Ignorance is Bliss

Ben has a nice compilation of media figures saying Sarah Palin’s ignorance of what the “Bush Doctrine” refers to isn’t a big deal because, hey, most people don’t know. Check it out:

One thing to say about this is that the whole notion that what professional news media ought to consist of is highly compensated on-air personalities chit-chatting with each other about how something is likely to “play” with ordinary folks is bizarre. Rather than paying people to guess what regular people would think about things, CNN could just fire a bunch of its on air staff and pull random people in off the streets to say what they think. It’s also paradoxical because, of course, any given news event isn’t actually seen by most people. How it plays depends a lot on how the media plays it.

Beyond that, the notion that it would be okay for high-ranking public officials to have no better understanding of policy issues than does the average person is bizarre. When you get someone to fix your car, you want that person to know more about fixing cars than do most people. Houses are designed by architects and actually put together by a whole bunch of specialists — plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. — who know more about what they’re doing than do most people. That doesn’t mean the building trades are dominated by a shadowy elite that the rest of us need to overthrow, it just reflects the benefits of the division of labor. There’s no need for politics to be totally controlled by some narrow cabal of credentialed experts, but at a minimum it would be nice for policymakers to be people who’ve been paying attention to policy debates.