Thursday, February 17, 2005

New Column: 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.

23 comments:

oyster said...

You got a kiss for something you wrote?-- hell, my wife never even did that.

I'm jealous.

Ian McGibboney said...

Well, I wouldn't have solicited a kiss from this particular girl, but we did get to be good friends for awhile.

The Manning Report said...

What your going to get now is a bunch of anonymous comments by people trying to look smart.

Ian McGibboney said...

That would be a change of pace!

Flamingo Jones said...

Hmm...he says "cynical, satirical and often tactless" like it's a bad thing. Weird.

Gretchen Ross said...

I dont know whats wrong with the people at your school, I think this blog is great. Keep up the good work.

Michael said...

I'm with the girl: you should get kissed for writing what you do.

So here's a big sloppy wet one from me: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmwah!

Phillip said...

well ian, while i can't say that i'd be willing to make out with you in appreciation, i will offer a sincere pat on the back for writing a liberal column in an otherwise conservative sesspool-ic area. good to know that i'm not alone in lafayette. keep on doing what you're doing.

The Manning Report said...

What is this? an ass kissing contest?

Michael said...

What is this? an ass kissing contest?Why? Feeling a little jealous, Manning?

Ian McGibboney said...

Yes, Manning, and you're losing...

valleri, welcome aboard! how can our little community find out more about you?

ThomasMcCay said...

The sort of people who substitute personal insults for reasoned comment, are the very people you want to offend. Aren't they?

I do find it funny that other columnists would use their space to complain about another writer. I suppose they feel insecure. It certainly indicates what kind of journalists they may become. Copy writers for Faux.

Ian McGibboney said...

I actually had (and still have) reservations about writing about other columnists, or for being reactive to criticism. In 2002-03, it seemed like every staff editorial and most of the conservative columns were direct rebuttals to letters or other writers' words. After I got wise to the tactic I stopped addressing my critics altogether. I think it helped the quality of my work, because I can look back on it and it makes sense in and of itself.

When I first started writing the column, the editors had the idea to have the liberal and conservative columnists share a topic each week. It seemed like a good-enough idea, though I always suspected it was part of a long-standing plot to hook me up with the conservative columnist (no, not Nick! A girl...) The problems with that were 1) we had to agree on a mutual topic that we both knew enough about and 2) we wound up agreeing on almost every issue anyway. But most importantly, we were expected to address each other's points as in, "I think Chearmie's wrong because..." something I didn't want to do. This seems to be a resurgent trend in the paper once again.

That is why I broke my self-imposed rule just this once: I want them to know how ridiculous they look writing about me all the time. The pros aren't interested in reading gossip.

Nick said...

You know who you sound like in this latest column icon? Two of your least favorite people, Rush and O'Reilly. They like to talk about how other people criticize/praise them.

Anyway, I've never felt there would be much value to devoting a column to you. The only time I can recall mentioning you was to defend you when that idiot Hinson accused you of hating your own race. Personally, I really can't stand Hinson. Don't get me wrong, I agree w/ many things he says. However, for him to call the NAACP leaders racists (which I do think most of them are), but then proudly proclaim that you're a member of the NAAWP and try to recruit other members is hypocritical.

Ian McGibboney said...

Rush and O'Reilly talk about themselves because they love the sounds of their own voices. This is because they are in constant need of validation. You link to me and them, Nick, is funny in an ironic way but not really with any substance.

And Nick, while you didn't ever devote a whole column to me, you did in fact talk about me on a consistent basis. Sometimes it was to caricature me as the ultimate liberal idiot, but those times count nonetheless.

ThomasMcCay said...

Ian, as you have already noticed, it is usually better to take the high road. Sometimes it is a bit of a hike but it never has the traffic jams you find on the low roads.

Nick said...

Um..Icon:

Not to be petty, but if you have copies of all the Vermilions that you wrote in, look at them. In all of my columns, I your name is mentioned twice, both in the same column, and I don't try to put you down.

I just don't want you to get a big head thinking I had to mention you to take up column space. I had bigger steaks to grill, b/c honestly, most of the people who read the Vermilion care more about what is said, not the two loony writers.

Mmm...steaks...

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: of the 22 columns you wrote, you mentioned me three times. I'll give it to you that you weren't lying; you probably just miscounted. It seemed to me like you'd mentioned me some other times, but I couldn't find any others. Still, it's some good stuff:

9/17/03: Using myself and you as the only inhabitants of an island for an example of fuzzy tax math

10/29/03: "Let's just say that Ian McGibboney writes something one day that gets me so enraged that I want to strangle him. Even if I know I can avoid authorities and get away with murder, I am still not going to do it. Why? Because I don't want to go to hell; I don't want to spend eternity with Eminem and O.J. Simpson."

11/12/03: "He also accused Ian of hating his own race. Ian's just misguided, like most liberals."

And then there was that letter from after you graudated:

3/3/04: "Obviously Ian McGibboney has fallen into the same old talking points about the media that his sworn enemies, like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have also fallen back on....Ian's rant about the "vast right-wing conspiracy" [a quote I never used--Ian] controlling the Super Bowl is just rediculous [sic]."

Another interesting quote of yours, from 7/9/03: "Does Dan Rather research the news himself before he gives his report? No, he depends on the information and research given to him by his staff. If Rather gives a false report, that does not mean he lied. It means the researchers messed up."

Nick said...

Yeah...I knew I had mentioned you in the letters. But, that's b/c I had to respond to something to get it published, unless I was wanted to get on the guest editoiral, which I didn't.

I did forget about that island example, though. Oh well, point is, unlike Hinson, I never mentioned once tried to put down your articles. I still remember this one from you:

"Also overrated, Nick Bouterie." --1st column of the fall semester.

You see, Cherimie screwed things up so much for the conservative side that I had to basically undo what she had done. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was a liberal the whole time and was just trying to make us look bad, of course Hinson does enough of that as well w/ his NAAWP crap.

Nick said...

Also, why do you find my quote using Dan Rather as an example to be interesting? Probably b/c of the Bush/Guard story. But I never accused him of lying. I do think Rather leans very left and wanted the story to be true b/c he wanted Kerry to win. The same argument could possibly be said about Bush and the WMD situation. Maybe he really believed Iraq had WMD's and was more likely to want evidence supporting that theory. However, other world leaders and former presidents also agreed w/ him.

To make a long story short, I don't think Rather should have been fired over that story. Besides, I've enjoyed Dan over the years starting to show his true side more and more.

Ian McGibboney said...

My whole point in the first place is that Cheramie, Nick and John have all taken time to write about me when they have (or had) better things to write about. The love/hate distinction was not really one I was trying to make; indeed, almost all of Cheramie's references were about what close friends we were. Nick was a little more critical and John just flat out doesn't like me. I just find it amusing that people would choose to write about me as if I were someone important rather than talk about more pressing matters. Whatever works, I guess.

As for the Dan Rather comment, Nick, I cite it not because you were a vocal voice in Rathergate but rather (sorry) because I found it to be an unintentionally humorous example of how far people will go to not blame Bush for anything ("Because Rather just reads the news too!").

Anonymous said...

Ian,
what is your bolg about? Instead of teaching us your angry thoughts on those big bad guys "rush and hannity" perhaps a few intelligent comments on politics...?? lets read some real politics....Ian.

Ian McGibboney said...

Anonymous,

My bolg is pretty big, and some of the massive amounts of text on it just might give you a clue as to how I feel about certain political issues...it also mite help yoo sppel butter...anonymous.