The New Clarion

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LGF

By Myrhaf · September 20th, 2009 9:26 am · 21 Comments ·

Right Wing News, Daily Pundit, and other eminentoes of the conservative blogosphere have criticized Charles Johnson (or dropped him from their blogrolls), whose Little Green Footballs blog used to be as important as any. Johnson has taken more and more to attacking the religious right and such conservative stars as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck. He also wages a campaign against the Tea Party movement because some of the protesters are racists, gun nuts, birthers and religious fundamentalists who believe Barack Obama is the Antichrist.

It’s not easy to untangle it all — at least not for me; if you have it figured out, please comment. Like some of the people Johnson attacks, he is a mixture of good and bad. The good is that he is an atheist who exposes the nuttiness of the religious right. The bad is that he looks like the Rockefeller Republicans of old — those trembling conformists who sneered at any conservative who stood on principle as “extremist.”

With something like the Tea Party movement, you have to evaluate whether the bad signs represent the essence of the movement or even a large percentage of it. All the speakers I have heard have talked about individual rights, more liberty and smaller government. If you’re going to show the racist and religious nutty signs, justice demands that you keep them in context. The Tea Party movement is not fundamentally about religion or race. If it ever becomes about those things, then it will self-destruct as all the sane people leave. I think Johnson has been unfair here. In a crowd of 70,000, you will get some stupid signs.

Charles Johnson attacked Glenn Beck.

I don’t know if he’s necessarily going to incite violence, but I do think it’s irresponsible. It kind of drags down the discourse to a level that I, for one, am not comfortable with.

And:

TIME Magazine’s David Von Drehle asks: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?

I don’t know why anyone would think a far right populist demagogue who rants and weeps in front of millions of people and spreads conspiracy theories straight out of the canon of the John Birch Society would be a bad thing.

Johnson has persuaded me that Beck is a menace because the Fox News personality is promoting a bizarre book called “The 5,000 Year Leap.”

“Leap,” first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recasting the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by the French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah’s George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year’s annual fundraiser).

I have not read this book, but the last time I saw Beck he was arguing with Yaron Brook about God, so I’m done with Beck. Defending America with mysticism is the fastest path to the fascist dictatorship that makes Glenn Beck’s eyes tear up on national TV.

Beck’s response to Johnson is utterly wrong:

Quite honestly, it’s a destructive attempt to silence free speech. That’s something blogger Charles Johnson should know about, since he’s been called an anti-Muslim bigot by most of the same people that unfairly said the same things about me.

Johnson’s criticism does not threaten Beck’s free speech. Only the state can do that. Beck’s argument is the same one liberals make whenever they think their patriotism is impugned: “You’re judging me, so you’re violating my right to free speech.”

John Hawkins speculates on Johnson’s arc from conservative favorite to anti-conservative:

What happened to Charles Johnson? I don’t know. I think he has always been a little to the left-of-center and maybe because of that, he was never really comfortable with his almost universally conservative compatriots in the fight against radical Islam. Then, as the economy went in the toilet, the Dems rose to prominence, and the war on terror became less of an issue, he started to become much more outspoken about what he really thought.

I think the explanation is that Johnson is a 9/11 conservative. He was shocked by the events of September 11, 2001, and found himself allied with the right as he fought Islamic totalitarianism. Like most former liberals, he probably finds some form of welfare state inevitable — a metaphysical given, like the air we breathe — and does not understand free market principles.

Ayn Rand is supposed to have said about liberals who defect to the right that they never really change. (I forget where I heard that.) Whether she said it or not, it’s true: they never really change. They might be pro-American and anti-communist, but that certainly does not make them radicals for capitalism. They’re the ones who can only muster two cheers for capitalism. Sometimes I wonder if, in the long run, the moderate defenders of liberty are not greater threats than the Michael Moores and Barack Obamas of the world.

If Charles Johnson is mixed, so is America. I’m glad Johnson is on the case against the religious fundamentalists and their media allies such as Glenn Beck. I’ll keep reading him, though not without analyzing and judging him. But then, we should analyze and judge everything we read, and take nothing on faith or because we fear parting from the group-think.

UPDATE: Corrected a word. I wrote liberal, when I meant conservative. Nuance.

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Andrew Dalton // Sep 20, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I used to be on Charles Johnson’s side in the early controversies over the European Right. He was critical of bloggers who had decided to ally themselves with any self-professed “anti-jihad” groups without concern for their overall ideology. Many of those groups were actually racist, nationalist, anti-immigrant, or Christian partisans who wanted to curtail individual religious freedom.

    In the spring of 2008, the LGF blog had a bad run-in with Ron Paul supporters, who were spamming his online polls and posting nasty comments. Unfortunately, Ron Paul’s general craziness has tarred legitimate non-mainstream positions (such as criticizing the Federal Reserve and fiat money). I think that this experience is one of the factors leading to Johnson’s crusade against “extremism.”

    Now it appears that Charles Johnson is having splits with people (usually manifested by banning from the comments) over smaller and smaller disagreements. On other blogs, I’ve seen “I told you so” type comments from some of the original personae non gratae. The problem is that most of those early splits were justified; it’s the more recent ones that have become increasingly petty.

  • 2 TW // Sep 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    “Ayn Rand is supposed to have said about liberals who defect to the right that they never really change. (I forget where I heard that.) Whether she said it or not, it’s true: they never really change. They might be pro-American and anti-communist, but that certainly does not make them radicals for capitalism.”

    Did Ayn Rand say that? I would be very disappointed to learn that’s true. That statement is not in any way verifiable, and is highly questionable on its face.

  • 3 CloudyDay // Sep 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    The blog author wrote: “The good is that he [Charles Johnson] is an atheist who exposes the nuttiness of the religious right.”

    The problem is that normal Christians on the “religious right” (or of whatever political persuasion) are considered by Charles Johnson, and many militant atheists, to be “nuts.”

    Among characteristics one can expect to find in a genuine Christian is someone who shares his or her faith with others (and this might include public expression of the Christian faith); one who reads and believes the Bible; considers the Bible inerrant; and who believes in the Super Natural (this would include, but is not limited to, a belief in the literal and physical resurrection of Jesus).

    All of those traits are all perfectly *mainstream* and *normal*, but to someone who is very bitter about Christians and Christianity, anything beyond a private or lukewarm expression of one’s Christian faith is unfairly and inaccurately deemed “nutty.”

  • 4 Jim May // Sep 20, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    CJ has returned to what I understand to be the position he held before 9/11 (though I only understand that via hearsay, as I only became aware of LGF in 2004): a militant middleist. He’s dogmatically moderate. He’s an extreme centrist.

    Above all, he’s deeply vested in the notion of “extremism” as the root of all evil (extreme what? Blank out).

    He’s far more active in comments on his blog than he was in the old days, which is an index to some sort of change in himself. In 2004 he rarely commented at all.

    It’s disappointing to see — he ought to be sharp enough to see outside that little left-right box he’s stuck in… but he’s not.

    I’m not worried about it; there are plenty of wafflers in the world. CJ’s just intransigent about it.

    CloudyDay: Believing in talking snakes may very well be “mainstream”, but that does not alter the irrational nature of such beliefs. On the contrary: it establishes that crazy has gone mainstream.. and by necessary implication, reason is considered “crazy” because it’s on the fringe.

    It does not bode well for a culture or a nation when that happens.

  • 5 CloudyDay // Sep 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Jim May wrote,
    “CloudyDay: Believing in talking snakes may very well be “mainstream”, but that does not alter the irrational nature of such beliefs. On the contrary: it establishes that crazy has gone mainstream.. and by necessary implication, reason is considered “crazy” because it’s on the fringe.
    It does not bode well for a culture or a nation when that happens.”

    Christians and Christianity are not “anti reason,’ and /or “irrational.” Check out a branch of Christian thought called “apologetics.”

    As our nation was founded by people who believe in “talking snakes,” I think the nation turned out fairly well.

    Only someone with an ax to grind against Christianity would deny that the American founding fathers were either Christians themselves, held Judeo-Christian values and a Judeo-Christian world view, and were positively influenced by the Bible, or had a respect for it and/or its teachings.

    As recent polls and surveys have shown, many Americans are still theists, and out of those, many are still Christians. So you’re essentially trying to portray millions of Americans as being “crazy.”

    This nation’s rejection of Judeo-Christian values in favor of secularism (rejection of moral absolutes for one example) is one reason this nation has gone downhill in the past few decades.

  • 6 CloudyDay // Sep 20, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I think that “Jim May’s” post above actually proved my point in my first post here.

    It seems to me that some Non Christians would only tolerate or show respect to Christians who are not really Christian at all.

    If one claims to be a Christian but then proceeds to deny the hallmarks of the faith (the literal resurrection of Jesus, the inerrancy of the Bible and so forth), what one would end up with is essentially an atheist pretending to be a Christian.

    And it is precisely that variety of (nominal) Christian most non-theists and non-Christian would accept.

    A true, genuine Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, believes the Bible is inerrant, and who accepts the super natural aspects of the Bible (e.g. the “talking snake” stuff Jim was referring to).

    For the self-professing Christian who does believe in those things, he or she is referred to or thought of as “crazy,” “nutty” or is considered to be irrational or unreasonable.

  • 7 Curtis Plumb // Sep 21, 2009 at 1:49 am

    “Ayn Rand is supposed to have said about liberals who defect to the right that they never really change. (I forget where I heard that.) Whether she said it or not, it’s true: they never really change.”

    Unacceptable misquote.

  • 8 Mark V. Kormes // Sep 21, 2009 at 3:53 am

    I second Andrew Dalton and Jim May.

    I’d just like to add that almost everyone is stuck in the “left-right box” Mr. May mentioned. As such, the conservatives have fractured into two camps. One, perhaps best personified by David Frum, says the solution is to embrace “moderation” and thereby win–winning being the prerequisite of doing anything to stop the left. The other, perhaps best personified by Rush Limbaugh, says there’s nothing wrong with conservatism–that we need only find the next Ronald Reagan and thereby win, winning being the prerequisite of doing anything to stop the left.

    Both groups want desperately to win, but neither wants to undo the New Deal. They both want merely to slow down our descent into statism. The first believes statism is inevitable and merely wants to keep it from becoming unlimited by having the Republicans win an election every once in a while, while the second believes statism might be slowed down–even stopped!–if only…if only we denounced left-liberals strongly enough (with no alternative to replace the welfare state) and proclaimed our “conservatism” and love for Ronald Reagan loudly enough!

    Here and here are two warnings I made last year about what the conservative debate would be like this year. It looks like events have proven me correct, although what (if anything) comes out of it is anyone’s guess. Going by their explicit fundamental principles, the conservatives should be turning to religion right now. And ultimately, there is every reason to think they (or, at least, most of them) will. But for now, they’re celebrating about the tea parties and denouncing big government. Will it continue? In any case…

    To the extent Johnson was ever on the “right,” outside of the issue of anti-Jihad, he was a Frumian centrist who feared “extremism” (never precisely defined) as much as he feared the Jihad. Ayn Rand’s “Extremism, or The Art of Smearing” might have kept him from going down this path, though I doubt it.

    New Clarion posters Chuck and–once again, very presciently, Jim May–along with commenter Madmax saw something like this coming back in May. I can’t say I’m surprised.

  • 9 Jeff // Sep 21, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Though the founders were hardly Christians by your definition, they were theists. And they were influenced by other professed theists. Their ideas on government, however, and even morality, to an extent, were essentially secular. In point of fact, they can be traced back to the moderns, Locke, et al. as well as the ancients, Cicer, Polybius, et al, but not the Bible.

  • 10 Myrhaf // Sep 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Unacceptable misquote.

    Why?

  • 11 Moataz // Sep 21, 2009 at 8:11 am

    would you say that the founding fathers were pragmatic ?

  • 12 Jim May // Sep 21, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Only someone with an ax to grind against Christianity would deny that the American founding fathers were either Christians themselves, held Judeo-Christian values and a Judeo-Christian world view, and were positively influenced by the Bible, or had a respect for it and/or its teachings.

    Men of reason have an “ax to grind” against ALL made-up BS. Christianity is but one instance thereof. So is religion in general, as are quasi-religious belief systems such as Leftism.

    For the self-professing Christian who does believe in those things, he or she is referred to or thought of as “crazy,” “nutty” or is considered to be irrational or unreasonable.

    This is correct, and proper.

  • 13 Jim May // Sep 21, 2009 at 10:29 am

    If one claims to be a Christian but then proceeds to deny the hallmarks of the faith (the literal resurrection of Jesus, the inerrancy of the Bible and so forth), what one would end up with is essentially an atheist pretending to be a Christian.

    Round about 1776, such “nominal Christians” were called Deists. Most of the Founders were such. At the time, it was the furthest towards atheism that was permitted among polite society. It was often attacked by contemporary Christians as a sort of crypto-atheism… and they were right.

    The idea that America was founded by believers in talking snakes, stands exposed (again) for the lie it is.

  • 14 Anonyme // Sep 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    To the 18th Century deist, God was something akin to an absentee landlord. By which I mean that while the deist may have believed in the existence of a “creator”, he also held that following the initial act of creation, there was no further intervention in the progress (or otherwise) of that creation. What this meant, in turn, specifically for human beings and for human life, was that the process of living was entirely up to man himself and that the judgments, choices and actions of each one of us as individuals were the only relevant factors.

  • 15 Michael Labeit // Sep 22, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Rattling Christian cages are we. Here’s a link that’ll settle the “founders were this not that” squabble.

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?id=6177

  • 16 Andrew Dalton // Sep 22, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Michael –

    While I agree with ARI’s view on the founding ideas of the United States, I don’t think that a list of quotations settles the matter. After all, the religionists have their own lists of quotations that supposedly show that the United States was intended to be a “Christian nation.”

    This disparity is a consequence of the fact that the American founders were very mixed in their premises: reason and religion, egoism and altruism, and so on. It is necessary to look at which ideas they put into practice, and where, in order to make an argument about the ideological nature of the Constitution.

  • 17 Epsistemological Primitivism in Action III — The New Clarion // Sep 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

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  • 18 Daily Pundit » He’s A Jerk, That’s Why // Sep 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    […] Little Green Footballs — The New Clarion It’s not easy to untangle it all — at least not for me; if you have it figured out, please comment. […]

  • 19 Inspector // Sep 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Andrew has the meat of it, there. The historical record will show that some founders were Christians, many were Deists, and some outright fed up with Christianity. This, however, is not the point.

    The *point* is that their consensus – and therefore the foundation of America – was that religion was a private matter up to each individual and emphatically not something to be mandated, enforced, or indeed commingled in any way whatsoever with the state.

  • 20 Billy Beck // Sep 24, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Johnson has credulously posted the nonsense about Glenn Beck boiling a frog. That seals the deal: he’s a fucking idiot.

  • 21 Myrhaf // Sep 24, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I have to agree with you, Billy. It looks like he is desperate to smear Glenn Beck. I also read that he quoted Media Matters to go after Limbaugh as a racist. He should know better than that. The left created Media Matters to smear their critics.