Some years ago when I started blogging, two of the first friends I met in the blogsphere were Dymphna and The Baron from The Gates of Vienna blog. Since those early days I have linked to their posts, quoted them, corresponded with them and have had nothing but respect for them. After all, we share the same values, goals and objectives and are on the same side of the political and ideological fence.
So I was somewhat distressed when I observed the growing feud between the folks at GOV and Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs. Since it was my turn to host the podcast for The Sanity Squad, I asked my fellow Squad members if we could discuss what Shrink had called a "family squabble" in one of his posts.
The primary goal of that podcast was to talk more about the bad feelings that had come about because Charles had disagreed with Dymphna and The Baron, and had questioned the advisability of supporting European political organizations that had some shady neo-Nazi connections in their past. Things apparently escalated after that and then Charles banned them and Fjordman (who blogs at GOV) from his site.
Of course The Sanity Squad could not talk about the psychological/emotional aspects of all this without discussing some of the background.
Frankly, I don't particularly care which side turns out to be right or wrong on this issue. As far as I can tell, there is no objective way to tell at this point in time whether the European groups in question have really reformed and renounced their past not only rhetorically, but in action; or if they have only disguised their agenda in order to gain more followers. Time will tell, and my personal opinion is that Charles is right to be leery.
Nevertheless, I also think that banning a friend from your site (as Charles did)--is not a good thing to do generally.
During the Sanity Squad podcast Dymphna phoned in and was given a great deal of time to voice her opinions. What followed after the conclusion of the podcast is something I take full responsibility for.
Those of you who listened to the entire podcast know that there is an "extra" 23 minutes that go beyond the usual 30 minute limit. I logged out of BlogTalkRadio, but apparently had not hung up the phone. Consequently, when I was skyped by Siggy and Shrink and we continued our conversation post-podcast (as we usually do), there was a live mic picking up ONLY my end of the conversation. Shrink left after about 5 minutes and then Siggy and I talked for a while after that.
It was clearly a private conversation and was not meant to be public. But there was nothing said in that conversation that I am ashamed of or embarassed by. In it, I expressed my opinions about the feud we had just discussed in the podcast. I happen to think that Charles had every reason to question the bona fides of the European groups that GOV is consorting with. I can appreciate that Dymphna and The Baron don't like that opinion, but I AM ENTITLED TO IT, just as they are entitled to theirs. As I said before, time will tell if these groups have really abandoned their Nazi philosophy--their behavior and policies will eventually make it clear. So, I prefer to wait and see.
I also spoke to Siggy about Dymphna's emotional state during the podcast. I believe I said that her voice "quivered" --with anger or outrage or some other intense emotion. I wondered if she was afraid of something. I said I hoped a way could be found for everyone to come out of this with their dignity and reputation intact. That is because it saddens me to see people who should be on the same side fighting against the Islamofascists, fighting each other.
Siggy and I also talked about other issues, including Hugo Chavez and some future posts, then said goodbye.
Shortly after the podcast was posted, I became aware of the extra 23 minute segment and received an angry letter from Dymphna, who felt I had insulted her. I immediately went back and listened to my side of the conversation with Siggy and, while it was clear that I disagreed with her and The Baron's position in this matter, I could not see how she could possibly take my compassion about the situation as an "insult" or that I had "turned her into a victim". If she had not made a choice to phone into the live podcast, it is doubtful I would have even discussed her emotional state in my later conversation with Siggy.
I most certainly regret that my private conversation was recorded (at least my side of it, anyway). What I said was not meant to be public, but I will not apologize for it, nor will I delete the entire podcast because of it (it is not possible to delete just the 23 minutes). I never meant to insult Dymphna in any way, shape, or form.
I decided to let things slide, foolishly thinking that friends could reasonably disagree on this issue.
I was wrong. Apparently it is not possible to be a friend to Dymphna if you disagree with her.
Her next letter to me came last night and can only be described as an attempt to blackmail me. What she imagines she can blackmail me with is beyond my comprehension. So, in order to pre-empt her threats, I have decided to encourage my readers to go and listen to the podcast and the one-sided conversation after its completion; or, if GOV publishes the transcript as Dymphna threatened to do, feel free to read it at your leisure and make up your own mind.
Shrink was absolutely correct when he wrote:
I have not carefully studied either side's arguments because we have long since left the realm where any facts can resolve the differences. As with most familial disputes, the dispute has now devolved to an irresolvable question of whose judgment is more right than whose.
I am not saying that my judgment is perfect, nor that GOV (and Dymphna particularly) is wrong in the factual statements made. That was never the issue in the podcast, or in the conversation I had with Siggy afterwards that was mistakenly captured (at least one side of it) on mic. But I will not change my judgment or my opinions because someone--even a friend threatens me with blackmail.
Below are the the two emails I received from her.
This is the first one, received shortly after the podcast:
Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld’s famous (or infamous) line about our state of
knowledge? He said, more or less—
“… as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."
Sounds like Christopher Bollas, doesn’t he?
The broadcast on 11/19 was a perfect reflection of some of the gaps — one might even term them chasms — in the knowledge of the hosts of your broadcast regarding European politics and the information Charles Johnson claims to have about it.
I hardly know where to start, and I couldn’t possibly cover all the unexamined premises your broadcast assumed as some kind of gospel, but let’s deal with a primary point: Vlaams Belang.
Siggy kept referring to VB as “he” — in fact, your European “expert” repeatedly used the third person masculine singular for what is the largest and most popular Flemish political party. Siggy didn’t even know who or what he was referring to. Then, at the end, when the broadcast is over, you reveal the black hole when you ask him “is Vlaams Belang a person?”
What do any of you know about politics in Belgium or Brussels or Strasbourg? Do you know that there are only state contributions allowed to political parties? If the state does not fund you, then the party does not exist; it has neither seat nor voice. Marginalization is total.
What do you know about Dewinter, who is one of the members of the Belgian Parliament representing Flanders? Do you know that his father and grandfather served in the Resistance in World War II? The man is forty six — what earthly use or respect would he have for neo nazis, given his family history and his age? This is who Charles Johnson is attacking. It’s shameful. If Dewinter cared, he would be within his rights to sue Charles for defamation...at the very least.
Did you know that the party which preceded Vlaams Belang was dissolved by the Belgian Parliament for being “racist”? They wanted to preserve their Flemish culture and they wanted the great tax burden they bear — which goes to support the socialist French-speaking Walloons welfare progarms — lifted. The latter loathe and despise the Flemish and so Vlaams Blok was successfully dissolved by the Parliament and courts in a coalition among the Walloons and some of the splinter parties.
The Brussels mayor has on occasion used the Walloon police to brutalize the VB parliament members. Can you imagine the mayor of D.C. having Congress members beaten and hauled off to jail because they met outside the building to commemorate our 9/11? Well, that’s actually what Freddy did. The pictures are on my blog to prove it. The Baron’s boss was there and filmed one of the videos.
When VB formed again, it was called Vlaams Belang. In order to cut off its oxygen supply all the other political parties formed what they called a “cordon sanitaire” —a refusal to ever make a coalition with VB in Parliament for any reason. Yet VB’s popularity continues to grow because it represents its voters hopes for the future.
Ironically, they hold the same political principles you do: smaller government,lower taxes, local rule, and a requirement for assimilation for immigrants so that they learn the language and the culture of their new country and become citizens. One of their most radical ideas is that a person ought to be allowed to protect their property. Right: currently that is against the law.
This is a simplified overview, just to give you the basics…I expected that as the hosts of a program on this subject you would know these basics, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Thus, what you decided you heard in my voice — being “scared” is how you described it — was in actuality great anger that anyone would hold this “discussion” with next to no information about the people they tarred and feathered with any number of casual slanders.
I wasn’t scared. Of what?? I was frustrated at the total lack among you of any context about the situation in Brussels and in Belgium and how their political system operates. And I was angry because I did not think any of you listened, that you’d already made up your minds that Charles’ character assassinations of a whole group of people are right. I believe you said his was the “principled” position, using a character out of Ayn Rand to make your point.
So as it turned out, my intuition was correct: in your long, supposedly private phone conversation with Siggy, you proceeded to analyze my feeling state, and expressed pity for the situation the Baron and I are in, and hoped we could find a dignified exit.
Have you ever sat for ten minutes and listened to a live broadcast of a person dissecting you, while you knew they were so far off base they might as well have been talking from Mars? It’s an interesting experience. I listened all the way to the point that you discussed your plane travels for the next day. I also heard you speak disrespectfully of someone who committed six months of her life and some hefty financial resources to bring off that first conference. She was rude? Siggy kept interrupting her. You guys had a leisurely amount of time to defame what we had accomplished, and SHE was rude because she asked Siggy to let her finish her sentence. Have you ever noticed he has trouble with that? With everyone? It was even apparent in your phone conversation.
Unfortunately, I'm in a double bind here. If I "protest too much" about your opinions of me, then I am questionable because I'm too intense and invested -- or whatever tenditious opinion you offered about me. Yet if I leave what you said to stand unchallenged, I am not standing up for myself. That's quite a dilemma, isn't it?
What factual information do you have about the conference in Brussels? Did you read up beforehand? Do you know who the speakers were or why they agreed to come? Do you realize how Charles endangered Bat Y’eor by permitting her real name to be revealed on his site? The New York Times beat him to it, but that’s the company he keeps.
Come to think of it, do you know who Bat Y’eor is? Or Andrew Bostom, M.D.? Or Robert Spencer? These were just some of the speakers at the conference, all happy to be there. I won’t tell you what word Bat Y’eor used to describe what Charles Johnson has done — only because I don’t have her permission. Let’s just say it’s a body part and leave it at that. And if a 75 year old petite little woman who happens to be the world’s expert on Eurabia thinks this of Charles, then might it be a more accurate appraisal than yours?
Pat, there were representatives from 14 European countries at that conference, plus the US and Canada. The Italian contingent chose the occasion to present the national Oriana Fallaci annual award to Bat Ye'or. During her last months, Fallaci turned more and more to Bat; they spoke on the phone several times a day right up to the final hours of Fallaci’s death.
Robert Spencer is carefully silent about all this because…well, because he hasgood reason to be careful. We all have to make a living.
Andrew Bostom is disgusted. He was the one who sent me the hat tip on the American Thinker essay suggesting that Charles had been taken in by Belgian intel psyops. He probably was: he had information up and ready to go instantly. Charles was prepped and prepared. I was blindsided by his hostility and refusal to discuss any of it. It was Charles’ way or the highway.
The Flemish don’t know who Charles Johnson is and they don’t care. He can neither hurt them or help them and they are trying to free their country. He’s simply another American who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Walloons and the rest of the socialists in the Belgian Parliament can harm them and that is the center of their concern. The Walloons don’t want to surrender their welfare assistance, which is largely supplied by the more industrious and creative Flemish. They will hang onto the golden goose even if they have to wring its neck to do so…
In the long run, Charles can’t hurt us either. CVF Europa is growing by leaps and bounds. More countries are in, more members are joining. More distributed network activities are taking place. CVF in this country is also vital and robust. We are tired of sitting in front of our computer screens simply bloviating. So we put our money where our mouth is and did something.
As a psychiatrist, I am sure you are aware of the common phenomenon of envy. When you start something new, or you go up against authority, there will be people waiting to bring you down a level. That’s all Charles’ “principled” stand amounts to. And if you look at his falling numbers, you can see a possible reason for his need to create another Rathergate.
Meanwhile, what to do about your conversation with Siggy in which I am discussed in not very complimentary terms? And, no, I don’t find condescending pity a compliment. Victimhood doesn’t appeal to me. Your actual words were (about the Baron and me): "what would be helpful is to find a way for them to get out with their dignity intact."
I have no plan to “get out” since I’m not trapped anywhere. I plan to continue with my work and to expand it. Charles Johnson has absolutely no influence on that.
What I do want is a public apology from you and Siggy both. No, his voice couldn’t be heard but it was obvious from the context who you were talking to. I don’t mind if you do it on your blog or on the next radio broadcast. If it is the latter, I would like a transcript of the apology sent to my email address. In other words, I want an apology in writing, addressed to me. It can be a transcription, or it can be a post. Or each of you could decide to do one or the other. I'm also open to any other public venue you might consider.
If that simple request is forthcoming, we can let the matter end here.
This next one is the email attempt to blackmail me if I don't delete the entire podcast:
When I received the following email from RedState, it gave me the idea of asking you one more time to --
(A) delete your podcast about Gates of Vienna — due to the content of your comments in the extra 23 minutes that was supposed to be off mike,
(B) to post a brief apology concerning the podcast. No need to take sides in this debate, just some vague reference will do.
I will have to act if I do not hear from you from you by Friday evening, 11/30.
As an example of what I'm talking about, here is what RedState sent today about
Dear RedState Reader:
RedState is calling for CNN to fire Sam Feist, their political director; and David Bohrman, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of the debate.
During last night's debate, which CNN billed as "a Republican debate, and the goal was to let Republican voters see their candidates," CNN either knowingly or incompetently allowed hardcore left wing activists to plant questions and Anderson Cooper willingly gave one of those activists a soapbox so he could harass the Republican candidates about military policy.
Simple googling would have revealed these left wing activists.
Had CNN done its homework, this would not have happened. They either willfully let it happen, or incompetently bungled it. Either way, heads should roll.
Obviously, amateur podcasters are not in the same boat as the MSM. However, if we say that we are better than the MSM, or have higher standards, then it behooves us to stand by our words…and that podcast didn’t do it.
I haven’t had a reply from you since my first request, but I have had emails on the subject from others. They say you and Siggy appear unprofessional, and I’m sure that is not the perception you want to leave.
Since you did not reply, the Baron has transcribed the extra twenty-three minutes and if you don’t delete the podcast, we will be posting them and will include opinions from others re both the process and content of your regular program and the unintentional Afterword.
If you are unable or unwilling to settle this, then I will post the significant excerpts with a link to the whole transcript on our domain site.
I will also add a link and exposition of the Cyberjounalism’s Code of Ethics, which your podcast violated in myriad ways.
Despite how you framed it, this is not a “family squabble.” Charles has dropped some of his allegations and has been forced by our insistence to retract online his comments accusing us — CVF — of attempting to mount a DOS attack on him (a denial of service). CVF did no such thing.
And despite your opinion that Charles has the “principled” position in this, he does not. — James Lewis in the American Thinker believes he’s a tool of the Belgians. So do I.
Did Neo share with you the comments she received from one person who happens to be quite knowledgeable re the situation in European politics? If not, here they
1. Dear Neo,
that was very hard for me to listen to. I had to stop after appr. 15 minutes cause I couldn’t muster the patience for this total mix-up of facts, factoids, beliefs, assumptions and downright disinformation.
The spat in the blogosphere was definitely about two groups that participated in the Brussels anti-jihad conference in October. These groups were Vlaams Belang from Flanders, Belgium and the Sweden Democrats. Both groups are no different from classic US conservatives and there are no statutes, programs or people in these parties that you could reasonably call fascists or nazis. The European socialist politicians, media and academia call everybody a nazi who speaks up against the islamization of Europe. That means, that people like Charles Johnson do the dirty work for the European Left by denouncing European conservatives as Nazis. To the European left, everybody is a nazi that does not embrace the most foolish political correctness and multiculturalism.
Let me tell you that Bush and Cheney are being called fascists and Nazis too. So, there you go, prove them wrong …
The groups that have been mentioned in that radio show, like the BNP or LePen’s Front National EMBRACE ISLAMISM in Europe, BECAUSE IT IS ANTI-JEWISH!
Vlaams Belang and the Sweden Democrats are the most pro jewish and pro Israel parties you will find in all of Europe. As opposed to all the mainstream parties in all of Western Europe.
I have created my own blog just yesterday and just for the purpose of creating a new marketplace of ideas for a better understanding of Conservatives on both
sides of the Atlantic. I would love to participate in this debate and to bring
some knowledge and facts to the table.
I have left Europe just after 9/11, after spending decades of my life there. Europe will need the US and the US will need Europe. We have a culture in common and a common enemy. This is an important discussion that has to happen.
And to another commenter he says:
I honestly don’t understand how you can equate Paul’s writing with the mud slinging of CJ. What’s wrong with what Paul wrote?
And I never said that “LGF called Vlaams Belang or the Sweden Dems “neo-Nazis” because they spoke out against radical Islam”.
I presume you are American. Let me tell you that your political templates do not work for the present situation in Europe. That’s what I tried to make clear in my comment above.
VB and Sweden Democrats are neither antisemites nor are they racists. There are parties in Europe, like the German NPD that are only antisemite and attract huge followings of skinheads and original nazis. These parties are also openly pro islam because islam is anti jewish. That is a very old alliance. Hitler already allied with the Great Mufti of Jerusalem and there were thousands of muslim SS.
Parties like the NPD have nothing in common with the European Anti Jihad movement and VB or SD. And BNP and the FN seem to be well on their way to exclude all their admittedly black sheep.
So one good thing has come out of your podcast: the blogosphere has a new and credible blog that really knows the situation in Europe and will be refuting the misconceptions of European parties. If you want to see what he has up, it’s called “Transatlantic Conservative.”
And people understand that Charles Johnson is not only engaging in mud-slinging but has banned us, Atlas, Fjordman, and anyone who disagrees with him or agrees with us. Various group blogs have been formed by people who have been banned, often without any reasons given. They’re just gone.
Lately, CJ has introduced a new tweak: he can delete a comment in such a way that the commenter can still see it but the others on the thread see it has been deleted. It’s Kafkaesque — you should have seen what a scare it threw into his followers… and he enjoyed the game.
And he stays in the comments — or did until a couple of days ago — in a manner I’ve never seen before. He would make allegations of things “smelling bad” — sending the faithful into either reassurances he was the greatest or asking for reassurance it wasn’t them.
So for you to say he has the “principled” position is not only wrong, it’s damaging to your own credibility. Given his drastic changes in behavior, I think he’s quite fragile.
If you will agree to delete the podcast and put out a one line comment of apology, I’m willing to drop the whole thing. If not, I can only presume you are operating by MSM standards and I will address that publicly, using the cyberjournalism code of ethics to demonstrate my points.
You see, I have nothing left to lose here. You have made me look bad — “scared,” “angry”, “protesting too much”, etc. But if it goes public, then I will at least have company — to wit, you and Siggy. Your lack of due diligence will be apparent from the first moment off the unofficial podcast , when you ask “is Vlaams Belang a person?” It goes downhill from there.
Thus I ask you to reconsider this and delete the podcast and offer an apology. Otherwise, I have no choice: if I do nothing, in the future, yours will be the only record of this set-to, and when people are searching for material, they will find your podcast. If it doesn’t come down, then my response must of necessity go up to counter your own viewpoint. I am obliged to preserve some historical accuracy here.
If I have not heard from you by tomorrow afternoon, Friday, I will presume your position is the same. So the post will go up on Saturday.
I respect our previous friendship, and hope that this rift can be mended.
Let me reiterate what I said earlier. I have no intention of deleting the podcast, despite the fact that my side of a private conversation was also recorded. I am not ashamed of or embarrassed by any of the opinions I expressed after the podcast. I'm sorry Dymphna's feelings were hurt, but if she can't stand someone disagreeing with her, or suggesting that she felt "'scared', 'angy' or 'protesting too much'" -- then maybe she shouldn't be blogging.
I can't help thinking that for someone who "hates" to be a victim, she's playing it for all its worth.
The world's greatest intellectual achievements sometimes come about as the result of disagreement--even passionate disagreement. Demanding that we all walk in lockstep on an issue is a sure path to intellectual mediocrity.
The worst that can be said about my private comments made public is that I felt bad for the position she and The Baron had gotten themselves into with regard to Charles at LGF (and vice versa).
But clearly there is a pattern developing here. First GOV is fighting with Charles. Then they "end" their connection with the Infidel Blogger's Alliance after feeling slighted (see here and here). The first comment on the latter post is something I can completely agree with:
If anything is pointlessly alienating anybody it has to be this pointless neurotic self analysis.
Stick to you original tenets and those who don;t like it can go their own way.
Stop wasting time and energy on the futile.... get on with business.
And now they seem to be set on completely alienating both me and Siggy if we do not fall into line and agree with, as well as apologize....or else. Their first step was to remove me from their blogroll. Hey! Way to pull a "Charles Johnson." Well, in the end, that is their prerogative.(UPDATE/Correction: Apparantly, I am still on the GOV blogroll...I should point out that GOV will remain on mine whatever).
Well, Dymphna, do whatever you feel you must--as I have just done. I'm sorry our friendship has to end like this, if it ever really was a friendship to begin with. I did nothing of a deliberate or malicious nature that could possibly be construed as "attacking" you--if anything, your exaggerated emotional response to the entire affair only gives more credence to my judgement of your emotional state.
You, on the other hand, have crossed a line with your threats of blackmail and "exposure", simply because I don't happen to agree with you on this one issue.
I find it sad that people who I liked and respected seem to be on a campaign to deliberately sabotage relationships with friends and allies.
I wonder what other friends they will attack next?
Postscript- NO COMMENTS WILL BE ALLOWED ON THIS THREAD. NOR WILL I MAKE ANY FURTHER POSTS ON THIS ISSUE. As far as I am concerned, the matter ends here.