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Lee Siegel on Culture

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06.23.06
THE ORIGINS OF BLOGOFASCISM:

At the end of my post yesterday, I wrote, "The blogosphere's fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus." It just so happens that on his blog today, none other than Andrew Sullivan, hardly an ideological soulmate of mine, quotes Santayana: "Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim." Sure enough, fanaticism ruled in the responses to what I wrote yesterday.

"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."

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. Conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument, blogospheric favorites like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the response isn't similar criticism, done conscientiously and in the form of an argument, but insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism.

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.

In a 2004 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga told a reporter that he moved to El Salvador in the late 1970s with his family--one of his parents is Salvadoran--who apparently had financial interests there. The article relates:

"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."

He remembers bullets flying in the marketplace and watching on television as government soldiers executed guerrillas. He also remembers watching footage of the Solidarity movement in Poland.

He was 9, and he asked his father what that was all about. His father, a furniture salesman, said, "It's just politics."

The future blogger said, "Tell me all about it."

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.

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.

He told Deborah Solomon in The New York Times that he joined the army out of high school to build up his self-confidence. Elsewhere, he has spoken of his love of 25-mile marches with a heavy knapsack. After the Army, college and then law school. But he never practiced law, it seems. He drifted to San Francisco and into the high-tech industry, where he designed Websites. Finally, he ended up in politics, again drifting into the Democratic party, supporting first John Edwards, and then Wesley Clark, and then, as a paid consultant, Howard Dean.

It wasn't long after that when Zuniga began channeling other people's rage.

Editor's Note: This post has been edited since it was first published.

posted 5:35 p.m.
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Very intelligent comments, Fairfax
posted by karenlt on 2006-06-27 05:43:23 [warn tnr] [respond] 

"Conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument, blogospheric favorites like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the response isn't similar criticism, done conscientiously and in the form of an argument, but insults, personal attacks, and even threats"

You proved Lee Siegal's point by calling him a "jerk." How is that in any way intelligent, reasoned commentary? The rest of your argument is tainted by this sort of childish name-calling. I couldn't agree more with Siegal's comments about the vicious nature of so much of the blogosphere.

I don't
posted by MrCookie1 on 2006-06-29 09:26:36 [warn tnr] [respond] 

think these "blogger" pirates practice "fascism" - a bit of a stretch, don't you think? - as much as a very self satisfied smug solipsism. Blogger solipsism nails it much better than Blogger fascism.

Rudeness
posted by nancyirving on 2006-07-01 02:43:47 [warn tnr] [respond] 

Rudeness is not fascism.


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