No One Is Entitled To An Opinion

1 Oct

My goodness, there’s a lot of shite talked on the Internet!

Of course, there are websites where important information and clever discourse are shared, but alas, they are few and far between. Most of what the Internet shares is neither big nor clever, but rather the kind of bollocks that comes out of the mouth of Jonny Chav after a night of drinking Special Brew and kicking the shit out of someone’s granny.

There’s no better place to see this ignorance in action than in the Comments section of pretty much every site on the web, regardless of the publisher’s own purpose.  If you don’t believe me, spend a quarter of an hour browsing a few.  Take the bullets out of your gun before you do, though, because you’re likely to have lost the will to live within minutes of reading.

I was really hoping when President Obama came into office promising to change our world for the better that he’d be able to clean up the Internet. However, I appreciate that he’s got to have priorities, which explains why he’s not gotten to it just yet (but not why he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay). Until it’s all sorted, I propose some basic rules about making comments on the web. I, of course, do not control the world (yet), so at this point, please consider them suggestions rather than requirements.  I suppose I am appealing to people’s common sense, which I know is problematic as not all people possess common sense (I need look no further than my publisher’s recent edit suggestions to know this—absolutely outrageous!), but we’ve got to start somewhere.

1. If you feel a strong reaction to the piece you’ve just read, consider who wrote it. If they are a twat, do not write a comment. Twats will never learn, no matter how reasoned your argument may be. Instead of trying to right the wrong through an Internet thread, go out and actually try to right the wrong. You probably won’t accomplish any real progress, but you might meet some new people and/or get some sun on that pasty face of yours.

2.  If you feel a strong reaction to the comments about a piece you’ve just read, do not write a comment. Firstly, there apparently exist some people who say upsetting things on comment threads just to rile or hurt others. In a civilised society, these people would either be locked up or employed as pastors in Florida.  Don’t engage with them. If you think a person genuinely believes the upsetting things they’ve written in their comment, they are most likely a twat (see #1).

3. If you do not already possess some knowledge of the topic being discussed, do not write a comment. Instead go learn more about the topic. There are laws (or if there aren’t, there should be) which prevent two-year-olds from walking into an oncology conference and taking the podium to make claims about the latest bone marrow transplant breakthroughs—offering up an uninformed opinion on a comment thread is equally useless (and will confirm to others that you still make poo poo in your diaper). If you think you already possess some knowledge of the topic being discussed, be pretty damn sure before you write anything. If you feel compelled to use phrases like “My mate told me. . .” or “I think I read somewhere that . . . ” you probably don’t know enough about the topic to contribute to a worthwhile discussion. This isn’t a criticism (well, it kind of is); but seriously, it just makes sense.

4. Godwin’s Law proposes that all Internet debates will eventually lead to someone making a comparison involving Nazis and therefore the debate becomes null and void. Sadly, this is likely and not restricted to Internet-only disagreements.  The new protocol is that unless a person can appropriately and critically explain all of Hitler’s political ideology (and no, being able to recite Mein Kampf word-for-word is not the same thing), they are prohibited from references to Nazism.

5. In the same vein, do not include any word or phrase in your comment that you cannot properly define.  Particularly tricky terms include (but aren’t limited to) socialism, political correctness, middle class, immigrant, right, wrong, freedom and your.

If you’ve followed these guidelines and still really want to make a comment, go ahead and write one.  Write the best, most brilliant comment ever written. But don’t hit submit. Instead consider how much time you’ve just spent at the computer. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Don’t waste what’s left of your life making a mockery of the art of intelligent conversation on a global stage. Use your time more wisely.

And if you still want your comment to appear on the Internet, I can’t stop you. But realise it probably means you are a twat. Or a Nazi. Or both.

3 Responses to “No One Is Entitled To An Opinion”

  1. HRH Prince William Friday, 1 April 2011 at 07:49 #

    My dearest Aggie,

    Having just read your latest post and having delighted once again in your thoroughly well-put stance (don’t tell Kate!) I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise for my brother Harry and his unfortunate Nazi prank of a few years ago. He really showed me up because he didn’t ask me first if he could borrow my outfit for that infamous party! The rotter.

    Oh well, that’s younger siblings for you…


  2. M G Monday, 4 April 2011 at 13:40 #

    But Agatha, if I may call you Agatha, and if not please forgive my boorish impertinence, don’t you think that not allowing people to express an opinion is exactly the way that Nazi Germany started? So what I’m wondering now is, why is it that you support genocide?

    • SW/AWW Monday, 4 April 2011 at 14:50 #

      I don’t support genocide per se, so allow me to clarify my argument. Firstly, one of the problems is with the word opinion, which I confess I did use in my title so I am willing to take 25% of the blame for the confusion (but not a penny more). Most of the time when the word opinion is bandied about, what people really mean is feeling. If I’m forced to, I will accept that people are allowed to express their feelings (as long as they warn me in advance), though, generally the only people interested in other people’s feelings are their family and therapists, and that’s only because they are contractually obliged to. Feelings, however, don’t have to be informed by knowledge or understanding—and those two things are crucial to me.
      Ultimately, the crux of my argument is about where people express these so-called opinions. Phill Jupitus said that, although the Internet was supposed to be the “information superhighway,” it’s ended up more as a global pub toilet wall. There are already enough places for people to spout their half-baked ideas: some of these include the aforementioned pub, the family dinner table, wedding receptions and PMQs. To me, posting comments on an Internet thread (excluding here, obviously) is not the equivalent of engaging in interesting debate (something I’m all for). Instead it is the same as riding in the back of a taxi all day, screaming idiocies in the face of anyone who gets in: it’s annoying, doesn’t make for an appropriate exchange of ideas and makes the screamer look like a twat.

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