Lee Siegel, who wrote the article on Oprah I linked to and the piece on narcissism I blogged about, was recently suspended from The New Republic because he posted comments on his own blog under a pseudonym. In these comments he attacked his own critics with insults that are hilarious, original and clearly the work of a demented genius. It reminded me of my finest hour, when I called the faculty advisor to high school paper (which I was editing) a liar and a tool. Insults are below. But first, Ross Douthout’s sensible post about how even a dick like Siegel could be fun to read:
I guess that makes me the only person who will [miss Siegel]. Not because Siegel-the-blogger wasn’t everything that the bipartisan consensus thinks he was – hysterical, shrill, pretentious to the point of absurdity, fixated on his enemies list (Hitchens, Ezra, the "blogofascists," Malcolm Gladwell, David Brooks, James Kincaid), at once ill-informed and condescending . . . pick your disparaging adjective, and there was probably a Siegel post that fit it. But he’s also a smart guy and (sometimes) a gifted critic, and there was something utterly transfixing about watching his mind at work, unmediated by the sanity-adding filter that I presume his editors apply. Sure, it was often a train wreck, but that’s one of the thing that makes the internet worthwhile – not just the surfeit of lucid commentary (from right and left, libertarians and paleos), but the kind of excess that you almost never get in mainstream print journalism. It’s the Harry Knowles phenomenon – sure, he’s terrible, but you’re glad he’s there. That was how I felt about Siegel’s excesses . . . and when he wasn’t giving in to the crazier angels of his nature, he could write as lucidly as the next blogger/critic.
What did "Siegel" say in the comments section of his blog?
How angry people get when a powerful critic says he doesn’t like their favorite show! Like little babies. Such fragile egos. Siegel accuses Stewart of a "pandering puerility" and he gets an onslaught of puerile responses from the insecure herd of independent minds. I’m well within Stewart’s target group, and I think he’s about as funny as a wet towel in a locker room. Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep. – Lee Siegel
Groupthink from a mob of bullies cowering behind their user-name aliases. Groupthink! Groupthink! Naaa naaa naaa-naaa naaa! – Lee Siegel
Such anger. Such apparent unhappiness. Such inability to withstand a difference in taste without resorting to personal insult. You would think Siegel insulted the Prophet Muhammad in a Muslim magazine with Muslim readers. Toxic thin-skinnedness rising from a fragile sense of self must be a universal condition. I despair. – Lee Siegel
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 [sic] 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. – Lee Siegel
You’re a fraud, and a liar. And a wincingly pretentious writer. You couldn’t tie Siegel’s shoelaces. – Lee Siegel
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. – Lee Siegel