Sunday, June 25, 2006



Lee Siegel has it all figured out. Lee Siegel has everything figured out. He's been unwrapping the bows and ribbons of his intellect on websites for years, including a preening Slate diary a few years ago that nearly got him laughed out of the lodge, yet he disassociates from the other riffraff online, behaving as if has nothing in common with the amoebic nonentities who presume that they too have something to say. TNR Online features a column called "Lee Siegel on Culture," which seems like a naughty thing to do to culture, but let that go for the mo. Here, he has quite a go at those revolting peasants climbing over the hedges and tramping across the petunia beds. "It's a bizarre phenomenon, the blogosphere. It radiates democracy's dream of full participation but practices democracy's nightmare of populist crudity, character-assassination, and emotional stupefaction. It's hard fascism with a Microsoft face. It puts some people, like me, in the equally bizarre position of wanting desperately for Joe Lieberman to lose the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont so that true liberal values might, maybe, possibly prevail, yet at the same time wanting Lamont, the hero of the blogosphere, to lose so that the fascistic forces ranged against Lieberman might be defeated." A writer chiding bloggers for their incoherent rage ought not to be so glib about lobbing characterizations of fascism around. It sounds as if he’s lashing out, doing what he laments others doing, only with fancier language and rhetorical footwork. A lot of those who oppose Lieberman are longtime liberals who are tired of him being the Republicans' pet Democrat, and fed up with his unctuous mushmouth pieties in support of Bush initiatives. I suspect that part of the peevishness Siegel and his fellow epicureans of ideas feel towards the angry amoebas of the blogsphere is rooted in the uncomfortable knowledge that sites such as Daily Kos, Atrios, and Steve and Jen’s News Blog proved a helluva lot more right about the debacle in Iraq than the battle cries of the Beltway intelligentsia.

But we all lapse into overstatement from time to time, and Siegel should not be pilloried for a single ill-thought out post.

Unfortunately, he has followed that up with an even ill'er thought out post, putting his foot in it up to his hip socket. His attempt to enlarge the frame of his argument and isolate the fascist gene that makes the Kossacks and their ilk so dangerous to democracy and discourse is an embarrassing display of smarmy sophistry the likes of which I haven’t seen since Jonah Goldberg last tried to form a serious, non-Captain Kirk thought. Siegel begins by recounting some of the vile insults and suggestions he received after his first post. It’s no fun being at the receiving end of one of these pile-ons. I’ve been the subject of threads on some of the rightwing sites where no aspect of my well-crafted persona went unvilified; it’s true that there are a lot of gnomes lying in the weeds out there spreading fumes. But there’s quite a difference between mouthy malcontents and fascist fodder, a distinction lost on Siegel, who absurdly writes, “Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents. Communism was hatched by elites. Fascism was born along the drifting paths of rootless men, often ex-soldiers who had fought in the First World War and been demobilized. They turned European politics into a madhouse of deracinated ambition.”
Read the whole thing, as they say...

...and then go read watertiger for a full roundup of snark.