I’m on a campaign against pundits and punditry. Call my movement, Pundexit.
Perhaps my feelings and fervor are due to the fact that I have more time to watch, listen to, and read pundits these days. Perhaps it’s that the media, largely the cable channels, have so much time and space to occupy, the increased capacity has attracted more mediocre fill. Or perhaps it’s that the media have not been demanding enough to let the old and stale wash away and disciplined enough to allow only the best and smartest new to come onto the scene. I suspect it might be all of the above.
I’ve written in other places about political and sports punditry that is of such low quality one wonders how consumers put up with it.
My beef today in this quick jab is with the general news and business coverage and punditry that accompanied the Brexit vote in Great Britain. Like many others who follow such matters closely, I was fixated at the television during and after the vote. My laptop was geared hour after hour to all manner of coverage on the Internet of the vote and its consequences.
Did you go through this ritual, too, of wall-to-wall coverage of, and commentary on, this important development? If so, here are some questions I want to pose to you.
How much commentary did you experience that led to the view that something very damaging had happened? How much commentary was based on the pundits’ own opinions or their repetition of others’ opinions? How shallow was the commentary? And then when the story was drained of its emotion and there was another hot rock topic to jump to, how quick was the spotlight moved off of Brexit?
As for me, I would answer “very” or “a lot” to all these questions.
As sophisticated as I would like to think the financial markets are, it appears from the 900 point, two-day drop in the Dow, for example, that those who made short term money decisions followed the pundits in believing something terrible had happened.
I’ll put aside for the moment the conspiratorial possibility that the coverage and the instant reactions in the market were organized, at least in part, by those who sold short or otherwise benefited from the fear that something very bad had happened.
I certainly don’t want to argue here that the vote didn’t have negative repercussions. But why didn’t the pundits immediately ask and answer questions that would have put the vote in proper perspective and show the public how little reason there was for panic?
Here are some of the questions that precious few pundits raised, at least in their totality:
- Did the referendum have a legal impact?
- What body or bodies would have to act to give it effect? What was the position of such body or bodies on the Brexit vote itself?
- Since the vote was so close, what might be the obstacles in such body or bodies to implementing the vote, especially if the bodies included groups with differing agendas, such as the British Parliament and the EU?
- How many different and complex issues would have to be resolved to achieve an exit, and what are the many ways of resolving such issues?
- Could an ultimate resolution of these issues end up leading either to Britain remaining in the EU, with certain revisions in their participation, or their leaving under terms that might be close in important respects to the terms of their current participation?
- What are the politics in both Britain and the EU that will affect the resolution of all these complex matters?
- Is all of this so complex and will it take so long to deal with that Britain might never leave and/or the EU may change in certain ways, good or bad, in response to the vote?
- Had these questions been discussed fully and intelligently immediately after the vote, would the markets have behaved more calmly? Indeed is it possible when the markets finally did do the thinking the pundits should have helped the public do, the markets largely recovered their losses.
It’s time to give pundits the heave-ho and start thinking for ourselves. If we want or need expert counsel to help us, let’s find ways of securing it outside the channels of media mediocrity. Starve the bums by not watching, listening, or reading them.
Vote yes on Pundexit!