I have no quote to start today’s post. I thought about quoting someone I was having a Twitter conversation with, but I eventually decided that would be disrespectful. Essentially, the discussion centered on the idea of opinions and respecting everyone’s opinions. It’s a difficult topic and one that has a number of layers.
It also brings to mind topics like “cancel culture”, censorship, and what I like to call proportionality. Those topics weren’t discussed expressly, but they are always in the background. I’ve discussed all of them before, but they all came to a head here.
Essentially it boils down to this: not all opinions have equal value. It sounds harsh, but it is true. The problem is that those with discounted opinions are dedicated to the notion that their opinion should be worth as much if not more than someone else’s. When one sees their opinion discounted they immediately cry censorship or cancel culture.
How do we determine which opinions carry weight and which ones don’t? There are few factors that determine this. The first factor comes from the weight of the source. Is it coming from an expert or just some average Joe? This is one area where we have really seen a decline in our judgment. A number of people seem to want to look at a Youtube video from some yahoo as equally valid as that from a subject expert. Nope.
That dovetails into the second point. There are opinions and there are facts. Opinions must be based on some level of agreed upon facts. You cannot take something that is objectively proven false and call it an opinion. You cannot objectively say it is your opinion that the Earth is flat. At least you can’t do it and object when everyone laughs or discounts your “opinion.”
The third consideration involves whether your opinion is morally, ethically, or socially repugnant. This is usually where “cancel culture” comes into play. It is also where the whole idea of respecting everyone’s opinion comes up. I should always give everyone respect. I should not respect everyone’s opinion. Those two statements sound the same and look the same, but they are not the same.
The past decade or so have seen an explosion in offensive content. Some of that is due to the explosion in social media. Some of that is due to the backlash against political correctness. Some of that is due to the last president making it okay for people to air those views because of his own speech. Believe it or not, that is not necessarily all bad.
Political correctness has its place, but one of the pitfalls with political correctness is that it kept these opinions hidden. That’s not a good thing either. We need to allow these opinions to come out in the open. We just shouldn’t give them any value. The people that hold them may have value in our lives. They may be family or friends. They could be coworkers or people that we went to school with. They could be neighbors or people we share a pew with at church. There has to be a balance between acknowledging their value as people without acknowledging that their opinion has value.
That’s how this thing eventually changes. When you cancel someone, socially shun them, or unequivocally let them know their opinion is repugnant then they have the opportunity to see the impact it has. They also have the opportunity to grow and change. In our most honest moments we would all admit we have been there. We might not have uttered any cringeworthy words or phrases out loud, but we have thought at least some of them and hopefully grown from it. We won’t get there insisting that every opinion has equal value. They just don’t.