The Danger of News Commentary

I am doubting very strongly the merit of the work we are doing here in the political underground, or the independent media, or whichever term you prefer to describe the subcultural ecosystem in which this material is published and consumed. In creating a scheduled, even daily, product—the essence of which is an examination of the corporate news—we run a serious risk of replicating the corporate news model. Instead of watching Cuomo Prime Time or reading Jennifer Rubin, we tune in to the latest episode of Overwritten and read the corresponding essay. We become an extension of the corporate news, and although we sincerely attempt to accomplish some good therein, we are still troubled by our symbiotic relationship to that malignant entity.

There is no fundamental, elemental difference between Cuomo Prime Time and the Overwritten YouTube channel, or between the Rachel Maddow Show and the Jimmy Dore Show, or between Real Time with Bill Maher and the Young Turks. There is, we hope, a difference in the intellectual integrity thereof, but each of these programs is predicated on the theme of reactionary dogmatism. The corporate news media releases a report or declaration of some kind and commentators respond to it. It makes no essential difference whether the commentator is employed by that same corporate media apparatus or not: in either case, the result is punditry.

In acknowledging this, we do not intend to suggest that there is no possible benefit to critical analysis of the corporate media. While I am not a fan of the Jimmy Dore Show, I readily acknowledge that the program has helped to disillusion and de-propagandize some of the younger generation. Obviously, we should laud such a feat, but we must also recognize that disillusionment and de-propagandizing from the corporate news should not be a lifelong process: at some point in our viewing of Dore, or Overwritten, or whatever, we should acquire the skills required to interpret the news ourselves. We should not rely on our favorite commentator to think on our behalf or tell us what to think—and if we do, then we cannot truthfully praise the pundit in question for having disillusioned and de-propagandized his audience.

This problem became clear to me recently, after I watched a number of episodes of Firing Line with William F. Buckley. Initially, I thought that Firing Line was “better” than the talk shows and news commentary programs of today, as Mr. Buckley was obviously much more literate than Chris Cuomo or Bill Maher could ever hope to be; but underneath the urbane vocabulary and captivating cadence, Buckley was a propagandist for the corporate state and the military-industrial complex. He produced propaganda somewhat more ornate than that to which we have become accustomed as of late, but propaganda nonetheless. One might even prefer the modern propaganda, stripped of this pseudointellectual gloss, because it should be simpler to persuade the masses of its destructive purpose.

This question is decidedly more interesting than the search for “better” punditry, which appears to be the focus of the so-called independent media. Jimmy Dore seems to have no objection to the apparatus of the corporate media; rather, his issue is with the lack of political and moral integrity among the pundits and commentators employed therein. If he had his way, then he would leave the structure of the corporate media intact, and would modify its machinery only to produce “better” content. His contemporaries share his myopic vision, for they condemn without cease the corporate media, yet their ultimate ambition is to create their own corporate media, one which they would control and direct. Unsurprisingly, the pursuit is one of power, and one decidedly less principled than the indignation of its participants would suggest.

Although I do not suffer from this destructive lust for power, I do question the virtue and the value of the punditry that has become the bulk of my “work” on the Overwritten YouTube channel. Over the course of the pandemic, I have become increasingly focused on the channel, but the majority of the content therein is news commentary—otherwise known as hot takes, otherwise known as reactionary chatter, otherwise known as punditry. I believe that my punditry is “better” than other pundits’ punditry, be it Jimmy Dore’s or Chris Cuomo’s, but it is still punditry, and I do not believe that punditry is a worthy pursuit.

We must distinguish punditry from analysis, which is methodical and sequential. Where punditry pursues the shallow influence of celebrity, analysis seeks the credibility of comprehension. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have attempted to cover the rise of authoritarian government with my fiancée, Christy Dopf, on the Overwritten YouTube channel. By scrutinizing a single subject for such an extensive period of time, we have developed a body of work, through which we have become informed thereupon. Ergo, when the corporate media reports on the latest development in pandemic-based authoritarianism, we can discuss it with some meaningful measure of experience and understanding. This isn’t our first day on the job.

My conclusion, then, is that the principled figures of the independent media, few as they are, must devote themselves to those few subjects which they truly understand and leave unfamiliar material, lucrative though it may be, to those who have some experience with the subject. If we attempt to present ourselves as experts on every subject and issue that generates considerable interest in the mainstream media, then we reduce ourselves to a fractured mirror of the corporate media, and I struggle to think of a less admirable endeavor for those of us in this subcultural sphere.

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