This chapter is about how interviewees go about using absurdity in their expressions of their own views and their descriptions of others'. Expressing one's own views absurdly gets them registered, yet protected against the potential accusation that one “really meant it.” It is a way of doing what the discursive psychologists Edwards and Potter call “attending to stake and interest” (Edwards and Potter 1992). Absurdity can also feature in descriptions of others' views. That is a riskier proposition, but it can be done if you cloak it in a certain kind of concessionary form (the “show concession,)” Antaki and Wetherell 1999). If you do, the absurdity damages the opposition's case while seeming fairmindedly to yield something to it.
Views and attitudes
Why approach these data with an interest in looking into speakers' expressed views at all, let alone “absurd” ones, and why look into them, as I shall be doing, by close examination of exactly how those views are delivered in talk?
The first question is easy. For one thing, it is hard to read the interviews, or listen to them, and not get a feeling that at least one thing the speakers are doing, at least sometimes, is expressing what we would say in shorthand are “deeply held” or “powerful” opinions; just the sort of thing that Michael Billig's pioneering work on arguing (1989, 1991) encouraged us to linger over as “strong views.”