the universe. That got me banned. Still I tried to read his stuff but noticed it became odder and odder.

    I stopped going there almost a year ago, changing to HOTAIR, gateway and sites like this one.

    Hey, look people go goofy for all kinds of reasons. I spent twenty years as a cop watching it happen over and over. CJ is like the character in the Batman movie when he was hit with his own gas. "Dr Crane is not in right now,leave a message."

  14. Another post about the rapid decline of LGF. I believe that in his haste to distance himself from the conservative blog label, he has gone into full Kos mode.

    It's sad because he used to be essential reading, now he's just another kook who lies and distorts to make his half-baked points, and goes on full attack mode with his band of drooling sycophants against anyone who disagrees.

  15. Stogie, as much as appreciate your reply to dicentra, there's no need to "go there" in this context. What is important here is not the right or wrong of any particular argument about 19th century history, but rather whether a disposition to argue about such subjects constitutes evidence of "racism."

    Dicentra ought to note, however, the partial-quote tactic -- taking bits and pieces of a long historical polemic -- may indicate some distortion of the overall argument. Or may not, for that matter. I know that much of what I have written has been mischaracterized and that I've been accused of "contributing" to a white separatist site ("Reclaiming the South") to which I never contributed anything.

    Stogie, correct me if I'm wrong -- all evidence of that site having apparently disappeared since its proprietor's death -- wasn't that guy's name Todd Wheeler? And wasn't he from Marietta, Ga.? I hope I haven't got the wrong name, but basically the guy was disruptively pushing white-separatist arguments in a Southern heritage discussion, was argued against strongly by several of us (including myself and George Kalas) and decided to take his ball and go home.

    That's one thing that burns me up about all this -- when I lived in Georgia, I was known as an opponent of the very same doctrine that I'm now accused of advocating. And it seems that much of the evidence that might exculpate me has disappeared, while the same old smears are preserved in perpetuity by endless repetition.

    In fact, because the archived copies of my reporting at The Washington Times are not available online, the many news articles I wrote which would tend to the opposite conclusion -- e.g., my feature profile article about Angela McGlowan, author of Bamboozled -- are not even considered.

    Let me state very clearly that I believe people are entitled to hold opinions, or to subscribe to theories, that I strongly disagree with. It is when such opinions and theories are argued as the basis of policy that political debate begins. If some damned Yankee hates me merely for being Southern, that is his right. But if, by propagating such hatred, the damned Yankee proposes to injure my interests or infringe my rights, his anti-Southern bias becomes relative to the argument.

    It seems that some people cannot distinguish between an argument in favor of freedom of conscience and an argument in favor of whatever controversial opinion that requires the assertion of that freedom.


  16. Excellent article. Those who misuse the term " Racist" and throw it around so easily are guilty of watering the term down and making it weaker for those REAL cases of racism that do exist from time to time.

  17. LGF did a wonderful job during the Dan Rather affair however I have found little to praise it for since. It seems to have been hijacked by a cult of leftist radicals.

  18. LGF has definitely gone off the rails. I made a comment that one of CJ's quotes against Rick Perry was taking out of context and my account was gone with the wind. The man has no sense of humor.

  19. Stacy,

    The white supremacist's name was Dennis Wheeler. Surprisingly, he closed his site after I wrote to him and asked him to remove my name. I told him he could keep my arguments (which were against racism) but I didn't want anyone googling my name and finding it associated with his site, and then drawing false conclusions, i.e. that I agreed with his racial views. He wrote back and said the site had served its purpose and that he would simply close it.

    Dennis Wheeler copied a private listserv where we were having a vigorous debate over issues of racism and white supremacy. He then posted it on his racist website. He was so sure he had won the argument that he wanted other racists to see his grand polemics.

    You were one of the most vocal against racism and white supremacy, so how the SPLC could hang racism around your neck is really insane. In any case, it is clear that they saw your discussions (copied from the private listserv) on this website and drew the false conclusion that you had posted to that website. In reality, your posts were simply pasted to that website without your knowledge or permission (as were mine).

    Someone really needs to sue the asses of the SPLC and take away some of their hundreds of millions of dollars. They are reckless and despicable.

  20. I regularly read (and to a small degree participated as a commenter on) LGF before, during and after RatherGate. CJ was outstanding on RatherGate and on exposing and attacking Jihadists and Islamofascism. As with Andrew Sullivan, I left some time after the crank factor started growing too powerful and have not been back. He's banned some great people and attacked a lot of bloggers and others I respect.

    LGF has become the loonybin it was long accused of being. Maybe he fears becoming irrelevant these days, and in turn (like Brooks, Frum and others) is lashing out.

  21. Bravo. I saw the anti-Southern thing yesterday, when the estimable Taranto of WSJ's BOTW noted that Joe Wilson was a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans.