01 February 2007

Who's afraid of il-liberal hegemony? (Part 2)

The preceding post about Stumbling & Mumbling leads me to a more general reflection about the blogosphere.

Bloggers on the whole have no inhibitions about attacking the political establishment. To some extent this also applies to the media and the legal establishment.

However, the blogosphere's readiness to call bull vis-a-vis the great and the good seems to apply hardly at all to the artistic/intellectual establishment, or to the medical/psychiatric professions. I haven't so far seen a single blog which devotes itself to laying into any of these shibboleths, apart from the US websites and blogs associated with anti-academia critic David Horowitz. (If anyone reading knows of others, I'd like to hear about them.) Now, considering we have numerous blogs devoted to such minutiae of politics as Bush-watch, Blair-watch, Hitchens-watch etc., isn't this a little surprising?

Why are so few bloggers apparently willing to engage with the il-liberal bias as it exists in the cultural establishment? Is it because, as an outfit called New Forum Culture (or similar) asserts, "in the Culture Wars, the Left were victorious"? In other words, battle is over, let's just leave the leftist intellectuals to stew in their own juices? And just accept that this is how the arts and humanities work, take them at face value, and get what we can out of them?

The trouble with this attitude — which I describe as "mediocratic indifference" — is that culture isn't just the icing on the cake, it's the driver for everything else. Where did the philosophy of Blairism come from, do you think? Sprung newly born from dear Tony's, Gordon's, Peter's or Alastair's heads? I think not. Apart from obvious muses like Anthony Giddens, it probably came from the ideology these characters absorbed at university.

I think part of the reason for the lack of blogging critique of leftist culture comes from the mediocratic obsession with 'training' and 'certification', and a feeling on the part of the untrained that they are not qualified to comment or assess.

Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos made what I thought was an interesting comment, on the recent BBC4 programme Blog Wars. As a kind of counterstatement to Christopher Hitchens' complaint that bloggers were "self-indulgent" and "parasitic", Moulitsas argued that

at the end of the day, pretty much what [professional pundits] are doing is not that difficult. I know journalists like to think that they've gotten training and there's something special about it, but really there's not.
Now what we need, in my opinion, is a similar healthy scepticism about the 'training' that philosophers, economists and sociologists undergo. Having been on the inside, I can confirm that the kind of 'training' received is considerably less meaningful than it's presented as being, and consists to a large extent of learning terminology and techniques by rote which are often fairly vacuous. Indeed, I believe that part of the function of this training is precisely to exclude the intelligent layman from feeling entitled to comment, and hence to protect the academic establishment from criticism.