The New Republic’s Lee Siegel, who described the blogosphere as “hard fascism with a Microsoft face” and claimed to be “overwhelmed by the intolerance and rage in the blogosphere. … This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism,” eventually coining the term “blogofascism,” has been suspended from TNR for sockpuppetry—commenting under the name Sprezzatura to defend his own virtue and lob invectives against his critics, as if Sprezzatura were not Siegel himself. (LeMew has archived some of Sprezzatura’s greatest hits here.)
What a douche.
Sigel’s problem started when he began bemoaning the coarseness of the blogosphere, attempting to marginalize bloggers by dismissing them as “thugs,” even though his conclusion was drawn by relying almost exclusively on comments and emails he received from the most vitriolic commentariat, as opposed to a realistic cross-section of the blogosphere, defining our whole by our margins rather than our center. Stinging from the nasty emails he received and apparently lacking a delete function, he desperately used extreme examples to typify the blogosphere as “the stuff of thuggery and fascism,” and, worse than that, he implied that the passion and aggression which in some way define the blogosphere were evidence of his pronouncement, as if being passionate and aggressive is intrinsically unethical. In fact, as practiced by the majority of the progressive blogosphere, uncompromising assertiveness is both ethical and decidedly useful. But its expression—brazen, immoderate, and sometimes even containing the F-word!—offended Siegel’s aesthetic. That was the blogosphere’s real transgression.
But once Siegel looked down his nose from the pedestal he created by substituting refinement for morality, he realized he’d left himself in a precarious position, balanced there all alone high above the uncivil morass he had deemed the blogosphere to be. Having equated politeness with integrity, he left himself no room for response except genteel missives, which don’t count for much in a mudslinging match. So Sprezzatura was sent out to do his dirty work instead. Better to have two faces than one dirty mouth.
Like R-Far, I don’t understand—and have never had—the compulsion to create an alternative persona to either praise or defend myself. There are some places I write, like Comment is Free, where the comments get pretty rough and inevitably devolve into ad hominem attacks and namecalling, and my solution is to, you know, not care. The idea to assume another identity to defend myself in the third person strikes me as just insanely preposterous, mostly because I’m averse to engaging in unethical shenanigans, especially futile ones; I’m quite certain pretending to be a sycophant wouldn’t change anyone’s mind, anyway. And, frankly, I’m not shy to say anything I think is worth saying under my own name.
Dear Mannion once said of this crusty old blogmistress: “When male bloggers talk about this, they don't discuss it as if there's a difference of focus. They see it simply as proof of the essential soft-heartedness—by which some of them mean soft-headedness—of women. Women aren't up to the hurly burly of political debate, is the implicit and sometimes explicit message. (By the way, if you happen to think this way, then you haven't read Shakespeare's Sister.)” And, the truth is, anyone, of either gender, who isn’t up to hurly burly of political debate in the blogosphere, who can only deal with criticism by hiding behind a mask, doesn’t belong at the table. That’s not to suggest that a preternatural indifference to unfair criticism should be a prerequisite for jumping into the fray, but instead preparation for the reality that things are going to get ugly sometimes—and a recognition that no amount of ugliness is justification for unprincipled behavior in response.
It’s not always easy to let everything roll off my back. Sometimes I’m just having a shite day and some asinine comment will get under my skin, and if I can’t just let it go, and instead feel unstoppably compelled to respond, “Fuck you, asshole,” then I do it. Under my own ID. Because that’s the way I roll, bitchez.
And according to Siegel once upon a time, that makes me the integrity-challenged rabble. Perhaps he’d like to revisit that sentiment. Decorum, I trust he has realized, is no substitute for integrity. For every ivory tower that’s built, there are a lot of dead elephants who aren’t fucking impressed.