Rules for modern American pundits (TV, radio, or print):
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- The opposition is always: stupid, retarded, immoral, hypocritical, disingenuous, dishonest, and devious. Well, duh! They’re wrong.
- The American public is stupid; treat them that way. [sic]
- 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!