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  • Saturday, April 23, 2005


    Pundits as Political Shock Troops

    The current modern incarnation of pundits is very particular. In keeping with my current thoughts on advertising and public relations being the root of almost all public misinformation, I realized the purpose of pundits today. They are the neon lights to attract viewers and readers, not explainers or explorers of political policy and action.

    Short of getting an FCC fine for indecency, TV pundits need to generate excitement. Robert Reich on The Daily Show refered to these shows as the "shouting" shows. It doesn't really matter what the excitement is about, it just needs to draw in viewers. It doesn't matter whether viewers agree or disagree with the shouting as long as they watch. In the movie Private Parts about Howard Stern, there was this tidbit of information: People who liked Stern and listened to his radio show tuned in for an average of 45 minutes. People who hated Stern, listened for an average of 90 minutes. (My memory is probably off in the exact numbers but the ratio is about right.) No, Stern is not a pundit but the principle applies to TV punditry today.

    How many well-known TV and print pundits are liberal or moderate in their presented opinions? Give yourself a point if you can fill up the fingers of one hand. Now how many are conservative? My guess is you could probably name at least twice as many in half the time. (If you couldn't, subtract that point because you're getting too much exposure to the "liberal media." Shame on you!)

    Exaggeration and hyperbole is the stock in trade of pundits. Accuracy and logic, not so much. They try to avoid big whopping lies most of the time but it only takes a little massaging to change a factual error into a bold opinion.

    This current tirade was set off by a recent piece by Michael Reagan titled A Catholic Pope? I just kept noticing how many of his points were wrong, not on a political level but a factual level. Here's a little list of quotes, out of context but check the link if you think I'm grossly misrepresenting Reagan's writing.
    I know he's obviously aiming this (apparently) as a Catholic to Catholics but so much of it is patently false. Consistent for 2000 years? Two small exceptions off the top of my head: 1) The Books of the Bible as we current know them were only codified in the 5th century, and 2) until the Renaissance, priests were allowed to marry.

    Pagan media?! This seems like an extension of the "liberal media" cannard. Of course "pagan" media will be hostile to Catholics, right? It's not like Catholic Church wasn't a little hostile to the pagan religions they encountered.

    Our times are "filled with such corruption as to make the decadence of ancient Rome appear virtuous by comparison"? How about slavery? I guess that's not the kind of "decadence" he's refering to; he does seem to have a warm spot for homosexuals. Vomitoriums? Hmm, I guess bulimia might cover it. Gee, maybe I'm wrong, maybe these are the End of Days?

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