Rolling Stone’s cover with the Boston Marathon bomber has been controversial. Tom Nawraki thinks they’re violating the spirit of a decision made decades ago not to mention the name of John Lennon’s killer. My problem with the cover story isn’t the subject matter, but the cover. It would work if Rolling Stone were known for a sense of irony, but that really isn’t the case. This looks like a photo that could accompany a story about a young musician who died in a plane crash.
SO WHERE DOES THIS leave the cultural critic? The pervasiveness of the social influence bias suggests that even professional TV, music, and film reviewers are not immune to others’ evaluations influencing their reviews. Whereas in a pre-torrented world, reviewers had first access to film, TV, and music, now they must inevitably write their reviews after being exposed to the opinions of the masses who have already consumed, or at least previewed, the object of the review. When critics were first, their reviews initiated the social influence bias process, but now this process precedes them. Thus, whereas critics used to guide tastes, they often now function as mirrors of public opinion.
Cultural critics now have an opportunity to provide a real service by reviving objectivity, and giving people an informed opinion rooted in legitimate and honest contemplation. At the same time, it’s harder than ever for them to do that because of all the noise. (And harder for us to know what’s been biased by others.) It’s a paradox, but it’s a paradox that valuable critics will work through. Everyone can be an expert now, but the best critics were always something different altogether.
A nearby mall is trying for a comeback. They made some bad decisions in the beginning, trying to keep out riffraff like the GAP, and opening at roughly the same time as the great recession. But Atlas Park does have one thing to boast about: more elevators than the state of Wyoming.