I have tried to keep explicitly political commentary and analysis out of this blog--except to point out the political uses to which literature is so often put these days--and while political bias almost always seeps out of any kind of "cultural" commentary eventually, I believe I have mostly succeeded. This underlying intention was one of the reasons I called The Reading Experience a "literary literary weblog" in the first place. (As well as a way of signalling I would probably not focus much on "pop culture" or personal confession).
I of course have my political views, and they are strongly held views, but it did and does seem to me that there are plenty of other blogs purveying political opinions and analysis, many of them expressing political views close to mine but otherwise better informed than I could be. Further, there are lots--lots--of purportedly "cultural" blogs that also offer up plenty of political rhetoric, but few, at least in my reading, that simply examine art, literature, and culture as if they were pursuits with value separate from ongoing political discourse. Perhaps there would be room for at least one that proceeded according to that assumption.
It has occurred to me to voice all of this explicitly as I have lately been doing a kind of wide-ranging sweep of the "blogosphere" to get a sense of what's actually being done in as many of its quarters as I could find. I have especially been looking for other blogs that appear to focus on the arts and culture at least to some significant extent. I will not name names, but I would like to give a report of sorts about what I have been finding.
If anything, my sense that in the current cultural climate "politics is everything" in discussions of art and literature has been reinforced. In fact, the dismaying impression I get from much blog commentary is that, at least implicitly, politics is more important than art and literature. (I am for now putting aside the self-styled literary weblogs, the usual suspects listed by the Complete Review on its "Links to Literary Weblogs" page, although even here political postings often enough interrupt the flow of more purely literary news.)
This is especially true of weblogs that identify themselves as "conservative," or that ally themselves with other conservative commentators. I had expected--honestly had hoped--that I might find in such blogs an impatience with politicized arts criticism similar to my own. I thought that perhaps the honest desire to "conserve" artistic and literary accomplishment both from the past and in the present would manifest itself in conservative culture blogs through non-ideological analysis of the work of noteworthy artists, writers, or composers. I haven't found much of this at all. Most of these blogs seem to me relentlessy ideological. (It should go without saying that there are exceptions. I am necessarily making generalizations that individual examples will bely.) There seems to be an assumption that almost all modern art and literature is part of the broader liberal conspiracy against mainstream America, and certainly that almost all attempts at what used to be called "higher criticism" are the work of pointy-heads.
Yet in a broader sense these blogs want to lay claim to high culture as part of their domain. It's just that from this perspective it's not the actual achievement in works of art that's important. "Appreciation" of it is just another way for conservative bloggers to distinguish themselves from the barbarian liberals trying to bring down Western Civilization, at times a tool with which to bash these liberals on the noggin.
(The extent to which many such conservatives in fact avoid real engagement with serious art and literature was really brought home to me when I ran across this rather astonishing admission in a conservative blog: "I suppose the truth is that I don't like literature very much. I admire it. I realise that it matters, and I want to at least experience the occasional literary masterpiece, just to know how that feels. But the process of ploughing through hundreds of pages of prose while trying nevertheless to keep in mind exactly who all these people are and what they have all been doing is beyond me.")
"Liberals" themselves unwittingly conspire in this process. For the most part admitted liberal bloggers simply ignore art and literature. This is their way of acknowledging that only politics is worth a serious person's attention. When they do take up such topics it's almost always a way to substantiate their own political claims and assumptions. The fact of the matter is, however, there are few if any defenses of the arts from a liberal perspective, leaving the field wide open for the kind of expropriation of culture by the political right I have discussed.
But then I'm not sure I'd want that there be such. The literary weblogs are ultimately by far the most reliably non-biased web-based sources of debate on current art and literature, although again their political allegiances do come through at times, and those allegiances are frequently and fairly obviously "liberal." (Mine are too.) Speaking just for myself, however, my fondest hope for these weblogs might be that they offer a genuinely credible alternative both to the bad-faith usurpations of the right and the apathy and irresponsibility of the left. This might in itself be seen as an assertion of "political" principle, but it would be one in opposition to the real corruption of both politics and literature my tour of the blogosphere revealed to me.