Lee Siegel on Culture


posted 8:23 p.m.
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the link (1 of 28)
posted by jfabermit on 2006-08-25 20:58:47 [respond] 


can be found by googling "James Kincaid" + salon.

You are apparently as lazy a journalist as you are one who capable of deliberately misrepresenting those you disagree with. When you finally learn how the collective "we" works in a piece like this, let us know, and maybe then some form of actual discussion, like the one that your commenters had, will be possible.


Having Just Read The Article (2 of 28)
posted by norval13 on 2006-08-25 21:31:09 [respond] 

Kincaid goes on to make the same tired claim that we "all want to be there" regarding sexual desire for children and that there is no "clear line" between kids and sexual desire. Let Professor Kincaid speak for himself.

More guilty conscience (3 of 28)
posted by tnrin on 2006-08-25 22:05:43 [respond] 
lee (4 of 28)
posted by MrCookie1 on 2006-08-26 10:50:39 [respond] 

If there is any positive out of these 3 threads dedicated to someone who, prior to this, I was blithely unaware of his existence...it is this:

Since I am probably one of the few TNR posters who actually works with children, if this Kincaid weirdo ever applies for a teaching position in my school, it is highly unlikely, unless the only other applicant is this even weirder John Karr freakmobile, that I will hire Kincaid.

Other than that, if you have evidence that this guy has actually committed a crime against children, report him to the authorities. Obviously, I am not a lawyer, but my guess is that the Man would be interested in this guy if he is doing harm to kids. If he is only "pondering" weird things, not advocating or inciting others to do something, then my lack of legal training mind tells me that he may be a freak but he is probably a legally protected freak. We can't be tried for thinking about weird things.

If you still feel strongly about getting this Kincaid guy out of circulation, the next time you see him, spit in his eye. If he does something, then you have the perfect opportunity to release some of that anger upon the guys body and soul.

Otherwise, settle down.

Hmmm (5 of 28)
posted by Yminale on 2006-08-26 13:26:22 [respond] 

Does Lee Siegel want to have sex with Kincaid, he seems awefully obsessed by him ? [/sarcasm]

So now, per Siegel, I'm a pedophile, too. (6 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 16:13:08 [respond] 

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the accusation came. Anyone interested in my views on the question of child sexuality (all two of you) can find them in earlier posts.

As for my anonymity, well, I come by it honestly. I, unlike Mr. Siegel, do not occupy a position of authority at a prestigious magazine. It is not within my power to smear and libel an academic, and to opine incoherently on matters outside my competence. If I were to hold such a position, I pray God I would be more circumspect than Mr. Siegel who, indeed, abuses his good name with each word he writes.

Me, I'm a poor young lawyer living in NYC, watching as this fraud discredits my favorite magazine (this may account for the "tortured" tone Mr. Siegel detects in my "hysterical" writing), and now questioning my hitherto unqualified respect for Wieseltier.

I should have written (7 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 16:18:24 [respond] 

". . .on the question of our sexualization of children. . ."

My views on Siegel proper (8 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 16:57:44 [respond] 

Reposted from the earlier thread, just in case they were missed:

Let’s leave as said that in Part II Siegel openly and unambiguously accused Kincaid of being a pedophile (“Kincaid has frankly admitted his predilections . . . if you know where to look for them.” “Kincaid . . . hide[s] his own appetite for children” “Kincaid's lust for children”) and now he has backed down, somewhat, from that accusation (“I have no idea whether [Kincaid] is a pedophile himself, though in my opinion, he certainly seems to be"). Let’s also leave as said that Siegel stubbornly refuses even to begin to address the reasons we’ve given for doubting his “opinion,” and bizarrely prefers to insist that our arguments, too, are merely evidence that we’re “soft on pedophilia.” The question now arises, in blogese, WTF? Is Siegel’s thickheadedness, high-handedness, excitability, recklessness, goofiness, and immoderate persecutorial spirit simply his alone? Or are these faults somehow attributable to TNR (at least to the back of the book)? How representative are Siegel’s failings?

(Just for the record, so there’s no mistake, I think pedophiles should be put in jail, and if good psychopathology tells us they can never be reformed, kept segregated from children by law once released. And also, for the record, sex with a 16 year old is not pedophilia or statutory rape, but may in many circumstances be morally reprehensible nonetheless. My interest in all of this is the wild disproportion between the incidence of pedophilia and the cultural obsession with it, as well as, to my mind, the disproportionate “the intensity of punitive violence” (as Mark Greif wrote in n+1) heaped on pedophiles.)

Here’s one thought I had on the subway this morning: Siegel’s attraction to writing is particularly unsuited to blogging, and his bad motives have caught up with him. From all I’ve read of Siegel, he seems to have come to writing, as so many writers have, because of the temptations of power. He is attracted to the authority of the word and the page. The page, for him, was a place to remake himself, steel himself in well-wrought phrases, fix his own wavering, groping, tentative mind. This is a temptation for many of our class (and for me as well) -– with a little education, a feel for the rhythms and sinews of a good sentence, and a generous editor, we can hold the attention (we dream) of the masses, achieve authority unknown (we believe) by even the rich or the beautiful. He may even have almost succeeded in persuading himself that as a critic he was especially penetrating, or intelligent, or worthwhile.

And here comes a technological shift that robs him not only of his treasured page, but also of the kind of authority that the old medium promised. For blogs are a place for the wavering, the groping, the tentative. The blogger steps down from the Olympian platform of the “critic” and shares his uncertainties, his confusions, his stabs at sense, with a community of equals. The best blogs involve a wonderful give-and-take between the author and his community of readers -– addenda, corrections, re-thinkings, admissions. And this on blogs run by extremely smart, extremely authoritative people -– Eugene Volokh, for example, or even Richard Posner. One comes to respect such people’s minds all the more for their agility in responding to, and often incorporating, dissent and correction. For all its shortcomings (and it has many), the profoundly democratic medium of the blog shakes, must shake, an author like Siegel’s dream of his exceptionalness. One fears, alas, that but for this false and dear dream, Siegel would never have become a writer in the first place.

I also worry that Siegel’s arrogance may be fed by Wieseltier, who always holds a brief for moral and intellectual certainty, and is the master of the Olympian tone. But then again, Siegel is no Wieseltier.

To jhschwartz (9 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:05:24 [respond] 

You have quite an obsession with Siegel! Sounds to me like you're an envious young writer. I mean, first you have a wife and two kids, and now you're a poor young lawyer with time to write extended tirades against Siegel. Men with two children don't take time out to defend obscure academics from charges of pedophilia, their defense replete with (pretentious) references to ancient Greek categories of desire! If I had to guess, you're this person Mark Greif himself. Or someone in his circle. Every young write in NYC has it in for poor Siegel it seems. They all write like middle-aged hacks. He has the fire and guts of a young man (I assume he's middle-aged himself, or somewhere near there.) Who am I? Someone who knows who you are.

jhschwartz (10 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:09:27 [respond] 

I just googled Grief and n + 1. Seems the magazine has its own obsession with Siegel and TNR. And Leon Wieseltier. Hello, n + 1. I guess if you can't get into TNR's pages, writing envious, obsessive screeds in response to a TNR blog is the next best thing.

sprezzatura (11 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 17:18:42 [respond] 

Fair enough (better to be accused of envy and a middle-aged prose style, which has at least some truth, than of pedophilia). But I am who I say I am (if I weren't a lawyer, why would I have cause for envy?).

(12 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:22:05 [respond] 

You're a fraud, and a liar. And a wincingly pretentious writer. You couldn't tie Siegel's shoelaces.

(13 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:33:02 [respond] 

I'm a huge fan of Siegel, been reading him since he started writing for TNR almost ten years ago. (Full disclosure: I'm an editor at a magazine in NYC and he's written for me too.) I watch the goings-on and have to scratch my head. The people who hate him the most are all in their twenties and early thirties. There's this awful suck-up named Ezra Klein--his "writing" is sweaty with panting obsequious ambition--who keeps distorting everything Siegel writes--the only way this no-talent can get him. And I ask myself: why is it the young guys who go after Siegel? Must be because he writes the way young guys should be writing: angry, independent, not afraid of offending powerful people. They on the other hand write like aging careerists: timid, ingratiating, careful not to offend people who are powerful. They hate him because they want to write like him but can't. Maybe if they'd let themselves go and write truthfully, they'd get Leon Wieseltier to notice them too.

To jhscwartz (14 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:41:39 [respond] 

Cat got your tongue, you dishonest little phony?

Lee, give it up. (15 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 17:47:50 [respond] 

Googling "sprezzatura" and TNR yields really interesting results. sprezzatura appears only to weigh in on TNR forums to admonish and taunt posters who dislike Lee Siegel and to praise in lavish terms the piece under discussion, in all but one case, written by Lee Siegel.

A sampling from the Siegel threads:

"to jfabermit . . . You're obsessed. You need a life, some love, some medication."

"Siegel is my hero: [. . .] Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than [Jon] Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep."

"Naa naa naa-naa naa!"

"The insults. The insecurity. 'Maybe our taste is bad! Maybe Stewart really isn't funny! Who do we turn to for authoritative guidance?' Pathetic, just pathetic. Did I really see someone call Siegel 'Seagull?' So playground. And Siegel said Stewart was so playground. Quod erat demonstrandum. You really need Jon Stewart to expose Bush and Cheney's lies? You can't figure that out from reading the newpaper? Remember 2004? Remember everyone saying that Stewart would incite drove of young people--and his fans of all ages--to the polls? I guess all that gritty truthtelling, unavailable from other sources, just didn't do the trick. You're all a bunch of sad, manipulable, morons, with the self-esteem of ninth-graders. I might cancel my subscription to the New Republic not because of the magazine, but because of the cases of stunted emotional and intellectual growth who read it."

"sprezzatura" even refers to another poster, as Siegel does to me in this post, as -- wait for it -- "my dear"! Here (post # 51 of 179): http://www.tnr.com/doc_posts.mhtml?i=w060227&s=sie gel022706

I would say with 99% confidence that "sprezzatura" is a Siegel alias.

To jhschwartz (16 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:50:27 [respond] 

You really are obsessed. You need medication, too.

That I am obsessed, Lee (17 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 17:55:02 [respond] 

I freely admit, as I did to envy, a middle-aged prose style and strong points made my fellow posters. I haven't told a single untruth in any post. You, however, after decrying "blogospheric anonymity", hide behind a heteronymic "handle" (like, yes, a pedophile) and excoriate your own readers. Sad, little man.

To jhschwartz (18 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:57:23 [respond] 

I'm not Lee Siegel, you imbecile. If you knew who I was you and your n + 1 buddies would crap in your pants. Anyway, I really do have two kids. Good luck managing your frustrated ambition.

p.s. (19 of 28)
posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:58:25 [respond] 

"Heteronymic!" Good Greif.

I am not affiliated with n+1 (20 of 28)
posted by jhschwartz on 2006-08-27 18:00:59 [respond] 

at all, but thanks. If you aren't Siegel, I hope you're not Wieseltier, because he at least has my respect. I would assume such a stunt would be beneath him. No, I'm pretty sure you're Siegel.

boys! boys! (21 of 28)
posted by MrCookie1 on 2006-08-27 21:38:26 [respond] 

take this outside! No biting, kicking below the belt or fingers in the eye. Touch gloves and come out fighting. Let me know who is left standing...

This is starting to look like a real message board! (22 of 28)
posted by dangerpirate on 2006-08-28 09:49:49 [respond] 
This is starting to look like a real message board! (23 of 28)
posted by dangerpirate on 2006-08-28 09:52:37 [respond] 

come on, compare each other to Hitler! Do it!

I think it is possible to take pleasure in condemning pedophiles because it's possible to consider them unambiguously awful. Moral certainty and its associated righteousness feel real good.

ye swab (24 of 28)
posted by MrCookie1 on 2006-08-28 11:26:27 [respond] 

"come on, compare each other to Hitler! Do it!"

In my unceasing efforts to reward poetry on these posts, this sentence, dear salt, is the best that I've read in some time. Bravo!

this thread delivers (25 of 28)
posted by wesson on 2006-08-29 17:41:44 [respond] 

Self-righteous blowhard duking it out with an autointoxicated post-modernist. It's like watching two winos battling over (on one hand) a quarter and (on the other hand) some imagined insult from the voices in his head.

is this the war of cultural critics? the lower the stakes the more desperate the struggle?

"Moral certainty and its associated righteousness feel real good." You go, Lee. Defend our children against the posturings of some academic nobody cares about.

(26 of 28)
posted by ralph.m on 2006-09-02 00:15:28 [respond] 

seriously WHO FUCKING CARES if siegel DID write under 'sprezzatura'???

wtf it's the god damn talkback section. I can't believe they fired a fine writer for this shit.

its matters (27 of 28)
posted by stephenw235 on 2006-09-02 15:50:16 [respond] 

ralph.m This is no small matter, its an egregious example of sloppy journalistic standards. If Siegel used the handle "lsiegel" for his sycophantic rantings, then remarks such as " Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than [Jon] Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep..." would have been made immediately more embarrassing.

Also, is it appropriate for a writer of the New Republic to slander readers by calling them "...a bunch of sad, manipulable, morons, with the self-esteem of ninth-graders."? I've said this before but I won't be renewing my subscription which ends this month. First they endorsed the war in Iraq, then they endorsed Lieberman for President (for which there has yet to be an adequate explanation), for the past year and a half there has seemingly been a really pathetic crusade against the blogosphere, and now this. I'll re-subscribe when you get your magazine together. Au revior!

Agree with stephenw235 (28 of 28)
posted by paulkemp82 on 2006-09-03 14:57:36 [respond] 

I opposed the war and don't care for Lieberman, but TNR hasn't alienated me too much with their stances there. With some exceptions, the articles haven't been too insulting.

This Siegel episode though really is shocking. It's like a smaller-scale reincarnation of the Glass debacle. Bad judgment is one thing. Completely misrepresenting yourself, and lying to your readers in the process, is very different. Reading sprezzatura’s comments, now having some idea of their author, I’m not sure if I should be outraged, depressed, or amused. He’s an established writer, and yet he apparently felt so insecure that he would rather write, or get someone else to write, petty, mean-spirited barbs and bizarre praise under an anonymous moniker than openly defend his own work. I wonder if he saw his actions ironically, just as a silly attempt to rile up people he didn’t respect, or if he’s badly imbalanced and in need of some mental counseling. Either way, it shows incredible disregard on the part of a TNR writer for the magazine’s loyal readers.

That the editors investigated and dismissed Siegel is a good start, but I want a full report of what they found, the what and why of Siegel’s actions, and some attempt to convince readers/customers like me that they respect our views even if they don’t agree with them.

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