HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN MEGAN McARDLE PIECE

Posted in Rants on October 21st, 2009 by Ed

It sure would be nice to be Megan McArdle, wouldn't it? What could beat having Dad's money buy you an MBA from the University of Chicago and then, unable to land a real job, securing a gig as some sort of expert on economics, business, and finance for a major publication! And once you wrap up this high paying, high visibility position in which important people will treat you like an authority, here's the best part: you don't have to do any research! You're so brilliant that you can just write whatever flies off the top of your head – or better yet, just repeat what lobbyists or other bobbleheads say!

If you're thinking "That sounds like a great deal, where do I sign?" the answer is right the fuck here. I don't know if you know this about us Polacks, but we are codebreakers. We broke Enigma before the British took credit for it. And now after millions of man-hours of labor I have cracked the McArdle code. It's a formula. And once you master it, you too will be a Famous Very Serious Libertarian Expert!! Ready your note-taking pens and thank me later. A McColumn is broken into three simple parts – an introduction, the presentation of "facts," and the moral of the story. Since you are a beginner I will start you out with plenty of examples to choose from in the McColumn Template.

THE INTRO: "The other day I was talking with (one of my friends / a cabdriver / a stranger at the airport / the Yeti) about (insert current event or issue – just use whatever all the other columnists are talking about!) and I'm (confused / angry) by the reaction from (the liberal media / other people who aren't as smart as me). Since when did (insert Straw Man unrelated to the chosen issue – something like "Our 1st Amendment rights" – or an finance topic you don't fully understand but is in bold on the Cato Institute website) become such a radical idea?"

THE FACTS: "(insert economic concept here) is (insert incorrect definition). For example, (insert hypothetical like 'Suppose X makes $Y and is taxed at a 10% rate' rather than looking up the actual facts and figures relevant to the subject). If we (insert hated liberal proposal here), then (insert outcome that in no way is a logical or necessary consequent of said proposal). What sense does that make? Why not (Cato talking point) instead? According to (insert for-profit "think tank" / industry trade association / lobbyist group / Glenn Reynolds), if we (what our corporate betters want us to do) instead then (the entire economy will be fixed overnight / the world will be a better place / the skies will rain gold doubloons / your farts will smell like warm vanilla potpourri). (Insert incorrectly cited, erroneous, fabricated, misinterpreted, or misleading statistics and half-truths). So (innocently ask why we as a nation – nay, as a species – cannot pursue this clearly superior course of action)?"

THE MORAL: "(Expression of frustration that people just. don't. get it.). I mean, (recognition of the reader's skepticism of industry-supplied talking points as economic wisdom – you know, show your target demographic that you're hip, young, and jaded too!). I get that, but (recognition that the reader has been brainwashed to believe that conservative – er, "libertarian" – solutions are uncool). Nothing could be further from the truth! Of course, it will never happen because (Obama is a socialist dictator / more liberal brainwashing / repeat talking points one last time for the fanboys with minimal reading comprehension skills). (Pithy, sarcastic, high school newspaper editorial-caliber "closer" to remind readers one final time that you're way different than the rest of the financial talking heads out there. Different, and therefore more trustworthy, because you're a jaded skeptic too!)."

It's just that simple! Keep in mind that the point is to regurgitate the talking points in a package that Hip Young Folks will find appealing. Readers are used to seeing "suits" and stodgy old corporate types shilling this kind of message. But when they hear them from a totally Independent, non-partisan Expert and Journalist it will have a lot more credibility. And that's what this is all about: credibility. You're selling credibility. If you think it's impossible to shill and be credible at the same time, maybe this line of work isn't for you.

POST SCRIPT: Per one of my astute commenters, a Real McColumn must also include the author following up in the comment section when readers start pointing out your butchery or total disregard of the facts. Keep it simple here! You don't want to start taxing those neurons trying to "support your argument" with "facts." Remember, credibility is all about how pretty you look, how confident you sound, and how many big words you use! So choose one of the following: "You're misunderstanding my argument / Read (insert link to lobbyist press release or CBO report that you badly distorted) / Just because I got the facts wrong doesn't mean I'm not right / You're banned."