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A contrarian is a person who takes up a contrary position, a person who seems to be "contrary for the sake of being contrary," especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be. It is similar to iconoclasm; attacking or openly rejecting cherished beliefs and institutions or established values and practices, but unlike the contrarian, the motive is not simply to be contrary or a tool to incite discussion. Contrarian styles of argument and disagreement have historically been associated with radicalism and dissent.
Contrarian tropes in journalism
Contrarian journalism is characterised by articles and books making counter-intuitive claims, or attacking what is said to be the conventional wisdom (a phrase attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith) on a given topic. A typical contrarian trope takes the form "everything you know about topic X is wrong".
Supporters and critics
Paul Krugman, an economist and columnist for The New York Times, has criticised "contrarianism without consequences" in relation to the debate over global warming and the controversy over the book Superfreakonomics, saying "The refusal of the Superfreakonomists to take responsibility for their failed attempt to be cleverly contrarian on climate change is a sad spectacle to watch ... having paraded their daring contrarianism, the freakonomists are trying to wiggle out of the consequences when it turns out that they were wrong."
Contrarianism in science
In science, the term "contrarian" is often applied to those who reject a general scientific consensus on some particular issue, as well as to scientists who pursue research strategies which are rejected by most researchers in the field. Contrarians are particularly prominent in cases where scientific evidence bears on political, social or cultural controversies such as disputes over policy responses to climate change, or creationism versus evolution.
Writers on scientific topics commonly described as "contrarian" include David Berlinski, a critic of mainstream views on evolution, and Richard Lindzen, a critic of the scientific consensus on climate change. Bjørn Lomborg, who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change, but argues against action to mitigate it, has been called "the poster boy of the contrarian trend".
A contrarian investing style is one that is based on identifying, and speculating against, movements in stock prices that reflect changes in the sentiments of the majority of investors.
- Safire, William (April 9, 1989). "Gun That Rumor Down". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Patterson, James T. (November 24, 2012). "Everything you know about the 1960s is wrong". Salon. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Lapidos, Juliet (October 22, 2009). "The Slate Pitch Twitter Meme". Slate. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Krugman, Paul (23 October 2009). "Contrarianism without consequences". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- "Copenhagen climate change conference 2009: climate contrarians". The Daily Telegraph. November 25, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2015.