Monday, August 06, 2012

Puff Piece Journalism

THE PROBLEM with the coverage of American literature by the establishment media is that both the writers given coverage and those "journalists" who cover them have the same mindset. The result isn't journalism, but unquestioning sycophancy. This was evident in coverage of the recent Tom Bissell book of essays. (I cover the accuracy of one of the essays in a series of posts linked to the left, under "Fun Stuff.") The reviewers at esteemed places like the L.A. Times and the New York Times questioned nothing. Hardly a peep was raised about Bissell's past controversies. The subject's own viewpoint-- Bissell's-- was accepted without question. This isn't journalism, but something else. it's important for what it signifies about the accepted literary world.

This was true even in the so-called "Leftist" journal Guernica magazine. Note the interview with Bissell by young "journalist" Katie Ryder.

Journalist? Is Katie Ryder the future of journalism? She swallows the Tom Bissell presentation of his work and himself wholly. Not one tough question is asked of him. Not even a mildly dissenting question.

What's really happening is that Bissell, Ryder, and the editors at Guernica are all members of the intellectual nomenklatura in the U.S. They make their way by going along with status quo power. Despite the presentations they make, the postures, not one aspect of literature and the literary world is questioned. Blind acceptance.

After some lobbying, Guernica did post two comments of mine critical of the interview. Two later comments were never posted. I suppose they went too far. Free speech? Open debate? A level playing field? These ideals don't exist anywhere in today's literary world-- which is why we find only conformity, accompanied by a stagnant art form.