The Ruse and Fail of Little Green Footballs: Part II – The AscendancePosted: September 21, 2012
This is Part 2 of a monograph about a blog named Little Green Footballs and its founder Charles Foster Johnson. Click the links below for related posts. They will be updated as the series continues.
Part 1 – Overview
Part 2 – The Ascendance of Charles Johnson and LGF
Part 3 – The Bannings
Part 4 – The Flounces
Part 5 – The Turnaround
Part 6 – Current Events & The Future Of LGF
Bonus track: Revisiting Rathergate
PART 2- THE ASCENDANCE OF CHARLES JOHNSON AND LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS
Thread Topics, National Recognition and Commenting
It cannot be disputed that Charles Johnson was once noted for exposing radical Islam in stories that were not broadcast or found on what is termed the “mainstream media.” Johnson found interesting and newsworthy stories that went under-reported or ignored by the MSM and opened them up for discussion. He was celebrated for exposing rampant anti-Semitism found on Arabic television, especially in children’s programming. He documented efforts by the United States and others to eradicate terrorism, both politically and militarily, often sporting headlines such as “Got Two in Gaza!” or “Got Four in Lebanon!” referring to the number of enemy combatants killed.
More to the point, Little Green Footballs was interesting to read simply as an observer. His blog members at the time included well-educated, well-read individuals from all walks of life – physicians, attorneys, editors, engineers, meteorologists, teachers and other professionals, with first hand knowledge of the various topics presented for discussion. Review the comments section of any thread prior to 2009 dealing with world and domestic affairs and you will find a treasure trove of links, research, first-hand experience and commentary that rivaled anything offered by the alphabet networks and cable news.
Johnson was propelled to national attention and prominence as a central figure in the scandal known as “Rathergate,” the fraud promoted by Dan Rather and CBS. Rather and CBS proffered forged Texas Air National Guard memoranda less than two months prior to the 2004 Presidential Election, in an effort to discredit President George W. Bush.
Johnson created a stunning visual aid (a simple.gif animation, referred to as “the throbbing memo”) that effectively illustrated the obvious forgery. Using the default settings in Microsoft Word, he created a perfect reproduction of CBS’s memos, right down to the word processing font and proportional spacing. However, the verification of the forgery had been posted 12 hours earlier at conservative on-line forum Free Republic, when “Buckhead” posted what has come to be called “the shot heard round the internet:
[8:59PM 8 September 2004]
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.
In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.
The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90’s. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn’t used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80’s used monospaced fonts.
I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.
This should be pursued aggressively.
Picked up by Powerline and others, it was Johnson’s posters that brought the story to Johnson – he didn’t go out and find it himself – yet he took the credit, and basked in the glory. Johnson created an effective illustration of the counterfeit memo – the smoking gun – and promoted it. Nothing more.
[A more recent study revealed that even Johnson’s “throbbing memo” was coopted from another blogger, Jeremy Chrysler, who posted it on his blog Pacetown. Johnson saw the .gif animation and merely duplicated it, even using the exact same page of the Killian forgery. Besides size and speed, the only significant difference between the two animations is a superscript, yet Johnson claimed the work as his own. –Ed]
To his credit, Johnson didn’t stop there. He went on to expose Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj for faking photographs of supposed IDF attacks on Beirut, garnering further international attention. Johnson made “Islamic Rage Boy” and “Green Helmet Man” laughing stock for those who mocked the Islamic propaganda of outlets like Al-Jazeera and the ineptitude/bias of the western Main Stream Media. (Think about it – when was the last time you saw Islamic Rage Boy or Green Helmet Man featured in a Reuters, Guardian or AP photo op?) This was Charles Johnson in his prime.
What is interesting is that during this period, you won’t find a lot of comments by Johnson within the forum of his own threads. Once a topic was thrown open for discussion, Johnson kept a very low profile. The posters steered the discussion and offered commentary, opinion, backup and links. Johnson rarely offered anything substantive to the threads; indeed his comments were often off-topic and unrelated to the ongoing discussion. An appearance by Johnson to comment on a topic was practically an event, and generated some excitement among those logged into the LGF community.
Charles Johnson “now” seems to be nothing more than an angry man. He rages against those who could only be described as members of a Nixon-style enemies list—the TEA Party, Andrew Breitbart, Dana Loesch, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Glenn Beck and anyone running for the GOP nomination. Heaven help you if you deny the existence of man-made global warming, believe in a God or an afterlife, oppose abortion as a contraceptive measure, or criticize Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Instead of posting threads chronicling the anti-Semitism of radical Islam, Johnson obsesses over his perceived racism of the “right wing.” All opposition to Obama is based on racism. All disparaging remarks about the possibility of imposition of Shari’a law in areas of the United States is founded on racism, despite the fact that religion, at least as philosophy, is not race based. To Johnson, ALL criticism of Islam is rooted in racism.
In Johnson’s view, even the ascendance of Herman Cain as a frontrunner in the GOP presidential primaries was a blatant attempt by the Republicans to “hide their racism.” Johnson was very clear when he described Cain as a “token” (a thinly veiled reference to the disparaging term “token negro”).
Johnson breaks no new ground in his thread content, yet at the same time he’s inconsistent. When Johnson develops antipathy for a subject, he doesn’t filter his response. He is passionate in his public dislike for Ron Paul and Andrew Breitbart, all well and good – he’s allowed to dislike whom he pleases. But his obsessive loathing borders on the maniacal.
It is not uncommon for Johnson to put up back-to-back posts on the same topic, with only hours between them, whether it’s about Ron Paul, Breitbart, Geller, religion, AGW or anyone and anything that absorbs him at the moment. It borders on obsessive-compulsive behavior. Once he’s chosen his target du jour he is relentless until something new diverts his attention. It’s also not unusual for the serial attacks to span weeks (and sometimes months in the cases of Geller and Breitbart). His compulsion to revisit old battles is cyclical, and he seems unable to let go and move on.
He is also apparently unable to admit error, and never issues retractions when proven wrong. A prime example was during the scandal known as Weinergate. Johnson became convinced Andrew Breitbart was “framing” U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner and posted numerous threads in one week castigating Breitbart. Even when confronted with undeniable evidence of Weiner’s malfeasance (including Weiner’s own admission of guilt) Johnson continued to hold Breitbart accountable for Weiner’s actions.
The Charles Johnson of today avoids debate by dismissing those who disagree with his world view with insulting snark and ad hominem attacks. He becomes rabidly hysterical at AGW skeptics, brushing away facts that contradict the pro-AGW position, and dismisses credentialed skeptics as anti-science hacks. This is a 180 degree reversal from his previous position.
Prior to 2009, he held Al Gore and his ravings up to scorn. But now he is a pro-AGW convert and will brook no opposition, even when confronted with evidence of manipulating the data and evidence that the earth is cooling. When asked about it he offers little more than “I read up on the subject and I changed my mind.” When cornered, his canned response is to provide self-referential links to Little Green Footballs, or more often to state “we’ve already covered that,” thus avoiding the argument. To sum it up, Charles Johnson is always right. Why? Because.
But more significant are his pathetic attempts at reinstating his former glory as a national figure.
In November 2009, relatively ignored by the left-wing blogs and de-linked from conservative sites due to his vitriolic personal attacks, Johnson published his tome “Why I Parted Ways With the Right.” It was a list of ten talking points, long on hyperbole and short on cogency and fact. While Johnson’s motives for such a public statement remain unclear, Robert Stacy McCain, former blogging ally, offers his own analysis:
“Exactly what prompted this? Why this? Why now? Your guess is as good as mine.
No, that’s wrong. My guess is probably much better than yours, because I followed the whole thing—LGF and the Madness of King Charles—back to its roots. So far as can be determined, CJ’s descent into madness began when Johnson attacked Pamela Geller for her attendance at the October 2007 Brussels conference.
CJ kept up the attacks, which expanded to include Jihad Watch, Gates of Vienna, Diana West and others—serially throwing them under his Little Green Bus—but the rest of the conservative blogosphere tried to ignore it. Shortly before the 2008 election, CJ declared Robert Spencer of JihadWatch unlinkable.”
And there would be more room under the bus.
Since January 2009, Johnson has made room for Victor Davis Hansen, Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell, among others, labeling them idiots with little or no factual rebuttal. You may not agree with any of the aforementioned people on the basis of ideology, but they are learned and published men. For Johnson, lacking any recognized credentials or expertise, to call them idiots is patently absurd.
Whatever Johnson’s motives, it was entirely unnecessary. Other than a quick traffic spike, or a plea from Dennis Prager for Johnson to return to the fold, the lasting result of Johnson’s diatribe was that the right essentially told him not to let the door smack his ass on the way out. Meanwhile, many liberal blogs chuckled to themselves about The New Charles Johnson, because they remembered The Old Charles Johnson. Johnson earned his reputation for burning bridges, and now he’s burned both ends.
There has been conjecture that the number of comments Johnson posted on his own threads reflected his change of politics. In the years of 2005 and 2006, Johnson averaged 69 comments on Little Green Footballs per month. By 2007, the number jumped to 435; in 2008 to 733. In 2009 (the year of his pivotal announcement rejecting the right wing) he opined in no less than 15,789 comments, 1,316 per month, an increase of 170% from the prior year, and a whopping 300% increase from his commenting frequency in 2007. There is no doubt that something significant happened to Charles Johnson during the epiphany that steered him away from conservative politics, and we’re not going to guess.
An interesting analysis was made by an apolitical group of internet sleuths known as The Boiler Room Crew. Collecting and comparing statistical data directly from Little Green Footballs, they produced statistics and graphs that illustrate a correlation.
In 2011, he averaged more than 450 comments per month. But the real problem here is not that Charles comments, it is that he brings no special erudition to the table, no real insight or analysis. And his new, progressive members fall in step behind him. Gone are the multi-paragraph posts bulging with research; gone is the debate of different points of view. Why? This brings us to the second factor in LGF’s decline – The Bannings.
[Caveat: In no way is this monograph comprehensive, nor is it intended to defame or otherwise impugn Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs or anyone associated with any blog. Any and all conjecture should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer. This is not Wikipedia; however, if any readers find fault with this monograph, please leave comments with verifiable backup and we’ll correct factual errors.]
[Coming up: Part 3 – The Bannings]
 Killian Documents Controversy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy
 Johnson’s “throbbing memo” .gif animation may be viewed at Wkipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy
 Pacetown archive via The WayBack Machine. http://web.archive.org/web/20041027160435/http://www.spacetownusa.com/archive/2004_09_05_blogarchive.html
 “Revisiting Rathergate”, Diary of Daedalus, 4 June 2012 http://diaryofdaedalus.com/2012/06/04/revisiting-rathergate/
 This series predates the untimely demise of Andrew Breitbart who passed away on 1 March 2012.
 McCain, Robert Stacy, “Charles Johnson Parts Ways With Reality,” The Other McCain website. http://rsmccain.blogspot.com/2009/12/charles-johnson-parts-ways-with-reality.html
 Prager, Dennis, “An Open Letter to Charles Johnson,” Frontpage website. http://frontpagemag.com/2010/01/26/an-open-letter-to-charles-johnson/
[Updated links and title. –Ed]