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Meet the Former Right-Wing Blogger Who Realized Conservatives Are Crazy

Charles Johnson was among the nation's leading "anti-jihad" bloggers until he realized that his compatriots were totally nuts.

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CJ: Both her and Robert Spencer question who’s paying me. They have all kinds of conspiracy theories about who bought me out, and is that even really me anymore?

JH: It’s George Soros, right?

CJ: Of course! He’s always behind it. But really what they’re doing is trying to divert attention from the very real issues I bring up about the people they associate with. That’s the bottom line with those people. All these personal attacks are really an attempt to divert attention away from the facts.

JH: On some level, blogging communities do form. It must have been kind of nerve-racking to switch sides when you'd developed these allegiances in these ongoing blog wars. Did you have second thoughts? Were you worried about whether you would be villified?

CJ: Absolutely I had feelings like that. Emotionally, it wasn’t easy to go through all this stuff, but sometimes you have to and hopefully you come out the other side better. I’ve always looked at my blog not as something I wanted to be the most popular place. Believe it or not, I try not to do things that just make my blog more popular on purpose. What I try to do is be as honest, straightforward and factual as I can. That’s kind of always been my intent, and sometimes above and sometimes below the line. Whether a whole bunch of other bloggers suddenly stop linking to me or said bad things about me, I can’t let that influence what I do. It doesn’t make any sense, otherwise I won’t be doing it anymore.

JH: Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who studies the relationship between cognitive styles and ideology. He says that one of the attributes -- and he says it’s a positive attribute -- that conservatives display more prominently than liberals is loyalty. Loyalty is a good thing, but it has a dark side, which is tribalism. They’re more likely to have these tribal inclinations. I think you experienced what going against the tribe looks like first-hand.

CJ: That's evident in my Twitter timeline -- even in the last week, it’s been really nuts out there. I think it was Gandhi who said first they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win? They tried to ignore me, and now they’re going kind of in the mocking mode and graduating toward the attacking mode. Hopefully we’ll continue on with this analogy.

JH: The New York Times said you moved into a gated community because you were worried about these online threats. Is that true?

CJ: I’ve actually told other people that they kind of exaggerated that. They asked me what caused me to move into this gated community here. Really it was just that I found a nice place that happened to be in a gated community. It really wasn’t because I was worried about the threats, although I have had some threats, including one from a neo-Nazi who is a friend of blogger Stacy McCain. That was a concern, but it wasn’t the primary reason at all.

JH: Now what about the other side? From my perspective, once you shifted the focus of your writing I had no hesitation adding you to my RSS feed, and following you on Twitter. Were there people on the left who you'd tangled with in the past who had a harder time accepting you into their fold?

CJ: Absolutely. There have been one or two, but most people have been willing to just see where I’m at now and see what I’ve said about the stuff I wrote in the past. A lot of it I do regret, there’s no doubt about it. Hopefully all I can do is continue to do what I do, and be as straight and true to what I believe as possible.

 
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