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.


2 responses »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    This is a good application of the Barthes essay to something very new in our culture: the online critic who posts on websites and social media sites. The old cliche, everyone’s a critic, is actually true today. This might be a good topic to explore in the essay, especially if you can find examples of critical “blindness” to quote. As a focus, maybe you could look at online comments associated with a particular book, film, etc.

    • serenity676 says:

      Here is a case where people blindly criticize a rich man for not being charitable. They ridicule him for not making public donations. However, what they do not realize is that he is giving back. He does it under secrecy because he believes that is a real trait of giving back is doing it while no one is watching. The blind critics say, “He has so much money and yet he doesn’t donate it.” However, what they don’t realize is, “Yoo Jae-suk has been donating money secretly to not bring attention to himself. For many years now, the top variety show host has been constantly donating money to various charities.” This is proof that people quickly judge and criticize people without finding out all the information. This is wrong and in the end can hurt someone else’s life and career. Imagine if someone was interested in hiring this South Korean comedian, but then read the blind critiques and changed his/her mind. Yoo Jae-suk would lose business for something a critic said that was not true.

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