The owners of The New Republic must’ve ordered a hit on Markos Moulitsas. Following up the Zengerle v. Kos dispute, another TNR columnist, Lee Siegel, wrote on Thursday defending “Zengerle’s artful and honest exposure of someone who, more and more, seems to represent the purest, most classical strain of hypocrisy.” That’s Kos, I guess. Siegel goes on to fire buckshot at the whole leftie blogosphere —
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.)
So if people use the internets to organize a political challenge to Lieberman, that makes us “fascistic forces”? Why doesn’t that make us “participants in representative democracy”?
And yes, the blogosphere gets a little rough, but I say most of us are genteel compared to rightie talk radio.
Siegel must’ve caught some attitude for the Thursday column, because yesterday he posted on “The Origins of Bloggofascism.”
“Moron”; “Wanker” (a favorite blogofascist insult, maybe because of the similarity between the most strident blogging and masturbating); and “Asshole” have been the three most common polemical gambits. A reactor even had the gall to refer to me as a “conservative.” Another resourceful adversarialist invited me to lick his scrotum. Please send a picture and a short essay describing your favorite hobbies. One madly ambitious blogger, who has been alternately trying to provoke and fawning over TNR writers in an attempt to break down the door–I’m too polite to mention any names–even asked who it was at TNR who gave me “the keys to a blog.”
For the record, in the past I’ve blogged about digital lynch mobs and why people should learn to express disagreement without suggesting the person disagreed with should go bleep his mother. This is for the disagree-er’s own sake as well as for the sake of the disagree-ee. As I wrote here,
Anger is a tricky thing. It can motivate people, but it can also repel. I wrote last week, for example, that antiwar protests are more effective when protesters are serious but not angry. Thatâ€™s because people who are not angry at the same things you are will be uncomfortable with your anger. If you want to persuade people to see your point of view, it helps to do it in a not-angry way.
Blogging, on the other hand, is not about persuasion as much as it is about peeling away layers of socially conditioned bullshit to get at bare-bones truth. A good blogger is an honest blogger. Iâ€™d say to any blogger that if youâ€™re angry, dig into yourself to find the source of your anger and blog it. Donâ€™t worry about what the neighbors will think.
Saturday I quoted Sam Keen;
Honor your anger. But before you express it, sort out the righteous from the unrighteous. Immediately after a storm, the water is muddy; rage is indiscriminate. It takes time to discriminate, for the mud to settle. But once the stream runs clear, express your outrage against any who have violated your being. Give the person you intend to love the gift of discriminating anger.
Poor Seigel got blasted with some indiscriminate rage, which is unpleasant, but it’s hardly fascism. Juvenile, probably. Pissed off, definitely. But pissed off doesn’t add up to fascism.
Seigel complains about “abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism” — i.e., somebody called him a “wanker.” And calling him a wanker is fascism, he says, because his dictionary defines fascism as “any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control.” I’m not sure how being called a “wanker” reduces a person to severe autocratic or dictatorial control, but I’ll let that pass.
Seigel’s definition of fascism is a poor definition. Per David Neiwert,
In today’s context, Nazism specifically and fascism generally are most often cited by partisans of both sides not with any reference to its actual content but merely as the essence of totalitarian evil itself. This is knee-jerk half-thought. Obviously, I don’t agree that the mere reference to fascism, let alone a serious discussion of it, automatically renders a point moot. But a reflexive, ill-informed or inappropriate reference — which describes the bulk of them — should suffice to invalidate any argument.
Then, after further whining about the “intolerance and rage” in the blogosphere, Siegel continues to express intolerance and rage against Kos and the blogosphere.
“Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents,” he says, and then he pulls a quote from Kos out of a San Francisco Chronicle article that begins —
“I believe in government. I was in El Salvador in the late ’70s during the civil war and I saw government as a life-and-death situation,” he said. “There was no one to root for. The government was a corrupt plutocracy and the rebels were Maoists. The concept of government is important.”
Kos said he saw bullets flying and soldiers executing guerrillas, and his father told him all this violence was “politics.” Which, Siegel says, proves that Kos hates politics. But the quote says nothing of the sort; Siegel performed some cognitive acrobatics worthy of Cirque du Soleil to pull “Kos hates politics” out of the Chronicle article. And having observed Kos in a political habitat, I can testify he appeared to be having a good time.
Seigel, increasingly unhinged, drew more illogical inferences from the Chronicle quote:
So he loves government, but hates politics. There’s something chilling about that. I wonder, does Zuniga consider the Solidarity movement disgusting, compromising, venal politics, too? And was there really no one to root for during the Salvadoran civil war? It’s hard to believe the usually inflexibly partisan Zuniga actually said that. The rebels may have been “Maoist”–whatever that meant to them in Central America at the time–but their goal of overthrowing a brutal, rapacious regime might well be something that a passionate political idealist and reformer like Zuniga, looking back at it in 2004, would sympathize with. Or so you would think.
Lordy, Siegel, Kos was a little kid in the 1970s, and he was just explaining why government (as opposed to instability and anarchy) is important to him. Out of this Siegel constructs a straw Kos-ideology and calls it “chilling.” But seems to me that most Americans would agree that a choice between Maoist guerrillas and brutal, rapacious plutocrats leaves one with “no one to root for.” In the real world, often there really is no one to root for other than the innocents who get in the way of other people’s agendas. Think Iraq.
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.
In other words, Siegel is so enraged that he is reduced to calling us bloggers “morons,” “wankers,” and “assholes,” albeit with a fancier vocabulary. At least he isn’t calling us “conservatives.”
Kos is catching heat now because he has become the physical manifestation of blogging to people who don’t “get” blogging. As I’ve said before, Kos is a great organizer who deserves credit for what he’s achieved in and out of the blogosphere. But I don’t know of any bloggers who think of him as a “our leader.” Those of us with our own blogs (which is most of the leftie blogosphere) are our own bloggers. We don’t look to Kos to tell us what to think, and we don’t always agree with him. DailyKos is a high-traffic site because it’s a huge community with a wealth of good bloggers and diarists and constantly changing content, not because we all click in to receive the wisdom of Kos.
Just wait til Siegel and the rest of the New Republic wankers figure out that they’re not fighting a cult of Kos. They’re fighting a movement of independent thinkers who now have the means to speak out. The wankers can’t control the message any more.