Why you won’t catch me mocking ‘think-pieces’

In 1847 the Reverend John MacDonald, missionary of the Free Church of Scotland in Calcutta, succumbed to cholera. A tract in his name nevertheless appeared nine years later, titled ‘The theatre: fourteen reasons why we should not go to it’. MacDonald’s beliefs didn’t outlive him long, but his style survives: were he with us today, I’ve no doubt he’d work in online media. (While I don’t know what his fourteen reasons were, it’s hard not to picture animated gifs.)

The numbered list format is everywhere; you’d struggle to find an author who hasn’t turned to it for traffic. Recently, in an article called ‘How to write a Thomas Piketty think-piece, in easy 10 easy steps’, WashPo‘s Carlos Lozada merged it with another trend, metacommentary, to swipe at conceited reviewers. “Think-piece” has since been called a dirty word at Slate.

Read the rest at the Daily Dot.




  1. brucemartin says

    Great piece. I thought it was very polite of you that you refrained from pointing out how Slate has recently published some articles with very poor quality of thought, as PZ pointed out.
    I agree with you that society should want authors who try.
    You certainly try hard, and do well.
    I wish those at Slate would try a bit harder as well.

Leave a Reply