Punt the Pundit
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
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