Widgets Magazine


On Opinion Articles

Opinion articles are worthless.

If anything, they detract from the fabric of society. When I read a newspaper, I never read the opinions section. Why would I? Opinion articles are the value judgments of others in which facts are selectively used, ‘I’ is a permissible pronoun, and reactionary extremism is required to garner any notice. The only prerequisite for writing an opinion article is the urge to get on a soapbox and opine. In the words of Trish Hall, Op-Ed editor of the New York Times, “Anything can be an Op-Ed.”

Yet in almost every newspaper in the world, from high school papers to The Wall Street Journal, there is an opinions section. To understand why, it is necessary to view the issue through the lens of supply and demand. I completely understand the supply side – authors of opinion articles are the type of people who love hearing their own voices. Why not see it in print? As long as vanity remains a part of the human psyche, I suspect there will never be a shortage of opinion articles.

What is more of a head-scratcher is the demand side. Why do people take time out of their busy days to read purposeless articles like this one? Today, I am contributing nothing to you or your intellect. After reading this article, you will neither be any smarter nor more informed than you were before you read it. I therefore urge you to stop reading. With the exception of the poor copy editor who has to revise this, you have my full blessing at this point to put down the newspaper and walk away.

I posit (for those who are still with me) that people read opinion articles because they are lazy thinkers. Opinion articles are pre-packaged arguments and deductions, ready-made for appropriation and subsequent use at cocktail parties, in prison and in other circumstances that necessitate conversation for the sake of conversation.

As a reader, if you agree with an opinion article, you can mindlessly annex the argument and claim it as your own without too much strain on the brain. It is possible to think even less if you disagree because of how easy it is to disparage an article as simply wrong without asking why.

On balance, this seems to be an unhealthy practice. A robust mind should always seek to form fresh opinions. That is why I advocate that you, the astute and perceptive reader, should read every other section in the newspaper and develop your own thoughts. Leave the opinions section, a desolate wasteland of vacuous convictions, to those who are unwilling to ponder or reflect long enough to come to their own conclusions.

If you have made it this far, I hope you share my opinion that all opinion articles are worthless and, indeed, make our society as a whole worse due to their sloth-inducing nature. In the height of hypocrisy, however, I intend to perpetuate the problem and will continue writing opinions for The Daily. Thus, with the exceedingly low bar I have just set myself, I will now begin my weekly column in the opinions section.

As columnists go, Patrick Cirenza is the quintessential rebel without a cause. Convince him that his job actually has meaning at pcirenza@stanford.edu.

  • wtf

    your job does not have meaning.

  • n1m

    I’ve thought about everything that the author has posed in this article, being an avid follower of opinion columns on the New York Times, which are mostly exquisitely written, and have wondered whether it is a healthy practice. The conclusion I have reached is on the contrary to the author here because I believe it’s a good thing to read about others opinions, not because it’s like I don’t have a brain and cannot think for myself and like to “steal others’ arguments” (what?), but because I find it interesting to get to know in what ways other people perceive something, compare and contrast and, mostly, get to look at things from many different and, perhaps, new perspectives. Quite obviously. Its also the reason why people debate, you know. Also maybe why we have discussions with people around us. You seem to think that all opinion columns are produced by incompetent, so-called “journalists” who must love to gossip when not producing journalistic crap. Um. No.

  • oped of the people

    Your byline says you are “without a cause”. Perhaps you need to find a cause to research carefully and think and write about before you understand the purpose of the op-ed.

    Well-written op-eds are informative and illuminating in addition to presenting an argument. They are informative because they provide some background facts. They illuminate because they offer a viewpoint and context. I read an op-ed not because I want to accept the argument, though ultimately I may, but because I want to learn about an issue and one way people think about it. If I think the issue is worth understanding better, then I seek further information elsewhere. Op-eds also let me understand how other people think. Even if I don’t agree with the argument, I can at least try to understand why the viewpoint may be valid, and thereby understand a little more about our society.

    Perhaps you are right that op-eds are not a good way to transmit important information; but I challenge you to gather some examples of (relatively, since you might argue that there are no absolutely) good op-eds and think some more about whether in fact they might.