The article has one of my favorite quotes of recent weeks: “Gray, however, is not a popular shade on the Internet.”
Heh. You can say that again.
It’s actually an excellent piece and I recommend that you read the whole thing. This passage perfectly encapsulates what that place is like now:
[I]f 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.
If Comrade Charles says it, it must be right.
Here is another insightful and accurate passage:
THE QUESTIONING OF Johnson’s tactics started to come not just from without L.G.F. but also from within. Readers both casual and loyal spoke up in the comment threads to ask, sometimes diplomatically and sometimes not, whether all this casual flinging of epithets like “fascist” wasn’t maybe an overreaction. Johnson’s response, in thousands of cases, was to block their accounts and ban some of them from viewing the blog. “Get off my Web site” was a common farewell. (Johnson insists that this is not true — that no one has ever been banned from L.G.F. merely for disagreeing with him — but the anecdotal evidence to the contrary is voluminous, and the fact that the offending comments were instantly and permanently deleted makes it impossible to check others’ records against his.)
Yup. And I can testify to it.
Like many others, I was contacted by writer Jonathan Dee for the article. I gave him a lengthy set of quotes before Thanksgiving, but he wrote me last week to say they were all left on the cutting room floor. Probably just as well. I was critical of Charles in several ways, but I think I gave him the benefit of the doubt far too much. I hadn’t yet had my own experience of being banned for simply disagreeing with him.
Now I have.
You’re gonna go nuts when you see this next quote. The writer asks Johnson why he is turning on the right now. And Johnson replies:
It’s not that the war on terror has finished. It’s never going to be finished, but I think things have reached the point now where it’s not as pressing as it was.
Man. Charles Freaking Johnson saying the War on Terror isn’t that pressing.
There was a time when I would not have believed Johnson capable of saying something like that.
But what about Captain Underpants on Christmas Day?
Though our conversation took place in the fall, he told me in a subsequent e-mail message that the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing “doesn’t change my opinion about that.”
No, of course not.
Nice, nice job by writer Jonathan Dee. Go read it all.
UPDATE: I’m told that writer Jonathan Dee was just banned at LGF.
UPDATE x2: Johnson gets considerably kinder, more naive, and less accurate treatment from Barrett Brown at Vanity Fair.
UPDATE x3: Heh. Charles claims he got slammed in the New York Times due to his fearless attacks on their reporting over the years. Hahahahahahahaha.