Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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I have been feeling that way for awhile. I still go there constantly; a lot of the links are the real deal.

Maybe we should clone the A&L Daily format and put up truly eclectic linkage. Including some choice 'low culture' and truly eccentric stuff.

"Arts & Ideas Daily" ? (Maybe just to make a point to Mr. Dutton)

Philip Munger

I agree about Arts & Letters skewing neocon right overall, though I have sorted through their columns in search of evidence of links between serious composers and social or environmentalist activism.

My personal experience with the site is that in May, 2004 I wrote to them, giving links to a number of articles which had been written about a disagreeable experience I had had the preceding April, while trying to produce a musical work about Rachel Corrie. They didn't write back, but other web sites which either linked to the articles or chose not to at least had the courtesy to answer my letter.

The site contains vast amounts of drivel, as you point out, but also a fair number of useful reviews and articles.

George Wallace

Your point being what, exactly? That ALD is hornswoggling innocent culture consumers? That Denis Dutton owes an obligation to leave his personal philosophies at the door?

Mr. Dutton has never made any secret of his particular slant on culture, which readers are free to take or leave. He is an editor, and he edits to suit his own tastes; surely there's nothing scandalous in that.

As you rightly say, "if you think what you're getting there is an objective survey of 'arts and letters,' you're not paying very close attention." And if what you see there offends you, it is easy to avoid. Those who want (or don't object to receiving) their cultural links with a solid left-ward slant have ample alternatives, such as "WOOD S LOT". There is plenty of room, and plenty of value to be had from, both.

Dan Green

I like Amardeep's idea of an alternative A&L Daily that, ideally, would attempt a fair survey of "arts and letters." I visit wood s lot almost every day, and there's lots of good stuff there, but finally it is in its way as politicized a view of culture as Arts & Letters Daily's.


What on earth would an unpoliticized view of culture be? There is nothing "solid left" about Denis Dutton. Philistine, yes.

Dan Green

"Culture" as in "arts and letters." "Unpoliticized" as in without reference to its ultimate political utility or implications. Such a thing is perfectly possible. All of the dogmatic assertions that everything is political are just malarkey.

Matthew C Harrison

But if, as you've asserted, prevailing ideas have been given over to a mainstream media dominated by conservative conventional wisdom, what exactly can "unpoliticized" mean? Surely if this statement is true, then the arts and letters discussed cannot help but lean toward the mainstream, if only in numerical prevalence. Is this not what Arts & Letters Daily has been accused of? If not a numerical average, then what? Who will judge the absolute scale from which representational works are drawn?

I too find the idea of a "cultural spider" to be an interesting one, but ultimately would it not be seen equally as political as its reader?

Rather, if you are going to represent culture, why not represent what you want?

Dan Green

"But if, as you've asserted, prevailing ideas have been given over to a mainstream media dominated by conservative conventional wisdom, what exactly can "unpoliticized" mean?"

I don't understand this statement. Unpoliticized means unpoliticized. Unlike the current mainstream media, which at present happens to be conservative.

Kevin Holtsberry

I think it would be helpful if you were more clear about your terms. You seem to thow out the terms conservative and neo-con a lot but leave the definitions a bit vauge. There are big differences between and within conservatives. Are you talking philosophical, cultural, political, theological? Someone can be consdered conservative in an orthodox way - not wanting radical change - but not be politically conservative at all. There are also those that are conservative/traditional about culture but not neccesarily fans of President Bush, etc.

Just looking at recent links there are stories from the New Yorker, Slate, the Nation, CS Monitor and more. To call these sources conservative in a political way is to make the term useless. I get our point about art for art's sake instead of art as a cultura war weapon, but I think you are off base when you try to tie this in to current electoral politics.

Dan Green


The A&L Daily brand of conservatism seems to me to be of the neocon variety. You are assuredly correct that in many ways neocon philosophy is in serious conflict with traditional conservatism. And I really don't have that much trouble with a traditionally "conservative" view of art and culture (well, some trouble). I just don't see it being expressed much these days.

David Sucher

Perhaps what you (and I) object to these days at A&LD is what I see as a cheap, "gotcha" conservatism which seizes on silly posturing at the extreme -- and what school of thought/belief doesn't have people who get carried away? -- and characterizies that silly thought as mainstream.

Lynn S

It always surprises me whenever anyone characterizes the mainstream media as "Conservative."

Dan Green

If I were to label the "mainstream" media as a whole, I would probably characterize it not so much as "conservative" but as "compliant." Deferential to established authority.

Alex Leibowitz

"In ancient Greece onwards, most western musicians had agreed that musical beauty was based on a mysterious connection between sound and mathematics, and that this provided music with an objective goal, something that transcended the individual composer's idiosyncrasies and aspired to the universal. Beethoven managed to put an end to this noble tradition by inaugurating a barbaric U-turn away from an other-directed music to an inward-directed, narcissistic focus on the composer himself and his own tortured soul."

This isn't just an example of the conservative slant of AL Daily, but of poor scholarship and shoddy intellectualism. If it's possible to be a pseudo-intellectual on the left, it's just as possible on the right.

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