Currently, the old, respected term of "Critic" has come to take on a very pejorative connotation. Gone are the days (if such ever fully existed) where a learned individual could give his opinions, harsh as they may be, in a setting where such would be weighed, measured, and discarded by like-minded individuals. No, over the past two generations, the very notion of there being an "èlite" that could process such disagreements and new literary developments has been discarded. Czech writer Milan Kundera had this to say in the essay "Sixty-three Words," which appeared in his book The Art of the Novel:
ELITISM. The word "elitism" only appeared in France in 1967, the word "elitist" not until 1968. For the first time in history, the very language threw a glare of negativity, even of mistrust, on the notion of elite.
Official propaganda in the Communist countries began to pummel elitism and elitists at that same time. It used the terms to designate not captains of industry or famous athletes or politicians but only the cultural elite: philosophers, writers, professors, historians, figures in film and the theater.
An amazing synchronism. It seems that in the whole of Europe the cultural elite is yielding to other elites. Over there, to the elite of the police apparatus. Here, to the elite of the mass media apparatus. No one will ever accuse these new elites of elitism. Thus the word "elitism" will soon be forgotten. (p. 127)
Even a quarter-century later, Kundera's words ring true. Look at how "the Critic" is so often portrayed, not as being a highly-educated person whose opinions may be worthy to consider, but rather as a cartoonish, pompous figure whose opinions are "pretentious" and whose takes on a favorite work should be rejected uncritically. It is a fascinating turn of events over the past century. Before, critics were viewed as arbiters. Their opinions were hotly contested, yes, but the discussion that ensued, usually in journals or letters to the editor in the publications of the day, generally allowed the reading public to develop a well-formed opinion on the works of their time.
Nowadays? In the Instant Communication Era, the Age of the Geek? Such considered responses, hallmarks of an age where a conversation via mail or publication might span months, is mostly gone in a time where arguments blow up and are gone within a three-day span, if not much sooner. Opinions are thrown out, counter-arguments rarely considered in this rush to have it all spill out in as short of a time as possible. There are few self-reflections that take place; it is, more or less, discouraged in this sort of environment.
Compounding this is the belief that everyone has an equal opinion, that everyone is a special snowflake. Look again at some of the responses in those links I posted here. Notice how defensive some people got about their opinions? It is the reaction of those who are seeing their "sacred cows," those things that they are nigh fanatical about, apparently being "attacked." What has this world come to when one critic's opinion generates such visceral responses from several people?
I myself am a (mostly) online reviewer. Some, wrongfully in several aspects, view what I do as being a sort of reaction against some perceived "monopoly" that "the Critics/Elites" have. Such responses about there being "no more gatekeepers" baffles me. I am a critic. I was trained to be one and I understand it not to be Olympian pronouncements on matters of literary taste. I also understand that fan-centric commentaries, their so-called "discussions" are rarely much more than uncritical pronouncements of "sacred cows" and "unholy devils," each to be defended or slashed at, respectively, without much considerations to the hows and whys of those opinions. For the more fanatical of these uncritical quasi-critics, the levels of debate drop from the abstract down to an Animal Farm sheep's "Four legs good! Two legs bad!" level of sophistication. And yet one is not supposed to criticize (oh, that damnable word these days!) another for taking an uncritical stance.
So yes, this is a rather disturbing development, one that for now I'll just merely content myself with skewering with satire on occasion. I still believe there are no "sacred cows" when it comes to a literary source, but it seems for some that they have taken unprocessed bullshit and made it sacred in its stead.