What's more, he's a weaselly and despicable one.
If you don't know who he is, Johnston runs Bleeding Cool, which is the successor website (and current host for) his long-running comics news and gossip column, "Lying in the Gutters." One of his recent posts mentioned the attempted murder of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was one of several Danish cartoonists to draw Mohammed in contravention to Muslim religious law. As you may recall, this innocuous gag (very few of the images were in any way critical; most were very mild jokes or weren't jokes at all, just drawings of a bearded dude) resulted in death threats and riots, during which major news outlets that have cheerfully run everything from pictures of crucifixes dunked in urine to gruesome war photography to photographs of Amy Winehouse tied themselves in knots to cover the stories while avoiding running the cartoons.
On New Year's Day, an axe-wielding fanatic -- who had, in a feat of staggering chutzpah, claimed asylum on the grounds that he would be persecuted in his home country -- broke into Kurt Westergaard's house. Westergaard locked himself in the bathroom, which had been fortified to serve as a panic room. Police arrived and shot the attempted murderer, who survived. This is where Johnston comes in. He posted about the attempted murder. Quoth Johnston, at the conclusion of his post: "The cartoon in question featured Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban. No i’m not reproducing it here. I like my door axe-free, thank you very much."
Seven posts earlier, Johnston had provided his thoughts regarding the comic-related Visual of the Year. Among his candidates: a pair of boobs, strategically covered by hands wearing those Lantern Rings that were part of DC's recent promotion. The photo, I gather, originally had been contributed to a store contest run by a singularly unpleasant comic store owner who has been the subject of ire from feminists and people who just thought it odd to insult potential customers. After being reproduced in Johnston's column, the photo became a cause for considerable critique of Johnston. For the end of the year, Johnston decided to tweak feminists and his critics by running the photo again.
He thinks it's funny. Y'know what? It's not.
I find the boobs picture tackier than I do offensive, but I *am* extremely offended that the reason Rich is willing to post a picture that offends feminists and not willing to post one that offends Muslims is that there are Muslim fanatics who are willing to kill people who offend them. Nice incentive scheme you set up there, Rich! Obviously, feminists need a fanatical subset willing to kill people. Then Rich Johnston will realize their opinions as valid and worthy of respect, no matter how invalid or unworthy of respect those ideas may actually be. Heck, Johnston posts stuff that I vehemently disagree with from time to time; maybe I should nag like-minded folks to start killing people who have the temerity to disagree with us. Because if there are enough of us, we'll be rewarded for it.
I mean, I *was* under the impression that political involvement, friendly discussion, and living by example, were the way to win friends and influence people in a democracy, but apparently breaking into people's homes with axes is the way to go.
Do you know why this is especially offensive to me? Because I'm a gun nut. We know we have an image problem. One reason I post about guns -- which I need to do more often! -- is that I want to put a good face on the issue. When some yahoo open-carries at an unrelated political rally, I grit my teeth -- if I were there, I'd march up and yell at the asshole. The jokes we make are *important.* The way we comport ourselves is *important.* Because I'm not just in this for me, I'm in this for everybody in the shooting sports and -- more importantly -- everybody who meets me who has some preconceived notion of what a gun nut is like, because maybe those preconceived notions keep them from going shooting, too. And if they were to go shooting, maybe they'd find out they like guns. And when lots of people like guns, *then I win.*
In the meantime, we're advertised as being everything the guy who tried to kill with an axe actually is, but nobody is afraid of us. As they shouldn't be.
Rich Johnston, meanwhile, is happy to tweak the tails of feminists, and Christians, and conservatives, but when it comes to Islam, he is afraid of their fanatical wing, so he does something that's really alien to him: he shows respect.
To borrow a phrase from Glenn Reynolds: if you reward something, you'll get more of it. That's how it works.
I'm not just worried about Muslim fanatics, who murder far more Muslims than non-Muslims; I'm worried about animal rights fanatics, whose low-grade terror campaigns are already having a chilling effect on individual scientists, and about anti-abortion fanatics, who might realize that occasional murders are one thing but they could be even more effective if they had a larger body of people willing to throw away their own lives to murder for the cause, and about environmentalist fanatics who like destroying things already, and about the anti-government fanatics who cheered Timothy McVeigh or said, "Y'know, he's got a point there," and about fanatics of every single stripe who just haven't realized that having a large body of people willing to commit murder is the way to get respect in this day and age. Rich Johnston from his own writings should be bloody worried about the BNP's fanatics realizing this. And every time somebody kowtows to murderous fanatics, it's another gentle nudge for other fanatics to wake up and realize what they can do, if they're only willing to kill for it.
Way to go, Big Rich.
This is Westergaard's cartoon: