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September 02, 2006

A Bit Of Lee Siegel's Scary-Elevated Prose

TNR has now deleted all of Siegel's blog postings. Which seems to be a case of burying the evidence; can't they just keep them up with a link to the post of his firing?

And why the hell does TNR keep having these sorts of problems, over and over again?

"Are you mad at me, Leon? Why are you looking at me like that, Leon?"

At any rate, when I read the name "Lee Siegel," I knew I had read one post of his. One. He was a nothing, but I had blundered upon him at some point.

I finally remembered what I'd read of his. A little Google search for a cached page turned this up.

Now, in fairness, Siegel is here defending another TNR blogger from the unhinged attacks of The Daily Kos. Jason Zengerle was the blogger who exposed the "Townhall" mailing list and the Kos-suggested code of silence on his possible financial conflicts of interest; he was subject to a demonization campaign based on his daring to cross the Kosfather. (And also for making a fairly minor mistake: printing one brief "Townhouse email" which wasn't a Townhouse email at all. Zengerle corrected after a couple of days, but of course is still being attacked for the error.)

Still... you tell me. Siegel obviously considers himself part of the MSM, and does not consider himself a mere "blogger," even though he's writing this pap on, you know, his blog. Is this sort of writing good evidence of what he seeks to prove, i.e., the superiority of the MSM over the childish bloggers?

I for one am definitely not tired of Zengerle's artful and honest exposure of someone [Kos] who, more and more, seems to represent the purest, most classical strain of hypocrisy. All the MSM has to do is reach out and touch the angriest, most vitriolic blogger, and he or she melts like butter on the beach.

I thought of bloggers and their enemies today while reading that representative organ of the MSM, The New York Times, without which I can't start my day, for all of its shortcomings, etc. etc. One article made me sit right up with the shock of recognition. It described a new sport called "mixed martial arts... a sport chronicled mainly on the Internet...." What's noteworthy is that anyone can do it. You don't need to have special training or to acquire special skills. You just rush in and fight in no-holds-barred playground style. The article surmised that the sport represented "the dream, to parlay karate or wrestling or street-fighting skills, into fame and riches." No wonder the sport flourishes mostly on the Web. It is a precise corollary of most blogospheric commentary, which requires no special training or skills, and which attempts to parlay street-fighting skills into fame and riches. But when bloggers do get the MSM to turn its head their way, the training wheels come off and they usually fall flat on their faces.

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. (Every critical event in democracy is symbolic of the problem with democracy.)

Even beyond the thuggishness, what I despise about so many blogurus, is the frivolity of their "readers." DailyKos might have hundreds of responses to his posts, but after five or six of them the interminable thread meanders into trivial subjects that have nothing to do with the subject that briefly provoked it. The blogosphere's lack of concentration is even more dangerous than all its rage. In the Middle East, they struggle with belief. In the United States, we struggle with attention. The blogosphere's fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus.

A couple of points occur to me. The first is that this jackass is way behind the curve if he's just now hearing about this "new" sport called "mixed martial arts," and he's an absolute idiot to imagine "anyone can do it." Anyone can get into a ring and fight someone with almost no rules whatsoever in the same way anyone, if they so chose, could attempt without training to climb K2. Yes, you can try to do it. But you're most likely going to die.

So his analogy is not only strained, it's utterly ignorant. Remember, though, he's MSM, so he's much more professional than mere bloggers, as he's so happy to tell you on his blog.

The other thing that's annoying is that Siegel, like many leftwing folks, speaks of t"the blogosphere" when they obviously only mean, and only know of, and only read, the left side of the blogosphere. Neal Gabler on FoxNews Watch gave away a similar bias a few weeks ago, when he said "the bloggers" had gotten the Lieberman-Lamont contest right, because, in contrast with the MSM, they had insisted the Lamont voters were not anti-war left-liberal/ANSWER types. Now, obviously, a lot of "the bloggers" (in fact, most of them) actually wrote that was precisely whom Lamont had to thank for his victory.

(The most MSM of the MSM, the NYT, attributed Lamont's win to "moderates," of course.)

Now, of course, Gabler's crediting of "the bloggers" for crediting Lamont's win to "moderates" shows, pretty conclusively, he has never read a right-leaning (or even centrist) blog in his entire life, and probably couldn't even name a single one (even the center-right libertarian uberblogger Instapundit), and when he speaks of "the bloggers," he means only Kos, Hamsher, Atrios, etc.

Similarly, it's pretty apparent that Siegel, himself on the left, only knows of these people called "the bloggers" via Kos, Hamsher, Atrios, etc.

If these MSM types are really fair and balanced and objective and neutral, why do they only read left-liberal/radical blogs?

(Though I've got to say: Siegel's status in the MSM is almost exclusively in his own mind.)

Finally, while defending his buddy Zengerle from Kos' admittedly nasty and over-the-top attacks, Siegel himself engages in similar rhetoric. I don't mind hot rhetoric, but in a blog post which champions the fairness and maturity of the MSM over the barbarian feral children of the blogosphere, shouldn't Siegel himself have moderated his tone? I suppose for the MSM, having it both ways is a perk of the job.

Although there are some pretty damn accomplished and competent people in the MSM, an awful lot of them are really no more professional, accurate, or talented than "the bloggers" whom they despise. Those on the lowest rungs of "the MSM" (again, I think it's an open question whether people like Siegel and Greg Mitchell really are MSM, though they fancy themselves as such) have only two things over bloggers: a credential and a straight salary. It's little wonder that they place such emphasis on those things, as they really have nothing else distinguishing them from any Joe with an internet connection and the ability to write clear English.

And actually it's worse than that. Because another area in which they're beginning to lag is actual readership and influence. The New York Times just whined that the budget was being cut for the Columbia Journalism Review (which, yes, thinks of itself as MSM, though it's really just an MSM stooge/hanger-on), and noted how unfair it was that a site garnering "almost 500,000 hits per month" should have resources diverted from it.

Well, look here, Old Man. Instapundit -- one dude who only can blog in his off hours between classes and playing with the advanced features of his digital camera -- gets more than seven million hits per month. This stupid moronblog you're reading hit an all-time high of 1.1 million hits last month. Hundreds of blogs get tens or even hundreds of thousands of hits per month, and they're largely one-man operations with no staff, no interns, no organization behind them, a limited amount of time to actually spend blogging, and no promotion whatsoever, apart from world-of-mouth and links from other blogs.

Amateurs with only a few spare hours a day to post manage a significant fraction of, say, CJR's or E&P's traffic. What could they manage if they were doing it full time?

Lacking any objective criteria (i.e., traffic) upon which to base their claims of superiority, and having little real argument about more subjective criteria like quality, civility, influence, etc., of course these bottom-rung "MSM" types pin their beliefs of superiority on the only two things they have over the amateurs -- a credential, and a straight salary.

What else do they have?

They've managed to luck their way into the lowest levels of a highly-competive business, and they've got that all-important 15-month J-school degree. They feel they've made it, at least to some degree. Sure, they're not exactly lighting the world on fire, but at least they've got jobs, which many of their fellow J-school graduates don't. (Or at least not the sort of jobs they'd like.)

And now they find that a bunch of know-nothings who didn't even go to J-school are eclipsing them in readership and influence.

It's one thing, I imagine, for a Lee Siegel to know he doesn't have the readership of a David Brooks or a George Will. I'm sure he imagines himself superior to them as well, but he can accept being lower in the heirarchy than they. At least they've paid their dues, and are part of The Guild.

But to also find oneself struggling to match the reach of a low-to-middle level blogger? That must be a hell of a blow to the ego, especially if one's ego is both bloated and fragile, as Siegel's seems to be.

Siegel's analogy is true to some degree. He whined that like mixed martial arts, "anyone can do" blogging.

But his point was too narrow. Anyone can do media, period. Anyone can do, basically, Lee Siegel's job.

Oh, not anyone can do it well, necessarily, just like not everyone could do mixed martial arts well, either. But if making fatuous and uninformed analogies, and getting into childish pissing-matches with other bloggers, is what it takes to do Siegel's old job (as it seems), then hell, an awful lot of bloggers have the skill-set to jump right in.

But Sieglel had has so much ego invested in his dubious membership in the MSM he can't quite admit that to himself.

He also didn't have much by way of ethics, honesty, or thick-skinnedness, which many bloggers have a fair amount of.

At any rate, he's now out of a job for sock-puppetry. Which, I'm delighted to say, puts bloggers a few steps closer to the MSM than Siegel at the moment.

More Siegel Bashing: Fro m J-Pod.

Siegel is perhaps the single most pretentious person in America today, close to unreadable at length no matter the topic on which he is writing and immensely uninteresting as a blogger. It turns out he was conspiring with someone to post comments on his blog β€” evidently to create the impression that said blog had at least one reader.

But sprezzatura disagrees:

You're just jealous of Mr. Siegel's amazing talent. If you knew who I was, you'd crap your pants, so trust me when I say you are not fit to lick my, I mean, Lee Siegel's mud-boots.

Can anyone explain to me who this guy blew to get a salaried job at TNR? And if that person is put off by beards?

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posted by Ace at 05:45 PM

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