For this analysis, I would like to compare the similarities behind the critics of the 21st Century to what Barthes tells us about them in his passage Blind and Dumb Criticism. Barthes idea of criticism being a talking point for those who do not understand the complexity of a topic is very similar to how critics today function. It is as if critics feed off one’s ignorance. However, most critics seem to lack the ability to understand something because they have not taken the time to grasp the concept. Barthes shows that this blind criticism was present in the 50’s and used to “make the public protest in one’s favor, and thus carry it along advantageously from complicity in helplessness to complicity in intelligence.” (34) In both, today and Barthes’ time, people assume a topic to be involved in wrongdoing because they have not tried to understand it.
Due to social networking sites and technology being more prevalent, people seem to be participating in other forms of blind criticism than those of Barthes’ time. It is no longer just critiques on books, but also items found online. Social media seems to be full of critics assessing others and their ideas. Many websites in the 21st century allow people to set up accounts using names that are not their actual name. No one knows who anyone really is, giving people the confidence to criticize that which they do not understand. For instance, my account name for this blogging site is Serenity676, which has nothing to do with me but rather the television show we were required to watch. I found the last episode of the season to be interesting, so I named myself after the ship. Nobody would know who I was when sitting in the class because the name I have does not resemble me in any way. Many people criticize others in this way because they are similar to those in the 50’s that would say, “I don’t understand, therefore you are idiots,”(35). This form of criticism is because many feel that because no one knows who they are they are not afraid to tell this to your face. Though in all actuality, posting blind criticism to someone online is much different then openly critiquing someone when you are not hiding behind your false name.
In society, we have many people blindly analyzing politics and important issues. Many do not research or understand all the areas behind a certain topic; however, they are the first to respond with comments when they are ignorant to the subject. They fall under what Barthes says when he states, “one believes oneself to have such a sureness of intelligence that acknowledging an inability to understand calls in question the clarity of the author and not that of ones own mind,” (34). These people have not opened their minds to the information present, yet they speak on the matter. This is similar to when people would critique Marxism and existentialism in Barthes’ passage. This is the idea Barthes discusses when he says, “to elevate one’s blindness and dumbness to a universal rule of perception, and to reject from the world Marxism and existentialism.”(35) Many reject what they do not understand which is an inaccurate judgment.
Barthes seems to think the job of the critic is “to understand, to enlighten,” yet he seems to think this is not what they do because he questions them doing their job by adding, “that is your profession, isn’t it?” (35). Once they stop with the blind criticism, then they will become true critics.