In any case, I think perhaps it would be worthwhile for us all to at least pretend to be shocked by the percentage of political coverage that had, as goal, no other mission other than to mislead. No, not to argue policy prescriptions, or to legitimately poke holes in conventional or unconventional wisdom, or even to game out the horse races or game out the ways in which the other gamers were possibly wrong, or any of those other fine pundistic things, but flat-out bullshitting on behalf of Your Preferred Candidate, damn the facts, damn the polls, and damn everything else besides. The most obvious case was the late-season battle between Nate Silver, who was a proxy villain representing anyone who dared do math on these things, and the entire conservative wing of punditry. That one had all the fixings of a Salem witch trial, but lesser versions of it, the actual, palpable contempt for anything fact-based if there was some other fellow willing to go on television and say the precise opposite, was the modus operandi for most of the press coverage of the race.
It has often been noted that political punditry is one of those fields where you can be spectacularly wrong, all the time, in a wide array of subjects and this will apparently have absolutely no effect on whether people take you seriously, or whether people pay you to say things, or whether people will earnestly nod their heads and believe you the very next time you spout off on the same or other subjects. See the Iraq War for some particularly stinging examples: It was the war that would be a cakewalk, would cost next to nothing, would in fact pay for itself, would deal a death blow to various terrorist who had never entered the place, and would forever be over, or at least on the way to being over, or at least on the beginning edges of being on the way to being over, in a mere six months from whenever the speaker happens to speaking. Political punditry provides in such cases a nice, safe perch to advocate even for as much death and destruction as possible and have your fellow pundits nod their head approvingly at your candor and wisdom—you can say things on a Sunday talk show that in most other contexts would mostly result in people crossing the street to avoid you, but people on the street tend to have their wits about them in ways that people in the rolling office chairs of a television studio do not.
Given that all involved in that little fiasco are still safely ensconced as experts in their "field", you can see that we seem to be no closer to shunning the liars and the incompetents than we ever were. And why would we be? Election-times are the grandest holiday of all for political liars. It's their Halloween, and their Christmas. If your ideology leads you to be completely, utterly, spectacularly wrong about war, or basic economic theory, or essential facts of history, you can imagine that perhaps at least more knowledgable professionals in all those other fields will probably look down on you, but in politics you seem to be judged by how spectacularly and shamelessly you can accomplish the lie itself, regardless of context. If you are a politician, pundits will busy themselves wondering aloud whether your "gambit" of unabashedly bullshitting the entire American public will be "effective". If you are a pundit, your job is, apparently, to further the bullshitting in order to make it effective. Somewhere along the line, the word pundit became synonymous with professional liar. It might have been a cost-cutting move.
Against that backdrop—and with the explicit understanding that lying on behalf of your preferred interests is, apparently, now the definition of the profession—how would we even judge the winners and losers in that group? The politicians are either elected or not (depending on whether their gambits are effective); the pundits, however, sail merrily along, often apparently many, many sheets to the wind, and hypothesizing as to whether the worst punditry offenders are stupid or lying is left almost entirely as an exercise to be performed by bloggers and other undesirables. Pundits, journalists, newspapers, entire television networks—such things are not dwelt upon, in Washington circles, perhaps because if competence started being judged the better classes suspect there would be no end to it, and soon everybody would be being judged by whether or not the pronouncements they made to the wide, wide public made any sense at all, and nobody wants to live in a hellscape such as that.
Still, it seems that at some point we ought to do our not-polite-company duty and start pinning some blame on the worst of the dunderheads, whether they want it or not. It's fine to be wrong about things, mind you. It's fine to opine based on your own partisan preferences, too, so long as those suppositions do not blatantly contradict actual, right-in-front-of-everyone's-faces fact. But the people whose sole purpose is to mislead, the people whose dishonesty, whose raw hackishness, whose absolute scorn for the public, and for facts, and for their own supposed profession, whose raw hatred for anyone who dares even argue based on physical realities, as opposed to masturbatory fantasies, is most embarrassing to the whole nation—are they really necessary cogs, in the political process? The people in our discourse whose only contribution to the American political process is to injure it, on purpose?
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2006—San Francisco Values:
|Did you hear that O'Reilly invented the slur "San Francisco values"? Yeah, he also thinks he invented sliced bread and fire.
But let's talk about "San Francisco values", you know -- tolerance, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
Since O'Reilly boycotts everything he hates, I look forward to his boycott of all Bay Area-origin products. Same with every conservative who bashes San Francisco and the Bay Area. So no iPods or anything Apple. No HP computers. No Google. No Yahoo. No eBay. Those conservative bloggers using Blogspot, MovableType, or TypePad? Sorry. Those products are Bay Area-based.
Also no Adobe or Macromedia products. No computers, either, since most run on AMD or Intel. No tax preparation using Intuit products. Cancel your Netflix subscription. Cancel your TiVo subscription. Remove your Network Associates or Symantec virus protection software from your computer. Unplug your Netgear wifi router.
Don't wear Levis (or any kind of jeans), Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, or buy your kids Gymboree. Avoid LeapFrog learning toys. Boycott Pixar movies. Boycott any movie using George Lucas' ILM special effects shop. Stay away from Treos and other Palm devices. Don't let Charles Schwab manage your portfolio. Don't bank at Wells Fargo.
Yeah, those "San Francisco values" sure are dragging the region down. Making it weak as it falls behind the rest of the country—the parts that don't share "San Francisco values"—economically and socially.
Or, maybe—just maybe—it's made the region a magnet for the world's smartest, most innovative, most entrepreneurial individuals and an incubator of the world's most dramatic technological advances.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin abbreviated the APR, and we talked exit polling and the new political reality: you can't win with just the conservative base anymore. Another critique of Jonathan Bernstein's latest critique of filibuster reform. And Armando joined us for an extended interview with longtime Daily Kos and Netroots community member Debra Cooper, who's running for a newly open seat on the New York City Council. Believe it or not, it's a race that can have national implications. Find out why!