A Reply to Dennis Prager’s Open Letter
In many ways I have an enormous amount of respect for Dennis Prager; unlike some of his fellow talk radio hosts, he gets deep into the issues, and for the most part refrains from demagoguery. And he and I have many things in common, particularly an understanding of the danger of militant Islam, and a support for the state of Israel.
But his article titled “An Open Letter to Charles Johnson” shows that Dennis and I also have some big differences.
He answered each of the 10 points in my apparently notorious post, so I’ll reply one by one. The points from my original post are in italics.
1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, etc.).
Associating the American right with fascism is done only by leftist ideologues and propagandists, not by serious critics. It is akin to calling everyone on the left a Communist.
Dennis is familiar enough with the principles of logic and debate that I know he’ll understand when I say that this is the first of many straw men that he throws up to make light of what I wrote. This straw man argument — that I’ve accused everyone on the right of the things I wrote in that post — is completely false, and if you read carefully, it’s obvious that I deliberately wrote the entire post to avoid making such blanket accusations.
“Support for fascists” is not hard to find at many right wing sources, especially among the so-called “anti-jihad” bloggers. Some pretty well known right wing blogs are now openly promoting alliances with European far right neo-fascist organizations such as the British National Party and the Belgian Vlaams Belang. I suspect Prager is ignorant of the real history behind this, and therefore feels comfortable with brushing it all off as insignificant.
There’s a lot to read, but the LGF tag for Vlaams Belang has a lot of that history, and a search turns up a few more posts; Dennis, if you’re really interested in why I felt it necessary to distance myself from these people, I recommend reading through it. I had good reasons for everything I posted on this subject, and I stand by it all.
In any event, what do any of these groups have to do with mainstream American right institutions such the Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute; or with mainstream conservative publications and websites such as the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Townhall.com or Commentary; or with mainstream American conservatives such as Bill Kristol, Thomas Sowell, Hugh Hewitt, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, as well as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh?
Another straw man, since I didn’t write that any of those pundits or organizations are “fascist.”
But since you asked, Dennis, in addition to your columns, Townhall.com publishes the work of Pat Buchanan (introduced once by Sean Hannity as “the great Patrick J. Buchanan”). Which leads us to your next point:
2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.).
I agree with the late William Buckley that some of Pat Buchanan’s views could be construed as anti-Jewish…
William F. Buckley concluded Buchanan was an antisemite 18 years ago; I recommend his book on the subject.
In addition to being anti-Jewish, though, Buchanan has a host of other questionable associations — for example, he’s appeared several times on the infamous “white nationalist” radio show Political Cesspool, whose other guests have included David Duke and other prominent racists and “racialists.” This LGF post has more, including a picture of Buchanan meeting with (guess who!) the leaders of the Belgian Vlaams Belang party.
In addition to regular appearances on MSNBC and Fox News, Buchanan’s columns continue to be published at nearly every major conservative news site, including the one that published Dennis Prager’s article. It would make me a little uncomfortable to share a publisher with someone like Buchanan, but I guess that’s just me.
… and to label Ann Coulter a white supremacist (or bigot) is slander.
Here are the facts: in her latest book, “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and Their Assault on America,” Ann Coulter defends a white supremacist hate group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, saying they were unfairly branded as racists. The LGF posts are here, with exact quotes from the book:
And again, Dennis constructed a straw man; I didn’t accuse Ann Coulter of being a white supremacist. I wrote “support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism” in my post. It’s possible to support these things without actually believing in them yourself, and that’s exactly what Coulter did when she tried to claim “there is little on the CCC website suggesting” it was a racist group. Ann Coulter is all about selling her books and appearances, but in this case, while pandering to the persecution complex of the far right, she ended up defending a hate group that is absolutely indefensible.
3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.).
“The entire religious right” wants to throw “women back into the dark ages?” As a religious (Jewish) conservative, perhaps I am a member of that group, and I find the charge absurd. The one example you give — anti-abortion — is invalid. To those who regard the unborn as worthy of life (except in the almost never occurring case of it being a threat to its mother’s life), opposition to abortion is no more anti-woman than opposition to rape is anti-man. The only people who wish to throw women into the dark ages are the people you, Charles, used to fight. That is why your change of heart has actually hurt the battle for women’s dignity and equality.
Dealing with the last point first, I’ve had no change of heart on this subject — I’ve always been pro-choice, and I’ve always been opposed to much of the agenda of the political religious right. For example, see this post from 2005 reacting to the disgraceful circus staged by the religious right around Terri Schiavo.
And again, Dennis’s response uses a straw man argument — because I didn’t write that “the entire religious right” wants to “throw women back into the Dark Ages.” But if you don’t want to believe there’s a very strong undercurrent of hatred behind some of the members of the “pro-life” movement, here’s just one LGF post (there are others) that quotes some of the reactions at blogs and news sites to the murder of Dr. George Tiller: Bad Craziness Watch: Right Wing Reaction to the Tiller Murder. The comments posted at many right wing sites after this killing were horrifying.
4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.).
So, Charles, all those scientists who question or deny that human activity is causing a global warming that will render much of life on earth extinct are “anti-science?”
Straw man again. I didn’t say that “all scientists who question global warming” are anti-science. But the particular people I mentioned by name — yep, they’re anti-science, all right, and again there are numerous posts at LGF to back up that claim.
Has the possibility occurred to you that those who are skeptical of what they consider hysteria cherish science at least as much as you do? In fact, they suspect that — for political, social, financial, psychological and/or herd-following reasons — it is the “global warming” hysterics who are more likely to be anti-science.
Activist scientists, liberal media and leftist interest groups brought us the false alarm of an imminent heterosexual AIDS pandemic in America, the false alarm about silicon breast implants leading to disease and the nonsense about how dangerous nuclear power is. They were anti-science, not us skeptics who have been right every time I can think of.
It’s ridiculous to say that skeptics have never been wrong. I’ve posted numerous articles debunking the claims of the “skeptics,” in fact — they’re “wrong” much more often than they are right. And not just wrong, often deliberately misleading to boot.
The issue of climate change is one in which I absolutely have changed my mind, as I’ve written previously, and my posts on the subject have tried to focus on facts and evidence to back up my position that climate change is real, it’s caused by human beings, and the human race needs to wake up and do something to deal with it before it’s too late.
I’d hate to be in Dennis’s shoes in a decade or two if he turns out to be wrong, and the world faces disaster because of people who spread disinformation.
As for creationism, Dennis didn’t mention it, but again there are hundreds of LGF posts on the subject, especially focusing on the many top GOP politicians who promote creationism — a sad commentary on a conservative movement that’s shackled to an atavistic anti-scientific doctrine.
5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.).
This charge is particularly ugly. It appears that you have decided to fight all the “hate” you allege to be on the right with your own hate. Why exactly is it “homophobic bigotry” to want to maintain the millennia-old definition of marriage as the union of men and women? The hubris of those who not only want to change the definition of the most important institution in society but believe everyone who ever advocated male-female marriage was a bigot — meaning everyone who ever lived before you, Charles — is as breathtaking as it is speech-suppressing.
This article is turning into the Attack of the 50-Foot Straw Men. My post doesn’t even mention same sex marriage; that’s only a small part of the homophobic bigotry that, again, is documented in many posts at LGF.
6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.).
What you call “anti-government lunacy” most Americans regard as preserving the greatest protector of individual liberty — limited government.
I don’t think we need militias to preserve limited government, sorry. The rise of groups like the John Birch Society and the Oath Keepers, and the NWO ranting of Glenn Beck and other radio hosts definitely fall under the rubric of “anti-government lunacy.”
7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.).
I am no fan of Alex Jones, who, coincidentally, has attacked me on his website as a “Jewish propagandist.” But please. The amount of hate speech in one Keith Olbermann commentary dwarfs any 12 months of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. In any event, the real irony here is that before your inexplicable change, it was you who devoted years to documenting the greatest amount of hate speech on earth today — that coming from within the Islamic world. If you still hated hate speech, you would still be doing that important work.
Well, actually I still am posting about hate speech from the Islamic world; for example, from last Friday: Mahathir: If the US Could Make ‘Avatar’ They Could Fake 9/11.
As for believing in conspiracy theories, your new team wins hands down…
I wasn’t aware that I’d chosen a new team; am I allowed to have independent views or does parting ways with the “right” inevitably mean I have to join the “left?” I choose to believe that I can remain independent of political affiliation, and in fact I’ve never seen the purpose of blogs to be simply promoting a party line. That’s why I don’t see this whole kerfuffle as a big sea-change; I see it as drawing some lines and setting some boundaries, and saying, “No, I’m not down with this.”
… from multiple assassins of JFK to the American government being behind 9-11 (it was even believed by a high-ranking member of the Obama administration) to the war in Iraq waged on behalf of Halliburton.
Ironically, just today we learned that John McCain’s Republican primary challenger in Arizona is a Birther. Ahem.
To be continued…
UPDATE at 1/27/10 3:14:17 pm:
8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.).
From what I have seen, your examples do not justify your charge. Moreover, for every right-wing “raging hate” speech website, there are probably three on the left. The major conservative sites are overwhelmingly rational and devoid of “raging hate.” Given my longtime respect for you, Charles, it pains me that it is your list of 10 reasons for abandoning the right that is a prime example of “raging hate.”
I’ve already mentioned the many thousands of commenters at right wing sites who applauded Scott Roeder for murdering Dr. George Tiller in his church, but here’s another way to back up my point #8: LGF search: “Hot Air comments”.
9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.).
I saw Pamela Geller’s site (The New York Times Magazine article about you cited it — Atlas Shrugs — and mentioned nothing remotely approaching your charges against her or her site) and I’ve interviewed Robert Spencer. Your charges against them only cheapen the words “fascism,” violence” and “genocide.”
Again I think Dennis Prager is ignorant of the history behind some of these points; rehashing it once again is tedious, so I’ll just mention that LGF’s search engine will provide some of the context that Dennis Prager is missing, if you care to delve into the issues.
10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source).
The charge is a lie. Period. Those who cannot argue with the right always accuse it of racism. It used to work, Charles. But it is increasingly obvious to all but fellow leftists that the charge is specious. Opposition to President Obama has nothing to do with his race. Indeed, he continues to be more popular than his policies.
I answered this in a previous post by pointing out that there are many comments right below Prager’s article at Townhall.com that would fit my description of the right’s bad case of Obama Derangement Syndrome. And more than a few attacking me, as well, suggesting I might be a child molester or that I’ve chosen a “sinful” lifestyle or that I’m being paid off by sekrit commies.
But the “Hot Air comments” link above contains many more examples of racist, race-baiting, extreme, hateful, even threatening comments about President Obama, just for the record. And of course, there’s this: Rush Limbaugh in His Own Words.