Ego and the idiot: the modern opinion piece.

When I read the over-saturation of opinion pieces littering the pages of the media, written by a superiority of didacts who have such high opinions of themselves that they regularly plaster 1,000 words of condescending, cynical and, quite frankly, joyless, copy into an email and fire it off to an editor to be published, more often than not, the end result is a rise in my blood pressure.

Sunday’s piece on the Guardian’s site, written by Charlie Brooker, telling us all what he thinks we should ‘stop doing immediately’ was no exception.

Basically, in his words, Brooker has decided to set ‘New Year’s resolutions for everyone in the world except me.’ His reason? Quite simply that we have been doing the things on the list for too long.

Brooker believes that thinking for ourselves is so 2011 and instead, we should all defer to his better judgement on matters of taste.

Apparently, we all ‘pretend’ that cupcakes are brilliant, find Lady Gaga and Beyoncé ‘endlessly fascinating’ and watch too many ‘pretentious’ super hero movies, all whilst, being impressed by variations on the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ theme.

Now, I’m not a humourless sort. I enjoy a bit of cynical banter as much as the next, it’s ‘our thing’ as a generation after all, but there is a time and a place for this, the pub with your mates for example.

When I pick up a newspaper or magazine, or skim through news sites, however, I want something more than self-serving narcissists who clearly love nothing more than to be given the space to pontificate their views to a ready-made audience through a written diatribe, which provides no educational value whatsoever, other than a depressing glimpse into the mind of one particularly egotistical human being.

So, in response to the piece, here is my plea to all editors for a New Year’s resolution they might want to consider: humour and wit are great in opinion pieces when a degree of wisdom is also proffered. But please be sure, when considering writing those hefty cheques to these barely somebodies, that good value is offered beyond the mere name written in the byline. Quality should not be sacrificed for a modicum of celebrity.

A happy, prosperous and free-thinking New Year to you all…

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6 Responses to Ego and the idiot: the modern opinion piece.

  1. Paul Allen says:

    He *was* just kidding Pete!
    Surely a columnist need to split opinion somewhat though, they are the old media equivalent of trolls. For example, I can’t stand Piers Morgan and Rod Liddle but read their columns as I enjoy tutting my head or shouting at them.
    That said, the cult of Charlie Brooker has got a little out of control and the column that got you worked up does read like a parody of a Charlie Brooker column

    • Peter Hay says:

      Thanks, Paul.

      Two things really:

      1. I realise he was joking and not *seriously* telling us all what to do but I feel that this extreme example really illustrates the point that this sort of writing has gone too far. I have to say that I am really shocked by the fact that he, presumably, gets paid some hefty sum to write a piece like this.

      2. The purpose of this piece was to open up a discussion and see if I was the only one who believed that the quality of these articles is shocking when one pays for the privilege of reading them. I’m interested in reading what others think on the matter so figured I would try to get that particular party started. ;)

  2. Paul Allen says:

    I don’t agree to be honest, not about the general quality anyway. This is piece is certainly not his finest work but he has a style that people like and this very much fits with that. Most columnists will have ups and downs in qulaity as they produce so much copy it is night on impossible to produce a 10 out of ten every time.
    Not sure if you are expecting too much or I am being too lenient :)
    Either way, I’d rather read someone opinionated, with an occasional lapse in quality, rather than some beautifully crafted, but anodyne prose.

    • Peter Hay says:

      I’m not against opinion in a piece and certainly wouldn’t choose style over substance. In fact, what I say in my post is that I want more substance, something that will make me think and educate me, especially when reading an article in the likes of the Guardian. I find all too often that this doesn’t happen with these writers, instead being presented with soapbox rants about inane subject matter. This particular piece merely acts to illustrate this, in my view.

  3. Paul Allen says:

    ‘inane subject matter’ sign of the times I think though. We live in pretty superficial times and columnists certainly reflect that on occasion. If you’re after education and being made to think, not sure Brooker will ever be your man, he is usually going for the chuckles.

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