Experts

Rod Dreher, reflecting on the decline of the Sunday political talk shows, writes:

I couldn’t possibly care less what John McCain says about anything, but I would love to know what, say Marilynne Robinson thinks about health care policy, or what Tom Wolfe has to say about immigration policy.

I really don’t. There’s nothing special about being a writer that lends itself to sound or interesting thinking about public policy. I like Marilynne Robinson and think she has a lot of worthwhile things to say. By all means, read her books. You’ll discover that she does occasionally veer into politics in her writing and sadly, regarding public policy, her views are completely by-the-book partisan liberal Democrat fare. It’s almost like a switch goes off and someone who can write nuanced and sympathetic prose about John Calvin—a rare feat for someone not of a reformed (in the theological sense) disposition—suddenly proceeds as though it were incontrovertible that Republicans are selfish and unconcerned about the welfare of others, and Democrats innately virtuous and interested above all in the common good. There are plenty of writers I disagree with politically, but who nevertheless write interesting and worthwhile stuff about politics. It takes little away from her otherwise prodigious talent to note that she isn’t even close to being one of them.

Interestingly, Tom Wolfe’s essay “Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died” would make an excellent companion piece to Robinson’s book Absence of Mind. (I will note however, since nuclear imaging is an area in which I can legitimately claim some expertise, that his optimism about the sophistication of brain imaging “ten years from now” (i.e. from 1996) is misplaced.)

When it comes to TV shows about politics, his satirical edge would be better suited to entertaining the viewer than her careful, deliberate prose. But is he likely to have any deeper insight into immigration policy than people who actually study the topic? Doubtful.

Better question: should people learn about politics from television at all? No. No they should not.

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