“We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
So said Henry Ford in 1916, and that is the only historical fact I can be bothered with in this brief response to my friend Peter Ryley, who writes:
“[S]urely it isn’t asking too much for those who get paid to turn out opinion pieces on issues on which lives depend might engage in a little basic scholarship?”
To the Fat Man I say: (1) it’s about economics, and (2) the lives of poor people who live far away are worth little in comparison with the needs of middle class broadsheet newspaper readers in bourgeois societies.
When it comes to the producers of opinion, for all but those gilded, salaried columnists who have only to churn out a thousand or so words a week, it isn’t cost effective to do extensive research for articles that pay freelance writers only a couple of hundred quid.
Proper experts use newspaper op-eds as they do television chat shows: as soundbite advertising for their latest book. As for the star columnists, they have become lazy feckers.
We should also remember that British newspaper editors by and large aren’t looking for considered opinion. Revenue and click-throughs matter most of all, and what attracts punters who have time for non-journalistic media output is controversy and general arsiness.
It never fails, and the blogosphere depends on it.