Punditry As Religion

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News Media, Obama Administration

I stopped watching the Sunday morning talking head shows a long time ago, mostly because they made me want to throw things at the teevee. And I don’t want to hurt the teevee.

But, except for guest appearances by Paul Krugman, I take it the establishment pundit shows have, if anything, grown more insipidly stupid over the years. Watching them may destroy brain cells. See Alex Pareene, “Watching the Sunday Shows So You Don’t Have To,” and Jason Linkins, “TV Soundoff: Sunday Talking Heads.” You can find more intelligence on the Puppy Bowl.

Speaking of insipidly stupid, last week David Brooks got roundly called out by several leftie-leaning media people for writing that President Obama has no plan to avoid the sequester. Jonathan Chait, Ezra Klein, and others let Brooks know this was unvarnished bullshit.

But, as Chait also points out, Brooks isn’t the only one saying that Obama doesn’t have a plan and that it’s his fault if Republicans won’t compromise. It seems to be the consensus of the Washington pundit class.

This is all by way of introducing what Steve M wrote about Brooks and his peers:

I didn’t join the pile-on because Brooks wasn’t engaging in journalism. He wasn’t even engaged in fact-based punditry. What Brooks was writing was theology.

Brooks was writing a commentary rooted in the Beltway’s political religion. In a religious faith, stories are told that are frameworks for belief, even if they’re not believed literally. Thus, when I was a Catholic, I was told that the Bible is the revealed word of God — and yet my faith also accepted the theory of evolution, which tells an origin story for life on Earth that contradicts the one in the Bible. The Church was saying, in effect, that the Genesis narrative of creation is theologically true, even if it’s not literally true.

You could say the same thing about the Brooks narrative. It doesn’t matter whether President Obama has acted in good faith, despite Republican intransigence, to deal with issues of taxes, spending, debts, and deficits in a responsible way — there are two strains of the Beltway faith, one of which tells us that, on economic issues, Democrats are always wrong and Republicans are always right, the other of which (the one of which Brooks claims to be an adherent) tells us that both parties are to blame, but it’s the responsibility of Democrats to move the discussion to a point midway between where the two parties are, which is, by definition, the responsible center. Republicans, according to this faith tradition, will inevitably meet Democrats halfway — though if they don’t, that’s also the Democrats’ fault.

See also Mark Twain, “My First Lie and How I Got Out of It.” “Obama has no plan” seems to be a variation of the “silent assertion lie,” which are “gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams.” It’s a lie that becomes an unquestioned orthodoxy because the truth is too terrible to contemplate.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Swami  •  Feb 25, 2013 @11:58 am

    I don’t know about all this fancy sequestration stuff…But I do know that Paulie didn’t vote for sequestration..he merely voted for a mechanism.

    I guess I’m slipping into my conservative mode because I don’t understand all the squawking coming from the repugs..Isn’t it a case of…Hey, that’s the deal you made, so why the buyers remorse? Maybe they didn’t realize that they put Pearl Harbor in jeopardy?

  2. biggerbox  •  Feb 25, 2013 @12:00 pm

    The idea that the Cabbage was reciting some religious doctrine is intriguing, and credits Brooks with at least believing in something. My theory is that he doesn’t actually, and sees his niche as making pleasant moderate Republican sounding noises for the entertainment of his employers. He’s not even concerned with whether those noises make sense, just that on first contact with his mostly-distracted audience they sound vaguely plausible, which is why he can contradict himself within the space of one column.

    Really, if we’re talking doctrinal recitation from the Beltway, my go-to is Cokie Roberts.

  3. Bill Bush  •  Feb 25, 2013 @12:51 pm

    HuffPo’s Jason Linkins has the funniest, most readable Sunday morning roundup I’ve seen. His theme is “I watch it so you don’t have to” and his summaries/takes are spot-on. He also gives links to interesting readings you can do between scans of his liveblog of the shows. He has spared me much agony.

  4. Stephen Stralka  •  Feb 25, 2013 @12:58 pm

    What’s really starting to drive me crazy with this kind of discussion is that it ultimately doesn’t matter if Obama has a plan or not. It’s up to Congress to fix the sequester, if anybody is going to. The president can make proposals, but he doesn’t get a vote.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 25, 2013 @1:04 pm

    Yes, punTWITry IS a religion.
    A successful punTWIT has to keep his/her bosses in the corporate MSM happy, and the way to do that, is to revere three gods:
    The God “Bipartisanship,” who must be appeased with the blood of Democratic causes, but never, ever, Republican ones;
    The God Mammon;
    and the God Vaal, to whom sacrifices must be made.
    Those sacrifices are to include, but are not limited to, the old, the young, the sick, the poor, the middle class, the black, the brown, the yellow, the red, the gay, the veterans, the un-and-under-employed, and the handicapped.
    Taxes must be kept low for the rich, to keep Vaal happy, and cut even more, to make him happier.
    And, of course, everything must be privatized, and the military made ever more ready to defend what is rapidly spiralling down to a Banana Republic.
    Thus Spake Vaal!

    As for the “Sequester,” I’m going to call this, “Confederate Roulette.”

    At least in Russian Roulette, a person has a gun with 4 or 5 empty chambers, and one with a bullet – and holds that gun to his own head, then pulls the trigger.

    In Confederate Roulette, all of the chambers are loaded, and the Red State politicians hold that gun to the nation’s economy, with itchy trigger-fingers ready, willing, and able, to pull it.
    Maybe, even eager to pull that trigger – just to see what happens!

    The Republicans think that they’ve gerrymandered themselves so safely, that there will be no personal consequences for them, no matter how feckin’ bad things start to get in a month or two.

    And anyway, these Cold Civil Warriors figure they can blame President Obama and the Democrats for everything anyway.

    “Stupid” is too kind a word for what they’re doing.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 25, 2013 @1:05 pm

    I submitted my comment, but it done be gone!!!

    Wha-happen?!?!?!

  7. Swami  •  Feb 25, 2013 @2:38 pm

    gulag ….Vaal ate it! He’s particularly fond of devouring liberal grumblings.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 25, 2013 @3:41 pm

    Swami!
    HA! LOL!!!

  9. Tom  •  Feb 25, 2013 @9:51 pm

    The one Sunday show worth watching because they engage in actual dialogue with a range of non-standard thinkers (as opposed to professional “pundits”) is Up! with Chris Hayes. Two hours of incredibly rational, for the most part, discussions on a range of topics. I may not always like what everyone says but Chris manages to call bullshit when it is required and not get lost in meta discussions (which is what folks like Brooks like to do, the pundit equivalent of ‘Squirrel!’)

  10. erinyes  •  Feb 26, 2013 @7:17 am

    Reach out and touch faith!
    Marilyn Manson performed the most effective example of faith and hippocracy I’ve ever seen. I suppose it would also dovetail well with the far right political religion of today.(Personal Jesus)

    The one Sunday show I do enjoy is (also) Up! with Chris Hays. My first impression of Hays was “oh no, not another geeky kid!” but he is very sharp.



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