February 23, 2005

Why Do I Do This?

Lately, a handful of columns and letters in The Vermilion have expressed disgust for me and my writing style. They have called me everything from “tactless” to “extreme,” and have devoted text to why I am a lying and fear-mongering idiot. Whether the criticism comes from The Vermilion or the student body at large, one thing’s for sure: I couldn’t be happier!

Most criticism directed at me usually takes the form of “Ian McGibboney is a moron and a terrorist.” Name-calling is the last resort of a desperate opponent, so very rarely do I take any of it seriously. But even when someone responds to a claim made in my column and backs it up with factual information, they still usually get it wrong. Witness last week’s letter writer, who claimed that Bush’s second inauguration was less expensive than Clinton’s. As it turns out, Clinton’s inauguration cost almost $11 million less than the Bush 2005 gala (http://rawstory.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=141). Oops!

But the criticism hardly ends there. In what must have been a really slow news cycle, Vermilion columnists John Hinson and Beau Bernis devoted space to me in their respective columns. Last week, Bernis called me an “extreme-leftist liberal” and accused me of using “scare tactics” in my writing. The week before, Hinson said that he could not imagine himself writing in the “the cynical, satirical, and often tactless approach” that I supposedly take.

While I respect both columnists, I think they are missing the point of opinionated political commentary in the first place, which is to entertain and to provoke in order to make a valid point. No one is asking a columnist to be unbiased; what kind of opinion can be distilled from someone who avoids personal perspective at all costs? That isn’t commentary; it’s straight news. Both have value, to be sure, but one should not pretend to be the other.

I, for one, have always found columns far more interesting than dry news. As far as research goes, unbiased information is probably the best bet. But when the time comes for a stirring read, one that sparks interest in an issue in a way that the front page cannot, then opinion is the way to go. Reading someone else’s take on a subject is a great way to discover your own stance.

During my time writing this column, I’ve had people tell me “I read your column every week…and I hate it!” One campus bigwig even introduced herself to me by saying, “I don’t like you.” Then there was the colleague of mine who recently e-mailed me his thoughts: “Personally, I'm looking forward to your graduation so that I, and the rest of us that get totally annoyed…will see you heading on for greener pastures - away from here.” On my blog (http://ianmcgibboney.blogspot.com/), one guy called me “a brain-damaged Michael Moore on Quaaludes, minus the brains.” I like it when people put time and thought into their insults. It shows they care.

On the other hand, some faculty members have surprised me by saying, “Thank you for what you do. You’re saying what a lot of us think, but aren’t able to say.” I’ve also heard friends say, “I pick up The Vermilion just to read you.” Once a girl even threw herself on me (nearly knocking me flat) and kissed me. She said it was for having the guts to write the column.

These episodes are what political debate is all about—giving a damn and not being apathetic to what happens in the world. I’m not asking you to agree with what I have to say, but I am asking you to question the world around you. Nothing extreme.

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