Saturday, September 14, 2019

Will Charlie Brown Get to Kick the Football This Time?

The move is still in progress, but it means I'll be driving a lot.  Yesterday I caught most of NPR's The 1A, and I noticed something again that had been lurking in my mind for a while.  The 1A's anchor asked one his pundit-guests if Donald Trump was going to follow through on something -- the rumored $15 billion for Iran, or the ban on flavored vaping, something like that.  I don't remember the answer, because it occurred to me what a stupid question it was, that it would have been stupid even before Trump became Oligarch-in-Chief, and that a lot of time is wasted on such questions in the news media. 

In Trump's case it's always a tossup whether he'll remember to do what he says he will anyway, so it seems especially useless to ask such a question about him.  But the trouble is bigger than one senescent, blustering buffoon.  The mission of news coverage, it seems to me is to report what has happened, not to "predict" what might.  That's not just because media fortunetelling is usually wrong, remarkably so since there are a lot of pundits out there and one or two of them ought to come up with an accurate prediction just by accident.  There's also no accountability for their predictions.  Indeed, elite media get very pissy if anyone questions them about spectacular failures, like those involving the financial crash of 2008 or the 2003 invasion of Iraq or Hillary Clinton's 2016 electoral defeat.

I'm sure this sort of pointless prediction is nothing new, and I don't know whether it's more common than it used to be, but I have no doubt that it's a waste of time, especially when the standard of actual news coverage is so low.  The worst examples turn up in discussion of our endless election season, but as the question about Trump shows, it's not limited to electoral politics, and it's most wasteful when the question is basically unanswerable, as most predictive questions are.  I wonder what would happen to a pundit-guest who declined to answer such a question and declared it useless; I suppose such a person would not be invited to return, but then such a person would probably not be invited on in the first place.

As a side note, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power paid The 1A a visit earlier this week.  Power is a vile opportunist, of course, and an apologist for the crimes of the US and its clients, which is why The 1A billed her as an "idealist."  I haven't listened to the segment but will try to.