Writing Opinion Pieces

The days when essays occasionally changed readers' minds may have passed

Topics

Politics

Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Eccl. xii.12).

 

There was a time when “opinion pieces” occasionally changed readers’ minds, but those days may have passed. If you finish reading a piece, you probably by and large agreed with it. If not, you might skim it and possibly unsubscribe. Fair enough, I suppose. But generally, whether we’re conservatives or liberals (and I use both terms traditionally) we write for the converted, and avoid contrary opinions. I have been struck by the vehemence shown towards opinions I’ve expressed on such things as the innocence of Cardinal Pell, the danger of Covid (relative to other, graver problems afflicting the world), the possibility that climate change may not turn out to be quite the existential threat it is commonly thought to be, the smug narcissism of the wealthy secular West, and the bullying tactics of the Woke. I never resort to “hate speech” because I don’t hate anybody, but I have no doubt that hate would be imputed to me by some for expressing views that are contrary to the accepted narrative.

I have long suspected that Woke opinions about such things as climate change have taken on the nature of religious beliefs and show all the fervor of spiritual zeal. One of the indicators of this is humorlessness and a complete insensitivity to irony. One does not make jokes about religion, even secular religion, and expect to get away with it.

I conclude that opinion pieces will achieve nothing. Former Rabbi Eugenio Zolli wrote: “It is not possible to pierce the mystery of the religious living, the religious conscience of another, with the sword of logic.” If that’s true, persuasion based on argument from evidence will be of no avail in changing people’s minds, for their devotion to their subjective truth is impermeable. Do not trample on their dreams. And above all do not laugh at them. Rather the only way through, if there is a way, lies in the direction of gentle nudging, looking for such common ground that exists (often not much!), and trying to point to a better way in the manner of an ally rather than an opponent.

 

David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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