Opinions as Facts – Some Thoughts
The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
So here’s the thing …
You open your e-mail client and browse the subject headings only to find dozens of emails which promote someone, or somebodies opinion about the ‘best dietary supplement’; the ‘latest cancer-beating vegetable’ or some other rogue information you did not ask for.
The ‘did not ask for’ being the operative phrase here…
Surely there’s a big difference between being sent a ‘link‘ to explore ‘the latest miracle’ with a comment ‘this might interest you’ and being sent paragraphs of hyperbole and unquestioned propaganda directly. The former gives a choice, and to be quite honest is more likely inspire interest – the latter is, quite frankly, invasive.
The former gives a choice, and to be quite honest is more likely inspire interest – the latter is, quite frankly, invasive.
We are living in an information rich age, and as such we require to develop a skill set which allows us to access and assess information. More relevantly, perhaps, is the challenge presented by the reality that changes in knowledge, technology and sciences appear to be increasing exponentially.
Scientists and those working in research accept that any finding is ‘tentative’ and ‘facts’ are in many ways illusory. It is often the media and those reporting on research who seek to create something concrete and permanent from what are transitory hypotheses or findings.
The problem is that we often form our personal opinions based upon the ideas were read and the world view we are willing to accept (or promote). Once opinions are formed they are not as easy to shift as the ideas upon which they are based.
This is an evolutionary thing. Our brains are designed to make quick assessments based on past experiences, and it is these experiences which shape our beliefs.
Our opinions are based on our emotions, thoughts and state of mind. In a very real sense how you perceive the outer world is a directly related to what is stored in your inner one.
“If you are paranoid, if you are insecure, you will feel edgy with the whole world, your mind will make you think as if everyone has some hidden agenda, as if everyone is out there to get you. Your conditioning directly affects the quality and nature of your opinion. People have opinions about things they do not know, about other people they have not met, about religions they do not practice, about almost everything in life. It is normal; does not mean there is no better way though.” Om Swami
This is the basis of one of my favourite quotes … “most people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices”.
So back to my email ‘inbox’ …
I am happy to be ‘invited’ to explore an idea, opinion or piece of information – even if it contradicts what I think I know (in fact I welcome that) … send me the link with the ‘this is interesting’ hook
BUT I am not so happy to have opinions pushed under my nose, un-invited and un-requested…
If I am invited to look at something, and then question its provenance, authenticity and claims of ‘fact and proof’, then that is my right (and would contend the most honest way to respond). I would assume that any invitation to consider a set of ideas carries with it an invitation to comment upon what has been read. It has become clear to me, over the last few years, that those who share their polemic are not very welcome to it being questioned. Often there is the choice to see such ‘feedback a ‘personal slight’ rather than a reflective comment.
To misquote Samuel Johnson who made this comment about patriotism, it is the case that personal opinion (or intuition) can be the last refuge of the scoundrel.
We have a personal responsibility for what we share and how we share it.
You have read thus far by choice. True that choice may have a range of motivations, but the link was shared as the invitation to read, reflect and comment back. (That’s what a blog is after all).
If I were to simply copy the content of this blog and email you directly, then there is no invitation, but the misuse of my access to your personal, trusted spaces.
We have a personal responsibility for what we share, the emphasis we give to our opinions.
Expertise and Authority is an interesting, shifting commodity. Some of the health based information which is emailed directly (without request or sent as a ‘this is an interesting link’ link) must be related to internet searches, assumptions based on my demographic by marketers, or colleagues who seem to know what is good for me. Since I am generally well grounded I can choose to look or not; to research or not … BUT if that same information were to be sent when I was feeling vulnerable then I may not ‘consider’ I may simply ‘accept’ because of the apparent credentials of those who sent it.
BUT if that same information were to be sent when I was feeling vulnerable then I may not ‘consider’ I may simply ‘accept’ because of the apparent credentials of those who sent it.
Of course, I have responsibility for how I react to what I see, hear or read but I also feel that the purveyors of opinion also have a responsibility as to how they share what they share. This makes the difference between propaganda and information; rhetoric and research.
Offering unsolcited opinion without thought or empathy is, I could suggest, egotism in action.
Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. – Steve Jobs
Interesting Links you might like to view