Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I like to claim that I live without bigotry, but in fact I harbour a secret prejudice. I loathe opinion columnists, those hacks who get paid to spew at the mouth two or three times a month on issues about which they have no expertise. As a professor of history, I consider it my very great responsibility to get my facts straight before lecturing to my thirty or so students every week, but there are opinion columnists who make a living by pontificating to tens of thousands without, as near as I can tell, giving a moment’s consideration to what they’re saying. Indeed, there are certain well-known columnists who I read with great devotion - not because I like them, but because it has the same appeal as a horrific and bloody roadside car wreck: can’t look at it, can’t look away. They are everything good scholars should not be: certain, smug, self-righteous and, worst of all, consciously contrarian — making arguments that they know to be false because it amuses them to do so.

Looking back over this blog’s fifty columns, I have begun to see that coming off as certain, smug, and self-righteous probably is an inevitable consequence of regularly writing about one’s views. I admit that, in person, I can exhibit these traits, too, but I’ve been making a concerted effort to do better (it would help if others would at least try to act smarter than they are). Here, on this blog, however, matters are different: when sharing one’s opinions without rebuttal it’s hard to avoid coming off as very sure of oneself. And the very curious thing is this: I am not - hence the title of the blog itself. I can, however, claim with good conscience that I have never, at least not on Measure of Doubt, argued a position that I do not believe for the sake of doing so.

At any rate, the whole thing has been immensely therapeutic, and it has lasted much longer than I had anticipated. Much to my own amazement, I have fifty posts — some 41,000 words — under my belt. As I said in one of the earliest posts, I’m doing this for my own sake, not in anticipation of anyone reading it. However, while I don’t keep tracking statistics, gradually I have discovered that people actually are reading this thing: friends, colleagues, enemies, students, and even random passers-by.

So, up for another fifty? I am if you are.


I would like to announce the creation of a second blog: Suspended Judgment, which will be devoted solely to the discussion of teaching-related issues. Already reading Measure of Doubt? Never fear - for now, at least, nothing will appear there that won’t also be here. The point is to cleave off a small part of cyberspace strictly for my professional work.

1 comment:

Graham Broad said...

This early update brought to you in the excitement of having moved to a new apartment!