Friday, December 24, 2010

On Funny Punditry (or The Allure of Instant Fame)

Recently I and Ujang talked about the making of Indonesian "funny" pundits that we observed in the last of couple of years-- thanks to widespread of so-called social media and free press.

If you care enough to look at it carefully, there has been a glint of intellectual dishonesty out of this kind of punditry. The obvious one is the habit of setting up a strawman. The less obvious one is to promote something deemed as "new" or "groundbreaking", whereas, in fact, the ideas have been around for years, if not decades, in particular discpline or profession.

Surely, branding something as "groundbreaking" always attracts ones who are not trained on the subject --thus the blame are not theirs. But those funny pundits are, supposedly, aware that the claim might not be as spectacular as it may sound.

Yet, for them, the incentive to commit in such dishonesty is indeed rather high. There are always gullible cheerleaders (and media) out there, eager to celebrate anything labeled as trendy, new, or revolutionary, under the pressure to appear, in our popular lingo, "eksis". Fame, for these faux pundits, is therefore imminent.

Now, in the free-market of ideas, where are the competing forces for such funny punditry? Those well-equipped with training or analytical rigor that can not be easily persuaded with snake-oil jargons and populism.

Here is the Catch-22: most of them are already very busy and occupied with their jobs in the universities, in private sector, and in public sector. They spent great deal of their time pursuing professional objectives -- perhaps, admittedly, for their own different definition of fame or power. In short: they lack of incentive to counter popular fame-inspired pundits in popular (social) media. For many of them the pay-off for engaging in many times repetitive debates doesn't add up with the time they need to allocate for properly analysing the issue.

Moreover, they are also not trained and used to engage in an exchange in which the opposite side are those with "palu gada" attitude (Read: "apa lu mau, gue ada"; or in plain English, the "anything-goes").

Do I believe in wisdom of the crowd then? Yes. Sooner or later, the crowd will know what/who is lemon and what's not. Think of Roy Suryo, if you want.

In the meantime, I believe many people with knowledge, in their limited spare time, look at such funny punditry with amusement (and, perhaps, as source of entertaining gossip over coffee or lunch).

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