June 13, 2003

How to be a pundit…

Rules for modern American pundits (TV, radio, or print):

  1. Never be dull. This is entertainment, not analysis or reasoned civic discourse. Never employ a tightly reasoned argument where a flaming soundbite will do. Argument, of the academic sort, is dull, but a good pissing match is fun to watch!
  2. Embrace willfully ignorant simplicity. There are only two positions in the world: yours and wrong. To admit anything more complicated than this is to invite the suggestion that YOU may be wrong, and that can NEVER be.
  3. Counter all opposition vociferously. They’re wrong, so you must point it out in the most vigorous terms, including using time-honored tactics such as name-calling, red-herring fallacies, and outright lies.
  4. Use fallacy as the cornerstone of your “arguments,” and scream bloody murder when the opposition does the same thing (assuming you can recognize a logical fallacy).
  5. Always ignore facts and the public record when it is convenient to do so. Reality is what YOU say it is. Besides, you’re trying to win political battles here (impose YOUR view on the world), not accurately describe events so that democratic citizens may make informed choices. Or, for the more cynical among you (those ready for big-time media jobs), you’re trying to get a better job by being more provocative (entertaining). Facts just get in the way of a prosperous future.
  6. The opposition is always: stupid, retarded, immoral, hypocritical, disingenuous, dishonest, and devious. Well, duh! They’re wrong.
  7. The American public is stupid; treat them that way. [sic]
  8. Know your spin points, and use them often. Original thinking is off-topic thinking.

I was sitting in Pirate Grounds yesterday–the Park University coffee shop–and started thinking about what it takes to be a pundit as I quaffed one of the major food groups. I was making notes about the rhetoric of journalism, specifically the assumptions journalists make about language, when an (unintended) idea intruded. It seems to me that modern American pundits (big media), of either/any political persuasion, follow a set of rules that constitute the game of offering opinion for hire.

Okay, nothing earth-shattering about that last assertion. But I started writing a list, and I wanted to share it with you. Happy Friday the 13th!

6 Responses

  1. Rebecca 

    Punditry must be one of the few occupations where you can consistently and spectacularly screw up and still keep your job. Chas. Krauthammer has a column on this today – except he is talking about straight news and not opinion. I guess being in the media means never having to say you’re sorry! Also, not to be trivial (well, OK, it’s trivial!), but how is the Park Blend? Also, OT, I really like your updated blogroll, and have already added several to my favorites page. Also OT, have you seen Michael J. Totten’s blog? (http://michaeltotten.blogspot.com/)

  2. acline 

    Hi Rebecca…I’m not a good one to ask about coffee. While I “enjoy” the caffeine, I must have it dressed up as mocha and latte and such. I guess that makes me a coffee weenie. 🙂 Anyway, I find the Park Blend, well-dressed, to be a good jolt.

    I’m glad you’re liking the blogroll changes. I have a few more coming. And I will check out Michael’s site.

  3. Rebecca 

    I dunno, Doc, I have always loved Rhetorica, and respect your opinion, but I don’t know if I can ever trust a man who does not appreciate a good espresso and must have his caffeine latte or mocha. (ROTFLMAO)

  4. acline 

    I take my bourbon straight…does that help?

  5. Rebecca 

    Not to be too Midwestern, or anything, but, you’re a HOOT, Doc!!

  6. Pundit Rules

    Want to be a pundit? Dr. Andrew Cline outlines what are, sadly, eight essential rules of punditry on his Rhetorica blog….