TV analysts face few repercussions for shoddy, dishonest commentary. What makes a good talking head?
The world about which each man is supposed to have opinions has become so complicated as to defy his powers of understanding. What he knows of events that matter enormously to him, the purposes of governments, the aspirations of peoples, the struggle of classes, he knows at second, third or fourth hand. He cannot go and see for himself. Even the things that are near to him have become too involved for his judgment.
-Walter Lippmann, Liberty and the News, 1920
Atlantic senior editor Alex Madrigal posted a provocative piece Wednesday poking in earnest around the edges of a question that has confounded observers and navel-gazers since at least 399 B.C., the year Nancy Grace on the hit show "Act Now, Athenians!" first plugged an IFB into her ear to harangue Plato and proclaim guilt even before the verdict came down in Socrates' epic trial. The question is: why do so many pundits lie?
Actually, Madrigal's article was less about the reasons why pundits lie and more about the way in which technology, in the form of the remote television-expert sound-bite "hit," may make it easier for them to do so. I don't buy his ultimate conclusion -- I think people who are willing to lie on television will do so anywhere, anytime, using any technical means available -- but I would like to pick up where his good piece leaves off.