Late Nite FDL: What Lies Beneath
(Tonight’s guest poster is Matt O. from The Great Society)
Earlier this year, the Washington Post held an online chat regarding the decision of Executive Editor, Jim Brady, to the shut down of reader comments at the newspaper’s blog, post.blog. Brady cited “personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech.” The readership uproar was a consequence of the shoddy reporting and subsequent defense of said shoddy journalism in which The Post tried to pass off the Jack Abramoff scandal as bipartisan.
The background was necessary to highlight this response from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit from a questioner in Washington, D.C. during the online chat:
Glenn Reynolds: I think that one reason [that most conservative blogs do not allow comments] has to do with media treatment. Charles Johnson, for example — who does have comments — has repeatedly faced media stories about his site in which comments made by his readers are directly attributed to him, as if he had written them. I certainly worry about that sort of thing, too. I think that lefty sites expect, and get, less of that kind of mistreatment. […]
The reason Glenn is defending Charles, the Executive Editor of Little Green Footballs, is because much of the readership at LGF hold deeply racist sentiments, especially towards Arabs and Muslims.
Frequently readers post comments with racial slurs such as “raghead” and “mooselimbs,” racist anecdotes, castration, charges of a low intellect, wiping their rear with the Koran, calls for a new crusade, violence towards and mass murder of all Muslims, the destruction of Islam and white supremacist-esque language like “It’s time we asserted our culture” and “moral and cultural superiority.” It seems that liberals are now by definition terrorists and labeled as such. They speak of Arabs and Muslims in much the same ways that a racist southerner would speak of blacks in the 1950s.
Responsible? Not quite.
In perhaps a preemptive move to dissuade criticism for allowing such comments, the LGF website has this disclaimer between every post and its comments:
Comments are open and unmoderated, although obscene or abusive remarks may be deleted. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Little Green Footballs.
However, some investigative work uncovered some misleading and shady behind the scenes administrative actions.
While the LGF staff continues to contend their “hands-off” policy with exceptions, Charles has exhibited a contradictory approach to racial and ethnic epithets and employs a word filter.
In September 2003, Charles posted this message:
[HEADLINE: If You See a Message…] …that you’re not allowed to post comments, or use our forms to send email, it’s because I’ve had to completely block AOL addresses from using those functions of LGF. There is a group of truly nasty creatures who have been using AOL accounts to post ugly antisemitic comments, and because of the way AOL works the only method of blocking these haters is to disallow all AOL users. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but that’s how it’s gotta be.
However, for years prior, readers posted dozens of attacks on Muslims and Arabs, even with the use of racial slurs and eliminationist rhetoric. Still, nothing was done and a similar condemnation never came. A reader noticed this blatantly lopsided approach to curbing racist comments only to be met with criticism for raising the question and charges that racial slurs appeared in a search of the comments at a “remarkably low” number.
In fact, just six months earlier in March 2003, Charles Johnson posted this message:
Huh? A Ba’athist tyrant speaking of the Shah in somewhat positive tones? I thought Pahlavi was hated in those circles; but I guess they wouldn’t be Arabs without the ability to hold dozens of contradictory opinions simultaneously.
Charles’ onslaught on Arabs and Muslims continues to this day with sarcastic posts titled “Religion of Peace” in which he characterizes all of Islam by the acts of Muslim extremists. Such an argument would be the equivalent of framing Christianity by the lunacy of Pat Robertson and the rest of the evangelical right.
Some time in 2005, LGF employed a word filter that altered certain words of readers’ comments as soon as they submitted their post. The last “raghead” comment was in January 2005 just prior to a post where Charles received an e-mail from a British Muslim that was offended with the racist cesspool. Charles only offered a sarcastic remark in response, obviously because he does not care if people post racist comments, probably because he endorses such sentiment. That would be true if the search results for the word “raghead” ceased as well. They do not. Rather they continue to this day, numbering in the hundreds by now.
The search results show the pre-edited comments. The word “raghead” is automatically changed to “Arab” by the filter. In fact, on several occasions, readers complained about their inability to use the word “raghead,” test out other slurs, have fun with it and give each other pointers on how to get around the filter.
The unbalanced approach to dealing with racist comments at LGF is glaring. Charles Johnson blocked AOL accounts due to a commonality among comments for anti-Semitic remarks. However, he brushed off valid accusations supported by hundreds of posts by a high volume of regular readers. Why?
Why are these racists allowed to post despicably bigoted comments towards Muslims and Arabs while automatically covering up racial slurs and claiming that these are “unmoderated”?
Apparently some racial epithets and statements are allowed and it all depends on which group is the target.
If Charles himself is not racist as he claims, though I emphatically disagree, LGF certainly is a “safe haven” for racists. It is a website that “harbors” racists. Readers that claim a moral, religious, racial and cultural superiority are consumed with an unfathomable hatred for Muslims and Arabs. They are provided with a forum where there are no consequences for their words. Instead, such responses are encouraged and thinly covered-up. Racism is what lies beneath.
(graphic courtesy TM from LGF Watch)
Previous posts in the series:
Educating Wolfie by Pam Spaulding
Right Wing Racism: Steve Sailer by Armando
Let’s Go Real Far Right… by Matt Stoller
Tramsmitting Extremism by David Neiwert
The Fork in the Road — The Right and Race Online by Steve Gilliard
Late Night FDL: A Thin Candy-Coat of Legitimacy by TBogg
Matt O. has also been compiling racist quotes from right-wing websites over at The Great Society.