The Lonely Island Of Little Green FootballsPosted: September 26, 2011
Guest Blogger: Jay Tea
I discovered the world of blogs back in 2003, when I was looking for info on my favorite author. It turned out that another fan of his was Meryl Yourish, of yourish.com, and I was immediately drawn into this new thing called a “blog.” Meryl was my gateway drug — it was through her that I discovered Wizbang, where I started dominating the caption contests until Kevin, Wizbang’s owner, held auditions for “guest bloggers” and I snagged an invitation that I’ve yet to wear out eight years later. (So yeah, my blogging career is built on fart jokes.)
Another blog Meryl praised highly — and quite rightfully so — was Little Green Footballs. I was instantly drawn in, reading it almost obsessively. But I never commented, as I felt I was way, way out of my league.
I followed Charles for years, using his postings as source material for countless articles — always with due credit and fulsome praise. He was one of the “big boys,” and I hoped to capture even a little bit of his reflected glory.
After several years, though, I found myself visiting LGF less and less. I didn’t really have any issues with the site, I just found it boring. I had developed my own little set of sites I found more interesting and useful. Oh, LGF was still incredibly useful and informative, but I found myself using the archives for specific purposes than seeing what he was up to lately.
And then the Great Wars started. Certain people Charles had spoken of highly before started drawing his ire. He forcefully and stridently denounced them for various and sundry things, and he started seeing “racism” and “hatred” everywhere among his alleged allies. And simply denouncing them wasn’t enough — he demanded the same of his loyal readers. If they said or did anything to indicate they didn’t think folks like Gates Of Vienna or Pamela Geller were anything less than evil incarnate, then they risked The Ultimate Sanction — banning.
I didn’t pay much attention to this, because I didn’t really follow those folks much, didn’t participate at LGF, and didn’t go to LGF much anyway. But it stuck in the back of my mind.
Then Charles started expanding his circle. He demanded allegiance in his fights from those who had pledged him no loyalty in the first place. He demanded other bloggers isolate and shun those Charles had declared EVIL, and if they didn’t, why then obviously they were just as EVIL as the first folks.
Then he declared his jihad on Robert Stacy McCain. Again, I didn’t follow the guy, so it didn’t faze me in the least. But Charles was so strident and forceful, I decided I ought to see if this guy was anywhere near as bad as Charles said he was.
You know what? He isn’t. In fact, he’s a damned good writer, very insightful, very entertaining, and very honest about his opinions. Recently, he came to New Hampshire to cover a Sarah Palin event, and I got to spend an afternoon with him — and damn if he isn’t a consummate professional and decent guy.
But then the final straw came — Killgore Trout’s midnight raid on Hot Air. For those who need a reminder (which might be one or two of you), Trout is one of Johnson’s most trusted “monitor lizards” and crack minions. Charles was frantically escalating a war with Hot Air (one that Hot Air really wasn’t interested in pursuing) when Trout went over there in the middle of the night and started posting very insulting, provocative statements loaded with racial epithets. Since it was about 1 or 2 in the morning, none of the Hot Air folks were around to moderate Trout’s tirades for some time — and the LGF crew documented it all. Then they posted it as “proof” of how Hot Air was really tolerant racists and racist language.
That was the final straw for Hot Air. They clamped down on all their own commenters and forcefully and permanently severed all ties with LGF — which basically consisted of a link on their blogroll that no one had bothered to clean up anyway.
That was also the final straw for me. I went over to LGF, used my login I hadn’t used in years, and denounced Trout’s move. I pointed out that Charles has a history of holding his commenters responsible for what they say on other sites (he’s banned people for not defending him on other blogs, but “tolerating” insults to him) and said that if Charles didn’t do something about Trout, then he — by his own standards — was responsible for Trout’s actions.
Naturally, that got me banned. As many of you know, things like “challenging Charles” or “embarrassing his trusted lickspittles” is probably the fastest way to banning.
I wasn’t surprised, but it still hurt a little. I went back to Wizbang and fired off an e-mail to Kevin — did we really want or need to keep LGF in our blogroll? He agreed, and it went away.
But that got me thinking about Charles’ mindset, and a few things clicked in my head — to the point where it all makes a kind of twisted sense. No, it wasn’t logical, but it did have an internal logic — it was self-consistent, and explained a lot of things that didn’t make sense on their own.
One of Charles’ biggest obsessions is the “guilt by association” game. If you are friendly, or even just associated with someone, then you are responsible for whatever they say or do — to the point where if you don’t actively denounce and distance yourself from them and their deeds, you are tacitly approving them. For example, if one of my fellow bloggers says something with that Charles finds offensive, then I have an obligation to renounce them and, if necessary, even pull a “it’s me or them” move that leads to one of us leaving the blog.
This would be very awkward at Wizbang, as I’m the sole pro-choice agnostic who supports gay marriage in a sea of devout, pro-life Christians. But we make it work.
Anyway, that’s Charles’ stance. And he carries it even to the point where bloggers are responsible for the comments on their blogs. If a commenter says something offensive, it is not only the right but the duty of the blogger to delete the comment — or they obviously “approve” of it. Even if the blog in question has, at the top of every comment page, a disclaimer like “Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Little Green Footballs.”
So, what fuels this monomania with conformity, this seeing any signs of dissent or independence as treason? Others have — I think rightfully — described it as paranoia and insecurity. But that’s just the first level. There’s another level at play, I think, that shows how it’s all part of a consistent worldview.
In LGF, Charles has created a world where he is the supreme ruler. Others may enter his domain, but only at his sufference — this is his world, and all others are guests who must obey his rules or leave.
And that is how he sees all other domains on the internet. That’s how he runs his realm, and those who don’t follow his example are lazy — or out to get him by proving he’s wrong somehow.
The key here is his demands for loyalty through “guilt by association.” To most of the blogosphere, it’s a social domain. We have friends and allies and buddies, as well as adversaries and rivals and opponents. Some of us even end up friendly with those who routinely oppose us. The key here, however — the underlying concept — is that we are all part of something much larger.
Charles doesn’t see that way at all. To him, he is above (well, apart, but he thinks of it as above) all that. He doesn’t bother with friends and allies and associates and buddies because he doesn’t need them. To do so would be to acknowledge that there are those who share his realm who he does not and can not control. Simply put, there is no room in the LGF realm for those he can’t control.
Here’s the proof, the single element that crystallized it all for me. Where is Charles’ blogroll? Where is the list of sites he thinks are worthy of respect and attention? Who are his associates and blog-buddies and friends to whom he consistently links to, says kind things about, and shows his appreciation when they link him? In brief, who does Charles show that he even remotely thinks of as his peers, and who thinks of him that way?
The answer is, of course, no one. Because someone who Charles can’t control — such as, say, a commenter on his blog — could some day do something of which Charles will not approve. And Charles would have no leverage to demand that they retract it or apologize for it, as they are an independent force. So it’s just safer to take no such chances.
Now, I’ll freely admit that I’m not the best “linker” in the blogosphere. I read a lot of blogs, and I always make certain to give “hat tips” (a concept I learned from Charles, ironically), but in the Den Beste distinction of bloggers, I’ve always been more of a “thinker” than a “linker.” I don’t do “hey, look at what X wrote” — I do more of “I read what X wrote, and it got me thinking.” But as bad as I am, at least I try — something Charles simply can’t do.
Years ago, I read a quote by the Russian astronomer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky that stuck in my mind: “Earth is the cradle of mankind, but mankind cannot remain in the cradle forever.” In a sense, Charles runs a cradle on the internet — keeping his readers safely secured and locked up, protected from what he sees as the bad influences all over the internet. But the problem is, far too many people quickly outgrow their need for a cradle — but Charles isn’t interested in letting people explore out of his control. Stray too far, and you’re banished.
But back to the main point: Charles’ incredibly rapid decline is solely by his own actions. It’s been noted that “links are the currency of the internet,” and Charles is legendarily parsimonious in such things. So now, no one links to him favorably, and even mocking, derisive links are few and far between.
Charles, apparently, has embraced the “big fish in a small pond” principle to the point where he is the only fish in a cut-off, stagnant, fetid little backwater of what was once a mighty river. And he seems to like it — he’s put enormous effort into keeping himself cut off, and never shown the slightest interest in reconnecting with the main stream. In fact, he’s lashed out at those who once served as his connections to that main stream, driving them all away.
It’s clear what Charles wants. It’s to be left alone, with his sycophants who live in fear of his wrath, in his own little backwater where he allows nothing that comes close to questioning his absolute authority and absolute rightness. And after all these years, I’ve finally realized that — and have absolutely no interest in living by his rules, either in his little backwater or in the mighty river that is the rest of the Blogosphere.
I’d wish him well, if for no other reason of the good he once did (and all I learned from him), but any good Darwinist knows what happens to brackish, fetid ponds that are fiercely protected from the slightest amount of outside influence and contact. No, the best thing I can think of doing is to occasionally, sadly point to LGF and say “this is why Nature abhors inbreeding and isolation, and instead rewards those who embrace the diversity of fresh blood, fresh ideas, and free interaction.”