I didn't comment on Lee Siegel's claim that the blogosphere is "hard fascism with a Microsoft face", along with the follow-up post that made it clear that he really did mean to call us all fascists, on the grounds that calling people 'moron' or 'wanker' constitutes "attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism." Various bits of mockery floated though my mind over the weekend, but I was busy, and funnier people than I subjected Siegel's post to the ridicule it deserved before I could get to it.
It did start me reading Siegel for laughs, though. And thus it was that I happened on his most recent post, a bizarre rant about baseball caps. (Sample sentence: "The baseball cap's insinuation that life is a game with transparent rules gets to me." -- Huh?) It culminates in this sentence:
"When I see someone wearing a baseball cap in a movie theater, I want them to bring back the guillotine."
Well, I thought as I read this, that explains a lot about why Lee Siegel seems not to notice the line between calling people wankers and sending them to Auschwitz.
A few years ago, I met someone I had heard a lot about but had never actually met before. He had joined a cult, and I was curious about how he got into it and why he stayed. One of this cult's beliefs was that unless you reach a very high pinnacle of enlightenment, the thoughts you think are not your own; they are "programmed." I had never seen why anyone would find this line of thought appealing, but talking with him made me see how, for a certain sort of person, it might be useful.
Recently, he said, he had been waiting to turn left into a supermarket parking lot, and none of the cars would let him pass. And then he said this:
"A few years ago, I would have wanted to just get out of my car and smash them all in the face. I would have been that angry. I mean, everyone goes through life feeling like that all the time. But now that I know that those aren't really my thoughts at all, I can just ignore them."
And I thought: Really? You think that everyone goes through life wanting to smash other people's faces in when they can't turn into a parking lot as quickly as they'd like? Personally, I can't recall the last time I wanted to smash someone's face in for any reason, let alone one as trivial as that. And while I'm probably on the non-violent end of the spectrum, I don't think, as he seemed to, that most people go through life in a state of barely suppressed fury. However, the idea that this particular person not only felt that way a lot of the time, but assumed that everyone else did as well, explained a lot about him, including why a cult that allowed him to disavow that fury might seem appealing.
So, Lee Siegel, if you happen to be reading this and would like to get over this business of wanting to kill people for their unfortunate fashion choices, just let me know. I don't normally recommend membership in cults to anyone, but in your case, I know one that just might help.