Sunday, June 25, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

From a post at Lee Siegel on Culture

At the end of my post yesterday, I wrote, “The blogosphere’s fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus.”


All these abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism came about because I said that the blogosphere had the quality of fascism, which my dictionary defines as “any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control.” The proof, you might say, is in the puddingheads.

I am overwhelmed by the intolerance and rage in the blogosphere.

First, I always tell my students to avoid using the dictionary to define complex concepts, but that observation is simply an aside in this context.

Second, and more to the immediate point: the man is making this critique from a a blog and yet doesn’t seem to understand that fact (and therefore there is some serious irony here).

The context to the post is the “Kosola” controversy that has errupted between Markos Moulitsas and the The New Republic. In this particular case, the above is from a followup post by TNR Lee Siegel on his TNR blog called “Lee Siegel on Culture” and the post is entitled “THE ORIGINS OF BLOGOFASCISM.”

The thing that strikes me is that as with so many who seek to analyze the phenomenon of blogging, Siegel is missing a rather fundamental point: a blog is a delivery device for information and blogging does not inherently contain any particular kind of information, nor is it written in a particular style with a set attitude, or with a specific ideology.

As such, Siegel’s assault on “the blogosphere” and its “fanaticism” is like attacking all of radio because Michael Savage and any number of other talk radio hosts are loud-mouthed twits, or attacking newspapers editorial pages because Ted Rall has some obvious anger issues that he has yet to resolve.

And again, I remain floored by the fact that Siegel’s rant against the blogosphere is being done as part of the blogosphere, which ultimately undercuts his basis thesis, unless he believes that he himself is part of the “blogofacism movement.”

Having said all of that, I am quite sympathetic to part of his argument, insofar as there is an element, a far too prominent one, in my opinion, of the blogosphere that seems to exist for the sole purpose of ranting and name-calling in the name of political discourse. They are more than willing to ignore inconvenient facts or the complexities of the world to assert they know best and to call all who oppose them “wankers” (to pick up on a word that Siegel himself notes, and is used prominently by a blogger who should know more about rational discourse than his blog would reveal,).

But then again, such a phenomenon is not limited to bloggers, as I can easily note such intellectual luminaries (and non-bloggers, I believe) who behave in similar fashion: there are the aforementioned Michael Savage and Ted Rall, not to mention Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly and a number of other provocateurs who are far less interested in a solid analysis than they are in shrill and outrageous bloviation.

Still, it is pretty clear that Siegel really isn’t all that versed in the world of blogging, so perhaps this explains some of his poor reasoning on the subject. For example:

But, then, Zuniga–let’s cut the puerile nicknames of “DailyKos, “Atrios,” “Instapundit” et al., which are one part fantasy of nom de guerres, one part babytalk, and a third thuggish anonymity–believes so deafeningly and inflexibly that it’s hard to tell what he believes at all, expecially if you try to make out his conviction over the noisy bleating of his followers.

An initial thought is that I wonder what he would say about Publius? Indeed, during the early days of the republic, anonymous public essay published in papers for the purpose of making political points were quite commonplace. Alexander Hamilton was quite fond of that mechanism, in fact, to name but one prominent example that goes beyond even the Publius example.

(There is also the fact hte “Zuniga” isn’t Kos’ last name, Moulitsas is).

But, more to the point (and as James Joyner notes), in none of these cases are those pen names for anonymous bloggers. As James notes:


DailyKos and InstaPundit are site names, not personal nicknames. The former is based on a nickname, “Kos,” that derives rather obviously from “Markos,” the man’s real first name. The second is mostly self-parody by a fellow who, so far as I’m aware, has always signed his blog posts “Glenn Reynolds” and hardly hidden his identity. Only “Atrios” (aka, “Duncan Black”) has ever sought anonynimity, which he long ago abandoned along with his academic career once he became a professional Democratic operative.

Indeed, in general I think Siegel needs to focus his ire at the specific persons he wishes to criticize and learn more about the blogging enterprise before he makes such broad statements about the entire affair. As a comment in regards to his post correctly notes, it would seem that Siegel’s sample size is far too small to be used in making broad generalization about the blogosphere.

Update: The post was tweaked after it’s original posting. I prematurely posted it, which led to several minutes of “live” editing.

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2 Responses to “On Siegel on Blogging”

  1. Murley blog » On blogging and “fascism” Says:

    [...] tioners of Islam with Osama bin Laden, for that matter). Political Scientist Steven Taylor gets this right: The thing that strikes me is that as with so many who se [...]

  2. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The World of Lee Siegel is an Interesting Place Says:

    [...] accused blogs of being “hard fascism with a Microsoft face.” I, of course, made much of the fact that he wrote that sentence on a blog without noticing the irony thereof. This current [...]

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