Thursday, April 1, 2010

Political commentators on TV - Pundits?

Of late, I've heard television media commentators referred to as pundits, so I went to to track down the definition:

pundit - noun
1. a learned person, expert, or authority.
2. a person who makes comments or judgments, esp. in an authoritative manner; critic or commentator.

My reaction to this, especially definition #1, is that most, if not all of these commentators (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and that ilk) have no evident claim to being learned, experts, or authoritative with regard to their topics. They have no qualifications to back up their rhetoric. Rather, I believe that another noun needs to be used in reference to them:

demagogue - noun
1. a person, esp. an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.

Feel free to consult for yourself if you suspect I might be misleading you with these quoted definitions.

It's pretty obvious to me that today's commentators are demagogues, not pundits. They certainly have gained power and popularity by appealing to emotions rather than evidence. What evidence they provide is typically distorted, out of context, and misleading, with the clear goal of such misrepresentations being that of inflaming the public. They take advantage of their positions in television to imply status as journalists, but they are not journalists in any meaningful sense of the term. Their political biases are up front for anyone to see.

If you agree with them, of course, you probably see them as speaking sacred truth. If you disagree with them, and do so effectively (thereby gaining their attention), they'll assassinate you from their rostrum. Anyone who disagrees is labeled ignorant, stupid, or a demagogue in return. Anyone on their program who fails to live up to their 'standards' (i.e., disagrees with them about anything) is cut off and/or ridiculed. No effective spokesperson for any cause that these folks oppose is allowed a level playing field for an open discussion of any issue.

These are master spinmasters, who've parlayed pandering to their constituency into fame and fortune, as well as claiming to be pundits. And they clearly have colossal egos, to boot. Don't be deceived into letting such demagogues do your thinking for you ... history is replete with examples of the dangers associated with demagoguery. Inflammatory rhetoric can easily go down a road toward polarization and even violence.

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