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Posted by on Jul 1, 2011 in Media, Politics | 3 comments

The (Flawed) Certainty of Talking Heads on TV

At the outset let me say it: I have long been a big fan of Mark Halperin as talking head, blogger and writer. Even so, his indefinite suspension is dredging up all kinds of partisan reactions. Some Dems wrongly suggest he was put on suspension because he offended Barack Obama. Some Repubs wrongly suggest that MSNBC allows that kind of language on its broadcasts all along and allowed it to be used on Bush. WRONG. And I repeat: he is a big boy, has a status far above a reporter and hurt his credibility and the image of the corporations that give him checks by his choice of language. He knows what newspaper and broadcast standards are. And, if it was a joke, theoretically he is of a higher status than to act like a junior high school student playing around with a closed-circuit TV feed.

But to me the bigger issue remains the concept of the conventional wisdom, how it emerges and takes hold and is then quietly swept under the rug when it’s wrong. Or how pundits on TV state with such absolute certainty that things are going to happen which prove to be wrong. Is it because of flawed analysis? Do personal political prisms cloud judgment? If you watch these shows you see a parade of daily and weekly certainty but when certain events doesn’t materialize you never hear about it. It’s on to the next certainty.

Here’s one involving Halperin via TPM. Just note the certainty with which the talking heads and Halperin in particular speak:

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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • DLS

    The “DC-centric conceit” phenomenon (notably expressed by the very irritating GOP-should-be-Big-Government David Frum or Andrew Sullivan, who believe they’re the correct kind of so-called “conservatives”) has grown with the excessive size and scope of DC.

  • JSpencer

    The beauty of having standards in the first place lies in their universal utility, or at least their independence from party and ideology. When people decide to adapt standards to the situation rather than the other way around, that beauty is tarnished. All apologies for stating the obvious.

  • DaGoat

    Or how pundits on TV state with such absolutely certainty that things are going to happen which prove to be wrong. Is it because of flawed analysis? Do personal political prisms cloud judgment?

    I think it’s more that presenting opinion as fact is encouraged. When Chris Matthews tells his guests “Tell me something I don’t know!” he isn’t asking for a thoughtful consideration of possibilities, he wants something quick and juicy stated as fact. While that example is obvious, that attitude is pervasive in the talking head shows.

    You’re right that there rarely are any consequences, Halperin now being an obvious exception.

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