Corporate Media Punditry As Palace Guard, Upholding The Status Quo
Jacobin - October 11, 2019
"The reason the media doesn’t understand Sanders . . . is in part that they do not understand the problems he is speaking about or why they matter. To cover him fairly would require them to re-examine their values and priorities. And that wouldn’t be good for ratings."
... Officially at least, the role of mainstream punditry — the kind of analysis that tends to be featured on major networks and in the op-ed sections of influential newspapers — is to provide commentary on the state of politics, ideally through an array of independent-minded perspectives on political news that reflect a wide range of thoughtful opinion.
Virtually anyone who’s spent time watching cable news or reading the opinion pages in major newspapers intuitively recognizes some gulf between this idealized self-image and reality, but Orfalea’s effort drives home better than anything in recent memory how much of elite punditry — an ostensibly open-minded, fact-based, and inclusive enterprise committed to intellectually curious debate — is characterized by both stupefying uniformity and breathtaking narcissism.
How else are we to describe a group of people who regularly pantomime an air of thoughtful independence yet seem so unwavering in their commitment to the orthodoxies and received wisdom of their own tiny, exclusive club?
As in 2016, the pundit class’s treatment of Sanders thus far has been an entirely paint-by-numbers affair characterized at once by deafening negativity and subtle meta-argument designed to discredit the candidate, his supporters, his policy agenda, or some combination of all three.
It’s often said among people sympathetic to him that members of the media “hate” Bernie Sanders. While this is undoubtedly the case, at least in a sense, the overriding impression one gets — from Orfalea’s video and elsewhere — suggests a posture almost too instinctual to be hatred. While members of the pundit class transparently detest what Sanders and his supporters represent, their reactions suggest something more patronizing is at work, akin to the reflexive spasms or scratching by which someone might try to relieve a nasty itch or irritation that just won’t go away.
... At best, elite punditry is an exercise in confirmation bias and groupthink; a media palace guard that exists to discipline public opinion and ensure that received wisdom about the desirable and the possible is obstinately maintained. At its worst, it’s little more than the narcissistic projection of a tiny, privileged class that mistakes its shared beliefs and interests for objective reality.
Elite pundits, perhaps more than anyone, are fond of lecturing their critics with the cliché that the insular bubbles they inhabit don’t represent real life. Just for once, they might try looking in the mirror. ...
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