Sex, Politics & Religion: Now THAT’s a Blog!

Sex, Politics & Religion: Now THAT’s a Blog!

Sex, religion and politics. Yup, today’s blog post has it all. A free-for-all grab-bag smorgasbord of controversy. So why would I risk poking the three most sensitive topics with my razor sharp intellect and ‘I am right’ opinions?

Well, apart from the fact that I am right – see above – the real theme of today’s post is controversy. Is it worth using controversy to create buzz? Can it backfire? I explore those ideas through the filter of the traditional triumvirate of controversy.

Just remember as you go though the next few paragraphs – I am always right. It’s my blog, I’m allowed to say that. I have a soapbox and I’m not afraid to use it.

Religion

Last week, I relaunched the Brainstorm blog over at Netregistry. I chose to kick off with a post featuring one of my favourite soapbox topics — misinformation on the internet and the fallibility of Wikipedia. To illustrate this point, I referred to the debate between the Creationists and the editors of Wikipedia as it perfectly illustrated the subjectivity and failings of any democratic information gathering process. Sure enough, some of the comments received were less to do with the issue at hand and more to do with my agreement with Wikipedia that Creationism should not be accorded the same level of validity as science.

Personal belief does not equate to provable fact – and therefore should not be reported as such. But, of course, the Creationists revel in blurring the line between belief and fact. At the back of my mind I knew this when writing the post – aware that I may be poking a stick at the hornet’s nest. But a bit of controversy can help enliven a conversation – and blogging is one big conversation.

Of course, sex, religion and politics come with built-in polarised positions. Problem is, debating religious belief has become so much of a taboo that by its very nature it becomes controversial. Richard Dawkins, in his incredibly fascinating book The God Delusion, takes great exception to the idea of religious offence.

A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts — the non-religious included — is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other.

People are sensitive to their beliefs and religion is often held to a higher level of respect than most other beliefs. Personally, I think this is wrong. If I think The Bible is wrong, I should be able to state that belief and my reasons without risking offending Christians, just as a Christian should be able to stand on a street corner and spout religious passages.

Yes, I am an atheist. I read Dawkins. I am frustrated by the organised church. I credit religion with most of the atrocities committed by man since the dawn of time. Those are my views. I accept other readers may have directly opposing views. Do I risk watching my subscriber numbers go down as people switch off or feel slighted because I dare provide my opinion? After all, there are plenty of bloggers who manage to slip their Christian beliefs into otherwise straightforward blog posts without considering other views.

Taking a position on religion can easily produce a post that attracts buzz and prompts debate if handled carefully. Still, I would caution anyone against blindly doing so without a strong point, a huge dose of objectivity and plenty of evidence to back up your views. You will be called on it.

Politics

Wow, what a week for a political junkie like me. This US election had the whole world watching, despite the rest of us having absolutely no impact on the outcome.

Yes, I was cheering for Obama, just like 87% of the Western world. But those opinions on a blog post could certainly create some fierce opposition these last few weeks.

I attempted to tap into the election fever with my post Selling the President earlier this week. I think my problem was that the post was too balanced. It contained equal criticism of both campaigns in the White House race, commenting on the marketing of the two candidates. Should I have chosen to wave my passionate belief in Obama as the obvious choice, I may have invited a bit more debate and criticism and therefore the post may well have gone further.

Sometimes the balanced view is required – especially when producing objective news. But even newspapers know that the editorials usually attract far more mail by stirring up the debate and taking sides – and blogs are definitely closer to editorials than news journalism. Newspaper columnists, unlike the news journalists, are allowed and encouraged to have very strong opinions that resonate strongly with one half of the readership and dramatically offend the other half. In Australia, Piers Akerman of The Daily Telegraph is a master at the opinionated ranting editorial with his right wing slant on everything. This guy probably feels uncomfortable putting his left sock on, he seems so sickened by the word.

One thing Akerman does achieve is a huge amount of comments and letters. His column is read by thousands. Hate him as I do, I often find myself unable to resist reading his bile and responding in outraged indignation at his blinkered, selfish and outmoded view of the world. In that he is a lesson to us all about the power of taking a side and promoting controversy with it.

Thankfully, Akerman now finds himself in a left wing world — where the US, the UK and Australia all have left-wing or small ‘l’ liberal governments in power concurrently for the first time in my life. I think we are seeing a new dawn. Others will argue that the sky is about to fall in. Either way, editorials and blogs will create a lot of posts and drive a lot of traffic stirring up people’s political opinions.

Sex

And then we come to California.

What were you guys thinking! Proposition 8 was the thorn in the side of a liberal victory. It was the sour taste after the sweet wine of success.

Proposition 8 voted in a ban on gay marriage in the state of California. Yes, people are still afraid of sex and homosexuality. People for whom gay marriage will never affect their lives voted so that others who they will never meet can have their basic human rights infringed.

Gay marriage isn’t a threat to anyone. The only people affected by gay marriage are the couples who chose to do so. Legalising gay marriage did not affect anyone else’s rights or nullify anyone else’s relationship.

I guess I wasn’t surprised. Both religion and politics had a large part to play in convincing enough people to vote yes on a bill that demonstrates how many people are still frightened by sexuality.

And there we go – I’ve taken a side on an emotive issue. The third taboo. There are a lot of people still reeling from this ridiculous win and therefore the topic of gay marriage will no doubt remain controversial for a while to come.

You Looking at Me?

Picking a side and inviting controversy isn’t about starting a fight. It isn’t about insulting the other side or calling names or arguing indiscriminately. No one respects that and the readers move on very quickly from a train wreck of a post.

Nevertheless, sometimes picking the controversial topic and taking a side can be the key to a strong blog post. Online people love to debate, and taking a firm view on one side of a polarising issue can invite a level of response that can go viral.

Attracting controversy isn’t always a good thing though. Take the wrong side in a debate, and you may end up with the wrong readers. If the people you really hoped to attract disagree with your viewpoint, it can leave you with a list of subscribers from the lunatic fringe instead.

My final point is to not be afraid of your own opinions. Use them. Write them out. Defend them with evidence and links. Explore them. Be prepared to revisit and adjust them if others come back with convincing responses. Avoid arrogance and blinkered thinking. Be open to alternative arguments. But whatever you do, be proud of your own beliefs and opinions.

Now that’s a blog worth reading.

Comments

  1. Ah… your one flaw… objectivity! Pick a side, that way you’ll have loyal followers as well as those that hate.
    Howard Stern – those who love him listen for 2 hours a day, those who hate him listen for 2,5 hours a day and both for the same reason, to hear what he does next!
    I guess it’s because people like to be offended, that way they can jump on their high horse and preach away.

  2. sandie and fin says:

    oh dear! still creative writing then. smiley to see you. wish you were here, discussion in person is so much more gratifying, especially when telling someone they are talking…………….sense or something! to be honest didn’t read all of what you were saying but we will tomorrow when sandie has settled in to the west of ireland way of life! hmmmmmm food for thought.
    If there were god, which I don’t believe there is , it, he, she would be very p’ssd off with human kind about now. actually Humanism and extistentialism are a much more realistic proposition….as for politics…which story fits says sandie? yours or ours? mine or yours? This is not…oops sorry we got sidetracked by a conversation about Sarah Palin and Barak O’bama and lost the plot…so what’s new. Talk soon. us