In the wake of the stunning success of Chris Master’s expose on Alan Jones, many journalists and opinionists have looked on in jealousy, and asked themselves: what is the formula for his completely undeserved success.
The answer is, of course, that he spent years rigourously researching his topic – fact-checking, interviewing people, even going to libraries and reading books.
Of course, the modern pundit doesn’t want to have to engage in such a laborious (not to mention unprofitable) process. Which is why I have written this easy-to-use guide about how to write a 80,000 word thinkpiece in less than one hour.
The most important part of being a pundit is to never actually believe in anything. Robust opinion is a game, not a lifestyle. Thinkpiece writing is all about the performance. Choose your persona and stick to it. Never change. It may be a black skivvy and alcoholism, or rumpled appearance and alcoholism, or even a straight-laced bow-tie look and a raging ice habit. But this must never change over thirty years.
Then, for maximum readership engagement, out one of your colleagues. For example, you could intimate that Steve Irwin was gay.
The best thinkpieces often just join a pre-existing feeding frenzy. If you were to do this week then you would do it on the Sheik or Carl Scully, or perhaps a moralising piece about Madonna. Just make sure that it’s about people who can’t attack back.
The main point about being a good pundit is to be ahead of the curve – but only just. Thus for your research Googling is nowadays considered passé, but using Ask.com is in. As an added bonus, Ask.com has a great function which pre-loads the search results into your browser, which means that you can see websites without clicking through. This will massive decrease your “clicks per research unit” ratio, and shave minutes off your research time.
But before you do any research, it is important to choose the publisher you’re wanting to be published by. Is it Bill O'Reilly's publisher or is it in Michael Moore's? This is important because it will affect where you put the word "not" in each sentence.
Next, mention Keith Windshuttle. This will make the piece timely, and by mentioning him, you will instantly galvanise half your audience against you, and guarantee many link-backs to the blog. If you’re wanting to be really controversial, damn him with faint praise, which will mean that both sides of politics will instantly hate you.
Depending on the topic, it is also often a good idea to mention the Lowy Institute. This will make you appear like you have read any of their stuff. Note however, if your topic is football, it is unlikely that you will be able drudge up any quotes from Michael Fullilove about the topic, (although admittedly, it is the only topic that Fullilove hasn’t put forward a position on in the past twelve months).
In terms of being ahead of the curve, nothing can be more “avant curve” than being post-climate change. Your line should be that you convinced Graham Richardson about climate change back in ’87, and ever since then you’ve just looking on an shaking your head in sadness.
As you have noticed The thinkpiece world is a viscious world, subtly accusing them of doing too much research, and ultimately being a paedophile.
If you’re really scraping the barrel, you could vigourously disagree with Ryan Heath’s book "Fuck Off Baby Boomers, It’s Our Turn". Although this was very "last week", it might work if you had a kind of post-backlash backlash, where the book fades into the background while you discuss only the discussion around it. Not only would this make your article deliciously post modern, but it would also mean you wouldn’t have to read his book.
Also, any good thinkpiece writer, wanting to stay ahead, should mention some sort of obscure international travel. For example, you could write a book about how you’ve just returned from Baluchistan and mention in passing that it’s the new Morocco. If you wish to expand on this topic, don’t. The cursory nature of the observation will give the uber-trendy pundit-like impression that you’re so over Baluchistani politics.
Remember an earnest book is all about you. To really make it, you have to a really intriguing biography. Here are some suggestions: "Charles Firth invented the blog", Charles Firth has recently made a documentary on female genital mutilation in Baluchistan, or Charles Firth is the creative advisor for the "Innovation Board of Queensland".
And if you’re wanting to be really provocative, you could take the position that whichever Muslim cleric has recently made supportive comments towards rape, is indeed correct. But do this only if you’re willing to then back up that opinion with an even more anti-Muslim angle.
Another trick is to attack a well known national treasure, for example Jack Mundy or Charles “Bud” Tingwell. If you go this make sure you check that day’s Miranda Devine column in case she’s got in first. Once they have been sufficiently attacked, rewrite history to claim credit for whatever it is the national treasure did. (For hints on rewriting history, please refer back to the section on Keith Windshuttle.)
At some point towards the end of the book, emphasise that although you traditionally come from a certain side of politics, your beliefs are so incoherent and unstructured, that it feels as if you’re thoughts are so subtle and refined that to mere mortals it comes across as a rigourous argument. If you need help with this type of punditing, Christopher Hitchens is currently running a training course in this type of punditing.
Phrases like "meta", "proto", "neo" and "beyond" all add sophistication without adding meaning to your earnest tome, you may liberally use this to define new terms, to make your article far more "neo-proto".
If all else fails, attack Aborigines.
When it goes to press, make sure the book cover declares that the fee from your piece is going to
fund breast cancer research, or the orphanage in
Finally, always end abruptly.
Charles Firth is currently
writing a book on the impact of Digital Animation on Democratic Forms in Baluchistan. The fee from the book will be donated to
the Lowy Institute to fund research into football. And cancer.