Neal Gabler vs. Tony Scott

Posted: January 19, 2011 by Kevin M. Lerner in Uncategorized

After this post, this blog’s audience will be a general reading and commenting Internet public, but today, I’m using it to get a couple of readings out to the students who will eventually be the main authors of the blog. It was icy today, and Marist was closed, so I couldn’t get in to print and photocopy the articles.

But that’s probably a good thing anyway. They should be linked from this blog, as they will serve as an introduction and framework for the course anyway.

This past Sunday, A.O. Scott, a New York Times film critic, had an essay in the Times about the role of criticism in a society, about why it is important for critics to try to work through the cultural productions of a society–movies, music, television, news, social media–regardless of whether or not their criticisms will have any sort of instrumental impact on the behaviors of the media-consuming public (and whether or not the critics in any way reflect the dominant tastes of the culture).

He was responding to a Boston Globe essay by author and cultural critic Neal Gabler, which argued that the “cultural elite” had lost its power to exert its influence over the public because there are so many social media outlets now in which “ordinary” cultural consumers to express their opinions. I suppose it’s the triumph of Rotten Tomatoes over Noam Chomsky.

And while I certainly like the image of Noam Chomsky covered in rotten tomatoes, I’ll leave it to the students of COM201, Communication and Society, to pick up this thread in their own additions to this blog in the coming semester, and for now, I’ll remain silent on the matter.

I begin with this back-and-forth for a few reasons.

  • Neal Gabler wrote one of the texts we’re using in the course.
  • These arguments are a good way for us to start thinking about the role of communication in creating and reflecting a culture.
  • I’m personally interested in the role of intellectual criticism in a society.
  • The timing worked out really well.

Note to students: despite the fact that I led with the link to Tony Scott’s article, I’d recommend that you begin with the Gabler article, and then read Scott’s response.


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