Okay, I said no more Lee Siegel, but Leon Wieseltier’s views on the matter as found at the end of The New York Observer‘s coverage are just too bizarre not to note:
Mr. Wieseltier was sanguine about the situation. He described Mr. Siegel as a “fiendishly gifted critic and an unusually cultivated individual,” and saw the issue more as one having to do with the nature of the Internet itself.
“The larger problem, of course, is that we planted our flag over a piece of the Wild West known as the blogosphere. This left us divided against ourselves,” Mr. Wieseltier said. “Since we do make ourselves factually and morally responsible for what appears under our flag, we have to apply the same stringencies to our blogs, too. I don’t like the blogosphere for many reasons; one of them is its assumption that a person’s first thoughts are his best thoughts, which is quite obviously false.”
Seriously? The larger problem is that the blogosphere is the Wild West? Because pre-internet it wasn’t possible for people to lie? I was a young kid back before there were blogs, but my understanding is that it was always possible to, say, write a letter to the editor and sign a false name. It’s also always seemed to me in my personal history of internet use that it’s not especially difficult to avoid lying. Nor do I think anyone in the blogosphere believes that a person’s first thoughts are his best thoughts. This is, as they say, quite obviously false.
The striking thing about Siegel’s blogging, however, was the unbelievably low quality of his second thoughts. It’s one thing to toss off the notion that bloggers are like fascists and then, after getting criticized for it and thinking some more deciding that was an unwise overstatement. Siegel’s approach, however, was to think about the issue and pen an elaborate defense of the proposition that Markos was, in fact, a fascist. Similarly with the Kincaid matter. Siegel went from a perhaps thoughtless and sloppy expression of some critical thoughts on Kincaid to an elaborate, yet evidence free, accusation that Kincaid was a pedophile. It’s a curious manner of behavior, but one that has everything to do with Siegel’s own pathologies — seemingly a hefty dose of status-anxiety — and very little to do with the blogosphere as such.