Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Should Everyone Automatically be Entitled to an Opinion?

My husband and I can often be heard having a heated debate about whether or not a person should be "entitled to their opinion". I maintain that if the person is fundamentally wrong, i.e if their opinion is that of a bigot/misogynist/racist etc then perhaps they've lost that right, or at least the right to shout it from the rooftops and be listened to. My husband, on the other hand, is ironically, slightly more tolerant than I am and thinks that no matter how abhorrent your views, they still belong to you and as such you have the right to express them. I do agree with the idea of free speech, I understand its importance and the dangers censorship presents, I just don't know if we should as a society, tolerate such damaging opinions to the extent that we do. But then there is the question of who decides what is or is not a "damaging opinion?". It's all a bit murky really.

Pretty much my exact feelings for RTE right about now.

George Orwell maintained that "if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear" and that actually does make a lot of sense to me but while I understand what both Orwell and my husband are saying and I agree on principle, I do wonder how helpful it is to us as a society to entertain certain views. If someone is basically just a homophobe, hates women or anyone of a different skin colour to them, then how important is their opinion to any discussion really? 
For instance, our national broadcaster, RTE, has repeatedly seen fit to pit obstetric medical consultants against random members of certain right wing, Irish-Catholic organisations who posses neither medical nor legal expertise and expect a balanced debate on abortion. Fuelled, not by facts or evidence, they instead use hatred, closed-mindedness and a staggering amount of self-importance to see them through, regardless of how little they actually know of the topic at hand. This is where I struggle a little bit however, because I think it's a huge credit to those of us of a more liberal leaning when certain elements of Irish society appear on TV or in print like this and make ludicrous statements about marriage equality or abortion that in the end really only make them look foolish and serve to weaken their entire argument. As the great Oscar Wilde once said "I may not agree with you but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself." 

So yes, everyone should be entitled to their own opinion. I will however remain on the fence as to whether or not everyone deserves to be continuously given such public platforms to express said opinions. 
What do you think? Come on, it's only Tuesday, we all need a good rant! Let me know in the comments. 


  1. I used to struggle with this when I was younger, I couldn’t understand that if somebody was wrong, then why would they argue their opinion more? You are wrong. Period. But I suppose there are a couple of things wrong with that, things are subject to change. People’s truth/reality/opinion are not immutable because society isn’t immutable either. People will always hear what they don’t wanna hear in all walks of life because everyone’s reality and own opinion is different. And I guess we all have our own opinions and truths because they are the things that help us survive and live in ‘this reality’. It’s clear that our version of truth and reality are totally embedded in society (and indeed the evolution of that society) And I guess that’s why I understand both sides of the coin, someone arguing for or against something. All lot of society and people don’t wanna change because it challenges their organised reality, it means they would have to change their perceptions in order to fit into a new society. Those arguing for something want some form of society to change, so that their reality and truth can fit in. ( e.g. case of abortion rights)

    I suppose that’s why we argue and there are heated debates about all sorts. The issue arises when one expressing one own’s opinion may be seen to change the state of society.

    But then there is the case of RTE. And that’s a whole other essay on how to ‘NOT’ have a balanced debate. Anyway I’m not entirely sure if my response made any sense, I was kind of going on a rant in my head there and it just spewed out, but I think a lot of these ideas stem from social constructionism (I think?Must look at old sociology notes!)

    Apologies to anyone reading this comment!

  2. It's a tough one, everyone should be entitled to their opinion although some opinions are frankly so out there and offensive it can make me really angry! The baby just kicked as I'm writing this, think he agrees with me!

  3. Here's how I see it. Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, that is an EDUCATED opinion. I'm not saying you have to be an expert or anything but you should do some research and try to keep up with news topics on stuff.

    And some people are just plain wrong in their opinion. If their point of view some how affects someone's basic human rights or doesn't equate to equality for all, then it's wrong. And I believe that it should also include choice, in that people have the choice to do what pleases them within the legal boundaries. Like when it comes to say abortion, people may say that they don't agree with it, as long as they respect that women have the right to decide whether it's right or wrong for you. You don't like abortion? Fine, don't get one. But don't try and stop someone who does want to have one, for whatever reason, from having one. Think that wearing skimpy clothes and drinking on a night out is what gets a woman raped? Well, you're wrong, as women should have the right to wear what they want and be safe, just like rapists have the choice not to rape.

    And I think that if you want to have an opinion on something, not only do you need to be educated, but you need to have an open mind to listen to someone else's argument on an issue. Because you never know, you might learn something new and change your mind. As you grow and learn new things, you change your mind and views. And if you do have a educated discussion with someone and you still have the same opinion, I think simply agreeing to disagree is the best in that situation. And I even think you should do this if someone is spouting uneducated arguments. Try to explain your point of view, but if they wouldn't except it, then leave it. Because it's not worth it. Chances are if they have a closed mind or uneducated view, then they are not going to change their mind, no matter how much you tell them they are wrong. Sometimes it's just easier to move on, as arguing with ignorant people is just like hitting your head against a brick wall at times! It's probably more productive to hit your head against a brick wall actually! As the saying goes, don't argue with a fool, as they'll just drag you down to their level and beat you from experience!

    That's my opinion anyway and if you don't like it, well you can shove it! :P (Just kidding of course)

  4. I think opinion is quite personal to yourself. As long as you aren't forcing me to agree with your opinion and not trying to make your opinion have an effect on my personal life, than you can have an opinion. But of course, this only pertains to things that are mundane most of time.

    If you head into more controversial issues, that is where an opinion can't be just an opinion. Big issues such as race, abortion, education, etc. These areas all have tons of research and even solid facts! This is when you opinion must be educated and you have to back up your opinion with something credible. Shouting from tops of roofs your opinion that is proven false by facts is stupidity. I feel like we as a society are experiencing lots of stupidity right now via media coverage of things like the RTE situation. It's like putting your head in the sand and ignoring the danger that is right next to you. Facts, especially solidly proven facts are not easy to brush aside, yet you have all these people doing it and think it's fine. No, it's not. So I feel these people do not deserve their right to opinion if they don't credibly address the facts that run counter to their opinion. Currently, the facts are just blatantly ignored as if they don't exist.

    Then you have the opinions of things that are mundane but there are actual solid facts you have to take into account. For example, I had a strange conversation about my tetanus shot where the other person had all these things to say about it but it was clear they were not knowledgeable at all about what the tetanus does. What do I do? I go get my handout with all the facts about tetanus shot I got from my doctor to talk about it. I wasn't going to give my opinion without at least referencing facts I had on hand. Oh, and lets not get started on the how to car for you car opinions because you're a girl...The darn manual says to use regular gasoline, not the premium because the car isn't made to burn premium gasoline! But people still insist, premium gas is better for you car. Why do people insist on arguing against the manual?

    So there's my rant on it.

  5. That's a toughy. I think the term "opinion" is used to loosely. Is that awful? I mean an opinion technically can't be wrong- I think Aeros are the worst chocolate bars, that's my opinion, yours might be different. It's my taste, my perception of something that doesn't have an impact on anyone's life. If someone's opinion is that the colour of another's skin makes them inferior it would baffle me if someone said they were right. I once had a debate with someone who's opinion was that there was no such thing as the dinosaurs... I mean that is WRONG. it's incomprehensible!

  6. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when voicing that opinion causes others harm they should be controlled. Otherwise we'll shortly be living the "American Dream" (or rather nightmare). Look at the damage anti-vaccine campaigners have done over there. We should just take the safety labels off everything and let the problem sort itself out! x

  7. Yeah I agree, everyone's entitled to an opinion but some people don't deserve to have it acknowledged. Everyone should have the right to form and voice their opinions, and in an ideal world that would work perfectly. However some people's voices are louder than others and force their opinions on others which isn't right either so... it's a tricky subject!!