In the modern era of punditry and media, we have now become accustomed to news being a never ending chain predictions. As the crude saying goes, predictions are like assholes, every news show has them.
And what’s great for pundits is that being wrong is not a problem, there is no penalty, you don’t lose money, you don’t lose your job or future bookings on news shows for hawking such absolute certainties to millions of people such as the war in Iraq will pay for itself, the Bush tax cuts in 2001 will bring millions of jobs by 2008, Tim Pawlenty will be the 2012 GOP nominee or even, on numerous issues, that Americans are “smarter than that”.
Here’s how the 24 hour news cycle works: The most immediate or recent development on any story redefines reality completely…until the next development happens which then that redefines the current redefinition and all that came before it.
On Monday, Pres. Obama received a small bump upwards in polling due to his jobs speech. The meme for that day was, “Americans support Obama on this.”
On Tuesday, a conservative Jewish Republican wins in a conservative, Jewish district in New York. We erase yesterday’s meme with today’s, “Americans don’t support Obama.”
To buy the overall proposition of most pundits, we’d have to believe that the American Public flips back and forth on their beliefs faster than a meth-addicted Cirque Du Soleil troupe.
For many pundits and news networks, reality is something they write each day with the “overwrite” key on their keyboard selected. There is very little resembling respect for even their own previous declarations. Instead of acknowledging the past and using it in total to extrapolate the future, they predict and describe reality by wrapping themselves in the immediate and reaching for the closest conclusion.
There are of course the pundits and alleged news networks that have a petrified view of reality, all that can be fit or twisted to fit into it is broadcast while all that can’t and would dispute it is ignored. They however seem less annoying than the ones that blow in the wind with the latest reported event. At least you know that a clock whose hands never move is broken. A clock whose hands may suddenly spin in any direction at any time, would seem worse.
And there is no leap too big, no conclusion too far away from an event to predict. We’re told fourteen months before an election, that the current dynamics mean this or that for the election. Oh really? So what about 14 months ago when the hype over how bad Dems are and how great the Tea Party will be when they come to government was the rage? Why isn’t that what people think today?
So many allegories come to mind, like declaring in 1970 that bell bottoms will be the dominant style of pants in America forever or when Obama was elected president, proclaiming that we’ve finally arrived in a post-racial society.
Consider the predictions pundits and newspeople would have if they rode on a rollercoaster:
First Report: “This ride only goes up a steep track, a slow, monotonous, terrible and boring ride, one that will disappoint everyone who tries it. It’s a failure.”
Second Report: “Once at the top, the coaster goes straight down, it’s frightening and is on course to crash straight into the ground, killing all aboard and clearly about to destroy itself.”
Third Report: “The coaster has swerved sharply to the right, this rightward course means it will circle for eternity with no escape for those on board other than a painful death from starvation and dehydration.”
Reality is not a disconnected series of bite-sized, individual events with no relation to the events that have preceded them or are occurring at the same time, each incident and moment is a snapshot of a small part of reality. To define the Grand Canyon by a single photo of a tiny section of it would hardly portray it accurately.
With little apparent desire to put a new event in context with past events, each and every development these media people ramble on about becomes a necessarily corrupt view of reality. What passes for news today is often tunnelvision focused solely on the latest event to the exclusion of what surrounds it or preceded it so it is necessarily limited and frequently misleading.
If a pattern of events is simplistically broken up into separate and independent incidents, like regarding each piece of a jigsaw puzzle as a complete and independent image, one can never put the pieces together and see the big picture. Maybe that’s the point, as long as people are set against each other in arguing the meaning or impact of one isolated incident after another, the big picture of what’s going on can’t be focused on or sought.
On the other hand, as a main goal of the corporations that own the media is greater and greater wealth, isn’t it easier to sell simple provocative statements about easy-to-describe, new events than to spend time explaining critical thinking and perspective about how the context of a new situation could make its meaning different and/or more complex than “good for Obama/bad for Obama”?
In the end, if one is seeking the truth about how things will unfold in the near and distant future, there is something that has an accuracy rate as good or better than most news shows and pundits: