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LGF: A Brief Analysis

May 7th, 2009 by Chuck · 8 Comments · Culture

Charles Johnson does a lot of good things at Little Green Footballs.  His anti-jihadist stance since 9/11 has been consistently good.  His criticism of creationism/Intelligent Design has been excellent.  And his criticism of making alliances with racist/fascist parties in the war against the jihadists has also been good.

But there are also serious flaws in his philosophy.  Seeing that Republicans have become too dominated by religion, his solution is for Republicans to become  “moderates.”   He uses other anti-concepts like “extremist” with reckless abandon.   And when Republicans begin to show interest in rational economic ideas, such as sound money and abolishing the Fed, Johnson chastises them for their interest in such “weird economic ideas.”   In other words, Johnson is an anti-capitalist.  He described himself as “center/left” before 9/11, so his anti-capitalist views are no surprise. 

I’m not suggesting LGF isn’t worth visiting, because it is.  I go there every day.  Just keep in mind his philosophical views when reading his more political posts.

8 Comments so far ↓

  • Myrhaf

    I read somewhere that Ayn Rand once observed something to the effect that former leftists who become neoconservatives never completely abandon their statism.

    Converts from the left are usually good at advocating a strong national defense — as in the 9/11 conservatives — but when it comes to capitalism and the free market, the best they can give it is two cheers.

  • Madmax

    “as in the 9/11 conservatives”

    Excellent expression Myrhaf. That’s what Johnson is, a 9/11 conservative, and that’s all he is. I started to get really turned off by him when I sensed that his criticism of Ron Paul is largely because Paul advocates pro-capitalist ideas (he doesn’t really but that is the way he is perceived).

    Johnson is at root still an altruist, just an altruist that prefers a centrist altruism to that of the far left. And I have heard Bill O’reily refer to LGF as a “far Right” website. If Charles Johnson is “far Right” what does that make Pat Buchanan or Larry Auster?

    BTW, I would bet money that Johnson will be critical of the Ayn Rand Institute one of these days. In Yaron Brook’s latest interview with Pajamas Media, he advocating “crushing” Iran and that Israel should “crush” the Palestinians. That was music to my ears but I bet someone like Johnson would call that a call for genocide. The anti-ARI LGF post is coming down the pipe. I’d bet money on it.

  • Jim May

    Charles Johnson is militantly centrist. The tell-tale is the fact that “extremism” is his biggest bogeyman, and that he clings to the absurd concept that the political spectrum is not a spectrum, but a circle.. and yet is still valid.

    He won’t wise up to the fact that if the spectrum is indeed bent around like that, it’s broken… or it’s a trap.

    I too wonder how long it’s going to be before he decides to cotton onto the fact that Ayn Rand and Objectivists — including Amit Ghate, whom he’s linked approvingly twice — are also “extremists”.

    “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” — Barry Goldwater

  • Jim May

    That being said, in the context of the LGF post Chuck linked under “moderates”, I should add that Johnson did link Paul Hsieh’s earlier Denver Post editorial on why the GOP lost his vote.

    Based on that, I would predict that Johnson, if cornered, might attempt to deny that the advocacy of individual rights is “extreme”. I’d bet that he would attempt to push the notion that “extremism” pertains to extremism of means, e.g. acts of violence, insurrection and/or war — as distinguished from those who attempt to effect positive change towards a goal (in our case, laissez-faire) by means of persuasion, “within the system”.

    By this standard, Objectivists are not “extremists” in the manner that many are.

    Has anyone thought simply to *ask* Charles what exactly he thinks an extremist is? And why it’s a bad thing? Every time I think I’d like to ask, the given post on LGF already has a huge number of comments, so I’ve not done it yet. I also don’t know if he ever did post something answering that question.

  • Jim May

    Lastly, I would not agree that he is an “anti-capitalist”; rather, I’d say that he’s a statist-by-default in the exceedingly common manner of the militant centrist who operates in the context of modern political “science” and economics without considering the possibility that these fields, unlike the “hard” sciences, are dominated by “schools” of thought which are completely corrupt to the root.

    His opposition to the gold standard, for example, is likely based on the straw man concept of such which is canon in “mainstream” economics…. in much the same way that his militant political centrism follows from mainstream political “science”.

    That context does not permit him to contemplate the very real possibility that today, it is the mainstream which is politically and economically insane.

  • Chuck

    I’m not registered on LGF, but I did send him a message through his contact form about his use of “extremism,” and his calling the Nazis right-wing, rather than left-wing. And I used the Barry Goldwater quote you used above.

    No response. I did see a later post in which he mentioned, or someone mentioned in the comments, that they view the Nazis as right wing because of their nationalism. Evidently their socialism is not relevant.

  • Jim May

    Something I’d like to expand upon:

    “Center-left” was the expected political position of well-educated people, who are as much into science as CJ is, during the 1970’s. Back then, religion was a weak player and the 1960’s hippies were still seen by the mainstream as a “fringe element” rather than what Ayn Rand said they were — the logical expression of incipient trends in America, in particular on the Left.

    In that context, those who believed in reason or at least “common sense” but who did not think outside of the “box” of conventional politics, center-left was the position that seemed most consistent with their existing worldview. I think CJ is about a decade older than me, so I expect that this is indeed the context in which he operates. (As I was rather precocious as a kid, I can say that I understand that context from direct experience of the intellectual milieu from when I was 10 years old into my early teens).

    Now, remember that a key part of this worldview is trust in intellectual division-of-labor. It makes sense to someone like this, to expect that the dominant schools of thought in all fields *earned* that position; it makes sense to him that the professors in the economics departments are just as sincere as the ones in the physics departments.

    In that view, for someone who lacks the specialist knowledge, but respects it in such a context as I describe above, to dismiss mainstream economics as gold bugs do, is as idiotic as to dismiss mainstream biology as the creationists do. The idea that such fields as psychology, economics and political science are dominated by schools of thought which are completely wrong, would be a betrayal of their intellectual trust, an enormity that is simply inconceivable to them.

    Today, things are different. Center-left is no longer the default it once was; center-right is where I find the most sensible mainstream people today, on average (my usual example of such is Glenn Reynolds, though I’d consider his “mainstream” status arguable). Those like CJ are fragmenting; some have moved rightward, as he did; some remain on the left, sacrificing their grip on reality; and many just bow out in befuddlement, wondering when the lunatics (the 1960’s hippies) took over their asylum.

    These are the people from whom the “9/11 conservatives” originate; this migration from Left to Right has been going on since the 1960’s, as the “old-guard liberals” began to realize that they had become dinosaurs in their own party; all the incoming “new blood” of the Democratic Party were socialists at root. The year 2000 marks the point where the last of them with any influence were gone.

    The logic of ideas will eventually force CJ to face down the contradictions and flaws in his approach, that originate in his basic assumptions. In light of his awareness of the need for logic and consistency — as demonstrated in his recognition that radical Islam and creationists both embody what is at a certain level the same kind of crazy — I say it could happen soon, at anytime.

    But it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll go. The “extremism” error is *fundamental* to his worldview; he thinks that the problem with creationists is that they are extreme, not that they are religious; this leads him to make the fatal Kantian mistake that religion and science are commensurable.

    That’s no small thing.

  • Madmax


    Great analysis of CJ and centrism. Many pearls of wisdom in there. Johnson is infected with pragmatism like the rest of the culture and I’d bet he views “ideology” as the problem.

    It seems that both the left and right attack ideology. The left attacks it from the grounds of skepticism – “there are no principles” – and the right attacks it from the grounds of mysticism -“any secular thought system will rely on the myth of the unaided intellect and thus can not arrive at spiritual truth.” This makes it so hard for Objectivists because not only do we champion ideology, but we champion an ideology that comes from outside the university system. Therefore we must be crazy. Sigh…