Is there a qualifier much more annoying that seeing a new flash, or being told by someone, that a given statement is validated because it’s ‘according to experts’? Apparently this means the case is closed. No need to linger, nothing more to see here.
Who are these, often unidentified, people or groups comprising the title of ad hoc ‘experts’?
While presumably they have some well-supported, or at least objectively defensible, insights in their field, there also seem to be some characteristics ubiquitous as a group:
- They are readily available
- They have access to information we plebes do not
- They very often have an agenda
- They may well be faceless (figuratively, at least)
- If they’re named publicly, many of us will have no clue as to who they are
- When they are named and interviewed, they seem oblivious or dismissive of any negative ripple impact of their comments
- If populist, they have some commercial success, feeding habits and lifestyle they often prefer the public not know
How about the organizations which feed off these experts in capsulizing stories?
- It helps news organizations from having to do their own work in depth
- It lends credibility to superficial or prosaic blurbs
- It offers a deflection for politicians who can further obfuscate facts or their own lack of understanding
- When the expert opinion doesn’t pan out, they can shift responsibility to a different set of experts, parading a new take on the issue
- Imagine a private reference service, comprised of coteries of experts, focused on the parameters of their own worlds, until a collision of circumstances causes unavoidable interaction. Via a spokesperson for each group, there are negotiations to resolve the problem. Before long, an impasse arises. Each group digs in its position. The negotiators are at odds, unwilling to bring in other experts, because they feel they’re already them. Who you gonna’ call?
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