If An Expert Says It Can’t Be Done, Get Another Expert.
I recently decided that I would like to become a pundit. Granted, I am still a bit sketchy about the requirements, but the word has such a nice ring to it: Marvin Rapp, Pundit. Before you reach for your dictionary, let me save you the effort. According to the Macmillan Dictionary, a pundit is “someone who is an expert in a subject, and is often asked to talk to the public about that subject.”
Pundits can be found everywhere these days: News media, social media, the airwaves – you name it, they are there for the picking. Politics, sports, entertainment, we’ve got pundits jumping out of the woodwork. What I find most intriguing about this new brand of expertise is that so many pundits don’t necessarily get it right – not even by a long shot. Yet, they never seem to have to answer to anybody about their predictions. To the best of my knowledge there is no independent review board that grades these self-proclaimed experts on their pontifications. How many times can they make a false prediction before they lose their credentials as a pundit? Nobody really knows.
For months political pundits were reminding us plebian voters that the Republican Party faithful would wake up when push comes to shove to prevent a Donald Trump nomination. Right… Maybe they were referring to the next election cycle in 2020. And how about this year’s Golden State Warriors of the NBA? How many sports aficionados tried to convince us that this was the best basketball team ever assembled? Couldn’t they at least have held off until the Warriors actually won this year’s championship title before crowning them the ultimate team? A minor detail, perhaps; but therein lies the rub. Pundits always cover their backs by blaming their miscalculations on mitigating circumstances. As if life isn’t one great, big mitigating circumstance.
All of this has made my decision to become a pundit so much easier. I am more than adequately capable of speaking on a host of different subjects without necessarily being correct. In fact, friends and family are constantly reminding me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I only wish I had known about punditry earlier in life – I would have eagerly staked out a career in mediocrity.
According to Wikipedia, punditry really took off with the emergence of American cable news networks. That sounds about right; after all, it can’t be all that easy to fill up 24 hours of continuous broadcasting with insightful, legitimate news casting. Of course, when I was growing up, pundits were called experts, and by and large, they earned that title by being …. well, by being experts. Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS news anchorman, was known as the voice of the truth. When he signed off his nightly broadcast with his iconic, “And that’s the way it is,” you just knew that, that was the way it is.
Not all experts are necessarily famous personalities. My high school French teacher was dead-on when she predicted that I would amount to nothing if I didn’t start applying myself more seriously to my studies. Come to think of it, most of the adults I came in contact with as a child were pundits of varying degrees. Greeners especially, are by nature experts on the order of things. Any pronouncement that began with the phrase, “I’m telling you…” could be assumed to be an irrefutable fact.
Without question, the most maligned of all experts have to be the weather reporters. How often have you heard meteorologists being vilified for getting paid big bucks for getting it wrong so consistently? Personally, I think it is misplaced criticism. We should be cutting them some slack; after all they are predicting Mother Nature. That has to be a humbling sort of responsibility. Being an expert should not imply being perfect. A real pundit should be secure enough to own up to his miscalculations without fear of jeopardizing his reputation. Unfortunately, humility is in short order these days. “An expert knows all the right answers,” noted the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, “if you ask the right questions.”
“And that’s the way it is….”