In Defense of Pundits
Pundits and periodontists
A periodontist is a physician who practices periodontics. Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that treats periodontitis. Periodontitis is a disease of the gums.
A pundit is a person who offers expert opinion on a variety of matters, usually social and political. Punditry is the a branch of public communication which treats pundititus. Pundititus is a disease of the human psyche which inhibits thoughtful exploration. The illness shows up in two contradictory forms. In the first, the patient shuns all punditry believing his own opinion is second to none. It's opposite is the patient who collects pundits and believes their every word. A good pundit can heal both forms with just a few well chosen comments.
Other than that both start with a "p", what do these two enterprises have in common? Gums. The first heals them; the second flaps them. And, yes, I made up some of my own words there. Webster will soon catch up with me. :-)
We need pundits
Much of the abuse pundits get comes from people who deny their pundititus. They claim to have better information than the pundit and blow him/her off as a biased talking head. Or they slovenly hang on every pundit word expecting instant enlightenment.
Modern society has gotten so complex and inscrutable that few of us have sufficient data to make a truly informed decision. Further whatever data we have, will be irrelevant tomorrow. And yet we opine.
A more humble approach might be to accept gratefully the work that pundits do. If my car breaks down I don't try to figure out the problem and fix it. No, I call my friend Randy at Sixty Service who arranges to have it towed to where expert mechanics fix my car. I trust them. We trust experts in every walk of life. Why not do so when processing information about societal and political trends.
The dirty little secret is that we all lean on someone else for our opinions. Unless you have gained access to the corridors of power and spent huge chunks of time, energy and money to acquire original source material, your current opinions are being shaped by the people you listen to, your personal pundits.
Pundits aren't objective
And you are? Objectivity is a myth claimed as a truism by the arrogant. The myth asserts that you can't know truth unless it's source is objective. If that be the case, truth is unknowable.
The Bible which I accept as God's Word, truthful and reliable in all that it affirms, doesn't claim objectivity. The Apostle John wrote near the end of his gospel, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30,31) Was John objective? No, he freely cops to an agenda. But he is truthful.
It's not objectivity, but who you trust
Once you jettison the objectivity myth, you're able to gain a lot of useful information by deciding whom to trust. That's a personal decision you'll make based on all sorts of issues. The important thing is to recognize freely what's happening. I have a Christian world and life view, so I decide whom to believe based on who reflects that position most accurately. That person may not be a Christian but his life and views may line up with Christian values. Yes, God can make that happen. It's called common grace.
Here are the pundits I trust: Charles Krauthammer, Ted Koppel, Dana Perino, Brit Hume. Bill O'Rielly can be abrasive but usually he's right on. He can be as tough on a Republican as on a Democrat. Bret Baier? What's not to like about him. Megyn Kelly is quick witted and smart. Both Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly are more on the straight news side, but even when they stray into punditry they go in the right direction.
Who are your favorite pundits? Why?