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Siegel is a "cultural critic," which means his job is to tell you why the way you live your life is wrong. Surprisingly, he has managed to parlay this into many years of employment. He has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Harper's and The New Republic. That last one may be a bit of a sore spot, though, as he was not only "suspended", but TNR saw to it that the Google cache was cleared. More on that later.
Siegel has written a number of books, most of which are obscure to put it mildly. His most well-known work is Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, largely because he sold his soul to Viacom and went on The Daily Show.
Lee Siegel has engaged in some extremely odd behavior over the years. Consider the following a background on the man and his work.
 Siegel's Diary
In 2003, Siegel wrote an article for Slate's "diaries" series. Siegel's diary is a landmark in surreal writing. Among the revelations from the article: Siegel had an imaginary girlfriend, an imaginary cat who occasionally turns into a woman, and the habit of repeating his own name over and over while looking in the mirror.
 Baseball Caps
There are certain aspects of the culture which really light the fire in Siegel's belly. For example, baseball caps:
“”The baseball cap's insinuation that life is a game with transparent rules gets to me. Also the insinuation that by wearing a baseball cap in inappropriate situations--like indoors--you have what it takes to break the rules and win the game. And I'm bothered by the herdlike nature of the baseball-cap trend mixed with its affectation of insouciance. The baseball-cap people want to have the lofty cool indifference of an aristocrat, yet their need to have it in the standard approved way makes them anything but cool and indifferent.
This is pretty much how he writes all the time, by the way.
 Siegel and Sex
Shortly before his "suspension" from TNR, Siegel got into hot water over allegations he made regarding academic James Kincaid. Kincaid, a Professor of English at the University of Southern California, wrote a book on the eroticization of children in popular culture. In August 2006, Kincaid wrote an article for Slate on Jon Benet Ramsey. Siegel disagreed with Kincaid's take, so he wrote a pair of posts that essentially accused Kincaid of being a pedophile. Specifically, here's what he said:
“”What Kincaid claims is people's secret obsession with children is really his own obsession with the subject of eroticized children. For many years, he's set himself against the idea of children's innocence. The ideal of children's purity leads to a furtive titillation inspired by thoughts of children's purity violated, Kincaid believes. That gives me the creeps.
“”So I guess Kincaid has frankly admitted his predilections after all--if you know where to look for them. What a shame that editors still publish his disingenuous screeds against the media's sexualization of children. They really just seem like ways for Kincaid to hide his own appetite for children behind his indictment of all of us hypocritical "voyeurs" out there. indeed, if that were the case, Kincaid's lust for children would, in his eyes, be a noble attraction.
Classy. There were murmurs among the dreaded bloggers that this was the real reason Siegel was fired.
But there's another wrinkle. While investigating Siegel, the vile Ezra Klein found a rather enlightening article that Siegel wrote for TNR in 1999. The article detailed his great regret at not having sex with Uma Thurman when she was 16 years old:
“”Uma was a model at the time I met her, not yet famous. She had an open face and slightly swelled features and pale blue eyes that seemed wide with surprise and also moist with deep recognition of the nature of their surprise. Just hanging out, she looked like she was on the brink of physical ecstasy. She seemed to be willing her inwardness out through her pores, all for the pleasure of others...She began to flirt with me. Putting her cat provocatively in her lap, she stroked it and described a suggestive fantasy to me.
 "Blogofascism": Siegel's Greatest Triumph
Siegel's one lasting contribution to the culture is the neologism "blogofascism." He coined the term after Joseph Lieberman was defeated by Ned Lamont in the 2006 Connecticut primary. In a nutshell, Siegel thought that the desire of Connecticut residents to be represented by someone they actually liked was a grave injustice. That led him to decide that bloggers (specifically left-of-center bloggers) were part of a fascist collective of sorts. And what did he base this on?
“”"Moron"; "Wanker" (a favorite blogofascist insult, maybe because of the similarity between the most strident blogging and masturbating); and "Asshole" have been the three most common polemical gambits. A reactor even had the gall to refer to me as a "conservative." Another resourceful adversarialist invited me to lick his scrotum...Conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument, blogospheric favorites like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the response isn't similar criticism, done conscientiously and in the form of an argument, but insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism.
In other words, those dreadful thugs insulted poor Lee Siegel. He also picked out several specific fascists, namely Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. Siegel knew Kos was a fascist because he lived in El Salvador and he doesn't like politics. He also expressed his belief that using a nom de plume is thuggish behavior.
Despite widespread mockery, Siegel seemed to think he was onto something really important, as he later expanded it into book form.
The seeds of Siegel's downfall started with a article he wrote for TNR in February 2006. Entitled "A Letter to Jon Stewart," it was more or less Siegel's long list of complaints regarding Stewart (The big one being "He's more popular than me"). Response was overwhelmingly negative; however, there was one commenter - sprezzatura - who returned several times to defend Siegel. Sprezzatura made several appearances after that, making vociferous defenses of Siegel. It was almost as though sprezzatura knew Siegel in real life and the two of them were close friends.
As a matter of fact, Sprezzatura was Siegel's closest friend - one Lee Siegel. After his sock puppetry was exposed, Siegel was suspended. Naturally, Siegel sees absolutely nothing wrong with what he did.
 Choice Sprezzatura Comments
- "I'm well within [Jon] 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."
- "Groupthink from a mob of bullies cowering behind their user-name aliases. Groupthink! Groupthink! Naaa naaa naaa-naaa naaa!"
- "You're a fraud, and a liar. And a wincingly pretentious writer. You couldn't tie Siegel's shoelaces."
- "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."
- ↑ Hence all the Internet Archive links.
- ↑ Admittedly, most of Slate's diaries are pretty weird.
- ↑ Lee Siegel's Diary
- ↑ Siegel V. Baseball Caps - Internet Archive
- ↑ The JonBenet Case, examined - Slate
- ↑ THE PROFESSOR'S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET? - Internet Archive
- ↑ JAMES KINCAID AND PEDOPHILIA, PART II - Internet Archive
- ↑ See here, among other places.
- ↑ Projection? The American Prospect
- ↑ All quotes from here
- ↑ Bye-Bye Blogger, The New York Times]