Recently, The New York Observer ran an amusing feature about how to write your own Thomas Friedman column, poking fun at the New York Times columnist's penchant for predictability. Well, when it comes to formulaic opinion writing, Friedman has nothing on The Tennessean's Tim Chavez. His uniform approach to each column, along with his peculiar and just plain annoying habits, make it easy for anyone to write their very own Tim Chavez column:
Pick a column subject, typically one that's been written about hundreds of times before:
♦ The Death Penalty
♦ Illegal Immigration
♦ The War in Iraq
♦ The Tennessee General Assembly
♦ The Value of Diversity
Choose your political stance:
Select an everyday person whose perspectives are intended to shed light on the column's main thesis. For example:
♦ Carlos, a Mexican gardener, who earns $5.50 an hour mowing lawns, says, while wiping the sweat from his brow, that America "is the greatest country in the world."
♦ Tiffany Randall, a Hendersonville hairstylist by day and beauty product saleswoman by night, says that what little disposable income she makes "goes to the damn government." She adds, "if only the General Assembly could borrow my shears and trim the fat off TennCare!"
♦ Mary Smithson, an 85-year-old devout Catholic, says the best-selling thriller The Da Vinci Code is a "vicious and personal assault on her faith." She wonders why Catholics are the most discriminated against believers in America. "For anybody to say that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, well, that would be like me saying the Holocaust never happened."
♦ Ali Tosistani, an Iraqi mechanic living in Donelson, says that the prisoners at Abu Ghraib had it coming. "I applaud Donald Rumsfeld for making it possible for these abuses to occur," he says, while toiling underneath my silver and black 1989 Honda Civic. "This is, after all, a war for freedom."
Choose the following incoherent and somewhat angry generalization about the media:
♦ I can't help but notice how the elite media ain't one of us.
♦ Don't believe The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the BBC, NPR, The L.A. Times, The Tennessean and the U.S. military. The war in Iraq is going great.
♦ Holy Passion of the Christ! The media cares more about Britney Spears' breasts than our Lord Savior. But I don't need ABC News to tell me whom to worship.
OK, time to be conciliatory. Choose the following uncontroversial opinion that all your readers will agree with:
♦ It's important we support our troops.
♦ It's not right to discriminate. People are different. Deal with it.
♦ Whether you plan to vote for John Kerry or George W. Bush, it's vital that we vote. All of us.
♦ You don't have to be a Washington bureau chief for The New York Times to realize that both Republicans and Democrats like to spend your tax dollars.
Pick the following trite column ending, typically characterized by a stream of short, irritating sentences and phrases:
♦ We are a nation of many different faiths. Muslin and Jew, Hindu and Baptist. We all worship a God and all bow our heads to Him at night. We have many differences, but one very important thing in common. It's called faith.
♦ The government likes to spend your money. It doesn't like accountability. It doesn't like to hear from you, the average voter. That's too bad. They need to listen. Now.
♦ The war in Iraq is not just a war for freedom. It is a war for...ideals. Diversity is a splendid thing, with many, many different sides. No one said it was easy, this working together. Black and white and people in between. We...are all we have.
E-Mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.