How to Erase a Troublesome Conservative from the Movement
On Tuesday, after the Washington Post ran a strangely credulous profile of the conservative activist who was outing and doxxing the subjects of news stories, the Daily Caller's Matt K. Lewis said "no more." The subject, Charles Johnson, was treated like "a celebrity." The soft coverage might encourage more bad behavior. And besides:
I would ask the Post, and others, to be a bit more specific when it comes to associating Charles Johnson with this outlet. He has written some freelance articles for the Daily Caller—just as he has written for many other outlets over the years. Having actually worked here for nearly four years—I’m sitting in my DC office right now—I think I might have met Johnson maybe twice. To be clear, he never actually worked at the Daily Caller.
Lewis's piece got around, but the denial became a source of befuddlement. Johnson wrote dozens of stories for the DC. He was listed as a "contributor," sure, but in 2013 Johnson appeared in the DC many times each month. (Johnson, who is if nothing else a diligent researcher, was on the Jonathan Gruber story long before the rest of the press cottoned on.) He published more stories for the DC than he did for the other outlets mentioned in his bio.
Yet the meme continued to evolve. In the Washington Examiner, on Wednesday, reporter Eddie Scarry wrote that "media conservatives" were refusing to claim Johnson as one of their own. "Johnson’s methods come as many conservative news outlets struggle to gain and maintain credibility as sources for accurate information," wrote Scarry. "Though conservative journalists are generally distrustful of mainstream news outlets, the attention on Johnson could be seen as a setback for conservative news media's own attempt to be taken seriously." A Daily Caller editor was given anonymity to further the argument. And previously, the Daily Caller published Johnson's argument with John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, who'd called him repulsive after he criticized James Foley's demeanor in the tape of his assassination.
Taken together, this might seem like evidence that the right did not claim Johnson and he did not claim the right. That's a recent development. When J.K. Trotter introduced the readers of Gawker to Johnson, he printed the outlets that the sudden outcast had published in: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New Criterion, the American Spectator, the Claremont Review of Books, City Journal, Reason.com, National Review Online, Tablet Magazine, the Weekly Standard, Powerline, and the New York Sun. That's a grand tour of the right.
And there's more. Flip over a copy of Johnson's Calvin Coolidge biography/appreciation, and there are endorsements from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, John Yoo, and Daily Caller EIC Tucker Carlson. "Charles Johnson's smart and entertaining book about our witty, wise, and human thirtieth president is a must-read for anyone who cares about the history of the presidency or its future," writes the editor of a publication that, according to one of its writers, is being unfairly associated with Johnson.
Every political movement that's worth anything goes through the occasional purge. What you have here is a sort of mutual amnesia compact.