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WHAT HE DID WRONG! Josh Marshall asks what Siegel did wrong—and stumbles a bit in his answer: // link // print // previous // next //

WHAT HE DID WRONG: Linking to Jack Shafer, Josh Marshall asks a good question about the embarrassing Lee Siegel matter: “[W]hat exactly did Siegel do wrong? Everyone is anonymous in a comment thread. Why can't he be too?” We think Josh’s answer to this question is less insightful, although we’d say it’s semi-correct: “I think it comes back to the real issue with Siegel—not that what he did is so shocking in itself but that his postings (once exposed as his) were so pompous, self-glorifying and morally frivolous that I think Frank Foer must have just thought he embarrassed [The New Republic].”

That’s partially right, but it misses the largest part of the problem. What did Siegel do wrong in his anonymous posts? Yes, he made himself look like a nut—but beyond that, he also misled The New Republic’s readers. Siegel could have answered his critics directly, in his own name, as other people do all the time. Instead, he wrote ludicrous essays about his own greatness, and posted them as if some disinterested party had taken the trouble and time to compose them. This is very kooky behavior—but it also misled TNR readers. It made them think that some disinterested party felt strongly enough about Siegel’s brilliance to post these glowing notes. For reasons that are obvious if you’ve read Siegel’s work, no one actually did.

Foer was right to dump Siegel’s work. Because yes—readers of The New Republic were deliberately misled.

But then, The New Republic has had a string of outrageous, embarrassing incidents over the course of the past dozen years. We think this matter is important—and perhaps revealing. We hope to address it next week.

A MILESTONE: We were a bit behind in our reading yesterday, or we would also have hailed Digby’s work about ABC’s upcoming “docudrama”—its latest piece of rank Stosselism. The good news: In today’s Post, Howard Kurtz presents another high-profile report about this program’s “problem with the truth.”

Yesterday, as we read through the liberal web’s work, we couldn’t help thinking that this was a milestone. Yes, this program is fairly easy to criticize; not only does its content seem to be blatantly wrong, but ABC’s promotional conduct has been grossly inappropriate too. But so what? The work on the liberal web has been excellent, and as a result, we’ll make this guess: For some Americans, this episode will break the back of that bewitching old claim, “liberal bias.” We’d guess that some Americans will finally say: “Wait a minute. Whatever we’re seeing played out in this incident, it isn’t some sort of lib bias.”

Ah yes—the sudden glimmer of insight! For some people, the bewitching tale that’s been bruited so long may start to lose its appeal.

Yep! In this case, Creeping Stosselism has crept so far that bells may ring in many folks’ heads. But then, we thought of one more thing as we went through the liberal web’s work: If a liberal establishment had existed in 1999, it would have been extremely hard for the press corps to conduct its War Against Gore. George Bush is in the White House today because no one spoke back to that twenty-month onslaught. In this matter, ABC is getting a taste of a new power structure—about seven years too late.

THEY AIN’T NO EXPERTS: We’ve been called away on a matter of national import. Our series (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/6/06) will resume on the morrow.