In an era of a great political divide in America; even the most passionate ideologues on either extreme of the political spectrum were horrified at recent murders of James Foley and Steve Sotloff by the ISIS terrorists. There were some however who chose to use the death of Steve Sotloff to spin repulsive false narratives about Sotloff, contending that he deserved his fate because he was a terrorist sympathizer.

The name Charles C. Johnson has been in the news a lot in recent months. This Charles Johnson is not the one behind Little Green Footballs. This Johnson is the one who broke a bribery scandal about Thad Cochran’s reelection campaign, a scandal proven to be false by Dave Weigel. Johnson also tried to get the juvenile record of Ferguson Missouri’s Michael Brown released because he contended a cop told him the youth was involved in a second degree murder case, a charge also proven false. That claim was purely to slander Brown because if Officer Wilson is charged it would have no bearing on whether or not the shooting was justified.

Tuesday evening Johnson tried to use some old Sotloff tweets to prove that this dual U.S./Israeli citizen who faked illness to observe Yom Kippur while imprisoned by ISIS was a terrorist sympathizer.

Sotloff embedded himself with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which at the time was the leading force battling Syrian president Assad. The Free Syrian Army was not a group of angels; they were a barbaric army who preferred to kill rather than capture the opponents and were comprised of both moderate forces and terrorist elements. In July 2014, eleven months after Sotloff was captured some of the FSA factions went to fight for ISIS. Johnson used that defection as evidence the murdered journalist was a terrorist sympathizer.

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Another example of Sotloff’s supposed terrorist sympathy was that he mourned the deaths of people he knew in the FSA

This tweet and others like this Johnson referred to do not indicate that Sotloff was a terrorist, but that he was a sensitive human who mourned the death of other humans. I don’t know if Munthir Hussain was a terrorist, but Johnson’s criticism of the above reminds me of the story of the splitting of the Reed Sea in the bible. When the Jewish people saw that the sea had destroyed Pharaoh’s army they celebrated their deaths. God said to them do not celebrate, Pharaoh’s people are also my children. To be honest I forget that when people who are extremely evil are killed (bin Laden for example). However there is no indication that Sotloff’s friend Hussain has done anything which could classify him as being in the bin Laden category (or even being a terrorist)

Johnson’s also contended that because Sotloff’s reporting had progressive leanings he must have jumped to the other side. If progressive leanings meant one had become a terrorist most of the mainstream media and half of Congress would be on the terrorist watch list, an interesting albeit dishonest idea.

Bare Naked Islam is another example (I won’t link to their article because they also chose to post a picture of Sotloff’s dead body/severed head).

Their article began

REAP WHAT YOU SOW: Steven Sotloff, Jewish grandson of Holocaust survivors with American-Israeli citizenship, held a “deep love for Islam”

Leftist Jew gets in bed with the mortal enemy of the Jews and suffers the consequences. Steven Sotloff spoke fluent Arabic and showed a deep love for the Islamic world, even while living in Israel. He is reported to have supported Hamas and the Syrian jihadist rebels before he was captured by ISIS militants in Syria in 2013 and beheaded by them yesterday.

The author posted a news story about Sotloff’s life in Israel which said, in part, “he was apparently not a fan of the Israeli government’s hardline approach to Palestine,” which is true but it doesn’t make him a friend of terrorists as the quoted article also states

‘Like most of us, he came here and he became very critical of the government,’ said Hillary Lynne Glaser, who studied conflict resolution, international relations and counter-terrorism with Sotloff. ‘I’m not so sure it was about the Israeli-Arab conflict, I think it was more how they treat their own people. But he still came back to visit,’ she said. ‘He didn’t hate it enough to not come visit,’ she said. ‘He still considered it his home.’

Much of Israel is critical of the Netanyahu government.  In the last election Bibi’s party got around 25% of the vote.  As the old saying goes if you have two Jews you have four opinions. If they had done any research the author would have realized that there has never been an Israeli government that earned a majority of seats in the Knesset (parliament). Again if being a critic of the government believing it was to hardline in its approach to Palestine (a fact that I disagree with) made one a Hamas sympathizer the majority of Israeli’s would fall into that category.

Other “evidence” used was that Sotloff learned Arabic (which is taught in all Israeli schools along with Hebrew and English). Think about that stupid charge for a moment. The guy lived in Israel and was a reporter primarily covering the Middle East. He wouldn’t be a very good reporter if he didn’t know Arabic.

The post also criticized the murdered reporter for being ‘committed to the Arab Spring and very respectful of Islamic culture’. Many Americans believed the Arab Spring was a chance for people living under tyranny to throw of the yoke of their oppression. Again I did not agree with that stance but I certainly can understand it. Islamic culture (as opposed to the Islamist culture of death)  is a tradition rich in the arts, medicine, astronomy etc. And while one can argue that the Muslim who invented Algebra should have been thrown in jail, a respect of the Islamic culture is not a indication of terrorist sympathy. In fact terrorist groups such as Hamas and ISIS suppress culture and the arts.

I am not a huge fan of most liberal reporters, but this is not an issue of politics it is an issue of decency. Everything I have read about Steven Sotloff showed him to be a sensitive guy, who cared about people, and someone who cared about Israel and his faith. There is nothing, nothing demonstrating that he had any allegiance to terrorist entities. Certainly there was nothing in the two reports above.

Some will criticize Johnson and Bare Naked Islam but use them as examples of the “wacko far right.” In fact my friend Tommy Christopher (yes I pick friends based on what is in their hearts rather not what is in their politics)….my friend Tommy Christopher in the Daily Banter about these and other attacks on Sotloff:

These people obviously don’t represent the views of most conservatives, but just as the immigration crisis revealed the sort of intolerant hate that modern conservatism attracts and tolerates, these folks represent a teeming, writhing ecosystem underneath the same rock.

I strongly disagree with Tommy on this point, I believe that both sides have creeps and these and other examples he writes about are beyond the extreme fringes of the right side of the blogisphere. Let’s face it…we have them but the left has them too. 

I have been told that Charles C. Johnson used to be legitimate. His book about the leadership of Calvin Coolidge has been recommended to me more than once. But somewhere sometime Johnson must have taken some bad acid. Today he is more of a ‘click-whore” posting unsubstantiated stories just to generate traffic and press.

Most bloggers are true citizen journalists–if they are working on a story which could damage someone’s career or reputation they make dammed sure it is correct, develop multiple sources before posting. Scandals do get traffic but false scandals are hurtful and destroy the entire argument behind citizen journalism. It is people like Johnson who damage the reputation of real citizen journalists and bloggers.

I never got to met Steven Sotloff however based on the research done since he appeared in the Jim Foley execution video, he seems like someone I would have loved to argue politics with over a Shabbos dinner.

May God comfort his family and loved ones, may his soul rest in peace and as we near the season for atonement may those who slander his memory realize the error of their ways.  They cannot soil the memory of a good man, but in the end they will face their slander on judgment day.