Linnabary: We Need A Better Pundit Class


By Ian Linnabary, Opinion Writer


We like to think our positions on current issues are entirely original, but for many, this isn’t true. It can be challenging to find the time to develop an opinion on occupational licensing reform or any of the various political, cultural or policy issues in our busy lives. That is where opinion media and commentary come in. Pundits are paid to give their opinion issues. Some popular pundits include Rachel Maddow and Ben Shapiro, who has visited the University of Utah. While pundits make politics more accessible to the broader public, they can be part of a more significant problem. Pundits divide us more than they unite us and profit from a polarized and divided America.

As political thought leaders and influencers, pundits should have a responsibility to cultivate a political discourse based on principles of truth and nuance. However, in our political landscape pundits are incentivized to do the opposite. While I am a more right-leaning individual, who is a casual consumer of Shapiro’s podcast and writings, I recognize the harm some of his content and that of many others in this industry can cause. When Shapiro continues to sell his infamous “liberal tears mug” or Maddow continues to slam the Republican Party as the party of a “fringe, violent, extremist-criminal” movement, they further erode our political dialogue.

Pundits often negatively characterize their political opponents, which isn’t cohesive to a healthy political dialogue. 

But the incentives for our pundits don’t allow for decent dialogue. A perfect example of this is the resignation of Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes from Fox News. Both Goldberg and Hayes are career political pundits and journalists who have made a living by being nuanced in their industry. But both had their hands forced and resigned from Fox News over the irresponsible punditry of figures like Tucker Carlson. In a joint statement, both agreed that “the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible” at Fox News. Unfortunately, it is the voices of the irresponsible — like Carlson — who continue to be employed by the network rather than the voices of the responsible. In the political commentary industry, irresponsible and inflammatory voices are the ones that profit. And like any other industry, people chase profit.

But why is it that irresponsible and inflammatory voices profit in this industry? It’s simple: it is easier to feed your audience what they want to hear than tell them the truth. For example, it is easier for Carlson to tell his audience that the January 6th attack on the capitol was “inspired by Capitol Police and FBI informants, and now the US government is using it as a pretext for ‘hunting’ all conservatives,” than simply acknowledge the horror we witnessed that day. As my hometown congressman Rep. Adam Kinzinger said, “We have a truth crisis in this party. … You can have different opinions. But you can’t have a different truth.” This is true. It is simply easier to tell your audience a lie that they want to hear than the truth.

As we as a consumer base continue to consume media from our pundit class, we must keep in mind the driving motive for many of these pundits, continuing profits. Honest, nuanced opinions that drive dialogue are rare. There is a reason that Goldberg and Hayes don’t have primetime shows, and Carlson does. While Carlson continues to lie to his audience and Maddow characterizes her political opponents, our political dialogue erodes. As responsible consumers, we must begin to demand more from our pundit class — demand truth, demand nuance.


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