High school pundits and candidates

October 28, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

A television was installed in my workplace cafeteria this year and it has been an immense source of irritation and revelation regarding the garbage that passes for TV news. Today, I heard a few minutes of discussion by these three women at CNN:

What did these CNN pundits discuss today?

1) Horserace politics–who is polling well at the moment, and how will the various candidates do in the various primaries, with barely a mention of how they stand on the issues;

2) An allegation that a candidate flip-flopped;

3) A claim that Candidate A dissed Candidate B, and

4) Did you see that strange  latest campaign ad by Candidate D?

This is what passes for serious political commentary today on a major television network.  It’s high school all over again. Not only are the pundits engaging in this stunning shallowness, but the candidates are responding in kind. These people remind me of those vapid adolescents who thought it was a life and death matter to win a seat on student council, even though they didn’t actually know why they were running other than to be cool. The pundits are like the high schoolers who endlessly swap gossip in the halls. The candidate students end up turning high school elections into personality cults, and that’s exactly how we are running our media and our country today. Everywhere we look we see lots of emotionally and intellectually stunted people awash in money and basking with their BFF’s in front of camera lenses.

Here’s what happens when we allow elections become tribal: The voters ease into candidates like they adopt a sports teams and they fight for their candidates out of loyalty and in-group cravings, blinded by the confirmation bias roaring full blast. They get all exercised by the pundits, who are acting as though they are conveying meaningful news, and the networks dress it all up with slick graphics, music and sets to make it look like the information is “news.” Many of those who watch this garbage assume that they are informed on the issues of the day.

We need to change our ways. We need to start choosing candidates like we shop for consumer goods that have no prestige. I”m not referring to our purchases of cars or clothes, but rather consider the way we shop for things like water heaters and dishwashers. In choosing political candidates, we need to get past all of the brand name loyalties and pettiness and we need to start insisting on well-informed answers to tough questions about how our candidates plan to run the country. We need to turn off the TV when high schoolish pundits try to manufacture conflict that distracts from serious issues. We need to leave all of these high schoolers, candidates and pundits, in the dust, because we have a big complex country to run, and none of them appear to be up to it.

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Category: Journalism, Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    ““True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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