Friday, July 24, 2015

This is just my opinion,

 Came across a great rant, of sorts in the Houston Press about the habit of many of the hair-trigger opinion mongers in the world to dash behind the phrase "this is just my opinion" as way of giving themselves permission to suck the air the air from whatever proximity they happen to be in and replace it with misrepresentations, unsubstantiated blather, corrosive gossip, dubious science , historical inaccuracy and the like. More than a rant , to be sure, as author Jef Rouner measures his obvious distate with  examples of the evasive practice is made, and demonstrates the fallacies in the reasoning ,  or exposes the lack there of. 

"This is just my opinion" is a cop out in truth, an addendum to a comment that is meant to inoculate both remark and remarker against a closer inspection of their views. It is a lazy swerve into a convenient and know-nothing relativism that maintains that opinions that put forth dubious criteria as immutable fact are , it seems to them, all the same. I get especially irritated by conversations where I have knowledge of and strong views about the subject--literature, poetry, politics, films, --where the person I'm disagreeing with responds with "that's just your opinion". 

It's a go-to strategy that works as an attempt to both diminish my view point to the babbling chorus that have already opined on whatever the subject might be, and to get the opponent off the hook and relinquish from offering a cogent response. I don't know why this is, but the person who opts out of conversation with "just your./just my opinion" segues are, in my experience, the ones who raised the subject and pressed me for an opinion. In essence, it's a irrational swerve for someone who first approaches a topic with a head full of factoids (Norman Mailer's original definition of factoid, those things that are false that are not sufficiently vetted and which get repeated so often that everyone, including responsible news media, take them as true , at face value) with it mind to set you set you straight and then retreat into the marsh of uncertainty when presented with a srong counter proposal. 

Not all opinions are equal. Some are more interesting than others, some are better stated, some are better supported. Mailer himself was wrong and offensive on a host of issues, and he was spot on and righteous on others. He was, though, never dull in his what he said, and even in pursing a line of thought that was contrary to conventional wisdom, he provoked a conversation, a debate among the readership that , I think, made people smarter for remaining intrigued by the details both sides presented, wanting more than snarky summaries or pathetic sarcasm . That seems to be a quality we are being robbed of; the internet, of course, has made it possible for millions to have heard of a great many things, from authors, obsure wars, theories of economics and the like, and to know exactly nothing about them in any socially or creatively useful way. That is a shame.