Why pundits are evil.

I ran into prominent former White House spokesperson tonight at one of the million 6pm receptions I get invited to every week.  I chose to go to this one to honor the host (not the former staffer) but ended up talking to the staffer nonetheless.  Pretty quickly the discussion turned to partisanship, this week’s story about partisanship shutting down your critical thinking centers.

Quickly, WHStaffer said, "that’s why I don’t do the talk shows".

I don’t have a lot of respect for this guy, but I think he’s got a good point.  To have to adopt such an extreme and tortured stance all the time, just so you can provide some diametrically opposed point of view and get your "too ugly for Hollywood face" on tv has to be soul-sucking.  And at the end of the day you probably even realize, while you’re debating whether or not the guy you like (or don’t) has (or hasn’t) done anything about the gazillion people without healthcare or even homes in this country, that you’ve become part of the problem. 

That in fact you’ve made a career out of their misery, and you profit from the existence of problems to criticize The Man about.

All of this came crashing down on my head tonight as my insomniac surfing led me to this story of Chris McKinstry, a depressed Canadian living in Chile who posted suicide notes to several message boards here in the US saying he’d OD’d on pills while sitting in a cybercafe.

The note, and the ensuing discussion which Chris himself participates in is horrifying.  Since the translations of the articles aren’t accurate, it’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but it seems that Chris may or may not have taken a lot of pills on Friday, posted his suicide notes, and then participated in the discussions as people started to panic that this was a real suicide. 

Chris then proceeded to either a) puke it all up, or b) have a laugh.  He then wandered home after having a tasteless joke on all of his blog-friends and then gassed himself to death a day or two later.  For real.

Why did I waste your time telling you about pundits at the beginning of this awful story?  Because somewhere there’s someone who makes their living as an Internet commentator who’s just itching to talk about this.  To sell more Google ads on his page or burnish his high tech pundit star talking about what this means for technology.

When you see that pundit posting an article for personal gain, tell him shame on him (or her).  There are some things too ghastly to grist the mill of your narcissistic ego machine, and this most certainly is one of them.

Link: ryanpark.org � Blog Archive � Rest in peace.


  1. Jennifer on January 27, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    This sometimes-pundit says blaming the pundit is narrowminded. First, the media calls us up. They are going to do something about the suicide by Internet (TM) story. They want to know if you’re willing to comment. You can send them away, to someone who’s going to say that the FBI should monitor these groups, or that the ISP should be held liable for letting the guy die, or whatever. So you try to say something you think is more reasonable. Then they call you up the next time and the next time. And even though you don’t think the suicide by Internet story matters, maybe you can get that same reporter to write about the problems with the DMCA or eVoting machines or something. Meanwhile, the public eats up this crap about the suicide and wants more and more sensationalistic stuff, which is why the reporter decided to write a story about this crap in the first place. Let’s start with neither reading the Chilean suicide tale in the first place, nor spewing it into my rss feed. Now, if some reporter calls me and asks me if I’ve heard about it, I have to say yes…

    [I think your arguments are hampered by the fact that you’re a media whore. If you weren’t, you’d probably not leave such a large weak spot in your logic.

    “I do it because someone else will do it if I don’t, so why not get my ego stroked a bit” is not an excuse for anti-social behavior. Perhaps I should break into this Pentagon website using a well known security hole. After all, if I don’t, someone else will, and they will be more destructive.

    Or, perhaps I should buy that bootleg DVD on the street. Unlike most people, I’m likely to buy the genuine DVD for the bonus features when it comes out. Someone else that comes along certainly wouldn’t.

    You can give up the punditry. I did. I’m not a sometimes pundit, I haven’t been on TV in over 10 years, nor have I been quoted on a politically-charged topic for at least as long. Believe me, it’s healthy for your sense of humility and reduces your ego down to a more reasonable size.

    And as for filling your RSS feed, I believe there’s an old First Amendment argument around here somewhere about not reading it if you don’t want to be offended.

    If a reporter calls you, you don’t have to participate in the interview, even if you’ve heard about it. There’s this thing called, ‘no comment’…. Shabbir]