Earlier this week, the Washington Monthly ran a Charles Homans piece on the brief life of Culture11, a site that began its existence as a right-of-center answer to Slate and morphed into something altogether different. (Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good take on why this matters, regardless of where you fall, politically speaking.) The piece as a whole is absolutely worth a read, but it also brought to mind some questions on — essentially — criticism and ideology.
I’ve been meaning to link to Alan Jacobs’s Text Patterns — which began its life at said now-defunct site — for a while now, as I find to be one of the smarter takes on the broader questions and implications raised by an increase in reading on digital devices. (You’ll note that it’s now included in the sidebar.) But I’m also curious as to whether a work of criticism, whether a standalone review or ongoing coverage, regardless of its author’s politics, can be inherently considered to be of the right or the left. Putting it another way: if the same record review appears in Slate, the American Prospect, or the National Review, does its context matter? And while I realize I’m nowhere near the first to ask these questions, they remain worth asking — and as the idea of a more ideologically polarized media is predicted by some, I suspect they’ll continue to be relevant.
I’m reminded of J.D. Considine’s Experience Music Project Pop Conference presentation from last year — here summarized by Ned Raggett — in which he looked into the inherent politics of pop songs. Some further digging through the Pop Conference vaults also brings up Michael Daddino’s piece on the aforementioned National Review and its music criticism since the 1960s. Which, in many ways, echoes the Homans piece that brought us here in the first place.