Punditry: Performance art with a paycheck


As America moves past the first few weeks of the new year, it feels like everyone is taking stock, considering options, and generally making plans for surviving 2009. Newspapers, magazines, and blogs are rolling out lists of the best companies that are hiring, the best jobs that are open, and the best places to live if you're unemployed. However, before you bolt out and grab a job as a website administrator in Poughkeepsie (or suicide hotline staffer in lower Manhattan), I would like to offer my own suggestion for a career in a growing industry that pays well, features a great deal of exposure, and will enable you to explore your potential for loud, creative douchebaggery.

Punditry has a long and proud history. Although the term originated in India, where pundits (or pandits) were wise or highly educated scholars, it has come to refer to almost any self-proclaimed expert, particularly in the social sciences. In this context, one could argue that punditry is almost as old as human culture, dating back to Roman social satirists like Juvenal and snarky Greek playwrights like Aeschalus. One coulde even argue that Homer was among their number; as soon as he moved from straight reportage about "rosy-fingered dawn" to critical analysis of "endlessly bloviating Odysseus," he entered the punditocracy.