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opine for the masses
an easy guide to home punditry
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)
pop culture

If you've watched, read, or listened to any sort of news media in the past few years, you're probably familiar with just how many experts there are our there. Hell, if you've swung a cat recently, you've probably hit a pundit or two, regardless of what you were aiming for.

It's hard to conceive where all these pundits came from. One would think that there would be an increase of them in the grocery store before they showed up in public. Maybe in between the zucchini and the green peppers, along with all the other vegetables. But it seems like they've popped up out of nowhere. Every news network has a panel of pundits on every topic imaginable. In fact, it seems that pretty much any WASPy old white man with an ugly tie is an expert on something political. Or football. Or both!

Interestingly, "pundit" doesn't mean what it used to. Originally, at its Hindu roots, a pundit was a teacher, a learned man. Nowadays, a pundit is somebody who talks brashly on television about anything that somebody might ask them. (See: Asshat.) But don't think it's just for self-important media whores. You, too, can be a pundit in your own home about any topic, whether or not you actually have any knowledge in the area. Just follow these quick and easy rules:

Talk loudly. Nobody will take you seriously if you speak in a normal tone of voice, and it will be too easy for them to shift their attention to your ugly tie. You must speak at all times as if the person you are talking to is either a) at the other end of a cell phone or b) does not speak English. Remember that when you have an important point to speak as if there is a HUGE. PERIOD. AFTER. EVERY. WORD.

Use hyperbole. Also known as thinking loudly. It's an easy concept. It means throwing any given example so far to the extreme that nobody could possibly disagree with you because it would be a total waste of time.

Which of these phrases sounds more like it comes from an expert?

A. "Since the Democrats won control of Congress, I'm sure we're going to see a few things change, but in moderation. After all, they still have to get by Bush's veto."

B. "It might actually be a good thing for the GOP that they lost so much ground in the last election. It gives them a chance to sit back and regroup, to react rather than act, and it gives them an excuse to do a little bit of House cleaning, while refining their agenda."

C. "Since the Democrats won control of Congress, all that we know as good in America will die a slow, writhing, liberal death. Your taxes will rise, gays will have abortions on every street corner, and the terrorists will win. Your marriage, and perhaps even your dog, will CEASE TO EXIST."

If you chose C, you're correct!

Finish other people's questions for them. If you're an expert, you've got to expect people to ask you questions about whatever it is you're an expert at. You will come off as even more of an expert if you can anticipate whatever their question is and finish it for them before answering it. If you interrupt people often, it just shows how well you are listening to them.

Answer questions with questions. On the rare occasion that you're distracted by something monetary or edible (or both) and somebody does manage to get a question out that you might be uncomfortable with, there's only one good way to handle it. Answer the question with a question. Good examples of question-answers are:

- "How would YOU answer that question?"

- "What makes you think that's relevant?"

- "Why do you hate freedom?"

Remember this phrase: "That shows just how little you know."

If somebody disagrees with you, tell them a story. On occasion, you may run into somebody who thinks that they are more of a pundit than you are. If, in the course of spouting your opinions, somebody disagrees with you in a particularly pundity manner, the easy way to take the upper hand is to leap directly into the safe ground of non-sequiters.

You: "It's a well-known fact that if Hilary Clinton wins President in 2008, that First Lady Bill Clinton will be required, by law, to wear formal skirts to all White House functions."

Them: "You're an idiot."

You: (chuckling) "You know? That reminds me of a funny story. Did I ever tell you about the time I had to lend Jimmy Carter $5.00 so he could buy a box of Ring Dings?"

Stubborn truth. There's no better way to convince others of your brilliance than refusing to admit that you might be be anything other than 100% correct.

Practice these easy responses:

- "You're wrong."

- "You're wrong."

- "You're wrong."

and finally...

- "You're wrong."

Remember, if you repeat the same thing over and over again, no matter how false it is, others will begin to believe it's true.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Use caution, however, because following these easy rules while wearing a bow tie or an ugly suit can put you in very uncomfortable social situations where you have to explain that no, you do not work for CNN/FOX catering to the liberal/conservative media. At the same time, now you have license to lecture long and hard on any given topic you feel comfortable blathering about, from My Little Pony collectible hats to lost episodes of "Saved by the Bell."

Congratulations! You've now learned how to be a pundit in your own home. Keep an eye out for the next installment: How to Be a Home Politician.


Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

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tracey kelley
11.22.06 @ 8:49a

Awesome column!

You know whose rising star I can't figure out? Mo Rocca. Now that he's started popping up on CBS Sunday Morning, he seriously grates on my nerves. He has such an inflated sense of importance, when often he's only pontificating about pop culture, it's crazy.

sandra thompson
11.22.06 @ 9:25a

Pundits are like film critics: you pick the ones you agree with most often and pay attention to them. That way your own prejudices don't get jostled.

lisa r
11.22.06 @ 11:03a

You know whose rising star I can't figure out? Mo Rocca.

Blame NPR. He's a regular on either "Wait, Wait--Don't Tell Me" or "What Do You Know?" on the weekends. He's great there, but I'm not entirely sure where being a comedian qualifies you to pontificate on politics in a serious fashion.

Then again, American politics IS something of a joke, especially in Congress at the moment...so maybe he's more qualified than the average talking head.

mike julianelle
11.22.06 @ 11:25a

Heather and I saw Mo Rocca leaving a Massachusetts rest stop about a month ago. Much grayer in person, and about as funny.

As for his political qualifications: HE WEARS A BOWTIE. That's as good as being a Rhodes Scholar.

dan gonzalez
11.22.06 @ 10:12p

I saw Rocca in June in Vegas at Networkers, he was the keynote. He's educated, and fairly witty, but an expert in nothing. Stewart's on his resume, though, that's the key.

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