The pundit class in American media has long been deservedly regarded with disdain. They are, as a group, an arrogant collection know-nothings who, via intense self-delusion, think they know it all. I addressed this sorry situation four years ago when I labeled them The PEP Squad: Perpetually Erroneous Pundits. The gist of that essay was to point out that once you become a member of the fraternity it doesn’t matter how much you get wrong, you will still be invited back to deliver more of your bad advice.
Now there is evidence from an academic study of contemporary punditry that shows that the accuracy of most pundits is no better than 50/50. So if you can flip a coin you’re as smart as the average pundit.
The most interesting conclusion of the report is the confirmation that liberals are accurate more often than conservatives. That may be the result of the inherent slant of factual information that was first identified by fake pundit Stephen Colbert who noted that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”
The top performer in the study is Paul Krugman of the New York Times. The worst performer is uber-pundit George Will.
The study has some fairly serious methodological flaws in my opinion, including the omission of Fox News from the study. However, the most prominent flaw is that it included currently serving politicians in the roster of pundits. When politicians pontificate on current affairs they are not making predictions – they are campaigning. Therefore, they are not providing their honest opinions about what they believe will happen. They are attempting to influence public opinion to produce the result they hope will happen. To be sure, some bona fide pundits do the same thing, but at least they don’t have the direct conflict of interest that sitting senators have.
It is fairly safe to assume that the results of the study would not change materially if the politicians were removed. Anyone paying attention to media prognosticators over the years already knows that their success ratio is pathetic. If someone in almost any other job made mistakes as frequently as these losers, they would not have a job for very long. But such are the perks of PEP Squad membership.
What we need is a Pundit Certification Council. The purpose of this would be to rate pundits on their accuracy and impose mandatory labels. If they fall in the top third percentile they can be regarded as “experts.” Those in the middle would retain the “pundit” label. And those in the bottom third would have to be designated as “propagandists” wherever they appeared in the media.
This would provide some measure of truth in punditry. It would incentivize opinion givers to strive for accuracy, and give networks, newspapers, etc., a tool to assess the performance of their editorial staff. Then, if they choose to keep propagandists on their payroll, it would be apparent to their viewers and readers. Just imagine tuning in to This Week next Sunday morning and seeing, “George Will, ABC News Propagandist,” in large type below his deceitful talking head.