The Charles Johnson Interview
Charles Johnson’s “Little Green Footballs” web page is one of the most popular political blogs on the net. Recently, I had a chance to interview him by email and we discussed several things including the content management system he’s creating, how the Israel/Palestine conflict can be solved, and Europe’s reasons for being so stridently anti-Israel. Read and enjoy…
John Hawkins:: I understand that you used to be a programmer for Atari. You didn’t have anything to do with Space Invaders or Defender did you?
Charles Johnson:: Actually I didn’t work for Atari the company; a partner and I had a software/hardware development firm that marketed products for the Atari ST/TT line of computers, called CodeHead Technologies. No games! I wrote most of the programs we sold, which were productivity and utility applications. We also imported hardware products from Germany for resale.
John Hawkins:: How did you come up with the name ‘Little Green Footballs’?
Charles Johnson:: It happened in Tokyo. It involved compressed rubber. Highly compressed rubber. That’s all I’m at liberty to reveal at the present time.
John Hawkins:: How much traffic does LGF do on a daily basis?
Charles Johnson:: Lately LGF’s traffic has been taking off. Last week we had several days with over 10,000 unique visits, thanks to a mention by Mark Steyn in his National Post column “Multiculturalists are the Real Racists.” And we recently surfaced as one of the most-searched for topics on Lycos.
John Hawkins:: I understand that you’re designing a content management system for webmasters. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Charles Johnson:: You can see it working at LGF now. It’s a PHP application with a file structure loosely based on Greymatter’s. When Greymatter (which we used previously) began to act unreliably I wrote a new system that used the same file structure, so that switching over was painless. The total system includes a full daily statistics package, comments, archives, RSS newsfeed generation, search functions, email notification, and a lot of other stuff. Will I release it to the public? Yes, that’s the plan, but it’s not imminent. I still have plenty of work to do before it’s ready for general release, and not much free time to do it in. But it’s in the works.
John Hawkins:: You’re known for coining the term ‘anti-idiotarian’. For those who are not familiar with that term, explain what it means.
Charles Johnson:: It’s a spinoff of something Glenn Reynolds wrote; the full story is here:: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=2091
John Hawkins:: Do you see the blogosphere as a huge up and coming media force, a passing fad, or something in between?
Charles Johnson:: There’s definitely something big going on, with hundreds of thousands of weblogs out there. But most of them are not political or even media-oriented; the majority are just personal journals. I don’t think anyone knows where it’s going, because like many Internet phenomena it started and is evolving without conscious direction. The most interesting part for me is how it diffuses the media focus, giving individuals more of a voice in the process.
John Hawkins:: Where do you see US-European relations in a decade? Better, worse, or possibly even hostile? Why so?
Charles Johnson:: I think a lot depends on the European reaction to the upcoming war with Iraq. Right now the only European country that appears to be solidly with us is Great Britain, and they’ve been showing signs of wavering too. If we truly have to go it alone in Iraq, I think US-Europe relations will suffer greatly.
John Hawkins:: Let me ask you the ‘War on Terror’ question of the hour: If and when do you think we’ll hit Iraq?
Charles Johnson:: No idea. Really. Last July I predicted to my brother (not in public) that we’d be in Iraq before August. So what do I know? I should just shut up.
John Hawkins:: After Iraq, do you see us moving against Iran militarily? Why so?
Charles Johnson:: Iran is an interesting problem, because they have a huge disaffected younger generation that is very pro-American, and increasingly connected to the Internet. The possibility that an internal revolt could result in regime change is more realistic for Iran than for Iraq. We may not have to do much to help it along.
John Hawkins:: How do you think the US should deal with Saudi Arabia long-term?
Charles Johnson:: We’re in a bind right now, after decades of, well, appeasement of the Saudis in the name of the almighty petrodollar. And the Saudis have exploited this to maximum advantage, inciting their population with anti-American and anti-West rhetoric to keep their attention off the corrupt, brutal, and repressive Saudi government, knowing that the US won’t object (or even notice, really). On a long-term basis, we need to reframe our relations with the Saudis so that we operate from a position of strength instead of supplication. And I think the war with Iraq, again, will be a major stepping stone to that position.
John Hawkins:: Realistically, what do you think it will take to solve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
Charles Johnson:: There’s little doubt that the Oslo “peace process” was a complete disaster, and a failure on every level, because it failed to take into account the dishonesty of Arafat and his gangs of thugs. But in the past month we’re starting to see many signs that the “anti-Oslo” Israeli policy of aggressively cracking down on Palestinian terrorism is showing positive results. Many terrorist leaders have been arrested, resources and bomb factories have been destroyed; I even read recently that Israel has almost totally wiped out the notorious PFLP. But ultimately, the only solution will come when the Palestinian Arabs renounce their dream of pushing Israel into the sea, a dream that has been fed and exploited by the surrounding Arab states.
John Hawkins:: Israel recently drew a lot of criticism for collateral damage they caused when they killed a top terrorist. Were they right to fire or should they have let him walk? Why so?
Charles Johnson:: Lately it has seemed to me that Israel has started to relax their strict guidelines against harming civilians, when it’s necessary to act against terrorists plotting attacks. It’s always sad when bystanders are caught up in military action and hurt or killed, of course. But there are some other factors at work that need to be considered.
1) Intention matters. There’s no doubt that Israel does not intentionally seek to kill large numbers of Palestinian civilians; with their highly developed military force, they could inflict grievous suffering on the population if that were truly their intent. On the other hand, Palestinian terror groups do intentionally try to kill large numbers of civilians, often aiming at the most defenseless.
2) One reason the terror groups have flourished in the Palestinian Authority is that they were *able* to hide out among the population, knowing that Israel’s strict guidelines against injuring civilians would shield them. Also, keep in mind that Palestinian society still has many tribal elements about it; the civilians in an area will usually know that there’s a bomb factory down the street, or that the local Hamas commander is hiding at his sister’s house.
When Israel shows that they’re not always going to respect the rights of civilians who harbor terrorists, they drive a wedge between the civilians and terrorists, and make it much harder for the killers to find refuge. So even though, in the short run, it means occasional unintended civilian casualties, in the long run it’s part of a strategy to defang the terror groups that have a death grip on their own societies, and it will end up in less loss of innocent life.
John Hawkins:: Why do you think that seemingly the entire world except for the United States has come down so firmly on the side of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians?
Charles Johnson:: A lot of reasons. Anti-Semitism plays a part, especially in European countries. And the Palestinian propaganda machine has been very effective at twisting and distorting the history and events to fit their agenda.
John Hawkins:: Do you agree with US and Israeli government’s contention that it’s a waste of time to continue negotiating with the Palestinians in the ‘Disputed Territories’ as long as Yasser Arafat is running the show?
Charles Johnson:: Yes, absolutely. Arafat is a thug and a murderer and an evil terrorist and if I were in charge he would have been dead long ago. I’m continually amazed that Israel has not expelled or assassinated the baby wipe billionaire.
John Hawkins:: How much progress do you think we’ve made in the ‘War on Terrorism’ since 911?
Charles Johnson:: Huge progress in the first few months. But things have been moving awfully slow lately.
John Hawkins:: Name three non-fiction books that you think everyone should read.
Charles Johnson:: I’m almost finished with Michael B. Oren’s SIX DAYS OF WAR, and anyone who wants to understand the history of the modern Middle East *must* read this book. Muchos gracias to the LGF reader who purchased it for me from my Amazon wish list! Daniel Goldhagen’s HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS is another book I’d highly recommend, for understanding Europe’s shameful history of murderous anti-Semitism and how it has shaped the history of the world. And a book I recently reread that has particular relevance to our war with militant Islam: Carl Sagan’s THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD. By the way, ask me this question next week and you’ll probably get three different books.
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