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A little advice on opinion writing

February 9, 2011 · 3 comments

Travel’s fun. At least it is to me. It’s about going out into the big wide world and enjoying yourself. Nothing too heavy.

For others, though, it’s serious business. It stirs deep passions – it’s worth getting angry about. At least, it is for some of the people who read my blog on the Herald.

I’ve got a favourite reader, a guy who calls himself “Bill Kane”. Bill Kane has been reading my blog for pretty much the entire four years it has been around, and he hates me. Hates me. And he’s good enough to write in pretty much every single week to tell me how much.

Ironically, Bill is also one of my biggest fans, if you count mouse clicks. He’s keeping me in a job.

Most people don’t hate me that much, but they will break out the abuse if I write something they disagree with.

Take this week for example. I wrote about “countries that will change your life”. I know, I know, you go and make these bold statements and you have to expect people are going to disagree with you.

But what really brought the crazies out was my mention of Germany. Not, mostly, for it’s place in the list – mostly for what I wrote about it. Here’s the entry:

You want life-changing? Walk around Dachau or Mauthausen*, the former Nazi concentration camps. Walk through the Topography of Terror in Berlin. Walk the length of the East Side Gallery. Then have a look around you and think about how the country has transformed itself.

Now, what I was getting at was that although Germany has a horrible not-too-distant past, it has changed immeasurably, and is now about far more than those things. It’s a place of natural beauty, of lovely, friendly people, great beer and an impressive arts scene. And you’ll appreciate that even more for having seen what the country has put itself through in the past.

Come to think of it, I probably should have written exactly that. Then I wouldn’t have got emails like this, from “Wolfgang”: “You are a simple fucking moron of the highest order. Get an education or get off the web. Have you ever even been to Germany?”

So here’s my advice: if you’re going to put an opinion out there, make sure you spell it out.

*I know, I know, Mauthausen is in Austria, not Germany. Maybe Wolfgang was right…

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