Democracy or Fascism on the Blogosphere
But the meme keeps rearing its head.
First there was Lee Siegel, whose charge that the Left on the blogosphere represented "hard fascism with a Microsoft face" came only briefly before he was sacked from his blog job at The New Republic for being caught using sock puppets (a "sock puppet" is an alias that unscrupulous bloggers use to comment/defend their own writing, making it look as if the feedback is from someone else). More recently the disgraced Siegel (whose TNR posts you can't read anymore because his embarrassed publisher took them all down) came out with a book (Against the Machine) in which he compares bloggers to Stalin. As the amazing Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings noted:
I mean, in such a topsy-turvy world, why shouldn't my little blog posts be theIn our smaller subsection of the blogosphere, the art section, we have our own Lee Siegel: Cheesie Charlie, who is erupting all over himself again:
equivalent of sending millions off to die in the Gulag?
Thanks to the nitpicking morons of the art blogosphere, the Village Voice recently dismissed its art critic Christian Viveros-Faune due to his self-declared involvement with two art fairs. The foggy bloggies, who never tire of circle-jerking each other with praise in their dull, redundant musings, began to call for "regulating" critical speech like the blue-nosed cryptofascists they are, while ignoring the free market manipulations of the auction houses and blue chip galleries they love to suck up to.You do have to begin to suspect he's only doing this because he loves our attention. Still, would it kill him to do a bit of research or self-reflection first? I mean, how the hell can anyone else suck up to the blue chip galleries with Mr. Finch's nose so far up the ass of certain power gallerists? Also, many a gigabyte has been consumed discussing the practices of auction houses on the blogosphere (at least here), as is obvious for anyone who knows how to use a search engine. And most importantly, no one called for "regulating critical speech." The call from one commenter was to regulate the art business, something I rejected. Still it provided a good excuse to have an open discussion of the pros and cons of what that might look like. You know, a public debate: the hallmark of a democracy.
But I wanted to flesh out the notion here that bloggers are fascists. It comes, I believe, from the ability of bloggers to get people fired or otherwise change their behavior. There are more well-known cases of this than CVF. As Sarah Boxer recounts on her excellent exploration of blogs:
In 2004 the blogs Little Green Footballs and Power Line helped set Rathergate in motion when they spread the allegation that the memos Dan Rather presented on 60 Minutes II about President George W. Bush's Air National Guard duty were fakes. (Since then, a CBS panel investigating the matter has failed to prove that Rather's account of Bush's military career was substantially wrong, and Rather has pressed a suit against CBS for "wrongful dismissal.")What's at work here, I believe, is a new, extreme, immediate [and widespread] form of public pressure. Without its immediacy [or global nature] (i.e., if LGF and Powerline needed to wait until the next day to update their attacks [or only people in their home town read their rantings]) things would have moved more slowly, Rather might have had the elbow room to defend himself to his network, and he might still be sitting where Katie Couric squirms today. But because the attacks came fast and furious, he was forced to play catch up. He was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion before there was time for a fair hearing.
I'll be the first to admit this is problematic. But it's not fascist. It's the tyranny of the majority, which occurs frequently within democracies, but stems not from the direction/prodding of an elite leader or group (as is required in true fascism), but rather up from the groundswell of the mob. It's ugly, but it's not fascism. Oh, I know, Powerline and LGF are popular blogs and might constitute an "elite" to some people, but unlike in true fascism they have equally powerful opponents that keep them in check. Why they failed to stop Rathergate is a good question, but LGF et al. have been caught out in many other instances, just as have their opponents. So the system mostly works.
But that's what I suspect the Siegels and Finches begrudge about the blogosphere, its ability to serve as a check and balance on the previous monopoly held by pre-blog-era writers. In many respects, I get that. I put out my opinions and want them to be accepted, but sometimes others will vehemently disagree. Sometimes their disagreement is quite embarrassing for me, pisses me off, and makes me want to take revenge. Other times it makes me want to reflect, though, and there's no doubt that this open discourse has greatly widened my worldview. Opening minds is not one of the goals of fascism, regardless of how catchy a label that might seem to those who want control of what other people think.
UPDATE: The Boston Globe's arts blogger Geoff Edgers adds this note:
What's also strange - coming from me, apparently one of those bloggers who thought an art critic should understand the difference between reviewing exhibitions and organizing them - is this reference to the auction houses and galleries we all supposedly like to suck up to.Isn't artnet a service that provides sales figures and basically charts the art market?