Fooling you in cyberspace

Since the form and usage of the internet change so rapidly I feel justified in altering my views about a lot of its content, especially flashy websites run by individuals. I worked on daily newspapers for thirty years and was always troubled by their non-exclusive views. Newspaper drama critics, no matter how awful, could present themselves as authoritative. The only way of taking them to task was to write a letter to the editor. Mostly, unless there was a wave of protest, these letters would be spiked.

The internet and websites heralded a greater plurality of view. Pretty soon, everyone was a critic. No matter that the look of the sites was technically assured; at least others were having a say. The obvious danger was that we again had a multiplication of awful views. I’m particularly struck by websites run by individuals who claim ‘Press’ representation to events they cover in exchange for writing a criticism. But there’s hardly ever any criticism. Postings are unmediated, so that solecisms, gushing praise and reams of PR-type material abound, with emphasis on ‘reams’. No-one who works for a properly-run magazine, newspaper, news agency or, indeed, a nerdless website, can get away with anything, certainly not using ‘disinterested’ when what’s meant is ‘uninterested’. As a newspaper music critic, I had to prove to the chief music critic that I understood the technicalities of my subject and could comment on it in an entertaining way, including the willingness to puncture pomposity and trip up gallivanting egos, before I was allowed to review anything.

I’m amazed, too, that event organisers can take these websites seriously, apart from seeing them as useful (and no-cost) advertising locations. I suppose publicity is not affected by the surrounding dross and drivel. Sometimes it’s not dross and drivel, of course, in which case apologies to those who are not targets of my bow and arrow. But mediation is the thing and mediation by someone with some clout or expertise. Otherwise, it’s self-aggrandisement. Also, of course, the tickets to events are free. And they’re often cherry-picked events. The test of a genuine critic is that even things he doesn’t like often have to be reviewed and perhaps with the result that his experience is widened and his views are changed. Thus does criticism become socially useful rather than personally favourable.

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