Critic as Paranoid

This post is made possible by our recent love affair with Bryan Appleyard. He posted a link to this article on The Guardian’s website.

Basically, Rónán McDonald is expressing the essential paranoia that all traditional media institutions have about the internet and its perceptibly democratic facility to trump, pre-empt, or at its articulated best, to challenge mainstream media’s control over discourse.

You know, it’s just totally preposterous to assume that people who would be enlightened enough to even be interested in reading criticism would somehow fall prey to a backslide in judgment that rendered them incapable of differentiating between a knowledgeable blogger and a total retard. Anyone can tell the difference between a well written review and poorly written review. From what I’ve seen in the blogging community, like-minded bloggers tend to stick together, read each others’ work and promote the work of other internet writers they deem interesting and knowledgeable. Furthermore, arts bloggers tend to be industry insiders who are more likely to have educated, well formed ideas about the arts.

There are lots of assumptions in McDonald’s article as well. One, that the common person with little knowledge of the arts would read criticism at all.

McDonald also hypothesizes this question: Can we rely on the bloggers to bring vital if alienating art to a wide audience? Umm, can we rely on newspapers to bring vital if alienating art to a wide audience? It’s not like newspapers are staffed with gumshoe art advocates who scavenge the creative landscape to uncover that rare gem that has been lacking in attention. The vast majority of arts coverage tends to be of the major performance venues, galleries and publishing houses. This is mainly because press departments (on the arts institution’s side) and arts coverage (on the media’s side) tend to work dangerously hand-in-hand. Perhaps this is just a necessary facility between the action/reaction of producing work and a need to know about the work, but there is something to be questioned about the power institutions with well-oiled press departments have to get their offerings reviewed. Newspapers are in the news business after all; it would seem natural that even when it comes to the arts, the only news is big news.

Plus, arguments like McDonald’s exhibit a creepy kind of fascist inevitability. If we decide that the only writers who should be regarded as worthy to read are those who are hired by print news corporations, then shouldn’t we take some kind of action against all these rogue, unsanctioned writers? Maybe I’m exaggerating. But at the very least, it argues against the fundamental benefits internet discourse provides; a balance to institutional hegemony, and a check on crappy journalism.



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