Sunday, January 31, 2010

On opinions

"Opinions are like assholes: everybody has one, and they usually stink."

There seems to have been some confusion lately about the purpose of this blog, my duties and obligations as its publisher, and especially about the status of opinions.

This blog exists to publish my thoughts, my opinions and my arguments. Mine. Not yours. The only duties and obligations I recognize are those imposed by law (libel, copyright, etc.), the duties and obligations relating to citation and accurate quotation, factual accuracy and sound argumentation, and a duty and obligation under ordinary circumstances to preserve others' anonymity. Specifically, I recognize no duty or obligation whatsoever to publish anyone else's thoughts, opinions or arguments under any circumstances.

If you want to create a "community", where this, that or the other kind of person has a safe space to be heard, good for you. If you want to establish a more-or-less free speech zone where anyone can say what they please, more power to you. If you want to call me a fascist, an authoritarian scumbucket, a fucktard, a liar or accuse me of mopery on the high seas, well, it's a free country* (although I would urge you to keep an eye on the libel statutes). You can do whatever you please on your blog or whatever venue you create. And I can do whatever I please on my blog.

*Not really, but that's an issue for another post.

I moderate comments. I reserve the right to arbitrarily accept or reject any comment. If you push the submit button and I push the reject button, too bad: you pays your money and you takes your chances. In the unlikely case that your words are simply too precious to be lost, and you are not smart enough to make your own copy, email me or post a comment and I'll email you a copy of your text, free of charge.

As far as I'm concerned, you have the "right" to have whatever opinions you have, about anything, on whatever basis you please, or no basis at all. By "right" I mean I will not (under ordinary circumstances) endorse or suborn the use of violent or economic coercion on the basis of only your opinion. Furthermore, as far as I'm concerned, you have the "right" to express your opinion in an appropriate venue. I too have a right to have and express my opinion, and my opinion is often that your opinion is full of shit.

I keep commenting on principally because I want to be notified if I make an error of fact or reasoning, and because I value the opinions of some of my readers. If you're not pretty sure you're one of those readers, you're probably not, but I've also been known to change my mind in both directions.

Fundamentally, though, I'm not interested that you might disagree with me. I already know a lot of people disagree with me. I know too a lot of people think I'm a gigantic asshole. C'est la vie. Telling me that you personally disagree with me or that you think I'm a dick doesn't give me one iota of new information. There's no one in the world, not even my wife, for whom I would change my opinion only to avoid their censure.

There's been some confusion lately about the need for substantiation and argumentation. There have been a couple of commenters who have said that because I do not in fact substantiate all my opinions here, they are under no obligation to substantiate their contrary opinions. They are laboring under a giant misapprehension: as far as I'm concerned, no one has an obligation to substantiate any opinion. I note, rather, that without substantiation, I myself am not going to change my own opinion. There are very few people whose word I will take at face value regarding facts, arguments or conclusions; you pretty much have to have a Ph.D. (in something other than Philosophy) for me to even consider taking your word for much of anything. If my friend tells me the sky is blue, I'm going to look out the window. If you tell me that Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, I'm going to look at Wikipedia... and check the citations.

Unless I'm very confident that you're completely full of shit and you take pains to irritate me, I will generally publish one comment with an unsubstantiated contrary opinion: it's useful to summarize your position and request feedback on which parts are especially controversial. If that's all you got, however, if you can't, won't or don't want to substantiate your position, your opinion has been noted and published: there's nothing more to add, so STFU and GBTW.

If it irritates you that I have the wrong opinion, and you're not willing to present evidence and argument to the contrary, you're shit out of luck: I am extremely unlikely to change my mind. If that angers you and you, like db0, feel the need to lie and slander me elsewhere, that's your problem, not mine.

I collect no statistics on my readership; if you cost me readers, I'll never know nor will I care. I'm not writing to get a lot of readers. I write because the words in my head are fighting to get out; if I'm going to the trouble to write them down, I might as well show them to those who find them interesting. And if you don't find them interesting, don't read them. Simple as that.

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