Friday, June 10, 2005


There's been a lot of online chat about the rightwinger mindset, their fear, their hatred, their bottomless insecurity. Their love of authority which they insist is "freedom." My pal Jon Schwarz linked to some discussions, adding his own thoughts. James Wolcott does the same, guiding us to Lance Mannion's take on James Lileks, who is doing his utmost to keep Minneapolis free from Islamic tyranny.

I haven't checked out Lileks in some time. And for good reason -- the guy is insufferable and an extremely precious writer. Even when he does his Sgt. Rock routine, chewing through a cyber-cigar while mowing down the Arab hordes, a hint of potpourri rises from his sentences. He's too self-conscious to go Method.

In late 2003, one of the editors at Minneapolis City Pages asked me to essentially write a hit piece on Lileks. I'd never been a gun for hire, so the idea intrigued me. Plus, the editor offered a pretty decent check, which is always a plus. But there was one problem: until that moment, I'd never heard of Lileks. Had no idea who he was. So I began reading his blog, The Bleat, and digging though his archives. Why City Pages wanted to whack him was beyond me -- he seemed at best a mediocre blogger with severe lit pretension. And yes, he was another smug battle boy who probably wouldn't last three days in boot camp. Yet it was a paying gig, so I accepted, then spent the better part of five weeks absorbing Lileks's various war rants and cutesy-coo house husband hymns before spilling out my response.

It's not one of my favorite pieces. There's very little passion evident, it goes on too long, and really, who the fuck cares about James Lileks? I sure didn't, and it shows. But the check arrived on time and didn't bounce, so I thought, what the hell, that's that, time to move on, and please God don't ever let me see another Bleat.

What amazed me was how seriously Lileks is taken in the warblog world. Within a day of my piece appearing online, numerous battle boys began firing their cap pistols my way. How dare I criticize the poet laureate of the swivelchair crowd! Clearly, my piece was inspired by an all-encompassing jealousy of Lileks's superior gifts. Why else would I write it? The ever-perceptive Roger Simon surmised that my real motive was acquiring some online celebrity at Lileks's expense. Because when you get right to it, there's no faster track to fame than knocking James Lileks in a Midwestern weekly.

The simple truth that I wrote the piece for money seemed to elude everyone, esp Simon, who I believe knows something about getting paid to type. The massive projection thrown at me for that article was instructive, and reinforces some of the points made above by Jon Schwarz, Wolcott, and Mannion. The warbloggers who came after me addressed very little of what I actually wrote, preferring instead to talk about my alleged "insecurity" and need to be noticed. If nothing else, my Lileks piece served as a Rorschach test for them, the results of which were revealing.

Looking back, I should've been much harder on Lileks. And had I known beforehand that he hangs with the anti-Arab racists at Little Green Footballs, I would've. Maybe that's because I secretly desire to kill ragheads myself, if only in my dreams. Perhaps Roger Simon's therapist can help.