How to write the ideal opinions column that makes everyone angry
January 27, 2009
One of the best perks of being an opinions writer is the simple fact that you get to give your opinion about anything in the world every week, which itself is not a very hard thing to do. Unfortunately, giving said opinion invariably means that some people aren’t going to like you and might say some rather unkind things about you. People have called me names from the rather tame (uninformed), to the almost unforgivable (Sean Hannity). Our job, if you can even call it that – since we don’t get paid, is to educate and inform in a subjective manner. When people get angry with you, it means you are doing your job really well.
So with that in mind, I’m going to give some advice on how to write an effective opinions column, namely, one that makes as many people as possible angry. Granted, I’m no George Will or, to be bipartisan, Paul Krugman, but I can still give you some pointers. Follow these tips, and you’ll be making people angry in no time, thereby making you a writer in demand.
The first step is to pick an issue that hits people on a personal and emotional level, and make sure it’s a hot issue as well. You can write about the economy or health care all you want, but talking about those issues is more likely to induce yawns in most people than anything else. So what are some good ones? Abortion might work, but the arguments for and against it have been repeated a million times. Gay marriage might be a good one, it certainly can be an emotional issue, and the passage of laws in a few states this past election banning it have made it a hot topic, but almost all of the arguments against it are based on personal religious beliefs, which has made the issue rather dull. For this example, I will use the Israeli-Gazan conflict. It has everything you need: Innocent civilians are suffering, one side says it’s all in self-defense and the other says it’s unprovoked slaughter; and it carries religious implications too.
After you have identified the right issue to write about, you then need to go about criticizing both sides, which ensures more people will be angry with you. The one drawback to this is that the anger will be a little tempered on both sides as the criticism of one side will cause its opposition’s anger to wane a bit. This means then that you have to make the criticism especially pointed.
Lets take the Palestinians first. Their selection of Hamas in 2006, a group whose charter calls for the destruction of their neighbor, to power in Gaza seems to almost invite conflict. What did you expect would happen from electing a group who refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist? Their continuous launching of rockets into Israeli towns, during a supposed “cease-fire,” is inexcusable and to expect anything less than retaliation is na’ve and stupid, and shows a complete lack of concern for the safety of their own people.
Yet Israel’s blockade of Gaza has resulted in breeding an area of poverty and desperation, conditions that often lend themselves well to extremism and jihadists, and bolster groups like Hamas. It reflects a certain myopia on Israel’s part. And with this recent campaign, the killing of more than a thousand innocent civilians gets absolutely nothing accomplished, except for international condemnation and sympathy for the very group you are trying to destroy. It seems obvious that a different avenue should be taken, which one hopes Israel is smart enough to recognize.
It also might help to offer up a broad, general criticism, such as the sad reality that often those who might understand the conflict the best or know the most about it, i.e., Israelis and Palestinians, are often the ones who are least fit to talk about it, constrained by intensely personal connections to one side.
And then, go ahead and criticize all those who believe they know exactly where the problem is and how to solve it, everyone from your friends to Moammar Gadhafi. They think it can all be boiled down to one simple factor, be it Zionism or Islamic terrorism, and ignore the frightfully complex situation it really is.
Follow these simple steps and you should have a quality column, namely, one which everyone hates. Hopefully you’ve learned something today, but then again, maybe not.
Jordan is a junior in MCB and is still trying to get over that Hannity insult.