Vote My Conscience

January 13, 2012

Originally published in Boulder Weekly

November 2008

Recently, while trying to put a diaper on a goat, it occurred to me that I haven’t yet told the loyal readers of That’s Irrelevant who to vote for in the upcoming election. One of the most important responsibilities of Opinion Journalism is to give the American public completely biased, uninformed advice on how to make really important decisions.

For example, let’s pretend that your boyfriend of three years asks you to marry him. Your first response might be to think very hard about whether or not marriage to this particular person will make you happy, and then make a choice based on what you know about the world and how you feel about your relationship. After all, you probably know your boyfriend pretty well. Certainly, no one knows you better than you know yourself, right? Wrong. In this particular situation, current societal trends dictate that you do one of two things: a) make a phone call to a bitchy troglodyte named Dr. Laura and let her make the decision after listening to you for approximately 30 seconds and then interrupting with some inane, moralistic psychobabble; or b) invite your boyfriend to go on a day-time talk show, tell the world everything about your private lives, and get into a fistfight with a midget.

As a newspaper columnist in this complicated modern age, it is my right — nay, my duty — to educate the public on how to reduce our convoluted socio-political universe to simplistic personal beliefs disguised as facts. Hey, boys and girls! Can you say “subjective emotional manipulation”? Good!

If you want to write a successful political opinion column, you have to start by complimenting the person you hate the most. This will give the reader the impression that you are open-minded and magnanimous even though you are not. For instance: “We can all agree that John McCain has served his country heroically in the past…” Or “Barack Obama is obviously a man of great character…”

See how that works? It makes it appear as though you are an objective person. Then comes the big but.

“…but it’s clear McCain is a geriatric neo-con who wants to drag this country through another Vietnam War in order to satisfy his Rambo Complex.”

“…but everyone knows that Obama is a terrorist sympathizer who wants to surrender victory in Iraq in order to appease French homosexuals.”

The next step is to take some obscure comment or piece of data out of context and use it to draw erroneous conclusions. Voting records are great for this, as are media sound bites, Internet blogs and ex-girlfriends. These conclusions should be specific enough to appear plausible yet vague enough to defy verification. Saying that a candidate wants to socialize the health care system is a popular tactic, or you can try claiming that they are Muslim because they have an unusual middle name.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But what if readers decide to do some research and draw their own conclusions based on a variety of in-depth sources?” Oh, ye of little faith. For starters, words like research and in-depth are way too boring for American readers. We prefer words like CNN, FOX and boobies. Also, even if some annoying egghead decides to ruin everything with tedious “facts,” it will be too late. You see, false information is sort of like a Hillary Duff song; it spreads through television and radio like a horrible virus and infects everyone who comes in contact with it. True information is more like a Tom Waits album; it’s superior in every possible
way but few people know it exists.

The final ingredient necessary for writing a successful opinion column is the “emotional appeal.” Remember, people don’t like to think too much. Thinking hurts the brain and causes acne. Therefore, it’s best to reduce complicated intellectual issues to sentimental drivel. That way, the inbred fundamentalists in Colorado Springs and the burned-out hippies in Boulder can make decisions without challenging their uninformed perceptions. Emotional appeals are often combined with important social, political or theological issues in order to give them more credibility, but the critical-thinking process is removed. To practice this, try having a conversation with a friend about abortion without bringing up biology, or send out a mass e-mail on the subject of global warming but do not include a single scientific fact in the missive. That’s good Opinion Journalism!

In the end, the important thing to remember is that all of society’s problems can be solved in 800 words or less by anyone who has access to Wikipedia. We live in complicated times, people. That’s why it’s important to ignore logic and rely on misplaced anger and moral platitudes to rule our lives.

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