a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
I grieve for the opinion. The Death of the Opinion as an institution should be more publicize than it has been. I’ve been clamoring about it for quite some time now. Have we become so desperate to be right and to prove a point that we have lost sight of a word’s very meaning? I tire endlessly of people using “it is just my opinion” as an excuse to end an argument or justify a terrible action. The opinion is not an excuse for bigotry, hate speech, or discrimination of any kind. The opinion is not an excuse for ignorance.
With the age of the internet and the peak of social media comes a certain belief that we all possess expert knowledge concerning everything. We are starting to believe that every subject demands our point of view to be explained on various social media outlets. I realize I run the risk of sounding hypocritical as I type on my blog but it is a risk I’m willing to take. For this is an epidemic. This is especially true in America where using freedom of speech as an excuse to run your mouth went out with the trash long before the internet was born. Despite what some uneducated Americans may think, we didn’t invent Freedom of Speech.
I may sound like I am a proponent of McCarthyism, as if maybe when I’m finished writing this I’ll pack up and go hunt down some communists. This is far from the truth. I’d be willing to bet that the Death of the Opinion as an institution irritates me to no end because I partially put it here. As a young adult in the social media era I take partial credit for its hand in all of this. But it is time to see the error of our ways. It is time to move past the Facebook arguments about whatever socio-economical, domestic, or civil moment the news is shoving down our throats. We are feeding the machine, we are sacrificing ourselves right into its unkempt teeth.
We must allow ourselves to seek the rarity of the fight. Instead of spreading unsolicited opinions and wasting energy on the flavor of the week why not save yourself for something that matters deeply? We are not forced to pick a side or to feed the rage machine. An essay in n+1, number eighteen summed it up best, “We assert our right to not care about stuff, to not say anything, to opt out of debate over things that are silly and also things that are serious — because why pretend to have a strong opinion when we do not? Why are we being asked to participate in some imaginary game of Risk where we have to take a side?” We should tire of hearing ourselves speak for a change. Humility is a principal we need to instill in one another.
Robert F. Kennedy believed that “it is not enough to allow dissent. We must demand it. For there is much to dissent from.” I never want to make anyone feel as though they should not fight for what they believe in. My only wish is that we could realize the importance of a dedication to one or two issues. The RFK book that I read this quote in also had an entry he wrote where he quoted Plato as saying “A life without criticism is not worth living.” Next to the quote in pencil I had scribbled “He obviously didn’t have to deal with social media.” This is the summation of what internet has done to my belief in our fight for right and wrong.
The internet is a miraculous thing, honestly. When you sit back and think of all it does and all it can do it is truly astonishing. But what is disheartening is the way in which the general population wastes it. If we are all dead set on providing our opinions on each subject under the sun then perhaps we could take a moment or two to research the facts. We have more information at our fingertips than any generation in the history mankind yet there is a serious lack of education here.
This is also due to the fact that the internet is a mostly unedited aggregate of information. It is easy for people to promote falsehoods but this is not unique to the internet alone, it is a craze of the media. Could this be a majorly unaddressed issue? It is so easy for people to lie without much punishment and to advance their fact-less information. Perhaps we need a database for people who spread falsehoods in the media and make people be held responsible for the stupidity they foster within their audience. There once was a certain code of trust you enter in with the media, at least on the civilian side, that is violated daily now. We trust them to provide us with the truth. A trustworthy bond with your newsperson is rare, unlike the heyday of CBS News in the 60s and 70s, there is no Walter Cronkite to be found. USA Today wrote that “few TV figures have ever had as much power as Cronkite did at his height.” With the readily accessible state that we receive news and information now we will never see this again. But the Death of Journalism is a post for another day.
I once told a friend of mine that I should wear a shirt that reads: I HATE THE INTERNET. We had been going back and forth in a jumbled discussion for two hours as we often do when he comes home to visit. We touch on various subjects, the majority being politics. One that we both agreed on is that the disenfranchised undercurrent that our generation has with politics is largely due to the fact that most are uneducated on the subject. This becomes blatantly obvious during election years. But it runs deeper than only politics.
Many of the themes I’ve written here I complained to him about, but what I always came back to was that simple phrase. I hate the internet. I feel somewhat guilty about this because I don’t hate the internet, it is a misguided statement born from frustration. I’m disappointed in the internet, like I’m its parent. I expect so much more and better from the internet because it is a magic tool. We must utilize it to become the best we can be, to know as much as we possibly can know, and to cram our minds with the aggregate.
We may not all become experts but we can make an effort to cite expert knowledge. Maybe then, and only then, can the opinion experience a rebirth.
“Truth is not an imperative, but something that must be discovered. Unlike liquid opinion, truth does not always circulate. It is that which you experience, deeply, and cannot forget. The right to not care is the right to sit still, to not talk, to be subject to unclarity and allow knowledge to come unbidden to you.”
[To read more from the n+1 essay: The Intellectual Situation – Against the Rage Machine, click here.]