Do you have an opinion? Well, yeah, who doesn’t? Opinions are important, and we actually need them. Without opinions, how could we make up our minds about things? For instance, when I have an opinion about something I hear, I learn more about it, then I draw a conclusion about the validity of it. Is it true? Is it right? Do I agree or disagree with it?
With social media such as it is, opinions are flung around like fleas from a shaking hound dog. Opinions come from our perspective of the world around us, and social media allows us to be more aware of that world than we were in the past. When I was a kid I knew nothing about politics and didn’t care. The subject was rarely discussed in our home, so the only time I was exposed to a political conversation was in the Social Studies class at school, and that was fine by me. However, today kids of all ages are aware of politics and often can have a somewhat intelligent discussion about what is going on in our country.
Society offers opinions about every subject known to mankind, and sometimes these opinions are supported by facts, sometimes not. Of course, our perceptions are our reality, so the way we see things are the way we believe them. That means it’s up to us to form our opinions carefully by listening to other opinions and doing research to make sure our opinions are right. For some things it may not be a big matter if our opinions are wrong, but for other things which affect our lives or the lives of others, it is huge. For instance, if I am of the opinion that chicken dumplings is the best food in the world (and I almost think that) my opinion doesn’t really matter. If I think my family should move to a different state because the weather is better there, my opinion matters to my family. If I believe and vote for a city ordinance or for a person for a political office, that affects a lot of other people, people I don’t even know. Then it is my responsibility to research and to think carefully before I make a decision.
I find that I do not value the opinions of every person. I value their right to have an opinion, but I may not value the opinion they have. For me to value someone’s opinion, I need to know and trust that person or at least believe that person has good reason to have that opinion. Even then, sometimes I don’t value the opinion of a person I do know and trust if I have reason to disagree with his or her opinion. The other day I read a blog written by a man I know and trust. The blog was about a person selected to be in charge of an important program that would affect a lot of people. The writer used three different sources to substantiate his position. Two articles with which he agreed included several figures without explaining where the figures came from. This man used a quote from the third article to support his argument. The quote made his argument sound convincing; however, it was taken completely out of context. I’m sure he read the complete article, at least I hope he did. But if he did, he obviously contrived the information from his sources to make his argument the way he wanted it to sound. Since I read all three of the articles, I was disappointed in his position and the way he manipulated the information to make it fit his ideas. I cannot value that kind of opinion.
I am having trouble now trusting and valuing the opinions of the mainstream media. And I hate that. I want to be able to trust the organizations whose job it is to keep the public informed on what is going on in our country and our world. However, this past year as I listened to speeches given by various people, then listened to the media explain what they said and what they meant (I guess they think the listeners couldn’t figure out by themselves what the speaker meant), what I heard was often a twisted version or a complete falsehood of what the speaker said. As stated above, when quotes are taken out of context until they no longer represent what a person says or writes, that information becomes a falsehood. This is disheartening as I continue to hear this done by news sources.
As a former journalism teacher, I know that the job of news reporters is to report unbiased news. What I hear from the media is seldom unbiased. I hear opinions presented in a way that sounds like they are facts, journalists using loaded words which indicate the user’s position on an issue, presenting only one side of the issue to distort the facts, questions phrased so that the answer is given the way the questioner wants, and stories about less important issues to distraction from greater issues. These methods of reporting are simply propaganda techniques, and I see them frequently used by media networks. News reporting has basically turned into opinion reporting, and I do not value the opinions of these people I no longer trust.
Of course, these are just my opinions. I’m of the opinion that integrity is one of the most important—maybe the most important—quality a person can have. I’m of the opinion honesty is the basis of integrity. I’m of the opinion journalists need to report the news exactly as it happens without slanting it or disguising it as something it isn’t. I’m of the opinion that we cannot gain respect or cause others to value our opinions when we scream them out along with vulgarities and the disparaging others who differ from us. And I’m of the opinion we all need to make sure we have an educated opinion before we spout it to the world, and then be willing to change our opinion when it is proven wrong.