If you are not part of the solution, then you are contributing to the problem.
“Opinions,” it has been said (often and variously) are like unmentionable parts of the human anatomy: Everybody has one, and they come in different shapes and sizes. But this is the aspect of the individual opinion that is largely left unsaid: To qualify as an opinion, the idea cannot be a fact. This single defining distinction determines the quality and, therefore, the credibility of one’s opinion because it goes to how opinions are produced; and the method of production determines the species.
Opinions of the most specious kind are clearly the product of emotion simply because there are no facts to give them credence. They are products of vitriol that sound good when bleated to the high heavens at PTA or the town meeting — or, on someone’s blog — but are often incredibly invalid.
Credible opinions cannot by definition be factually wrong but may well fall prey to some species of fallacy: Red Herring, non sequitur, post hoc, bandwagon, circular reasoning, etc. A quick jaunt through any reputable grammar text (I recommend the Harbrace College Handbook) under the subtitle “Fallacies In Reasoning” should help those interested in continuing their education.
A valid conclusion — something to which all opinions should aspire — is the result of a logical syllogism, dependent on two or more facts that allow one to draw a logical conclusion. Here is one from basic geometry:
Fact: A equals B.
Fact: B equals C.
Valid conclusion: A equals C.
Called in mathematics “the transitive property of equality,” it is part and parcel to the fundamental methodology of valid conclusion drawing.
Here is a “hot-button” syllogism that falls to the fallacy known as “false proof” or “false analogy.”
Fact: Guns kill people.
Fact: One function of government is to pass laws to keep people safe.
Invalid conclusion: The government should pass a law prohibiting the ownership of guns.
Without getting into highly emotional opinions and without the lengthy discussion of why this example is too simplistic, we start from the premise that, reduced to its fundamental terms, this is precisely the syllogism of progressive gun banners. It’s a syllogism which falls to fallacy of “false proof” because the facts presented are equally useful to prove an entirely different conclusion. The proof in this example is false because it could just as well prove the government should pass a law making it illegal not to own a gun to protect yourself from the government, to keep everyone safe.
This brings us to the pastime of blogging. Most of what is posted on blogs is nothing more than opinion and is, more often than not, based largely on emotion more than fact, bringing us to the rather simplistic thesis of this article: what is and is not an effective, credible post. So what better to do than to throw out a few simple considerations that reflect the thesis?
- Refrain from name-calling, eschew colorful euphemisms and avoid denigrating personal comments. None of these are proof or can be considered effective strategies. Unless you know someone personally, your observations are invalid to be sure — not to mention cowardly. Without proof, your opinion is invalid and useless and takes up precious space on the blog. If all you want to do is blow off steam, then find a partner your size, get two pairs of 16-ouncers (big, fat, padded boxing gloves) and go to the gym.
- Other people are not stupid simply because they disagree with you. Other people have a different opinion for many reasons, the least of which is because they may not be as smart or as well educated as you are. They were raised differently, in different political and social milieus, for one thing; and very different experiences mean they are plugging different facts into the paradigm. Using only those facts and the same logical syllogism that you use, you may well have been compelled to draw the very same conclusion.
- A blog or any other type of free-speech forum should be viewed as an opportunity to learn. Look at the evidence cited by others. Weigh the evidence and judge its credibility. If you are still not convinced, succinctly state in your post why it falls short. Getting emotional and being condescending rob you of the opportunity to benefit by learning and by helping to educate others.
- Pointing out problems without solutions is of little benefit to fellow bloggers. Many of the articles posted on this blog are not meant to offer solutions but to start discussions. The repartee is obliged to offer solutions to problems, and that responsibility falls to the readers/bloggers. If you come here to post and join in the discussion, it should be incumbent upon you to offer a cogent, logical and valid solution to the problems you observe. If all you want to do is vent, revisit the solution proposed in No. 1, above.
These are some simple considerations that will make blogging here and elsewhere more meaningful and pleasant for all.
Best wishes to fellow bloggers… especially to those with whom I disagree.