Those who frequently read my personal blogs are aware of my fondness for different types of videos . One of the people whose videos I often watch is Anthony Fantano, the self-described “internet’s busiest music nerd.” On his personal channel, I saw a video he had posted about his beef with Wikipedia, and I figured I was in for an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience, and so it was. In his video, Fantano described how video links of his reviews have been taken down because Wikipedia’s gatekeepers consider him to be a Bigfoot chaser and not a respectable authority. In an effective apologia for his professionalism, he then cited his experience hosting a successful syndicated radio chart show on NPR and the fact that he has a professional staff and is, in fact, a professional music reviewer and online music and culture pundit. In watching his video I had to agree with him that he was in fact a viable critic in terms of videos. Being at least a semi-professional book reviewer (as my blog gives evidence to), I can recognize the level of professionalism in his reviews, even where our opinion occasionally differs on specific albums and artists.
After all, as someone who frequently visits Wikipedia for research on music history, some of which ends up in my entries and some of it which is subjected to the vagaries of my memory, I often find parts of articles on songs and albums which treat the critical response to the work. This category in particular would appear to be perfectly suited for the video reviews of songs and albums by YouTube’s content creators, and those on other platforms as well. If a song can rise to popularity based on its YouTube and internet streaming views, which are taken into account as part of the methodology for the Billboard Hot 100, it should be noted, then the response to those songs on those same platforms is itself worthy of note and recognition. Even if the people who review songs are known by such monikers as Todd In The Shadows or the Rap Critic or Anthony Fantano or Mr. 96 or The Secret Agent or Spectrum Pulse and many worthwhile other ones besides this, the videos are often made with a high degree of professionalism in their video and sound editing and in their content, and their opinions are certainly worthwhile. One bad song may run afoul of dozens of these critics, all of whom are competing to write the funniest or most biting epitaph for a particularly poor excuse for a song or album or artist in order to get the most views, likes, and subscribes and the corresponding ad revenue, and this individual and combined critical mass forms a lot of the thinking about such music.
It is particularly ironic, if not hypocritical, for Wikipedia to look down on on music reviewers like Anthony Fantano. Wikipedia, after all, prides itself on its openness to crowdsourcing its writing and editorial duties to volunteer nerds like me who update articles, add links and research, and aid in making the source a better recognized authority. Although some Wikipedia articles suffer from notable bias, usually of an unfriendly kind, overall I would say that the website does an admirable job at providing worthwhile information and links to sources. It is remarkably blind and short-sighted, though, for the website to lose sight of the fact that the same phenomena that make its own website work are also responsible for the proliferation of critical content on the internet at large that is worthy of recognition and credit. To be sure, I am a part of this proliferation, as a reviewer of books and other written material for scholarly journals and publishing firms, and so my defense of Anthony Fantano and others like him is an act of self-defense, but it ought to be an act of self-defense for Wikipedia as well. To the extent that high-quality material that appears on blogs or online videos receives recognition for its quality, such authority raises the worth and esteem in which online distribution channels of content are viewed as a whole. It would appear that Wikipedia, in denigrating the work of people in online media, is cutting off its own nose to spite its face.
There is a popular joke about lawyers that claims that sharks will avoid eating shipwrecked lawyers out of professional courtesy. Other cliches warn about the impropriety of pots calling kettles black and people in glass houses starting stone-throwing contests. These jokes and cliches are repeatedly mentioned because they speak to a truth that is easy to ignore, and that is that we need to be aware of who we are so that we do not attack the ground of legitimacy that we depend on for ourselves. Online bloggers like myself, YouTube critics like Anthony Fantano, and online references like Wikipedia are all peers in contemporary online culture, voices of quality judgment and taste in the sometimes anarchic and largely democratic world of the internet. Given the egalitarian nature of this medium, it often takes a great deal of time and effort for quality to be recognized and rewarded with views and (occasionally) revenue. In a world where nearly everyone is a potential content creator, one must rise from merit, whether that merit includes skills at clickbaiting others, SEO optimization, or merit at creating compelling content that draws people back time and time again and that influences their opinions by one’s rhetorical abilities. Anthony Fantano is clearly an online reviewer of a high degree of skill and influence, a benchmark for other music reviewers to compete against. There are others like him, and those who reach such levels of skill and recognition are clearly not hunting bigfoot, but are cultural arbiters whose willingness to engage with the larger culture and its innumerable offerings help influence the cultural discourse that takes place online. Surely Wikipedia could stand to benefit from recognizing this larger cultural discourse, if for no other reason than it increases its own relevance.
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