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January 12, 2007

Being Right Alone, And In Poverty

Via Chris Hayes, Radar has a clever article evaluating the financial fortunes of the war's most enthusiastic media backers. It won't exactly astonish anyone to learn that great folly didn't throw them into the poorhouse, but the relationship between wrongness and riches is a bit more unseemly than even I'd realized.

This sort of thing is, of course, endemic to the industry, where eloquently articulating what everyone else believes to be right is a far more lucrative strategy than actually being right. It's as Galbraith said, "[i]n any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone." Some big-name folks have actually expressed to me their fear that, had they spoken out, their prominent gigs would've evaporated with the first burst of invective.

Even so, I'm a bit surprised that the media hasn't done a bit more to superficially correct for their mistakes after the fact. That Time has decided to make a play for renewed relevance by hiring Kristol and Beinart is nuts -- what about elevating someone who got the war right, and trying to learn from their thought processes? I'm not one for drumming the wrong out of the business (no pundit has, or ever will have, perfect accuracy), but the idea that you rapidly reward the wrongheaded and never promote prescient new voices is genuinely grotesque, and the recipe for a sclerotic, uninteresting punditocracy.

January 12, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

"learn from their thought processes."

Yes, "thought processes," I suppose, but of course it's the *philosophy" of war opponents that threaten big media outlets. To grant money and fame to people who were right about Iraq would be not only to admit that they themselves, the media outlets, were wrong about Iraq, but also to give stature to leftist anti-imperialism, which corporate-owned media outlets don't exactly dig. It's one thing to lose a war (that kills other people's families); it's quite another thing to lose an all-important political and philosophical debate. Leftists have been surprisingly slow to claim the victory that's theirs, and conservatives have been unsurprisingly slow to admit defeat.

Posted by: davidmizner | Jan 12, 2007 10:52:03 AM

The Time decisions are particularly galling. Truly, truly appalling.

Posted by: VeganPA | Jan 12, 2007 10:56:18 AM

"Some big-name folks have actually expressed to me their fear that, had they spoken out, their prominent gigs would've evaporated with the first burst of invective."

Those folks should be ashamed of themselves. (As should the folks who would have fired them for speaking out.)

Posted by: Chuck | Jan 12, 2007 10:57:49 AM

Even so, I'm a bit surprised that the media hasn't done a bit more to superficially correct for their mistakes after the fact.

Let's understand something. The media in the US isn't interested in correcting mistakes--whether the media is radio, television (and I include in that the whores at NPR and PBS) or print. They are interested in selling advertising. They will put on whoever they believe will bring in the most MONEY for them. The radio, television and print punditocracy is nothing more than the modern day equivalent of carnival barkers.

Posted by: raj | Jan 12, 2007 11:02:24 AM

Who the hell reads Time unless they're in a dentist's office? Yet I read you every day, Ezra.
Sclerosis is a leading cause of premature death.

Posted by: JMG | Jan 12, 2007 11:31:53 AM

You want Time to hire Pat Buchanan?

Posted by: Chris | Jan 12, 2007 12:00:45 PM

The 'surge' is totally going to work! Iraq will be a beautiful peaceful democratic pro-American utopia within the week! And inspired by Iraq, Iran and Syria will become peaceful democratic pro-American utopias by the end of 2007!

Please send truckloads of cash to: [Address redacted], San Francisco, CA. Thank you.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jan 12, 2007 12:12:24 PM

RADAR forgot Olberman. $1M to $3M, Sir (pivot, Orwell reference). Although he'll never be Murrow to me until he gets a middle initial.

Posted by: stevesh | Jan 12, 2007 1:06:24 PM

Not knowing the quality of the writing and other less tangible things that are relevant to who is read and who isn't, it's hard for me to tell how much there is to Reed's slant on this. As I understand it, opinion writing is valued more by readers for its getting at the ideas in a clear, interesting or provocative way than for being right. If we want right, we can probably do better sticking to news writing and opinion polls.

This is part of why I don't bother reading columnists, as a rule.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 12, 2007 2:10:07 PM

There is a reason I don't pay for - Time, NY Times, Washington Post, or any of these sources. They are making themselves worthless.

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 5:16:00 AM

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