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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

question of the day: What would happen today if film criticism were banned?

From This Day… in Jewish History, I learned this about November 27:

1936: Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels declares that film criticism is henceforth banned, freeing the Nazi-controlled German film industry to pursue its own agenda, which includes blatantly anti-Semitic films.

That’s a startling concept to hear today, when we’re being told that film critics are unnecessary and the traditional publications — major magazines and daily newspapers — that previously were the homes of the most prominent film critics seem to agree and are firing them or moving them to other beats. When we’re being told that the Web renders professional film critics redundant because moviegoers can all just read other moviegoers’ tweets and forum postings about a film and get the “real” scoop on a movie.

I don’t think it’s technology that’s the problem but attitudes: if more people cared about film criticism (and other arts criticism, and in-depth journalism in general), they’d be reading it. If film critics feel irrelevant these days, I think it’s more a reflection of our culture’s disdain for anything intellectual, not because the Internet has let everyone say anything to everyone else.

So here’s the question: Would there be an point to a ban on film criticism today? The Nazis were clearly worried about the German intelligentsia — would there be a reason for a similar governmental regime today to harbor the same fear? What would happen today if film criticism were banned? How many people would even notice?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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