The media’s cult of the “expert”

How did media get it so wrong on Sanders and banking? ~ Carl Beijer

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Much has been written on the media’s cult of the expert, which usually amounts – as Adam Johnson puts it in this excellent piece – to “a lazy appeal to authority that shortcuts actually showing one’s homework – how one got from premise to conclusion”. But objections to the rhetoric of expertise should not be understood as objections to expertise itself.
In fact, as we see here, a major – major – problem in modern journalism is a widespread lack of expertise. It’s not just that journalists are editorializing; they’re editorializing on topics where they have no background or claim to knowledge whatsoever. Pundits who know little more than their readers, and often demonstrably less, are given massive corporate platforms to do this; their misinformation is relentlessly marketed and disseminated with massive promotional budgets, quite often under the imprimatur of prestige publication brands.
This is not entirely the fault of the names in the bylines; journalists have bills to pay like the rest of us, they have often ruthless content quotas and deadlines to meet, and they often don’t even have the luxury of taking their time and getting it right. The problem is structural, and ultimately comes down to the ways that capitalism
1) places unreasonable production demands on workers and
2) systematically incentivizes biased reporting.
Regardless, the Sanders banking debate is a paradigm example of how this plays out in practice, and how it warps our discourse and our politics. The relatively tiny fraction of writers with even minimal credibility, who spend most of their time researching and toiling in obscurity, are inevitably drowned out by this enormous machine of elite infotainment.
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