By Dr. Michael Hogan
When I grow up, I want to be a pundit.
There are all kinds of pundits — economic, sports, financial, political, all kinds. Being any one of them is a good occupation, but I am most familiar with the cable news television pundits, and I want to join their ranks.
It seems like fun. I like to give my opinion, and as long as an opinion is not racist or sexist, there doesn’t seem to be much accountability.
Technically, a pundit is supposed to be an expert, and in some fields they probably are, but I’m not so sure about these cable news people.
It is more correct to call them commentators. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are correct or incorrect, they just have to have an opinion.
Sometimes the opinions are based on fact; sometimes the opinions are based on their biases. These latter-based opinions are the most prevalent. Facts aren’t denied, but facts are conveniently included or excluded depending upon the particular opinion being advocated. If facts interfere, declare them not pertinent.
Acting within the same bias of a particular television station is a big help.
How did we ever survive without these people? Years before television, what did these people do? I suppose they sat around some corner general store or some barbershop and voiced their opinions.
Of course they didn’t have as many erroneous polls (or pols) to base their erroneous opinions on, and I am sure they were just as confident. I wonder if they used the expression, “reliable anonymous sources.” Television gave these people jobs.
What qualifies a person to be a news pundit? In general, the person has to be good looking, has to dress and speak well and has to have a tremendous amount of hubris. He has to be able to sit there and pretend what another pundit is saying is actually worth listening to.
Intelligence is necessary, but logic is not. Politeness is preferred, but rudely interrupting another commentator is acceptable. You cannot be easily embarrassed, and it is probably better if you are completely shameless. Being obnoxious is a big help.
Even when obviously wrong, you must be able to defend your former political position and explain unabashedly and proudly why “we” were wrong, and then reiterate that the correct conclusion was really illogical.
When wrong, the pronoun is usually changed from “I” to “We.” Sarcastically one could joke that the “W-E” keys on the keyboard are probably worn out. When correct, the pronoun “I” remains. Another phrase commonly used when correct is, “I’ve been saying that for months.” When rarely admitting to being wrong, “I was wrong but … ” is a frequently used expression. Displaying bitterness toward a person having a different viewpoint seems to becoming more and more common.
Having true remorse is discouraged, although a false display of remorse is acceptable, provided it does not detract from the cheerful atmosphere of the program.
When a school student gets an “F” on an assignment or is forced to wear a dunce cap, he is usually embarrassed. Not a pundit. When wrong, a pundit smiles confidently, arranges his biases in the proper order, and seemingly without any accountability, renders his next opinion.
That’s a good occupation.
Dr. Michael Hogan is a retired radiologist and 45-year resident of Morgantown. One of his hobbies is writing. He writes a general interest column for The Dominion Post. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.