... this debate.
The other day GlennReynolds posted this item about Christine Rosen's TNR review of An Army of Davids. I was interested because I reviewed the book myself: How technology allows little guy to beat Big Media. I also interviewed the author. I found Rosen's review way off the mark. I can't decide whether to attribute her put-downs of such Glennisms as "heh" and "indeed' to humorlessness or cluelessness. But two passages struck me as central to the problem with her review.
The first is this: "The little guy can be a poet or a pop star; with technology as his handmaiden, anything is possible. But this follow-your-bliss vision of individual fulfillment has little patience for the standards necessary for judging genuine talent, which is why Reynolds's book reads more like a middle-aged hobbyist's utopian manifesto than a blueprint for cultural renaissance."
And here's the second: "But the old institutions--the academy, publishing, the press--are essentially arbiters that vetted writing and thought before broadcasting to the world. They provide editors and peer review, valuing opinion formulated by sustained research over opinion produced by a Google search. They are the superego checking the authorial id. But the techno-utopianism that haunts the blogosphere doesn't account for the importance of any of this."
Rosen doesn't seem to grasp - or else willfully ignores - that it is precisely "the old institutions," those"arbiters that vetted writing and thought" whose judgment is being called into question. As Glenn writes: "Millions of Americans who were once in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff--and that many unknowns can do it better than the lords of the profession." Rosen quotes this, but doesn't seem to get the point. The institutional superego has been found to filter out viewpoints, not because those viewpoints are ill-informed or poorly reasoned, but because they run counter to said superego's favored viewpoint. It is just possible that people will discern quality of thought and art when it is presented to them. It is just possible that when people regard something as true or beautiful they may be correct - even if the self-designated arbiters of thought and expression think otherwise.
Maxine at Petrona also has some thoughts on this that I thoroughly agree with: Now where was I? As Maxine points out, the relation between the new and the old media is already symbiotic and likely to stay that way - indeed, it is better that it stay that way and develop accordingly. But Maxine also nicely summarizes the value of blogging, which "enables voices to be heard and news to be broadcast that otherwise might not be, as evidenced most clearly in oppressive regimes and war zones. It enables individual people and groups to make connections which is beneficial in so many ways -- to mental health, to social support, to feedback for business enterprises (see The Publishing Contrarian and Skint Writer, for example), for creative feedback on writing , art and other activities. It empowers individuals in ways never conceived by the creators of Google, Yahoo et al., although these and other corporations are busy jumping on the business bandwaggons (opportunities) ..."