Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
Punditry really outdid itself this year. Not in a good way. The people news outlets sought for analysis because they’ve supposedly seen it all before didn’t see most of the outcomes that hit them. In terms of relying on pundits to help build accurate analysis and predictions, a blindfold and dart board was likely a better resource. Pundits missed the demographic and cultural shifts that leaned Obama, missed calculating the potency of the presidential debates…the list goes on.
But within the overall failure of the pundits, some pundits really stood out more than others. Not just wrong. That’s because “wrong” would imply they actually tried to be right. Instead, many shucked off their roles as true analysts and prognosticators and embraced the roles of either entertainer, news segment actor, church testifier, press agent or party press release voice over announcer. Experts putting in the least possible effort to give news consumers accuracy or insight. Hacks. Or like reality TV that continually proves to be scripted and fake, a mislabeled genre.
For those, I present to you the Hacktastic 12. Twelve pundits that really stood out in that respect. Those branded as having or using keen intellectual insight while barely using it to produce truly useful or actionable analysis. They are the symbols of political punditry’s triumph of style win over substance. The Hackatastic 12 winners of 2012 (in no particular order):
Without a doubt, a talented speech writer for Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately she’s turned that skill in becoming the Glade Airfreshner for covering up political bullshit. Giving perspective on issues with the delivery and disconnect of being the most pretentious host at the most stereotypical Upper West Side cocktail party. Add a splash of prose cribbed from Maya Angelou and you’ve got Noonan’s punditry style. Here’s Noonan giving analysis/inference that the Obama camp was in trouble the day before the election:
“Voting’s the best revenge”—revenge against who, and for what? This is not a man [Obama] who feels himself on the verge of a grand victory… I suspect both Romney and Obama have a sense of what’s coming, and it’s part of why Romney looks so peaceful and Obama so roiled.”
To me that’s an obtuse way of saying “I have no idea, but I’ll imply like Romney has an edge.” The fact Noonan uses flowery language and soaring metaphors to reduce the harshness or unpopular positions and policies or infers policy mandates only distorts a news consumers’ understanding of an issue. What clearly shows her own public analysis is bullshit is when Noonan gets mad or politically frustrated, she gets refreshingly candid. She did it during the McCain campaign when, off mic, she called choice of Sarah Pain “Gimmicky” and going on to say, “The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives…”
Or look at her criticism of Mitt Romney late in the election:
“It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment…”
Notice the lack of soaring Rhetoric when she’s frustrated? That needs to be Noonan everyday. And that’s what makes her other analysis hackery.
An educated intellectual, yet his punditry is so bad with so many ideological blinders his analysis comes with no effort to show any intellectual homework to support his statements. So intellectually tone deaf, he can’t even be relied on predict the past.
Chris Mathews answers the question, “what would it be like if your half-senile uncle had a talk show?” You don’t watch his show for insight as much as “what will crazy Uncle Chris say next.” He consistently builds weird premises that his pundit entourage enables more than analyzes. Matthews feel more appropriate for a sports program more than a news and analysis show because it’s totally useless for political analysis.
David Brooks (on TV)
David Brooks actually writes some thoughtful and intellectually keen articles–in print. On TV, when he seems keenly aware that more National Review reading Republicans can see him as much as New York Times readers, he becomes more timid, intellectually shifty and policy apologetic. In that area, Brooks seems to use the true intellectual heft and energy he has and wastes it trying find the sympathetic or intangibly debatable angle of an issue that gives people on the right some modicum of comfort than the insightful, crisp perspective and tough love he is capable of.
Fox News’ The Five & MSNBC’s The Cycle
These people are to punditry what boy bands are to music. An entourage of pundits with Sex-in-the-City spread of pundit personalities so the audience can identify with or jerk off to their favorite pundit style. Problem is, even as a group, they’re all more loud and sassy than smart and insightful. The View in the afternoon. They feel more like an comedy improv group (because they’ll often say some ridiculously funny things) than any pundit brain trust.
If I wanted to find out what a low information voters think on an issue with a GOP angle, it’s easier to skip her and just ask a Fox viewer. I think she and her brand of punditry is meant for color analysis–an attempt to the represent the spirit and mindset of young voters. Don’t think it works. I still remember her defense of a political topic on Real Time with Bill Maher was “I wasn’t born yet.” To which another guest, Paul Begala suggested she start reading books. Novel concept. And embarrassing for a pundit. That captures the main issue with Megan McCain. I just see someone who wants to give opinions but doesn’t want to do the work of having the knowledge to put them in context. Her gimmick of youth punditry is supposed to carry the day by itself. Like a junior stockbroker telling me a stock is good, because the kids think it’s cool. That’s nice. It’s not actionable insight.
Pandering populism under the guise of blue collar values. All heat and bluster. No light. The Democratic answer to Bill O’Reilly who, by the way, O’Reilly does it much, much better.
Yes, she is a rising journalist. If being hot means being rising journalism. Put Megyn Kelly up against a women like Diane Sawyer, Martha Raddatz and, resume and stories they covered alone, it’s not even a contest. Even if accidental, let’s be honest, her popularity is intrinsically tied to her sexuality. If Megan Kelly was a man, she would be the anchor of Fox News’ least watched show. Just because she told Karl Rove off over Fox’s call for Obama makes her a rising star as outlets like The Daily Beast have said? Please. Sexiness with no deep reporting background is not gravitas, it’s men confusing their hard on for hard news.
He presides over a show that is the liberal version of the two minute hate. His schtick is righteous outrage and contempt with little pretense of evaluating difference sides of an issue. And if that’s the case, Sean Hannity does it better.
When you want the common man punditry style of Bill O’Reilly without all that thinking. And if you like racially tinged minorities are lazy animal messages to boot? You’re in luck.
Discredited as a pollster/strategist for the Democrats, Morris’ job is only as turncoat-I-See-the-GOP-light testifier for the current talking point du jour floating around. Plus his predictions for the presidential election (Romney will capture 325 electoral votes while Obama will get 213) were horribly wrong.
Brilliant. But all that insight is used for pure manipulation and idea presentation when giving analysis on TV. Plus being a pundit and head of a SuperPac working for one party’s candidates seems a little bit of a conflict of interest. Plus this year we got to see Rove drink his own analysis Kool Aid in the on-air election night meltdown where he simply couldn’t believe the stats and other analysts that said minorities were over-performing in states like Ohio.