It's difficult to pinpoint where and when the term 'think piece' turned into such a wonderfully cutting jibe. It's quite possible that the opening up of the media market to anyone with the means of beginning a website (he says as he types away on t'internet) heralded the spawn of the opinion article.
No longer was opinion a realm for highly paid columnists or the handful of the great unwashed who saw their letters to the editor printed in all their glory. With digital it soon became clear that if you stick a reactionary headline on it, people will read it.
Thus, the 'think piece', in a pejorative sense, was born. However, just because anyone can write one of these divisive articles, doesn't mean just anyone can do it in a manner that will draw maximum reaction from readers. There's a talent to that, a talent which it would be fair to say Neil Francis has in spades.
The former Irish rugby international has often courted controversy and he has managed to so again this weekend with his Sunday Independent column, 'My fond memories when Bruce Jenner was the greatest athlete in the world'.
Insufferably personal think pieces are bad enough in themselves but when it is offensive as well as self-indulgent, you have to wonder how it makes it through to print. Francis meanders somewhat aimlessly from the 1976 Montreal Olympics through some half baked ideas about doping and finally comes to the crux of the matter.
Francis is old-school sure don't you know and if he wants to say that Caitlyn Jenner's decision to transition to her female self somehow affects his memories of a sporting childhood then he bloody well can.
For 12 year old Francis, the decathlon winning Jenner was a man to look up to. 'He was masculine, virile, aggressive and highly competitive, something at odds with 'his current corporeal self'.
That is plainly an incorrect way to refer to a trans woman and regardless of Francis' personal viewpoint it shouldn't make its way to national media but there was even more to come.
It is faintly ridiculous to note that Wikipedia have stated on Jenner’s page that Caitlyn Jenner won the men’s Olympic decathlon championship!
Conversely Heidi Krieger, one of those 1970/80s East German athletes, took so much testosterone she is now Andreas Krieger and I would surmise that quite a few of her colleagues have gone the same way — those that didn’t die prematurely.
Leaving Jenner aside, the assumption that Andreas Krieger, who experienced gender disphoria before well publicised doping, only transitioned as a by product of said doping, is grossly offensive and needs to be addressed.
Unsurprisingly, Francis' think piece has not been well received.
Hope there's serious meeting in Sindo Tuesday about whole point of Neil Francis' piece being platform for transphobia. Again. @PaulKimmage
— Ewan MacKenna (@EwanMacKenna) August 23, 2015
— David Lynn (@DavidTenorLynn) August 23, 2015
@RichieMcCormack @newschambers Ew, that's so gross. The wikipedia reference particularly. Total ignorance of trans issues clearly.
— Louise McSharry (@louisemcsharry) August 23, 2015
That criticism is well deserved but you have to assume that Francis' musings were little more than trolling in the first place.