You’re not entitled to your opinion

We’ve all been in a conversation, usually more of an argument, where one side (let’s be honest, it’s always the other person) cuts off any more discussion by saying something to the effect of “Well, I’m entitled to my opinion.”

No, you fucking aren’t.

Hear me out. I understand on a basic, fundamental level that this phrase really means, “I am free to think however I want to,” which I wholeheartedly support. Freedom of thought and expression should be protected at all costs, and as far as I’m concerned, they are the closest things I consider to be absolutes.

But when we use “I’m entitled to my opinion,” what we are really saying is “I have an opinion and therefore it deserves equal consideration.” We’re saying “What I think about climate change, baby seals, or David Bowie is just as valid as what anyone else thinks.” We’re saying “I don’t care what evidence I’m confronted with, I have something just as powerful–my opinion.” We aren’t using the phrase as an expression of our freedom to think differently, we’re using it as a trap door to avoid the responsibility of having to form a new understanding.

So I say again–fuck your entitlement. And your opinion.

You’re entitled to what you can prove. You’re entitled to what you can establish as the closest thing to truth. You’re entitled to the attempt at developing a different way of thinking about something. You’re not entitled to have anyone take that attempt seriously. You’re not entitled to have any weight given to gut feelings in the face of real evidence. You’re not entitled to intellectual equality of an “opinion.”

I recognize the facial contradiction in stating on the one hand that freedom of thought is absolute and on the other that you don’t get to think however you want. The line between is a thin, but clear one. The use of the word entitled in this context sets up the perfect scapegoat–that the right to think however you wish trumps* any reality, however strongly supported, and thus, everyone is still on the same intellectual playing field. This is not the case (see the “fuck your entitlement” paragraph, supra). I’m not saying that you cannot argue passionately about something that has merit, even if it has only a little bit of merit. But even then, you should never have to use that stupid phrase. At the end of the day, you can say something like “Looking at the evidence I’ve concluded X about X.” That “The science doesn’t support the existence of climate change or David Bowie.” At least you’re trying, even if you’re probably wrong.

*(Note: interesting word choice)

From now on, when you or anyone else you do or do not know says anything close to that damn phrase, reframe it for them or yourself in the following manner to read “I am exercising my right to continue to ignore any evidence proffered, however strong, against the perception I currently hold about X. I choose instead to believe whatever I wish regardless of its truth. In sum, I exercise my right to be an ignorant dumbass.” At that point, I (and I suspect most others) am happy to end the discussion, because, let’s face it, you are entitled to be an ignorant dumbass.

But that’s just my opinion.


Originally published at millren.wordpress.com on August 31, 2016.

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