Film critic Richard Schickel holds forth in the LA Times on the amateurs encroaching on his patch:
"Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities."
Which is true-ish. There's a difference between an opinion poll that deems Star Wars to be the best film ever made, and one that gives the gong to Citizen Kane or Rashomon. It's not just snobbery; it's that a higher proportion of people who voted for Kane have also seen Star Wars, than vice versa.
Where Schickel falls down, and very heavily, is in his arrogant assumption that the paid critics are more likely to have done the intellectual legwork than the bloggers. Let me put this bluntly, in language that even Schickel can understand: many people who are paid to offer their opinions in newspapers and magazines are fatuous, ill-informed arseholes. Many people who offer their opinions for free, in blogs, are knowledgeable, articulate and perceptive critics.
Ah, but it's not the bloggers himself, he suggests, perhaps suddenly aware that an increasing number of his elite friends are also edging into this strange discipline. It's the medium:
"The act of writing for print, with its implication of permanence, concentrates the mind most wonderfully. It imposes on writer and reader a sense of responsibility that mere yammering does not. It is the difference between cocktail-party chat and logically reasoned discourse that sits still on a page, inviting serious engagement."
The notion that Mr Schickel's finely-honed aperçus are more 'permanent' than those of a blogger because they end up dead-tree media rather than on the Web is simply too idiotic to contemplate. Being a gentleman from the former colonies, he may not be aware of the phrase 'tomorrow's chip wrapper', but I think he might be able to get the gist of it. In any case, the only reason I came across his senile, poncy witterings is that I found a link to them on another website.
But does the fact that I don't have a subscription to the LA Times mean that I'm not one of his intimate circle of chums who can distinguish between 'disciplined taste' and mere opinion?