Punt the Pundit


by Joe Lavin -- http://joelavin.com


	I have a great idea to boost voter turnout this November. Along 
	with voting for Congress, perhaps we could also vote for 
	television pundits. Obviously, voting the bastards out of 
	Washington is fun, but wouldn't it also be fun to vote out some 
	of the self-appointed experts that grace our television screens?

	I'm not exactly sure what you have to do to become a television 
	pundit. In the past, you actually had to accomplish something to 
	get on television, but now I don't know what the requirements 
	are. Hell, these days, if you sell blue dresses at the Gap, you 
	probably have a good shot at becoming a pundit.
	
	Seemingly, the only prerequisite for being a pundit is a short 
	training class on repeatedly using the phrase "the American 
	people."

	Pundit: "Well, Dan, I really think that there's absolutely no 
	question that the American people think "
	
	American People: "Um, excuse me."
	
	Pundit: "Shut up!!!!!!!! I'm talking. Sorry, Dan, the American 
	people were just interrupting me. Can we start over?"
	 
	I'm still not sure how these pundits know so much about the 
	American people. Considering that they never stop talking, when 
	do they actually hear the American people? They might be 
	experts on the sound of their own voices, but that seems to be 
	about it. "Tom, our latest poll shows that 90% of me approves 
	of the job that the sound of my voice is doing. Back to you."
	
	Some pundits are on TV so much that I'm amazed they have the 
	time for real jobs. For example, I was watching television one 
	night this summer when lawyer/pundit Alan Dershowitz took 
	time out of his vacation in Maine to appear on a Boston station 
	to discuss the suspension of Boston Globe columnist Mike 
	Barnicle. Two hours later, I found Alan babbling about Bill 
	Clinton on another channel. Some vacation. I'm scared to use 
	my television when he's not on vacation. 
	
	Meanwhile, The Washington Post had an interesting piece last 
	week about a student at George Washington University who 
	was sick of seeing Jonathan Turley, a law professor there, on 
	television all the time talking about Bill Clinton. So, the student 
	conducted an experiment. He called the professor identifying 
	himself as a student and asked for an office appointment. A few 
	minutes later, he had his roommate call the professor and claim 
	to be an ABC news producer. The roommate's call was 
	returned in 32 minutes; the student's call was never returned. 
	Apparently, pundits don't even have to be good at their real jobs.
	
	Not that any of this is new. Pundits have been annoying us for 
	several years now, but with the advent of the 24 hour news 
	cycle, punditry is getting even sillier. Last night, I was watching 
	CNBC where they were talking about (what else?) the 
	President's approval ratings. It turns out that in a Washington 
	Post poll 67% of Americans approved of the way the President 
	is doing his job, while Newsweek found that only 58% of 
	Americans approved of Bill's job performance. And so the 
	anchor and her pundits spent the next five minutes trying to figure 
	out which was the better poll. 
	
	It was about as surreal as the news can get. I almost expected 
	there to be another poll: "In our very latest poll, 73% of the 
	American people approve of the Newsweek poll; however only 
	47% approve of the Washington Post poll, showing a clear shift 
	from the last poll we took just five minutes ago."
	
	Basically, to be a pundit all you really need are connections and 
	an opinion. I'm thinking of becoming one myself. Maybe I could 
	be the anti-pundit pundit. "That's a very interesting idea, Mr. 
	Lavin, the idea that the American people don't really need 
	pundits, that they are quite capable of thinking for themselves. 
	Let's now bring in the rest of our panel. How do you all think 
	that this notion will play with the American people? Do we have 
	any polls on this?"
	
	Well, actually, on second thought we're probably doomed. 
	
	_________
	Copyright 1998 by Joe Lavin






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