The Ruse and Fail of Little Green Footballs: Part I – OverviewPosted: September 19, 2012
This is Part 1 of a multi-part monograph about a blog named Little Green Footballs and its founder Charles Foster Johnson. Although he will likely consider it a “hit-piece,” the intention is nothing of the sort. The purpose is merely to illustrate a microcosm of the blogosphere, the history and dynamics of a once-prominent blog and its founder, without judgment, prejudice, hyperbole, vitriol or snark. We’ve attempted to present an unbiased story based on factual evidence, citing sources when necessary.
Some of the following is by necessity purely anecdotal and/or speculative; however, objectivity is the goal. We don’t intend for this monograph to be a comprehensive summary of the history of Charles Johnson and Little Green Footballs, as it spans more than a decade. There’s just too much to cover in detail, so we’ve chosen to illustrate specific events – a general timeline with commentary.
This documentary was compiled over a span of months (indeed some of the referenced work goes back years) with the majority written prior to the untimely demise of Andrew Breitbart. Those sections where he is mentioned have not been rewritten to reflect his passing.
So with that out of the way, let’s take a curious trip down memory lane. –Ed.
Part 1 – Overview
Part 2 – The Ascendance of Charles Johnson and LGF
Part 3 – The Bannings
Part 4 – The Flounces
Part 5 – The Turnaround
Part 6 – Current Events & The Future Of LGF
Bonus track: Revisiting Rathergate
PART 1 – OVERVIEW
“I AM Little Green Footballs.” – Charles Johnson
In 2004, prior to the Presidential election, high on most conservatives’ must-read lists was Charles Johnson’s “Little Green Footballs.” It was the go-to site for anti-islamofascist news, but also for information debunking the pseudo-science of man-made global warming and the dangerous left-wing agenda. It boasted thousands of registered members – the self-styled “lizard minions” – and perhaps hundreds of thousands of unique visits a day. It had been the recipient of numerous national blogging awards and linked to at many conservative/right wing websites.
Charles Johnson and LGF was noticed by major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian and Vanity Fair. It was mentioned on prominent radio shows, including that of industry giant Rush Limbaugh. A simple Google search for “Charles+Johnson+ Little+Green+Footballs” produces over 140,000 hits, and there are entries in Wikipedia for both.
Today, looking at its statistics, LGF has transformed from a premier site for political discourse to an echo chamber for Johnson’s daily rant against the conservative and/or right wing. Instead of hundreds of members contributing to topic threads, a mere handful of posters are responsible for approximately 80% of the comments. And while Johnson still tries to claim over 100,000 unique visits a day, there is evidence that Johnson has been fixing the numbers.
What happened? To understand this, it is important to understand how LGF came to prominence and the factors that led to its eventual decline.
LGF was what every idealist ever wanted, a “can’t we all just get along” environment, where we did gripe, argue, debate and at the end, work out our problems and disagreements. There was a friendly community of people with various ideologies, spiritualities and personalities who all basically got along with each other. They didn’t always agree, but no one was threatening to blackball or ban anyone (except in the most extreme cases).
This community would even rise up and offer money, plane tickets, room and board, transportation and other charitable actions to help each other in times of need. But for whatever reason, that was too mature for Charles Johnson. On LGF there was too much liberty, too much freedom, and it was too much like a microcosm of our democratic society.
Charles Johnson never left the right. Although he advertised his blog as center-right, in reality he was a died-in-the-wool leftist who got mugged on 9/11, and it took him six or seven years to recover from the psychological trauma of that incident. When he finally did recover he found that his blog had turned into a “small government” self-determined entity, a place for conservatives, liberals, free thinkers (and the occasional nut case) all self-policed and mature.
Not a comfortable place for a far-left progressive who had been in a fog for several years, imitating a rational and reasonable human being. He shook the Founding Fathers out of his head, metaphorically ripped up the constitution and went hell-bent all-out-Stalin on his own creation.
Of course, when pigs smell shit, they come running. He had the help of a handful of trusted and loyal members to employ as hall monitors to help police what NYT Magazine writer Jonathan Dee dubbed “The Blog Version of Animal Farm.” (Contrast that description with that of Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott, who compared Johnson’s site to a “disorganized Nuremberg Rally” in 2005.)
Within two years he had managed to bring down his own blog, repopulate it with 1/20th the number of residents that it had before, and yet was still able to delude himself into believing that what he had left had some sort of merit or note in the “blogosphere”. He went from mugged to self-deluded.
This monograph is a chronicle of the Rise and Fall of Charles Johnson. It is a footnote to a lie (“Why I left the Right”) that surprised many across the vast network of servers and workstations that make up the internet. For one moment there was shock and awe, but as Johnson further isolated himself from reality, it all devolved into a poor man’s version of Daily Kos.
To be fair, Johnson himself declared that he was never “right wing” or “conservative. If you read LGF (originally a blog about bicycling, web design and computer subjects) on September 10, 2001, Johnson’s liberal leanings were evident (for instance, there is a thread referencing President Bush as “Shrub”). It is only after September 11 2001 that the benign LGF began its metamorphosis into a gathering place for conservatives, particularly those allied against radical Islam.
The evolution was complete six months later, when Johnson was described as a “prominent L.A. blogger” in an article by Catherine Seipp for the American Journalism Review. In that article she hailed Johnson’s exposing of various Islamic blood libels against Jews.
“Another prominent L.A. blogger is Charles F. Johnson, who coined the term ‘anti-idiotarian’ to describe eclectic blogger politics and is a jazz guitarist who used to tour with Al Jarreau. He now works as a Web designer. Johnson’s hobby is scouring the Arab press (via the translations at MEMRI.org) for the latest anti-Semitic blood libels and strange news stories. The Saudi Arabian newspaper that claimed Jews use the blood of Christians and Muslims to make Purim pastries and the wire reports about Saudi religious police forcing schoolgirls back into a burning building because they weren’t wearing correct Islamic dress are two stories that only hit mainstream media last spring after they were flogged by Johnson and other bloggers.” 
That article, published in June 2002, illustrates that the blogosphere regarded Little Green Footballs as a conservative blog worth following.
To understand the dilution and decomposition of what was once considered to be a premier conservative blog into a forgettable online cult, we need only compare Charles Johnson then to Charles Johnson now.
[Caveat: In no way is this monograph comprehensive, nor is it intended to defame or otherwise impugn Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs or anyone associated with any blog. Any and all conjecture should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer. This is not Wikipedia; however, if any readers find fault with this monograph, please leave comments with verifiable backup and we’ll correct factual errors.]
 Dee, Jonathan, NYT Magazine, “Right Wing Flame War!” 21 January 2010.
 Wolcott, James, Vanity Fair, “Head Hunters” 26 December 2005.