Friday, May 16, 2008

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Are market forces emerging for pundits?

I presented my paper on public intellectuals and the blogosphere earlier today, and received some very useful feedback.

One particularly interesting point in response to my paper is that while my paper focused on bloggers as public intellectuals, it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals. In Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner argued that one reason for the decline was that increased demand for pontificators was not matched by any market discipline for poor quality. Even if public intellectuals and pundit royally screw up, the public is sufficiently disinterested and disengaged for it not to matter.

To some extent, blogs and YouTube are changing this. Consider the following as a test case. Here's a YouTube clip currently making the rounds of conservative radio host Kevin James on Hardball:

Now if James had been that stupid and only those watching MSNBC live had caught it, I'm not sure it would have mattered all that much. Given the proliferation of this clip on the blogs, however, it can have two effects.

First, that many more people see James acting like an ill-informed boob. Which means that the odds of him getting booked on prestige shows shrinks.

Second, as much as Hardball's producers like the proliferation of the clip, I'm not sure how many of these they want to see cropping up. As Josh Patashnik points out on The Plank:

[I]t's not like this reflects very well on Chris Matthews, either. Why is he inviting such an obnoxious moron onto his show? There are plenty of people who could represent the conservative position here with some intelligence and class. Why not try to schedule them?
See Michael Brendan Dougherty for a kindred argument.

Of course, if James is asked back onto Hardball or other similar venues after this episode, then I'm wrong.

posted by Dan on 05.16.08 at 01:45 PM


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