A Matter of Opinion, by John Ostrander
So. I’m watching – and enjoying – the finale of this season’s Doctor Who. I’m a big fan of the time traveling Doctor and have been for years and his present incarnation, embodied by David Tennant, is one of his best. The Doctor is in a dire fix, as usual. This time, he’s trapped in the headquarters of his arch-foes, the Daleks, and at the mercy of their creator, Davros. A whole squadron of the Doctor’s companions and friends are trying to help him by a) threatening to blow up the Dalek HQ or b) blowing up the Earth itself, ruining the Dalek master plan. Like I said, the situation is dire.
Davros sneers at the Doctor that, while the Doctor himself doesn’t carry weapons and won’t kill, he creates friends and companions who will. He tells the Doctor that those companions are the Doctor’s weapons. The Doctor looks guilty and distressed as he considers, and seemingly accepts, Davros’ accusation.
Mind you, this is the Davros who has just enunciated his master plan of destroying not just the Earth, not just the galaxy, not just the universe, but all of reality except for the Dalek HQ. This Davros describes as winning and will prove the Daleks – and thus Davros – are supreme.
Which leads me to my thought of the week. Some people’s opinions really don’t matter. They just don’t. I’m not saying that people don’t have a right to their opinions or that they don’t have a right to express those opinions. However, there’s no rule saying that I have to listen to them. As I heard Steven Grant once say on a panel, “Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.”
And, omigawd, are there assholes out there with opinions – especially now in an election year and especially here on the Internet! You don’t need to actually know about something to blog about it. Hell, I’ve proven that from time to time myself. What you need is a computer, a modem (preferably high speed), and a website. It doesn’t have to be your own website; if it has a message board, you can blaze away with your opinions at will. You don’t even have to use your own name so you don’t have to stand by your opinion. Wheee. What fun.
You can turn on the TV this very political year and get pundits without end whose only purpose – and the only purpose for their paychecks – is to spew out opinion. Let’s talk endlessly about American flag lapel pins as a litmus test of patriotism and loyalty – just as if it really mattered. Let’s get to the opinion in advance of all the facts or even in despite of the facts. Let’s discuss what, if any, impact the Russian tanks rolling through Georgia is going to have on the U.S. Presidential election. Who do we want taking “the call at 3 A.M.” about those tanks? As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show, there’s already a guy who’s supposed to be taking that call and he was over at the Beijing Olympics, patting bikinied female volleyball players on their backsides. Maybe either of the candidates would be better? However, I’m wandering off the topic. Yoink!
Most of the political punditry we see on TV boils down to a very simple equation: opinion = blather. It’s not as if there’s any other real news in the world going on – such as the tanks in Georgia. Besides, gathering the news on those other stories costs money whereas opinion spewing costs virtually nothing and is worth almost every penny. Wait, I forget. These are political experts. What makes them experts? The fact that someone asked their opinion. Who asked their opinion? The network that hired them. The words “circle jerk” come to mind.
New theory: the fact that somebody asks my opinion doesn’t necessarily mean my opinion worth anything. It means simply that I have a backside and some times things comes out of it.
Opinion comes down to this: who is giving you their opinion and why? Do they have an agenda? What is their track record? For example, there’s a movie critic who I read all the time and with whom I almost never agree. However, that’s useful. I know if this critic likes a certain movie, I probably won’t. Once in a while wedo agree. No one’s wrong 100% of the time; even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
No one is right 100% of the time, either. Someone whose opinion might be valuable in one area might be worthless in another. I, for example, know something about writing and especially writing for comics. My advice there would be based on something I actually know. Most financial advice I might give you, however, should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Actually, with a salt lick.
Ostrander’s Opinionated Theorem: on any given fact there exists any number of mutually contradictive interpretations, a.k.a. opinions, of what that fact means. Fact will be objective; meaning will always be subjective.
Do I listen to divergent opinions? Sometimes. Even if I don’t agree, listening to them can clarify my own thinking. I might also hear something or learn something that will widen my perspective. When the Iraq War started, my church sponsored a meeting – a forum – where everyone could make their views heard. I disagreed with a lot of them but I loved and respected a lot of the people who were saying them. No one walked away converted to the other person’s way of thinking but I think we all left respecting one another. I learned things.
And, as I’ve said before in other columns, I’ve always entertained the possibility I can be wrong. That said, I do consider the source of the opinion that I hear and if it’s from a megalomaniacal half man, half machine bent on destroying all of reality, I feel justified in disregarding what he says and I think the Doctor should as well.
Besides, I heard that Fox News was trying to sign Davros as a political commentator. They’re supposedly going to pair him with Karl Rove for election coverage commentary. That surprises me since I’d always thought Karl Rove was Davros.
Of course, that’s just my opinion.
John Ostrander is not Dennis Miller, but we could be wrong. Eventually.