Thanks, Nicholas …

This morning I tuned in a cable news show (I use the word “news” very loosely) and felt disgusted. Then I went online and read this piece by one of our best journalists, Nicholas Kristof, and I received an intelligent diagnosis for my disgust.
Kristof talks about the corps of men and women who become famous as “experts” and “pundits” in the media today – and picks up an important distinction Philip Tetlock made about them. Some people, Tetlock said, are foxes: they are thoughtful, cautious about making overstatements, nuanced, pragmatic, centrist, and capable of self-doubt and admitting they have been wrong – characteristics that make them terrible at giving sound bites and limit their fame.
Hedgehogs by contrast see the world in easy us/them and black/white dualisms, work from an unquestioned ideology, love to shout and make bold and even outrageous statements, and as such become “perfect” guests on radio and TV, full of drama and fury, driven by their volume and self-confidence to fame as “experts” and “pundits” and “go-to people.”
But, it turns out, the hedgehogs are like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. Their bold, confident predictions and assertions are smoke and reverb. Of course, one can immediately see Tetlock’s categories at work in the news media. But I can’t help but think how they are also at work in the religious media.
Kristof concludes …

The marketplace of ideas for now doesn’t clear out bad pundits and bad ideas partly because there’s no accountability…. So what about a system to evaluate us prognosticators? Professor Tetlock suggests that various foundations might try to create a “trans-ideological Consumer Reports for punditry,” monitoring and evaluating the records of various experts and pundits as a public service. I agree: Hold us accountable!

This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back, available here … I think of how much financial wealth has been lost by pundits and experts who missed what was really happening in our economy in recent years: an army of pundits and experts focused on outside dangers to “homeland security” while we were being plundered by greedy insiders … and almost nobody noticed until the bubble burst. And then I think of other kinds of value that have been similarly squandered in our religious communities – as we have engaged in various adventures in missing the point. “Take heed how you hear,” Jesus said (Luke 8:18). He knew what he was talking about!