Meet the Former Right-Wing Blogger Who Realized Conservatives Are Crazy
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For years, Charles Johnson was a prominent right-wing “war-blogger.” On his site, Little Green Footballs, he coined the term “anti-idiotarian,” wrote frequently of a “leftist-Islamist axis,” called Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas “a fanatical, deadly enemy of Western civilization” and inspired the hawkish Israeli journalist Gil Ronen to gush, “If anyone ever compiles a list of Internet sites that contribute to Israel’s public relations effort, Johnson's site will probably come in first, far above the Israeli Foreign Ministry's site.” His comments section became an infamous hotbed of xenophobia and wingnuttery.
That was then and this is now. Visit LGF today, and you'll find posts decrying his former fellow travelers' knee-jerk Islamophobia, debunking the Breitbrats' steaming piles of nonsense and defending the Obama administration against scurrilous charges from Fox News. Johnson has undergone a remarkable political transformation over the past five years, but it didn't come without a cost; he is now among the top targets of the right blogosphere – an apostate drawing an enormous amount of venom from people he once considered his allies.
This week, Charles Johnson appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour. Below is a lightly edited transcript (you can listen to the whole show here).
Joshua Holland: Charles, I’ll be honest, I used to find you kind of terrifying. Not in a personal way, but as a prominent member of this group of so-called war bloggers. You were prominent in that group. You co-founded Pajamas Media and you were widely credited with helping to bring down Dan Rather after he reported on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service. You used to be really filled with Islamophobia and xenophobia. James Wolcott of Vanity Fair once compared your site to “a disorganized Nuremberg rally.”
Charles Johnson: Yeah, I’ve heard worse. That’s a fair enough description. If you actually go back before the 9/11 attacks and read what I wrote on my blog you’ll find that I actually was never what you’d think of as a right-winger at all.
JH: You were always kind of an anachronistic right-wing blogger. You’re a highly accomplished jazz guitarist; you always seemed to care about the environment. What were your politics like on September 10 or during the Clinton years?
CJ: My politics in one sense didn't change because even when I started to be more associated with right-wing blogs and that whole milieu I was still what you call a social liberal. I never went in for the religious right stuff. In fact the rising importance and power of those kind of people in the Republican Party is one of the reasons why I finally had to just go elsewhere.
JH: September 11th was a traumatic experience for the entire country. We all felt that way. Is it fair to say that you kind of snapped?
CJ: In a sense I guess you can say that. It hit me really hard. I grew up in New York and I was actually interested in architecture, so I followed the construction of the World Trade Center. It helped that I had a really personal connection to the area. It hit me really hard.
I don’t know if I snapped so much as I really wanted to know more about what was going on. I tend to focus real intensely on things when I get interested. That’s what happened with the blog. I focused on fundamentalist Islam and radical Islam. Over the years I began to be involved with people like Robert Spencer and Frank Gaffney. If I had known some of the things I know about them now I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been associated with them, but you live and you learn, I guess.