A Reply to Kevin Johnson’s Recent Allegations
If you do not know Kevin Johnson very well it is probably best to skip this post altogether—although there are certainly principles of justice and integrity illuminated by this new situation. Johnson has decided to respond in a very interesting and surprising manner to my recent defense of Professor Scott Clark against Johnson’s criticism. . . . At this point, I hope Johnson is capable of going on with life after receiving criticism from me without starting out on an unhelpful and slanderous journey against not only Frank Turk, all American Baptists, David Armstrong, the Puritan Board, Wilson, and Scott Clark, but now even his old friend the silly ol’ Pooh Bear.
I think Johnson’s recent actions are really an embarrassment for everyone, and I find it unbelievable at this point to have to once again defend myself against slanderous attacks from someone I tried to hold as a friend as much as possible, which included public defenses on his behalf whenever I could and friendly private correspondence. This also included my careful silence about private concerns I had about Johnson. In response to this judicial “friendship,” Johnson has sought to, without warning, and without any private correspondence at all, publicly attack my good name as well as the work done here in the Wood by myself and others. Given the kinds of principles Johnson blogs about this is some very sad behavior. Yet, unfortunately, the situation is actually a bit graver than this, as I am now encouraged to here explain. This will be one attempt at expressing my opinion about Kevin Johnson; given the argumentative quality and moral integrity of Johnson’s first chance to let me have it, I do not at this time plan on responding to whatever this post generates from Johnson. So this will likely be the end of it as far as I am concerned. If Johnson wants to offer argumentative criticism about something specific I have posted on, that would be an entirely different matter, but from what I have seen from Johnson that is not something I will anticipate happening anytime soon.
I have been ginger in my appreciation of Kevin Johnson in the past, and although he was one of the few people to call Wilson’s gruesome behavior for what it was, I never got the impression he really understood or followed closely what was really going on here in Moscow. He seemed a bit rhetorically jumpy and his heat seemed to often get ahead of any argument or clear thesis he had in mind. This came out a good deal in his rabid lunges at Frank Turk before getting kicked off Wilson’s blog for fighting a war that had nothing to do with Turk. I became particularly concerned as I watched his off-line emails to me separating a good deal from his online talk. I was likewise troubled when Johnson made it clear he was staying mute about his friend Tim Enloe’s wild internet behavior (Armstrong had documented this behavior, but it appears to now be off-line).
You might not have noticed, but I removed a link to Johnson’s Reformed Catholicism a little while ago as I grew progressively concerned about Johnson’s character and the motives driving his laymen internet presence; his desire to boast the title of “Reverend” only caused me further worries. Johnson’s new approach to Wilson has not been all that surprising, and has confirmed my initial worries that finally led to my removing a link to his site.
You might have already read my recent defense of Scott Clark against a recent criticism from Johnson. If you have not yet read this defense, you should do so if you are going to attempt to read this post carefully; you can find it here. I had already offered a more light-hearted and unsympathetic defense of Clark before I had seen anything from Johnson on this matter, which you can see here, and my friend had already offered a more straightforward and sympathetic defense as found here. Thus, my criticism of Johnson’s post, a post that caused me even deeper concern over the stability of Johnson’s intellectual and moral trajectory, should not have come to any surprise at all; it was perfectly consistent with the arguments and points already made about Clark before Johnson chimed in with his own attempt at joining in on Wilson’s pouncing on Clark.
Although already skeptical about Johnson, I was still taken back by Johnson’s literal retaliation to my decision to write a criticism of his post. Here is Johnson’s reply to this latest defense of Clark. Please read it carefully. That Johnson refers to my argumentative defense of Clark as a “hit piece” is I think enough for the intelligent reader to get a whiff of what is likely going on here. There are many things about this post from Johnson that are troubling; what I take to be beyond troubling is that Johnson would take a mild criticism of his analysis on an issue I was already discussing as an occasion of casting moral accusations against myself and the work that myself and others have done here in the Wood over the last 12 months. Johnson is replying to a fairly argumentative piece, well motivated, and consistent with what we were already arguing here in the Wood; this tragedy turns a bit ironic when you consider that this is the first post I’ve made to the Wood that I sent to others for review before posting. In fact, I sent it to two different people for review. One reviewer approved it without suggestions, and the other reviewer approved it with just one suggestion, which I accepted.
Johnson has exihibited a good deal of injustice and dishonesty at this point. But there are some further things I need to show you in order to explain my disappointment.
It was just a number of days ago that Johnson first took a surprise strike at me. It was in the form of a comment in a thread attached to a post Johnson made criticizing Wilson. Apparently, my site is now censured from Johnson’s site in the form of ping-backs. I sent in a couple friendly and short comments for the first time in a while. In response to this, Johnson replied with an offensive comment with sweeping allegations. This was a good deal startling. I sent Johnson a private email and I also offered an aggressive and lengthy reply to this comment thread.
However, fairly quickly, Johnson’s comment was removed while my lengthy post remained. Johnson had not replied to my email—he has still not responded to my email to date—and so I put up a short note here at Pooh’s Think explaining that I took the removal of Johnson’s comment while leaving my reply to be wrong. After some time, my comment was finally censured as well, along with the other friendly notes I had made and any evidence on the right hand of the site that I had commented at all. I removed my post addressing the situation and heard nothing from anyone about this strange occurrence. And last I checked, I was banned from posting comments to Johnson’s blog; it looks like Johnson has been watching Wilson’s tactics fairly closely over the last couple years–ban Fred your site right before you let him have it so that he cannot defend himself.
Any charitable thoughts I have had trying to think the best of Johnson’s initial actions from a number of days ago and resulting silence have been annihilated by Johnson’s new response to my defense of Clark. There was no full excuse for Johnson’s actions, but I was at least hoping that Johnson did not want to force me to come public with my opinion of him and his actions. I was willing to go on and leave it there, keeping my opinions about Johnson’s behavior to myself. But apparently, Johnson doesn’t mind forcing a fight at all.
Some Attempted Interaction
I will conclude by offering just a few comments about the content of Johnson’s post. There is really not much to argumentatively interact with, but I’ll give it my best shot. For starters I should point out the simple fact that Johnson does not argumentatively interact with my defense of Clark at all and does not characterized my general criticism or concern in a recognizable way. This compounds the irony since in one of my more indirect argumentative statements I said:
I wonder if Johnson would be willing to debate someone contesting his brash claims here about Clark, Bahnsen, Wilson, and “Reformedville.”
Well, I guess it will be with one incoherent swoop that Johnson has decided to prove my point here correct. Johnson was demanding Clark rigorously defend his claims through the means of formal and careful debate while he himself was shooting a sawed off shotgun like a drunken man. I tried to politely hint at this problem here, but apparently, Johnson wishes to defend his initial shooting at Clark by directing the same stupor at the first person who attempts to argumentatively challenge his emptying of the shotgun shells while yelling “Yeehaa!” In other words, I tried to add some judicial constraints on a highly polemical situation by pointing out the fact that Johnson needs to be more argumentative and less trigger happy; and in response to this concern, Johnson just starts pulling the trigger all over again—right at my head.
I’m sad to say it, but I think we really see a pattern of lack of discipline from Johnson that reminds me of the very real problem the internet world had not long ago with his associate Tim Enloe. Johnson is even willing to exclaim the silliest things to justify this continued behavior; upon discovering my argumentative criticism Johnson gets on the internet and cries, “BAM! Hit piece! I find myself in the Internet Twilight Zone (insert music here).” This is some scary stuff. I wish to simply direct the reader back to the post of mine Johnson is responding to.
Second, in response to this criticism, he acknowledges explicitly that he is here making an internet “friend” an “enemy”: “Internet friends, I’ve learned, can quickly become enemies and it is a sad state of affairs in Christian dialogue that such is the case.” It is true that Johnson is treating me like an enemy; the problem is that I certainly wasn’t treating him like an enemy in my defense of Clark. Instead of responding charitably and argumentatively to an “old friend,” nay even much like a mature man at all, Johnson wants another internet war. Well he can have his war all to himself; I don’t have the time, energy, or patience.
Third, Johnson’s response to my straightforward, intellectual criticism is dripping with arrogance. It is hard for Johnson to “dignify a response.” Johnson looks down his nose from the holy clouds: “I’ve likely given you a bit too much attention both now and in times past.” Given me too much “attention”? The very title of this response to my defense of Clark is titled “Go away, kid, ya bother me”. Go away I bother you? This is an example to the internet world of charitable, Christian discourse? I’m not sure we have anything here rising above the kind of piety we have over at the other No Trespassing Zone. And then Johnson ridicules everything myself and others have written here at Pooh’s Think: “To me, your work on ‘poohsthink’ is now in large part the sad sort of example of someone totally consumed by grief and anger.”
Fourth, this last statement from Johnson leaves me with the last point I would like to make in attempt to somehow interact with this sanctimonious sermon from one of Job’s good friends. Notice that Johnson concludes:
Likely the best thing for you is to put the keyboard down and cast all your cares on Christ. Don’t return to it until you can praise the gentlemen you currently criticize more than you can admonish them. Acknowledge your own weaknesses and admit that you likely contributed to the situation that started this so long ago. And. Forgive.
Ick. This is why Kant wasn’t a Lutheran when he wrote his philosophical works. Johnson is clearly willing to pick up any cheap and overly pious rhetoric lying on the ground at this point. But in any case, take a look at the last statement above again:
To me, your work on ‘poohsthink’ is now in large part the sad sort of example of someone totally consumed by grief and anger.
Johnson here tries to hedge his bets. He was after all a pretty firm supporter of the Wood back in the early days, back when things were really crazy, and his private emails would only make this fact firmer. But NOW my blog has just turned into the ravings of a grieving and angry man. Ya, sure. Let’s take a stroll through the Wood really quick shall we? This will be my last point.
Here’s the last two pages of posts at the Wood, starting from December 9th:
1. I offer a short note about apologies from anonymous people; this is in reply to Ministry Watchman’s public apology to me.
2. I offer a humorous theory about Ministry Watchman, what I called the Montana Cave Theory; I was laughing while I was writing it.
3. I repost an analysis from Peter Kershaw on the RC Sproul Jr Scandal, a man who was involved with the process of abuse and defrocking at some level.
4. My friend and careful CREC jurist writes in about the COTK public statement
5. I linked to someone else’s web site on the CREC and the COTK issue
6. I craft a short essay on the importance of identity when receiving an argument; I blend my concerns with Ministry Watchman with contemporary epistemology to make a thin analysis of what is in reality a very mysterious issue.
7. I provided some links to various sites related to the RC Sproul Jr defrocking and Ligonier’s law suit.
8. I link to a web site done by someone else; it is filled with accurate yet lighthearted satire about Christ Chruch.
9. My friend writes another note about the CREC and COTK
10. I offer a pastoral criticism of the Epstein’s public attack on Doug Phillips.
11. I decided to post a funny note I had emailed my friend.
12. I criticize in a humorous way the man who is challenging Doug Phillips over the Alasorous dig.
13. I made a point about hypocritical uses of 1 Cor. 6 in dealing with our legal system
14. I comment on a note Wilson wrote that included a reference to Phillips.
15. I draw an analogy between Ministry Watchman and the French Revolution.
16. My friend writes in with more analysis of the CREC and the COTK.
17. I point out Wilson’s brazen attack on the PCA’s judicial system and defend the PCA.
Ok, that’s it. I don’t have time to keep going; this is certainly enough to make my point. We haven’t even gotten to my posts on Wollstonecraft, feminism, gender, my philosophical work on judicial decision and experiential knowledge, and Matthew Chancey’s mrs. binoclulars. None of the posting exhibits the thoughts of an angry and grieving man, and perhaps even more amazingly, I hardly even write about Doug Wilson! What does this say about the accuracy of Johnson’s sweeping claims about what my blog is NOW given to? I think it says a good deal. Out of 18 posts, Metzler writes directly about Doug Wilson approximately two or three times. Jeepers Johnson; you are a tad too unfair here buddy.
Given the new wave of irrational attacks by some Wilson apologists and the current spike in opposition from a few Ministry Watchman folks dedicated to outing me due to my defense of Doug Phillips, Johnson has no doubt chosen an opportune moment to strike an old friend without warning. He is likely going to get some helpful play from those already commented to rhetorically punishing me. But I think this just highlights the lack of integrity Johnson has shown. I’m supposedly an old friend—and I was actually—and yet I get a public smear instead of a phone call of concern. I offer a mild and argumentative criticism in defense of Scott Clark that should have been expected at the mere intellectual level given my previous similar defense, and yet I get just pious indignation and sweeping attacks against my character in reply. I defended Johnson’s good name when he was unjustly booted from Wilson’s blog, and yet just this last week I get banned from Johnson’s web site without notice and without expression of any concern; and some of my previous material was even censured and removed after I called the libelous manipulation of the flow of actual dialog. The hypocrisy and injustice is fairly evident here; Johnson has simply proven to me that he is not a just, charitable, and trustworthy man on some foundational levels. Let Johnson start up a crusade against Metzler; it will be evident that it is the result of pride, not accuracy. I therefore plan on having nothing to do with it from here.
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