Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kill a Pundit, Save our Sanity

Last Friday the New York Times spoiled a delusion I was purposely keeping myself under. The Delusion: That Pundits were just an accident, a quark, God's little joke on us all, and that soon they would fade away. Or maybe all be shot. (This is in no way a threat, I'd like to keep myself happily out of the FBI target list for as long as possible)

The article which brought about the demise of my sanity was titled "At pundit school, learning to smile and interrupt"

There is a frickin' school teaching people how to be pundits? I am left in aww.

Lets be clear, the word Pundit hasn't always been a curse word, and the person filling the position not always an ass. The first "pundits" were local Indians who advised the English judges on Hindu law in India under the colonization era. No, punditry became terrible upon the advent of the 24 hour news station.

For some amazing reason 24 hours is not enough time to pack all of the news into, which can hardly be argued against when Joe the Plumber, one of the least relevant celebrities in our time gets hours of time on-air a week. Since 24 hours just isn't enough time, there is no way to allow for two people to go on air separately and state what they think and support it. It is obviously necessary to put two, three or four pundits on screen at the same time and have them yell at and over one another, effectively offering less intellectual debating than the Jerry Springing show.

For this reason, in order to get a step ahead of the others, pundits are enrolling in classes which teach them how to destroy what was once the beloved debate.

Pundits need to "carve...[their] philosophy into bite-size nuggets — preferably ones that end with a zinger — and to avoid questions he doesn’t like."

Those three things are just terrible. Nuggets don't get the audience anywhere, we need substance, we need explanations. Nuggets are causing us all to go the way of the mentally retarded.

The school is teaching the students how to interrupt, avoid questions they don't like and steer a conversations in a direction where they can get their message across. This is just what we need, an off topic message for the simple reason of self-promotion. What we are looking at is the professionalization of a tactic most often employed in Ms. Teacher's third grade class.

My conclusion to the whole thing is that the pundit does not represent what journalism is all about. It is one of the very few professions which is supposed to work for the audience to inform and at times educate. The pundit in trying to break information down into nuggets, smiling while you're on the attack, and adding catch phrases like "flip flop" in to attract attention is simply distracting the audience from what is really going on in the world.

There is a reason that the debate as been beloved for so long, it allows for the free exchange of ideas and when done correctly can inform an audience on multiple side of an issue. Unfortunately in many ways it seems that the debate is going down the proverbial shitter and with it goes all of the benefits.

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