Hellhounds On My Trail

Friday, July 25, 2008


If all commenters are ticking time bombs waiting to go off, then rule one is: don’t light the fuse by responding directly. But as a professional writer and critic, Lee Siegel had had enough. So he used a pseudonym to respond. He explains the hard-won lessons from his trip to the trenches.

Comments [13]

Tim Battle from murfreesboro,tn.

In my lifetime and education experience 1. i would fight for the right of free speech and have. 2. i have learned that when u begin a thought looking at a person as winning an argument, u have dis franchised urself from true education,learning, and dehumanize the person and self. the emphasis becomes winning and upon intellectualism, not solutions and understanding. certainly question something if u disagree. part of what hasled us in our society,in my opinion,to lackof definition of who w are,and isolation is taking humanity out of our thinking.winning and argumentationdivert our thinking and energy away from solutions to learn and help others . there are many path's through the forest oflife. it also leaves us at the mercy of those who are acting upon whateveris directing them for instance power,technology and where it is headed,who controls it, or in relationships, argument and winning gain nothing if they dont lead anywhere.begin to look around u, instead of within, and ur energy will begin to go in a diffeent direction,andu will become more defined,more intelluctual, and a person of value to all those around u. why? because u begin to rise above self,and use ur knowlege,and seek solutions ,and see beyond a narrow argument. eventualy that is what will define u as who u are .winning and argumention pass in time, andwho remembers? Tim

Jan. 03 2009 05:38 PM
Hank Roberts

I really worry that someone's so easily able to fool NPR into publishing this kind of misinformation. Seriously, you can look this stuff up nowadays.

As an aside, recommended reading for those like myself who tend to be quick to respond to provocative posts without wondering ….


A few brief excerpts follow:

“engagement trolls often have a goal and plan.”

“An important thing to remember when engaging is that while you may win some points, you don’t win an argument directly by what you post. You win because of what your opponent posts.”

“… Patience, and emphasizing reasonable conclusions that may be drawn from a target’s own words are the keys. Humor can work as a wonderful slam.

“Hijacking Threads
“Hijacking threads is a recommended practice for engagement trolls. One effective technique is to take a minor point of the previous post, usually one that is mostly off topic, and expand on it.”

“… More stunning than what any troll posts is when a grouper admonishes a fellow grouper. That needs to be the goal.

“… Remember, the goal is not to win an argument. It’s to create an unwinnable one [that] runs almost forever.

“You don’t win an argument because of what you post. You win an argument because of what your opponent posts.”


Aug. 07 2008 02:28 PM

As a long time TNR reader and commentator I can personally attest commentators at TNR (which requires a paid subscription to comment) are of the higher end of the commenting community. They care enough about TNR to pay to read its articles, and ostensibly the articles were of high enough quality to be paid for, when they weren't readers expressed why they thought so. Because of the subscription requirement for postings there were seldom fewer than a dozen comments to any of his posts (some mob). Sprezzatura was so over the top in his defense of any criticism of any of Siegel's writings that it didn't take any brains to figure out something was amiss. And how good to know what Siegel thought about the paying subscribers, that they were just some unthinking, emotional mob. I have often read threads without commenting and find them more interesting and enlightening then the post that started it. As I mentioned, TNR readers are diverse (there are posters who live in Russia, Israel, Iran, etc.) and intelligent and offer unique perspectives on life.
If Siegel had any integrity he would have simply taken his lumps and apologized. Taking criticism too personally is hardly a serious offense, maintaining a lie forever afterward claiming what he did was somehow justifiable is just sad.

Aug. 07 2008 10:47 AM

One of the best things about the internet is how it takes down talentless luddites like Lee Siegel. It is tearing down the self-preservation cocoon that journalists, like many other professions, have built to protect its hacks. Yes, we need informed analysis and opinions to preserve our democracy, but it is the internet that has given us access to the widest array of informed perspectives in human history. The internet is a true meritocracy, it separates the wheat from the chaff. Gifted journalists of the old media will survive and thrive in the new internet world along with new exciting voices that never had a chance to be heard before. These successful writers will gain trust, authority and readers through insightful accurate analysis. But they cannot get sloppy or rest on their laurels, if they do they are immediately taken to task.

The people that "come online and they just vent an opinion" are not a problem at all. Any semi-savvy internet user can easily tell the difference between trustworthy and untrustworthy commentary. And if they have any doubt they can use the most powerful fact checking tool ever invented: the internet.

The only people that have problems with the internet "mob" are the thin-skinned bomb throwers peddling inaccurate or misleading information, people like Lee Siegel.

Aug. 05 2008 10:03 PM
Affected Party

So, can we expect a correction on this site, now that you know how you misrepresented this interviewee?

Aug. 05 2008 06:33 PM

The interview was at best disingenuous and potentially deceptive. Seigel was the one who accused another columnist of being a peadophile, not the other way around. He was suspended for lying when caught using a fake identity and violating the magazines standards.

Seigel also indulged in the "dishonesty, playing fast and loose with the truth, essentially not following the rules, not playing fair in debate or discourse" he complains about. He compared bloggers to Hilter and Islamic terrorists, calling them "hard fascism with a Microsoft face" and "blogofascists". He used similar extreme rhetoric when attacking the Daily Show, writing: "Stewart's show is destroying democracy as we know it." and attacking Stewart by misquoting the results of a media study.* The language of his fake identity was also more extreme than Seigel now pretends.**

I think On The Media needs to do more research on its questions rather than just taking a disgraced pundit at his word.

*Details here:

**Some examples here: http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/003771.html

Aug. 05 2008 02:34 PM
Dan No from Los Angeles, CA

This is quite possibly the poorest interview I've read or heard in a very long time. Does the interviewer know ANYTHING about what actually happened? It was Lee Siegel who accused Slate columnist James Kincaid of sympathy (if not worse) with pedophiles and then went on to accuse the entire progressive community of the same.

Then when people went off on Siegal. he attempted to defend himself in the comments via a sockpuppet. The idea that he was doing it intentionally, that he MEANT people to know it was him is absolutely absurd!

Aug. 05 2008 01:09 PM
Dominion from Houston Tx

It would be nice if, every once in a while, a journalist would take the time to learn about a subject before remarking on them.

Using Lee Siegel as an example of Internet mobs gone crazy really undercuts your complaint. And if you don't know why that is, refer to the sentence above.

Aug. 05 2008 10:43 AM
William Krause from New York

Lee Siegel's problem with the internet 'mob' was not that they were bullying, inaccurate, and unethical, but that he was exposed by them for being so himself. Who's on next? Stephen Glass blasting other reporters for not getting to the stories he did?

Aug. 05 2008 12:37 AM
Juan Vasquez from Greensboro, North Carolina

You guys had a point with the Ira Glass part but really Lee Siegel?!! Come on people. He complained of being called a peodophile. But why was that? Could it be that it was because he was baselessly accusing others of it?

Click on the linky goodness you won't be dissapointed.


Lee Siegle libels James Kincade saying

"It seems to me that the professor [Kincade] sniffs at the moral panic over the sexual exploitation of children only because he wants to normalize the sexual treatment of children."

Honestly, you undercut your point when you put someone on the air who has so thouroughly discredited himself. To complain about trolls you put on a troll/sockpuppet who has made a smart little cottage industry of whining that he was rightly shunned from public discourse.

Jul. 29 2008 05:31 PM

I look at the comments on news articles in our local papers and it's very disheartening. It's just venting of extreme views. I think people reading those comments would get a really distorted view of our community. Would wrongly assume that it is more extreme and tilted politically than it is.

I've thought of gathering a few people to systematically respond to commenters. To politely ask, "What is your factual support for that statement?" When that's appropriate. Not to engage in long exchanges, but just to simply ask, "Is there support for that?" It might be interesting to measure the effects of this kind of approach before and after. I think it might be possible to change the tone of these online forums a bit.

Jul. 29 2008 01:26 PM
megan from cambridge, mass

Kudos to Lee Siegel!!

If the lunatic commentators can spew crap anonymously...so can a writer like Lee Siegel.

You fought the fringe freaky mob + you won...
and you've deepened the public conversation about the internet and about communication itself...

Jul. 27 2008 01:38 PM
andrew hennessy from college park, md

The sample of responses chosen does not represent the entire population. OTM’s, “both reductionism commentators are right” belittles legitimate criticism.

Does anyone deny that the free press is drawn to sources and stories from centers that “society” deems qualified? Time is scarce. What is an expert? Who and how does society confer expertise? What society? Look at today’s OTM guestless list (the topic is comments, and who are your experts)?

From the prospective of many professional voices the fringes are by definition unreliable. “Experts” are often taken at face value. It was the age of reason. Historically that thinking has both cured disease and brought destruction. It does not mean it is objective or true.

Jul. 26 2008 04:15 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.