Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 8, 2021

Feed your inner troll - a challenge from the Editor

By ANDREW DORIS | September 15, 2013

It stands to reason that the Opinions Editor would be an opinionated person. That I’m a Political Science major on the Hopkins debate council should only reinforce that expectation, and I certainly do fit the stereotype. In addition to holding strong beliefs, I’ve come to appreciate the art of defending those beliefs in a compelling and persuasive manner. I’ll admit that sometimes I practice that art a little more than I should — much to the chagrin of my beleaguered Facebook friends. Yes, I’m that guy.

But one of my many opinions is that deep down inside, almost everyone is just as opinionated as I am — they just may not be willing to admit it. Too many folks are embarrassed to expose their positions on practically anything nowadays, worried they’ll look stupid in the eyes of those with more developed ideas.

Other times, people will hide their opinions from the world for fear of offending those who disagree. In modern society, submitting ones views on important matters has come to be seen as confrontational or stand-offish. The result is that it’s often easier for us to feign indifference than it is to stand up for what we believe in.

Despite these difficulties, I remain convinced that everyone still reading this article can be coaxed into caring. If you disagree, and consider yourself an indifferent exception, then I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is. I dare you to read every article in this section, every week, without reacting to anything. No nodding along, no disapproving head shakes, no playing devils’ advocate, no uncomfortable cognitive dissonance at all. Do that and you’ll have proven me wrong.

It will be my primary objective, as editor of this section, to ensure that no human being with a pulse could succeed in that endeavor. No matter who you are, or what your major, or how much writing experience you have, I’ll bet my Ron Paul bumper sticker there’s something out there that really matters to you – some conversation you just can’t resist jumping in on. I want to find that issue. Once I’ve found it, I want to confront you with conflicting ideas on that issue which you just can’t stand to leave unanswered – to practically goad you into joining the discussion yourself. I want to poke, prod, and pry your opinions out of you if it takes all year to do it. I want to awaken your inner troll.

Although my personal interests lie primarily in political affairs, the opinions section will certainly not be limited to that realm. These pages welcome articles on art, religion, which Harry Potter character was coolest, the supremacy of tater-tots over French fires, the likely outcome of a death match between a Bengal tiger and an alligator, or any similarly crucial matters. So long as your opinions are well developed and clearly expressed, I assure you that virtually any topic is welcome.

What’s important to me is not so much the content of an article as it is the controversy it will produce. “Murder is wrong” may be an opinion, but it isn’t a very interesting one because practically everyone already agrees. What’s much more productive and fun is the defense of bold and hotly debated stances which you know

will spark a reaction from your peers and colleagues - in other words, trolling. This does not mean writing intentionally outlandish claims just to get a rise out of people, but it does mean that you should not temper the sincere expression of your views for fear it will offend the sensibilities of moderates. Writing articles like this takes courage, because it submits your ideas to intense scrutiny and criticism. I implore you to do it anyway.

The last thing I’ll request of you as you read these articles and formulate your beliefs is to fully articulate why you believe what you do. Not just mentally, either. Sit down at your laptop, open a word document and vent. Explain to me, the author and the entire world what the article got right or wrong in a clear, concise, organized and lucid manner. Even if you lack the confidence to submit your ideas for publication, I suspect you’ll find the process of transferring them from brain to text to be incredibly rewarding.

Immersion in the ideas of another forces us to identify where we agree or disagree, and challenges us to articulate those distinctions. In turn, that challenge forces us to organize our own thoughts in a manner that others can easily digest, with the end result being that we come to understand our own opinions better than we had before. Since opinions are so tightly linked with our experiences, memories, emotions and psychological makeup, deepening our opinions in this way can be a truly soul-searching experience. It teaches us not only about the issue, but about ourselves, which makes it a tremendously valuable component of the learning process.

But that’s just my opinion.


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