The Ego of the Pundit Class
Every now and again our editor Jake tugs at my sleeve (or levels a gun) and reminds me that I, too, even in a new communications capacity for the Claremont Institute, need to write something for the Substack.
And while I’m more than happy to oblige a colleague, it really does take a psychological push to get me to write. I simply don’t feel like it. But not because I don’t have “things to say” or am lazy, so much as I lack the ego to push what I think out into the greater world.
Ego really is the right word, you see. To think, as say David Brooks might, that his words are worth your time on a weekly basis is the mark of an egoist. “Please, public, read my thoughts, they will help orient your life,” is, essentially, the silent prayer of the pundit. George Will says this prayer, so do Maureen Dowd and Jamelle Bouie and even little Matt Continetti. In every publication, great or small, the commentariat lift up their thoughts to the heavens with the same imploration.
There is zero humility in the pundit class. I don’t care what any of them tell you. If one has humility, one does not write for the public. Just be honest about it, Douthat. You think what you say matters to such an extent that it should be amplified across the land? This is ok, and in your case, I’ll take it. But for once it would be nice to hear from Michelle Goldberg that, “yes, I do consider myself somewhat of an oracle.”
It’s too much to ask pundits to reverse course and find another profession. They have to submit their columns or they lose their livelihoods, and since we don’t want Bret Stephens to starve, this is simply the state of affairs in which we are stuck. As readers, however, you don’t need to read what they publish. Better to home in on a number of trusty reporters and dissect the news among friends. Reason about the world from common opinion, as the old Athenian urged, not the bizarro-goggles of Rich Lowry. You will end up seeing things more clearly.
Too many commentators aren't merely arrogant and presumptuous. They are frauds. George Will, Bill Kristol, and nearly every lefty you can name. They are pretending. They fooled me for decades. There is too much commentary and too little investigative reporting. If it were up to me, I would eliminate all the commentary from newspapers and TV news. Newspapers shouldn't endorse candidates. One editor told me there used to be a tradition of journalists not voting at all. These days many reporters indulge in commentary. That's wrong. It's not their job. They need to decide: Am I an impartial observer? Or am I a cheerleader? Pick one. We need more fidelity to truth and fact, fewer people who merely go with flow.