Novelist Philip Pullman once said: “No one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this… Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if they open it and read it, they don’t have to like it.”
That’s why there is only one rule when it comes to shock jocks, talk radio hosts or writing columns. Whether you’re on the left or the right, or somewhere else on the spectrum, you must never be dull in expressing an opinion. You can be idiotically naive. A moral fool. Bratty, even. But you must never be boring.
In a world where in-fighting and backbiting have been raised to the level of a very sad Olympic sport, it is not for the faint-hearted. But every controversial figure who has made a career out of this sad, but undoubtedly fun sport, needs people to rail against.
That’s where you, the reader, listener and viewer, come in.
Most commentators know, dare to express any opinion – apart from total submission – and within minutes (or seconds, if you’re using Twitter or Facebook) you will be besieged by condemnation where every thought is an ism and every person an ist.
You might well wonder, why then do so many journalists relish this line of work?
It’s simple. The more savagely such shock jocks and opinion-makers are trolled, the more they’re seen to be in a position of power – which means you’re doing something right. And they have the clicks, likes and pokes to prove it.
That also explains why everyone and no-one is on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Those likes are a sugar-hit to a fragile ego; a welcome break from a boring day hanging out in Mum’s basement.
The professionals will tell you the key to smashing trolls is to bring your most viciously elegant A game (think comedians who take down hecklers) and be the literary equivalent of water-repellent.
So do keep sending those angry letters and tweets in. Trust me, we secretly love them.