When Opinion Trumps Facts
I’ve been on a real on-line CNN Politics/Money junket lately. You would think it is because I subscribe to CNN’s political agenda. I have to admit that is what got me started, but what keeps me coming back is the comments that are posted after each article. It is not my habit to respond publicly with my opinions, hence the name 1 reluctant opinion, however I find myself driven at times by some of the comments to reply. Typically it is when someone makes a statement but does not follow-up with factual information.
Today, I asked myself the question; what makes people think that his/her opinion can be void of facts and expected to be taken seriously? I am not talking about the comments that start with “In my opinion, or end with ” however, this is just my opinion”, or contains acronyms such as “IMHO.” I am talking about the comments that state, as a matter of fact-ly, that the information in the article is wrong or misleading, and never backup the comment with facts. Here is an example
I was reading this article; “Initial unemployment claims drop to 7-month low” and like always, after reading the article, I rush to the bottom to see what people have to say. I wanted to see who would dispute this claim and the reasons why. One comment caught my eye, it read ” … less jobless claims merely means people have given up and aren’t even looking for work.” If this had started with “In my opinion”, I think I would have been ok with that, but it read as if this person had factual information that made it true in his/her mind. I couldn’t let it go and wanted to hold the person accountable for not making the distinction of opinion or fact. So I replied asking for the backup to the persons response. Oh yes, and by the way, informing them that the article was about “first time claims” and that his/her comment that the people, that are “giving up”, would not be included in the numbers presented. Giving the person the benefit of the doubt, I asked the person to provide the number of people giving up in a month by month comparison to see if more, or less, were giving up month over month.
In this example the opinion, IMHO, was meant to be taken as fact. This made me ask another question which is the premise of this blog. Is a comment to be taken as an inference of fact if it is not specifically qualified as an opnion and if so does it trump the facts? The distinction of fact must be inferred due to lack of evidence. From what I see, most people state a comment based on emotion/position and never attempt to provide factual backup for the comment. Part of me wants to believe that the person is just stating an opinion, however I can’t rule out the possibility that the person actually believes what they are saying, for whatever reason. Because of that I feel a need to ask for evidence.
At the end of the day it is all a moot point because the article is archived along with the comments, maybe to be looked at again and maybe not.