Surely you’ve met them.
They’re the “entitled to my opinion” folks.
If you engage in political dialogue long enough, you will undoubtedly experience them in all their ignorant glory.
These are the people who “do their own research,” despite having no training in research methods or how to evaluate the things one finds after engaging the Google machine.
These are the people who think random insights offered on a Reddit thread or Nextdoor Neighbor or Facebook amount to evidence of something.
But above all, they are the people who believe their opinions about everything from vaccinations to taxes to election fraud to climate change are just as valid as anyone else’s.
Even if those “anyone elses” happen to have studied those subjects in-depth for years.
Even if those others were trained to analyze them.
Indeed, the “entitled to my opinion” folks often think their opinions are more valid than the opinions of experts precisely because they aren’t experts.
After all, experts are suspect.
And we all know, elites can’t be trusted.
It’s the wisdom of ordinary folks, like your Aunt Judy, which we should be turning to in times of crisis.
If virtually the entire medical and epidemiological establishment says x about COVID, then the truth must be y.
Because the establishment is corrupt.
Aunt Judy, on the other hand, is imbued with common sense. And after all, you actually know her. And can trust her. Aunt Judy wouldn’t steer you wrong.
No, Aunt Judy never published anything in a peer-reviewed journal.
But what really matters is that she never got a dime from Big Pharma, amirite?
. . .
When backed into a corner by actual evidence, studies, data, or cold, hard facts, these are the folks who retreat to their ultimate fallback position.
It’s their trump card. No pun intended.
“Well,” they insist. “You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine.”
In other words, we’ll have to agree to disagree.
But see, that’s not how things work.
Not among rational people, at least.
Oh sure, we’re all entitled to our own opinions. I have opinions about all kinds of things. And I have every right to them.
But if I find myself in an argument with an oncologist about how best to treat cancer, all because I looked some shit up online last week, that oncologist is entitled to inform me that I’m a fucking idiot who should stay in my lane.
So too, if I second guess the HVAC guy about how to repair the compressor on my AC unit.
Being entitled to an opinion is not the same as being entitled to the respect of others for having shared it.
Having the right to believe or say whatever piffle you find persuasive does not mean that others must take you seriously or entertain said piffle as if it were equal to the opinions of people with credentials on whatever subject you decided to weigh in on that day.
People have a right to say and think all manner of nonsense.
And the rest of us — the ones who are smart enough to know what we don’t know and then find the folks who do — have the right to laugh at them.
To ridicule them.
Indeed we have more than a right to do that.
We have an obligation — a positive duty — to ridicule them. To isolate them. To make sure everyone knows how absurd they are.
Only by utterly eviscerating their every utterance and making them the laughing stocks of our families and communities can we hope to gain herd immunity against their bullshit.
The “entitled to my opinion” people cannot be taken seriously on anything.
They cannot be part of adult conversations.
They cannot be indulged as mere eccentrics who are otherwise decent and harmless.
Because they aren’t harmless.
Their ignorance is dangerous precisely because it has been weaponized.
It’s one thing not to know stuff. Or to occasionally say things that turn out not to be true. We all have blind spots and sometimes say stupid things that we later discover were wrong.
That’s not who the “entitled to my opinion” people are.
They are people who think their opinions deserve serious consideration, even against those who are far more informed than them.
And when it comes to public health or the maintenance of democracy, that kind of lunacy can kill — either people or a nation.
Sadly, the information era in which we currently reside, which allows people to access information like never before, has opened up a Pandora’s box of inaccurate claims, junk science, and ignorance masquerading as facts.
And sadly, our educational system has not prepared us to sift through it and separate the wheat from the chaff.
Our brains and critical thinking skills evolve much more slowly than the technologies on which we depend for information.
And so we are burdened with people who no longer see the need for expertise because they think themselves capable of finding medical truth in fifteen minutes just as readily as a doctor who went to school for that purpose and trained for years.
Training is for suckers.
We’re our own experts now.
. . .
This is why populism, for all its folksy appeal — it’s nice to believe in the wisdom of common folks — is dangerous.
Sure, people might be decent and kind and capable of learning most anything.
But that doesn’t mean they presently know all the things they could know were they to take the time to learn them.
I could understand physics and calculus if I studied them, but I didn’t, so my common-person insights into either would be useless. Feel free to ignore me if I start trying to explain either.
Populism too often presumes that experts are by definition to be mistrusted. It considers them to be elites who have some devious purpose for their actions simply because they are in positions of influence (and how does one get such a position except by devious and evil means, after all?).
Populism is conspiratorial almost by default, and its elevation to a level of modern respect is a threat to the very democracy it claims to promote.
Ironically, democracy — which rests upon the notion of popular engagement and belief in the wisdom of everyday folks when given the information needed to govern themselves — still requires that the information provided be accurate.
It still requires a degree of vetting and expertise.
Otherwise, the people are simply sifting through the noise, hoping to find the signal amid the cacophony.
And sadly, we aren’t likely to find it.
Unless we marginalize the “entitled to my opinion” crowd, the future of the country and the culture are bleak.
In the long run, short of branding their foreheads and banishing them to a desert island, we’ll need to inoculate ourselves from their bullshit.
And inoculate upcoming generations of adults from falling into the trap of believing nonsense which they then feel entitled to spread.
This means teaching comprehensive media literacy and research skills to kids beginning in the earliest possible grades.
No, this doesn’t mean indoctrinating them into any particular worldview.
It means exposing them to perspectives from an array of thinkers, and teaching them how to assess the claims of all critically.
It won’t be a fast process, and the job of obtaining bullshit immunity will never be complete.
But there is no time to waste on getting started. The future of the country is quite literally at stake.
This post was previously published on An Injustice!
You Might Also Like These From The Good Men Project
|You Said ‘Race’, but Are You Actually Talking About Race?||Understanding the Nonbinary: Are You Confusing Gender With Sex?||The Difference Between Compassion for Those With Disabilities & Ableism?||‘Masculinity’ Is Having an Identity Crisis|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock