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.
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.
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.
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.
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.