Can we talk about ‘benefit of the doubt’ for a moment? Specifically the lack of it? And along with that – a damning absence of common sense; understanding; compassion?

I promised myself I wasn’t going to do this; but I’m unable to keep quiet a minute longer. And you know what? As ever, if you don’t want to hear it or if you disagree – you’re welcome to click away. But – just maybe – this post could be the catalyst for some polarised groups of people to consider moving away from the ‘furiously outraged’ towards the ‘respectfully opposed’. Doubtful, but…maybe.

I recently published two (unrelated) controversial posts. The first was purely my own opinion, but it sparked fierce indignation from many. The second was more than that: it was intended as a journalistic piece discussing damaging trends, with its basis in facts and research recently released by UNICEF and WHO (I was on the press call, so I accessed this information firsthand).

It was not intended to be judgemental of individuals.

Unfortunately the subject matter is immensely emotive – meaning this also sparked fierce indignation. (Plus, I hold my hands up to the fact I used a poorly judged title which I’ve since edited.)

What’s my point? Well, as far as the first post goes – absolutely fair enough: I put my provocative viewpoint out there and I got a bit of a backlash. I can’t pretend it was entirely unexpected – or that it wasn’t deliberately invited even. After all, page views are a blogger’s bread and butter.

The second post? I admit the reaction to that one was also not unexpected – but I was disappointed.

Silenced for Having an Uncomfortable Opinion

It seems that where there’s a taboo subject about which feelings run high – we’re gagged. Either that, or we’re opening ourselves up to plain nastiness in many cases. We’re not allowed to discuss topical issues which require sensible appraisal, for fear of causing offence.

Defensive society

While many will cite political correctness as a valid and legitimate reason for this, I’m calling it as I see it: it’s akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes.

For example, there are young white girls being groomed by predatory Asian gangs in Northern England. In this instance, we’re not allowed to overtly call a spade a spade – because it’s deemed racist. Even though it’s completely true. It’s nonsensical, no?

Harriet, of Toby and Roo fame, recently put herself out there to talk about the difficult subject of DNA engineering to prevent disabilities, which absolutely warrants discussion. And she was vilified. She received death threats, for God’s sake. Mark, of The Honest Father* wrote about smoking during pregnancy (brave), and I’m waiting for the pitchforks to come out. Already the feminism card has been played since he dared, as a man, to have an opinion. (For the record, this is very definitely a separate issue to abortion in my opinion, and I’m pro choice.)

*Mark has since moved on to pastures new, and The Honest Father appears to be no more.

Defensive Society

Likewise, I was slammed for discussing the subject I did, in the fashion I did – because it hurt feelings. And really, I wasn’t being disrespectful; I was merely making a point which is unpopular to half the nation, and made a lot of people very defensive.

I’ve since seen posts discussing the opposite view to mine, which is what news is all about: balance. In most cases I applaud and welcome other posts discussing those other views. But less so when one is suffused with research; evidence; and the good of the nation – while the other is steeped in hurt feelings.

I’ll hold my hands up to the fact that though I respect everybody’s right to hold an opposing view to mine, I obviously believe I’m right – otherwise I wouldn’t hold the view I do! That doesn’t mean I think a different perspective is wrong necessarily – I simply believe we hold opposing values. And that’s both allowed and okay!

What’s not okay is essentially trolling someone for having the balls to speak up when others won’t. Not cool.

Of course, we bloggers could choose to stick to ‘safe’ subjects; except the real value and power of blogging is in tackling the big stuff.

The Bias of Personal Interest

One aspect I particularly want to draw attention to is what I’m coining ‘the bias of personal interest’. Each time I read something beginning with the ‘everyone is saying <this terrible thing>’ card, I get disproportionately irritated. It seems so blindingly obvious to me that if you’re on Team A, you’ll take exception to all the rhetoric coming from Team B, and likewise Team B will not ‘see’ their own propaganda, but will be outraged at that coming from Team A.

Even when the sides are evenly split and demonstrations from each team are equal, that bias will remain. But very few people are looking to ‘gang up’ on the other side – it merely feels that way.

Defensive society

Sadly, these arguments will never cease unless we start looking at them differently. Of course, that takes common sense, and sadly society seems to be in short supply of that. Perhaps they shouldn’t be arguments at all? Just a thought.

Related Posts:

Back to the first post I mentioned for a moment – you too could shout your controversial ideas from the rooftops. All you need do is comment on our posts – or set up a blog! There’s no qualification required, and so anybody who feels that strongly is welcome to join the masses for a healthy online debate. We’ll welcome anyone into the fold where they can voice their own thoughts in an articulate manner – rather than by being rude to those of us who do (as eloquently discussed by the very fabulous Amy Treasure recently).

Because wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could collectively create positive change?

In order to do so, we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think rather than feel.

Common Sense for Common Decency

I know that’s not always easily done: I’m a work in progress when it comes to rationality. But do we not owe it to our youngsters – who look to us for guidance to navigate this innovative new world where we’re bombarded with unpopular opinion and falsities amongst the news and the truth – to try a little harder?

Really, it comes back to giving our peers the benefit of the doubt. And why would you not? Unless you gain some morbid satisfaction from making others feel bad.

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Feminism

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is an experienced breastfeeding advocate, and expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

4 Comments

  1. I think it’s so sad that people are actually sending death threats to fellow bloggers. There are certain topics I understand will rile up tense emotions and quite rightly. I also believe people quite easily mistake opinion for prejudice. There’s a clear difference but often people mistake the two and vilify someone for voicing an opinion believing it to be prejudicial when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is why I have a post penned myself on controversy and my lack of it. Society seems far too angry to deal with others opinions these days. 🙁

    • Yep, utterly mad. You make a very good point re opinion versus prejudice, you’re right – there *is* a difference: one is open-minded while the other is closed. We’re all entitled to our opinions whilst we’re remaining respectful of one another.

  2. I didn’t catch controversial your posts (but I will now) but I did see Harriet’s post and she didn’t even say 99% of the stuff they made out she did. That was merely their own confirmation-bias seeing what they wanted to see. She was really just talking about medical intervention to prevent pain and diseases. She even went to the trouble of printing the opposite point of view and apologising afterwards for using clumsy language. The response towards her or anyone who asked them to stop was everything and more that they accused Harriet of. Totally disgusting. Twitter saddens me sometimes because they’d be more open to listening if you were in front of them talking.

    • I agree; sadly that’s the negative aspect of Twitter. These trolls in all likelihood would not behave so despicably in person.

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