Back in the fall of 2004, right about the time we started blogging, the influence of the “new media” became undeniable. A supposed memo about George W. Bush’s avoidance of National Guard duty was touted by CBS and 60 Minutes as the smoking gun against Bush at the height of his re-election campaign. Unfortunately for CBS, the blogs analyzed the memo, exposed it as a blatant forgery, and helped send Dan Rather into early retirement.
The initial detective work was done by Buckhead at Free Republic, but the big engines of publicity that dislodged Dan Rather from his throne were Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs and Scott Johnson (no relation) at Power Line.
Those blogs were the two major sources of information for me during Rathergate, and they were two of the reasons I decided to take up blogging. Power Line and LGF covered the story in great detail, were scrupulous about accuracy, posted updates frequently, and linked each other’s work. They were the Big Two of the fake TNG memo scandal.
So it was a bit saddening today to learn that the two blogs have come to a parting of the ways.
Each has put up a post about the split-up. Scott Johnson says:
We have slightly updated our blogroll for the first time in a long time. We have deleted Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs. We long ago stopped reading LGF. Suffice it to say (suffice it for me to say, anyway) that Charles’s political inclinations and interests now diverge widely from our own.
And Charles Johnson has this response:
Since the people at Powerline have made a big public announcement about it, I’ll just say that I’m not the least surprised that they’ve delinked LGF. Powerline has been going in a very bad direction recently; the “all Obama-hatred, all the time” focus is bad enough, but worse are their articles supporting European extremists like Geert Wilders (who wants to deprive Muslims of the freedom of religion and ban books) and outright fascists like the Belgian Vlaams Belang party.
I’ve been considering removing them from my links for quite some time because of this kind of disturbing stuff, but I was foolish enough to believe they might come to their senses. I’ve written emails to them about it (which weren’t returned), and I wrote a post laying out my case, that they completely ignored. Clearly, this is a direction they’ve chosen, so I’ve removed all links to Powerline from LGF.
It’s gratifying to see at last — almost two years after the fact — an acknowledgement by a major blog like Power Line that Charles Johnson’s take on Vlaams Belang and European “neo-Nazis” was wrong, and that Fjordman, Pamela Geller, Paul Belien, and Gates of Vienna were right.
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It would have been even nicer to see some support from major American blogs back at the height of the LGF wars in the late fall of 2007.
As soon as Charles pronounced anathema against us that October, we became pariahs in much of the American blogosphere. His severe factual errors and distortions cried out for a firm response, so I appealed to some of the major blogs to examine our material — as collected in “Suggested Corrections for Charles Johnson” and “Charles Johnson: The Dan Rather of the Blogosphere?” — and speak out about a blogger who was, at a minimum, failing to do due diligence and retract or correct significant factual errors.
The response was… crickets chirping.
I don’t know if the lack of response was due to fear, or a reluctance to get into the middle of a blog war, or perhaps the result of receiving too much email.
But Charles was loaded for bear back in those days, and when he de-linked a blog, many others would follow suit or lose all hope of being linked by him. All but the biggest bloggers had good reason to fear the baleful gaze of the Lidless Eye.
Even now, at this late date, it would be nice to hear one of them say: “Gosh, Baron — you and Pamela were right after all. I’m glad you stuck to your guns.”
But that’s not likely to happen, so I’ll just have to congratulate myself (and Paul, and Pamela, and Fjordman, and the dozens of little blogs that defied the Lidless Eye).
I’m glad we stuck it out.
The repercussions of the conflict weren’t entirely negative, even though LGF did serious damage to our American readership, from which we never fully recovered.
The unintended consequence of all this brouhaha was that we acquired a large number of new European readers. To any well-educated European who is not a member of the loonie left, LGF’s opinions about Europe were (and are) ludicrous and ill-informed. At Gates of Vienna we try to offer an alternative view that is factually correct and richly documented, so that it can appeal to serious readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
I recognize my fundamental ignorance about matters European, so I defer to the Europeans themselves. I want them to speak from their own knowledge and in their own voices, which means that I rely on a variety of translations and analyses from the people on the ground in Eurabia.
As a result, during the last two years our readership has gradually evolved into an approximate 50-50 split between Europe and North America (with some Aussies and Latin Americans thrown in to leaven the mix). The blog wars of 2007 led directly to the rich tapestry of translations and essays that people enjoy here in 2009.
So I can’t complain — Power Line and LGF helped us out, each in its own different way.
It’s the end of an era for their partnership. But we’re just getting warmed up.