One of the biggest epidemics in our public discourse is a simple misconception: The idea that having an opinion entitles said opinion to be taken seriously.
This can be a powerful rhetorical device – someone voices an
opinion, gets rebuked for that opinion, and cries “censorship!” at the
criticism. This is basically the entire strategy of US political third parties –
accuse the press, the organizations hosting debates, and anyone else of “censoring”
their message through lack of coverage and inclusion. It’s also a favorite
technique of anti-vaccine activists, white supremacists, flat earth theorists,
and other fringe groups.
In reality, what’s happening isn’t censorship, but a very simple fact: Just because you have an opinion, doesn’t mean anybody has to care about that opinion. Nobody has to entertain your notions. Nobody has to listen to you at all (Ed. Note: There’s an old adage about assholes & opinions that seems especially relevant in this moment...)
This post might seem counter to the general message of Thinking About Thinking. In this space, I have encouraged you, the reader, the deeply examine and care about all your thoughts. To use logic & contextualized data to support your conclusions & opinions. I still do. What I also want to do here is inject some humility and nuance into this discussion, and simply reinforce to us all that not all opinions are created equally.
With all of that said, and if you yourself are a serial possessor of bad opinions, please understand that it is literally impossible for someone to stop you from having an opinion, as bad as it might be. You can have whatever opinion you want and nobody can make you not have it! Even if we assume hypothetical laws criminalizing certain points of view, that wouldn’t actually eliminate those points of view, the laws would just punish people who voiced them aloud.
If you know someone who often voices misinformed opinions in their life, and that person feels they aren’t being heard, feel free to gently remind them that it’s not that you don’t understand their bad take, it’s that their bad take isn’t worth your time. They’re not being censored; their idea is simply without merit and is therefore being ignored.
If that person perceives your lack of caring as censorship, perhaps they’re just kind of an egomaniac.