Pundit Payola: The commodification of opinion.

Policy made plain.
Dec. 23 2005 6:25 AM

Pundit Payola

Money talks. It writes, too.

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Liberals, meanwhile, don't seem to trust the power of their own ideas to win without cheating any more than conservatives do. In Los Angeles, liberals have organized an infantile protest over changes in the L.A. Times' op-ed page, urging subscribers to renew for just three months and await further instructions about whether the paper has used that time satisfactorily to expunge itself of deviationism.

As it happens, I was bounced a few months ago from the job of running the L.A. Times opinion pages. So, I am enjoying the fuss from afar. But it's still ridiculous. The premise is that op-ed columns and other opinion pieces are not exercises in persuasion but simple counters: If you have more of them, you win. There is no room for the notion that reading something you disagree with might change your mind, or simply be more enjoyable than repeated ratifying of what you already believe.

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So, opinions are merely counters, and those counters are for sale. That's what I mean by the commodification of opinion. Or that is what I would mean if I were ever to use such a pretentious term.

Michael Kinsley is a columnist for the Washington Post and the founding editor of Slate.