Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blog Recommends Opinion Essay Satire for Learning about Opinion Essays

Why do we share opinions on the Internet? Why use an opinion essay form? What does the style in terms of opening or closing down dialogue? Are we speaking to the choir, or reinforcing like minds among readers? Engaging opposing views or convincing the uninitiated? Or just venting? What elements of an opinion essay are effective for whom?

Continuing the meta-humor theme from Brooker's, "How to Report the News," from our previous post, today here's a bit from the opening of Edward Sharp-Paul's satire, "An Opinion Piece on a Controversial Topic":

No doubt you will have noticed that Issue has been in the news lately, due to the scandalous behaviour of Public Figure, and the controversial comments of Publicity-Hungry Commentator. The editor of this site and I were discussing the Issue just the other day, and we agreed that making a glib reference to that discussion at the start of this piece would add a sense of authority to my authorial voice, as well as suggesting that the site upon which this piece is being published shares my opinionated stance on this Issue. 

I was inspired to write this piece by Currently Fashionable Polemicist, who summarised the Issue better than I could when they said “oversimplification that makes me feel smart”. I have a strong opinion on this Issue, and my sharing it with you at this time is in no way attributable to opportunism on my part, due to the Issue’s sudden prominence in the news cycle.
Sharp's essay makes a perfect introduction to news-related opinion or argumentative essays for English or other writing classes (advanced high school/ introductory college).

Instead of the usual demonstration of format and style with the exemplary essay, learners could find opinion pieces of interest on the web--maybe one strong and one weak--and analyze how the conventions explicated and demonstrated in Sharp's essay match up. Elements that exceed or diverge from Sharp's format could be categorized and shared for groups or whole-class revisions of Sharpe's work (could use google docs or other collaborative writing tool; or go low-tech with paper and pencil!). This would also make a fun comparison to standard guides for writing effective opinion essays, argumentative essays, or newspaper Op-ed's [search any one of those on the web and you'll get hundreds of examples].

Sharp's piece might also prove an interesting piece for discussion in a media studies class, especially on the topic of whether opinion pieces on the Internet can be effective. I think the question revolves around audience and purpose, as it probably should for any discussion of effective writing. So, for a given blog or website, is the audience likely to be all of like minds on the issue already? Are you then reinforcing and crystallizing opinion, clarifying your shared position, or denouncing opposing views? Are you speaking to a hostile audience on the issue? Are you then looking to persuade or provoke? Is the audience broad enough to have a diversity of opinion on the issue? So, then how do you balance your approach to address that diversity? Will they come to your piece already knowing about the topic, or are you informing? The discussion could lead to some very cool analysis of target audiences for different websites, of stark difference (e.g., Jezebel vs. Madatoms) or slight, if any difference (BoingBoing vs. Dangerous Minds). Writing a short opinion piece (1 paragraph) for a pair of very different blog audiences would be a fun challenge, especially if everyone could choose topics of interest, and they got to talk about them in the group beforehand.

So, Sharpe organizes his satirical essay into three sections:
  • The Establishment Of Authority 
  • Surprising Digression 
  • Pre-emptive Attack On Anyone Who Might Disagree With Me 
Does he nail the typical style? What's left out?

And once again, the comment thread for the BoingBoing post pointing to this Junkee blog article by Sharp features a brilliant spontaneous eruption of meta-humor on blog comments in the comment thread; here's a sample:
  • jjsaul says: Cliche comment about how both sides are equally bad 
  • CoffeeStar says: Sweeping generalised comment bitterly insisting that issue is just another example of this country is going to hell. 
  • Brainspore says: That sounds like something Hitler would say. 
  • Immutable Mike says: Passive-agressive question suggesting false equivalence? 
  • jjsaul says: Obvious off-topic spam about how a relative made $20,472 from Google in a single month using one weird trick. 
These comments make great fodder to deepen the discussion about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of opinion essays on the web. Also, as suggested in the prior post, the thread suggests the possibility for clever students to create their own satirical meta-humorous version of some media form (from twitter, or instagram, or multiplayer online video games, etc.).

In case your wondering why you might use one of the approaches suggested above instead of teaching opinion writing in the standard way by the book, here's the basic idea: By engaging through humor, and through group activity with creative products, students must problem solve and use the conventions, which makes them more likely to retain knowledge of them as tools.

I'd love to hear anyone's ideas about how they might use or have used meta-humor on media communication, like Sharp's "Opinion Piece" or Brooker's "How to Report the News," teaching and learning.

1 comment:

  1. Custom Essay Writing Services In need of someone to write your essay services? No worries at all! The Writing Experts offers premium quality custom assignment paper writing services in the UK. Custom Essay Writing Services