Attack on Charles Johnson Over Ironic Headline

From Charles Johnson at LGF, last week:

Vatican Cracks Down on Uppity US Nuns

The Vatican is cracking down on American nuns who aren’t opposed to women’s rights and gay rights, which should surprise no one who’s been following the Catholic Church’s swing to the right.

As will be immediately obvious to anyone, the headline contains irony; Johnson does not believe that the nuns are being “uppity”, but he has used the word in order to convey the ugliness of what he believes to be the Vatican’s attitude towards them.

However, it is apparently useful for some individuals to pretend that the headline has a different meaning – here’s Dana Loesch, writing on Twitter:

…Why it was a “slur” when Rush said “uppity,” but not Charles? Hack. (1)

…I love nothing more than when husky white progressive males try to explain why it’s OK for them to use racial slurs. (2)

…No, no, noes. Charles previously classified it as a slur. According to his own rules, it still is one. (3)

And so on along the same lines.

This goes back to last November, when Rush Limbaugh described Michelle Obama as “uppity”; Glenn Beck concurred, identifying the word with “snotty”. However, “uppity” also has the connotation of “getting above one’s station”, and when applied to black people evokes memories of the phrase “uppity negro”, used by racist whites in the American south to demonize black social advancement; Limbaugh is certainly aware of this. Johnson was among those who attacked Limbaugh and Beck for using the word in the context of Michelle Obama.

Loesch’s argument begins with the suggestion that by using the phrase “uppity nuns”, Johnson understands that “uppity” isn’t really a racial term; this was the “gotcha” non-point made by a Christian Right blog called Blue Collar Philosophy, which is the ur-text of the subsequent attacks. However, this then slides into the mocking suggestion that since Johnson has claimed that “uppity” has a racial meaning, the fact that he has used the word himself means that he must guilty of using “racial slurs”. Blue Collar Philosophy also links triumphantly to a Tweet on the subject of black nuns:

Many Catholic nuns are black. @Lizardoid says they’re “uppity.” (4)

Pay no heed to the details that that “uppity US nuns” does not refer to a racial group, or that Johnson has used “uppity” to mock the Vatican’s attitude towards the nuns, rather than to describe what he thinks of the nuns.

Of course, “person on the internet is troll” is not much of a story, but the above is worth logging because Loesch has a public profile as a well-connected conservative talk-show host and as a contributor to CNN. She is controversial for other reasons, but her Tweets here show her up as a hack willing to engage in vicious distortions for political gain. Her bad faith does not just insult the intelligence of the public; she undermines her own integrity. She could perhaps defend herself by claiming that she’s simply echoing what’s been passed along the food-chain (The Blue Collar Philosophy post was picked up by Dan Riehl), but what kind of a person makes a dozen goading Tweets on a point they haven’t properly checked out?

Johnson is a lightning rod for this sort of nonsense: back in January, the fact that all books available on Amazon can be purchased through his site’s personal store prompted the late Andrew Breitbart to claim that Johnson is “PROFITING from the racist Turner Diaries”; prior to that, scepticism of a claim by Robert Spencer that a family shooting in Texas had been an honour killing provoked Spencer to accuse Johnson of “excusing” honour crimes in return for payment. There is also a chorus of lesser blogs along the same lines which are probably not worth mentioning – but the words of Loesch, Breitbart, and Spencer are of wider significance as providing the ideological underpinning for a large-scale political movement. It’s all rather unattractive.