Home / General / The Abject Uselessness of Theater Critic Punditry

The Abject Uselessness of Theater Critic Punditry


As always, it is 100% undiluted tautology:

To me, the unmatched champion if the genre will always be Jacob Weisberg’s iTunes analysis, arguing that George W. Bush’s mainstream musical tastes were the kind of rugged, authentic tastes you’d like to have a beer with and Hillary Clinton’s mainstream musical tastes were calculating and inauthentic and phony. If the lists of music had been precisely reversed he would have written exactly the same column with the artist/song names changed.

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  • jim, some guy in iowa

    ah, but Dickerson got to *ask* Romney about his dad and got this sweet lil’ humanizing story out of Willard. If Clinton *volunteers* something, well obviously she’s trying to manipulate the listener. And of course if Clinton *didn’t* mention her mother, people like Dickerson would be asking questions like “Secretary Clinton, you never talk about your mother- doesn’t this just feed into perceptions you are a lizard person?”

  • MAJeff

    The babbling head shows and their hosts have no value. none.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “The babbling head shows and their hosts have no value. none.”

      Not true!
      To the extent that they are sent out via broadcast TV, those shows are like a huge warning sign around our Solar System: “DANGER! WILD MORONS INSIDE!”

      Which does cut down on the influx of undocumented aliens, it’s true.

      • N__B

        I suspect we’ve been in quarantine ever since Gilligan’s Island made it to Alpha Centauri.

        • Colin Day

          They’re not coming to rescue us? :-(

    • Rob in CT

      They do, but it’s negative.

  • Anyone w/ “mainstream” musical (or other) tastes should be hung on the Nat’l. Mall, IYKWIM&ITYD.

  • bender

    “If the lists of music had been precisely reversed he would have written exactly the same column with the artist/song names changed.”

    That could be an interesting experiment. Get favorite music lists from some prominent politicians, give the lists w/o names attached and just the names of the politicians to a bunch of pundits, and challenge the pundits (or the public) to match the names to the lists.

    • GeoX

      The REAL fun thing to do would be to release the playlists with the names reversed, and then once you’ve gotten a Weisberg-esque analysis, reveal, oops, we’re sorry, we made a mistake. We regret the error.

      • dmsilev

        There are stories/legends floating around about times when experimental scientists run into a theorist colleague in the hallway, and show them a graph of some new data and ask what it means. Theorist thinks for a bit, and then gives a plausible-sounding explanation. Experimentalist then apologizes and says that the graph was being held upside down. Theorist thinks for another minute, and then gives a plausible-sounding explanation for that shape as well.

        • NonyNony

          That’s actually the job of a theorist – to come up with theories and then, when confronted with empirical data, see which theories can be eliminated as possibilities and which still hold up given the evidence before them. That’s why the joke is funny (at least to me) – because it’s true.

          (Where you run into problems is when no matter what the data shows it “confirms” the theorist’s pet theory. And THAT’S actually what I would accuse Weisberg of doing here. Add to that the fact that Weisberg isn’t supposed to be a “theorist” and you get an outcome that is pretty ugly.)

  • Spiny

    For a while I was listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest pretty regularly (on which Dickerson is a co-host) but mostly skip it these days. The primary season really showed the three co-hosts at their worst, they rarely had anything interesting to say and no more than a surface-level understanding of the data. It was a perfect embodiment of the press echo chamber; the only times it was bearable was when they would have Jamelle Bouie on.

    • Murietta

      I second this comment in every particular. Just recycling conventional wisdom and both-sides-do-it-ism. I stopped listening too.

    • They just had Mitch Daniels on. As a guest commentator.

      I pointed out that as an ex-politician he has less than nothing useful to say on a supposedly journalistic endeavor, and I got pushback from idiots who couldn’t figure out that opposing Daniels because he’s a politician is not the same thing as opposing him because he’s conservative.

    • Nobdy

      I still listen to it, mostly out of habit. I like Emily Bazelon more than the two guys, though I think her analysis of the Supreme Court or legal issues is (unsurprisingly) better than her general political analysis.

      They are all too self-congratulatory and too conventional. And both Dickerson and Plotz do the horrible “Give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt because to fairly characterize their positions and actions would create an unbalanced conversation” thing.

      • SamInMpls

        This is exactly where I am. Still listening out of habit. I agree Bazelon has strengths that show through when they cover legal topics.

        I think Turner should hand off the podcast to Bouie and build around him. She’s made big moves before like bringing in Ortberg to replace Yoffe.

  • weirdnoise

    Dickerson must be responding to the seldom-mentioned fact that Hillary’s mom was a woman.

  • LosGatosCA

    If a political pundit doesn’t understand that one of the key job requirements for a politician is to be self-serving, manipulative, ethically flexible while simulating sincerity then they should move to the business or sports beat where being an idiot can actually be an advantage.

    ETA: The problem is not with the attacks on Hillary, it’s the passes for everyone else.

    • cpinva

      “ETA: The problem is not with the attacks on Hillary, it’s the passes for everyone else.”

      if the attacks on HRC were solely based on facts, I would agree with you. and there is enough there, in terms of stated policy positions, with which to base those attacks. the problem for the GOP is that all of her opponents are as bad, and mostly worse, than she is, on all of those same policies, leaving them at exactly zero. so, they have to come up with something, anything with which to attack her, and this is the best they’ve got. pretty sad really.

      • CD

        +1. There are plenty of cogent and interesting criticisms. but they would require getting into facts of policy and performance. That would take work and thought. Far easier to follow long-established rhetorical grooves. Speaking of which LosGatos’ blanket cynicism is also a long-established groove, requiring no thought at all.

    • Cheap Wino

      Isn’t it that the political pundit is writing for the audience? The audience in this case being men who understand the indisputable fact that women are all manipulative liars and men. . . aren’t.

  • J Alfred Press

    The only things I really know about George Romney are that he seems to have been pretty progressive on Civil Rights issues; and that one reason he fared so poorly in the Presidential primaries is that he kept dragging around a lot of material on the Vietnam situation with him and studying it diligently and would actually change his mind about it from time to time, which was (and is and always will be) a suicidal thing for any pol, especially a Republican in primary season, to do. So uh, it’s kind of a shame the apple somehow managed to roll so very far away from the tree.

    • Gallipoli

      Specifically, it was George Romney’s statement that he’d been brainwashed by the military into supporting the Vietnam War that really was the death knell for him electorally. He did end up serving in the Nixon administration as the head of HUD, but he never ran for office again after 1968.

      While he was with HUD, he did press for a lot of progressive efforts to reduce segregation and discrimination in housing. Unfortunately, though, he lacked the political support to really bring much to fruition. Romney and Nixon, unsurprisingly, got along extremely poorly.

    • TopsyJane

      The Republican Party has rolled a long way from the tree, too. I sometimes wonder if Oven Mitt would be better if his party were better. When he talks about his father in the recent documentary, he makes a point of saying “I started where he ended up,” noting all the advantages he had by the lucky break of being his father’s son. That may not seem like much, but a lot of rich kids don’t seem to realize, much less show any willingness to acknowledge, that they were born on third base.

  • herpaderp

    Dear Mr. Lemieux,

    What is the utility of your punditry?

    • Howlin Wolfe

      I can’t speak for Scott, but to me it’s worth a hell of a lot more than Dickerson’s. Way more informative and analytical than the crap most mainstream media pundits crank out like so much shit sausage.

  • Halloween Jack

    It really is a pretty dumb, clickbaity article by Weisberg, although he seems to have elevated his game since then; this article about Clinton vs. Trump is quite a bit more sympathetic to her. At any rate, Slate hasn’t come close to being the ongoing dumpster fire that Salon has been for some time.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Slate posted an article by Mickey Kaus on April 10, 2014, so it’s been 2.25 years at best.

      • randy khan

        In fairness, that article was a reminiscence for some Slate anniversary. The last article before that was in 2010.

      • Halloween Jack

        As much fun as it is to mock the ol’ goat-blower, even Kaus isn’t as bad as Camille Paglia.

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