How being a columnist works

Pissing yourself in public for money... over and over again

Not all columnists. I’ll just put that out there now so that the ‘good’ ones can recognise themselves and let it go.

Columnists are like bacteria that eat shit and push it out as a form of energy.

The job of a columnist is to get a reaction. It’s not really about ‘the discourse’. They don’t want to hear what you have to say, they don’t want to read your comments, they just want your juicy eyeballs.

Marina Hyde is a favourite of the liberal FBPE crowd on Twitter. Her columns are brilliantly pitched to get them into a frenzy — each a collection of jokes and assertions that hit exactly where people in that faction are.

Brendan O’Neill, the arch contrarian of Spiked, is not so different from Marina Hyde. He knows his audience. He knows what he’s doing. And, to use a term beloved of the startup world, Brendan works a “two-sided marketplace” — he has his true believers and his haters. The clicks from either group have the same value.

It’s one of the most obvious ‘secrets’ of the modern British media — hate clicks are as monetisable as clicks driven by association and empathy. And hate clicks are easier to get and replicate. Making an audience like you is hard. Making readers despise you is easy. The columnists that want you to hate them are just like dogs that have been taught to do the Hitler salute, they repeat the moves to get a reaction.

Working as a columnist hollows out your soul. As a columnist of many years standing once warned me, you start to manufacture opinions. No one believes as intensely in such a wide range of issues and stances in the real world. Columnists merely play-act most of the things that seem to really bother them.

Need 1,000 words? Find something on Twitter that will piss people off and start pretending that it’s an issue everyone is talking about. If you get the column right, it will soon be what everyone is talking about for a day at least.

Columnists don’t think they’re fake. They’ve been lying to themselves and others for so long that they’ve constructed their own personal Truman Shows, in which they are fully committed to the personas. Dig beneath the surface and it’s hard to find the human inside — they’ve been hollowed out by the job.