Why do pundits even have jobs?
by Franklin Clark, Reporter -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
Sep 18, 2013 | 560 560 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“You don’t have to scream to say something that you honestly mean.”

- Jimmy Eat World, “No Sensitivity”

It’s generally a rule that the loudest among us gets the most attention. There may be a reason for that, if not a rational one. A recent psychological study from the Washington State University* seems to indicate that people will trust what you say more if you say it more loudly and confidently.

Granted, they tested sports predictions, but it certainly seems to apply to all walks of life. People hate uncertainty, even though uncertainty is an inevitability in real life.

An intersting part of that study is that both amateurs and professionals were accurate less than 50 percent of the time. Which means you would have been better off flipping a coin in either case.

The study’s hypothesis is simply put: “Pundits have a false sense of confidence because that’s what the public, seeking to avoid the stress of uncertainty, craves.”

How sad, then, that the loudest voices in the media tend to be the most abrasive, the most blindly partisan and the least connected with reality.

If you listened to people on the television and radio and Internet, for example, you’d probably think that gun control inevitablly means taking all guns away from everyone. I actually like guns, and I don’t know that tighter regulations would prevent shootings, but that doesn’t inherently equal gun grabs. Every proposal needs to be judged on its own merits, or lack thereof. But that’s another issue for another day.

If you listened to them, you might also think we’re one step away from Soviet-style communism. The fact that several industries are recording record profits probably wouldn’t sway you from this hypothesis.

Part of the problem, in all likelihood, is that the corporate media outlets see ratings in the heavy-handed and abrasive rhetoric. Nuance, they think, just doesn’t sell.

But it isn’t just the media. The loud people stick out to us regular people, too. When we listen to them mindlessly and repeat their talking points instead of forming out our own opinions based on logic and evidence, we become part of the problem.

A lot of us – myself included, to some extent – thrive on soundbites without getting into the meat of the issues. More critical thinking is needed.

As an example of the corporate media’s culpability, conservative commentator David Frum, certainly no fan of President Obama’s policies, counts himseslf among Obama’s critics but is nevertheless blackballed from several conservative publications on account of his measured rhetoric and lack of virulent hatred of the man himself.

On the other hand, some of those same publications will publish tripe written by whackos like Alex Jones, who thinks our intervention in Syria is part of a United Nations depopulation scheme. His shouting is undoubtedly the reason he has as many followers as he does.

But that doesn’t make him right.

* The url for the study in question is http://news.wsu.edu/pages/publications.asp?Action=Detail&PublicationID=36440&TypeID=1.

Franklin Clark is a reporter for the Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at fclark@cadizrecord.com.
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