About Those Incredibly Loud and Usually Wrong Media Pundits

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If you’ve been watching cable news lately, you have been listening to a multitude of pundits pontificating to no end on all sorts of issues as shit happens in our world. Witnessing their sideshow recently, I have been amazed at just how little they know, and  how unwilling they are to concede to all of the facts, instead of just some.

For the past few days, the big story has been concerning Libya and the United Nations’ actions implementing the No-Fly Zone. I believe that pundits were caught off-guard on this one, and were somewhat surprised that the UN has acted so forcefully and so quickly. In fact, instead of calling it what it is, an intervention, pundits have declared that a legally sanctioned UN action is an act of war. No matter that the real war is between a dictator’s imported army of rented mercenaries and thousands of Libyans whose only crime was publicly and peacefully gathering to voice their justified frustrations with their government.

Most of these pundits won’t bother reminding us that it is precisely the 8,000 Libyans already dead at the hands of Colonel/Dictator Muammar/Moammar Gaddafi/Qhadaffi/Qaddafi which prompted the United Nations to act as they did in the first place. In addition, they forget to own up to their own words of a few weeks ago, telling us that the United Nations was bureaucratically ineffective and downright good for nothing, and would never, ever act, period.

Yesterday, the pundits were suggesting over and over again that perhaps the United Nations took too long to act. Many of the pundits have included the US President in their accusations of dithering. Of course, if the United Nations had acted three weeks earlier (which seems to be the pundit-approved timeline in this case) the death toll may not have been high enough to get the countries needed to ratify a resolution for a No-Fly Zone on board, but never mind that. If only, “as some say,” the United States had simply acted alone three weeks before, all would have been just perfect. Except of course, had it happened, the pundits would have simply lost their marbles then, which some are now doing anyway.

While today the brilliant pundits ponder aloud in unison as to whether enough Arab states are participating in the No-Fly Zone, and if not, why not, they are also playing up Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa’s recent statement – since walked back, but apparently not to the pundits’ liking – that the UN countries enforcing the zone are using too much firepower. It appears that there is an effort to create controversy between the Western countries participating in the No-Fly Zone and the Arab League. This may be a strategy to quell some unhappiness on the part of the Arab nations’ general population, but it seems overplayed to the point of creating friction on this very sensitive point. It is quite mind-boggling that this story should be emphasized as heavily as it is, as Western-Arab relations are already fragile and would seem to require nurturing, not divisive, blaring headlines, but hey, what do I know? I’m no inquisitive professional pundit.

There are the “my tax dollars are going to waste” pundits, a horrified bunch who can’t get over how we could be spending even a thin dime defending brown lives, half a world away, from a crackpot dictator. Taking brown people out is what we normally do with our tax dollars, so saving brown lives instead appears to be more than this group can bear. They cannot reconcile why the brazillions of dollars that these missiles cost couldn’t be spent on funding teachers, NPR, the deficit, or whatever other funding shortage comes to mind. Never mind that the missiles used have already been built and purchased and have an expiration date. That’s just too much money spent on saving the brown people. And of course, how could we, when that is something that we don’t normally do?

Then there are the “shit… not another war” pundits who don’t seem to believe that there really are bad actors in the world stage. They don’t want to get that one of the functions of the United Nations is to build consensus among nations in order to take cohesive action (yes, sometimes military action), especially when innocent lives are being lost and when the countries that act like they run the world (filled with people that run their mouths) could do something about it.

There are also the “breathless partisan” pundits, who are willing to spew falsehoods and exaggerations while speculating the worst possible outcome, never once seeing a bright spot that has anything to do with those they oppose — all for political reasons. You can’t reason with them, as they are intellectually dishonest and will lie about anything in order to win an argument on the spot; never mind that fact-checking stuff!

Of course the trick in understanding the pundits is to know that, in their estimation, any world problem must be solved within their prescribed time limit, or else someone should at the very least lose his or her job. Unfortunately, some issues take longer to solve than a 30-minute sitcom. It isn’t always quick or clean, nor does it always end happily ever after.

I remember a couple of years ago President Obama had gone to Russia to discuss the “reset” of US-Russian relations. He was shown coming out of his meeting with the president of Russia to announce that it had gone well and to share some of what had been discussed. Afterward, I recall that no matter what channel I turned to, there they were, the learned pundits, pronouncing that this visit had yielded very little in terms of tangibles for the United States. They went on and on, analyzing how uneventful and ineffective the whole trip had been. Never mind that shortly thereafter relations actually did appear to be reset, and later a START Treaty was announced and ratified. But you see, all of this didn’t happen during that first visit, so there was that, and the pundits were, as usual, prepared to roll their eyes and declare it a failure.

The dictionary meaning of a pundit is a learned person or critic with an opinion. Take away the “learned” part and yeah, that’s what we have been seeing lined up from cable to cable, ready to impart their “wisdom” on we-the-unlearned. To be sure, a pundit can now also be a news reader who has learned the required skill of asking leading questions that in themselves are short punditry-ridden monologues.

So it appears that all the qualifications one needs to enter the world of punditry are an opinion, a connection, a big mouth, a camera and/or a microphone, and the skill of seeming to own a veritable, if slightly cracked, crystal ball. Hey… you know, even I can do that!

Look, everyone has a right to an opinion, but I find it dangerous that pundits with large audiences appear to be more full of themselves than of facts to share with those of us who can’t respond back with our corrections (unless you believe that screaming at your television will be heard by anyone other than yourself).  Especially in times of crisis, I’d prefer to hear straight-up old-fashioned news reports, and not blowhard punditry.  Personally, I just don’t think they know enough. They aren’t giving us solid information. I also suspect that they are simply programmed to bend the truth to yield to whatever story line has already been decided by the big suits upstairs. In other words, they are nothing but tools.